Since 1994, Ramsey & Fen have been household names on the UK garage scene. The DJ’ing / production duo were amongst the original pioneers of the movement, having been instrumental figures within UK garage pirate radio from its very inception, whilst their studio efforts have resulted in some treasured scene classics that helped shape the garage sound that we hear today.
East London-born Ramsey, grew up on a musical diet of soul and rare groove. He first took to the turntables twenty five years ago, although back in the 80’s he was also to be found throwing some moves as a studio dancer on Jonathan Ross’s Channel 4 music show, ‘Soul Train’. Ramsey’s DJ’ing started off as a dole cheque-fed hobby, but stepped up a gear when pirate stations launched in his local area,and he began spinning on Defection and then Rush FM, where he was amongst the likes of Mixmaster Max, Kemistry & Storm, and Goldie, who would come and MC for him during his sets.
North Londoner Fen (‘Fen’ is Turkish for ‘scientist’) used to sneak into his older brother’s bedroom as a 13 year old and mess about on his decks, but didn’t take music seriously until the late 80’s when the rave culture exploded. Instead of following the hardcore route in the early 90’s, Fen preferred US garage and began playing out at parties and clubs including Mr. C’s legendary ‘Release’ nights where Fen would spin dubby American tracks from labels like Nervous and Strictly Rhythm.
Likewise, Ramsey returned to his soulful roots and began to spin US garage, He started a Saturday morning garage show on Rush FM, testing out early scene-shaping tracks from the likes of Nightcrawlers and Robin S. The show got plenty of response and Ramsey started getting bookings to play garage in the back-rooms at nights like ‘Roast’ (alongside Norris ‘Da Boss’ Windross), ‘Thunder & Joy’, and early underground garage haunts such as east London’s ‘Dungeons’.
Ramsey’s next move was on to Freek FM, the first pirate station dedicated to the nascent garage sound. Ramsey met Fen through a mutual friend and they began fronting their own Saturday night show together on Freek FM. Their ‘Freekzone’ slot established the duo’s name and reputation as they championed the early UK garage sound mixing American cuts with the new British-made tracks filtering though from labels like Nice N Ripe. Ramsey & Fen also began playing out together at the station’s own night ‘Freek In The Manor’, as well as the majority of the UK garage scene’s founding clubs like ‘La Cosa Nostra’, Zoo’s ‘Lords Of The Underground’, Rhythm Promotions’ ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Sun City’, ‘Numb Nums’ (as residents) and ‘Twice As Nice’ forerunner, The Arches and The Award winning McMahon Promotions Exposure.
Ramsey & Fen left Freek FM to form their own pirate station, London Underground. The pair enlisted a raft of UK garage DJs that read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of founding fathers – including Danny Foster, Hermit, Jason Kaye, Richie Fingers, Daryl B, as well as a pre-Dreem Teem Mikee B, Timmi Magic and DJ Spoony who all met at the station.
It was through London Underground that Ramsey & Fen got their first remix work, when the Trinity / SOUR studio and label asked Ramsey & Fen to provide garage mixes of Kim Mazelle’s ‘Big Baby’ and ‘Quality’, which became underground anthems. Working on these mixes with Ramsey & Fen was SOUR’s in-house engineer and drum & bass head, Matt Coleman, a.k.a. M J Cole. Ramsey & Fen introduced M J to the world of UK garage and together they created a fresh new sound, taking elements from soulful US garage and fusing it with a more British, high energy vibe and harder edge.
The following year, Ramsey & Fen left the London Underground to pursue production work and set up BUG Records (British Underground Grooves). They continued to work with M J Cole until he went on to pursue his solo career and together they released a series of highly successful, vocal-based tracks; from ‘Style’, through to the experimental ‘Off-Key Experience’ on VIP Records, ‘Desire’, and of course, ‘Lovebug’ – a true scene classic, and an early example of 2 step. Throughout the following years Ramsey & Fen delivered several floor-filling remixes including The Heartists’ ‘Belo Horizonti’ (VC), Dem 2’s ‘Destiny’ (Locked On) and Lovestation’s ‘Teardrops’ (Fresh). They also mixed high profile garage compilations such as ‘Garage Nation’ and the 3rd volume of the seminal ‘Locked On’ series.
As club DJs, Ramsey & Fen have played across the globe, reaching Japan, Switzerland, Amsterdam (playing at the massive Dance Valley Festival), Tenerife, Turkey, and of course Ayia Napa. always retaining their love of radio, guesting on legal stations such as Kiss FM, where they also filled in for Steve Jackson on the popular Morning Glory show, and hosting their own weekly show on CHOICE FM. They have delved into music TV having recently filmed an appearance on a new Wise Buddha pilot production.
Ramsey & Fen are now stepping up the studio work once more, they are currently working on new releases Lynsey Moore (singer on Love Bug) and producing a new album Ramsey & Fen presents “Gabriella” to celebrate twenty one years in the business together. They are also concentrating on signing new talent and developing artists for BUG Records.
Ramsey & Fen have never stopped championing the scene they helped create, and their love for the music has endured through the many musical twists and turns that UK garage has taken. “Giving everyone a boost, helping them to get where they are and seeing how everyone’s progressed has been a buzz” maintains Ramsey, whilst Fen adds “We’ve always said we just wanted to take UK garage and get it out there for others to hear it, and that’s still what we’re about.” The time feels right for a Ramsey & Fen renaissance, as they remind us that originality, energy and dedication to the music never goes out of style.