Niche, the club where he played as a resident for several years until its closure, became the UK’s focal spot for bassline in the early 2000s, giving birth to what became known as the ‘Niche sound’. When the club was forced into closure in 2005, Duggan started throwing his own events to play other styles of music. Through his 20-year career he’s transcended several different genres, but bass-driven dance floor sounds have always been at his core.
With his appearance at the next FABRICLIVE just around the corner on 10th March, we caught up with Jamie to hear more about his Sheffield background, and just how this has shaped his musical career.
Can you introduce yourself in one sentence for those who may not be familiar?
I’m a house & bass and bassline DJ, producer & promoter from Sheffield.
You were closely affiliated with the famous Sheffield club Niche. Can you describe what was so special about the place in its infancy?
Niche was a special place for lots of reasons, the music it played from speed garage to bassline, the people, the sound and layout of the venue itself, the DJs and their understanding of the crowd. All of these factors worked together to make it legendary.
Do you remember your first DJ set there?
Yes, very much so. I was 17 and had been a massive fan of speed garage and house music since the age of 14. I kept bugging Les Skelton (the man in charge of DJs at the time) for a set. Eventually I got my chance, took half my village with me and pretty much filled the whole bottom dance floor within the first 5 minutes of opening! The set went very well apart from me playing all the big tracks in first 2 hours of a 12 hour night. Les wasn't happy about that, but I learnt and went back with a totally different approach to my second set and I was given my residency at Niche from then on.
Sheffield has famously been a powerhouse of many music icons, from Cabaret Voltaire to Pulp to Arctic Monkeys. Do you think there’s something different about the city that inspires people?
There's definitely something in the water up here. I think we all like and support different styles up north too. I personally love a couple of the acts you mentioned there, especially Artic Monkeys. But if there was one thing you could say about the North is northerners love bass! In whatever format that may be.
"Fresh producers, events and crowds have given bassline the much needed buzz injection and support it needed. It has a really good vibe surrounding it at the moment."
Did you face any challenges following Niche’s closure and how did you overcome these?
Yes, a lot! Being one of the main DJs in the bassline scene definitely came at a price. Niche closing and bassline getting its bad name at the time, with trouble in clubs (which may I point out wasn't all the time like people are led to believe) I suffered a lot from it. I wasn't allowed to play in most cities including pretty much all big Northern & Midlands cities. Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham – all the cities I played in most often really. Promoters were told not to have certain DJs playing at their events, I was one of those. So I basically had to start organising my own events and adapting my style slightly and to an extent, start again. It was a nightmare to be honest but thankfully the 'comes with trouble' tagline it used to have has now long gone and the scene is thriving again. Fresh producers, events and crowds have given it the much needed buzz injection and support it needed. Bass music has a really good vibe surrounding it at the moment.
How has the music you play changed since you first started playing bassline?
It changes all the time really based on a number of things, from my preference to the crowd’s preference. Being told you can't get booked for playing bassline makes you have to change slightly also! Since learning to DJ I've gone from 90s house, speed garage, bassline house, 4x4, bassline, jackin’, bass and more. But no matter what, they all always have a bass influence.
Grime has quite a stronghold in London’s urban scene, do you see any parallels with the music you play?
I'd say grime is big all over the UK at the minute, looking at what the likes of Stormzy and Skepta are achieving, it’s not just in London. It's huge up north. Both genres definitely work well together yes, grime vocals pretty much sit on a big bass drop like it was meant to be at times. I've done lots of collabs & remixes with grime acts, they're some of my biggest tracks.
Do scenes like grime have the same representation in Sheffield?
Yes, grime definitely does. But not just grime, Sheffield's a big city. There's love and followings up here for most genres.
FABRICLIVE often has quite an eclectic range of sounds. Do you ever approach playing here differently?
Being aware that bass and bassline music is a lot bigger in the North & Midlands, I do go to London with adapting slightly in mind but essentially people expect me to play big bass heavy tracks and that's definitely what they'll get!