Feature Interview: “My speakers love you, my neighbours hate you,” – Fabio & Grooverider

Clocking up close to a staggering 40 years in the business, Fabio and Grooverider are hands down the most enduring duo in dance music. Despite being behind the decks for longer than half the dancefloor has been alive, they have still managed to keep recreating; representing and championing new music across every genre of drum and bass. And they get to. They invented it.

When I spoke to them, they were a few days shy of kicking off a five-week curated residency at XOYO in London. This series was designed to bring together some of the biggest icons in drum and bass and pay homage to the roots of the genre Fabio and Grooverider were architects of in the early 90s. And it’s not all 170bpm. 

“The residency is a snapshot of our career and legacies,” says Fabio, dialling in from London. “It’s five weeks where we can do what we want, with different flavours of music every week, from hardcore jungle to acid house.”

The lineups read like a who’s who of drum and bass royalty, studded with true pioneers; Total Science, Nicky Blackmarket, Ray Keith, Mickey Finn, Jumpin Jack Frost and DJ Ron. Plus a throwback house night with MR C, Shades of Rhythm and Colin Dale.  

So why only five weeks? According to Fabio, it’s important the series was around for a good time, not a long time. “We don’t want to rinse things out,” he says, when I ask if the residency is set to continue. “We don’t want to be the people who survive on just on legacy. You can become too caught up in reviving your past all the time. I’m invested in today’s music, and doing things a bit differently.”

Fabs and Groove had just rounded off a road trip of the UK with the Outlook Orchestra, selling out a three-stop tour to 8,000 people in Manchester, Nottingham and London. 

“It’s an orchestral take on drum and bass, with a 40-piece orchestra,” says Grooverider, who has just dialled in and is munching his lunch. “Sorry, I’ve just been to the gym and I’m starving!”  “It’s a departure from what we normally do. Being on stage with a 40-piece orchestra is a bit different to having a few MCs on the stage. It’s not logistically easy to pull off.” 

With European summer loading and festival season on the horizon, their calendar is as enviably full as you’ve expected. They’ve already crossed Mexico off for the year, making their annual pilgrimage to Tulum for the Locus festival. Smart move to swap out drum and bass in paradise for snow in the UK. 

“We get the gang together every March, we’ve been every year. Such a laugh out there. And a great time of the year to not be in the UK! It’s very different to anywhere else we play at… like we were playing at stunning locations, at waterfalls in the tropics. It’s definitely one we look forward to.”

“We’re off to the first ever Locus Bali in June, which will be similar vibes.”

After playing every festival worth playing in the world, the pair have strong thoughts on how the scene has evolved. “When it comes to festivals, not all of them hit the mark like that,” confesses Groove. “Plenty forget the fundamental elements that you get a in a club, like a proper sound system.” 

“But the worst is when people aren’t there for the music. They’re there for the dressing up and being seen for social media. Some jackarse DJ standing in front of 20,000 people waving their hands in the air, thinking they’re God. That’s not us.” 

Fabio seconds that. “Festivals can be a circus. If you go to a nightclub, it’s just you and the crowd. If it was a choice between festival or club, I’d pick club anytime.” “It’s not always the case,” says Groove. “There are some great ones out there. Boomtown in the UK, Exit in Serbia, some are off the charts. In my opinion, Exit is the best festival in the world. The sound systems are on point.”

“But the truth is festivals are a huge part of what we do. Festivals are our summer.” 

The more I chat with Fabs and Groove, the more it becomes apparent how closely they are aligned with each other. They share the same opinions, find similar things tedious and the same thing funny, and finish each other’s sentences harmoniously. It’s hard to believe that living in each other’s pockets for so many years wouldn’t spark disagreements. 

“No barneys here,” says Fab. “Honestly, we say the most fucked up shit to each other. When you are with proper mates, you can be who you really are. We know each other’s boundaries, we’ve got a code and we stick to it.”

“We’ve got a special bond,” Fabio says, triggering that fantastic, booming laugh I’ve always wanted to hear first-hand. “He’s like my GF, but not my GF.” I want to know who the wife is.  “Neither of us is each other’s bitches,” says Fab, as Groove grins. “It’s an equal playground. We’re both extremely grateful. We’ve seen a lot, been through a lot of changes. We’ve been around since the inception of dance music and we are still here for a reason. It’s because in a lot of things, but especially musically, we have rules.” 

“There are certain hard no’s. Things we don’t do. Namely back to backs with other DJs.” “People get fucked off about it but I couldn’t go with another DJ. It’s about people’s approach to it. If I did b2b with another DJ and they were in some kind of war with me, it wouldn’t work. It’s not what B2B Is about.”

Of course, Grooverider agrees.  “I don’t roll with the battle vibe.  Going back-to-back isn’t about trying to compete with another guy, or set him up for something that doesn’t work. It’s not about sparring, or trying to outdo another guy. If it’s like I’m going to knack them… well you ain’t half-talking a load of shit. Completely missing the point.”

As the first duo to share the decks in dance music, Fabio and Grooverider get to make the rules. They have strong opinions on how long a back-to-back should go for, and what they are saying makes some serious sense.

“One tune on, one tune off is nonsense,” says Fab. “How are you supposed to create a journey? It doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes the pair of us are squeezed into a 45-minute B2B slot. There’s really not much you can do in that time frame, which is why we prefer the longer sets. If we had to do 45 minutes, we’d maybe go two on two.” 

“I know when it’s time for Groove to come on. I just give him the look and he knows. There’s a real synergy to it. Harmony. After so long, we just know each other inside out.”

“You have to remember we are the first B2B duo in dance music,” says Groove.  “When we started off there was no house, no techno, no dnb, definitely no subgenres. It was just house. Over the years everything has been categorised. Calling it that kind of house or that kind of dnb is ridiculous. It’s restrictive.” 

“If I like a tune I don’t care what subgenre it belongs to. People are far too rigid in what style of music they like. I like liquid but I hate jump up they say. Well, ultimately it’s all the same within that remit. It all came from the same place. When we do the B2Bs there are no limits. No one style. It’s just drum and bass. We trust each other’s tastes and trust each other.” 

“If you listen to Fabio and Grooverider from 1988, or now you can still see that line because it’s always been the same. We have slightly different tastes, but it’s all tasteful.” 

“We improvise everything we do, nothing is planned… that’s how we do it. Our B2Bs probably sound like we practised them, but we haven’t. It’s all spontaneous, reading the crowd and what mood takes us.”

There’s a recurring theme that keeps arising in our conversation, which is a respect and deep reverence for house music. “House music is my thing,” says Groove. “At the end of the day house music was my first love. My inception into dance music was through house music. You can’t tell us a thing about drum and bass because we created it.”

“Tunes like Just Another Chance by Mr Reece. or Mysteries of love. Anything Derrick May. The morning after by Fallout. I’ve heard that tune thousands of times, but every time, it’s like the first time I’ve heard it. There are very few tunes that have lasted the test of time like those. “

“We love playing house music sets. It’s why we dedicated one of the nights at our XOYO residency to house and hardcore. It’s about paying homage to our roots. Our nights at Rage with Heaven started off with house. We innovated jungle at Rage. That’s our era.”

All true drum and bass heads have watched the clips of those heady days, reminiscing when records would be carried around in milk crates; when Groove had dreads and Fabio wore string vests and they didn’t even have Technics. When the M25 parties were a thing. When they used to drive around South London handing out flyers in a Mark 1 Ford Escort. DJ Storm saying she wouldn’t have had a career without Rage. Doc Scott said Rage was the most powerful influence in his life. The very place where a man like Fabio created Jungle. 

Rage was where Fabio and Grooverider were the first people brave enough to pull up a tune. To play breakbeats on top of techno, to double the beats of hip hop and put it over the top of breakbeat tracks to birth jungle. The genesis of everything we know, where people began dancing differently. 

It seems the pair are never far away from celebrating a milestone. When I ask them about the official date of 40 years of playing together, they aren’t sure. They must have done a fair whack of interviews across four decades of music. I am conscious of avoiding asking them the same cliched questions for the hundredth time. I ask them what question they are most sick of answering. It’s how they got together, which I quickly scratched off the list. 

My obsession with Fabio and Grooverider probably peaked when I discovered their Friday night BBC Radio 1 show in the early 2000s. I’d tune in every week for my fix of two hours of elite multi-genre drum and bass and guest interviews, shot through with their trademark banter and shenanigans. Over a decade ago, they gave me a shout-out, “My speakers love you, my neighbours hate you,” reading what I had written to them live on air. Unlike my neighbours, I was absolutely stoked. Chatting with them and writing a tiny piece of their story today was a new level of frothy. 

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About the Author

Kate Stephenson's dangerous obsession with music and words has taken her to every corner of the globe in the quest for the filthiest bassline. Heralding from the mean streets of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England, she earned her raving stripes in the early 2000s at celestial institutions like Back to Basics in Leeds and Bugged Out in Liverpool, standing in queues snaking for hours round the block in freezing February nights before she knew how to hustle a guestie.

Having decamped to (slightly) more clement temperatures, Kate now calls the outstanding city of Melbourne home, feeling oh-so-very-welcome in a place where you are actively encouraged to party from Thursday to Tuesday. Kate stays alive on a strict diet of techno,jungle drum and bass and cheeky garage remixes, smooshed in with a little bit of everything in between. You can either find her with hands in the air, by the front left speaker or typing up a storm in bed drinking Yorkshire Tea by the gallon.