Sitting around at home for all this time is pretty jarring, innit? Particularly if, like me and likely tonnes more in shared housing, your working from home office is in your bedroom. Eat, sleep, work, don't leave, repeat. Some days are chill, some days I feel like my brain's been zapped and sucked of all energy and I can't even go for my usual swim, the one thing that usually sparks me back into life. Mixmag staff exercise, too, y'know! Still, this whole lockdown thing has, at least, proved I'm pretty sub-standard at quizzes, can run just over 6km without keeling over and actually enjoy watching a DJ DJ for an hour on a screen. But all this hasn't quite hit the sweet spot I've been craving, the hit needed to bring some proper joy into this incredibly draining situation. Then I heard someone say revisiting the stuff you loved at school is a way to inject some happiness into you and can be a "stabilising force".
Reading into this, I came across psychologist Dr. Krystyne Batcho saying: "We can trigger beneficial nostalgia by listening to the songs we loved during better times. Music from our teen years reminds us of our belief in and desire for the best that love can be." That's it then. I say farewell to my beloved NTS Radio for a week and embark on a deep dive down the rabbit hole, one filled with pungent UK garage cheese, rowdy drum 'n' bass, grime, The Streets, compilations pinched from my brother and sister and a whole lot more that soundtracked my teens in the mid-to-late '00s in my sleepy Hertfordshire village.
I'm not gonna pretend I'm one of those Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92 Was My First Album crew. If you really wanna know, it was 'Shaggy's 'Hot Shot'. But a compilation that really stuck with me and had a formative impact on my music taste was 'Pure Garage III' mixed by DJ EZ, won by my brother in a Kiss FM competition (correct me if I'm wrong, bruv!). So Day One opens with the iconic 'DJ...EZ...DJ...EZ...DJ...EZ' soundbites, a repetitive phrase heard more in my house growing up than the hoover on a Sunday morning. This was technically a second-hand soundtrack to me in my pre-teens, but moulded my taste early doors. Imitating the vocals of M-Dubs' 'Bump 'N' Grind' at my desk gives me that same giddy feeling it did almost 20 years ago. This leads to revisiting the tunes I rinsed as a 12 and 13-year-old - the UKG remix of Shola Ama's 'Run To Me', DJ Luck & MC Neat's whole back catalogue and speed garage classic 'Move Your Body' by Mark 'Ruff' Ryder and MC Vapour.16 years later and I still can't get those outrageous lyrics right. Still, it brings memories of me - decked out full NYC tracksuit - necking Lambrini in car parks before Fusion, an under-18s 'rave' at the local footy club, flooding back. And the carefree days crowded round MSN Messenger and social media site Piczo on one computer, where the only worry was getting home in time for dinner in front of Hollyoaks on the box at 6.30pm.
Oxide & Neutrino's 'Execute' album kickstarts Day Two, making me realise the Casualty and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels-sampling 'Bound 4 Da Reload' may well be the reason for me loving bad-boy basslines. A compilation lifted from my sister's CD collection - 'Lovin' It 2 - The Cream of R&B and UK Garage' - gets a play next. With a tracklist featuring Daniel Bedingfield's 'Gotta Get Through This' and The Wideboys' 'Sambuca', it's impossible not to sing along and think, 'Hang on, this nostalgia business might actually be working.' Shit, I really miss having Double Take and MC Kie's version of Evelyn 'Champagne' King's 'Love Come Down' as the ringtone on my orange and white Sony Ericsson blower.
If it wasn't for inserting Grooverider's 'fabriclive 06' CD - left behind by my brother when he departed for uni - into my mini Bush stereo, a long-lasting love for drum 'n' bass and jungle might not have started. I might not be sat here writing this, tbh. Day Three sees me skanking out to tunes like Danny C's 'The Mexican', Optimus Prime's 'Amen Slag' and Influx Datum's 'Back For More', bringing me as much joy and energy as it did the first time round when I was completely perplexed at what a 'fabriclive' was. The Streets' 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' comes next, an album I'll always remember listening to for the first time when my brother came home with a ripped CD. I loved it so much I ripped the rip, put it in a case and printed out the front and back cover to make it legit. Turns out this album still gives me the same feels as it did in 2004, 'Blinded By The Lights' still providing the craving to get in a club, those big, dark, loud places a 12-year-old could only dream of. Funnily enough, my best mate sends a link of the tune saying he misses me when I'm listening to it.
Day 4 and it's The Streets protégés The Mitchell Brothers taking me down memory lane. In come the chipmunk chorus vocals of 'Alone With The TV' and there I am, MP3 player in hand, JD Sports drawstring bag on my back, waiting for the minibus to school. The most random of memories to come into my head, but I'm so here for it. Kano's 'Home Sweet Home' is the next selection and 'Reload It' has me bouncing at my desk, followed by the heartstring-tugging 'Nite Nite', a most played on Windows Media Player after Limewire download sessions back in the day. Kano was obviously a star of Channel U - the legendary grime channel - so it's only right I jump through some Channel U classics - Swiss' 'Cry', Blak Twang's 'G.C.S.E', Choong Family's 'Memory Lane' and N Dubz 'I Swear' (don't judge, it's a banger!). All this reminds me of is cooking frozen pizzas and watching Channel U for hours on end. Ironically, watching TV for hours on end at the moment is doing my nut in.
Days 5 and 6 and I'm revisiting my hip hop faves from '04 and '05. Kanye's 'The College Dropout' is up first. 'All Falls Down' and 'Through The Wire' still have me belting out the chorus at the top of my voice, which I'm sure my new housemate is loving. Then it's The Game's 'The Documentary', making me think back to the inflatable blue sofa (Mad uncomfortable, no idea why they were so popular) I used to listen to tunes on in my bedroom.
It's Day 7 now and this is solely dedicated to drum 'n' bass. The lovely drum 'n' bass. The Goldie-mixed 'Drum & Bass Arena: The Classics', filled with tunes like Goldie's 'Inner City Life', LTJ Bukem's 'Atlantis (I Need You)', DJ Marky's 'LK' and Roni Size's 'Brown Paper Bag' takes me back to putting it on in GCSE art class and the majority of classmates not having a clue what's going on. I did make a good raving pal through that, though, which reminds me: message the pal to remind them how sick this compilation is. Now it's Chase & Status' debut album 'More Than Alot', the album that dominated the speakers in our sixth form common room, despite fucked-off side-eyes from the Anti-D'N'B Brigade. Well, I'm bringing that vibe to my house as I crank up the volume and blast out the revving 'Take Me Away' which makes me Lose. My. Shit. The same can be said for C&S's guitar-heavy remix of Nneka's 'Heartbeat'. Anthem. That moves me onto Adele's 'Hometown Glory'. Don't start rolling your eyes at me, thinking 'WTF is he talking about?' I'm talking about the High Contrast remix, a tune so heavily entwined with my entry to raving (shout out the Hospitality crew!) it still gives me shivers listening to it now.
I realise it's the end of my week listening to strictly tunes from the vaults. I won't lie, I'm gonna miss it. It made me feel good, like amazingly good. Bouncing up and down on my seat, dancing around my kitchen good. A wave of nostalgic euphoria every time an old favourite came on, reminding me of the most minor things, old mates I've lost touch with, the best times with mates I'm still tight with today. School times. Knock-down-ginger times. First getting into music times. Raving for the first time. Maybe I'll just listen to music from my past all the time. Or maybe I'll just put another NTS show on.
Dave Turner is Mixmag's Commercial Content Editor, follow him on Twitter