Oxide & Neutrino: how we made Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)

‘There was a rise in gun crime and garage was blamed. We went from being on Top of the Pops to not being able to play anywhere. Then I was shot’

Alex Rivers, AKA Oxide, DJ

I met Neutrino at the pirate radio station Supreme FM, where we were doing DJ sets. We clicked and joined So Solid Crew, who at that time were 30 strong. When we all piled into a tiny room, it was crazy – but when Neutrino and I signed our own record deal, we became a separate entity.

Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty) was the first track we made. DJ magazine were advertising a day at a recording studio for £99. My brother brought the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack to the studio, and one of the skits between the songs seemed to fit with a sample of the theme from the BBC series Casualty, which sounded edgy. So I used both in the track.

When you’re 17, you don’t worry if using something like a TV theme in a track is cool. We didn’t know anything about clearing samples, but later we started worrying that someone would come after us. I phoned the reception desk at the BBC – “Excuse me, my band have sampled your Casualty tune” – but they didn’t take me seriously. When we got signed, the record label cleared the sample.

We initially made Reload as a dub plate for the pirate radio show, but my brother’s £2,000 redundancy money paid for the first 1,000 white-label singles. We sold 20,000 from the back of a Peugeot 305. My brother ran up thousands of pounds in parking tickets: we’d park outside a shop, run in and do a sale-or-return deal, but it got quite expensive. The car’s exhaust fell off and the heater was stuck on – it was so hot inside that the glue on my new trainers melted.

Initially, we had no commercial radio play. Some stations refused to play the single because they thought “reload” was about guns. But the pirates played it, then Kiss FM did, and it took off, which seemed to shock the mainstream stations. When they did the chart rundown on Capital, there was a three-second pause after they played the record. Then they just went: “Er, that was this week’s No 1.”

Mark Oseitutu, AKA Neutrino, MC

When Oxide first played me the beginnings of Bound 4 Da Reload, it was mainly the beat and the Casualty theme. He wanted me to add some lyrics. “Bound for da reload” was something I said on pirate radio, meaning: “DJ, reload the track.”

It was my first time in the studio, and I asked the engineer for the same mic I had used at the pirate station. He said: “You can’t use one of those in a recording studio!” I did the whole song in one take – I didn’t realise you could do it over and over again – but it captured a certain nervous energy.

Oxide and Neutrino in Austin, Texas, in 2002.
Oxide & Neutrino in Austin, Texas, in 2002. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian

They called us “UK garage” but today, Reload sounds like the start of what was becoming grime. Pirate radio was massive then. People recorded our sets on cassette tapes, which made their way to cities around the country. We went from the underground to Top of the Pops very quickly. I remember going to buy trainers, and so many people were screaming at me they had to close the shop. I thought: “Why are people screaming at me?” and remembered: “Oh, yeah, we’re No 1.”

When there was a rise in gun crime, garage music became the scapegoat, like what is happening now with drill. We went from being on Top of the Pops to not being able to play anywhere, and no one would work with us. Then I was shot in Mayfair. Someone tried to mug me, I wrestled with them and heard a bang. I felt a warm sensation in my leg. Luckily it was a flesh wound, but to add insult to injury, I was arrested because the gun magazine had dropped in the car when the guy put the firearm through the window. I said: “It’s not mine, I’ve just been shot!” It was a weird time – especially because Reload had the Casualty sample and police sirens on it.

We’re both parents now, and they know Bound 4 Da Reload on the school run. There’s usually one person who’ll ask: “Can you DJ at our daughter’s birthday party?” I go, “I’m not the DJ. I’m the MC!”

Oxide & Neutrino’s new single, Dilemma 2.0, is out now.


Interviews by Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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