Widely dismissed at the time as youthsploitation, the series was the brainchild of Jake Lingwood, a 20-something editor with a passion for mod (as a teenager he had started the ’zine Smarter Than U, named after a song on The Undertones’ 1979 Teenage Kicks EP).
The imprint’s real stars were Two Fingers and James T. Kirk (real names Andrew Green and Eddie Otchere), raised on south London council estates, and joint authors of Junglist, a 1995 novel about a weekend in the lives of young partygoers that begins with the epigraph, ‘Jungle is a headfuck. The sound of a transformer banging its head against a wall,’ and ends with a glossolalic A–Z that recalls nothing so much as a lysergically subaltern take on Molly Bloom’s epic stream of consciousness in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922): ‘rumblism, rupert, sade, scamming, schott, schwarzenigga, secs, sega, semesterisation …’
Junglist, like most novels in the youthsploitation genre, is equal parts scene manifesto (‘Bass is the vanishing point on the horizon where all black music disappears back to’), how-to manual (one chapter is devoted to the art of rolling the perfect joint) and rites-of-passage chronicle. Its rawness is a function of process – the authors, both jungle fans, hammered out slabs of text straight after coming home from a night’s clubbing – and also Otchere’s passion for graffiti: ‘The graffiti artist was always about the haiku. About trying to find the snappiest one-liner you can, write it as quickly as possible and get the fuck out of there.’
Chapter names include ‘Fight Gravity’ and ‘Craig’s Obsession: 12 Inches of Plastic in a Quasi-Rotational Plane of Existence and a Parrot’. Another begins: ‘Towards the sky I flew in a surge of tranquillity and found the unlimited existence in the shape of ultramarine.’ It’s a novel closer in spirit to William Blake or Thomas De Quincey than to Dick Hebdige.
Junglist, like all the titles Lingwood brought out, sold only modestly. Otchere confesses that he viewed it ‘like a wank in the morning kind of thing – you think nothing of it’. But it has its admirers, notably weird-fiction novelist China Miéville, who has described it as ‘a brilliant neglected text of London gnosis, backstreet Modernism’. Certainly no one since – with the possible exception of grime blogger Luke ‘Heronbone’ Davis – has deployed avant-pulp poetics so successfully to chronicle the capital’s musical undergrounds.