Back in the day—before AIM was how producers would get their dubs to radio DJs and forums like Dogs On Acid moved the digital conversation on drum & bass—I had to use AOL’s Ravers chats to talk to people about drum & bass in real time. I don’t know how much I could’ve been considered a “raver” at the time; I had attended my share of raves, mostly because how else could you hear drum & bass on proper speaker systems? Either way, the AOL Ravers chatrooms (and “Rave On,” which I did not prefer) was where I first remember talking to DJ Seen—one-half of The Burner Brothers, who have finally unleashed their debut album, One for The Road. He’s become someone I consider a homie, and it’s primarily because all we’ve ever really spoken about was drum & bass. We come from entirely different backgrounds—we both currently reside in New Jersey, but I’m a Black kid who loves hip-hop and all kinds of pop culture, while Seen’s from Peru, coming to the States with more of a rock background before integrating with the skaters in the early ’90s.
“I started skateboarding,” Seen remembers. “That was my way to make friends. I met some questionable weird kids, and from the skaters I met the other weirdos.”
A junglist is born
Seeing as he was a young guy who’d just learned the language a few years prior, it’s not a shock that a self-described “goofy, nerdy, crazy” kid who occupied more hardcore punk shows than dancehalls at the time would get sucked into the rave scene. Seen remembers the first time hitting up N.A.S.A. at the Shelter. “I was like, ‘this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen’. I wasn’t [thinking] about the music at this point. We went to like a little side room and it’s all ambient, people playing like cool weird shit.” The more Seen would hit N.A.S.A., the more he’d start to hear breakbeats and jungle music, eventually leading to Seen putting some money together to get his own decks and become a DJ. Running into NYC jungle heads like DJ Odi helped Seen connect the dots on the sounds he’d hear at N.A.S.A. with tracks that would turn up during record digging excursions with his homies, as well as discovering the institution known as Konkrete Jungle. “The Wetlands is where Konkrete Jungle used to be,” Seen explains. “I started going to N.A.S.A. on Fridays and Konkrete Jungle on Mondays. I’d be at Konkrete Jungle every Monday.” During this time of his junglistic life, DJ Seen met DJ WAlly, aka Pish Posh, and it’s at this point where I have to derail for a second.
I don’t remember when I first discovered DJ WAlly; I know I copped his Genetic Flaw album, which dropped via Liquid Sky back in 1997. It may have been because I was familiar with the Liquid Sky / Jungle Sky movement at the time—those compilations were everywhere. Back then, WAlly wasn’t dropping full-on jungle projects yet, but he’d sneak some dnb in there. Peep the last minute and a half of “Mr. Beaver Saves the Day,” a dub cut that didn’t need an amen rollout but got one because goddamn it sounded ill. Tracks like that really showed me how closely the worlds of hip-hop and jungle music were, which then made me a big fan of WAlly’s, keeping up with his movements via AOL. It’s in those random Ravers chatrooms that I’d interact with Seen, who was already rocking with WAlly, primarily due to the music but also because of their similar senses of humor.
“I really enjoyed being in the studio,” Seen says. “My boy MC Panik, he was one of the first MCs of the drum & bass scene in New York City. One day he said ‘I’m gonna go work on this track with my boy WAlly, you should come through.’ I’m going ‘I bet it’s because I had a car, he’s probably just using it for the ride.’ We drive out there, and then he’s working with him on “NY Undercover” [from WAlly’s first Pish Posh release, 1998’s Up Jumps the Boogie].”
Seen says that at this point, WAlly and himself made a connection that’s lasted to this day. Soon, Seen was visiting WAlly’s studio on the regular. “Go to another session. Now it’s just me and [WAlly] and we’re hanging out. He’s working on stuff and I’m sitting there rolling joints and blunts, getting stoned and just watching. Enjoying just being part of the artistic thing that was happening in front of me. This guy was working on tiny little screens, chopping an amen. I remember seeing that being like ‘I’m never gonna do this shit.’ It just seemed so daunting.”
Burner Brothers, assemble!
During this same time, Seen also linked up with the man now known as CT Burners, who was popular among the kids at the skate spot that Seen would roll to dolo. Seen soon learned that CT was getting into the producing and DJing side of dance music as well, making it natural for Seen to eventually bring CT to WAlly’s spot.
Those days were the foundation, with Seen getting credit on Up Jump the Boogie‘s “The Monsta”. “Fast forward a month or two later,” Seen recalls, and he mentions to WAlly that CT was his homie. “‘He’s [in] the gym training,'” Seen remembers telling WAlly. “He’s getting into drum & bass. [We] started working on ‘The Offlanders’,” a tune you can find on Pish Posh’s 2001 release Indoor Storm.
“We finish the song,” Seen explains, “but [we’re] like, ‘What are we gonna call ourselves,’ you know? So I have the bong, hit it, start fucking coughing. Then I go, ‘Yeah, Burner Brothers.'” Over time, the trio became a duo—Pish Posh kept making drum & bass and other sounds on his own, while Seen and CT stayed Team Burner, building up a catalog of releases with Technique Recordings, Formation, Flex, Subsonik Sound, and in 2012 on their own imprint, Patrol The Skies Music. At some point, there was a waning of interest in their brand of drum & bass—Seen feels it has more to do with their time spent in the scene giving the Burner Brothers a surprising disadvantage.
“I think a lot of [people] take us for granted,” Seen says. “We’ve been around for so long, they just feel like we have a billion fans. ‘They don’t need the support, they’re the Burner Brothers.’ No, we need to support more than ever, more than back in the day. Back in the day, we had support, we had the fan base.” It took a few years for dubstep and other fads to fade out before Seen started getting excited about the scene again. There was a conversation with Brent Liminal in 2014 that helped spark the idea for the US DNB Hub group on Facebook. The Hub is a space for Stateside drum & bass artists, DJs and fans to congregate; sharing mixes, tunes, thoughts on releases, beef, and more. The fact that Seen has taken to running the group largely by himself shows the dedication he has for the scene. Well, that plus getting back into the studio with CT, trying out things when they could carve out some time to pursue the Burner Brothers sound while making sure their regular lives were taken care of.
The Burner Brothers weren’t necessarily thinking about making an album at that time, but over the last few years, that renewed energy forced CT and Seen to really sit down and craft the opus that is One for the Road, a 16-track, genre-bending LP that showcases both the bond Seen and CT have built as producers (and friends), but also flexes their ability to color outside of the confines of drum & bass—their halftime collaboration with ill-esha, “Live Again,” is a perfect example, which Seen owes to CT Burners’ influence. It’s one of the fuller tunes on the project, almost a 180 from “Vibe Ting,” a necessary collaboration with Pish Posh that almost didn’t make the project.
“‘Vibe Ting’ I worked on myself a lot,” Seen explains. “I thought it was just gonna be a roller. I’ve got like a couple hundred started rollers that will never see a light of day. I remember being like, ‘CT’s not gonna like this one.’ And was going to move on from it but I happened to be talking to WAlly about some other song he was working on and I was like, ‘I’m gonna send you some stems. If it makes [you want to] do your thing, put that WAlly touch on it,’ meaning I was too lazy to look for a bassline. I remember being like ‘yeah, I know this motherfucker probably has 13,000 basslines ready to go. He added that Wally touch and it was a wrap.”
Seen says that another Pish Posh collaboration was on the album, but CT said that what became of “Vibe Ting” flowed much better on the final project. “It’s funny because a lot of people say ‘Vibe Ting’ is such a jam.” Seen doesn’t play favorites on the release. Seriously. I asked and Seen spoke about a number of highlights from One for the Road, like the beautiful album closer “Blue” with frequent Patrol the Skies representer ASHFLO or “Bad Boy Style,” the Jamalski-featured tune that Seen describes as their homage to Konkrete Jungle New York. The album is also full of emcees; UK legends like MC Foxy occupy the same disc with the mighty Stateside general Armanni Reign and thee C.L. Smooth, spitting over a dnb tune!
Thinking about the number of emcees that are featured on One for the Road reminds me that Seen and I spent a good chunk of time talking about his work with Raw.kuts, Rawkus’ drum & bass sub-label that Seen did A&R work for. That story will have to come another day, though. Plus, Seen has a number of acts set to drop on Patrol The Skies, including material from SST, ESKR, KRISPE, GRETZKY, and more. There’s a simple message that Seen echoed towards the end of our conversation.
“[There are] a lot of people with keys in this industry that have been in this industry for a long time. If you have a key [that can] help other people, don’t choose [to] just [help] your homie. Use the keys to help all of us, because if we grow this American drum & bass thing—I’ll die on this fucking hill forever—if we grow American drum & bass, with local American drum & bass artists, drum & bass will be the biggest music [scene] in the universe. When America gets behind something, [it] pops off. Everybody’s gonna make money, right? There [are] guys [who have] been coming through to America to eat for a long time. Most of us never really been invited to go over there.” Keep in mind, this hasn’t stopped anyone’s grind; The Burner Brothers have been doing the damn thing for over 20 years. Bridging that gap between the pod could help open up the world, especially in a post-pandemic world where gigs and traveling are back to normal.
Ultimately, DJ Seen’s mission feels similar to the Burner Brothers’ mission: Wake those who are asleep to the heat that’s been coming from this crew for ages. That crew can be the Stateside drum & bass scene as a whole, or their long-awaited debut album, One for the Road. “My hope is that—for people who have been sleeping—the album’s able to pull them back in and show them, ‘you know what? We got this.'”