United Nation: Three Decades of Drum & Bass is a self-serving nostalgia trip into the beginnings of ‘One Nation’ a club which purportedly brought together the breakbeat, jungle, and hardcore movements for the first time to create drum and bass. The story is directed and largely narrated by One Nation founder Terry ‘Turbo’ Stone, sat for no discernible reason in the front seat of a shiny new Bentley. Terry is joined by an ensemble of DJ and MC friends who help him recount a ‘mad old time’ in the 90s fuelled by a desire to get fucked up and above all else make money.
The familiar narrative starts off as you would imagine, thousands of kids gather together in a field sometime in the late 80s to take MDMA and listen to fast beats during what is often referred to as the ‘Second Summer of Love’. Terry and his mates remember these years of free raves fondly as a time of racial integration and social uprising against Thatcherism, however they were abruptly brought to an end by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 which effectively banned unlicensed raves. Seizing the opportunity to profit from the corpse of rave culture Terry opened the club ‘One Nation’.
What follows is a series of almost entertaining anecdotes about the club told entirely from the perspective of those who worked there, many of which have the ‘you had to be there’ tone often exuded by middle aged bald blokes reminiscing about their youth at the pub.
The intended audience of this documentary (besides Terry himself) can surely only be the most devout drum and bass enthusiast. While to such an audience Terry ‘Turbo’ Stone may come across as some sort of benevolent D&B deity to the rest of us he comes across as the embodiment of rave culture commodification. For instance one of Terry’s many fond reminiscences recalls the night of New Year’s Eve 2000 when he attempted to charge a hundred pounds a ticket for his One Nation New Year party.
Later as one of Terry’s mates boasts about how they brought drum and bass from a ‘small underground dance movement to a global phenomenon’ the DJ duo Sigma discuss their drum and bass hit ‘Cry’ which features vocals by Take That.
It is at this point that the documentary reveals itself as a lament over the death of drum and bass told by the very people who killed it.
The documentary ends with Terry ‘Turbo’ Stone driving through Las Vegas wearing a gratuitous gold watch considering coming out of retirement to do ‘one more event’ making the past hour and a half feel like one very long advert, an advert which the audience has sadly just helped fund.
Image: Matthew Spong