- A classic cut from two UKG greats.
- On November 23rd, 2001, Richard Forbes, AKA Sticky, was celebrating his 28th birthday at a recording studio in Southgate, North London. He wasn't alone—singer and songwriter Kele Le Roc was there, too. It was the first time the pair were collaborating on a musical project after being fans of one another for some time. When Le Roc arrived at the studio, she wasn't aware of the occasion. She was simply showing up for a recording session that, unknown to them, would go on to birth a UKG banger powerful enough to ride the genre's choppy waves in the following years.
Sticky and Le Roc probably didn't know just how well "Things We Do" would, well, do. But Forbes had some inclination. It was only after recording the track (which took "around 45 minutes, tops") that he finally revealed that it was his birthday. Le Roc asked him why he hadn't said anything earlier. She also asked why he chose to work on his special day.
"I've made a record that I know is going to be big," he said. "How could that not be the best birthday present ever?"
During the studio session, Sticky and Le Roc were quick, buzzing off birthday energy and celebratory spliffs. They were completely tuned into each other's musical wavelengths. Forbes sang the ad-libs he had in mind to Le Roc. She performed them, and the rest of the song, perfectly. Then they recorded "Man On The TV." This time Le Roc sang lyrics she had written over "Triplets II"—another masterclass in infectious UKG, which received what's possibly the most memorable Discogs review in existence.
Forbes picked up singing early in his career. He'd come to the realisation that if he wanted to be one of the best producers (in his eyes), he'd need to be able to sing. He made it his mission to be able to imitate any of his vocal collaborators "to a point" and be in key doing so. It's something he put into practice while working with Le Roc.
Le Roc is the voice behind tracks like "My Love," "Little Bit Of Lovin'" and Basement Jaxx's "Romeo." She's also UKG royalty. She fell for house and garage while raving at nights like Twice As Nice in Vauxhall. Back then, she was signed to Polydor and working in more poppy, R&B circuits. But her love for UKG quickly filtered into her work and soon she was begging her label to release UKG remixes of her tunes.
It was around this time that Forbes met Steven Marsh, or Sly, as he calls him. Marsh would go on to introduce Forbes to a singer and songwriter called Samantha Powell. Forbes, Marsh and Powell would join forces as Sticky for some time.
"We were going to be, I don't know, The Fugees," says Forbes with a laugh.
It was a fleeting union. While they were together, Sticky put together another fan-favourite called "Triplets." The tune is revered in itself and actually forms the backing instrumental to "Things We Do." Marsh and Powell were involved in the writing process and are also credited on "Things We Do." Forbes decided to go it alone in 2000 and has since helmed Sticky as a soloist.
Some "Triplets" context: the track started out as a remix demo that the trio were working on for a group called Ladies First in 1999. While in the studio, Marsh had an idea for the strings. Forbes was into it, but thought it could work better as a bassline. They toyed around for a while before returning to their original version.
Later, after Marsh had gone home, Forbes decided to give his bass loop idea another go and create a melody for it. "The first melody I could think of was a piano, but I thought, if I heard it in the club, would I remember it?"
He needed something more attention-grabbing. He hunted for other sounds and finally stumbled across a bell. It was perfect. "You can't miss it," he says. "It's in your face. The moment you hear it, you know what tune it is."
Forbes finally released "Triplets" in 2001 as a B-side to an Aaliyah bootleg he'd made. The Aaliyah track sold 3000 copies at the time, and DJ EZ was playing it, which meant it had to be good. Before long, a handful of DJs started playing "Triplets" after noticing it on the record's flip. Soon after, UKG pioneers Heartless Crew started playing it and suddenly Forbes's phone was blowing up with requests for this elusive track. He chuckles, deep and hearty. "I'd be like, 'You probably already have it'." It also helped that Forbes had another hit out around the time: "Booo!" with Ms. Dynamite.
When "Things We Do" arrived, the UKG scene was fizzling out. London Records, which at the time housed music from both Le Roc and Forbes, wasn't interested. Other labels felt the ship had sailed. Forbes says it was Le Roc who catapulted "Things We Do" to greatness in spite of the label setbacks and the waning scene.
"Kele then was going out and just working the record," he says. "She went and played it over and over again. She worked that record."
It also helps that it's a UKG cut: the genre simply has a magnetising appeal. "If you have a really beloved garage song, it just lasts forever," says Le Roc. "I feel like with music and I think [with] garage music in particular, it just acts like a time machine. When people hear certain tunes they are transported back in time to one of the best times in their lives."
A Things We Do