I met Ollie across the turntables at Troy Bar. He had come down to unload some garage with his brother Alex at our first Joyride dance club. The brothers played under their moniker ‘Too Hot’, which I later learnt was also the name of the vintage clothing business, that Ollie runs online. As well as playing garage and dealing in iconic cultural garments, Ollie Evans is a successful film director, whose recent documentary ‘Jungle Fever’ charted the origins of jungle and the legacy that the British musical movement has left ingrained in our culture.
The blue line takes me north to Blackhorse Road, a familiar route by now. I rarely leave Ollie’s house empty handed, a dented balance maybe but a newfound sense of pride, that the bank can’t take from me. It’s cost me a small fortune but it feels like I’ve won the lottery, as my life edges one more jacket closer to completion.
We sit down round Ollie’s table in his North London home, where he lives with his wife Mia and their daughter Miki. We open up his box. Everyone’s got a box, only Ollie’s is too good to be true. We scatter the table with the artefacts of his youth, triggering recollections as we unearth packets of empty king size Rizla, lost mix tapes and futuristic roached flyers from 1998.
Ollie Evans is a Birmingham born thoroughbred. He was a blue before the Bullring, it was the grunge era and the city was on a downturn it could be said. In 1993 he had just started secondary school and as a teenager looking for an identity, jungle seemed to come along at the right time:
“I remember at school when it came out, sort of '93-'94, the black kids would listen to Buju Banton and Ragga. And the white kids were into Nirvana and stuff, but when Jungle came out there were people sharing Walkman earbuds across races that were never talking about music together.”
Before long tape packs would transform into record bags, Spliffy Jeans and branded bomber jackets. In 1996 Ollie got a pair of Soundlab decks for his sixteenth birthday and began actively searching out vinyl, “I remember really getting into Jungle properly by getting a Dr. Octagon Blue Flowers single that had the Photek remix and DJ Hype remix on it, and I just loved the DJ Hype remix so much.”
At sixth-form Ollie got his hands on a standard issue NUS fake ID and started going to Indie nights in Birmingham, because they were generally easier to get into and would always play a bit of jungle at the end.
In August 1999, Ollie and his friends went on a lad’s holiday to Newquay for the complete solar eclipse. “We took down 4 ounces of weed, we were big smokers at the time. And the guy in the chalet next to us had a load of Mitsubishis, so we were swapping our weed for his E’s.” The Mitsubishi era was in full swing and Ollie would get his first taste of jungle fever:
“On the first night we went to see Randall and Zinc at a place called The Koola, and I think that was the first proper all night jungle rave that we went to and it was fucking wicked. It was unbelievably good, there was sweat dripping off the ceilings, I mean the whole night felt about five minutes long but I just remember the feeling of just loving every single second.”
Ollie was too young to experience the Hardcore rave scene the first time around, but when the boys returned wide eyed from their experience in Newquay, they started going to old school hardcore and jungle revival nights, like Flashback, One Nation, and Helter Skelter at Que Club in Birmingham:
“The Que Club was the best venue in the country, well certainly my favourite. It was an old Victorian red brick building that you'd go in and it felt like you'd gone back to school or something. You would go up double staircases, all strip lit corridors and swing doors, with little tea rooms and little old women in overalls serving you teas, while St John's ambulance were going round handing out phone cards with Leah Betts on. There was this huge main arena with horns blasting out, people in hi-vis jackets, white gloves, whistles and glow sticks. Proper hardcore style stuff.”
In 1999 Ollie moved to London to study a painting foundation at St Martins, before switching to Graphic Design. We flick through an early sketchbook, the pages awash with the pulse of the club scene and vibrancy of an 18 year olds mind. As the new millennium approached, jungle had morphed into the futuristic, aggressive sounds of drum and bass and the more vocal led, soulful sounds of garage. Ollie had met Mia at art school and they started hanging out under the speaker at nights like Movement at Bar Rumba, Trouble on Vinyl at Scala and RAM Records at The End.
“I remember coming down here and keeping my jacket on in clubs and people were like 'you can put it in the cloak room mate' and you'd be like no, you keep your jacket on don't you? It's part of you, it's who you are, it's not just something to keep you dry when you're out, it's something you wear indoors so people know you've got a nice jacket.”
Whilst at St Martins Ollie got a job surrounded by the designer labels at the menswear retailer Zee & Co on Roman Road. The store had previously been associated with 80’s sports casuals and was now out kitting the burgeoning garage scene.
“We used to sell a lot of Stone Island and a lot of Armani. Zee & Co then, had a bigger account with Armani to buy jeans than the Armani store did. They were that popular in the East End. They used to sell a lot of Evisu, Moschino, and Patrick Cox's as well. I used to meet all sorts of people working in there, we used to get guys coming in, Phil Mitchell types bringing in the Billy Mitchell type 'get a pair of Cox's on', buying him clothes. Then you'd get the garage DJ's, Masterstepz used to come in there and bits of Pay As You Go would come in. You'd get people walking around stinking of skunk, buying £600 Evisu suits and paying in rolls of fifties.”
Upon graduation Ollie got a job building sets and sprucing up sofas for DFS furniture adverts, before starting out as a film director, and his breakthrough came in 2006 when he directed the video for Klaxons second single, ‘Atlantis To Interzone’. The track appealed to Ollie because of the rave element but he was never particularly keen on the Indie scene and after making videos for bands like Foals, Young Knives and New Young Pony Club, he started dealing Stone Island jackets on eBay. This felt more natural to Ollie and provided him with a source of income outside of directing that stopped him having to accept everything he got sent.
The next film Ollie would make was for Zomby’s 2013 record ‘With Love’. The difference being, he had all of Zomby’s records, so it was something that he could completely connect to and make sure every detail was correct. The success of the resulting film gave Ollie the belief he needed to stick to his guns and Too Hot has since developed into a tightly edited online store, where the brand selection reflects Ollie’s personal experiences and the significance of the North - South divide:
“When we were going out raving a lot, I was wearing a lot of Evisu and my mates were wearing a lot of Berghaus. My mate Goldie used to wear orange full-print Moschino jeans, brown Rockport boots and a blue and yellow Berghaus Mera Peak jacket. For us growing up in Birmingham that was just normal, that's what everyone wore. When I came down to London no one was wearing the Berghaus, or Rockport that they were wearing further north, but there was a lot of Moschino and Evisu going on down here. Birmingham is definitely a sort of collision of those cultures.”
Unwritten rule number one, never ask a dealer where they get their gear from, but what is clear is that where eBay represented a convenient platform to begin with, Ollie now calls on contacts and discovers his best stock by making personal visits.
“I picked up a load of Stone Island stuff off a geezer in the car park of Makro’s in Walsall recently. It was a Saturday morning and he was off to buy a slab of diet cokes and I’m there to pick up Stone Island out the back of his van, all wicked early 90's vintage stuff. I got a real buzz driving back.”
Ollie’s most recent work ‘Jungle Fever’ was commissioned by Dazed & Confused and screened on Channel 4. The film represents a full circle for Ollie, where he got the opportunity to meet the people behind the tape packs, records and radio stations that he has listened to since school.
“What I really wanted to do with Jungle Fever was reinforce how important it was for Britain culturally and the legacy that it's left. The garage thing and the grime thing and the dubstep thing, they're all their own genres but that energy came from jungle and that London, inner-city sound.”
Coming down under the hood of a Berghaus jacket, spitting in the rain. Roaching rave flyers when you’re out of tailor-mades. Ollie has had the foresight to draw on first hand experiences and articulate them through his work. Who knows what the future will sound like, but as a collector, enthusiast and dealer, Ollie’s search for white label classics and green edged holy jackets will go on, and after his homage to jungle, he’s not in a rush to take on any more directing jobs.
“Each job that I do now, I have to be happy with it. So something might not come along that I’ll be into for a long time, but that's the standard I want to put my work at now. With my daughter as well, you kind of want to make stuff that you'd be proud to show them in ten to fifteen years time.”
See Too Hot DJ at Joyride Garage Dance Club, Dalston Dance Tunnel.