Rob Playford has been referred to as "the busiest man in jungle," and has probably had his hands in more aspects of the business, art, and culture of hardcore and drum'n'bass than any other single person. A DJ, recording artist (2Bad Mice, Kaotic Chemistry, Metalheads), label owner (Moving Shadow), and ultra-visible dance music proponent, Playford, like Goldie, Grooverider, and DJ Hype, has been a staple on the hardcore scene since it traded its helium-shrill vocal samples and rave whistles for chopped-up breaks and thunderous basslines in the early part of the '90s. An important catalyst of jungle's post-rave growth spurt, Playford's 2Bad Mice project helped push breakbeat beyond its rave trappings, and, with Moving Shadow as his engine, has played a crucial role in supporting jungle's growth as an autonomous art form.
A native of Hertfordshire (just north of London), Playford DJed house and techno through the late-'80s height of the acid house movement, following the music into its harder element at decade's turn. He self-released his own track, "Orbital Madness," and became a touch point for young artists and bedroom producers seeking advice on how to break into the scene. Rather than continuing to funnel talent to other labels, however, Playford formed Moving Shadow in 1990 (assisted by a "how-to" book on running a small business), both to release his own material and those of up-and-coming hardcore artists such as Blame, Mixrace, Flytronix, Danny Breaks (as Hyper On Experience), and Earth Leakage Trip. Initially selling records out of the trunk of his car, the steady growth of the hardcore and jungle scenes, as well as the consistent quality of the music finding its way to Moving Shadow, meant the label quickly became a full-time commitment.
Moving Shadow's early catalog was dominated by Playford-related projects, including 2Bad Mice, the influential trio Playford formed in 1991 with Sean O'Keefe and Simon Colebrooke. They released a number of club hits through the early '90s (including "Waremouse"), and are widely credited with releasing the first serious glimpse of drum'n'bass in 1992's massive "Bombscare." One of Moving Shadow's first chart successes, "Bombscare" charted in both the U.K. (number 43) and the U.S. (number 23) and has sold through a number of pressings, reissues, and remixes. Playford's other main musical venture -- Metalheads (the artist, not the label), together with Goldie -- have released a number of singles, including the massive hit "Inner City Life," arguably one of the most crucial moments in jungle's crossover to widespread acceptance. The pair also worked together on Moving Shadow's much-hyped 100th release, titled simply "The Shadow" and billed to Playford, Goldie, and Dominic Angus (of MS's Dom & Roland). The Metalheads tag has also been attached to a number of remixes, including post-Happy Mondays group Black Grape and the soundtrack for Mission: Impossible. Playford also engineered on Goldie's full-length debut, Timeless.
Moving Shadow's incessant drum'n'bass P.R. extended in the mid-'90s to a series of regional compilations (including Storm from the East and Transcentral Connection), and the label has increasingly pushed the full-length format, with albums by Omni Trio, Foul Play, and E-Z Rollers all appearing. The label's stable has also grown to one of the most solid and acclaimed on the current scene, with new-crop artists such as Ed Rush, Dom & Roland, and Technical Itch all signing on. A reissue label, Re-Animate, was established in 1996, and Moving Shadow's publishing arm has handled licensing for such popular U.K. TV shows as Eastenders and Father Ted. In addition to the success of his label and recording projects, Playford was also the recipient of a special award for outstanding industry contributions at the 1996 U.K. hardcore awards.