Category Archives: Interviews

Bliss Zion Interview

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[Photo by Stan Proudlock]

I was fortunate to have a quick chat with the very talented singer, MC, selector, producer, and promoter Bliss Zion ahead of her first ever gig in Glasgow, as part of the Decades of Dub Female Takeover. 

 

How did you first get into reggae, and especially singing and producing?

So, my mom has always been listening to reggae, not so much dub, more like Tony Rebel, Morgan Heritage, Beres Hammond… So like lovers rock and stuff, so I grew up on that and dancehall. Buju Banton and all that. And at the age of about 14 I started going to dub nights in Bristol, and I was blown away. Later on my mom introduced me to Andy Scholes from 2 Kings, and she knew most of the guys in Bristol who were active in the scene.

I grew up on reggae, and then I started collecting records as I began going to the night and buying records there. I was also writing songs and singing, but just your standard songwriter stuff.

So not reggae at that point?

No.  But I was always singing. And then I thought “hey I could start doing this”. But first I started collecting records, and Andy Scholes was like “why don’t you come and have a gig”. So he gave me my first gig.

And then I started working with Ras Muffet from Roots Injection. I met him through my mom’s friends. There’s a little place in Bristol called Cosies that’s been going on for longer than I’ve been alive, and my mom used to go there when I was a baby on reggae Sundays. And the guys that run it, Conroy and Dion, who I also run Bristol Dub club with, also run a sound system in Bristol called Jah Lokko.

So my mom introduced me to them, and one day they just asked me “why don’t you come and meet our friend Ras Muffet”. And I knew who he was already as I’d been going to dances for a few years by then. And I was just like “no waaaay! Yeah!” [laugh].

At first I wasn’t confident with singing, so he was just teaching me how to produce, because I was already producing dubstep at home. Just to a very average level.

Bedroom dubstep?

Yeah bedroom dubstep. And then I went over to his over and the first experience I had of making a dub tune was with a desk. It was amazing. We made it in Qubase, and that was my tune New Beginnings, which Iration Steppas have played.

Is that the one we can find on Youtube?

Yeah that tune. I had made it at home. I’ve actually put on Soundcloud the one I made at home and the one I made with Muffet, so that people can hear the difference. Because obviously the one I made in the studio, the instrumental is the same as the one I made at home, but once it’s been through the desk and all the channels, it just brings it to life. So I thought it would be really cool for people to be able to listen to the two.

And it’s quite funny, because when I first used to play it, people would go “that’s not your tune, is that a Muffet tune?”. Because it gone through Muffet’s equipment, it sounds like a Muffet tune.

It sounds like one of his productions?

Yeah, but I made it, and he just helped me finish it. And then I started going around there regularly, and he started teaching me, well… everything. Mixing, building a riddim… And as I got more confident with him and as a musician, I started singing.

The first song I sung was actually ‘Freedom out of Babylon’, and then I did a tune with Muffet called ‘A Time to Come’, which isn’t anywhere except my record bag.

It’s basically (Ras) Muffet, Andy Scholes, and being in Bristol that got me into reggae

Well that leads on to the next question. Outside of London, Bristol is one of the other big reggae and sound system cities. Here in Glasgow if you start out and you’re quite new, It’s fairly easy in that sense that it’s quite a small and tight community for sound systems, and people are happy to help out. Is it like that in Bristol too? How was it starting out there?

Yeah definitely. I mean it’s changing in recent times, because it’s getting a bit saturated.

But the general vibe is that in the community everyone helps out.  For instance, the night I run Bristol Dub Club, we almost run like a cooperative. So we sometimes book big sounds, we’ve had Channel One, Iration Steppas play there, and obviously you have to pay them whatever they want to be paid. But in general how we work is we say to people “we’ll cover your costs, and whatever we make on the door we’ll split”. So me and the other promoters, we’d never make a thousand pounds on the door and just take it, not that that ever happen anyway. Everyone that has been involved, including people who have handed out flyers, helped at the door, and obviously the sound systems, the artists…all get a cut. And that is part of it. It just means that small sound systems who aren’t known can come and play, and don’t have to worry about putting on their own nights, and try to get lots of money together for that.

It’s a community idea isn’t it.

That’s it yeah. But then you have these other nights who are coming in and setting up these massive student events on the same nights as ours. And it’s like, we’ve been doing this for ten years, and you’re fucking this up so you can make ten grand… But the heart of it is beautiful.

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[Photo by Stan Proudlock]

That’s the other thing as well, the sound system scene and bass culture scene is huge now. Glasgow is coming up, but Bristol is huge by now – stuff like Tokyo dub and all that

We’ll they’ve actually just changed their name. It started off as predominantly dub nights, and now it’s called Tokyo World. Because it was a bit disrespectful as they weren’t really pushing the dub side of it. But he didn’t mean to do that, and he changed the name. But there was a period of time where everyone was just like “why is he calling it Tokyo dub, where is the dub”.

Everyone is all about supporting the scene, which sometime can be a bit too much you know. Everyone has so much to say, and there is so much politics involved in it. But the heart of it is good, and people have good intentions.

I mean it’s quite a small city and everyone ends up knowing each other. I guess that why I also wanted to ask you about Cosies, it seems like everyone who starts in Bristol goes through Cosies.

Yeah, Cosies… It’s just mad.  On a Friday night there might be techno, on another Friday night there might be dubstep, but on a Sunday its always reggae. Getting to play at cosies means more to me. I’ve played at Glastonbury the last few years, and Cosies means more to me, even though Glastonbury is really amazing. Actually I really love Glastonbury as well. Okay bad example [laugh]

Let’s say playing at a really big event, Cosies has so many memories you can feel it in the place. But even Cosies is changing, I mean Bristol is changing

It seems like an incubator for the Bristol scene.

Yeah I mean it’s easy to use, you don’t need to pay much to hire it. People just go there for a good time. No one really knows what’s going on. They’re like “Oh let’s go to cosies”, they won’t say “let’s go to cosies to see such and such”. Occasionally maybe, but generally it’s just because you know that whatever is on there will be good.

Did you feel it was quite easy starting as an artist and DJ in Bristol?

Definitely. When I was growing up I always felt like I didn’t really fit in with anything, like I didn’t really have best friends. I spent all my summers at festivals and my good friends would be there, but then they would be in other parts of the country during the year. So I always felt very isolated in Bristol.
And as soon as I started entering the dub scene, not even as an artist but just as a person who goes to those nights, I instantly felt welcome. I find that in any dub across the UK. If you are at a proper dub night, not a student mash-up night – which is cool too – but when you are at a proper dub night, even if you don’t know anyone, someone is going see you in the garden and see that you’re not with anyone and come to ask “hey are you alright”.

It’s a different vibe. Most of the time I think it’s because there’s not really many drugs involved.

And if there is I guess it’s more social drugs like weed, where you can still talk to people, not just chew your jaw off.

Exactly yeah. I’ve never felt alone in that scene… I think it was very nice to come into it, very welcoming.

I had a few more questions about Bristol, and especially the Bristol sound. It is quite peculiar. There’s Dubkasm, Maasai, You, Evermoor, Henry & Louis, Armagedion… The Bristol sound seems to be on the heavier side of dub, quite steppers. Is that an influence from everyone else, or just how it developed through other sounds?

Yeah that’s true. I’m not sure how it developed. I mean across the scene it’s become quite stepper focused. But people are moving back now, making slower stuff. We kind of just follow what has come before us, and change it a little bit. But the bottom line is, what people really want to dance to…

It’s a really difficult question to answer [laugh].

I’ve just started making more rootical stuff recently, none of it is ready yet. And I’m working with people to get some live instruments because I’ve been listening to a lot of steppers and I just think it’s a bit too much head-banging.

But I think it’s quite easy to make, steppers, compared to roots, because there is a pattern you can follow. I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s not, but it’s a good starting point.
You listen to Dubkasm’s early stuff it wasn’t really steppers, it was more rootical. You listen to Ras Muffet early days, like Shashamane…. It’s all just changed.

And you notice in the dance, people are going the most nuts when its 140 bpm steppers. Personally I love both, but the commercial crowd that are coming and supporting the scene with their money, they like steppers. So I think everyone keeps making steppers for them.

In Glasgow for example, it’s a big techno city. And unless you’re really into it, it’s hard for people to get into the roots vibe. Guys like Mungo’s are a bit more on the dancehall side, bridging the gap between reggae and more continuous mixing and bass music in general. It’s a lot easier for people to get into, because it’s more familiar.

Yeah dance music, really. You can pop a pill to it.

You’ve worked with Maasai Warrior quite a bit. How did that happen, or how did get to collaborate with them? They seem to have sprung out of nowhere, and become one of the ruffest sound around in the space of 5-6 years.

Yeah they were just about, and then they had the sound. They used to play at Bristol Dub Club a bit.

I used to go to school with Jermel’s sister, and he lives around the corner from me. One day he just asked me if I wanted to come round, and that tune (Freedom out of Babylon) was recorded in his bedroom years before Maasai were touring around Europe. But yeah, he just asked me if I wanted to come round one day. And I already had some lyrics. I was really shy, and I had Paul Maasai on my shoulders, shacking me, going “Come on sista! Let it out, let it out!”.

And we had to do a couple of takes, because the first one I was just singing the chorus ‘freedom out of babylon’, and Paul was in the background shouting “freedom out of Babylon! Come on lexi, meh say freedom!!” [laugh].

And in the end I was too shy as a singer to do the harmonies. So the bits in between the chorus and the verse, that was Jermel. I was just “No Jermel I can’t do it, I can’t hit those notes”. And he just smashed it. It was literally just in a day we did that at his house.

Wow, because you wouldn’t think it was someone else. I thought it was you.

I know, it’s quite funny. And then we had no idea the tune would get such a great response. It worked really well.

It seems like Maasai, and Evermoor Sound, and you are the sort of new Bristol generation, that have been really active and pushing the scene.

It’s mostly built on friendship prior to anything to do with music. Quite a lot of the happenings, it’s just through friends and stuff. Bristol is just like that. People don’t say “oh I’m this person, I’m a big shot”. You get a couple who are like that. But generally not. And that’s really nice as a newcomer, to feel like you can work with these amazing people.

It’s like with Ras Muffet, he just says “hey come down whenever”. I used to just go round to his for hours.

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[Photo by Tom Porter]

When you play, you obviously select tunes, but you also sing and MC. And that’s quite impressive because not everyone can do that, and do it well. MCing is very different from singing, and selecting demands a lot of attention. But you do all that and do it well. So I was wondering what is your process. Because combining the three and having to read the crowd in those three different ways must be very tricky.

Yeah, I find that it’s one of those things… I’ll never sit at home before a gig and practice, or say “I’ll sing this part over this tune”, and do this and this. I’ll maybe practice my songs, that I’ve produced and that I’m singing on, but when I’m singing or just MCing on riddims, it’s just totally on the spot. And a lot of the lyrics will come on the spot just from the vibes. It’s total freestyling most of the time.

Because sometimes I won’t sing during the whole set. I might sing my tunes, like Freedom out of Babylon or A Time to Come, but I might not actually freestyle because nothing’s coming. But other times it’ll just be vibes the whole time.

I’m trying to work on that because it’s good to try and find the balance between freestyling and having loads of stuff prepared in your head. I do have lyrics in my head that I could throw down at any point, but it’s nice just to feel the vibes and the flow.

Aba shanti, he’s one person that I really watch. And Mark Iration. Have you ever heard him sing? A lot of tunes just say ‘Iration Steppas’ and you’ll assume he’s just on the production. But he’s got an amazing voice, and he’s an amazing MC. But when he sings, and only occasionally does he sing, I love watching him. You know that it’s so natural because he only does it when he’s in the vibes. So yeah, Mark (Iration) and Aba Shanti are big inspirations.

Because it is hard. Say if I’m singing over a tune, then when and how am I going to get the next tune ready. So I’m singing whilst flicking through my record bag. Sometimes it gets a bit much. But when you’re in the moment it just flows and you don’t think about it, and you hope that you’re doing a good job.

Yeah it really is about spontaneity. Does that feed into how you interact and feed off the crowd as a selector.  

Just don’t separate yourself from the crowd. Yeah I’m behind the turntables and I’m playing the music, but we’re all here having a good time. Even if you’re not on the mic, all you have to do is just look into people’s eyes, and vibe off of them. The worst thing you can do when you’re playing is to keep your head down and not look at anyone. Because nobody wants to look at you and see you with your head down. They want to see you having fun with them, and the same time.

The last couple of question link up to what we were talking about earlier, as far as being a female singer, selector and MC.

Yes, I love this topic [laugh]

It’s quite interesting. I’d interviewed a few guys before about this topic, and asking them about the whole idea of sound system as a very male dominated scene, with the stereotype of sound system culture being dudes lifting big speakers, nerding around with electronics. But they were guys, so I’m really interested to hear about your experience within that scene, as an up and coming female artist.

Well yeah at times I did feel people were like ‘you’re good for a girl’. I did feel that. But generally people are cool. We’re moving out of a time when women were completely marginalised. I mean physically, naturally women aren’t as strong, but it’s the principle that if we want to be we can be. And that’ all I ask from people. When I lift a speaker-box it hurts me, that’s why I don’t have a sound system. I’m not cut out for that. But some women do, and people need to respect that, and respect that women can do that if they chose to do it.

Yeah, I mean you can tell people are always blown away by your set, and part of it is because you’re a woman and they maybe weren’t expecting that. And that’s kind of annoying. Like what did expect me to do, just skip the needle? cause loads of feedback?

There’s been a couple of times when I’ve been DJing… There was this friend of mine, I’d say he’s a feminist, like he’s clued up and in no way judgemental. And he was having a technical problem with the mixer, and he’d asked my partner –who’s not a DJ – about it. And I was standing right there, and I was DJing that night, and sort of just wondered why didn’t he ask me. My partner couldn’t sort it out, even though he is very technical, but I’m around mixers all the time. So I had a look at it and just flicked a switch and it worked. And this guy didn’t even realise. Because if he knew that I was thinking he hadn’t asked me because I’m a woman he would have been devastated. But it’s engrained in him to ask the closest man, even though I deal more with mixers than my partner.

And you get that a lot. You’d be doing something and people are like “I can’t believe you know how to do that”. Well you know, women can learn things too.

But mainly it is totally cool. Especially as a singer, because women are mainly seen as singers, not as selectors. That’s the easier part.

It’s sort of been a blessing as well. People are like “oh you’re a woman and you do this, great, I want to help you in any way I can”. Whereas if I was a boy, I might not have gotten the same support as I have. I don’t know.  But I have never been in a situation where someone said anything to me and made me feel like shit. I don’t pick up on it too much.

But on the topic of female nights, I think it’s great and we should embrace these female takeovers because women don’t get paid as much, and don’t get the same respect. What I have noticed about women compared to men – and this isn’t all men, this is mainly old men. The young ones are a different story; they have less ego it seems. But women are not there like “look at me, I look great behind these decks”. They’re just feeling the vibes, and people feed off of that. But a lot of guys, especially older guys, they’re just standing there “look at me, meh got tunes”. And yeah, you’re great and you’ve got great tunes, but I’m not really feeding off your ego right now. I think people like that about women. The women’s nights I do in Bristol do way better, in terms of turnout.

I guess the fact that you need a female takeover in itself shows the problem.

Exactly, but I still like to look on the bright side of it, and think that at least I’m not in Saudi Arabia, where women don’t even get these opportunities. And today things are being talked about constantly, people are more aware of certain things.

Okay so the last question would be do you have any future projects or releases? 

I’m going to start my own label, called Higher Meditation. I’m probably looking at the tail end of this year, beginning of next year.

I’m still finding my feet you know; it’s only been four or five years. If you look at the great people that are in this scene, they’ve been working on their stuff for years. I don’t want to rush anything and just put stuff out there for the sake of it. I really want to do it right and make some really nice connections. But I’m definitely planning some stuff. Because my only release has been freedom out of Babylon, and that was when I was 17. I’m 21 now.

It is a bit mad really. I’m very fortunate that I’ve had so many opportunities without releasing anything. But I do keep my dubplates fresh, I’m constantly making tunes at home, and playing them out, seeing the feedback, and then putting that feedback into the tunes I want to release.

So yeah, watch this space!

 

 

Thanks to Bliss Zion for her time, and to the Decades of Dub family for helping make this happen.

words by AF. 

Doug (Mungo’s Hifi) Interview

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[Photo: Bartosz Madejski]
“So I feel that what we’ve ended up doing, maybe not consciously, is somehow trying to bridge that gap between an orthodox rootsy reggae dub selection, and a club DJ. The differences being, people have shorter attention spans in general, and a desire for music to carry on. It can be very effective to have a gap in the music, but for a lot of young crowds it confuses them.”

Doug from Mungo’s Hifi was very kind to take the time to have a quick chat about his thoughts on the role of the sound system selector, and the various techniques and methods reggae DJs use when performing.

(This interview is part of an ongoing research project)

 

What kind of performance techniques do you use as an artist?

It’s a broad question. An example?

Well the performance would be for example playing records, and then you could use additional performance techniques such as an MC, or using pull-ups, or echoes like a lot of the old roots sound systems. Anything that would add to the performance, other than playing the records.

And this is in the context of a sound system dance as opposed to other forms? … I think there are a lot of different kinds of shows you can play, from being in a bar, to background music.

As a sound system session, with your own sound.

Classically a sound system session is a long thing, I mean the Shaka Style, with one selector for five or six hours… Or that could also be an hour long slot in between other selectors and acts, and all of these things influence how you will approach it, and what techniques you will use.

Because, it’s a lot about story-telling, about bringing people on a journey. having a starting place and a finishing place, as opposed to simply tune after tune. I mean people can approach it like that, just play a big tune, play another big tune… So it depends how knowledgeable the crowd is of the aesthetic; what kind of background they’re coming from, you have to gage that. And always it’s going to be a mix: sometimes you’ll have a majority of the audience that’s more into going to clubs, sometimes you’ll have a majority that’s more versed in classic sound system.

Usually it’s trying to weave these different elements in, so that it appeals both to a newcomer and a hardened veteran at the same time.

Ultimately once you’ve got a sound system sitting there, a good sound hopefully, then it’s mainly about selection and what you’re going to play. That’s the most important thing.

Is it about that, or more about specific techniques within that. Within what you play, and again that varies between dancehall tradition, dub tradition, or kind of more modern approach I would say that has more of a consciousness of club music in general.

They all have different kinds of approaches to it. In a sense the pure dub approach, which is more how Iration (Steppas) plays, and which is much bigger in France – the UK sound is much bigger in France than it is in the UK. And that is kind of formulaic with 4/4 beats, and a certain way of bringing in the bass, and building up anticipation for the bassline drop.

That is one end of the spectrum.

And it’s funny, within the world of reggae you have people who have funny attitudes towards that, kind of ‘that is the one and only’ – there is a kind of orthodoxy about that. Which I understand, objectively it’s neither good nor bad. For me, that’s like a drum build up in techno. The first time you hear it it’s amazing, and then the next 100 times less so, and then 1000 times it’s like ‘oh god not again’.

And I was thinking about this while listening to rubbish radio, that my kids insist on putting on (laugh). We seem to have moved on a lot in pop music, it’s in a sense more sophisticated than that. If they do a drum roll, if they do a build-up, it’s more sophisticated than a drum roll that gets louder and louder and then drops. I don’t think I’m answering your question though…

It’s interesting, because there is quite a bit of information from the roots and dub perspective, traditional UK dub scene, on how they perceive their role, and how they get the dance going.

But I’m more interested in how you guys bridge that, in the sense that you still have the traditional elements of a sound system, while at the same time using two turntables and going into other realms and genres that are not traditional to UK dub.

In a sense I feel we’re looking at it more from where the majority of our audience is coming from. Electronic music, dance music, in all of its various shapes and sizes is so predominant in the UK and Europe generally, that that is people’s most familiar aesthetic. So I feel that what we’ve ended up doing, maybe not consciously, is somehow trying to bridge that gap between an orthodox rootsy reggae dub selection, and a club DJ. The differences being, people have shorter attention spans in general, and a desire for music to carry on. It can be very effective to have a gap in the music, but for a lot of young crowds, it confuses them. They think there has been a technical fault if the music goes off.

Is that linked, in Glasgow especially, to the techno scene and house scene, where you don’t have gaps, it’s just a continuous musical experience.

Yeah exactly, people want to dance, and in a sense it’s a collective experience. But again, this is how sound system is different from a live band.

When it’s live, you’re watching a band. So they’ll play a song and you dance around, and then they stop and they say something. But a DJ just plays music, and doesn’t stop playing music until the next DJ starts playing, and then they just carry on.

Old sound system style I guess was coming more from a live band tradition. I guess all they knew until then was a live bands playing, and as DJing has developed people are more into a continuation of music.

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[Photo: Bartosz Madejski]

So that comes from the whole dance aspect, but then for example for both traditional sound system as well as what you guys do, you still bring MCs, use pull ups… You are still using those traditional elements to an extent, would you say they still work, or do you bring them out less because of the crowd, or do you still try to use them because of the music you play?

It’s about creating some sort of work of art. It is about your artistic interpretation of that. And yes, pull-ups, and yes MCs. It’s about proportion within that. It’s something that is often commented on as irritating when a DJ pulls up too many tunes, or if there’s too much MCing.

So an MC can play a stage show where they just chat over riddims – which is more like a live band. And a lot of artists do PA sets, but we aren’t into that so much. It’s something that the MC likes, because it’s a of their work. But in my mind it’s not so much a sound system event. It’s more about vocal and version, and in that way you break up the potential monotony of having one voice on everything. As long as you keep a flow within it.

The whole continuous mixing is a lot easier with dance music and techno and stuff, but you can’t really do it in the same way with reggae. Because they are different songs.

They are different songs, I mean if you do mix, you won’t mix them in the same way, you’re not actually playing one over the other because they are more complex usually. It’s very unusual that all the chords would sound nice together. Having said that, there are ways of blending it, often reggae tunes will start with a drum roll, so you can bring a drumroll in on the beat. You can roughly match tempos, so that there aren’t big jarring jumps. Or if you are going to jump from one tempo to another, choose wisely. There can be two tracks that have the same tempo and that can sound weird together, while at the same time there a link between 90bpm and 140bpm and thereabouts, and you can go from one to the other without people necessarily noticing that change.

A lot of those comments you could say about dance Djs, and techno DJs is that there is very little interaction with their crowd, they often play their planned set which tends to be one hour of continuous music where the songs blend into one another and then once they are done they are done. Whereas in reggae and sound system culture there seems to be more of an engagement with the crowd, either through an MC chatting on the mic between songs, or arguably through pull ups and things like that which are forms of engagement.

So say if you are at a gig playing an hour showcase of Mungo’s Hifi music, are there particular ways in which you would interact with the crowd?

Yes, and I think that’s one of the things about sound system, it tries to break down the invisible barrier that exist between performer and audience. In various ways…

By performing more so from the floor, that’s one way of breaking down that barrier, by being literally within touching distance of people dancing around, and simply being another person in the room who is dancing around to the tunes.

Having an MC is a way of not only playing recorded material, you can literally interact with the crowd. You can say “oi you!”, you can talk to people, you can do call and response of various sorts. Either musically or by simply saying “how are you doing everyone’.
And the MCs that we work with are very professional, they have a good sense of how to do it. And again, you have to do it the right amount. You can do it too much and be annoying about it, and really turn people off. But if done well it is really effective.

You can see a crowd that is used to going to clubs not being sure how to react. And this is what I was saying about the aesthetic, it’s about what people are expecting, they bring their expectations to a dance, and there is only so far you can pull them away from their expectations before they start feeling uncomfortable, or stop enjoying the experience.

So you really have to have a sense of where people are coming from.

This is what I was coming to in terms of performance techniques. Are there ways of engaging with the crowd simply as a selector, without an MC?

Yes in that you can see the responses that each tune gets and that informs the direction you’re going to take. Personally I never plan a set, I have ideas and I have little groups of thing that I put together, but I never plan a full setlist.

Do you use sirens and effects?

We have a siren, a little Benidub. We use it, but quite sparingly. In a traditional dub approach there is more time, you are listening to a tune from beginning to end. In a sense it’s something for the selector to do as well, while they are listening to a tune. And yeah, it’s very much can be used to heighten the sensation. That’s mainly how I would use it, some bleeps when the track comes in.  Either as some sort of crowd interaction, or in between tracks, to fill a space, to create a bit of atmosphere.

 

It’s interesting how it became so closely associated with dub – to the point that it is now called a dub siren.

It’s like the space echo isn’t it, and having space within a track, pulling out a vocal so that there’s a lot less to focus on. So there is space for that to be done live, whereas with a fully produced vocal tune, it’s just going to make it sound shit.

There is also the thing about pulling the bass in and out. Because that’s the thrill for the dub selectors really, that they’ve got a massive sound system which when it is pumping the bass, is so physical to the point that when it isn’t there you really miss it and crave it.

And so they tease the crowd by the long intros, by pulling the bass quite a bit, and even us, we do that as well – although we’ll tend to do it for fewer bars than traditional sound systems would, and then bring it back in.

Or just pull it out for the last bar and then bring it back in just to get that impact again. Because you notice in a session if you don’t ever do that, you become kind of numb to the effect.

So in some ways using dub sirens and echoes and effects can hype up the effects of the bass?

Yeah, it’s about having peaks and plateaus

Is there anything else that you like to add in terms of building up the vibes in sessions, or ways that you have observed, or that you feel are particularly effective.

For me, as I said in the beginning, I think it’s about taking people on a journey. It’s about being in a completely difference place when you finish than when you started. Or you could be back where you were when you started, but having done that in a way that never feels like its jarring.

So working through 15-20mn sections of tempo or style, and then move on to the next one. But in a way that you would struggle to see where the join was, so that they flow.

That’s something that keeps it fresh and novel. And that’s something that I react against in the traditional dub night, because the tempo, the pace, the sound, doesn’t change from beginning to end.

But even people who are famous for doing that like Iration or Shaka, they will warm up the dance, they’ll go through different styles, although maybe fewer amount styles, and they’ll stick on one style for an hour or two… or three.

I was reading this article by Laurent Fintoni who was talking about the pull up being a very democratic technique, and used in many ways to bridge the gap between audience as passive and performers as active.

It is very democratic. But where is becomes undemocratic is when the MC intervenes. Because often you’ll have an MC shouting for a pull up, and that’s undemocratic because that’s just one guy thinking that.

Whereas in general it will depend on the moment, but if you feel there is a genuine up-surged from the crowd, a desire for that, then it’s a natural thing to do if there is a genuine sense of excitement in the room.

It’s not something you can plan for, because until it drops and people feel that excitement, you don’t know if it will happen

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[Photo: Bartosz Madejski]

Is it that maybe why you don’t see as many pull ups in dance music, where all the tracks blend into one. Whereas for a pull up you need to have tracks which are distinguishable, to really hear the particular track that gets the excitement going and that requires a pull up?

I don’t really know, it’s been a while since I’ve been to a dance event. It would be odd, wouldn’t it. I don’t know, it must happen. Because most people who are into dance music today would also be familiar with reggae tradition… maybe? Or maybe I just don’t go out enough anymore.

There must be other genres…

I guess grime, jungle…

But you wouldn’t expect to go to a house night a get a pull up. The house night usually will be a lot less about a big tune. Some nice noises going on while you’re fucked, but not a tune (laugh).

 

 

Words by AF

 

 

 

 

Dread Inna England: how the UK took to Reggae

“Dr. William “Lez” Henry is currently a social anthropologist and the author of What the Deejay Said, a book exploring the central role Jamaican music and culture played in shaping black cultural politics in the 1970s and 80s in the UK. But before that he was a British dancehall DJ by the named of Lezlee Lyrix.

His background as a British DJ channeled through his academic career makes Henry a fascinating and informative voice when talking about the intersection of race and culture in the United Kingdom. For our program Dread Inna Inglan: How the UK Took to Reggae, Saxon Baird talked extensively with Henry about his own experience growing up in a racially-divided community of South London and the importance of sound system culture for many in the Black British communities in the late 70s and 80s.”

How did you first get involved with the sound systems?

I first got involved with sound systems probably around 1971 with Shaka Sound, which was started and ran by Jah Shaka. Number one dub-sound probably on the planet. I used to carry speaker boxes for Shaka. I was young then, about 14. I used to get into the dances for free because I would help fill the back of the van and string up the sound. Used to call us “sound boys.”

You grew up in South London, in Lewisham, which is a really interesting place because it had a very vibrant sound system culture. Jah Shaka’s record store was located there and so was the Moon Shot Youth Club. However, there was also a lot of tension. There was a National Front march in the late ‘70s and then the tragic New Cross Fire. How did all these elements come to play a role in your perception of the world and your identity?

Well, to be honest it’s a lot of the stuff I use in my writing and my work. And it was reflected in a lot of my lyricism as well. One flash point during the time I was growing up happened in the early ‘70s, when members of a National Front pub which was adjacent to the Moon Shot club–which is where Shaka Sound played a lot of their early shows – attacked us one evening when we were going home. Apparently, there was a skirmish going on between some people in Moon Shot and some people from the pub. And they ended up attacking us in street. And that is a good example of what it was like to be black then. In fact, when I was younger, we used to learn Martial Arts. We are talking 14, 15, and 16 year olds learning this because we used to get by attacked by white men regularly. And I am talking big white men, like in their 20s and 30s, attacking kids. It was a dreadful and terrible time to grow up in. Racism was rife, and it was brutal in many ways as well. For us, in the ‘70s, we were going to school and kind of running that gauntlet of hatred. Its not the only thing that was against us but it was very significant in the way we view the world or viewed the world at that time.

I mean that’s what Shaka and other sound systems used to do; they represented a safe haven for us. Where we could go out and hear music that more reflected our social, political and culture sensibilities and be amongst our own as African-Caribbean people or African people because that’s who it specifically was occupying those spaces at the time.


Read more or listen to the interview on Afropop

 

Interview Bass Warrior Sound System

 

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photo by Bartosz Madejski

“But that was dub music. And me, coming from the Caribbean, I wanted to hear reggae dancehall style.”

“…And as a matter of fact, I played dubplates before and people were like “how did you get your name into that song?”, because they don’t even have a clue what it is. They don’t know what a dubplate is.”

Kenny from the mighty Bass Warrior Sound System very kindly sat down for a lengthy chat with us, and shared his thoughts on the early reggae scene in Scotland, the growing dubplate business, and the difficulties in connecting Scotland with sound system culture.


So,
I guess the first question would be when did Bass Warrior start, and why?

Bass warrior started 8 years ago, so that would be 2006. But we started because we used to have to hire equipment, and most of the time the equipment was rubbish, but you still had to pay. So I decided to build some speakers, and set up a system. We started off with 6 bass bins, and some top boxes.
So after that, we just been doing gigs, it’s been quite good so far. Except nowadays it’s quite difficult to find a place to play a big sound system.
but we started may 2006, and the reason for that was just to make sure we had our own system, instead of having to hire crappy PA system. To get a good sound, to get the sound that we really wanted, that’s why we decided to start bass warrior sound system.

And it’s completely homemade ?

Yeah. Well except the amps, they are bought.

When you started, was there already a sound system scene here ?

Well I started in ’96. There was reggae music,  I used to DJ from ’96 upwards. It was good but then once I started knowing more people I wanted to put on my own night, because before then I was just getting paid to play. So by this time we were playing in the Carnival Arts Centre, in Albion Street. So after having a discussion with the people, we decided to build a system and sit it there. So that’s where it used to sit, for probably a couple of years.
So before that we were just DJing, and hire if people wanted reggae music then I just play.

Back then we had Unity Reggae. But they really weren’t a sound system, they were just playing reggae. But they were playing reggae music, which was still good.
And I think just before that I’d heard of Mungo’s HiFi as well. I wasn’t familiar with Mungo’s at that time.

So sound system was never really big here for me. Not like in the Caribbean. Scotland never really had that, besides Messenger Sound System. I knew of Messenger, so that was the only real system I knew about back then. But that was dub music. And me coming from the Caribbean, I wanted to hear reggae dancehall style.

Well about dancehall and soca as well, how did people react to that kind of music here? Were they quite warm towards it?

Well, early days it used to be really good. I think most of the people we used to play for in 2006, and even back in the 90s, they tended to go out late at night. But back in the 2000, 2001 when I used to play out there was loads of people. But I think they just got old and stop all the late night business. Because I first used to play in Edinburgh, in this place called the Mambo Club. You probably never heard, but the Mambo club was a club where if you wanted to hear like African music, reggae music, everybody used to go on a saturday night.

So I used to play there, along with Caroline from Unity Reggae. They were the ones I started out with. So that’s where we used to play then, and it was a bit of everything: Soca, reggae, dancehall. So that’s my culture.

It’s funny that.  I mean in Glasgow now reggae and sound system has grown a lot, but you’re still the only one playing Jamaican music I guess, like soca, like dancehall.

Yes well that’s how I feel, because originally the island where I’m from is mainly soca. I mean reggae has just filtered in, because if you know the islands, you have Trinidad which is soca, and reggae is Jamaica. But then most of the islands are just soca: Antigua, Montserrat. All of these are soca islands. But then reggae becomes part of the culture because of the Rastafarians.

Reggae became bigger as more and more people started getting into Rasta in the Caribbean. So that is what I kind of grew up listening to, mainly soca, reggae. Then later in the 80s I got into dancehall. So I used to feel happy playing soca and I still do enjoy it, but there’s not really a big soca crowd in Scotland.

But still, every now and then I still have to play it, just to make me feel at home. That’s what it’s all about, you know.

We talked to Rampant Sounds a while back, and they were playing in the 90s, and said that reggae and Jamaican music was quite hard to get to in Glasgow mainly because of the techno legacy. But do you have any thoughts on why reggae took so long to get here?

Well people say reggae is big here, but me personally I don’t think it’s big, you know, how reggae should be like. I mean, yes we go to Argonauts on a Thursday night, Mungo’s at the Berkeley suit.

But when I first came here in ’94, every month we used to go to this place just across Woodlands Road. There used to be a club there called Club Mandela, where they used to raise funds for anti-apartheid groups. And we used to do reggae there every month, and we used to have huge crowds. I’m talking about 500 people at those nights. And Unity Reggae used to run that, and I used to play reggae and soca and dancehall. So those people who used to come every month, there were times where we had to close the door to keep people out. I mean everybody didn’t come for reggae, but they came and enjoyed the music and gave support to the charity as well. But they still used to enjoy reggae, and it was popular.

And when you got to do smaller clubs, you still got good numbers that would come. Now, you do reggae music, if it keeps in certain areas you only get a certain amount of people.
I mean, Mungo’s does reggae at the Art school, and they do their style. You have Argonauts as well; you have me. You still have Rampant Sound, who are still about.

Then you have other reggae shows, like things that you put on at the O2. I mean you would expect bigger numbers for some of the good bands they bring. So yeah, techno is still the leading music here.

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So you had bigger crowds in the 90s than what you have today?

Yeah. Well I think back then you still had ska. People from the ska era, who were here supporting reggae. Some of these people now they probably still love their reggae, because if you go to Toots and the Maytals at the O2 you will see them there,  but you won’t see them anywhere else.

So they must love reggae music, which is why they were supporting it back then. But some of them do grow up, past 12 o’clock they don’t want to be in a club anymore.
Also over the years, I think British people become more British. You probably get more people going to drum n bass, going to grime and stuff, than you will find going to reggae nights.
I mean, go to Messenger sound system in Edinburgh and you’ll find a lot more of foreigners. There’s quite a lot of foreigner who support Messenger. So it’s that kind of dub style, UK style that people prefer. Messenger is more UK style, it’s not really Caribbean.

It’s more like Channel One, Jah Shaka style, which is what they like. But for me, it’s not Caribbean. So depending on what type of reggae you’re thinking about, some Scottish people adapt to that (UK style) instead of the Caribbean one.

If you go to Europe, then you see people who like reggae. Going to Europe you see people who like reggae music and you realise that is what we need in Scotland, where you don’t really have it.

You go to Garance, you go to Summerjam, Benicassim… You see what it’s like.

That was something I wanted to ask you about actually because I know you went to Garance with Argonauts a couple of years back.

Well I’ve been to Garance, I’ve been to Summerjam, and I’ve been to Rototom. And the following for reggae over is so huge, for people whom English is not their first language. And it’s not even the way they follow it, it’s how they’re passionate about their reggae, you know. I don’t see that kind of passion here. So far I don’t really know why we don’t see it here, I don’t know if it’s just that people don’t take to reggae. Because some people say reggae is a bit too slow, some people like dancehall. Some people just don’t want to listen to the same music all night. It might have to do with that as well.

It’s funny because Scotland is quite closer to London, which has got a huge sound system culture, whereas France or Italy, it’s further away.

Well that is true, but the problem is if you go to north of England, even if it is closer to London, there are only certain places in England where reggae really has a Jamaican following. When I say Jamaican I mean the Jamaican style of reggae music.
Because if you go to Leeds, you’re going to be finding Iration Steppas, who have a following for their style of music. You don’t really hear about any other big reggae sounds in those parts.

If you go to London there are well over a hundred sound systems, as you can tell from the [Notting Hill] carnival. But come out of there, then the next city is Birmingham basically where reggae is partly big again. They are the only two cities that over the years you have had big sounds develop. Anywhere else you go, there are names or smaller sounds, but they never really make it big. So the culture is just still basically tied up where the West Indian community is huge.

Like Manchester, I don’t know if you’ve heard of any big sounds come out of Manchester. And yet they’ve got a big West Indian crowd there. I mean there are sound systems there, but they are just not big.

In the north of England you have a couple of ones that go to festivals, that you can see at festivals.

It’s interesting what you say about that, and that the culture hasn’t really moved. Because I mean if you look here, like the London sound systems with only one turntable and MC, you don’t find that style here.

No. the only sound in Scotland that plays the way London sounds play, how Jah Shaka play, is Messenger. That’s their style, and that’s how they play.
I mean Messenger has been around I think from the 90s, because when I came here in 94 they were already here. But I mean beyond that you get other people who play reggae, like DJs who play reggae music, but they’re more DJing, they’re not what we would classify as sound systems.

My whole idea when I started was to be able to go to a park and set up and play. I didn’t realise that the laws don’t allow that [laugh].
Back home that’s what you’d do on a Saturday afternoon if I’s a good day. You can take the system out and play, or arrange it with a bar. You only need two weeks to do that, you just need to apply for the licence. So I thought I’d do the same thing when I came here, I didn’t realize it doesn’t work like that.

So I don’t know if that’s what helps keep the sound system thing small. But now there are a few people who want to build speakers, but just can’t. Because you have to have storage, you have to have a crew. If you don’t really have crew and have a sound system, that can be a problem. You need to be able to have people to move speakers. Because even if you can roll (the speakers) out, it doesn’t roll out easy. You need a crew.
Over the years I’ve struggled with that. Sometimes it’s just me and two more people. And if you’re going to move 8 bass bins, and mid-tops and stuff at the beginning of the night and then at the end of the night… it’s quite a lot of work.

And if you do all that and the crowd doesn’t really turn up, it’s not really inspiring anymore.

Is it quite hard to find a place for sound systems to play, to book places for sound system sessions here?

Well I think it got harder.
the Art School is one of the best places that would allow you to bring a system in. Most other places, except in Blackfriars, you have to go down some stairs. Then warehouse parties aren’t really a big thing in the reggae scene. There are loads of warehouses spread about Scotland, and especially around Glasgow, in places like Govan.
But people won’t travel to them unless you really have some famous name. And that tends to be techno a lot. These free parties that the techno guys do, they do a lot more in that scene than in reggae.

They set up a party somewhere in a field, and you stick the music on and people are happy to go. Whereas with reggae, people wouldn’t come out for it. Unless you go there and provide lots of weed then they might show up [laugh].

I mean for Glasgow itself, you should at least have one sound system set up every weekend. For the reggae crowd, we should be able to have one sound system set up properly, not just like Argonauts at the 78 or Mungo’s in the Berkeley Suite. I mean a sound system set up in a venue. But you can’t get that.

So sound system in Scotland, I would say the culture is not there yet.

I guess the idea would be that people are not ready for it yet, they’re not ready for proper reggae?

No I think it’s just the britishness. I mean young people here they grow up listening to stuff like grime… I think there’s just an element of britishness about the people here. They are just into what’s theirs.
For example the accents, they can associate a lot more. Because for reggae music, a lot of the people here wouldn’t actually understand what it actually means. If you listen to dancehall especially. The part where they’re singing, some of the sentences they are parables. And if you’re not from that culture, you don’t know what they are talking about.

So the message doesn’t get across. Whereas years ago the old school artists, like your Toots and the Maytals, everybody understood what they were saying. Because they were just singing about life stories, and things like that. People would understand what they were saying. So a lot more people would listen to these guys back then, because they could still relate to what they were saying.
But nowadays not many people can relate to dancehall artists. Especially in Scotland, you know. Half the time people don’t even know what they are saying.

But I don’t know if it will even pick up. Maybe if we get more foreigners, you know. People from Europe wanting to hear that.

I mean there’s never been a really big West Indian community in Glasgow, so it’s true there never was the culture to begin with.

See that’s the thing. Well, probably back in the ‘60s they had the days when people were moving to Britain for work, but after that that went away. So I think that is part of the problem, that we don’t really have a big West Indian community.

Because most of the black people here, they are Africans, and each of their music is different, if you’re from Kenya, if you’re from South Africa… They have different styles of music, and reggae is not really their big thing.

Some like reggae, like people from Zimbabwe, Gambia… they like reggae, but you still have to play American stuff as well. It has to be like hip hop and stuff like that.
The Gambians are the only people from Africa who actually accept reggae wholeheartedly, they will be happy to go to a reggae club. All the guys I know from Zimbabwe, they like reggae but they still want hip hop, RnB as well.

Is there any reason particularly for that kind of taste?

Well I think you had Jamaicans who went to Gambia and tried to promote their system over there. Promote the whole reggae scene and that side. Into their Luciano, because these guys from Gambia they still like their roots reggae, they’re not 100% dancehall. Sizzla, Luciano, Anthony B… that’s what they still listen to. That’s what they want to hear.

It’s just because I’ve been exposed to so many of these guys from playing in Edinburgh at the Mambo club, which is why I know what they actually like. What style of music they were actually into.

Because at the Mambo club you had a floor that just played reggae and Caribbean music, and then you had a floor below that played African music. And some of the people who came to the club wouldn’t even leave downstairs, to come up to listen to reggae.
They stay downstairs to listen to their music, I think because it probably made them feel at home, and they won’t interested in reggae, period.

But the Gambians they used to be always at the reggae. They like their reggae music.

How about all the west coast of Africa, like Ivory Coast… They seem to have a reggae scene there too

Yeah you get some guys who are into that there.

bass warriorBass Warrior Sound System

Okay, back to Bass Warrior. Did you at some point have any releases, or produce any tunes?

No I’ve never gone that way. Well one of the reasons I do reggae was just for the fun of it. Because it’s not really my main bread, I have a day job. And the reason I started playing reggae was because I actually wanted to feel at home. Because I wasn’t hearing how I wanted to hear out in the streets. So I needed to play some reggae music, some soca music. Nobody else was playing soca and reggae like this.

So when I finish work at the weekend, it makes me happy to go and listen to some music.

Also, It would mean I would need to find time and help, if I had to make productions. So I just said to myself that’s not really me, I’m just doing this hoping to have some fun. If any money comes from it then fine.

Because you have some good dubplates though.

Yup. Well I have a few dubplates from over the years. I think the first dubplate was from Macka B. The reason I never had more dubplates was because I never thought it was fair for me to be promoting artists and still be paying 200, 300 pounds for one song.

But, after having a discussion with some of the guys, you can’t really have a sound system and have no dubplates. So it’s kind of a hard one.
Because I’m thinking some of these artists won’t really get a hit out of the sound system and are still charging enormous prices for dubplates. I don’t know how familiar you are with how much dubplates cost, but you can pay 250 for one song. And I would have been happy to buy dubplates if it was the original way – when you had a dubplate which was only for one song.

But now you pay 250 pounds for a dubplate, and another sound system could buy the same dubplate. Now if you go to a sound clash, you can’t play back. See if you pay 250 for that dubplate, you may never get to play it in a soundclash, because if the other sound play that song before you, then you can’t play it. It will simply mean you are a weak sound.

So the whole thing is just not right to me. I think guys should be happy that you are asking them for a dubplate, to promote their music. But they don’t see it so. They see it as money for themselves.

Dubplate business as bit?

Well dubplate business. I mean 50 sound systems have the exact same dubplate. That’s not dubplate anymore, that’s the same as just going to the shop and buying a record.
Years ago what Kilimanjaro had, then Jammys want to have. That was then: a dedicated song for that sound. He would play that song that the other sound couldn’t play it. It couldn’t play it back.

But now it becomes a money business.

Couldn’t it also be because today we have digital, anyone can take a song and just record over it?

I mean, me personally I have to get dubplates as I go along with Bass Warrior. Sometimes, if the price is not right, I just tell them no. If I play a dubplate in Scotland, how many people are even going to recognise it [laugh]. How many people would actually think “oh that’s a Bass Warrior dubplate”.

And as a matter of fact, I played dubplates before and people were like “how did you get your name into that song?”, because they don’t even have a clue what it is. They don’t know what a dubplate is.

If I was in London, it would have been a different story. It would have been compulsory. If I wanted to run a system I would have probably had to. Especially if I’m doing Jamaican style music.

Because, I mean, I’ve been to Channel One dances, and I don’t think I’ve heard a Channel One dubplate. I mean I don’t know if you ever heard a Jah Shaka dubplate.
I think it’s only if you’re tied up in the Jamaican side of things that dubplate is really important.

It’s just because we play West Indian style, and West Indian people expect to hear if you’re spending money. Because if you have good dubplates it makes your sound system sound bigger, like you have more ratings.

Whereas ‘dub’ sounds, it doesn’t really matter to them, they just need to play good music. Of course as you know dub sounds they can play a track four times. They pull up, they play the main song, then they play a version, then they go back and play the instrumental.
Dubplate no work like that.

These dub sounds are still bigger than most sounds that you get here. Because the sounds you have in Britain are mainly dub sounds. Your Channel One, Jah Shaka, Iration Steppas… They are big name sounds. And they are British again.

So far, I don’t think you have that many Jamaican orientated sounds I could say off my head, that are big in Britain.
Except… you used to have Saxon back in the 80s. They were a big sound. But they then decided to start doing their own style, which made them bigger, by having Tippa Irie and all these guys chatting in the British way.

That’s what they decided to do to make their own style, that’s how Saxon became bigger, by being British. All of the music sounded Jamaican, but the rapping at the time was British. They were speaking in a cockney accent.

But any sound who would come out of Jamaica would only have a Caribbean / West Indian following or people who are into that west Indian style reggae. Scotland doesn’t have that.

I talked to Wayne as well from Argonauts and he was saying that if some of the European systems went to play in Jamaica, Jamaican would not really catch on. The European systems have gone in such a completely different way from the Jamaican ones.

Well I mean you still have a few. If you really follow some of the sound systems, like guys from Germany… There are a few sounds who go over to Jamaica and clash in order to make a name. But because they are now spending lots of money on dubplates, and Jamaican people relate to the dubplate, they are making a name over there. It’s just like Mighty Crown. I mean they are Japanese, but they have dubplates galore!

So they can play a track that most people can relate to. Because who they are playing for understand it. I mean they can go to London, they can go to Jamaica to take part in a sound clash, and they can play dubplates and know how to play them.
Whereas if they played up here, people would not know what is going on. Only the likes of me and you, people who know about dubplate, would think “oh that’s a big track”.

And that’s another thing. If the artist is not even recognised, then the dubplate doesn’t really mean anything. It has to be an artist that everybody knows for a dubplate to be recognised.

So I think what really keeps Scotland’s reggae scene to a minimum, is that there is no radio station played here. We have no pirate stations, and most radio stations that play reggae here are internet radios, like an African internet station. But there’s no reggae station, and that is what kill reggae music up here.

It’s true here you mainly hear rock, folk or techno and dance.

Yup. And the reggae you do hear would be your Bob Marley, just old school guys. Say if you listen for instance to Clyde Radio, if they play any reggae, it’s exactly the same songs all the time, year in year out.

They play the same Bob Marley songs. You might hear ‘One Love’, you might hear ‘No Woman No Cry’. And I think that is what makes reggae not big, because nobody grew up listening to reggae on the radio, because no radio plays it.

See in England, in Birmingham there’s tons of pirate stations that play reggae music, where you can just turn on your radio and listen to. So that’s where people can get into that culture.

Here it’s not like that. Over in Europe I don’t know how it is, how these guys get into it.

Well I mean in France we do have a few stations that play proper reggae, or have special reggae hours.

Right, so that is an advantage. I’m not sure about the north of England. I think they have them.
The only way Scotland could listen to reggae music used to be BBC 1Xtra, Chris Goldfinger. But you had to stay up until 12 o’clock, to hear from 12 until 2am. And that was all you would hear. Once he’s off there’s no more reggae or dancehall on the radio for the rest of the week.

So that’s what’s killing it up here. Pirate station is what makes it big down south. Everybody knows that. But all of the stations here they play techno, or rock music, or indie.

You want to people to be here for the music. In the Caribbean, when a DJ plays a big track, everybody goes ‘Woooi! Pull up pull up!”.
When they (in Scotland) are there, and the DJ pull the track up, they are like “the DJ must have made a mistake” [laugh]. That’s not the best vibe you know. I mean it’s good that they pay money to get in, and you make back the money that you used to promote the night. But at the same time you still want to get the real vibe.

I mean Mungo’s would probably say the same thing because they would like to be able to just drop  a track and everybody just go crazy, and when you drop another one it’s still going, the whole place buzzing, like a honey hive [laugh]. That’s the vibe I really like!

But I don’t know if that will ever happen.

Well that whole thing about the pull up, and that way of responding to music. That’s also due to a lot of people here being used to techno, and that whole idea of continuous music. There’s not really that whole idea of stopping the music is the tune is good, playing it again… you don’t really have that culture.

No you don’t have that culture. When I went to Cologne, I went to see – what’s the guys from Germany… they do productions as well. I think it was Pow Pow. Well when they were playing in Cologne in a club, and I went in on a Friday night, I was absolutely shocked to know how the actual people relate to the music. And these are German guys I’m talking about.
I just felt like I was back in Montserrat, the way the crowd react to the music. The way the DJs were carrying on. I don’t know if you’ve been to Summerjam lately, because they have a dancehall arena, which is just set up in the woods away from the main stage. And I went there last year, and I was like “this can’t be right” [laugh]. The guys up there with their flags, over soca tracks. And they are talking between English, Jamaican patois, and their language. So everybody knows what’s happening, even those who can’t understand English. And I think “oh man, why can’t we have this in Scotland”.

And when I went to Rototom this year, they had lots of people there, lots of sound systems. I mean they had Pow Pow, Sentinel, all of these guys. You have a dancehall tent, you have a ska tent, another reggae tent, and you have a dub station tent.

And even the ska stage, where they play only ska, there is a big crowd, and everyone is into that. When a track comes on that they think is a big track, they react. And over here, it’s really just dull.

And as I said, reggae is not big in Scotland.

So there’s sort of a lot of people playing, but not a big crowd?

Well most of the people who like reggae want to be DJs because they think there’s no reggae playing anywhere else [laugh]. There’s so many reggae DJs, but there’s not much reggae things happening, you know.

I mean, I know Mungo’s, they work really hard to promote their stuff, which is very good. But Scottish people don’t have the same click up here, as down south. They have people coming to the Art School when they have nights, and they probably have to put big acts. Whereas, with the amount that Mungo’s do now, them alone should be able to just bring a crowd in.

Reggae should be about jumping about a lot more than what you see here.

It’s funny, a lot of the people who come here to reggae nights, a lot of foreign people when they come here they specifically look for reggae nights. I know in France for the last 7 or 8 years, the scene has become really big, especially for dub reggae – you have Dub Stations in pretty much every town in France now. So when they come up they’re like “oh there’s reggae, there’s Mungo’s!”. And you recognise them, they are the first ones to go mad when there’s a pull up, because they know how it goes in a way.

Bart: and it goes for so many other people from other countries

Yeah, most other European countries know how to do it, and how to react.

Well, for instance when I go to Germany, or I go to France, all the MCs on the mic they are talking Jamaican patois, even putting on some form of accent.
When guys in Scotland try to talk like that and they are white guys, people criticise them. You have guys here that tell you “it doesn’t look right to see white guys with dreadlocks, that’s not right”. That’s the kind of mentality that some people here do have.

You see for you, you probably just go to the dances and listen to the music. But like for me, because I’m at the front. I don’t know if you knew Rudy Alba. He used to sing quite a lot, and people used to come up to me and say “why is he talking like that, why is he pretending he’s black”. People actually take great offense for him to be talking patois. They do! You wouldn’t believe it.

He did a show once, I think he supported Toots & the Maytals at the O2, and the engineers who were working there while he was doing the show were just like “why is he talking like that, he’s from fucking Scotland”.

Bart: somehow it doesn’t work either for people from Scotland who do grime and stuff, and talk with a really big London accent, you’re just like “that’s not you”.

So people take it quite personally then?

Yeah, some people do.

Bart: we can go ask Charlie P what he thinks about it.

Well I know Sean (Campeazi) once told me “it’s appreciation, not appropriation”, and I think that’s quite true.

Well what people seem to forget is that even if you’re white, if you grow up in a black community and all your friends are running around you talking in a certain way, then that’s how you’re going to talk.

My oldest son, if you listen to him then he sounds proper English. But when he’s talking to me, it’s just pure dialect. But if it’s anybody else, he just talks the way he expects people to understand him. But that’s because he grew here.

But some people would probably comment if they hear YT. They’ll probably ask why he is talking like that. Because I remember a girl, she’s from Birmingham living in Scotland, and she was offended when she went to the (Alexandra) Park and heard YT. She was like “why is he talking like that, he’s not from Jamaica”.

For us, coming from the Caribbean, it’s not a problem, because we kind of thing that’s cool that he can adapt, that he can talk like that. We think it’s quite impressive. But people here in Scotland seem to take offense to that.

Well YT grew up around that whole culture.

He grew up around sound systems. Yeah, and that is what you’re going to get. But some people here they never left Scotland, and they don’t really know about much else…

My boy, he said to me that one of his friends told him“reggae music is not for white people” [laugh]. I was like “what?”. Because we went to Wickerman this year, and he came with his friends to show support. And some of his pals are like: “we like the music, but it’s not really white people music”.

Bart: it’s great when people say that and then go play some blues.

Or rock n roll.

Well even soul, it’s not really Scottish culture, but there’s tons of people who seem to like it.

Well in the end what do you call “your music”.

But as you could see, it started from a long time ago. From the days of ska, when people change it in Britain to call it ‘two-tone’. It’s actually ska, but they decided to put a British thing to it and call it two-tone. Just to make it their British thing as well. There are lots of people who hear some tracks and they don’t even realise that those tracks originated over in Jamaica…

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This would be a wider question. Reggae and Dancehall  in Jamaica, and even in England, had quite a political or social message to it. Do you think that still exists today, to some extent?

Wow [laugh]
If I’m being honest reggae is not that political. Well… reggae itself might be, the actual reggae. But the dancehall, no. You would still get some of your reggae artists who would still try. I mean, you get Sizzla who still try, you get Luciano who still try… Some of the guys, mainly the singers and the roots guys they still try to keep some of it a bit political.

But you see in the 80s, everybody was poor. When you’re poor, you feel for something. And that is what inspired you. When life starts to become a little bit better, struggles are not the same. Some of these guys they don’t have nothing much more to sing about. Because they are touring the world now and getting big money. Whereas when these guys were singing in the 70s and 80s, they were only singing in Jamaica. It wasn’t going anywhere else. They weren’t making much of a living. Every morning they would wake up, life would be the same for them. All they had to do was go to the studio, and try and find something to sing. And often there would be a hundred people at the studio.

So… You still have some guys in Jamaica who are still struggling, but life is not as bad, in a sense. These guys were musicians, but they weren’t making any money. Now, the guys who are making lots of music nowadays just do it with computers, with laptops. So it’s easy for them.
But back then, why you get these good political guys is just because they were talking about their daily struggles, and they were singing with feeling because they actually felt what they were singing about. Nowadays, guys just make noise just to see if they can become an artist, or become popular. So that’s the big difference.

I mean, as you probably know, most of the old guys they are now living a better life, touring and all. They are getting recognition, because Germany, and France, and Spain have festivals; they are now getting to come out of Jamaica and perform. Like the Israelites and all of these guys, they used to be popular in the Caribbean, but they never used to be touring.

There used to be a struggle: one, being poor. And two, being Rastafarian as well.
They weren’t able to get anywhere. It was hard for them because people used to hate Rasta hard back in the 80s and 70s. It’s just because reggae started to get a little more recognition worldwide, that Rastas started to get more recognition as well.

It wasn’t such a bad thing to be seen as Rasta after a while?

If you were a Rasta in the Caribbean it was a bad thing man. In the 70s and 80s, Rasta just meant that you’re just a lazy so and so, an untidy so and so [laugh]. But some of it really, the Rastas have themselves to blame. I mean, I have dreadlocks, but will still go to work, I still like to move around.

Back in the day you had Rastas, and as far as they were concerned they were not going to work for the Queen’s head, which is the pound. I mean, when you talk like that, who’s going to take you seriously. And people would think that talking like “I’n’I”, and “Fyah fi dis”… That kind of talking never really would inspire people to accept Rasta, in a sense.

But now, as the youth who grew up during Rasta time, we come to the years where we start accepting these things, because we grew up understanding what it meant. But our moms and dads would have never, because they grew up believing that you have to have your hair looking shaved and wear a jacket and tie for church on Sunday [laugh].

But as reggae got recognition, Rastas got recognition as well. So that is how things change.
But if you didn’t really grow up in the Caribbean, you probably wouldn’t know that much about it, unless you really read into it.

Early in 1983 I used to listen to loads of Culture and stuff like that. By that time there was only a couple of tracks that would have been known worldwide. By the time Culture had been accepted worldwide, then they practically all passed away.
But back in the days, these guys were big guys throughout the Caribbean, because everybody understood what they were singing about, they were actually singing about the politics that were going on around them.

I don’t really know how Europe is, how Europe got into reggae.

Yeah, I’ve been trying to find how reggae got into France especially, but it’s quite hard to pinpoint it.

Bart: it’s funny when you thing about reggae in Poland it did have quite a lot of relation to the punk scene, but it was all just because the left was really bad politically, and people felt like they were oppressed. It was kind of naïve in terms of musical style, but it was still relating to it, and I think people associated with the message.

Well what used to help was that people could go to a reggae club and get a smoke, if you into smoking. It chill everything else around you, the worries go away for that moment we’re having the party. Everybody is in the same boat here, everybody is happy.

And that is what is really good about having reggae festivals, that people can go to these and just relax, enjoy themselves. All the political side of things goes out the window for a few days.

But Scotland doesn’t have that kind of festival, except the Wee Dub Festival that they do in Edinburgh, and that’s only a weekend thing.

Is there a particular message, or vibe that you try to promote through Bass Warrior?

Well, I wouldn’t say really a message, because some of the music I play is not really message music. It’s more of I vibe that I try to promote, have a good night, be happy – it’s supposed to be fun. It’s good to just put stress aside and just enjoy the night and the music.

Sometimes, to be honest it’s probably more of a stress having to play [laugh]. But at the end of the night you still think “oh well, the night is over, we still had a good time”. But I’m just doing it more to promote enjoyment, to have a good time.

I mean I personally enjoy reggae music, good reggae music that has some good roots, some good lyrics that I can relate to at times. But I like my dancehall too, and my soca because when I’m feeling free, then I can just jump about.

But message-wise, for there to be a message I have to be feeling a struggle. And the people who come to reggae here in Scotland they’re not really struggling. They might think they are struggling, but they do not see struggle. For some of them they’re just happy it’s reggae music, they like it from their past, maybe when they were struggling.

But life in Scotland is, for me, good. It’s not 100% or how you’d like to be, but it’s good. You can wake up every day and have something to eat, you don’t have to worry about breakfast or dinner. Me personally I don’t.
And Scottish politics at the end of the day… I live here so it’s got something to do with me, but on the other hand it’s not got that much to do with me either. Maybe for my kids then I have to think about politics, for my children who are growing up here. But beyond that…

Well, I think that’s about it. Anything you’d like to add?

If I talk about reggae in Scotland really, and even in Britain because I’ve been to places down in England. I’ve been to shows North of England and it’s only certain artists that still bring a certain amount of people. I mean we had Raging Fyah in Scotland, which I think is a really good reggae band. And they were playing at the Rum Shack for free. But you probably had about 30 people. I think Raging Fyah is a very good band, and I think they might get recognised someday, because they’re not really dancehall. They have some political elements about their music, and they have a bit of an old school style… I think they’re really good.

In Europe they seem to be doing well, but they come to Britain, nope. Even in London, even in their own community, their shows still get cancelled. So I don’t know. Maybe everybody in England now is happy, living good lives. They just want to party, just want to talk about this and that, their clothes and all this nonsense.

Also you said that in England what seemed to happen was that you also got jungle, garage, dubstep… so all the energy moved to other places. Which is maybe why in France and Europe it just stayed with reggae. So it sort of stayed with roots, and they kept it maybe more ‘traditional’?

Yeah but what I find in France as well, is that… Say for instance, OBF, Blackboard Jungle, how those guys start out: they are big. In the sense of big sounds. And it has an impact if you have that big a sound. If you walk into a building and you see that stack of speakers, and you get that sound, it makes a difference.

If we could do that in Scotland, where people could come in, listen to something that sounds that good… Where they could feel the vibes.

Really experience what it is all about?

Yeah! Well it would make a big difference. I mean say for instance when Mungo’s go to the Art School, the young ones lurch on to that style. They like the big sound, and they come to hear it, but I wouldn’t say that they are 100% into the music. If you look throughout the night, most of them are just in and out the door. When you are there for something, you are THERE. But I look at them at the Art School and they just go up and down the stairs, up and down.

Scotland has that kind of thing, the idea that where people are is where we should go, because that’s where it’s happening. It’s kind of a trend thing.

If you could find a venue where like every week big stacks of speakers sit there, you’ll find that whoever is genuinely into the music will come. Because that is how Messenger managed to get where they are now. They sit in the Bongo Club, and everyone knows when they go to the Bongo Club exactly what music is playing there, and they go just for that.

But it takes time to build that up. Messenger just didn’t suddenly get that kind of following overnight. It took him quite a few years.
But in saying so, it’s not just them alone. The club owner was happy to persevere with them there. Whereas in Glasgow, most venue if no money comes through the door, they start thinking “oh we need get something else. We need to get another night“. That’s the problem here.

Well there’s the Rum Shack that does a lot of stuff for free. How does that work?

Yeah because the guys who run the Rum Shack they love their reggae music. And what they do is if they want to put on an artist, they try and get funding to do it. Because everything they have done so far, like getting Tippa Irie, Cornell Campbell

Yeah they got Dawn Penn as well

Yeah Dawn Penn. What they do is they’ll get a sponsor – either through the lottery, or Red Stripe… Because you have to remember the guy who owns the Rum Shack owns Macsorleys too. So they own a pub, and because of that they deal with distillers. And Red Stripe would be happy to sponsor something. Same with distillers, they are happy to put money where it’s going to suit them.


AF

All photos courtesy of Bartosz Madejski

Rampant Sound Interview

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“You have to remember that in the early 90s that was when things got really clamped down in Glasgow. You had the Criminal Justice Bill coming in; you had a curfew in Glasgow, you had to be in the clubs by 12. The illegal parties and illegal gathering were really clamped down upon, with the whole repetitive beats thing and all that. It was quite heavy in those times.”

I had the opportunity to talk to Paul and Alan, aka. Doctor Dub and Professor Collie, the original Rampant Sound, at their first return behind the decks in over ten years. We discussed how they began as a sound, the Glasgow music scene in the 90s, as well as their thoughts on the current sound system culture in Britain and Scotland. 

So what was the glasgow scene like when you started ?

Alan : Well there were a few things. There were a few a guys with connections with Rubadub Records, they played out in 13th Note originally. They had an event, like an ambient night as well called Sonar I think – with people like Dribbler, and Dave Heart and State of Flux played at it.
Before us, there was a guy in the kind of 80s…

Paul: There was Joseph too. He was from Edinburgh but he was more of an eclectic mix, it was like soul, funk, a bit of reggae. His DJ name was Joseph of Babylon.

Alan : I heard he’s become a muslim now, and he’s really into acid jazz, and funk and stuff.
But there was a guy even before that, quite a long time ago – in the 80s – from East Kilbride ; and that had Dillinger, and Steel Pulse and all sorts of people playing in community centres in East Kilbride. But that was way before us. When we started in ‘91-‘92.

Paul:  ’92 probably because we got that gig in January – in the place which is now 13th note, when it was on Glassford Street… That was always a good venue. And yeah, in January of ‘92 – because I arrived in Glasgow in ‘91. And we did a mix night with Joseph a couple times, he came down from Edinburgh.
Then we went from under Ventura to a night at the Art School. A few soundclashes with Soundclash,

Alan : we also played with Mungo’s who were called the Dub Dentists at that point. And we played a few gigs with them.

Paul : that was early 2000 though

Alan : oh yeah that was second time round. I’m getting ahead of myself. So yeah in the early 90s we played at the Art School, and then we had Zion Train up, Revolutionary Dub Warriors.. and who was the other one again ? With the ex-specials in them ?…
Anyways, we had a few guys coming up and playing with us.
And then we went down and played in London, at the St George Robey. It was a pub, with a dance space in the back. And then we played at quite a few parties, with connections from Pussy Power – Terry and Jason.
Terry got Twitch’s first gig – Keith – from Optimo. And we also did a few things with this band called State of Flux, which was a guy – Dave Clark – who now records for Optimo and Numbers under the name Sparky. We did a few parties with them. The Beach Coma party…

And that was all early, mid-‘90s ?

Alan : Yeah. And then we took a rest. Had kids…

Paul : Yeah, life got in the way (laugh).

Alan : And then we got back into it, continued to play.

Paul : You know, we’ve only been dub-jockeys, dub DJs. We grew up listening to Shaka, going to Shaka gigs. But we didn’t have the equipment. Glasgow’s a techno city, it was a lot of dance. And you’ve got to try and mimic that, the way they play the records and tunes, so we mixed and scratched the tunes too. Then we got an echo box, an echo chamber, in order to make it sound like a sound system, over whatever we were playing. And then when we came back in 2002 and started to move more into using a sound system, we had a guy that we knew, that would upright the sound, he was our sound engineer. And he was responsible for the system. That limited it a bit, but it also opened it up to some new people.

But then it meant we were always reliant on running our sound system, and where we were in our lives at that point it was a bit too much. Because you know, it’s having a van, and it’s being on the road a lot. And after a while it was just too much, we didn’t have the time.

Alan : The one thing I regret not doing at the time is going in the studio.

Paul : I still want to do it now. I’d do it tomorrow if we could, because there are tunes there that need remixing. We always had a particular style as well, we like our dub. We like our vocals, our version, and we like our dub. We don’t like ska, or whatever.

Alan : We don’t like it when it’s too diluted.

Paul : It’s all about the bass line to me. I mean you can put anything you want over the top, if you get that right, then that works.
You know, I can play you a tune that’s maybe 40 years old and you’ll go « well that’s drum and bass ».

Did you have at some point any releases ?

Paul : No we didn’t, but we recorded a lot of our session, and even now they really hold up.

Alan : but that’s the one thing I regret is not releasing anything original, you know. And I think if we had kept our relationships with the likes of Zion Train and stuff, it would have probably come to that at some point. One friend of mine in particular still makes tunes, and had 2 or 3 releases on R&S label. We went into his studio a couple of times, and we kind of just started to get to know the machines. But it didn’t come to anything really.

But we listen back to some of the sessions and you can see how our inspiration and our musical thought processes were changing. I was listening to this one CD recently, and it’s kind of organic, and it’s quite lush sounding. And then you listen to another one and its very steppers, it’s very rigid.
There was a lot of good stuff coming out in the mid to late 90s, quality releases. A lot of really seminal releases.

So in the ‘90s, doing reggae and dub in Scotland there was you guys and anyone else?

Alan : Messenger. there was Messenger in Edinburgh. We always rated Steve. I think he’s still active today.

Paul : He had a good system, a good sound. They brought the likes of Dougie Wardrope, Conscious Sounds. Big Sound, we used to buy our records of them in London. He made our siren box;

Alan : He also got Russ Disciple, Nick Manasseh. Well we played with Nick Mannaseh at the Art School as well. He was instrumental in what you taught me about dub, it came from Kiss FM, from the Manasseh show.

Paul : The first time I heard Manasseh was at like 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning after a rave, and Manasseh sound was just great.

Alan : But yeah, I think there’s arguably more today, obviously with Mungo’s and Argonauts. And then you’ve got Bass Warrior, with Kenny. I went to see the Jamaican Longbowl team and Kenny was there with a sound system on a Saturday afternoon in the park.
So now you can say it’s going well.

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Yeah reggae in Glasgow now is quite big – every week now you’ve got reggae playing.

Alan : well we really struggled, and I think that’s why we played it the way that we played it. Because it’s a techno city, and everybody wanted techno. So we used to speed our records up a lot.

I mean if you listen to what Mungo’s and Argonauts and Bass Warrior play it’s very digital and dancehall :

Alan : Yeah

Paul: I listen to them, and I love them but they’re still keeping afloat because I think you’ve still got be somewhere near that techno-dub mix.
And for me, any sound system I’ve listened to that has been afloat there’s been a start and a finish to their night.

Alan : It’s a way to share a musical journey. We always try to do that, a warm-up, and then get people into it. But you know, if you go to see somebody like Shaka or Aba Shanti or someone like that, I mean they’ll play 11 versions of a song to start the dance off. But what these guys don’t do so much is, they don’t mix.

And I always think if you’re a reggae sound system and you don’t mix, you need a toaster or an MC. You need something, unless you’re Shaka and you’ve got that presence. And then you can have silence. When you go to see Shaka, and there is silence, nobody will cheer or yell. You’ll have silence at moments.

We always felt that perhaps the Glasgow crowds weren’t ready for that. They wanted continuous music, because they were used to it.

Paul : Well yeah it’s because they were used to techno, they wanted raw beats. And you know, a lot of the time we used to pitch up the records too [laugh]

Alan : Yeah some really slow stuff, some really old stuff and you’d play it +8, and it sounds like a techno tune… well, a drum and bass tune at least.

Paul : I always felt it was a shame to do that and now we can play stuff that we want to, and people get it. But it’s true at the time in Glasgow we had to train people, because it wasn’t like London where they were all used to it, you know what I mean. We had to train people to the sound.

Alan : And we had a cowbell, we had a siren box, we had a melodica sometimes. So we used to kind of add things to the sets.

It sounds like it was very rootical. Quite like the UK or London sound.

Alan : Aye

Paul : we had a friend come down to play the congo drum too

Alan : we also had several guest vocalists and toaster, Kwasi Asante and another guy, Desi Nile was it ?

Paul : They really understood the vocal and version thing. We do a lot of that. I could play the same tune for half an hour just with versions. But we can’t do that here, because people want the next thing, they’re impatient. Honestly, we could play the same tune in here for 45 minutes, with various versions. We would love it.

That’s quite a cultural thing. In France a lot of the new sound systems have taken on the one turntable thing. Whereas here, a lot of the new sounds in the last 4-5 years have gone for the two turntables and mixing.

Paul : But then that tells you a lot about the situation of the city you’re in, and where you’ve grown up. Because that’s the vibe of the city, isn’t it; its clubs, its DJs. We don’t have the weather for great outdoor festivals, setting up on beaches – which we’ve done, but that was for a special occasion. And it’s a shame, because we’ve got some of the best outdoor locations in the world.

It’s true that even a session in Kelvingrove Park would be fantastic.

Alan : Well there used to be one. Every May day, there would be two or three sound systems playing techno or dub in Kelvingrove park.

Paul : well it wouldn’t say reggae.

Alan : well maybe not reggae, but there was stuff happening then. You know, you have to remember that in the early 90s that was when things got really clamped down in Glasgow. You had the Criminal Justice Bill coming in; you had a curfew in Glasgow, you had to be in the clubs by 12. The illegal parties and illegal gathering were really clamped down upon, with the whole repetitive beats thing and all that. It was quite heavy in those times.
And so I suppose we grew up with quite a lot of illegal underground parties.

So there was quite a big free party in movement that kept on?

Paul : yeah. There were things like the ferry. Parties on a ferry that we used to rent out.

Alan : yeah, that was Pussy Power that did that, Subterrania, they used to take the ferry out, and had a rave on in.

Paul : They used to have parties in Ventura, it was a great basement venue. You’d lock the door, people were let out at two exits, in groups of ones and twos, at 6 or 7 in the morning.

Alan : there was that kind of culture at that time, I suppose. And it was good. And I suppose it did encourage that kind of underground music, and dub is an underground music.

Because all that was happening at the time of the Criminal Justice Bill, was there a kind of politics attached to the movement too ?

Alan : I would say political with a small ‘p’. Dub and reggae have always been political, if you listen to the political content and what it’s all about, it’s essentially political.
Personally I wasn’t really drawn into that, I was more just for the music. I met Paul when we were working in a pub together, and I was just back from working in Jamaica for the summer. And so that’s when I had really gotten into reggae.

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I’d liked reggae when I was younger, but that’s when I really got into it, going down to dances in Jamaica. So then I came back, and when I met Paul I had just bought a Jah Shaka album, and I didn’t really know anything about dub. And I said to him « why is every tune the same », and he said « it’s not, go listen to it again » (laugh).  So that was me starting to get into the dub side of it.
But politically, no. I’m not really a political animal. Don’t think you are either

Paul : I’m not really into politics no. But they are there, especially a lot of Jamaican tunes, and even some English ones. Steel Pulse and the Handsworth riots, that was very political.

In the end it’s a medium…

Paul : yeah exactly, there’s not a medium in the world that hasn’t done that. And reggae as a music is very powerful. Music does something to you. You listen to music, whatever genre you like, you’ll feel something, whether it’s emotionally or other.
And that’s what I like about dub, because for me, it’s intimate. You conserve it. You know how you have vocals and versions? Well eventually you’ll listen to a vocal version, and you’ve already got that song without the lyrics, and so when you add the lyrics, fucking hell!

It also takes another dimension when you play it on an actual sound system, something that you may not get in other genres as much.

Paul : I think most DJs can play any sound system. We played at Sub Club with Mungo’s HiFi, and we played the club’s system as a (reggae) sound system.

Alan : Seriously, that night. Let’s put it this way, it put their sound system to shame that night.

Sub Club is known for having an excellent sound system.

Alan : La Cheetah’s also got a good sound system, it’s got a function one sound system.
But we used to tear them up, we used to blow them up. You remember when I broke the one in the George Robey.

Paul : yeah it’s because you wouldn’t listen (laugh).

Alan : no I would not. I had all the dreads shouting at me.

Well home-made sound system is something you find a lot more in techno and reggae, whereas in other genres it’s more of an attempt to put loads of speakers together.

Paul : well with a sound system you can do something completely different. You know, you want your sound to sound like x. But then for the type of music that we play we would want our sound to sound like y. It’s like, we knew where we wanted to go with it as well.
You never heard Mungo’s sound have you?

Alan: no I’ve never been and seen them.

Paul:  I did hear it at New Year ’s Eve, down at Stereo. It was a good night. I though at the end, in terms of the tunes, the tunes were better upstairs.
But as far as Glasgow’s concerned, yeah I’m a big fan of Mungo’s sound, because they built their sound system, it requires a lot of dedication. And I get quite envious because I think we should have had that kind of dedication at the time. Maybe we didn’t have the finances and Glasgow I would almost say was not ready for it.

Alan : And at the time we should have probably pressed a number of individuals to give us some money but we just didn’t really do it. We should have done. But no, I think they’ve done a great job, and as Paul says, ultimately that’s exactly what we would have like to have done. Have a sound system. But you know, things didn’t happen, the planets didn’t align, you know what I mean. That’s just the way of it.
But I think it’s great what they do, that they have their record label and they actually release stuff as well. That’s really really good.

Something I was talking about with Argonauts was what do you think made Glasgow attracted to reggae so suddenly? Because it’s really taken off in the last 5-6 years.

Paul : Well there’s a big reggae scene in Dundee from the start. And city-wise nowhere is that far in Scotland.

Alan : It’s true I don’t know why it kicked off…

Paul : It’s got to do with the population of Glasgow. Glasgow doesn’t have a West Indian community. When I first arrived in Glasgow there were three black people [laugh]. Me and a few others. In Edinburgh slightly more but Glasgow’s never had that West Indian population. Which is weird for the second city in Britain.

Especially as it’s not as if Glasgow had nothing to do with the West Indies.

Paul : Exactly, every city on the West Coast of the UK : Bristol, Liverpool… have all got a huge West Indian population. And you would have thought Glasgow too. But even now, it’s weird.

Alan : Maybe there was more of an influx of more english students, at that time in Glasgow. And that would have coincided with the time that tuition fees came in. And we don’t have tuition fees. And so perhaps we had an influx of english students who traditionally would have been more educated in terms of sound systems.

Paul : And the proliferation of better universities in Glasgow. Because with just Glasgow Uni, you had generally quite a wealthy group. Well the Art School is a little more diverse and open, which is why we played there I think. But because of the proliferation of better universities in Glasgow, everybody’s come to Glasgow, a lot of people from more average backgrounds, who have probably already been to sound systems, who are culturally a bit more different and therefore that brings it up.

Alan : Maybe that’s got something to do with it. But apart from that I can’t really think of other reason why it exploded. I mean Mungo’s obviously took the bar and they ran with it and took it to the next level, and that definitely helped. But I think there’s probably more to do with the kind of people that were there in Glasgow at that time and were going out.

Well that’s something we touched on when I talked to Mungo’s. they were saying that unlike London where there was the West Indian and Jamaican influence in the way of running a sound system. Whereas in Glasgow they felt as if there wasn’t any existing template, so it allowed for a lot more freedom.

Paul : which makes it very real, you know, the reggae scene in Glasgow. It’s a dedication. It’s had to develop on its own, because of the conditions we talked about before; there isn’t a West Indian community that brought in sound systems; that knew how to build them; that organized that sound clash or this sound clash. There isn’t that.

Alan : I suppose it’s also one of these things where the more systems you get, that’s going to produce more systems.

I think there’s about five or six sound systems in Glasgow now.

Alan : well that’s good, and obviously it means that there’s a market for it. If they’re all playing out regularly. I mean, we haven’t played in quite a while, quite a number of years (laugh)

That was another aspect that is quite interesting – the whole idea of meetings. You don’t really have the clash culture here, or in France or Italy, like you had in England, or Jamaica.

Paul : Well it’s because there was a lot of violence in those times

Alan : yeah it was turf wars wasn’t it. Again, these sound systems in London, I mean I’m a white middle class boy. We don’t have the same social problems and social issues that these guys had and still have. And yeah, ‘money run tings’ you know, that’s what it was about a lot of the time.
And reggae’s evolved in so many ways and so differently in Britain. When Reggie Steppa played for instance in London, there would be gunshots. The police would be rocking off the roads. It was that period I mean, the late 80s, where it became really gun and cocaine orientated. And then you had New Roots, which came in the kind of early 90s.

Paul: You also had new people in the scene, you know, in the likes of Dougie Wardrope: working class, these white London boys.

Alan: But who grew up with black culture.

Some people have said that there’s now been 3 generations of sound systems. The first one was the Jamaican sounds, the second one was the first sounds in England, and then the third generation is like you have here, or in France or Italy, people who do not have any links with Jamaican culture but still have taken on the reggae sound system tradition.

Paul : But then you can say that about any genre of music. Music moves on and evolves over time. The fact that you talk about sound systems in the like or France or Italy. They’re not sound systems, they are people who play dub and dubs. They are people that play techno, you know what I mean ?
Andy Weatherhall does a really good dub set, but he’s not a sound system. You can invite Nick Mannasseh to play some records at your gig, but he’s not a sound system.
Jah Shaka turns up with his system then yes, then that’s a sound system session.

Alan : He’s never played in Scotland on his sound system. Scottish people have never heard Jah Shaka.

Paul : He’s played here before, he played on Mungo’s sound.

Alan : Aye, and he’s played on Stevie’s system, and Messenger’s system in Edinburgh. But he’s never come here with his own system.

So there’s never been that thing where you would invite people up here with their sound system ?

Alan : It’s too expensive.

Paul : but then again you don’t need to do that, because that’s not what it’s about. When you’re playing in a venue like the Art School, or even the Arches which have a great system, why would you need to. People are there for the music. I’m almost to the point where anyone that labels themselves… I mean we never called ourselves Rampant Sound System. We’ve always been Rampant Sounds.

Alan : Out of respect for these guys, because we’ve never had a sound system. We played records.

Paul : Yeah, so apart from Mungo’s and Messenger, even Unity Reggae to a point, I’ve not really seen proper sound systems here. And I don’t know why that makes it any more special, because if your tunes are shit, or you can’t play your system well, it’s not going to make any difference.
In the end I’m there to listen to good music. If you’ve got a sound system that can enhance it, then that’s even better, but it’s not the most important.

But then again, when a crew have a sound system, a home-made system, it’s generally built for their own sound, their own music. So if they bring their own sound system, it won’t be the same as hearing them on the PA system of, say, the Arches ?

Paul : Well you know, again, I could go with Alan to any gig and I guarantee we could put on a serious show with the selection of tunes that we have. And ultimately, that’s what it’s about. When sound systems are clashing, at any historic clash, it’s about who’s got the latest tune, who’s got the latest dubplate, who’s going to rock it. Exactly that same as in clubs nowadays, who’s got a version of x, who’s got the latest remix of x by y.

Alan : I mean there’s a famous story of Shaka who was playing against Coxson I think. And he played something like 14 versions and the Coxson jut went like « i’m away, that’s it, you won ». But we’ll have that kinda… I suppose we had a bit of rivalry with some of the guys… like when we played with them we would put tape on their mixers so they couldn’t turn it up, and then we would come on and take the tape off and turn it up [laugh] But that was as far as it got.

Another thing about playing records, say if you go to a DJ set in a lot of hip-hop or techno gigs, it will often be mixed in a pre-set thing. Whereas when one uses vinyl, it seems there is a lot more improvisation going on, how one feels according to the crowd.

Alan : I mean I’m not a fan of… I don’t even know what they’re called, these new things, traktor ? you know what I’m talking about. So as long as someone’s playing vinyl, if it’s played well, it’s good. But I always liked DJs and techno DJs that weren’t perfect. I didn’t want this silky, smooth thing. I wanted to hear the tunes. With reggae especially. You want a distinction, you want to understand one record before you go onto the next.
I think it can become too sanitized, you know. And that’s what I don’t like. I think if somebody can play the records and maintain the integrity of the record and the character of it, then they’re doing a good job, and that’s what it’s all about.

And then you get into all the other stuff, effects and such. A proper sound system, like Shaka, of Coxsone, or whatever… they can do things with the sound. I mean, they’re splitting the sound, they’re rolling the bass round them, they’re panning the hi-hats right round the room. That’s what you don’t get nowadays, with the sound systems that you have in Glasgow, they don’t do that. We always tried to do that, but from the mixer, because we didn’t have a sound system. So we would always mess about with the levels; cut the hi-hats ; cut the bass completely… and then bring it in: bang ! All that kind of stuff. We were trying to create the sound of a sound system without having one.

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AF

Fogata Sounds Interview

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We had a  small chat with Fede aka. KrakinDub and Troy Berkley from Fogata Sounds before their session in Glasgow. They told us about their start in the techno free party scene, the idea behind Fogata Sound, and their thoughts on the future of the sound system scene.

How did Fogata Sound start and who is Fogata Sounds?

Fede : well Fogata Sounds started in 2009. Two of us founded the label, me and my mate Hugo. Hugo is one of the pioneers of the dub and reggae scene in France. He was in the punk scene in the 80s, and was one of the first to make bridges from punk to reggae. So he grew up with things like Gom Jabbar, Puppa Leslie. So he’s the one who introduced me to reggae in the early 90s.

You were part of the Mas I Mas crew, which was mostly a jungle and techno sound ?

Fede: And reggae, yeah. I was playing reggae as part of the Mas I Mas from the start, from ’96. At that time the French free party scene was growing hugely, and it was only about hard techno. Everyone was playing that kind of music, acid, speedcore. And we wanted to propose different parties, staying in the idea of the free parties: free  for the people, taking places that don’t belong to us, fuck the police… and that was all about the TAZ –the temporary  autonomous zones.
But we wanted to do it not for a larger audience, but with different vibes; from reggae, to techno, through jungle, because we were all junglists at that time.

We experienced a big boom in ’96, from the first parties of like maybe 20 people in a bar, to a couple of months later, 2000 or 3000 people attending our jungle parties. But always with a bit of reggae, and then final mixes with techno. We also liked to have visuals and decorations. We wanted to complete the music with decorations and visuals. We didn’t want to have only a DJ behind a wall of sound. Because that was the idea of free parties at the time, you had a big rig and the artists were behind it.

Did you also have your own sound system at that time?

Fede: Well we had our sound system from ’99. But it wasn’t that potent, so we always borrowed more sound to make it better.

So you were doing mainly link-ups?

Fede: Of course we did link-ups. The first link-up was with Heretik sound system, from 96’ the first free parties were mainly with Heretik. Then we did parties with Furious, a techno sound system from that time. They were playing very slow techno, not that hardcore thing.
And then with many, many others, including UK people, Austria… all over Europe.

And how did reggae come into this, were you the only ones playing reggae in this techno scene?

Fede: No not really the only ones. Some people went to play reggae in some techno parties that were happening already. But it wasn’t the sound systems themselves.

We as a sound system tried to be open minded, breaking all barriers between those musics. But the free party audience was already a mix, from punks & squatters, to everyday working people, to hard core drug dealer… every kind of people were there, so we thought every kind of music should be there too.

That sort of explains the idea of « Rubadubstep », the title of your album.

Fede: Yeah Rubdadubstep is the idea about Fogata. Fogata is born because I saw the growing of the reggae scene, the so-called ‘new dub’ scene. And we wanted to put back in some parts that were somehow forgotten in their own place. Lyrics are the first thing. That’s why we call it Rubadubstep, because rub-a-dub is riddims but also lyrics. We also obviously try to have conscious lyrics. We wanted to make a bridge between reggae, dubstep, and the conscious part of the music. That’s why ‘rubadubstep’

There’s also a lot of new dub sound systems in France, and many say the free party scene in the 90s paved the way for the current reggae sound system scene.

Fede: That’s true. But we were hard core [laugh]. We fought the police sometimes during parties, I mean really fought. The dub scene that is growing now in France is not about that. They are not looking for frontal confrontation. We were, we really were. But still, they have the same feeling, the same idea of using big sound systems to get people to understand the real meaning of the music, that’s something that joins us. Also having our own rigs, and other similarities.
But they don’t do ‘free’ parties. Nowadays in France it’s prohibited, there are several laws that make it such that if you put a free party on you can have big troubles, you could see your sound confiscated, your vinyl and gear confiscated, and if you’re not lucky you could face jail.

Maybe that is why the reggae scene has become so big, because its legal alternative?

Fede: Of course, that’s the only way they could take. We tried it, at the end of the free scene, in 2003. We made a couple of semi-legal parties. We could sell beers without paying the state, that’s the illegal part. But we had police at the entrance, ambulances, and every aspects of regular festivals.

There was one big festival you did with Heretik in 2004 or 2005

Fede: Yeah, we made that big party named « Alice au Pays des Merveilles », which had maybe 10 000 people attending. A huge party, with big sounds. But we lost money, because we still wanted to keep the low prices. It wasn’t free, but it was a low entrance price, and we wanted big sounds, big names, so we lost money.

So Troy Berkley, next question is for you. When did you first start MCing ?

Troy: Oh God man. It was a really really, really long time ago. I guess i started when i was about 13, which was ages ago.

Fede: Early 80s to tell the truth

Troy: I’d say the late 70s.

And was it always on reggae sound systems or did you begin on something else?

Troy: Let’s be honest – shit man you take me way back. When we was 13 we would be doing kung-fu fights in the street and shit like that – so he was able to imitate the sounds of the kung-fu fights. So he started doing that but we couldn’t sing over that, so we weren’t really interested. And then he started doing proper beatboxing.
Do you remember Joey Lickshot? Well he used to imitate Joey Lickshot – and everyone was like « shit, he does it better », so he became Lieutenant Lickshot.  I guess I was about 13, something like that. So yeah, thank for that memory lane.

So you started with Hip hop and then moved on to other stuff?

Troy: Both at the same time actually. I was singing in my bathroom when i was well young, when I could hit those high notes. Then of course your balls drop and you can no longer hit those high notes [laugh]. And then I guess around 13 I found myself in my first reggae session, in a big dancehall. We used to listen a lot to Saxon MCs. I used to imitate the Saxon greats, like Senior Sandy, Tippa Irie. These were my secret teachers, they were teaching me the fine style of MCing. So basically we would get these cassette tapes, and I would sit up all night putting it on rewind like « what the fuck did he just say » ! And then you’d get it down to a pattern, you’d switch it up, you find yourself somewhere along that line. Or you don’t, but you keep going anyway.

Trying to figure out your style?

Troy: Yeah, and then you figure out there is none. But that’s another story.

About the art of MCing – MCing is something quite hard, especially in sound system, it’s all about reading the crowd.

Troy: yeah it’s true, you’ve got to be synchro. It’s best to be synchro. I mean there’s no law, you don’t have to be, but you’ll have a better time if you are. It’s like, there was a game we played when I was a kid. We had this little game where the DJ would try to find the shittiest music he could find, to give to you to sing on it. And there you were, mic in your hand and you just had to go for it. So what happens is, it make you develop your ability to ride the riddim, to find where is the groove, instantly, and to sit your ass down, because it’s coming, you only get one look at it, and if you don’t take it, it’s dead. So basically this thing kind of develops your impro skills. When I think about it that’s pretty much the only professional experience I had. Even though it was a joke with friends, in actually fact it does develop, it helps you a hell of a lot. Because instantly you have to find your place, right away. So If you want to play the game, well you get better.

It must also help your ability to hype things up Even if it’s a shit tune, you singing over it has to make it good.

Troy : Yeah, you’ve got to make it a wicked tune. It’s your responsibility, if you don’t, well you flopped. You’ll get over it, but you flopped. And you don’t want to flop, so you go searching yourself to bring out what’s wicked.

It appears that in the sound system scene in France you don’t get all that rivalry that was found in the early sound system scene in the UK. There seems to be more focus on ‘meetings’, ‘in combination with’… stuff like that.

Fede: well that’s the outside point of view. No, there is competition, as there is competition everywhere. There’s no big brotherhood in the dancehall scene, that doesn’t exist. If you’re not friend with such person, then you won’t play on his sound. I mean some sounds have open minded stories to tell, and they are bringing different kinds of acts to play in their nights, but that’s not everyone.

The scene grew on the Dub Station scene. Dub station is a franchise, like MCdonalds. So in France, some towns said « ok, we accept your deal, we book your artists, we pay you for the flyers because we use your name », and some other towns said « no, fuck you Dub Station. We are going to make our own dub meetings ». So it’s complicated in France. We have so many different actors on the scene. Some of them coming from techno as you said. Some of them just born on new dub, and they don’t know shit about techno, or reggae roots. But still, they put on parties.
So I don’t know, we’ve been playing for several dub sounds in France, but still it’s a few of them that are open minded enough to open their arms to us, to say welcome.

I guess that’s one comment that comes back quite a lot, that France is still quite conservative, in the sense it’s very focused on roots and stepper.

Fede : that’s true. And a lot of ‘new steppers‘. A lot of them don’t even know about the huge UK scene, like Jah Warrior – 90s stepper – or Zion Train, Universal Egg. For me it’s foundational for techno-dub. Because they call themselves ‘dub sound systems’. But in reality they are not really playing dub, they are playing a new music – I’ve got nothing against it. But it’s not dub. It’s a part of dub music, dub music is so much more.
And you’re right in saying that it’s really conservative. But not in the right way. Not in the way that conservatives look at their roots and project them to the future. They are conservative about this new thing, without looking backwards or onwards.

Going back to the free parties, like you were saying, the early raves were quite political, focusing on autonomy and all that.

Fede: yeah, in that sense every free party was political because of the confrontation with the police and the state. But 98% of sound system didn’t really give a fuck about politics

Reggae as well at the start was very political – do you think the current reggae sound system scene has kept a bit of that political engagement, or is it a bit like the free parties?

Fede : well thank god Macka B exists, that kind of person. Macka B can put out a tune today, and the youths will play it, and Macka B has always been a conscious artist, telling a message to the people. Not only singing ganja tunes or love tunes, it is always with a point. So of course some of the youths in the scene are growing with a message, but still I think most of them lost that political engagement. And forgot that the entire reggae foundation is built on ghetto issues, political issues…

It’s a bit like you were saying with dub stations, in the sense a lot of people in the crowds are there just for the beat.

Fede : not all of them of course. A crowd is made of many different people. You can say that crowd is shit, or that crowd is just sheep. A crowd is made up of different people. Sound systems are made up of different people. I mean if everyone in the sound system is a sound man, then you have no promotions, no good flyers, no good singers. You need a whole bunch of different aspects and people to build a sound or a crowd. And those crowds are not bad, but of course a big part of them come just to jump up – as they say today, they come to skank, and that’s it. But they don’t listen to the lyrics; they don’t know what the song is about. So it’s half-half.

It’s funny, if you look at sound system nights in France and in the UK. In France the crowd focuses on the speakers, and in the UK they focus on the crew.

Fede: Sometimes you go to play, I swear, and we are playing, he [Troy] is singing and everyone is just looking at the speakers. So it happens sometimes i just cut the music and say ”hey folks, it’s happening here!” this man came all the way from the Bermudas ».

Troy: And on my side I don’t really care, because I used to sing in techno shows, where I wasn’t allowed to be there. I fucking loved it, because you take the mic and you have to sit in the background, and don’t let them see you because otherwise they go like « what the fuck ! An Mc ? bla blabla ». So you give them a little bit of lyrics, and they notice it at the end, like « holy shit there was a guy singing this whole time? ».

Fede : And that was one of Troy’s abilities. To be part of the vinyl playing. Merging with it. It sounds as if there’s no MC, it’s just on the vinyl.

Troy : Sometimes I’d be sitting down, and nobody could see me [laugh]

Fede : But a big part of what you say is true. A big part of the crowd is looking at the system, the speakers.

Isn’t that a legacy of the techno scene?

Fede : Maybe, but at that time the live acts, the DJs, they were behind the speakers. So everybody’s secret will was to see who was playing, go behind the speaker and see who was playing. And experience what is a badman sound system person’s life. But now, instead of being behind it, it’s in front of the speakers. But the people are still only looking at the speakers

Troy : But it’s humbling, you know…

Well that was something else i wanted to ask, about MCing over techno – a music where you don’t really have the MC tradition that you have in reggae. How was MCing in the techno scene?

Troy: well drugs helped [laugh]. I mean the problem with drugs is that they work right? so it helps yeah.

Fede: In the techno scene at that time, we had a lot of people who were against MCs. I mean jungle MCs have always been boring to me. Too much blabla, too much non-stop talking

Troy: All over the place

Fede: and the first time I met Troy, a friend presented him to me, he said « I’m going to present you a wicked MC ». And I was like, « pfff one more of those boring motherfuckers » [laugh]. But I had the good surprise to meet Troy and to experience what an MC actually is. Someone who knows when to sing, when to keep his calm, when to check the crowd… and all the other MCs abilities.

It’s true it’s an art to feel that there’s a dub you should just leave, and then another moment when you feel you have to hype up the crowd

Troy : Yeah you feel the vibes. You just have to follow the vibes. There’s an expression in Britany : « tout est bon dans le cochon ». Everything is good in the pig… Now how do I explain why I’m using this expression. I mean you can’t really go wrong with if you’re following the vibes, if you’re riding with your feelings, you’re going to be synchro with it.

It comes back to the idea that sound system is emotional; it’s run with an emotional feel, not only a technical one.

Troy: It’s definitely emotional. It’s 100% emotional.

Bart: Looking from back, today with everything like in the internet, how do you see the scene today, is it expanding?

Fede: I’ve been playing different continents, lots of countries all over. And one thing about the cyber part of it… It’s an illusion. It’s just some pictures, and some things on the net. It’s not true, anyone can pretend anything. So I don’t really look at it like a real thing, even though I find a lot of my bookings and a lot of people find me on the web. And then there is real life, where you have some real people, some fake people too, and each country has both of them. Each country has people trying to build a thing because of their love of music, and some others are just following the fashion

Troy: I mean it all pulls each other, so it would be a big yes to the question « is it expanding ». I mean I’m listening to Fede here and thinking about Steppa (Style), who’s in Russia, in Moscow ; and that Mc from Indonesia…

Fede: yeah, we’ve been working with lots of international acts. Not international in the way that they are moving from their home, but they are all looking outwards. And that is the basis of what we always did. We do the things for the world, not just for our neighbourhood. You don’t do music just to keep it for you. You do it to spread it.

Troy: It’s a wicked feeling, I mean you think that you’ve got guys in Russia singing over your riddims, you know what I mean? It’s fucking wicked.

Fede: Steppa Style he was on our first album already, and now he’s on the next Fogata 10 inch, which also has Troy on the A-side with ‘Matta’, a good hit. And Steppa is on the same riddim on the B-side. And it’s come together only now, because things are complicated, vinyl is expensive. We’re not rich people, we are humble people.

Troy : So Humble [laugh].

Where would see the scene growing to, or would you see it stopping at some point? Now you have sound systems trying to have as many scoops as possible, is that maybe a tipping point?

Fede: That’s not really true, I think a sound system sounds good even if you have a large amount of boxes. Of course, there is always a competition. If you’re a beginner, things look lost from the start, and that’s sad. I mean you look at Blackboard Jungle with 26 scoops, and you just have 3… So of course it’s hard. But there’s not going to be an ending to it. I don’t see why there would be an end. It will just mutate, it’s going to be something different.
I mean tell me if I’m wrong, each and every year in the dancehall scene, the real reggae scene, the youths discover the Sleng Teng riddim. Each year you go to sound systems and they can play the full fucking Sleng Teng, I mean you want to kill them because you know them already and you’ve heard them so many times before [laugh], but it’s good for them. Because they need to know about it.

So you know, it’s always about different paces. You may not always be in sync with others, so the good thing is to take the boat with someone for a while, do a part of your journey with them. I mean here with Argonauts who invited us, that’s a part of our journey. Tomorrow we go our separate ways, but somehow we stay together for ever. You know, at different paces, in different ways, but we are all in the same boat.

Troy: yeah the joy is in the journey not the destination. That’s pretty much it. The joy is definitely in the journey, than trying to focus on some sort of destination

Fede: for real! A young sound beginning today doesn’t need to get his 26 scoops to enjoy himself, you can enjoy it with your stereo at home.

Troy: it’s accessible to everyone

So even though you’re saying that the sound system community online is a bit of an illusion, but at the same time i mean, it does make it more accessible. If you want to build scoops you can go online, you don’t need to go to a dance and take the measurements there and all.

Fede: and find someone who can teach you, so you do the thing maybe better than with just plans from the web.

Bart: but there wouldn’t always be someone around. I mean maybe it would then just spring around centres where there would already be someone but not anywhere else?

Fede: there are always teachers. Inside sound system school there are always teachers, there are people that did it just to spread it, always. And they have shared their knowledge; they always shared what they knew. It’s not about keeping it for you.
I do workshops when I’m traveling. Not this time but often, and everyone is welcome and any questions I will answer. Any part of my knowledge I will share with people, because I don’t see the point of keeping it just for me.

But that’s the point of putting it online though, that you share your knowledge with everyone

Fede : yeah, and in that sense it’s pure positive. Of course. But now the statement that a big part of the reggae scene believes, the statement that says « the only good system is a sound system ». Well I don’t agree with that. A sound system is just an amplification of what you’re saying. If you’re bad minded then only shit will come out of your sound system. So the only good system, is the system where we are brothers, we are equal, there are real sharing vibes. Not every sound system is a good sound system. And that’s the problem with the internet thing. It leads you to believe that the only good system is a sound system, and that’s not true.

It comes down to what makes the identity of a sound system. Is it the system or the crew?

Fede : It’s definitely the crew behind it. Because the records can be played in many ways. The same boxes can played on in many ways.

AF & Bartosz Madejski

Fogata Sounds website

Interview Lion King Dub

LKD

L’équipe du Lion King Dub sound system a très gentiment accepté de répondre a quelques questions lors du festival South Bass Attack. Au final une longue discussion au sujet de leurs débuts, de la scène reggae française, ainsi que sur ce que c’est de gérer et de maintenir un sound system,

 

Alors, quand est ce que et comment vous avez commencé votre sound system ?

Charly : En fait c’est parti de 2010, après un Garance en fait. Mathieu, le quatrième du groupe qui est encore au Canada et qui va revenir dans pas longtemps, juste avant la date de Vitrolles – en fait il a fait un Garance, et a pris la grosse baffe sur les sounds systems, notamment sur Blackboard Jungle. Et s’est dit « ouai c’est bon on rentre on va faire un sound. »

Donc c’est assez récent quand même.

Charly: Ouai ce n’est pas très très vieux, c’est 2010 quoi. Fin 2010. Donc on a commencé à construire le sound , on a fait une première version de la sono, et ensuite nos compères Manu et Antoine nous ont rejoint peu de temps après, et puis là on a construit la deuxième version.

Et selon vous, qu’est ce qui fait, ou qui contribue à l’identité d’un sound system

Antoine : déjà il y a le grain de la sono, comment elle va sonner. Le style musical que tu vas jouer – si tu vas être plus roots, digital, UK… très moderne style OBF, plus roots style Blackboard. Après ça va dépendre de si t’as des MCs. Les selectors aussi font l’identité, l’image.

Manu : ouai, il y a une part de sélection, il y a une part de sono aussi. Parce que suivant ce que l’on va jouer en vinyle et en dubplate, on aime que la sono elle sonne d’une certaine manière. On a des tunes qu’on ne va pas jouer sur la sono, il y a d’autres tunes qu’on va favoriser parque qu’elles sonnent mieux dessus.

Et puis on est 4 séléctors dans le sound system. En France c’est pas courant d’avoir autant de selectors, du coup on se concerte, on regarde un peu les tunes qui nous plaisent dans les boxs, celles qu’on vient d’acheter, les dubplates qu’on vient d’acquérir tous les quatre… et on essaye un peu de se coordonner et de créer une identité complète. Avec 4 selectors c’est pas facile, mais au fil des ans on y arrive de mieux en mieux et on arrive à proposer quelque chose de propre, et qui ressemble à du Lion King Dub quand on joue. Nous ce qu’on veut c’est que les gens qui ne soient pas forcément devant le mur, qui sont à peu à l’extérieur du sound, arrivent et se disent « tiens, la d’après ce que j’entends c’est les Lion King Dub ». D’après le son de la sono, d’après leurs sélections… et après on reconnait aussi les voix au micro. Donc voilà, je pense que c’est un tout le sound system, c’est les MC, le son, et surtout le son qui supporte les vinyles.

Charly : et une complémentarité aussi je pense. Par rapport à notre cas ou on est quatre, on va avoir des sélections du Lion King Dub en unité, mais on va aussi avoir chacun des petites préférences de style. Et c’est vrai que nous quatre réunis ça fait un peu l’arc en ciel, t’as vraiment une couleur pour chacun.

Antoine : c’est vrai qu’au final il y a Charlie et Mat qui sont, pas pour caricaturer, mais qui sont plus dans le Aba Shanti style, tu vois, vraiment sound system traditionnel UK au niveau des basslines et tout. Et après avec Manu parfois on tend plus vers des trucs assez moderne, un peu plus électronique.

Manu : on essaye de jongler avec tout ça, et de proposer aux massives tout ce qui est frais, récent, et dans différents styles. Alors on va jouer du roots, on va jouer du digi-roots,  du dubwise. Alors comme il dit Antoine, il y a des dubwise qui sont un peu plus rootical que d’autres. Et ensuite, on voit que les massives ils réagissent devant la sono, donc là on va passer des sonorités un peu plus modernes,  qui jouent sur les basses, les basses un peu plus wobble. Et le tout ça crée une sélection, et on essaye que ça soit cohérent. Et je pense que c’est un pari réussi, on y arrive de plus en plus, et du coup on se fait plaisir.

Ce n’était pas simple au début d’avoir quatre selectors, parce que chacun voulait jouer ces sélections, et des fois c’était un petit peu contraire à celle d’avant et à celle d’après. Mais aujourd’hui je pense que quand on passe la main au séléctor d’après, on lui sourit parce qu’on arrive à s’aligner.

Et puis souvent j’ai remarqué que dans les sounds ou ils y a plusieurs selectas, ça rajoute une ambiance, de voir l’échange

Charly : Bin disons que pour un selector, tu as plusieurs sentiments. Tu as le sentiment de te dire « putain celle-là je l’ai écouté chez moi, elle me fait ressentir des choses, j’aimerais voir si les gens sentent la même chose, reçoivent le même message ».
Et c’est vrai que même si des fois tu as une tune que t’aime bien, tu te retournes vers le groupe pour voir avec eux, et là ils te font « ouai ouai là c’est le moment où il faut la passer, c’est maintenant ».
Et pourtant ce n’est pas forcement la tune que le bro va avoir dans ses favoris, mais il sait que c’est la carte à jouer maintenant, c’est maintenant qu’il faut la passer.

Ça revient du coup à la question de reconnaitre, lire la vibes, comment reconnaitre le moment vraiment spécial.

Charly : Après c’est une vibes qui est bizarre, parce que des fois tu as envie de la jouer cette tune, et sur deux soirées différentes, tu peux la même à la même heure, même moment, il y aura à peu près le même nombre de gens, ça va pas forcément réagir pareil.
Donc ouai, il faut essayer de capter l’attention des massives, et voir si ça va capter.

C’est un peu un dialogue au final.

Antoine : et d’autant plus que nous on anime, mais on ne va pas chanter, on ne va pas toaster, on n’est pas des chanteurs donc d’autant plus qu’on va inviter des gens.

Manu : C’est pour ça qu’on est amené souvent à inviter des MCs qui viennent d’ailleurs, on prend contact avec eux parce que c’est des brothers a nous, et on les appels, et on fait « man, on va jouer à tel endroit et il nous faut un MC, parce que c’est une grosse date », et à ce moment-là il fait son aller-retour. On travaille beaucoup avec les frangins du coin, du sud-est de la France – donc dès qu’on a des opportunités de faire travailler des MC locaux, on le fait. On a travaillé pas mal au début avec Ras Mykha, un chanteur parisien qui nous a suivis sur deux-trois dates, notamment les toutes premières de la Lion King Dub avec la sono rouge. Bon malheureusement c’est un frangin qui habite dans le nord, donc suivant les moyens qu’on a on n’a pas souvent l’occasion de l’inviter, mais on pense à lui et il pense à nous je pense (rires)
Et sinon, bin notamment pour Vitrolles, on a pris contact avec Hugo de Roots Powa Sound System, qui est aussi au festival South Bass Attack. Tonton Charly a pris contact, il nous a dit « bon écoutez, je voie bien Hugo sur nos versions pour le 9 aout, ça nous apporterait un petit plus sur la sono ». Plus que de l’animation simple au micro, mais du chant. Et puis on connait Hugo et il a un réel talent au micro, et du coup sur cette date on va travailler avec lui.

Et les MC sont plutôt rares, donc on fait des recherches sur internet, on regarde des vidéo sur YouTube, des sessions live, on voit quel chanteur est avec quel sound dans le sud est – on dit “ah tiens lui c’est pas mal, on va prendre contact avec lui”. Et on se bouge dans les danses, on va prendre contact avec les MCs. Mais on essaye de travailler avec des breddrins qu’on connait un maximum.

Charly : et les sistas quand il y en a. Comme là il y a sista Daba. Elle est passée sur le Garance, elle a passé une tune avec les blackboard et ça a vraiment mis le feu.
Elle a sorti un vinyle avec Amoul Bayi – qui est un label de Marseille, big up a Fabyah d’ailleurs. Et ouai, c’est bien. Comme hier soir quand il y a eu deux sista qui ont pris le micro, et qui assurent vraiment, les voix féminines c’est bien aussi. Ça change, ça remet du frais… Après, elles ne sont pas assez nombreuses.

Après il y a quand même une différence entre faire de l’animation, et vraiment chanter et être MC.

Antoine : vu qu’on n’a pas de MC avec nous et qu’on n’est pas forcément bon dans le chant et tout, on se doit d’autant plus d’avoir des tunes qui sont fortes aussi dans le message ou dans la vibes pour la partager, parce qu’on n’a pas forcément le micro pour s’exprimer vraiment.

Manu : et ça me fait penser que hier soir, sur deux-trois versions qui suivaient les vocaux on a demandé à Sébastien qui fait partie du sound system Natural Bashy, qui prend le micro plus aisément que nous on va dire. Donc il était à coté de nous et on lui a dit « seb, prête nous main forte, viens sur les versions », et il a toasté deux trois lyrics dessus, et ça fait bien plaisir. Ça apporte quelque chose en plus. Tu joues le vocal avec des lyrics, avec un message et tout ça. Et suite à ça tu joues la version, c’est dans la tradition des sounds systems – et s’il y a des MCs dans le coin, tu les appelle au micro, tu fais un petit clin d’œil. Les mans ils viennent, ils prennent la version, et ça rajoute de la pèche dans la danse.

C’est vrai. Et je sais quand j’ai vu les danse en Angleterre, en France on dirait qu’il y a plus, peut-être pas collaboration, mais d’échange, de partage.

Antoine : c’est vrai que même les mans comme Dubkasm, Murray man ils nous disent qu’aujourd’hui on a rien à leur envier, c’est chez nous que ça se passe. Et puis il y a un délire beaucoup moins clash. C’est plus centré sur l’unité, les rencontres, meetings… la plupart des flyers tu ne vois pas « clash » dessus, tu vois « meeting ».

Manu : et puis dans le milieu des sounds systems « à l’anglaise », quand on dit ‘versus’ ou ‘clash’ ça reste quand même bon enfant. Mais c’est revenu il y a quelques années ça en Angleterre, où tu peux voir des ‘King Earthquake clash with Iration Steppas’. Mais c’est très cool, c’est des breddrins qui se voient aux platines et qui se montent la pression à coup de dubplates et à coup d’ampli.

Antoine : mais c’est vrai que cette vibes, comme tu dis un peu plus dans l’unité et tout, je pense que  ça se ressent surtout dans le public, et tu vois qu’il y a très peu de violence dans ces évènements, il y a très peu de débordements, c’est toujours dans la bonne humeur, il n’y a pas trop de vols…  Je veux dire hier soir on nous a ramené un porte-monnaie, un téléphone…

Mais ça c’est due au message non ?

Manu : bien sûr ! À partir ou tu moment où tu joues un message d’amour et d’unité… enfin le jour on nous invite en disant « bon les Lion King Dub, on veut se clasher avec vous », on refuserait de suite. Pour nous ce n’est pas possible. On est là pour partager, leurs faire des gros big up au micro… on est loin de les siffler, même si ça reste dans un délire au second degré, ce n’est pas notre truc.

Charly: c’est à l’opposé de notre message quoi

Manu : on préfère faire des « untel in unity with untel » plutôt que « untel versus untel ». Même si le versus ne veux plus dire grand-chose, c’est juste pour que les massives ils se disent « tiens il va y avoir un peu de compétition ce soir, ça risque d’être un peu excitant ».

Antoine : et puis c’est vraiment pour tout quoi, c’est vraiment de A à Z. Nous par exemple on arrive, il y avait des mans donc il y en a quelques-uns qui nous ont aidé à décharger la sono, Hugo il est arrivé plus tard, donc ils sont tous allés l’aider parce qu’il arrivait tard pour vite qu’il monte sa sono…

Charly : voilà, c’est l’unité et le partage, et des fois t’a vraiment des surprises. On a fait une date à Néoules, où on était avec Solo Banton, Stand High, Soom t, et on  a eu la grande surprise en jouant la tune de Daba. Et en fait, dans le public il y avait Ganja Tree, qui est venu jusqu’au stand, et puis il a pris le micro et il a fait sa version quoi.
Donc voilà, là tu restes un sur le cul. On ne savait pas qu’il était dans le coin forcément. Et ça fait une belle surprise quoi, un beau cadeau autant pour nous que pour le public.

Antoine : de toute manière on ne fait pas ça pour l’argent. Ca ce sait dans le milieu. On n’est pas là pour gagner des sous, on a tous nos jobs a côté, nos vies a côté.

Charly : des fois même on mange beaucoup de pâtes [rires], pour pouvoir justement assurer notre petit plaisir partagé.

C’est vrai que c’est une passion au final

Antoine : c’est ça, c’est une passion. Parce qu’on fait des bornes, des fois on fait des bornes pour peu. Le temps, si tu calcule, pour aller de A à Z, montage de sono, démontage…Le temps de logistique pour le temps de jeu il est énorme.

Manu : Bin tu réfléchis que sur un festival comme celui où l’on est depuis deux jours. Si tu calcule 7 sounds systems, chaque sono ou chaque selector va jouer en tout et pour tout 25 minutes/ 30 minutes sur deux jours. C’est vraiment l’exemple pour dire qu’on ne vient pas que pour nous – ce n’est pas que Lion King Dub. On sait qu’on va louer un camion, on va passer du temps à charger la sono, à faire 3h30 de route, on va installer la sono sur place, on va jouer – très peu de temps, parce qu’il y a beaucoup de sounds, et qu’on partage le temps – ensuite tu remballe le sound, tu remontes dans le camion, tu reviens à la maison, tu décharge à la maison… et tu vas te coucher et le lendemain tu bosse.
Des fois c’est très peu de temps de sélection pour beaucoup d’heures d’organisation.

Charly : mais d’un côté tu te mets à la place du massive. Tu regardes le festival où on est qu’a organisé Bass Explorer, c’est énorme. Pour un prix super dérisoire [ 15 euros], tu peux avoir 48h de son non-stop, et surtout, et c’est ça qui est énorme, c’est que tu peux avoir un échantillon de chaque sound diffèrent. Et là on revient à la sonorité, à la vibes que chaque sound va avoir – ils vont chacun avoir leurs préférences. Et ce qui est bien c’est que tout le monde sera content, et pendant 48h chacun va avoir un petit échantillon. Et logiquement, bin tu ne joues peut être qu’une demi-heure, mais tu joues les tunes les plus fraiches

Manu : celles qui définissent le sound

Charly : voilà celles qui définissent notre son. Bon je ne vais pas dire qu’on passe des tunes pour faire passer le temps, mais la t’essayes vraiment de faire le nectar.

Manu : et puis des fois c’est un peu de l’expérience. On a une radio tous les mardi soir depuis deux ans. Et on joue des tunes à la radio, des tunes qu’on peut retrouver également quand on les joue en live. Et des fois c’est un peu une expérience parce qu’on se dit ‘tiens celle-là on l’a jamais joué sur la sono’, on va la tester et on va voir la réaction que ça donne. Et donc des fois c’est aussi être sûr de soi, connaitre ses morceaux – et des fois c’est jouer un nouveau truc, prendre un risque, jouer cette tune-là qui est un peu différente de toutes les autre auparavant et voir si ça fonctionne. Alors soi il y a une étincelle dans les yeux et les gens ils adorent et on la remet depuis le début ; et des fois on voit que les massives, bin ils sont allé acheter une bière à coté parce que on était plus dans le même bain.

Charly : c’est vrai, c’est super difficile – juste un petit aparté personnelle – les sélections des sets, depuis 2006 – j’en ai fait avec un autre sound avant, c’est vrai que j’avais la fâcheuse tendance de tout organiser. De dire je vais passer cette tune en premier, puis celle-là, celle là… A la limite mettre un CD ça aurait presque été pareil, parce que je les pré programmaient et j’imposais au massives le programme. Et c’est qu’après avec l’expérience, t’essaye de te pas tout prendre – comme si tu faisais un peu la cuisine et t’avais plein de légumes, peut être tu ne vas pas tout prendre mais tu mets un peu de si, un peu de ça. Et peut-être prendre un petit peu plus au départ, prendre un éventail, et puis aviser au moment.

Manu : l’avantage d’être quatre membres dans le crew c’est qu’on apprend énormément de ses copains. Moi depuis que je suis rentré dans Lion King Dub, je faisais du son avant, on faisait tous du son avant, et du coup entre nous on s’est appris énormément de choses.
Moi notamment dans le technique du sound, avec Matthieu qui est fort dans la construction, Tonton Charly dans l’électronique et tout ça. J’ai appris de la sélection avec Antoine.. Je crois qu’on a tous appris les uns des autres, et aujourd’hui, plus on avance dans le temps tous les quatre avec la sono, et plus on acquiert de l’expérience.
Et je remercie mes trois frangins du Lion King Dub d’être toujours présent, parce que tous les jours j’apprends avec eux. Alors des fois je fais la gueule sur un truc parce que je refuse de l’entendre, mais au final je vois que ça m’apporte un putain de plus dans le future.

C’est vraiment dans l’échange

Manu : ouai c’est vraiment dans l’échange

Charly : il y a moins d’individualisme qu’avec un DJ qui a préparé son set, par exemple les mecs qui vont préparer tout leur set. Et c’est vrai qu’il faut amener de la surprise, mais aussi du contentement. Il faut jongler entre toutes ces vibes.

Et le coté home-made, qu’est-ce que ça vous apporte ?

Charly : bin comme on a dit, ce qui est bien dans le sound system c’est qu’on a vraiment tous nos points forts. Par exemple moi au niveau culture musicale, je connais que dalle (rire). Après je ne sais pas si c’est bien de dire ça en tant que selecta, mais j’aime vraiment la tune que quand je l’entends. Par contre à l’inverse j’ai un côté très bricoleur – pour moi c’est une solution, un truc à trouver, un truc à réajuster…  A côté tu as Manu par exemple qui va être une bible vivante, il va te dire le mec il a enregistré ça, c’était un jeudi soir, quelle année… Antoine il va ramener la fraîcheur par exemple. Bon c’est un peu bête a dire, je suis le plus vieux du sound, mais il va ramener cette fraîcheur quand moi par exemple je vais être un peu plus orthodoxe. Et moi aussi ça me fait du bien, j’apprends de ça et ça me permet de m’ouvrir aussi.

C’est toujours un esprit de groupe. On a commencé a vraiment trouver ce feeling. C’est un peu ce que disait aussi Manu tout à l’heure, c’est un peu ce qui nous a été dit gentiment – une critique n’est jamais négative, elle est constructive. Et c’est d’autres sound qui sont arrivés, qui nous ont dit « franchement les gars, nickel votre sélection, par contre c’est brouillon – vous passez un roots, derrière il y en a un qui va passer un dub énérvé ». Et parce que peut-être qu’au début chacun voulait se faire plaisir individuellement, et en fait on a compris au bout d’un moment que c’est dans l’unité. Le mec ou la fille qui vient écouter Lion King Dub, ils vont écouter un ensemble.

Antoine : Ouai, pour revenir sur le home-made. Mat et Charlie qui sont très bricoleurs. C’est vraiment Mat qui a tout réfléchit, qui s’est renseigné sur la sono – et après nous derrière on était là pour couper le bois, pour coller. On apporte chacun notre truc. Mais c’est vrai que le coté home-made, c’est ta sono à toi, tu l’as faite de tes mains.

Charly : Après c’est un peu comme l’arc en ciel des compétences, qui rejoins un peu l’arc en ciel des émotions quand tu joues, et la fluidité entre les deux. Je pense que maintenant on est arrivé à une fluidité instinctive. Par exemple si on a des petits trucs d’une demi-heure, par exemple hier soir on s’est dit « bon là on est trois, il y en a deux qui jouent un petit quart d’heure chacun ». Si on commence à prendre 10 minutes chacun après on commence à revenir dans le trip où chacun essaye de jouer sa tune à lui.

Manu : et puis ce qu’on essaye de faire aujourd’hui, si on sait qu’on a une danse prochainement, et bien on favorise deux selectors sur le timing cette fois-ci, et puis deux selectors sur la prochaine. Parce que c’est vrai qu’aujourd’hui, on aime jouer en unité avec énormément de sounds, du coup on accepte aussi le fait qu’on ne va pas jouer longtemps. Comme dis tonton, on ne va pas proposer aux massives quatre selectors sur 30 minutes. Même si on essaye de rendre ça évident, à un moment ils vont être complètement perdu. Mais des fois quand on a un peu plus de temps on se regarde tous les quatre est on se dit bon là on va jouer une tune chacun, et puis ça n’empêche pas non plus la cohérence dans le son

Charly : exactement. Par exemple ce matin on a fait une tune chacun, et c’est bien passé, mais c’est une autre ambiance. Si on avait eu une heure hier soir, ça aurait peut être été différent. On aurait peut-être fait un quart d’heure chacun, histoire d’enchainer au moins deux-trois vinyles chacun.

Antoine : Je pense aussi qu’on a la chance d’avoir la radio aussi, parce qu’on joue et on s’exprime tous les mardi soirs.

Manu : et les bars dans lesquels on joue également. Parce qu’à l’heure actuelle, on ne peut pas sortir la sono tous les weekends, c’est une réalité.

Parce que vous êtes basé où exactement ?

Manu : on est à Toulon, la Seyne-sur-mer.

Antoine : Six-Fours, dans le var quoi

A oui parce que j’avais vu que pour la fête de la musique vous avez fait la session sur la plage à Six-Fours

Manu : Ouai on a joué sur la plage de Six-Fours. Ça fait deux ans qu’on a ce coin, et c’est un de nos meilleurs endroit je crois.

Charly : et par rapport à ça, je rebondit sur la fête de la musique. Une date de fête de la musique, c’est pas une date comme les autres, c’est pas une date comme ces 48h de festival, ou une date avec Musical Riot. C’est une date où tu vas plus faire découvrir aux gens, donc peut-être pas forcément partir sur des choses super pointues, énervés ou très fraiches, parce que les gens seront complètement perdu.

Il faut savoir – sans se mettre en avant – qu’on est le seul sound system à jouer à l’anglaise dans le Var, avec un sound system. Tu vas avoir des villes comme Montpellier où il va y avoir 10 sound system, mais attention, des sounds systems de qualité, comme Salomon Heritage, Jah militant, à qui on fait un gros big up. Se sont vraiment de très gros activistes, et qui sont seuls surtout – ils ont des boxmen, mais ils sont seuls a gérer toutes leurs soirées, et ça c’est chapeau.

Et comme je reviens à la fête de la musique, là on va plus faire découvrir aux gens. Et c’est vrai que, vite fait on va avoir le reggae Jamaïcain et l’identité qui viens de l’Angleterre. Nous on a fait le choix de l’Angleterre parce que ça nous parle plus, émotionnellement parlant. Slackness et tous les trucs comme ça ce n’est pas pour nous. Après respect à tous ceux qui font leur truc, mais il y a des paroles et des lyrics que je ne peux pas accepter.

Et ça, ça fait partie de l’identité du sound

Charly : tout à fait. Et en revenant sur cette date, ce qui était bien c’est que tu avais des petit de deux ans – bien sur un peu écarté du son – et ça allait jusqu’à 70 ans. Et c’est là que tu capte en fait, tu n’imposes pas ta musique, tu capte les gens. Et alors là où c’est vraiment marrant, c’est quand tu as des personnes qui ont 60-65 ans, ils viennent vers toi et te disent « mais c’est des vinyles que vous jouez ? ». Et pour eux c’est un petit peu leur jeunesse.

Maintenant c’est vrai qu’il y a plein de formats – bon on essaye de jouer 100% vinyle mais quand tu passes des dubplates, on va pas faire tout presser non plus, on a pas des budgets de folie. Mais voilà on essaye de jouer un maximum en vinyle.

Antoine : Et après il y a aussi le fait qu’à la fête de la musique, les gens il voyaient cette sono rouge, énorme, qui vibre, et c’est là qu’il comprennent ce que c’est que la culture sound system.

Manu : et surtout c’est le seul moment dans l’année où on joue chez nous. Parce qu’aujourd’hui il est très difficile sur l’aire Toulonaise. Aujourd’hui il y a énormément de salle alors soit qui ont leur propre systeme de sonorisation, qui leur ont couté très cher, et quand nous on arrive avec un projet de faire une danse, ils nous disent pas de soucis. Mais quand on leur montre des photos et qu’ils voient la sono, une grosse sono rouge, ils nous disent « oubliez la sono les gars – on a mis je ne sais pas combien dans les satellites, les subs et tout ça, on a tout ce qu’il faut pour vous insonoriser, vous venez juste avec deus platines ».

Du coup on a toujours cet espèce de mur en face de nous. Nous on est un sound system, donc quand on veut jouer sans sono on va dans les bars. Si on va à l’encontre des salles, c’est parce qu’on a une sono artisanale à sortir, on a envie de jouer dessus parce que le reggae s’écoute de cette manière. Du coup on a ce mur de gens qui disent « non désolé, on accueille pas sono parce que ça fait trop de bruit, soit parce qu’on veut rentabiliser notre systeme de son à nous ».

Ca et aussi beaucoup de salles ferment très tôt à Toulon – c’est minuit ou 1h du matin. Aujourd’hui tous les massives sont concentré la plupart du temps sur Marseille/Aix en Provence, donc pour les faire venir en voiture sur Toulon, ils font 1h à 1h30 de route, et si la soirée finit à minuit/1h du matin et que les mecs ils ont fini de bouffer ou de faire l’apéro vers 11h, ils comptent sur un 5h – 6h du matin. Minuit ou 1h du matin, les mecs ils restent chez eux. Donc aujourd’hui on cherche des salles qui nous accueillent avec un sound system et qui puissent nous faire terminer au maximum 5h, au minimum 3h du matin.

On continue de chercher et en attendant on se fait inviter. Mais on a l’opportunité d’être de bons amis avec pas mal de sounds dans le sud-est de la France – notamment tous ceux qui sont là ce weekend. Donc eux nous ont invités pas mal de fois, et on travaille dur pour leur rendre la faveur et les inviter un de ces quatre, d’avoir nos propres danses sur Toulon avec un thème, des soirées trimestrielles… Mais aujourd’hui ce n’est pas simple à Toulon.

Mais ça c’est au niveau des salles; Les massives ils sont là. Quand on va a des concerts de reggae, dans des grosse salles de concerts, les salles sont pleines – on le voie ça à l’Omega Zenith à Toulon, quand il y a des concerts roots, il y a énormément de personnes qui adorent le roots. Mais qui ne connaissent pas forcément le délire sound system. Pour eux c’est simplement poser deux platines dans un bar avec un MC.  Le sound system c’est un tout – c’est les séléctors, c’est des colonnes de son…

C’est vrai que le sound system c’est une autre manière d’apprécier la musique

Antoine : voila, c’est de la vivre.

Charly : le coté anglais, par rapport au côté Jamaïcain, est très peu connu. C’est pour ça qu’avec des fêtes de la musique on va peut-être faire découvrir à des gens. Et au delà de ça, on essaye à la radio de développer ça et de le faire entendre.
Malheureusement tu ne peux pas tendre un plat a quelqu’un et dire « vas-y mange », il va gouter avant. Et bin en fait les gens goutent avec la radio et des petites choses comme ça, et après ils viendront festoyer avec nous.

Un autre truc qui intrigue – là ça va faire 5-7 ans que le reggae en France, la scène sound system commence à vraiment grandir.

Manu : vraiment, c’est grâce à Musical Riot en France, qui a énormément développé la scène sound system. Moi j’ai découvert les sounds systems en revenant de l’océan indien en 2003-2004, je me suis de-suite rapproché de ces soirée-là, parce que j’ai découvert le sound system avec King Shiloh.
En France, c’était au début des année 2000 – Shaka et Aba Shanti sont descendu à Paris fin ’90, début des années 2000, donc c’était encore dans le nord de la France. Et dans le sud,  ça a commencé vraiment en 2000-2001 avec Musical Riot qui organisait des soirées avec des sonos. Et là on allait voir ça quand on était youth

Antoine : ouai, King Shiloh cette danse au bois de l’aune, on était tous jeune. Moi c’est cette  danse qui m’a fait dire « putain, un jour aussi j’aurais un sound system ».

Charly : le pire de tout, c’est que toutes les personnes qui sont présentes à ce festival, ont tous quasiment découverts le sound system ce soir là – par exemple Anne Luminy, qui est une grosse activiste dans la scène du sud, qui était à l’origine des University of Dub à Luminy, et qui étaient vraiment  des évènements énormes. Et ce qui est marrant c’est qu’on était tous présent à cette soirée là – et on ne se connaissait pas à l’époque.

Manu : c’était en 2004, King Shiloh à la salle du bois de l’aune.

Charly : on n’avait jamais vu ça avant, tu te prends une claque.

Antoine : donc à partir de là, ça a fait ça pour pas mal de monde. Tu prends cette claque de basse, c’est des bonnes vibes, c’est du reggae, mais c’est un peu électronique aujourd’hui –  donc ça touche plus en plus de public… Il y a une bonne ambiance, les gens l’apprécient – et c’est pour ça que ça monte en flèche. Et tout le monde voit qu’au final c’est réalisable de monter une sono, et de gérer une sono.

Manu : surtout tu as énormément d’aide aujourd’hui pour monter une sono. A l’époque si tu voulais monter une sono même au début des années 2000, il fallait prendre son mètre, aller dans les danses et mesurer les boxs comme ça. Il fallait vraiment aller dans les danses au poser des questions au opérateurs pour pouvoir monter une sono complète.
Et aujourd’hui tu peux aller sur google, taper ‘monter un sound system’ et t’as des forums.

Antoine : c’est vrai, c’est indéniable que le net a contribué à cette montée.

Charly : sur l’aide, on a deux grosses expériences. La première est quand Mat avait commencé à commander le pré-amp. Et quand il l’a reçu, il l’a mis sur sa page facebook, et le grand frère Steph’ de Lion Roots  – à qui on fait un gros big up – quand il a vu l’image il nous a dit de venir tester le pré-amp sur sa sono. Il nous connaissait ni d‘Eve ni d’Adam, et puis c’est quand même un grand frère qui est là depuis plus de 15 ans dans la partie, donc quand il nous a dit ça, c’etait énorme quoi !
Et il y avait une date juste après à Montpellier, et on est monté là-bas et on a eu la chance de croiser Channel One. Et pareil, ce petit regard de Channel One qui rentre dans la salle avant la soirée. Nous était des petits jeunes qui arrivaient avec notre pré-amp, Steph avait fini tout son check up, son branchement, et il nous a dit de le tester. Il y avait de la curiosité de son côté parce que nous c’était un Jored et lui il utilise un Irad Processor.  Et t’a Channel One qui rentre, ils viennent te checker, et ils te disent « alors les youths ça va commencer ? Vous allez envoyer ? ».
Et c’est fou ces petits passage dans ta vie. On n’a pas parlé pendant des heures, mais tu sentais quand même que la vibes passait.

Pareil avec notre bredda JB, ex-membre des Jumping Lion qui nous a énormément aidés. On a commencé le sound avec Mat, on avait les pré-amps et tout ce qu’il fallait, mais on était le genre « bon comment on branche en fait ». Et une des premières soirées, grâce à Anne Luminy, on a eu l’occasion d’aller sur une des date de dub station avec les OBF. On les a questionné et pareil, les frangins super cool, ils ne se prennent pas la tête – ils nous disent « on n’est pas ingé son, on a appris ça sur le tas ».

Et ce JB ils nous a fait des prototypes de caissons, qu’on était les seuls à avoir – et dans le partage, dans tout ça tu vois, le truc t’as JB qui viens nous voir dans une soirée il nous demande si on est content avec, et il vient humblement te voir et te dire « au fait, ça te dérange pas si les plans je les passe à un autre brother ? ». Et bien sûr que non, c’est tes plans !

Et justement, le fait que tout le monde commence amateur, c’est fait par passion et que ce n’est pas vraiment professionnel c’est peut-être pourquoi il y a tant de solidarité.

Charly : tout à fait. Tout le monde se tire vers haut.

Antoine : c’est très ouvert, très accessible. Je pense que c’est peut-être pour ça que ça évolue aussi en France. Parce qu’un minot s’il est curieux, il peut accéder facilement à certain artistes, que ça soit amateur comme nous ou un peux plus grand, ils vont te parler facilement et t’expliquer deux trois trucs si tu demandes…

C’est ça aussi l’autre principe du sound system, tu peux vraiment discuter avec les gens contrairement au live où il y a une séparation

Manu : ouai parce qu’on est au même niveau que les massives, on n’est pas comme un groupe traditionnel. On ne monte pas sur une scène à deux mètre de haut des massives, avec des grosse barrières de sécurité, et où pour nous parler il faudrait utiliser Facebook. Non, on est au même niveau que les massives. On met des barrières sécurité attention, parce qu’aujourd’hui à trois heure du matin les mecs ils sont un peu plus chaud qu’à 8h du soir. Et ils sont tellement excités par les sons que des fois il y a des mouvements et tout ça. Mais on reste à proximité des mans qui nous écoutent pour pouvoir partager un sourire, un regard, quelques paroles. Si t’as des questions à poser, ou même nous si on veut te demander si t’a kiffé la sono. On va toujours demander aux massives s’ils ont aimé.

Donc toujours le sound system au même niveau que les massives, on ne se met pas au-dessus, je ne vois pas pourquoi on ferait ça.

Charly : et surtout ce qui est bon, c’est un bro qui va venir te voir et te dire « bon franchement ta sélection nickel, mais par contre fait gaffe au niveau des aigues » ou « fait gaffe avec ton niveau de micro »… et c’est bien parce que ça ne vas pas être de la critique négative, peut être tu n’y as pas pensé. Je pense que tu as aussi beaucoup d’émotions qui se mêlent à ça. T’as le fait de dire ‘moi j’ai écouté ça, ça m’a fait tripper, est ce que vous ça vas vous faire tripper’. Et t’as aussi le fait de gérer ton son, et t’aimerait que ça claque au bon volume, sans saturation, et ça c’est une autre technique. Et il faut que tu jongle avec ces deux émotions. Un truc qui va être plus technique et rationnel, et la tune qui est plus émotionnelle.

Antoine : Pour revenir à la question pourquoi ça l’expansion en France, je pense que sur le plan social aussi il y a une baisse de la teuf. Donc je pense qu’il  a beaucoup de teuffeurs qui se rapprochent de la culture sound system. Le fait qu’il y ait un gros volume sonore, sans l’illégalité.

Manu : ils récupèrent ce qu’ils aiment et ils laissent derrière eux ce qu’ils n’aimaient pas en teuf. Je pense. J’ai fait de la free party pendant quelques années, de 16 à 19 ans, entre les caraïbes et l’océan indien. Et quand je suis rentré en France, j’ai voulu en faire une aussi, et je me suis rendu compte que c’était pas du tout le même délire. Et j’aimais en parelle le reggae, et du coup je suis allé en sound system et je me suis dit que c’était la même chose, sauf que…  c’était plus serein, il y a plus de love, c’est moins glauque.

Charly : une question qui m’a déjà était pose par une personne qui ne connaissait pas forcément la scène, et ça c’est très fort dans l’esprit français, c’était « comment est-ce qu’il faut danser dans une de tes soirées ? »… Tu danse comme  tu veux. C’est ça le truc, on met tout à plat, on est tous pareil, il n’y a pas de honte.

Antoine : voilà tu ne regardes pas l’autre, tu es la pour toi au final.

Charly : et même si tu croise l’autre, tu vas croiser un regard, un sourire. C’est ce qui se passe très souvent. Et c’est là que je disais qu’il y avait vraiment une différence entre une session d’une soirée et une session de festival. Parce que le lendemain matin tu vas peut être recroiser la personne à qui tu as souri dans la soirée, et tu peux aller discuter… En plus tu n’as pas à te prendre la tête quand tu dois reprendre la voiture ou quoi. Alors qu’en festival tu n’as pas cette pression, et tu vois cette ambiance.

Antoine : et puis il y a tout ce côté aussi, avec le message de partage, d’unité, de respect, qui se perd peut être un peu dans les valeurs d’aujourd’hui. Il y a de plus en plus d’individualisme dans la vie de tous les jours, tous les débats politique, les infos, tout ça. Ce n’est pas terrible.

Bin justement, est ce que vous pensez qu’il y a toujours un aspect politique dans la scène sound system d’aujourd’hui ?

Charly : je pense que si. Bon après je vais être le fervent défenseur du bio. On a une tune que j’aime bien passer, c’est ‘chemical food’ – et pour moi c’est ça, le carburant que tu ingère c’est ton carburant à toi, essaye de manger un truc un minimum sain. Je pense que ça fait partie de l’éducation, de faire passer un message

Antoine : Ouai, il y a toujours un message à faire passer. Après de la politique pure, on évite quand même.

Manu : Après je pense que les massives ils entendent des trucs toute la semaine par les différents médias, les journaux, la télé. On leur bourre le crane de merdes, de nouvelles lois, de nouvelles taxes, des trucs qui vont te faire encore plus chier dans la vie de tous les jours. Mais tu vas a un sound system le samedi soir, t’oublies tout. Parce que humainement on est tous au même niveau, et on vient tous ici pour s’amuser, pour oublier notre semaine de boulot, on prend du plaisir tous ensemble. Et le dimanche matin, quand on se réveille on dira « bon bin j’ai pris un maximum de vibes dans les dents, dans la tête, dans le cœur, et je suis reparti, j’ai rechargé les batteries ».

Charly : Après, je ne veux pas partir dans le truc mystique, mais logiquement quand t’es dans un sound system, t’es là à dire « je vous propose ça – que vous allez peut être connaitre », ou « je vous propose ça c’est une surprise, que vous allez peut être apprécier ou pas ». Et les massives, ils se disent « je reçois, c’est énorme le sound system ». Mais il faut savoir que nous on re-reçoit cent fois, mille fois plus. Il y a des vibes qui passent, et nous on se recharge presque encore plus. Eux ils ont l’impression d’avoir le son fort et de recevoir beaucoup ; mais nous on reçoit aussi énormément, et c’est un échange comme ça – que ça soit dans le regard… dans la vibes quoi

Manu : et elle est tellement bonne qu’on ne va pas la quitter avant un bon moment

 

Un grand merci à Bass Explorer pour l’organisation, et à tout les sounds systems présents pour cette première édition du festival South Bass Attack.

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