Tag Archives: After All

Chronique: South Bass Attack Festival

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Organisé par l’équipe du Bass Explorer Sound System et l’association Musique 4 All, il faut dire que la programmation était alléchante : 7 sounds systems pour 48 heure de musique non-stop. Le principe est simple : une arène composée de 6 sounds qui jouent de 10h du matin, pour le reste de la journée, et jusqu’à 4h du matin; puis une sono qui prend la relève pendant les 6h restantes– pour du reggae et des bonnes vibes en continue.

A peine arrivé, on croise les têtes connus des activistes reggae du sud et autres aficionados, et la session commence donc dans une ambiance bien familiale. De plus, Il n’a pas fallu longtemps pour se rendre compte de la qualité du site. Situé entre Saint-Marcel-Les-Sauzet et Montélimar, la féria a rempli tout les critères. L’arène trônant au milieu, avec l’espace chill-out aux airs de Zion Garden et les stands buvettes et barbecue de chaque côté – un aspect idyllique, le tout entouré d’arbres, d’ombre, et de verdure.

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(Site du South Bass Attack – photo: After All)

Le premier soir, chaque sound jouant 30 minutes chacun, les sélections ont vite pris du niveau. Les Jumping Lion ont tout de suite montré leurs talents de collectionneurs,  tandis que les Lion King Dub ont ouvert leur caisse de dubplates pour notre plus grand plaisir. After All, accompagné de la talentueuse MC Pitch-up, a délivré une sélection digital à souhait; et Roots Powa et les cuivres de Fayalite Horns ont partagés leurs message conscient à coup de roots puissant.  Les Welders HiFi ainsi que Bass Explorer nous ont aussi fait découvrir leurs productions faites maison, et le Dub Fi Dub final a probablement été ressenti jusqu’à Montélimar

Pour le reste de la soirée, l’équipe du Natural Warrior a pris le relais dans une ambiance festive, l’occasion pour ceux qui en voulaient encore de skanker jusqu’au petit matin.

Le seul bémol du week-end fut la pluie, qui vint se joindre à la fête durant la journée de dimanche. Mais elle n’a pas fait peur aux massives qui sont restés – quoiqu’un peu moins nombreux mais tout aussi motivés– pour cette deuxième partie.

En somme, ce festival a été une belle réussite. De plus, après quelques années où la scène sound system aura été marquée par des festivals toujours de plus en plus grands (tels que le UNOD, Dub Camp, Outlook, Rototom…), il fait grand plaisir de retrouver un festival comme le South Bass Attack où la convivialité est le mot d’ordre. Malgré le fait qu’il n’y ait pas eu de « grand » noms, les invités représentaient tous la nouvelle génération de sound systems, nés aux alentours des années 2010; et qui sont très souvent ignorés dans les festivals de l’envergure du Dub Camp, du Rototom ou de l’UNOD.

Ces festivals souvent ne permettent pas l’interaction et l’échange qui a lieu dans des événements plus petit – et qui au final sont au centre de l’idéal du sound system : que tout le monde soit au même niveau, écoute la même musique, et partage les mêmes vibes. Il n’est pas possible au Rototom ou au Garance par exemple de se pencher vers la control tower et demander le titre de la chanson qui vient de passer, ou même ne serait-ce que féliciter ou serrer la main aux selectas.

Le grands festival permettent de faire venir des légendes,  mais les plus petits permettent un retour à l’esprit moderne du sound system et du reggae : où le clash a été abandonné en faveur de l’échange et la coopération.

Enfin bon, tout cela pour dire qu’on attend très impatiemment une deuxième édition !

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After All sound system @ YAPTLM

Reportage video sur After All sound system lors de l’édition 2013 du (très réussi) festival Y’en Aura Pour Tout Le Monde, avec une petite Interview des membres d’After All sound sur leurs débuts ainsi que sur leur collaboration avec le festival.
Featuring: After All crew, Marina P, Riddim Tuffa, Artikal Sound, S’Kaya & more

Realisation: Quentin Spinosa “Spinosa Production”

Interview Welders HiFi (English)

 

welders sound system

(photo by Alex See)

“originally reggae is a bit the music of the oppressed. We’re not really oppressed in Europe, we’re rather privileged. But we still have things to say, and it’s part of an alternative” 

“You don’t always have to talk about world hunger, you can also do a little song “I’ve got mushroom and cheese in my dancing shoes”

Interview of Albah from the Welders HiFI sound system on what it means to build your own sound system, the role of free parties in the french sound system scene, and the art of chatting on the mic.

How did you discover reggae, and what pushed you to build your own sound system?

How did I discover reggae… My parents had records of Bob Marley, Third World and Peter Tosh, so I had already heard it at home. Then the first things I listened to was Massilia Sound System [a sound system from Marseille]. Because we are in the south [of France] and it was the first concert I ever went to.
Then during high school, from 2000 to 2005, I used to be involved in the techno scene and free parties, all while continuing to listen to reggae. Then when I started going to rave parties, I started buying vinyl, mostly new roots at the time[…] That’s how I started collecting records.
The first reggae sound system I saw was at the Garance festival in 2003.

But Garance, when it was in the south of France or before?

No, before. Well, when it was the Jamaican sunrise. 2003 I think it was. I think it was King Earthquake or Jah Shaka. Something like that because I remember that there was a huge sound system, and it really impressed me.
So in 2003 I discovered that there were also reggae sound systems, not only techno ones. So joining all these aspects, the techno sound systems, the fact that I liked reggae, and also I played a lot of instruments – well mostly percussions. I was in several bands with Joe, my friend with whom I started the sound system. 10 years ago we started an association for that initially.

So essentially, when I discovered the reggae sound systems, it linked all the aspects that I enjoyed: a big, powerful sound; reggae music and instruments, a more melodic aspect than techno, but still in a sound system set up. So that is how I discovered the scene, but it wasn’t at all with the objective of building my sound system at first.

Life went on, I studied in Nancy, in Spain… and then I came back to Avignon to finish my masters. And I met up with friends with whom I had played in bands with […] and so we started a dub band, because I liked reggae and the others started listening to it too.

So that was the Dub Welders?

Yeah, the Dub welders. So that was in 2008 I think. We focused at first more on ‘French dub’, but in the end it was all kinds of dub. For a while we had been going to the Dub schools in Montpellier, with Lion Roots. And so most of us also collected records, we were going to sound system dances, and then one day the idea came up: we wanted to have our own sound.
My friend Joe had a lot of equipment because he’s a sound engineer. He had a factory made system, so we used to string that up […] But we quickly realized that if we wanted a good sound, we needed to actually get down to it and build one ourselves. We began building it around the end of 2008 – if I remember correctly the first gig we did was in 2009, with 2 scoops. And then we thought 2 scoops are not enough, we need 4.

The way we built it – I mean whether it was in music or for anything else, we had always been quite autonomous. We would organize our band gigs by ourselves, we would rent the amplifiers and equipment […] so then that evolved into the craft, home-made ways of doing things, where not only are you autonomous, but everything is made by you. […]
At first there were quite a lot of us in the project. But when it got to the point where we take 2 weeks off work, get 2000 euros to buy wood, amplifiers… only 2 of us were left. Because some friends didn’t have a job or things like that. But we wanted to go on, so little by little fewer and fewer people were involved – not because of any problems, but because we were keeping at a certain pace.
So that’s how it started, and like I said, the association we started in 2004.

Which association was that?

That was Association Entre Collègues (AEC). It’s the one which manages the Welders sound system, the one we use to do the Massives Corners.

And so the City Wall one is different?

City Wall is another association we started in Avignon that is open to others. It involves local reggae groups, small sound systems, that regroups all the activists from Avignon and with that we organize concerts, sound system sessions. The money we get from that goes to organize other events. And we have the AEC that we use only for our sound system. The money that comes from that one is put back into our sound.
So with that we began to organize our Massive Corners – I think the first one was in May 2011.

And was that at the Akwaba?

No the Akwaba came after. At first it was in small venues that we would rent out – complete autonomy. We would organize our thing, rent small venues around Avignon.
The Akwaba is a venue that we have known for ages. We played there with our bands, and Joe is a sound engineer in the area, so he had worked there before. So he went there, and they wanted to do reggae-dub nights, so it kind of happened. We started a co-production, and now we do 2 or 3 nights a year there. But the Massives Corners we do a lot outside of the Akwaba.

What seems to come back a lot is the idea of autonomy.

Yeah. We quickly found the limits in the fact that we were all on a voluntary basis, and in the end, if you want to do things that are bigger, you need a bit of help. Structures that know their field, that have employees, a place – like the Akwaba. So in that case we had to join them. But I don’t consider that as a loss of autonomy. Especially as the Akwaba is a cooperative, so it is still relatively independent.

So yeah, it’s still an independent scene. We have never asked for subsidies. Maybe that will change later on, but we try to keep our autonomy. But it doesn’t stop us from collaborating with other people as long as we’re on the same wavelength […] When we do things with our sound system, we can just say “ right, we going to bring such a person, such a sound, and off we go”. Joe and I just book a venue, make a few calls for the beer, and it’s done. But with the Akwaba and even with City Wall, we have to have a more “mainstream” line up. We have to talk with both of them so that we can get something big enough to get 3 to 400 people […]
So both are complementary. With the Akwaba the focus is more on the line up […] and then on our side we organize our small sound meetings in the venues that we organize from A to Z.
[…]

And the fact of having a home-made system, it contributes to the feeling of autonomy, but does it contribute anything else?

Yes, it contributes several things I think. […]
First of all it costs less than if you were to buy it – except if you buy it second hand.
You can have new equipment for cheaper than if you were to get factory made equipment. That being said, you can buy hand-made scoops from Lion Roots and others that build them, but it wouldn’t have been your making. And in the process of autonomy, I find that there is – I don’t know what word to use – merit? …. It is a kind of reputation to have built your own sound.
The guy that spent a week building his scoops, drilling, gluing… that built his whole system from A to Z, from my point of view, will have a greater reputation in the sound system scene. More than people like Jumbo Rock, who buys 10 scoops from Jah Tubby’s and off he goes.

The fact of building it yourself – it’s a question of finance, but you can do it at your own rhythm, and it allows you to get the feel of things. You get to know your sound.
I’ll use the example of Jumbo Rock again – I have nothing against him – but he bought his 10 scoops, came down to the Garance where he set up his sound on the camping ground 2 years ago. And he burned out all his mediums. Had he built his 10 scoops himself, it would have taken him 5 years, and he would have learned how his sound system works and not burned everything.

So there’s that. Of course you can buy stuff later. But the fact of building it allows you to understand how it functions, to really think about what you want in terms of sounding, the quality you want to get… […] Those that try to have everything quickly in the end might not know their sound as well and not know what to do if anything goes wrong. […]

And like I said, I have tendency to have consider more highly crews that built their sound from A to Z than the guys who bought everything and come up one day with 10KW. Of course they can do good things, and learn with practice, and after a while there may not be any difference.
But to be able to play your tunes on your sound, that’s what we’re aiming for.

That reminds me of debate that took place online: what makes a sound system’s identity?

Well there are several things. Actually it’s quite funny because some of them have really strong identities. You can have Mungo’s, OBF or Blackboard; well all three are completely different.
But those are things that develop over time. Ours is still being built. You have to find it. You have the rastas, those that aren’t rasta, those that aren’t rastas but are closer to them…

The identity can already be from a visual standpoint. A sound system that is all black, covered with grids like with Iration, it’s quite aggressive. And generally there is a meaning behind that. If you look at the Channel One sound system, it’s all wooden, the grids on the speaker are round, you have the feeling they are going to play roots, and it tends to be that way.

Iration nights are “ruff”, people hit the speakers and so they have to put full grids on the speakers.
I mean ours are bit beaten too, and you have people that play ruff tunes on wooden sound systems. But I still think that that tends to be a recurring theme. […]

So you have that visual aspect. […] Then aside from the music that you play, the identity can have to do with the texture that your sound has. Some sound more metallic, a lot rounder if you put multi-way speakers. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Equal Brother’s sound system, but it is all in multi-way, and it sounds really round, really roots. If you play the same tune on a sound system like OBF’s or Dawa Hifi’s that have tops that shatter your ears, it sounds a lot dryer. […] Everyone has that particular texture that is linked to what you play. You try to have a sound system that sounds best for what you play the most.

So there’s that. After,  the sound system’s identity… I think that whether you’re a Rasta or not impacts a lot on the sound system. […] For sound systems that are rastas, that’s a big part of their identity.

After there’s the identity that you build according to what you play, in terms of your selections, what type of tunes you play the most, and especially in the dubplates that you have.
By dubplate I mean the tunes that you produce […] and the collaborations that you do. For example I know a few dub-makers that are artists that I support as well as being friends with, and I will play a lot of what they do, and that also defines your sound.
So, OBF are going to play some Iration, some TiT, some Iron dubz… their friends that play similar stuff. Blackboard will bring out things with rockers disciples, a real band, and they have things a lot more roots or UK dub, less ‘techno’ influenced.
So even if you don’t produce tunes, I think your identity is linked to the singers you bring in, and the dub-makers that make you dubplates, and your collaborations […]

It’s cool, you’re making points that haven’t been made before.

Well for me, if it’s just stacking up speakers, plugging them in and playing records… I mean,  a guy invites you to play in Italy for example. He invites Welders sound system to play in Italy. If it’s to go and play the same Vibronics release that all the Italians have… it’s cool, if you have massive collectors and you’ve been in the scene for 50 year, why not. But for me it feels like a sound’s identity is based quite a lot on the dubplates.

So then, if when you play in Italy, on someone else’s sound system, can your identity be transposed on to their system?

On other people’s systems? Well sometimes you can have real surprises! (laughs)
It doesn’t sound the same at all, there’s some tunes you can hardly recognize […] It is true that we don’t have the experience of playing on a lot of different sound systems. We have tried most of the different types of preamplifiers, but only once. Aba shanti, he can come to a dance, whether there is an Irad, a Jored… he’ll know how it works, how to get the system to sound how he wants it to sound. Apparently the big UK sound systems, Aba and the rest, they have dubplates that they only play on their systems because they know how it will sound, or they don’t want to take the risk of it sounding wrong. But when we were in Italy […] we went once with our system, and once we went to Rome to play on another system.  And there are songs you’re like “pffouu, that does NOT sound the same at all” (laugh).

So yeah, it’s those moments that allow you to take a step back and have a good look at your system. It allows you to see that the song you produced sounds good on your system, or sounds better on another’s. And after if one day you want to release something on vinyl and it needs to sound good on the most systems as possible, it’s good to test it. That’s why we send pre-releases to everyone so that they can play it on their systems and give us feedback.

And does the way you set up your system and how you organize your dance change according to where you play? Whether it’s inside, outside…?

Well already you need to find a venue (laugh). So now I’m a specialist in venue-finding, after having been through dozens of different places.
Yeah it changes quite a bit. But that’s due to several things.

When we organize the night ourselves, we aim for the kind of venues that organize weddings, the private venues. So we try to find somewhere far from any inhabited places. Industrial areas or in the countryside. Already, that is not easy. You have to make sure by using aerial photos […] if the place looks like a castle, then forget it. You have to find something a bit shit, but not too much, not too expensive, it has to stay accessible, where you can turn it the sound up and the place won’t fall apart. Sometime, you get a venue and the whole place shakes, you can’t do anything. You’re gutted, the night is ruined. But you can’t know those things until you’ve strung up the system and played something at 30 Htz.

Then once you’ve found a place, the aim is to play facing your system. There is no feedback, the feedback is your system.
So it’s quite hard to get people to understand that when you play in venues like the Akwaba. When you come in and say you want to have your system facing you, they’re like “but no, you have to split in two” […] the guys have been stage managers for years, and they are sure they are right. They do proper concerts, which is a European way of consuming music. We do sound system which is originally a Jamaican way of consuming music […].Originally it was a poor people’s concert. You could have burning spear, all the music bands playing for you in one night, and it wouldn’t cost you anything.

So in the concert venues, they have a little trouble understanding that we don’t use feedback, that we play with our system facing us. It really confuses them (laughs).
Most of the time, we place ourselves where the stage is, so either we undo the stage or we just stay in front. Then we put the system at the other end of the room, so it hits in the opposite way that they are used to hear. So that really confuses them, I’m telling you. The first times at the Akwaba we had to split our stack in two because the guys didn’t want to do it the way we said […]
Then one day we did it, and they all said “that’s really good, it sound  a lot better than usual”.
[…] So that’s the way always do it – controls, sound system facing it. […]

After, in the ways we organize the space, it depends. Essentially, we go into the room and spend half an hour talking about where we are going to put the things […]. At first when we do the tests we go to the middle of the crowd space and we try to get benchmarks. So when I hear this at the controls, it means that the guy in the middle of the dance will hear that. Because sometimes it can hurt their ears while being fine for us.
Then there is always the bar that tends to be – mainly through a lack of alternatives – in the same room as the dance. We try to protect it a little from the sound, so that the guys working there don’t have to deal with the full volume[…]

Then in terms of visuals, of lighting, I quite like it when people can’t see each other. Well, can’t see each other – that it stays in the shadows.
We have two lighting points, well I’m saying this but we have to fight with the Akwaba for that too. Sometimes they put things, it looks like a nightclub. So we have a light where the guys are singing, so where the sound is produced; and one light where the sound comes out. And in the middle I prefer that it stays relatively dark […]I notice that especially at the beginning of the night – after, when there’s lots of people they don’t care – but at the start it brings on a dancing atmosphere much more quickly. People don’t look at others so much, so they not as embarrassed to go there or to be all alone, because in any case you’re in the darkness […]
And so it creates something special, because in the end with sound systems, even if the people look a bit at the guys that make the sound, who sing or the sound system, they still have a lot less visual fixation points than a traditional concert. […]

In a sound system session, there is only sound, so I try to get people to focus on that, to just have two spots, and the rest no lighting. Most of the time it’s a fixed indirect lighting, for example a light behind the stack, which produces that vibe, more favorable for dancing, especially for more meditative dances. When you come into a sound system session, that you get hit by a wave of bass, it’s a bit dark, you can smell a bit of weed, and you see just one bright light with Pupajim or Soom t underneath […] you’re in the vibe straight away.

And the fact of not seeing anyone else means that there is only sound, you are in the music

Yeah you’re focused on your thing. It’s true, there isn’t like what you see in rave party sound systems, lasers and everything. There are some who do that a bit, but we don’t. That’s just my personal opinion; there are guys that do great decors. We do some from time to time, but it will be more for the bar or the control tower. But dancing area stays quite dark.

You’ve played in places…let’s say a bit unusual for sound systems. For example the dance you did at the Fou d’Allos on the ski slopes, or the Fete du Panier underneath the Cathedral de la Major, places where you wouldn’t usually put a sound system. Do those change from other nights?

I like it to be honest… I remember in Paris I was at sound system dances on a barge. And just the fact that it was on a barge I’m sure you get 100 more people. When you play in a ski resort, just the fact that you put your sound system on the snow, people are like “wooaa awesome”.

I was talking about this with Lilou from the I-skankers, and she was saying “fuck, you always have good spots”, we could almost do like in Amelie Poulain, where you have the travelling gnome. We could have the sound system at the sea, the sound system in the mountains (laugh).
But yeah, I like that aspect, the scenery in which you play your sound, even if in the end you’re always playing on the same system. The fact of going to an unusual place, it’s nice. For the people that come it’s something new. And the open air dances, even if we are in the south, there aren’t that many people who organize them. So it creates… I don’t know… it creates a festive vibe, a something a bit quirky.

That’s actually something I’d like to develop further, well even if that would mean having to work in cooperation with local authorities, but to play in places with a past, a bit like La Major, or the Vasarely Foundation.

Places that one wouldn’t really associate with gigs?

Yeah. For example playing in front of the Papal Palace (In Avignon), I would really like that, or on the Pont d’Avignon, places like that.  Then you have to really justify your idea, because local authorities will be scared that you wreck the place. But it’s true that the overall surroundings in which you play create another vibe. When you play in the mountain or on the slopes… but even that, you don’t play the same thing. When you play at the beach or whatever, it changes.

So the place you play in influences what you play?

Yeah, it changes your state of mind. We never really managed it, because we always have issues and get kicked out of our venues, but on one hand it’s good to have a residency somewhere, a place that you are used to, because you know how your system will sound. Even when we play several times in the same venue, we have tried all the possible layouts. We had a small venue in Avignon, the ‘Graffiti’. Well there we tried one stack, two stacks of two ]scoops], one stack of three, four stack of two when we invited people… I mean we tried everything. And each time you try to organize the dance a different way “no, there there was too much light, next time we’ll have less”, “there we had the toilets, everyone was walking in front of the controls”…. So bit by bit you find your final layout, it’s true that changing all the time is annoying.

But the open air areas, there isn’t all that issue with how it sounds, how it doesn’t sound, because you know that if you place yourself 12 feet away from your system, it’s good. We measured our distance. But it adds something on one hand for those that come, because for them it’s nice to have something on a barge or whatever. And for you as well, it allows you not to feel like to going round in circles.

But do you manage to create the same vibe, for example at the Major or on the ski slope, which you would get in more normal places?

It wouldn’t say it depends on the place, it depends more on who comes and who doesn’t. […]
Say for example we go and play at the Akwaba, we might have people who come that know the venue but that have never seen a reggae sound system, or if we play under the Major.
While if you play in a venue that you rent and you organize the night, and you only have 20 people that turn up, you can be sure the guys didn’t just happen to be pass by.
So it’s true that when you use a different place, it allows you to have people who may only have come for the venue you are playing in and who aren’t necessarily there for the sound, and who will discover it.

If you do your PR right and manage to get enough people… but even with people who aren’t from the sound system scene, you can get the dance really going. But that’s got more to do with the people, and if you can capture that vibe, what the people like.
And sometimes they enjoy it but you can’t see it. For example the Italians, it’s quite weird. They don’t yell like here. That said I don’t know how it’s like in the north (of Italy), but here when you pull up, everyone shouts and everything. They’re used to it, they grew up with the dub stations. In Italy you do a pull up, you have 3 guys who shout out, you’re not really sure if the people are enjoying it. They wait… Right… So you put the tune back on. And at the end of the songs, of the good tunes, they clap. I mean I’ve rarely seen people clap in sound system dances in France […]

Something that I seem to hear often is that in Italy they’re a bit more ‘conservative’, more roots in terms of sound.

In France there are conservatives too, but maybe there are more sound system that crossover than in Italy.
But it’s true that the vibe you create, well it depends on the place. When we do our open air dances in Eguilles, the guys who come, they’re hyped-up straight away – because it’s often the last open air dance of the year, or it’s a place where people feel good. Or when we do our dances at the Fou d’Allos, not on the slopes, but we also play in a bar. The bar is the outing of the weekend for a lot of the seasonal workers, and don’t worry, when they come, it’s wild! They don’t necessarily attend sound system nights, but its places that are maybe more favorable to the party vibe than others […]

And it doesn’t even depend on the amount of people. I remember we did this night in the mountains; we had only 70 entries, when the venue could host 200. But the 70 were there from beginning to end […] and it was awesome. Had we had 200 people it would have been the same.
But it’s true, sometimes you don’t know why. Sometimes there is a spark, sometimes there isn’t. I think with experience you can manage to bring things around a lot more if you’re not with a very favorable crowd.

So it has a lot to do with the interaction with the people? That’s the big difference between a gig or a DJ set, and a sound system dance.

Well before we were talking about identity. The identity is also in the message that you try to put across. Maybe rastas put through a lot more than us, but I’m still going to say things.
At the start there is always a warm up. Often we get the younger generations to do them. But in fact warm ups are very important. They are what will make the guy who is slouched at the bar drinking his beer actually come and drink his beer in the dance. And when he’ll be finished with the beer he’ll start raising his arms, and there you have it. And it’s true that if the warm up is shit, and until midnight you play only crap, you don’t talk to people… I’ve had that experience, and that’s why I’ve started to talk and sing.

At first I wouldn’t do it at all and I’m not especially good at singing, but I started because I had to, because no one else was. Also when you talk and there isn’t really anyone in the dance, sometime and especially at the start, you’re kind of embarrassed to say things, no one answers.
But you see, if you play the same (tune) while not saying anything, even if you cut the bass and bring it back on, I mean people won’t even notice you put the bass back. But when you’re there saying things… Especially depending on the intonation you use […]

But it’s true it’s quite hard, it’s an exercise that requires experience. To build up your dance, to get people to get into the vibe by maybe playing a tune they will know, something a bit more mainstream […] And once they’re in the dance, you can play some more ‘obscure’ things.
And this is even more true when you have people that aren’t really used to it, kind of like at ‘world music day’. Then it’s funny because if the people don’t really know about it, they come up to you and ask “why do you only have one turntable?”, “why are you always talking? Stop talking”…. Because they are used to DJs that just play set. But that isn’t a sound system; a sound system is everything we’ve said up to now. A guy that sings, a guy that talks… So it’s true that the vibe that gets created in the dance, and the space that people occupy between the system and the controls, it depends a lot on the music that you play but also, especially for beginners, it depends on what you are going to say to get them to come into the dance.

I was watching an Interview with Aba Shanti a couple of days ago, and at one moment he talks about what it is with dub and reggae, what it is with that music that makes everyone dance, that makes people happy. What is it for you that makes this music special?

Already, I think that that they are reggae nights and they have emerged from quite a tolerant tradition. Well, tolerant, I mean open. To can come as a Rave-head with piercings everywhere or in a three piece suit, or as a dirty shepherd (laugh) you’ll still get in. While if you go to a nightclub, its selective. That being said, concerts are quite open too.
So there is already that freedom of being able to come however you want, that allows it to be a big party, because you aren’t judged.

After, I don’t know, some of the guys who have their system are pro, but we are in a scene that is mostly amateur, in France. Or semi-professional, but sound systems that live only from their sound, in France, I think there is Salomon Heritage, Lion Roots and even him I think he has other revenues, Blackboard Jungle, OBF.. maybe Legal Shot and even then..
The others they all have a job. Jah Militant grows fruits and vegetables, we’re not going to through all of them but you get the idea.

So already the people who do this, it’s their little pleasure. So they come to have a good time – I mean […] if it pisses you off, you don’t do dances. The guy that does the sound, he’s there to party so he’ll try to pass that on to the other people that come.
There are people that are more serious…  But I consider the sound system dance like a place of entertainment. You can crack jokes – that comes from the Jamaican tradition. The DJ tells some jokes, talks about what goes on in everyday life. You don’t always have to talk about world hunger, you can also do a little song “I’ve got mushroom and cheese in my dancing shoes” (laugh).

Make the people forget about their shit week

Exactly. And it’s relatively accessible financially. And the anonymity you get in the darkness, as we were saying earlier, it helps you completely let go. You don’t care, no-one’s looking at you. People can’t see who you are even if they look at you […] It’s the same thing that happens at rave parties, although there people tend to use a lot of substances.
So it’s that party vibe. I imagine, I’m not very knowledgeable in the other things, but there may be vibes in more dancehall sound system or in rap and clashes that are a bit more aggressive. But generally, in the dub sound system scene anyway, we’re more in the idea: let’s make the most of our saturday night, we’re here to listen to music.

Of course, there is also a little message, but both are not incompatible. Guys who say “no you have to stay with roots, with something serious”. Who say Jah Rastafari, all the time, all the time. It’s good, get your message across, but crack a little joke from time to time. You can mess around in sound systems […] Sometimes I have a laugh, I say things, I do a French-English mash-up. So then you go “right guys, that didn’t even make sense, just bring on the sound”. For the warm up it works quite well to say some jokes, you go “hey! you three at the back, come to dance after that third beer”.

On a much broader note. The sound system originally was Jamaican, after it moved to England in the 80s to 2000. And then since 2000, it has moved to more continental Europe. Would you have any idea on why this happened?

I think that the rave parties have a lot to do with it in France, and even in Italy. Because they’re quite big ravers in Italy. And now it’s starting to get to Eastern Europe. I think that base has played a big role. I know a lot of people who go to sound systems today, 10 years ago they would never have put a foot in it and they are old ravers. They still continue to go a bit to raves, but they calmed down, they have kids… And the music is a bit calmer. So I think they come for the sound system aspect, massive speakers. They recognize certain codes, that come from the techno sound systems, that themselves come from [reggae] sound systems. You see, it’s a sort of circle. And I think it came to continental Europe through that.

In the 00s we had lots of small French reggae bands that helped make reggae popular in France. The big French reggae festivals, Sun Ska, Jamaican Sunrise, Garance or Jah’Sound have been around for 10 or so years, but it all sort of came at the same time.

I couldn’t really say, because originally reggae is a bit the music of the oppressed. We’re not really oppressed in Europe, we’re rather privileged. But we still have things to say, and it’s part of an alternative – we’re not massive anarchists either – but there is that underground side to it. Well maybe less today, but I still quite a bit because we can’t find venues to do our things, on TV you don’t see anyone reporting them.
But yeah when we used to go to raves I was 16, well I think that for the young ones today, raves have lost their charm a little – why I don’t really know, maybe it got too popular, more publicized.

And so [reggae] sound systems that have remained a bit underground it attracts the youths. You know having something underground but that is still a bit more organized than a rave which tends to be anarchy […].

It’s semi-official, but it plays a lot on the underground aspect because there isn’t much media attention. In any case, it isn’t like this thanks to the media. It was developed by the activists. I think dub stations, in France anyway, have played a big part. Dub station and the others that did it around the same time. After in the other countries I don’t really know. But you see they are a bit behind – well behind – they have a maybe less sound system in Italy, in Spain. But they are now where we were 4 or 5 years ago I think.

In Jaimaica and in England, sound systems came from the oppressed, the ‘sufferahs’. In England it was linked to racism, to social problems… And in France you wonder where is the link? In France, its mostly white, mostly middle class people that are building systems.

Yeah in France it’s not ruff. If it came from poor areas, it would be in the ‘cités’ [French estates] that they would be building them. But that isn’t the case.
I mean you look at Aix [en-Provence] the number of sound system there is. Aix is more of a rich town. But I think that there may be an aspect… I mean in the 70, our parents were hippies. Hippies weren’t necessarily people who were living in poverty, but they were people who were educated, and who believed in something else than what is happening today. And so they were claiming this by listening to rock, psychedelic rock, I don’t know what.

But they were not necessarily from a disadvantaged background. We are also the ones creating a mess, in Africa, in South America, wherever […]. You join a movement because you become more aware that you, the western affluent culture, it’s something that is not necessarily a model, and that there are things that should be changed. And so you identify with reggae because it holds values such as unity, peace, tolerance… I mean what we try to introduce in reggae is the notion that you have to be nice to others. It may be a little biblical, but don’t care.
When I listen to dancehall lyrics and I hear “if you look at me weird I’ll put my gun in your mouth”. Essentially in the rap and dancehall scene, if you want to be famous you have to be ‘bad’; and in reggae, well if you want to be famous, you have to be ‘nice’.

So you see, It’s something a lot of people can relate to. I think that it helps a lot people to identify to reggae. Even if it comes from Jamaica, from poor neighborhoods, in the end it stayed a strong music. You can very well come from a fancy background, it doesn’t mean you can’t speak out against things that are happening around you.

And to finish, what would be for you the main differences between rave parties and reggae sound system?

Well already in terms of sound, reggae is more based on melody. That’s maybe why we play on one turntable. Because you can’t mix two reggae tunes. You have one that is in D, one in C… in a rave you have a tempo and that’s about all you have to mix. For me that’s quite a big difference.
Also what I like is the mix between acoustic instruments, a melodica, a skank, a piano; and the more electronic side. Whereas in raves its almost entirely electronic.
So we managed to keep that in the dub movement. Even if some like OBF aren’t very acoustic. But there will still be a singer, you see? There is still a ‘live’ act – an acoustic creation – that you don’t necessarily find in the techno scene. The guy might create something because he twisted some buttons […] but that creation is only electronic.

After of course there is the issue of drugs. Even though in the [reggae] sound systems you have some guys that take loads of things. But it isn’t as ostentatious. In raves you have guys with bags full of ecstasy that are going around yelling “ecstasy! Ecstasy!” If someone does that at one of my nights I put him outside, if not call the cops. So there is that side that rejects drugs – so the crowd isn’t the same.

There is also the aspect – well, it’s also that the ravers have been given a lot of shit – but we are still a bit more respectful of the law… Because we don’t want to get our sound system confiscated. Even if we always do things that are on the limits of legality. But it’s true that raves are often… You have old ravers, the guys who clean the areas after, they don’t go too crazy… but generally a rave is a lot less controlled, people give donations when they come in whereas we tend to have a fixed price…. It tends to be a lot more anarchy. But it is something they are attached to, it’s good in some way too […]

Ravers also tend to want the most Kilowatts possible. We don’t give a shit about kilowatts. You don’t even say the number of KW your system has. We have at times put it up, but more as a message to ravers. […] If someone asks me how many Kilowatts my system has, I know he’s not someone from the (reggae) scene. Someone who wants to ask me what my system is made of in reggae terms will talk to me about the number of scoops, it’s kind of the basic unit […]

So there is a real importance awarded to the quality of sound. You look at Blackboard Jungle’s system, it sounds so clean. The dude can put 24 scoops, you still have a quality of sound that is impressive for the actual power of sound.
Whereas ravers often just pile up speakers, the things are out of ‘tune’, and so they have so many kilowatts but the things cancel themselves out. They want a huge kick. Maybe the fact that they make electronic music with little melodies allows them to do that. But if we start doing that, you won’t hear such and such frequency anymore, you won’t hear the voices anymore… So the music we play forces us to put the quality of sound at the front […]

After I don’t know if the massives that come to the [sound system] sessions have the same approach, but I think they are capable of knowing if a system works well or not. As much as in raves you hear a massive kick, it makes you dance because you’re already bouncing around on the fast bass. There are synthesizers but if you don’t hear them it doesn’t change much. Whereas in reggae, and this goes back to the issue of dubplates and how to build your dance. Well recently I went to a session organized by people who I will not name,  the system did not sound good, and well the people did not get into the mood, they couldn’t spread the vibes. Even though they had good artists playing, there wasn’t that fusion between the people and the sound system.
So for your dance to work well, you have to have a good quality of sound in order to spread your vibe.
And that I think is quite an important difference.

Interview After All Sound System (English)

“If you leave vinyl behind, as a reggae sound system, you can forget all the tunes that say “burn Babylon”, because you did the first thing Babylon told you to do: forget vinyl and buy mp3.”

Around a couple of drinks in his garden in Pelissanne, interview with Benoit from After All sound system: discussing the current state of the sound system scene in France, the problems facing reggae sound systems, as well as his relationship with free parties and raves.
(Long read)

(On the issue of free parties)

Even if I spend a lot less time in free parties, the last one I went to did not go well at all, I will always come back to them.
Even if it’s to come back a bit differently, a bit more legally or better organized, but I will always come back to them. Because you can’t take away the idea that when you organize a free party, you have a vibe that you can’t find anywhere else.
The fact, why I continue to do free parties, and not concentrate on festivals or nights organized in venues, it’s because you can’t take way my feeling that to be able to bring 500, 600, 700, 1000 or 6000 people together with only a phone call or a text, it’s magical.
To meet up , only with a phone call or a text, in some place lost in the wilderness where initially there isn’t even any water or electricity and suddenly you have music, food, drink.. It’s really magical. And there are only free parties that can do that.

As if to create a completely different place, a different world?

To create something… how did they call it already? Timeless? It wasn’t there, it’s there, it’s not there anymore.

A temporary autonomous zone?

Right, as they used to call that in the golden age, but that doesn’t exist really anymore because now, free parties have lost one thing, and that’s autonomy
I mean the free parties, and actually like the reggae sound system scene, have been victims of their success at the beginning of the 2000s. I think the reggae sound system scene is not far away from being victim of its success too. We’ll see in 4 or 5 years if I’m wrong or not.

Already it’s started to become ridiculous, especially with Blackboard Jungle’s 24 scoops. For me that’s the beginning of the end. In that kind of atmosphere… We are in a scene for amplified music, and we are starting to hear a lot of reggae system organisers – whether it be inside or outside, venue or festival – say that they are more and more categorized […] When you are looking for a venue, even if it’s with a reggae sound system, and you announce “sound system”, “speakers”, “turntables”, people automatically think of “rave”, “not good”, “noise”..

So the sound system side is already viewed as “noise”. And next to that you have those that turn up with 24 scoops. There aren’t any suitable places to host us. We are victims of that problem. We don’t have enough venues that can host us, allow us to organize nights that are legal, safe… That aren’t “free” or underground. So we have that problem, and everyone still wants to have the biggest system, the most speakers, even though its hell to bring out even 2 scoops.
That is why I have a lot of respect for Stef’, of Lion Roots Sound. He sold me some good equipment, old scoops of his. When I asked him why he was selling them, he told me: “I have 12 scoops, I’ve taken them all out once in two years. Bringing out 10, that happens probably once every two years as well. When I take out 8, they think I’m crazy, they don’t want to invite me anymore. I don’t see why I should keep 4 of them when they’re just going to sit in my garage”. […]

And even then, the difference, what creates the competition between sound systems, it’s not the number of scoops, it’s the power of the system, the place you play in.
Find the good place, where you can have your nights, and if that place can take in 10 scoops, 12 scoops or 24 scoops, then build your 24 scoops. If you have a space to bring them out, in that case do it. But to build 24 scoops just to say that you’re France’s biggest system, I think that’s a shame. They (blackboard jungle) had 12 scoops, it was more than enough for their nights, even to provide the sound for the Garance [reggae festival].
Invite sound systems that come from places no-one’s heard of, that nobody knows. Meet, exchange, do something new, instead of concentrating on the number of scoops. That’s what I mean by the dub scene is beginning to be a victim of its success. If you look at the line-ups, the more it goes, the easier they become.

It’s one of the reasons I had a couple of debates with Musical Riot. Musical Riot are at a phenomenal level today. There is no-one in France, even in Europe who is at their level. Had they not started the Tribute and Musical Riot, reggae culture in France would probably be 10 feet underground, buried beneath the free parties.

Thanks to that, French reggae woke up. So for me, when you are at that level; when you can organize events at the Trabendo [in Paris] and the docks des suds [in Marseille] –which are probably the 2 best venues in France for these kind of nights – when you organize dub stations at the Garance, at Rototom, at Outlook, in Lyon, in Portugal… When you have reached that point […]what does it cost you, at each dub station or at least half the time, to invite small local sound systems that are starting up to do the warm up. To refuse that in the principle that they don’t have enough experience…  That’s talking like a true Babylonian! If you don’t give the opportunity for small sounds to show themselves, get experience, how are they going the make it?

I’m not criticizing the dub stations – they are very good. It brings together 800 people, a good line-up, they bring nice systems. I’ve got nothing to say about the concept of the nights. Simply, for an outsider’s perspective, it’s a comment that I’ve allowed myself to make.
Originally, sound system in Jamaica, what was it. A studio, a sound system, and new tunes that came from the local guys, from the ghetto and that you played. The basis of a sound system for me, the basis of a people’s radio is to promote new singers, the new talents. The aim is not to have a closed collection of dubplates. That collection of dubplates, you have it because you’re the one who discovered the artists. On that issue I’m 100% behind King Shiloh who says he doesn’t agree with the dubplate business, even if I’ve payed for most of mine. A dubplate is supposed to be a contact. The artist digs what you do as a sound system, you dig what he does as an artist…

It links back a little to what David Rodigan said concerning clashes: the old sound systems who have dubplates from legendary artists, but who are now dead. From that point on, a newer sound system that enters a clash with them will not have those, and will never be able to be have the same ‘quality’ of dubplates. What Rodigan was saying was that in clashes, especially those opposing a new sound to an old one, to only allow dubplates from living artists, like that both have the same chance. You need to have ‘new’.

That’s it. You need the new. Of course you mustn’t forget the foundations , the roots. But the basis of a sound system is to discover new talents. You can’t go on playing the same dubplates from the same artist, invite always the same singers, even if they’re amazing. There is a point where you have to give way to the new ones, or even combine the two.
When I did my event with Marina P and Steppa Style, how many people would have come just for Steppa Style. Few people know him, except those who are into the ragga-jungle cross-over. So I couldn’t do the night just with hem. And even then, Marina P is still quite underground, not hype enough. But that’s new talent.

So since when have you been involved in the reggae scene, and what made you get into it?

I discovered the sound system scene through techno and free parties, because I had friends that had a techno sound system. I became interested not really because of the music, I didn’t really like techno, I was a big reggae fan. I went to those parties more for the spirit and the vibe that was behind them […]

From there, well it’s good to go to an event that you like, but you know.  I still want to participate in them, so I found my place in the setting up of the amplifier and the speakers, and I learned with the techno system, but after a while I wanted to do music myself.

Techno music is not my music, I didn’t manage to make any, and there I discovered that reggae existed also in vinyl. And especially I learned that the sound system scene of techno did not emerge from techno, but from reggae. So I got interested, I discovered reggae sound systems. 10 or so years ago. I bought records, and in the early mornings I would play reggae on my friend’s systems at free parties. Then we set up our own thing in 2003

So ten years old this year

Yup, ten years! The birthday should be in September normally

And so what does your sound system consist of?

One stack, four scoops, 2 W-Bins for the dry bass, 4 Cerwin VEGA columns for the mid-tops. 3 way system, no pre-amplifier like most of the other systems. Crossover techno set up, 2 turntables, one mixer, 2 active filters, and that’s it for the moment. We rarely play with one turntable. A lot of people tell me: “yeah but the signal, the pre-amplifier, the digital processor…”. For the moment I have 2 cross-overs, and last week end we had some of the best feedback we have ever had for the quality of the sound.

The system work well, I have very little adjustments to make for it to run well. I have an ear that doesn’t work well so that’s perfect. I don’t see why I should invest hundreds and thousands in things that will become obsolete.

We have a sound system that’s efficient, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

You mentioned that you bought the scoops from Lion Roots. Is there a part of the system that you built?

The 2WW bins were built by a friend of mine. The rest is factory made.
The scoops I bought from Lion Roots, it’s Shortman an English boxmaker that made them. In the reggae scene it’s still considered as ‘home-made’; mainly because he’s a craftsman. Very few people know him in the techno scene […]
We are not the most ‘home-made’ system there is. But at the same time, I don’t really care about the home made cliché. I am here to spread music in the best possible way, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have done better with my own two hands, so I’m happy with what I have.
We are probably going to change, the system will evolve. We are going to try to do a bit more ourselves. But I’m going to try to stop doing lots of things ‘sort of ok’, and start doing less things better.

For wood works, we might all be quite handy, I still think there are people with a lot more skills for those kind of things. It’s like producing music – I would really like to do some, I’ve got loads of ideas. But firstly, I’m not a musician, secondly I suck at music, and thirdly I don’t have time. I prefer to concentrate on organizing dates and taking care of the system and playing records. That’s already enough work for me.

But again, to come back to the ‘home made’ cliché, it’s the same as dreadlocks: nobody has dreads in our sound system, because in the end, it’s in the heart that you’re a rasta.

And does the way you set up your system change according to where you play?

A little, even if most of the time we try to keep the stack in one block, as the impact from 4 scoops together is stronger than with 2 stacks of 2 scoops, it has a better sound quality.
Then if we need to cover a wider space, but with less power, we can do it differently. Because we have a lot of friends that make techno, from time to time we rent our system for more electronic night, and in that case we’ll have to change, or tweak the stack, as it’s not designed originally for electronic music.

For the turntables, generally we have an “after all reggae night” set up: the stack in one block, the turntables opposite 12m away, if possible a little to the right. Then it changes slightly according to whether we are inside or outside. But generally that’s how we set it up.

But when we organize events where there are different genres, or a bit more techno, we can be brought to have to control areas. One control deck in front for the reggae, and one behind for the more electronic DJs, because they mix a lot more – and if they are too far away there may be a lag between the time the sound takes to get to their headphones and when it comes out of the system.

 

 

Reggae had many political elements; it’s very political, very social. Do you think these elements are still there – in your sound system and in general?

In general I think a lot of it has been lost. But because we live in countries where life is relatively easier than in Jamaica. It’s social and political troubles in Jamaica that allowed that music to become political.

In England, I went there when I didn’t pay much attention to reggae, so I can’t really say. But I think that over there, you have a bit of both. There are dances and sound systems that are very involved, not necessarily politically, but culturally and socially; that are there mainly to spread a message, be it religious, political, spiritual… And I think there are also other sounds who are more there on a festive basis. In England both of them play a lot.

Maybe that is why England remains THE center for sound systems?

Possibly. In France it must exist a little as well – I’m thinking especially relating to recent debates, about Critical HiFi, from Toulouse. They seem to be very politically engaged.

I’d like to be a bit more active too, but I’ve realized – through the free parties, and a little bit through reggae nights – that unfortunately the message you want to spread, whether it is a message of peace, love, political or anything else, in the end only very few people pay attention.
Even in a very individual dance, 100% reggae roots, either there are only 40 people all ready to understand and spread your message – but in those cases you can’t make much out of it because there are only 40 people. Either you start to do events with 150-200 people, there might still be the 40 that you are trying to politicize, but people are mainly there to party and take in the music.

After, I mean it’s normal. It’s a Friday or a Saturday, people spent a shit week working, and they’re here to relax. It doesn’t mean they are completely uninterested, or that you can play homophobic Sizzla or Buju songs all night. But the main focus of their attention won’t be on the message. It’s going to be on the music, on the dancing aspect rather than the message.

Then again, I have played quite a bit of homophobic Sizzla and Buju songs because I liked the flow and the melodies behind it. But now it’s the kind of tune I ban form my system.
Last time we were at a free party, and my mate in the morning mixed a remix of Buju Banton’s ‘Boom Bye Bye’. I let him do it because he rarely plays on our system and he mainly plays hardtek […] he put the disc on and I let him do it, but it’s the last time that will be heard on our sound system.

Even if people are here mainly to dance, we can’t forget that the few who do understand English or who know those songs, well let’s say it may offend some people, and I’m not here to offend anyone.
I try to promote Peace Love Unity Respect, so one has to be a minimum coherent. I’m ready to let a few things slip from time to time when we have fun, but we are still here to spread a message and educate to an extent the masses. If we can educate them while making them dance – I don’t play only political tunes – but reggae music touches on a lot of issues: women, love, politics…. You have to play a bit of everything, without slipping into extremes. Extremes in reggae music or anywhere else are not a good thing.

When I was young, I was very extreme in my ideas “my values, my thoughts, blablabla, I stand by them”. In then end: no. In life it’s good to have values and principles, but it’s also good to know how to put a bit of water in your wine.

So in the end, during your dance what do you try to bring other than the music?

Already, I try to bring a minimum cost to our sessions, seen as we come from the free party scene, and that is proof that you can organize musical event of high quality for free, or almost.
I think it’s possible, on varying scales, depending on the venues and the possibilities, but you can play with entry fees in a good way.
That’s why when we got Marina P and Steppa Style we had the night at 8 euros, the same price as most of the events in Aix where you only have a sound system. Because the artists weren’t too expensive in this case, the train and plane tickets either, so I don’t see why I should put the price at 10 euros just to keep a bit more for myself. I prefer 8 euros with a full venue than 10 euros… Well, that time we did 8 euros with an empty venue (laugh)

But it’s the same thing with the festival last week end, “Y’en Aura Pour Tout Le Monde”. Well I challenge you to find another festival in France and even in Europe, with 24h of music, more than 30 artists maybe not mainstream, but recognize in their area, for 15 euros. It’s the kind of festival that elsewhere would cost 40-50 euros or 30 if it’s subsidized. It doesn’t exist.

So again, it’s possible if you really want to do it. We are part of a lifestyle a little bit on the margins of society. We don’t want to be completely different; we just want people to understand that we live a little differently, with other values than the ones of the shit society in which we live in.
That means […] living healthy, working in a healthy environment… If we can recycle we do it. When it’s too hard, we don’t. We are like everyone in this society, we’re really lazy – but we try to do at least the minimum so that the microcosm around us can be as we want it to be, a little nice, a little better.

Some will say those are hippy values, but you know what I mean. They are values we believe in. Through the free party scene, the independence, the autonomy of a small group of people I find that wonderful, and by trying to respect nature a bit more – which isn’t always the case in free parties or festivals.
On a festival like YAPTLM, it’s really hard. We try to recycle, but not even half of the people there do it. We put it in place, and in the end it’s not respected, but we’ll continue to do it. They are values that are within the general concept of the festival. I’m talking about it because it was one of After All’s biggest events to this day, a really good line up, one of the best human, artistic and technical experiences. That festival represents values that are key to our sound system. That is what all the members have in common, it’s the image we want to give to sound system.

[…] even the name says it all [Y’en Aura Pour Tout Le Monde translates as: there will be something for everyone]: to be open to everything, being alternative is good, but being open is better […] We are different, but that doesn’t mean the festival wasn’t 100% legal. It’s not a free party, there wasn’t anything professional about it, but it wasn’t completely amateurish either.

From the feedback we got, everyone seemed to be happy with it, the artists and the crowd. So once again, it’s possible. Even if the balance sheet won’t be positive – because of the weather we had- but whatever, the human and artistic balance sheet is there. […]
That kind of event cannot be done without the locals. And that is something we try to bring in to all our events. A thing as simple as consuming local products but at all levels. If at all my events I can promote the best I can local products, local associations, I will always do it […]
Is there an association in your village? Are you organizing a night in your village? Then invite that association to your event, to set up a stall, so it can be heard. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t, well if say 1 euro par entry went to the association, you had 50 entries, well they can get go for some food. If you had 5000 entries, then they will have 5000 euros. Whether it is for a humanitarian cause, a global cause, or for your local Emmaus.

Coming back to raves and free parties. They have a lot in common with reggae sound systems. But are there also differences? Going to free parties and going to reggae dances, there are similar values, but what would be the main differences?

I would have a tendency to say that as both are starting to be victims of their success, there aren’t that many differences any more:  most people who to them, whatever the line-up, go there to listen to music as a low price and high (volume). I think are less and less differences between the two, because both have become more and more aseptic. This has pros and cons. It might be easier for us to live from our music, but in the other hand you lose your authenticity.

Originally there was one big difference, even only a couple of years ago, between a reggae dance and a techno one: and that was concerning the message.
The techno message was understood. Essentially it was “the state can fuck off”, we can organize our nights without help from anyone. The spiritual side was understood by most of those involved, people knew where they were going and why. And the reggae nights were the same in the end, but with a different history and a different message. The politics of reggae nights were much more centered on real things, real fights, everyday life, cultural and social. The techno scene was a lot more utopic. The message was more… you know, kind of the elves, the forest… (laugh). Very utopic.
In the end, I feel more and more that in both scenes, the crowd is a lot younger. They are becoming more and more aseptic, and so both scenes are becoming more and more similar.

And you can see it. I remember the first reggae sound systems I went to 8 or 10 years ago, where people stayed away from the speakers… When there were 3 stacks, people would stay in the middle, not stick to the speakers. They went in the middle where the point of impact is the best.
And the more you go to reggae nights, the more people are glued to the speakers, like in the techno nights.

On the musical side, the advantage and the inconvenient of ‘bass music’, that is becoming really popular, is that is blends both scenes, for better or for worst.
I have a tendency to say that both scenes will take the worst from one another. So the reggae crowd that didn’t keep their heads stuck on the speakers, well by seeing the techno crow do that, they will begin to do it too. And… I’m having trouble finding an example the other way round, but it must exist.

Often we say that each sound system has its own ‘identity’. What does that identity consist of, where does it come from?

I think first of all that it comes from the music, and the musical tastes of the selector(s). A little from the philosophy of the members too.  Again, even if we started saying: ‘right, we are bored of techno, we are now playing only roots”, you can’t take away that having lived in a truck, having gone to raves, having lots of punk or tattooed friends, you’ll never see me denying those roots. Yes I’ve got my rasta side, but I’m tolerant. A lot more that many rastas I’d say.
So yes, the identity comes from the music, but also from the philosophy and the state of mind of the members.

I did a session with Bass Explorer where the guys from Mahom came to play. It wasn’t planned that I would bring out my system, so we linked up the two.
The guys from Mahom, when we had a chat the next morning and I said that I came a bit from the techno scene, told me that you could really feel that in my selection.

So the music and the philosophy are closely linked. So of course we have a strong identity that is very digital, very electronic… Having said that I don’t really dig dub-electro, strangely enough. But on the other hand we are great fans of more punchy sounds. For example with Riddim Tuffa, a lot of people prefer the old rubadub style things he’s doing with Little John. But at the moment I’m really digging the Buju Banton “champion” remix, that has very techno bass. And why? Because that tune I’ve heard tons of time on jungle remixes, and when I hear it I jump as if it was techno.

I think the philosophy influences quite a bit our sound. But once again, we play music that we like. That’s even more important today, in the age of mp3 where you can play any kind of music relatively easily.

Talking about records. Today there is Serrato, CDs… what is it that has made records stay so important to this music?

On one hand it’s a bit of a resistance to digital, on the other hand it’s also a bit the cliché “this is how we do”. There is a little of that aspect, it’s not worth denying.
But there is also the fact that fucking hell, I’ve been buying records for 10 years, it has cost us a fortune. I’m not going to convert them to digital in order to only play serrato.
Then again, we are going to have to move towards serrato, myself included. I’ve been saying shit about serrato and digital for 10 years, but now we are starting to have a lot of dubplates, a lot of original tunes made only or us or made by friends that haven’t been released yet. Now, half or even three quarters of my set is one vinyl turntable and the laptop.

Again, serrato and digital is a matter of costs. It’s a question of Babylon and finance. If I was living a bit more from my sound, or my sound would be working a bit more financially, I would press all my dubplates onto records, I wouldn’t even think about serrato. I would just have my laptop for pre-releases or unreleased stuff, that’s it. Even exclusives, if you know it’s a killer, I would have it pressed.
With vinyl, it’s really about the idea that ‘it’s the roots’. And if you want to go on and fight a minimum against Babylon you have to keep vinyl, otherwise it’s over, and you’re completely in it.
If you leave vinyl behind, as a reggae sound system, you can forget all the tunes that say “burn Babylon”, because you did the first thing Babylon told you to do: forget vinyl and buy mp3.

That is something that comes back very often, and even the aspect of building your own system, it’s still a resistance – whether it’s in the techno scene or the reggae scene. It’s the independence, the autonomy, the system you built or set up yourself.

That’s it – managing to control from A to Z, having your small space. In the end what is it; it’s building your empire within the empire.
I‘m not stupid, I’m like everyone else. You can’t fight. But it doesn’t mean you have to put your arms down either. It’s up to everyone to create your own recipe, and I think that my own recipe is good enough to struggle with Babylon. I didn’t do it with the home-made system, but I did it by taking my truck and playing in Portugal; fuck Babylon by burning 2000 euros worth of petrol to go set up a free party in Portugal.

Everyone has their own idea of how to “burn Babylon”. It depends on the means and the ideas you have, and your way of seeing things. I don’t consider myself a carpenter, I don’t think the home-made speakers are essential. For me the aim of speakers is not to fuck Babylon, it’s to spread my music and my message.
I prefer to fuck Babylon through my music and my message, and by organizing events that cost 10 or 15 quid instead of 50 quid if Babylon was organizing them. Everyone does what they can with what they have. As long as you do it with the heart, with passion, a minimum level of respect for others and values, it’s good.
What I can’t take anymore with the techno scene, it’s the “I don’t respect anything”, “fuck everything” side. Dude, no…It doesn’t work that way. If you want to fuck everything well, have a minimum of respect and values, then we’ll see. The hardest is to keep your values.

Last question: how would you describe a sound system session to someone who has never heard about it. How would you try to explain it?

It’s very very difficult. Without saying “you have to go”. I would say watch “Musically Mad” (laugh).
I asked myself that same question, especially regarding friends of mine, who have already been to some events, such as the Dub Station, but who don’t understand my obsession for “home-made”: that I want to organize my night at the Korigan, with my artists, on my sound system, not need to rent any equipment… I showed them Musically Mad. They understood quite well. Then they went to a night with the sound system, and the power of the bass completed their understanding of what was a reggae sound system session.

Another example is with a friend of mine. He’d already been to the Garance, but he’d never gone to the Dub Station corner, he must have watched from a distance. So after watching Musically Mad, he began to understand why I was so obsessed with the whole thing. After the session with Marina P and Steppa Style at the Korigan, the bass made him understand a bit more.
Then the festival YAPTLM outside, the sound system takes on its true value because it isn’t constrained by a room. The bass regains its value, and then you have the vibe, the utopian aspect: we are in a field all together, for 15 quid, the day, the night, then again the day, that made him understand what it was all about.

Then for people who have no idea and want to understand… honestly, it’s very very hard. There is a song that came out recently, every time I play it I get goose bumps: Schizo from Balle Bacce Crew. They describe their life as sound boys. The lyrics are exactly spot on. It’s really what I feel, before, during, and after a dance. Because that’s what they describe. Work during the week, the session on the week end, and the come down after that.

Interview After All Sound System

“Si t’abandonne le vinyle en tant que sound system reggae, tous les morceaux qui disent ‘burn babylon’ tu peux les oublier, parce que tu as fait le premier truc que Babylon t’a dit de faire : abandonner le vinyle et acheter du mp3.”

Autour d’un verre dans son jardin à Pélissanne, interview avec Benoit du After All sound system. Discussion sur la scène sound system actuelle, son évolution, son futur, ainsi que sa relation avec les free et les raves.
(Longue interview)

(Sur le sujet des free parties)

Même si je reste beaucoup moins dedans, la dernière s’est très mal passée, j’y reviendrais toujours. Même si un peu différemment, un peu plus légalement ou un peu mieux organisé, mais j’y reviendrais toujours. Parce que tu ne m’enlèveras pas l’idée que lorsque tu fais une free, tu as une ambiance que tu n’auras jamais ailleurs.

Le fait, pourquoi je continue à faire de la free, et pas me centrer que sur les festivals ou les soirées en salle, c’est parce que tu ne m’enlèvera pas l’idée que de faire bouger 500, 600, 700, 1000 ou 6000 personnes, sur un coup de fil ou sur un simple texto, c’est magique.
Ce retrouver sur un simple coup de fil, sur un simple texto dans un endroit perdu dans la nature ou à l’origine il n’y a rien ni eau ni électricité et là d’un coup il y a de la musique, à boire et à manger, c’est vraiment magique. Et il n’y que la free party pour apporter ça.

Comme pour créer un endroit, un monde complètement diffèrent ?

Pour créer un truc… comment ils appellent ça déjà ? Intemporel ? ça y était pas, ça y est, ça y est plus.

Une zone autonome temporaire ?

Voilà, comme ils appelaient ça a la grande époque, mais qui existe plus vraiment, vu que maintenant, en free, on a perdu un truc, et c’est l’autonomie.
C’est-à-dire que la free, et d’ailleurs comme pour le milieu Sound system reggae, elle a été victime de son succès début des années 2000. Je pense que le milieu Sound system reggae n’est pas loin d’être victime de son succès aussi. On verra d’ici 4 ou 5 ans si je me trompe ou pas.

Ça commence à être un peu le grand n’importe quoi, notamment les 24 scoops de Blackboard Jungle. Pour moi ça c’est le début de la fin.
Moi dans cette ambiance-là… on est un milieu à musique amplifié, et on commence à entendre beaucoup d’organisateurs de Sound reggae, que ça soit en extérieur, intérieur, salle, festival, ou autre… dire qu’ils sont de plus en plus catalogué.
C’est-à-dire quand on va démarcher un endroit, même si c’est avec un Sound system reggae, quand tu annonces « Sound system », « enceintes », « platines », les gens pensent directement à « rave », « pas bien », « du bruit ».

Déjà le coté Sound system il est catalogué « bruit ». Et à côté de ça tu en a qui arrivent avec 24 scoops… Il n’y a pas de lieux approprié pour nous accueillir. On est victime de ce problème-là. On n’a pas assez de lieux capables de nous accueillir pour organiser des soirées légales, safe, etc. Qui soient pas ‘free’ ou trop underground.
On a ce problème la, et tous veulent pourtant avoir le plus gros Sound system, le plus d’enceintes alors que déjà sortir 2 scoops c’est la misère.
C’est pour ça que moi j’ai énormément de respect pour Stef’, du Lion Roots Sound. Il m’a vendu du très bon matos, des anciens scoops a lui. Quand je lui ai demandé pourquoi il vendait son matos, il m’a répondu « j’ai 12 scoops, je les ai sortis une fois en 2 ans. D’en sortir 10, sa m’arrive probablement une fois aussi tous les 2 ans. Quand j’en sors 8, on me prend pour un fous, on veut plus m’inviter. Je vois pas pourquoi je vais en garder 4 alors qu’ils vont rester dans mon garage ». Et à 4 scoops, il sait que je ferais pas top de concurrence.
Et puis même, la différence, et ce qui fait la concurrence entre Sound, ce n’est pas le nombre de scoops, la puissance de la sono, c’est le lieu.
Trouve le bon lieu, ou tu es en place pour faire tes soirées, et si ce lieu il accepte 10 scoops, 12 scoops ou 24 scoops, fais tes 24 scoops. Si tu as un lieu pour sortir tes scoops, alors dans ce cas fait-le. Mais faire 24 scoops juste pour pouvoir dire qu’on est la plus grosse sono de France, je trouve ça un peu dommage. Ils en avaient 12, c’était largement assez pour leurs soirées, même pour sonoriser le garance.
Invite des sonos qui viennent du fin fonds de je ne sais pas où, que personne ne connait. Rencontre, échange, fais quelque chose d’innovant, au lieu de se concentrer sur le nombre de scoops.

C’est de la que je veux dire que le milieu dub commence à être victime de son succès, c’est que si tu regardes les progs, au plus ça va, au plus elles sont facile.
C’est une des raisons pour lesquelles j’ai eu quelques débats avec les Musical Riot. Musical Riot sont à un niveau aujourd’hui phénoménal. Il n’y a personne en France, voir en Europe qui est à leur niveau.
Ils n’auraient pas monté le tribute et le Musical Riot, la culture reggae en France serait probablement dix pieds sous terre enterré sous les free parties.
Grace à ça, tous le reggae français s’est réveillé. Donc pour moi, quand tu es à ce niveau-là ; quand tu fais des dates au Trabendo et aux Docks des Suds à Marseille – qui sont probablement les 2 plus belles salles en France pour ce genre d’événement – quand tu fais des dub station au garance, au Rototom, au Outlook, à Lyon, au Portugal… Quand tu en est là, que tu viens de Marseille, tu es en place de chez en place… ça te coute quoi, à chaque dub station ou au moins une fois sur deux, d’inviter des petits sounds locaux, des nouveaux qui débutent pour faire la première partie, de faire le warm up… refuser sur le principe qu’ils ont pas assez d’expérience… non mais c’est parler comme un babylonien de base ! Si tu ne donnes pas la chance aux jeunes de se montrer, d’avoir de l’expérience, comment ils vont y arriver ?

Je ne critique pas les Dub Stations – c’est très bien. Ca fais bouger 800 personnes, ça a une belle programmation, ils font bouger de belles sonos. Je ne redis rien au concept de soirée. Simplement d’un point de vue extérieur, c’est une remarque que je me suis permis de faire.
Sound system en Jamaïque à la base c’est quoi. Un studio, un Sound system, et des nouveau tunes qui sortent venant des gens du quartier, du ghetto et on les diffuse. La base d’un Sound system pour moi, la base de la radio du peuple c’est de faire découvrir les nouveaux chanteurs, les nouveaux talents.

Le but c’est pas d’avoir une collection fermée de dublates. La collection de dubplates tu l’as parce que c’est toi qui les a découvert. Là-dessus je suis à 200% d’accord avec King Shiloh qui dit qu’il est pas d’accord avec le business des dubplates, même si j’ai payé pour quasiment toutes les miennes. Le dubplate normalement c’est un contacte. L’artiste kiffe ce que tu fais en tant que sono, toi tu kiffe ce qu’il fait en tant qu’artiste…

Ca reviens un peu sur que David Rodigan disait à propos des clashs : les vieux sounds ont des dubplates d’artistes légendaires, mais qui sont mort. Donc à partir de là un nouveau Sound qui rentre en clash contre eux n’a pas, et ne pourra jamais avoir le même ‘niveau’ de dubplate. Du coup ce que Rodigan proposait, c’est que dans les clashs et surtout ceux qui oppose un jeune sound à un sound plus âgé, ils ne peuvent passer que des dubplates d’artiste vivant, comme ça les jeunes, artiste et Sound, ont une chance. Il faut du nouveau

C’est ça ! Il faut du nouveau. Il ne faut bien sûr pas oublier les fondations, les roots, la base. Mais la base d’un sound c’est faire découvrir des nouveaux talents. On ne peut pas continuer à jouer les mêmes dubplates des même artiste, faire venir les même chanteur, même si ils cartonnent. Il y a un moment où il faut laisser la place au nouveau, ou même combiner les deux.
Quand j’ai fait la soirée avec Marina P et Steppa Style, qu’est-ce que j’aurais remplis juste avec Steppa Style. Peu de gens le connaissent, sauf ceux qui sont très pointu sur le cross over ragga-jungle. Du coup j’ai pas pu faire la soirée avec lui tout seul. Et encore, Marina P c’est encore trop pointu – pas assez hype. Mais c’est justement des talents neuf.

Depuis quand est-ce que tu opère dans le milieu reggae, et qu’est ce qui t’a poussé à rentrer dedans :

J’ai découvert le milieu Sound system et le milieu musical par la techno et par les free party, parce que j’avais un amis qui avait un Sound techno. Je m’y suis intéressé pas par la musique, j’aimais pas vraiment la techno, j’étais un gros fan de reggae. Je suis allé à ces fêtes plutôt pour l’esprit et l’ambiance qu’il y avait derrière qui m’a attiré.

De là, c’est bien beau d’aller à un évènement qui te plait mais bon. J’ai toujours envie d’y participer un peu, donc je trouvais mon compte dans le branchage des amplis et des enceintes, et j’ai appris avec des sounds techno, mais au bout d’un moment j’avais envie de faire de le musique moi-même. La musique techno c’est pas ma musique, je ne suis pas arrivé à en faire, et là j’ai découvert que le reggae existais aussi en vinyle, Et surtout, j’ai appris que le milieu sound system de la techno n’étais pas né de la techno, mais du reggae. Du coup je me suis intéressé, j’ai découvert des sound reggae. Il y a une dizaine d’année. J’ai acheté des vinyles, puis au petit matin je jouais du reggae sur la sono des potes en teuf. Et puis après on a monté notre propre truc en 2003.

Dix ans cette année du coup !

Et oui, dix ans ! Rendez-vous en septembre pour l’anniversaire normalement.

Et du coup, de quoi consiste ta sono ?

Un stack, 4 scoops shortman en 46 pour 6000w de sub, 2 W-Bin pour le kick bass, 4 colonnes Cerwin VEGA double 38 plus pavillon 1 pouce pour le medium-aigue. System en 3 voies, pas de pré-amplis comme les trois quarts des sounds. En mode cross over techno, 2 platine, une mixette, 2 filtres actifs, et point barre pour l’instant. On joue rarement a une platine.
Beaucoup de gens me disent « ah mais le traitement, le signal, le patin le couffin, le pré-ampli, le processeur numérique.. ». pour l’instant j’ai 2 cross over, et ce week end on a eu les plus beau retours qu’on a jamais eu pour la qualité du son.
le system est harmonieux, j’ai très peu de réglages à faire pour qu’il tourne bien. J’ai une oreille qui ne marche pas donc ça tombe très bien. Je ne vois pas pourquoi j’investirai des cents et des milles dans des trucs qui deviennent obsolète.
On a une sono efficace et on la changera pour rien au monde.

Tu as dit que tu avais acheté les scoops à Lion Roots. Est-ce qu’il y a une partie de la sono que tu as construite toi-même ?

Les 2 W-Bin ont été construits par un ami à moi. Le reste c’est de l’ampli et de l’enceinte d’usine comme les filtres actifs et notre limiteur
Les scoops que j’ai acheté à Lion Roots c’est Shortman, un petit fabricant anglais qui les a fait. Dans le reggae on considère ça encore comme du ‘home made’ ; je pense, vu que c’est un artisan. Très peu de gens le connaissent dans le milieu techno, mais maintenant, les gens qui le connaissent me disent « mec, c’est plus de l’artisanal. Un mec comme ça a beau être artisan, c’est comme si c’était manufacturé, mais de meilleur qualité qu’il soit ».
On n’est pas le son le plus « home made » qu’il soit, ça c’est sûr. En même temps, encore une fois le cliché du « home made » j’en ai un peu rien à faire. Je suis avant tout la pour diffuser de la musique, de la meilleur façon possible, et j’estime que je n’aurais pas fait mieux avec mes mains, donc je suis content de ce que j’ai.

On va changer certainement, la sono va évoluer. On va essayer de faire encore plus fait main. Mais bon, je vais arrêter de faire plein de choses ‘à peu près’, je préfère faire moins de choses et les faire bien. Faire de l’ébénisterie, on a beau être 5, être tous bricoleurs, je pense qu’il y a des gens bien plus doués pour faire ce genre de choses.

C’est comme la production – j’aimerais beaucoup en faire, j’ai plein d’idées. Mais de 1, je ne suis pas musicien, de 2, je suis nul en musique, et de 3 j’ai pas le temps. Moi je vais me concentrer sur gérer mes dates et gérer la sono et passer des disques. C’est déjà suffisamment de boulot pour moi.

Mais encore une fois, pour en revenir au cliché « home made », c’est comme les ‘locks’ : il y a personne qui a des locks dans notre sound system, parce que au final rasta on l’est dans le cœur.

Est-ce que la manière dont tu montes ta sono en soirée change en fonction de l’endroit où tu joues ?

Un petit peu, même si en général on essaye de garder le stack d’un block, vu que l’impact de 4 scoop ensemble est plus important que 2 stacks de 2 scoops, c’est comme ça qu’il a le meilleur rendu. Après si on a besoin pour des diffusions de couvrir un espace plus important, mais moins puissamment, on peut faire différemment.

Vu qu’encore on a plein de pote qui font de la techno, de temps en temps on fait de la location pour des soirées beaucoup plus électronique, et dans ce cas-là il faudra modifier le stack vu qu’il est pas conçu à la base pour faire de la musique électronique.
Pour les platines, en général nous en configuration ‘soirée reggae After All’, c’est : le stack d’un block, les platine en face à 12m, si possible sur la droite. Après ça varie un peu en fonction de l’endroit – intérieur, extérieur… – Mais en général c’est comme ça.
Par contre quand on fait des soirées ou il y a un mélange de genre, ou un peu plus techno, on peut être emmené à faire 2 régies. Une régie DJ en face pour le reggae, et une régie derrière pour les DJ plus électroniques, vu qu’ils mixent beaucoup plus – et s’ils sont trop loin du son il y a un problème de décalage qui se fait, entre le temps que met le son à venir dans leur casque et à passer dans la sono.

Le reggae de manière général a beaucoup d’éléments politique, c’est politisé, très social. Est-ce que tu penses que ces éléments sont toujours là – dans ton Sound et en général.

En général je pense que ça s’est beaucoup perdu. Mais parce qu’on est dans des pays ou la vie est relativement plus facile qu’en Jamaïque. C’est des difficultés sociales et politique en Jamaïque qui ont fait qu’à l’époque cette musique là est devenue politisé.
L’Angleterre, j’y suis allée à une époque où j’avais pas un œil très attentif sur le milieu reggae, donc j’ai du mal à juger. Mais je pense que là-bas il y a un peu des 2. Il y a des danses et des sounds systèmes qui sont très orientés, pas politiquement forcément, mais socio-culturellement ; qui sont avant tout la pour diffuser un message qui soit ‘religieux’, ‘politique’ ou ‘spirituel’. Et je pense qu’il y en a aussi d’autre qui sont beaucoup plus la dans un cadre festif. En Angleterre les deux jouent beaucoup.

Mais c’est peut-être pour ça qu’en Angleterre ça reste LE centre des sounds reggae ?

Possible. En France ça doit exister un tout petit peu aussi – je pense notamment par rapport à des débat récents, à Critical Hifi, de Toulouse. Ils m’ont l’air très très engagées politiquement.
Chez nous, moi j’aimerais bien m’engager un peu plus, mais je me suis rendu compte – de par la free, un petit peu de par les soirées reggae – que malheureusement le message que tu veux faire passer, qu’il soit de paix, d’amour, politique ou autre, au final il y a très peu de gens qui sont réceptifs.

Même dans un dance très individualiste, 100% reggae roots, soit il y a 40 pelos qui sont tous prêt à comprendre ton message et à le diffuser autant que toi – mais dans ce cas tu n’as pas grand-chose à y gagner puisqu’il y a 40 pelos. Soit quand tu commences à faire du 150-200 pelos, il y aura peut être toujours ces 40 la que tu peux essayer de politiser, mais les gens sont avant tout la pour faire la fête et manger du son dans les oreilles.

Apres, je veux dire, c’est normal. On est vendredi ou samedi, les gens ont passés une semaine de merde à taffer, ils sont là pour se relâcher. Ça ne veut pas dire qu’ils sont complétement inconscient, ou que tu peux jouer du Sizzla ou du Buju homophobe toute la soirée non plus. Mais bon le gros de leur attention ne vas pas être sur le message. Il va être sur la musique, sur le côté dansant de la chose plus que sur le message.

Après, encore une fois, j’en ai beaucoup joué du Sizzla et du Buju homophobe parce que j’étais fan du flow et fan des mélodies derrière. Mais maintenant c’est le genre de son que je bannie de notre sono.
La dernière fois on a fait une free, et mon pote le matin a mixé un remix de « boom bye bye » de Buju Banton. Je l’ai laissé faire parce qu’il joue rarement sur notre sono vu qu’il fait principalement de la hard tek, et je veux bien de la musique électronique mais pas du truc de bourrin. Il a mis le disque, je l’ai laissé faire mais c’est la dernière fois que ce son passe sur la sono.

Même si les gens sont avant tout la pour danser, il ne faut pas oublier que les quelques-uns qui comprennent l’anglais ou qui connaissent, eh bien disons que ça peut en froisser certains, et je suis là pour froisser personne. J’essaye de prôner Peace Love Unity Respect, bon, il faut être un minimum cohérent. Je suis prêt à passer sur quelques trucs, quand on fait la fête de temps en temps, mais on est quand même là pour faire passer un message et éduquer un minimum les masses. Si on peut les éduquer en les faisant danser – je ne mets pas que des tunes politiques – mais dans le reggae musique il y a plein de sujets : les femmes, l’amour, la politique… Il faut jouer un peu de tout, ne pas être extrémiste. Les extrêmes que ça soit dans le reggae music ou autre part, c’est pas bon.

Quand j’étais jeune j’étais quelqu’un de très extrême dans mes idées – « mes valeurs, mes principes blablas, j’en démord pas ». Au final, non. Dans la vie c’est bien d’avoir des valeurs et des principes, mais c’est bien de savoir mettre de l’eau dans son vin.

Donc au final lors de tes sessions qu’est ce tu essayes d’apporter d’autre que la musique ?

Oui. Déjà moi j’essaye d’apporter le coût minimum a toute nos session, vue qu’on vient de la free et la free c’est la preuve que tu peux faire des soirées de qualité musicale et gratuite ou presque.
Je pense que c’est réalisable, à échelle différentes, en fonction des lieux et des possibilités, mais tu peux jouer avec le prix d’entrée d’une belle façon.
C’est pour ça quand on fait Marina P et Steppa Style on essaye de le faire a 8e, le même prix que la plupart des soirées sur Aix ou il n’y a que des sounds system. Parce que mes artistes je les ai pas payé cher sur ce coup-là, les billets de train et d’avion non plus, donc je vois pas pourquoi je vais mettre le prix à 10e pour essayer de me gaver plus. Je préfère 8e et faire salle pleine plutôt que 10e … enfin bon là j’ai fait 8e avec une salle vide (rire)

Mais c’est le même constat avec le festival de ce week end, Y’en Aura Pour Tout Le Monde. Et bien je te mets au défi de trouver un autre festival en France et même en Europe avec 24h de musique, plus de 30 artiste de musique, peut-être pas ‘mainstream’, mais reconnus dans leur milieu, pour 10 ou 15 balles l’entrée. C’est le genre de festival que n’importe où ailleurs ça coute 40-50 euros, ou 30 si c’est un peu subventionné. Ça n’existe pas.

Donc encore une fois, quand on veut, on peut. On fait partie d’un mode de vie un peu aléatoire, un peu en marge de la société. On ne veut pas être complétement à l’écart ; on veut juste que les gens comprennent qu’on vit un peu différemment, avec d’autre valeurs que celles de la société de merde dans laquelle on vie. C’est-à-dire manger un peu sain, dormir un peu sain, vivre un peu sain, travailler un peu sain.. Quand on peut faire le tri on fait le tri. Quand c’est trop difficile, bien on ne le fait pas. On est comme tout le monde dans cette société, on est des gros flemmards – mais on essaye tous d’en faire au moins un petit peu pour que le petit microcosme autour de nous soit comme on l’entend, un peu plus beau, un peu meilleur.

Certain te dirons que c’est des valeurs de hippie, mais bon, tu vois ce que je veux dire ? C’est des valeurs auxquelles on croit. De par la free, l’Independence, l’autonomie d’un petit groupe de gens je trouve ça formidable et en plus en essayant de respecter un peu la nature, ce qui n’est pas toujours le cas ni dans les free ni dans les festivals.
Sur un festival comme YAPTLM, c’est super galère. On essaye de faire le tri sélectif, mais tu n’as pas la moitié des gens qui le respecte. On le met en place, et au final c’est pas respecté, mais on continuera à le faire. C’est des valeurs qui restent avec le concept global du festival. J’en parle la parce que ça a été une des plus grosses scènes d’After All à ce jour, une des plus belles progs, une des plus belles expérience humaine, artistique, et une des plus belles expérience technique pour nous. Ce festival la représente des valeurs propres au sound system. C’est ce que tous les membres ont en eux, c’est l’image qu’on aimerai donner du sound system.

Je pense que toute ces valeurs sont dans ce festival Y’en Aura Pour Tout Le Monde, déjà le nom veut tout dire : s’ouvrir à tout, être alternatif c’est bien, mais être ouvert c’est mieux. Et être en marge de la société mais sans non plus être à l’arrache. On est diffèrent, mais c’est pas pour ça qu’on n’a pas été 100% légal sur ce festival-là. C’est pas une free, ça n’a rien de professionnel, mais ça n’a rien d’amateur non plus.

Avec les retour qu’on a eu un petit peu, tout le monde à l’air d’être content, et les artistes, et le public. Donc encore une fois, c’est faisable. Même si le bilan financier ne sera pas formidable et qu’il sera dur de rebondir mais peu importe, le bilan humain et artistique est là. Et on le refera parce qu’humainement ça vaut le coup. Et aussi parce que cette année on a changé de lieu aussi et que le lieu aussi vaut le coup. Ce genre d’évènement ne peut pas se faire sans les locaux. Et ça c’est quelque chose qu’on essaye d’apporter sur tous les évènements. Un truc simple comme consommer local, à tous les niveaux.

Si je peux au maximum, sur mes évènements, faire de la promotion pour les produits locaux, les associations locales, je le ferais toujours. J’avais monté une asso dans ce but la, « Du son Pour Une Cause » pour que toutes les soirées After All soient organisées par cette asso et que sur chaque évènement il y a, que ça soit une cause humanitaire, ou même si il y une asso de ton village qui te plait ? Qui se bouge le cul dans ton village ? tu fais une soirée dans ton village ? Eh bien t’invite l’asso à venir, à monter son stand, pour qu’elle puisse faire parler d’elle, faire sa com’ et son beurre elle-même. Sa marche, tant mieux. Sa marche pas, toi à la fin s’il y avait 1euro pour l’asso par entrée, t’a fait 50 entrée, tant pis, au moins ils pourront se faire une petit bouffe. T’a fait 5000 entrées, tu leur donne 5000 euros. Que ça soit humanitaire, global, ou même pour l’Emmaüs du coin. C’était un projet qui est maintenant en attente, mais on y reviendra.
L’alternatif et l’associatif forment une petite famille, et si chaque petite famille se met ensemble, on est tous un peu plus fort.

Pour revenir sur les raves, free parties. Il y a des points communs avec la scène sound system reggae. Mais est ce qu’ils y a aussi des différences ? Aller en free partie et aller en session reggae, il y a des valeurs similaires à la base. Mais que seraient les grosses différences ?

J’aurais tendance à te dire que vu que les deux commencent à être victimes de leur succès, il n’y a plus grande masse de différence : c’est-à-dire les trois quarts des gens qui vont, peu importe l’affiche, ils y vont pour écouter le musique à faible cout, et a fort rendement. JE pense qu’il y a de moins en moins de différences entre ces deux trucs la, parce qu’ils se sont aseptisés de plus en plus.
Cela a des avantages et des inconvénients. On va peut-être avoir plus de facilité à vivre de notre musique, mais d’un autre côté, tu perds de ton authenticité.

Après, à la base il y avait une grosse différence il y a encore quelques années entre une danse reggae et une danse techno : c’était justement ce côté du message.
Le message techno était acquis. C’était en gros ‘fuck off l’Etat’, on arrive à faire une soirée sans rien ni personne pour nous aider. Tout le coté spirituel il était acquis par quasiment tous les acteurs de la fête, les gens savaient très bien dans quel milieu ils allaient, pourquoi ils y allaient.. Et les soirées reggae étaient au final un peu la même chose mais avec un historique et un message diffèrent. La politique des soirées reggae étaient plus centrés sur des choses vrai, un combat ‘vrai’, de la vie de tous les jours, culturel et social. Le milieu techno était plus utopiste, et le message était un peu plus.. genre les lutins, la foret… (rire), l’autonomie voir l’anarchie. Bref très utopique.

Au final, pour moi de plus en plus, dans ces 2 milieux la, le public est de plus en plus jeune. Il s’aseptise de plus en plus, et donc c’est des milieux de plus en plus proches.
Et ça tu le voit. Je me souviens de mes premiers sounds systems reggae il y a 8-10 ans, ou les gens restaient loin des enceintes. Quand il y a trois stacks, les gens se mettent au milieu, ils ne vont pas se coller au mur. Ils se mettent au milieu là où le point d’impact il est bon.
Et au plus ça va dans les soirées reggae, les gens mangent de l’enceinte, comme dans une soirée techno. J’ai rien contre au contraire je note juste des changements de comportement
Du côté de la musique, l’avantage et l’inconvénient de la ‘Bass musique’, qui prend une ampleur de dingue, c’est que elle mixe ces 2 deux milieu, pour le meilleur et pour le pire.
J’ai toujours eu tendance à dire que les deux milieux vont prendre le pire l’un de l’autre.

Alors pour finir, souvent on dit que chaque ‘sound’ a sa propre identité. En quoi consiste cette identité, d’où viens-t-elle ?

Je pense, avant tout, la musique, et l’affinité musicale du ou des sélecteurs. Un petit peu la philosophie de ses membres. Encore une fois nous on aurait beau avoir dit ‘bon, la techno sa nous a gonflé, on joue plus que du roots, Tu m’enlèveras pas que d’avoir vécu en camion, d’avoir fait des teufs, d’avoir pleins de potes que c’est des punk et des tatoué, tu me verras jamais les renier. Oui, J’ai mon côté rasta, mais je suis tolérant. Beaucoup plus que certain rasta au final.
Donc oui, l’identité vient de la musique, mais aussi de la philosophie et l’état d’esprit de ces membres.

Après j’ai fait une session avec Bass explorer, où les gars de Mahom sont venue jouer. C’était improvisé que je sorte ma sono, du coup on a linké les deux, et j’ai joué.
Les gars de Mahom, quand on a discuté le lendemain et que j’ai expliqué que je venais un peu du milieu techno, m’ont dit que sa se sentais énormément dans ma sélection.

Donc la musique et la philosophie sont très proches. Donc forcément on a une grosse identité qui est très digital, très électronique, très pêchu.. Après dub-électro, curieusement, je kiffe pas trop, genre High Tone. Mais par contre on est fan de certaines sonorités très pêchu. Par exemple chez Riddim Tuffa, il y en a plein qui préfèrent tous les vieux trucs rubadub qu’il fait avec Little John et tout ça. Mais moi en ce moment je suis au také sur le ‘champion’ de Buju Banton, qui a une basse très techno. Et pourquoi ? Parce que ce morceau là je l’ai entendu des tonnes de fois sur des remix jungle, et que quand je le joue je fais des bonds comme si c’était de la techno ou presque car il me rappelle beaucoup de bon souvenirs sur des dancefloors de free
Je pense que la philosophie influence pas mal notre son. Mais encore une fois, on joue que de la musique qu’on aime.

C’est encore plus important aujourd’hui, à l’heure du mp3 ou tu peux jouer n’importer quelle musique relativement facilement.

Alors, justement, sur les vinyl. Maintenant il y a le serrato, le cd… qu’est ce qui fait que le vinyle reste aussi important dans cette scène ?

D’un côté c’est un peu une résistance au digital, d’un côté c’est aussi un peu le cliché ‘c’est comme ça que ça se fait’. Il y a ça un petit peu, il ne faut pas se mentir.
Mais il y a aussi le côté que « bordel, ça fait 10 ans qu’on acheté des vinyles, ça nous a couté une blinde. Je ne vais pas me faire chier à tous les numériser pour jouer que du serrato. »
Apres, on va y venir aussi un peu au serrato. Moi le premier.
Ça fait 10 ans que je chie sur le serrato, et sur le numérique, mais on commence à avoir beaucoup de dubplates, ou de prods originales que pour nous, ou que des copains ont fait et qu’ils n’ont pas encore sortis. Maintenant, j’ai la moitié voir les ¾ de mon set c’est une platine vinyle-l’ordi.

Encore une fois, après le serrato et le numérique c’est une question de moyens. C’est une question de Babylon et de financement. Je vivrais de mon son un peu plus, ou mon son tournerait un peu mieux financièrement, toutes mes dubplates je les ferais presser en vinyle, et je me poserais pas la question du serrato. J’aurais juste mon PC pour les pré-release ou les trucs pas encore sortis en vinyle, et point barre. Mais même les exclusivités, si tu sais que c’est une tuerie, je la presserais.

Le vinyle, c’est surtout le coté ‘c’est la racine’ quoi. Et si tu veux continuer à lutter un minimum contre Babylon il faut garder le vinyle, sinon c’est finis, tu es en plein dedans. Si t’abandonne le vinyle en tant que sound system reggae, tous les morceaux qui disent ‘burn babylon’ tu peux les oublier, parce que tu as fait le premier truc que Babylon t’a dit de faire : abandonner le vinyle et acheter du mp3.

Ça c’est quelque chose qui revient assez souvent, et même dans le coté je construis ma sono, c’est quand même une résistance – que ça soit dans le milieu techno ou reggae. C’est cette indépendance, l’autoproduction, ta sono que t’a fait ou assemblée toi-même…

C’est ça – arriver à contrôler de A jusqu’à Z, pour avoir ton petit milieux. Au final c’est quoi ; C’est bâtir son empire dans l’empire.
Je ne suis pas bête, je suis comme tout le monde. Tu ne peux pas lutter. Mais il ne faut pas baisser les bras non plus. C’est à chacun de faire sa sauce comme il en a envie, et moi j’estime que ma tambouie elle est bonne pour lutter contre Babylon. Je l’ai pas fait pas fais avec le home-made de la sono, mais je l’ai fait en prenant mon poids lourd et en allant jouer au Portugal et en niquant Babylon en allant cramer 2000e de gasoil pour aller poser un festival free au Portugal. Et en trouvant des dates auto géré tout au long du trajet aller-retour
A chacun son idée du ‘burn babylon’. C’est en fonction des moyens que t’a et des idées que tu as, et de ta façon de voir les choses.

Moi je ne me considère pas comme un menuisier, je ne considère pas que le home-made des caissons sa soit vital. Pour moi le but de l’enceinte, elle n’est pas de niquer Babylon, elle est de diffuser ma musique et mon message.
Je préfère niquer Babylon par ma musique et mon message, et en organisant des évènements à 10 ou 15 balles au lieu de 50 euros si c’était Babylon qui les organisait.
Chacun fait ce qu’il peut avec ce qu’il a. Tant que tu le fait avec le cœur, et avec la passion, un minimum de valeurs et de respects des autres, c’est bon.
Moi ce que je ne supporte plus dans le milieu techno, c’est le côté « je respecte rien », « fuck tout »… Mec, non.. ça marche pas comme ça. Pour bien tout « fucker », ai un minimum de respect et de valeurs, après on verra.

Le plus dur c’est de garder ses valeurs. Apres, j’ai jamais été ni un voleur, ni… je ne sais pas mentir, j’ai jamais été un « bad boy ». Je suis plutôt un gros pacifiste, un gros hippie si tu veux. N’empêche que tu ne m’enlèveras pas l’idée que niquer babylon, t’arrivera à rien à part être malheureux car tu vas niquer du vide !!!
Tandis qu’essayer le combattre de l’intérieur, en faisant un festival à 15 balles organisé par une asso […]
Avec le festival (YAPTLM), ils l’ont redis devant le maire et tout, si ça marche et que ça fait carton, il ne faudra pas attendre 10 ans avant qu’il y ait des gens qui viennent nous envoyer l’hygiène et tous les contrôles possibles. Forcement ca dérangera et ceux qui ont pour but de vivre de la culture la ou nous on fait vivre la culture ….. J’ai déjà vu des entrepreneurs du spectacle menacé des associations qui leur faisait un peu d’ombre ! Il faudra qu’on soit encore plus carré que carré, justement parce qu’on est associatif, et parce que faire des trucs à 15 balles là ou tout le monde le fait à 50, forcement on va se faire taper sur les doigts.

Dernière question : comment tu décrirais une session sound system à quelqu’un qui ne connait pas. Comment tu essayerais de l’expliquer ?

C’est très très dur. Sans dire « il faut que tu y aille », je dirais regarde Musically mad (rire).
Je me suis posé la question notamment pour des amis à moi, qui pourtant ont déjà fait des soirées, genre des dub station, mais qui ne comprennent pas cet acharnement « home made » : je veux faire ma soirée au korigan, avec mes artistes, ma sono, demander des lumières à personnes, pas louer d’équipement. Je leur ai montré Musically Mad. Ils ont compris plutôt bien. Et après ils ont fait une session avec la sono, et puis la puissance de la basse a fini de leur faire comprendre ce qu’était une session reggae.

Et là je peux même pousser plus, un exemple particulier d’un pote à moi. Il été déjà allé au Garance, mais il est jamais entré dans la dub station, il a dû la regarder de loin. Donc après musically mad, déjà il a compris un peu pourquoi je m’acharne à faire ce genre de chose. Après la session Marina P Steppa style au korigan, la basse lui a fait comprendre.
Après le festival YAPTLM dehors, la sono reprend toute sa valeur puisqu’elle n’est plus bridée par une salle. La basse reprend de la valeur, et en plus l’ambiance, le côté utopiste, on est dans un champ tous ensemble, tous réunis, à 15 balles l’entrée, la journée la nuit, encore la journée, a fini par lui faire comprendre ce que c’était.

Apres les gens qui ne connaissent pas est qui veulent comprendre… Franchement non, c’est très très dur. Après il y a une chanson qui est sortie il y a pas longtemps, à chaque fois que je la joue j’ai la chair de poule : schizo de Balle Bacce Crew. Ou ils décrivent ce qu’est leur vie de sound boy. Elle est transcendante parce que les paroles c’est vraiment ça quoi. C’est vraiment ce que je ressens, avant pendant et après une danse. Parce que c’est ce qu’ils décrivent. Le taff pendant la semaine, la session le week-end, et puis la redescente après.