2005’s ‘African Roots’ album, produced by a relative unknown named Ryan Moore and his Twilight Circus Sound System saw Michael Rose return to a vibe and riddim we haven’t heard since his departure in 1984 from “the hardest band in yard,” Black Uhuru. Between 2005 and 2007, Twilight Circus released two studio albums featuring the vocals of Rose (‘African Roots,’ ‘Warrior’), followed by two brutal dub albums. Now a seasoned producer and multi-instrumentalist, Ryan Moore is the go-to riddim king for many of the greats of yesterday and today. Artists like Sly and Robbie, Dean Fraser, Luciano, Michael Rose (Black Uhuru ) Big Youth, Mikey General, Skully Simms, Vin Gordon (Bob Marley), Earl “Chinna” Smith (Bob Marley), Eddie ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton ( Aswad), Buttons Tenyue /Matics Horns (UB40), Ansel Collins, Style Scott (Dub Syndicate), Bobby Ellis ( Studio One), Admiral Tibet, Jah Stitch, Sugar Minott, Queen Ifrica, Lutan Fyah, Fred Locks, Gregory Isaacs, Mafia & Fluxy, Cevin Key ( Skinny Puppy), and DJ Spooky have all consulted Moore when they needed the heaviest sound around. While many producers are relying on the economy and availability of digital programming, Moore bets on the use of live instruments and vintage recording equipment…and he wins every time.
I have known Moore and appreciated his work for some time now, and it was just great that he agreed to sit down for an interview. And what an interview it is!
So when did you first hear reggae? Did it get at you immediately or did it take some time and maturing to appreciate it?
“I’d heard reggae, rock steady and other Jamaican music going back to the 70’s, but with dub it really was an almost cliché moment on ‘first contact’ in 1981 where the clouds parted and a voice drenched in reverb said ‘Ryan – this is your music!’. Time literally stood still!”
So tell us a little bit about your background. You grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. I know in the US, the only way you get exposed to reggae as a kid growing up is that somebody you know has a Marley or Tosh or Spear album. We just didn’t hear it on the radio. I’m sure things in the Great White North are a little different that way.
“Canada is similar to the UK in that there was immigration from former British colonies, so that in the big cities you had an influx of people from the West Indies, including Jamaica. There’s a big Jamaican population in Toronto, similar to the case of London or Brooklyn. Up in Vancouver there were DJ’s operating on college and community radio who played reggae music on specialist shows, in particular one key figure, George Barrett (cousin of the famous Barrett brothers from Bob Marley & The Wailers), who has broadcasted locally since the mid-70’s. In fact, the Rosetta Stone of dub for me was a show of his which I taped on cassette & used to broadcast from my boombox while skateboarding around town. Those were the days!
In my case we had Jamaican neighbours in the 70’s who’d arrived direct from Kingston and I befriended their son. Undoubtedly the time spent over there being exposed to Jamaican culture and rock steady sounds primed me for a future in reggae music!
The first actual reggae album I ever got was Bob Marley ‘Natty Dread’, which was a present from some friends of my folks. I don’t think it left the turntable for probably several months.”