MIDNIGHT RAVER INTERVIEW WITH THE LEGENDARY TROJAN SOUND SYSTEM
INTERVIEW AND POST BY MIDNIGHT RAVER EDITOR GLEN LOCKLEY
Today we are joined by a stalwart of the UK reggae scene – Adam Dewhurst aka Daddy Ad, legendary selector for the mighty Trojan Sound System.
The mighty Trojan Sound System prepare to digitally release a full remix and riddims EP of their recent sold out Africa release 12″ featuring rub downs from the likes of Toddla T, JFB and Darkstarr Diskotek available digitally for the first time on the 24th February, alongside full live and Dex N FX shows across Europe.Trojan Sound System also unveil brand new logo artwork and Tshirts by celebrated street artist Mau Mau.
Could you please introduce yourself to the readers of Midnight Raver, and tell them how reggae became an integral part of your life.
“Hi! I’m Daddy Ad, selecta and sound boy and with Earl Gateshead, we’re Trojan Sound System. Like many, Bob Marley touched my soul as a youngster and slowly I started exploring the vast vaults of the evolution of Reggae music. Like Jazz, Reggae has a huge history and many forms and it can be difficult to know where to go next once you’re through the gates. As a young man, the production values of Reggae touched me and I could relate to them through contemporary Dance music too due to the massive influence Reggae has had on most sub-genres, from Hip Hop to Drum and Bass and House to Dubstep as very quick examples. Reggae is the source though and I got more and more into original Reggae and discovered most of it still sounded fresher than most new Dance music, despite being made decades earlier in some cases.”
How did this progress to actually running your own Roots & Reality Sound System.
“I was DJing internationally with an eclectic take on Dance music through Sleazenation and Jockey Slut (I was the co-founder with my buddy Jon Swinstead) and Earl and I kept getting booked alongside each other. Sharing a love and passion for Reggae, we were challenging each other to drop more and more Reggae onto non-Reggae dance floors and the way we played and programmed it made young people feel it in a way that made sense to them. People were always running up and asking what this brand new Dance music record was we were playing and we’d have to explain it was made 20 years earlier and is Reggae, it became more than apparent to me that Reggae was misunderstood by many and horribly stereotyped. We wanted to change that, so we started Roots and Reality together and very soon found ourselves breaking Reggae into peak time and edgy Clubs and Festivals, translating this incredible music in a way that made sense. We called it Roots and Reality because whilst we believe in a better place, spiritually and otherwise, for us all to live, we also recognise the Reality of the world we live in, rather than just being lost in a stoned utopia. Chris Blackwell is a legend and hero of ours and we wanted to continue what he started with his involvement in Trojan and translating Reggae to a universal audience, not just the purists.”
What were the circumstances behind you adopting the Trojan name for the sound system in 2004.
“Trojan Records approached us after seeing how we were breaking Reggae into cool, edgy and young cultures. At this time, DJs like Rodigan were playing tiny little nights to a JA audience and a few Trustafarians and whilst we played the purist dances, we were more interested in breaking Reggae out than imploding. Roots and Reality was doing exactly that so we understood how this made sense to Trojan and they asked us to become the official Trojan Sound System instead of Roots and Reality. It’s a great honour and something we don’t take lightly. Both Earl and I are proud and humbled by the way Reggae has crossed over and the way we took it into peak time main room club culture and into big stages at festivals. It has re-opened the gates for many others too, but most importantly, it has introduced Reggae to loads of young people who want to know where their music came from. We also believe this is a big part of where more music will move forward to as well.”
Given Trojan’s unique position in the history of reggae, is there any extra pressure on you representing such an illustrious name.
“Like Duke Reid’s pistol to our heads! Trojan is over 40 years old and being the leader of the pack it has seen through the evolution of Reggae from day one. Due to the musical and cultural influence it has had over the decades, we have a lot of people coming to see us all expecting different things. In terms of the Reggae world and style tribes; Dreads and Rasta want Roots, Mods want a certain type of Ska and Rocksteady, Skins want a certain type of stomping Ska etc. Trojan is iconic to them all in different ways. We like to represent the whole gamut, but we generally focus on making Reggae relevant to our audience, whoever they are, and we love to introduce non-traditional Reggae heads to Reggae. That’s a challenge we relish and really enjoy.”
You operate a strict vinyl-only policy. How has the advent of the digital media affected reggae music generally and sound systems specifically.
“So many DJs who know better, try to justify vinyl synthesis and such like for convenience and for us, that’s the only thing it’s good for. We feel it’s cheating the party though and the sound is crap in comparison to first pressing vinyl played back properly. The other evil it has caused is that proper vinyl set up is becoming a lost art and turntable more often than not aren’t set up for vinyl playback, which is acoustic based (there really is physical music in those grooves) and with vinyl synthesis there’s no need for high end cartridges, feedback and grounding issues and loads more. But convenience comes at a price and the price paid is degrading the fans’ experience and vibes. Digital compression takes out the soul and vibes. There are lots of new young sound systems popping up and that’s great. They need to start looking at the front end and playback though and not just how big their speakers are (holding back on all the puns…).”
How big is your personal record collection, and where do you source your vintage vinyl.
“Between us our collection is in the tens of thousands. We go to all the right shops, but also have specialist dealers we work with. Sorry, not telling…”
What has been your most exciting vinyl discovery.
“There have been loads and there are so many virtually unknown tunes out there. Collectors can be a bit weird and for some reason pay hundreds of pounds for rare records that only have the rarity value going for them. When you get collectors like that DJing it’s depressing. They only play records because they’re rare and to impress other collectors. Who cares?! There’s maybe a reason why those records are rare, didn’t sell and weren’t repressed…”
TSS has made the transition to recording artists / production with the release of a batch of killer 12” singles – Turn To The East, My God and the incredibly successful Africa. Was that a natural progression for you, and have you been surprised by the success.
“It was a totally natural progression for us. The way we positioned the sound alongside the best Dance music DJs/acts that were totally influenced by Reggae, we then in turn wanted to produce and flip things on its head. We produce authentic Reggae, but we use a lot of contemporary sounds and try to make things full cycle. The fact that people are really feeling them and the songs and music mean something to them; that’s a very special and meaningful feeling.”
Remixes of these three tracks are now available on an eight-track digitally released EP. What new dimensions do the remixes offer the tracks.
“We chose those producers because they love Reggae, have the ability to understand a song (rare in remixes!) and flipped things around again. Toddla’s version is like Jungle Ragga, JFB’s Dubstep and DnB mixes are wicked as remixes, they stay true to the songs but take them back to where we took the inspiration for the sounds and instruments we worked with. The one I really live is Darkstarr Diskotek’s re-edit of “Africa”. They are Ashley Beedle and Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and as such are two of the best and most masterful DJs and producers on the planet. The best of the best. Their re-edit stretches out the single to a dance floor masterpiece and something I hope a lot of young producers listen to and get inspired by.”
How difficult is it to move the music forward while trying to retain its authentic, rootical essence.
“It’s a really fine line, especially with purist politics. You have to stay strong though and do what you feel is right for you and not try and make music for other people. We do what feels right for us, our culture and we want our music to translate and relate to as many people as possible. Too many producers try to recreate what has already been done very very well before them, especially in new Reggae.”
Do you feel there is any contradiction between the nu-roots music you are creating and the Trojan name, which is primarily noted for its rich back-catalogue of vintage music.
“Not really. Trojan as a catalogue preserves that rich heritage, but would be relegated to a niche little stage or pub night in the live sense. We are trying to bridge that gap through our live and recorded work and make the catalogue relevant and interesting to the younger and often huge audiences we play to. It joins many dots.”
Sound systems were, of course, at the very forefront in the early development of Jamaican music, but were then eclipsed somewhat by the vocal groups and bands, particularly on the outernational scene. Is it fair to say that sound systems are leading the way in getting reggae back into the mainstream.
“I agree. Many original recording artists view sound systems as a poor mans band having spent years trying to get to a stage where they could afford a live band. However, cheap pick up bands that a lot of these artists now work with when touring can’t recreate the same vibe either as musicians or for the immense production values Tubby, Perry and many others brought to the records using their limited studio means so creatively, like instruments. That takes a LOT of rehearsal and more. Sound Systems should be about reproducing that playback as the artists and producers intended and when done right, it’s incredible. Sound Systems are definitely helping to lead Reggae back into the mainstream because it sounds right and I guess it’s cheaper and easier in some ways than bringing in a full band and the logistics, cost and risk involved with some of the artists who can’t be assed to get on the plane. Seriously. I wish more original recording artists got back to their roots though and vibed more on sound systems. I remember one gig we did at Rototom a few years back where a whole host of the ‘live’ artists came and vibed on our set, which closed the whole 90k strong festival. On top of our crew we had legends like Eek-A-Mouse, Bushman, Buru Bantan, Barrington and others giving it some. VIBES!!!”
Large, high profile festivals or small, intimate venues. Which do you prefer, and does the size of the venue affect how easily you can connect with the audience.
“We love them all for different reasons. As long as the sound is right and the audience feel it, we can connect.”
A few years ago, there were reports about the impending demise of reggae. From your viewpoint, how is our music doing today.
“That’s what we wanted to change and I don’t think the scene and its future has ever been more exciting.”
What are your plans for 2013, and what are the long-term objectives for TSS.
“More recording and our dream would be for a record to cross-over and help us and the culture move forward in a big way. Music touches peoples souls, gives people hope and connection. That’s powerful.”
Finally, adapting the format of Desert Island Discs, if you could choose just five tracks to listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be.
“I’d cheat and just take Bob Marley’s Exodus instead. The whole album. It was voted the greatest album of the 20th century by Time and I don’t think they were wrong!”
We thank you for your time and wish you all the best for the future. Anything else to add, Daddy Ad?
“Thank you for the support!”