Russ Brown (The Disciples & Boom Shaka Laka Sound System) Rootikal Q&A
Rootikal: Can you tell us a little about your background, what you listened to growing up,
and how you and your brother Lol got into the Jamaican side of things?
Russ Brown: My brother Lol is five years older than me and has always loved music. He’d
read articles about Marley, Dr Alimantado and Burning Spear in all those ’zines from back
in the 70s, like NME, Sounds and Melody Maker. We were both into the punk thing when
it started and there was certainly a connection between some of that and reggae, but for
me it was when the (Sex) Pistols broke up. I just figured that was it for punk, and that
that was all it was meant to be - a fast music, grabbing people by the scruff, shaking
them up, and making them think as individuals. So afterwards I was looking around for
something else to listen to, I took in the things my bro’ would play and asked him what
I should look out for. He recommended ’Tado`s ‘Best Dressed Chicken’ and Gibbs
‘Chapter 3 Dub’. I bought them both at Rough Trade in Richmond and that was it, the
hunt was on for more... Then Rodigan came to Capitol radio with the `version excursions`
he used to do, like the new George Allison cut of ‘Ten To One’, followed by the (Bunny
Lee produced) Johnny Clarke 70s piece, and then the original Mad Lads Studio One cut.
It just gave me goose-bumps and I got craven for more!
R: Your radio shows are now legendary, with certain collectors pretty much treating
the track listings as wants lists. Do you have plans to do any more?
RB: At the time I looked around to see what other www broadcast reggae music there
was, and there wasn’t that much, just a bunch on Live365, but they all seemed pretty
average to me. Just the usual selection, some contemporary releases, some re-issue
stuff, but nothing too deep. I saw a producer friend of mine who had some audio s
treaming on his website and I asked what program he used. He passed it to me and I
tried my thing. The idea was not to showcase my personality, but to focus solely on
the music, so I went deep, playing vocals followed by their dub sides, plus a few jingles
and fx and that was it. I just enjoyed doing it, then a guy in France asked if he could
archive them so that they’d always be available for reference. This meant I didn’t have
to play any tune more that once, because they’d always be there on-line. Well, after nearly 100 shows I started to run out of the real deep stuff and I didn’t want to just play ordinary tunes that every other DJ played. Plus the whole podcasting thing had started up by now and every ‘collector` decided they wanted to be a DJ and it all got a bit flooded... On top of this I just got too busy with my studio work, so it all added up to no more shows!
R: Listening back to your earlier productions like Sister Rasheda's 'Hail H.I.M.', which was recorded over 20 years ago, they still sound so fresh today - how were they received at the time?
RB: They were received pretty well and the track you mention was extremely popular and still gets plays today. Some of the other tracks on the album used to get played at every dance in those times, like `Workers of Iniquity` and `Jah Man Sound`. Shaka used to run `Only Jah Worthy` too. I know that Rasheda sees it as the best work she’s done, along with ‘Psalms 61’ (produced by Jah Shaka).
R: The dubstep scene that's emerged over the last few years has exposed the youth to roots music by sampling classic reggae songs and riddims. Do you have any plans to record anything in this area?
Well, unlike the dubstep crowd, I’m not a 20 year old and I don’t really feel it’s something that interests me. I don’t go to those dances and I think if you start making music you have to fully understand what makes it work, otherwise you just make a bag of noise that don’t really cut it. And there’s plenty of that being done already in all music scenes, so I stick with what I know best.
RB: You've worked with a very long list of great artists already, could you tell us what you have lined up for 2010?
I’ll soon have two new 10"s, both with Dixie Peach - one is `A Long Way To Go` and other `Militant`. They are both on a couple of my well known riddims, `Return To Addis Ababa` and `Prowling Lion`, both of which came in the early 90s. I rebuilt them pretty much as per the originals and then got Dixie to voice them. They’re a continuation of my Disciples Vintage releases from last year, but the vocals add a new style. The feedback has been positive, so I think they’ll do well.
After this I want to do something else with Christine Miller, one of my regular artists. We have a whole heap of tune down already, but there are one or two in particular that I want to put on a 10" before a CD release of the full album. After that I will come with something different. I started some ska-steppers tracks that are rebuilds of some deep moody ska tunes but with a steppers beat to them, and they’ll feature on a new label called Tuff Skank. I’ve played them at dances and they’ve been going down very well with all sorts of crowds. I’m also still doing plenty of production work for other labels, so am pretty busy and can’t always focus on my own thing. But then things just come along and you think, hmm, that could be a good move...
R: Could you give us a current top ten?
I just did a revive dance in Geneva, and these were some of my favorites of the night:
1. Yabby Youth & the Sons of Jah ‘Jah Speak With Lightning & Thunder’ (TR Groovemaster)
2. Prince Lincoln ‘Daughters of Zion (Studio One)
3. Bobby Ellis & Val Bennett Mazuies ‘The Arabian Sound of Reggae’ (Attack)
4. The Uniques / The Mediators ‘Rise & Shine (Gemini)
5. Frankey ‘Slavery Days’ (Maroc)
6. Leroy Stewart ‘Oh Dreadlocks’ (The Buke Star)
7. Jasaro People ‘Suffering’ (Timba)
8. Baby Huey ‘A Yard’ (Cosmonamic)
9. The Fantells ‘Where You Gonna Run’ (Shaiam)
10. Ken Boothe ‘Who Really Cares’ (Roots International)