Going into the legendary On-U studios is like a
lesson in musical history for those that love UK and Jamaican roots reggae.
I was welcomed at the door by Adrian, and ushered into a completely chaotic,
yet calm and friendly atmosphere, with a lot of people getting on with
their work in the studio. A large portrait of King Tubby in crisp white
shirt, perfectly pressed suit trousers with a typically serious, dignified
expression takes pride of place on the wall as an obvious sign of respect.
Shrine like, it is placed high up on the studio wall and dominates the
vibe of the room. Inspiration from the source. Dub science.
notice more casual, smiling pictures of Bim Sherman and other On-U luminaries
on the walls. The next thing I noticed were the piles of boxed master
tapes everywhere. Little Roy, Junior Delgado, Dub Syndicate, Ghetto Priest.
(I was sorely tempted to make a closer inspection!) The vibe was good,
and I was looking forward to a good interview with this man whose work
I had admired for many years, (since those early UK roots classics,
the early Creation Rebel albums) and who had worked with so many of the
JA and UK roots legends.
man hardly needs an introduction here: To anyone who has followed roots
and culture music closely, it is generally acknowledged that he has produced
truly innovative, ground breaking UK roots music of the highest order
since the late 70's. He had uncompromisingly worked on with roots and
dub, even when roots music was at its lowest ebb in the early 80's and
many people had moved on to early digital dancehall and slackness. A lot
of people considered roots music a spent force, but Adrian had persevered
with the form, working with artists he respected, and artists who still
had a lot of originality to offer the reggae world, even though they were
no longer considered "fashionable".
like War of Words, Revenge of the Underdog and Pounding
System showcased UK roots and Jamaican roots artists still at
the peak of their creativity. Fit to Survive and Devious
Woman are considered by many to match the best of Bim's JA output,
and are unquestionably deep and atmospheric pieces of music.
was invited into the kitchen, and was met by the sight of guitarist Skip
McDonald, sitting quietly at the table, wearing a West African style hat,
cup of tea in hand, looking particularly calm and thoughtful amongst the
activity. An artist comfortable with himself.
A man with a gentle and peaceable presence, he greeted me and we started
talking, mostly about his recent album, a dub deconstruction of blues
music: Eerie Robert Johnson blues style echoey cut ups, with one drop
drum rhythms and backward tape loops. Some tracks also feature beautiful
vocals from Bim Sherman and Ghetto Priest, an atmospheric new vocalist
I was to meet later.
The Truth is the aptly named track which features Bim's haunting vocals,
backed by eerie slide guitar, unpredictably soaring around in the mix,
the righteous vibes urged forward by a Bunny Lee "flying cymbals" style.
Bim chants, stating his creed with righteous emotion, a relentless, simple
and direct message: "Oh friend of mine, a lie is a whisper, the truth
is a shout
seek the truth
" The message is replete with
a shuddering echo, and what sounds like African chants, cut up and spliced
into a weird refrain in the background, swooping in and out of the mix.
The brittle percussion is so strangely engineered as to be at times, of
unidentifiable origin. Harsh, moody, aggressive and melancholy by turns,
it's a fine, original piece of music.
Grind is obviously a work of love and dedication, a tribute
to Skip's respect for, and love of the blues. It has an overwhelming sense
of the genuine, a work of integrity. Hard Grind is an unusual
record, a distinctly weird listening experience, and one I'd strongly
recommend. A cut up dub funk blues experience, and definitely one for
those of you that loved ground breaking records like Eno's My
Life in a Bush of Ghosts.
For someone that had worked with so many musical legends in the roots
and culture and funk worlds, I was impressed that he was so modest and
unassuming a character.
himself, Skip returned to the studio to work on some new rhythms with
one of Adrian's engineers, Nick Coplowe. (Later I had a chance to speak
with Nick, currently working on his own project, Mutant Hi-Fi. Clearly,
there is a strong working relationship and understanding between him and
Adrian. I asked how he met Adrian and what clinched it for him in getting
the job. He looked at me directly, and put it very simply and succinctly:
"Me and Adrian work well together and get on well, because we both have
a common interest in noise." He didn't need to say any more...)
wasn't easy getting Adrian to focus on the interview process, because
he was doing so many things at once. Periodically, Skip would rush back
in to the kitchen enthusiastically to ask what Adrian thought of some
new sound he was working on, and Adrian would juggle ideas back and forth,
striving to flesh out new ideas, adapting and innovating together.
the same time, the phone was ringing constantly, people organising sound
system sessions (sound system session with Adrian, Junior Delgado and
Iration Steppers in Leeds was being put together, and Style Scott was
in town, to play with Luciano) enquiring about record release and tour
dates and so on. Crucial Tony and Eskimo Fox were due to lay down some
tracks for Adrian, and Junglist Rasta Congo Natty had a meeting with Adrian
a few days later. I kept on switching on my tape, only to be apologetically
interrupted by Adrian, "I'm sorry, bear with me one minute..."
if this wasn't a busy enough scenario, Adrian was constantly trying to
parry the mischievous playfulness of his daughters. They hurtled around
the studio as Adrian prepared snacks for them and good naturedly did his
best to organise some kind of afternoon schedule for them. It was a lovely
summer's day, and the garden, as I looked out of the window, looked peaceful
and quiet compared with the mayhem in the studio.
comes across as someone who is completely down to earth: direct, sharp,
smart, and it is clear that this is a man who is very determined and resolute.
He has earned respect from his many years in the reggae world, and his
work as an innovator. Ghetto Priest arrives and joins the work in the
I take advantage of an ensuing period of relative calm to begin the
interview, and I ask, what led Adrian to reggae in the first place. What
started his journey that led to the On-U Sound experience?
When I was pretty young, I was heavily into soul music. I loved that,
but I was really carried away by early reggae music and ska tunes. Those
were pretty eccentric, freaky tunes, stuff like U Roy's Wear you to
I was soaking up all that energy, even when I was at
school, and when I heard reggae music at the local black clubs I went
to, that was when I got really into it.
What was your next stage after your initial fascination with reggae
Well, I was still in my late teens when I started working for the Carib
Gems label people
I was a junior director
I loved roots
music, and the tunes we were putting out on that label, tracks like Observe
Life by Michael Rose, and Babylon Won't Sleep Tonight/Sleepers
by Wayne Jarrett and the Righteous Flames were strong, strong tracks,
they really were. Especially I loved the Sleepers track. The Tubby's
version is a heavy dub. It's sad, I don't even have copies of those 45's
myself anymore. I wish I'd held on to my copies! You know of course we
cut our own On-U version of Observe Life with Creation Rebel on
the rhythm, and Ari on the vocal, then there was a dub too.
you'd released so many good tunes on that label I asked, why don't you
collect them to release on a compilation? I think a lot of people would
be really glad to hear them on one compilation.
I'd love to. I was so into those Carib Gems releases, but like a lot of
those Hitrun label tunes, it's a matter of ownership and copyright that
prevents me. It's a shame because there are a whole lot of unreleased
tunes which just haven't seen reissue because of ownership debates. A
whole lot of those Creation Rebel Hit
Run 12's were very good, such as Beware. They deserve good
reissue. I did collect a few of the best tracks from that time on an early
On-U compilation with tracks like Carol Kalphat's African Land
and some other Far I and Creation Rebel stuff. I don't know how available
that release is now, but it's a solid collection. Another person from
that time I'd like to work with again is Deadley Headley, who is another
Jamaican artist who just hasn't received the attention he truly deserves.
It's possible that I'd consider putting together a compilation of my tunes
I did with him if there's enough unreleased stuff in the On-U vaults:
I'm not sure that I have enough unheard stuff though, but that would be
nice, and it'd be good to get some more exposure for such a good artist.
When I had linked up with Don
Letts, I 'd asked about his experiences with Adrian and
the early days of the On-U family. He remembered it this way: "Sure,
we hung out with Adrian in those times. I still do see Adrian! I've known
him for about twenty five years. The thing about Adrian was, you knew
that the man always ran with a posse in them days! So if you met up with
Adrian, they'd all be there too. Yes, man like Jah Whoosh, Prince Hammer
would be there, Crucial Tony, Bonjo I, and Don Campbell too. And of course
Prince Far I and Bim Sherman if they were in London at the time".
I'd asked Don which records he'd liked from the early On-U stuff:
"Of course the early African Head Charge music, which is pretty far
out stuff. Extreme music. Of the later stuff, I think Skip McDonald's
dub blues fusion stuff is pretty interesting."
Since Don Letts had around that time cut a tune with a vicious, threatening
subsonic dub (with Jah Wobble and Keith Levene at the production desk)
as the Electric Dread, I'd asked if he'd ever liked to have worked with
Adrian in those days: "Yeah sure, of course I would, but I'm more
a vibes man, a sound man. I've always DJ'ed and made films, that has always
been my thing you know, I'm not really a musician."
So in the light of my discussions with Don Letts on this subject, I
was keen to know about Adrian's experiences with John Lydon, as well as
his very early days with Jah
Upp, and of course most importantly, Creation
Rebel who were the backbone of all those early On-U tracks, and in
my opinion haven't really been given full credit for the outstanding original
and innovative UK roots outfit they were at that time.
on the subject of Creation Rebel, who made a great body of roots
music, then later let's talk about those early days when I hung out with
John Lydon, Jah Wobble, Ari and Keith Levene. We had an authentic, hard
rhythm section in Creation Rebel, with good musicians, such as Crucial
Tony, Lizard and Eskimo Fox, with Pablo on the melodica. I still work
with Crucial Tony and Eskimo Fox now. They will be here in a few days
to lay down some stuff for the new Little Roy music I'm working on, and
Crucial did some stuff on the Little Roy Long Time album. Yeah,
so in those days, we were always competing with the Jamaican bands of
the time, always looking for a way to get the edge on them, it
was a challenge for us, a hype thing too, to be different from the JA
bands when they came over on tour to the U.K. and the way for us was with
we really worked on getting a heavy, heavy rockers
drumming style, but it had our own thing in there, our own distinctive
contribution, our own hard edge to it. It wasn't just a copy of the Jamaican
drum sound, and I think in its own way, it was as good as what was happening
in Jamaica at that time. Of course when we got Style enlisted that was
it, a great step forward for us, because it united what was going on in
the roots scene in UK with what was happening in Jamaica. And of course,
linking up with Prince
Far I was a great thing for me at that time because it opened up access
and pathways to a whole pool of great Jamaican talent too.
Speaking of the whole early period of experimentation with Creation
Rebel, Dub Syndicate and African Head Charge, including the contributions
Image members Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, Adrian remembers it this
Going back to the influence of punk days now, yeah, I knew John Lydon
well, and it was through John that I got to know Keith Levene and Jah
Wobble. I got to know John better after Sid had died. Ari Upp, Neneh Cherry,
Junior and I, we all lived in a squat down Battersea way, and John Lydon
was living with Nora [his future wife and Ari Upp's mum] round the corner.
John Lydon used to visit us, and we all hung out together. John was just
so hip you know, a lot of people really looked up to him at that time.
John really knew his reggae, he loved his reggae. I can tell you that
John Lydon really helped the progress of roots and culture in Britain
at that time. It was around that time, not long after he'd been beaten
up here in London that he went on to radio and played Dr
Alimantado's Born for A Purpose. Alimantado was immediately shot
to cult status as a result! The lyric of that tune was relevant you know?
"If you feel like you have no reason for living, don't determine my
life!" That was John's reply to the idiots that had beaten him up.
You should realise that it was John Lydon who suggested that I work with
Keith Levene who I was really impressed by, and then through him I linked
up with Jah Wobble, which was great for me at the time. I was so happy
to work with Keith, because Keith just had such an original sound, and
I knew I could translate that originality he had into a dub context, and
it worked totally if you listen to those Creation Rebel and Singers and
Players records. He also played guitar on some of those New Age Steppers
sessions, and laid down bass as well on some tracks, which I don't think
he was ever credited for
So it was John Lydon who had the idea for
me to work with his band, and I loved their sound and what they were doing.
Levene's sparse guitar sound on Creation Rebel's Threat To Creation
and the War of Words albums, jagged and lonely, punctuated
the melancholy and ethereal purity of Bim's angelic voice
a Love like Yours/Devious Woman and its dubwise excursion is
a work as powerful and compelling as Bim Sherman's earlier Kingston
tracks cut for Adrian and Creation Rebel, Keith Levene's style is eerily
reminiscent of Earl Chinna's style on the East
of The River Nile album... (Check out the emptiness of the East
of the River Nile album, and specifically Chinna's spiraling chord structures
on Pablo's Nature's Dub, loosely held together by almost bleak
echoing piano notes, falling like rain in a deserted space).
is Bim's meditative version of Satta, here going under the title
of Ethos Design, and it is a design, the instruments acting
as sculptural forms, existing in structures in which the silences
are as vital as the drum-bass movements. It is an extraordinary work of
linear sound deconstruction, the rhythm section building up, only to literally
fall away, as the engineer gets deeper and deeper into separate drum tones,
reducing the vibe to a heartbeat pulse... snares fall away, cymbals and
high hat oscillate in bright spirals, only to be further reduced to a
skeletal form, with Bim's voice effortlessly present, floating over the
surface as the song fades in to reflective silence
Headley, (who contributed to Augustus Pablo's Rockers label, notably the
meets King Tubby inna Firehouse album) cut his own melancholy
horns version on the same Creation Rebel version of this rhythm, and the
drum track was used to fine effect on a version of Bim Sherman's Revolution/
Resolution: In the latter case, the drum track received brutal disassembly
at the hands of Adrian, spinning the snare sounds backwards, then forwards
in a spiral of noise, only to drop into the familiar Revolution
bass vibration... uncompromising and aggressive. Also featured on Threat
To Creation are the severely underrated drum skills of Eskimo "Mus'come"
Fox, and Bruce Smith, who went on to work as Lydon's PIL drummer for four
years: Listen to the version of Horace Andy's Problems on the Playgroup
album, (titled Deep and Mintyful) for some militant drum and percussion
interplay, and you'll see how underrated these drummers truly are.
What about working with Jah Wobble, I asked Adrian? Jah Wobble had
in his early days, had a serious reputation as a hard man: an instinctive,
natural bass player, but cantankerous into the bargain. In Jon Savage's
book England's Dreaming, journalist Nick Kent describes the by
now notorious time he was attacked with a bike chain by Sid Vicious at
an early Pistols gig : "Sid immediately pulled this chain out.
He made some remark he thought was insulting like: 'I don't like your
trousers.' The guy next to me immediately makes a motion towards Vicious
and then pulls his knife out and he really wants to cut my face. Years
later I find out his name is Wobble. This was a real speed freak, and
this is when it got very unhealthy. I remember putting my hands up and
not moving a muscle, and then Vicious tapped him on the shoulder and he
disappeared immediately. It was all a set up: Vicious then had a clear
aim, and got me with the bike chain."
Wobble saw it somewhat differently though, as he told Jon Savage: "I
used to get violent on a few occasions
The one with Nick Kent was
not one of those. Kent was with some geezer who demanded that we step
aside, they couldn't see the band. I said 'fuck off' which was pretty
standard. Sid wasn't a rucker but he lashed him with a chain and then
I had a go, but we were just mucking about. What I didn't know then was
if you set yourself up as a hardman, someone will come looking for you
who's harder than you are
" Again to Jon Savage, Wobble
spoke of his friendship with John Lydon and Sid Vicious: "John
and Sid were exactly what I was looking for when I was sixteen
I knew then was that I desperately didn't want to work. I was already
an angry young man. I had images of being enclosed by council flats, feeling
very claustrophobic." Jon Savage comments on Wobble: "Only
[Jah Wobble's] icy blue stare now betrays his past. During Punk, Wobble,
Like Sid, resembled a random destruction machine, wound up and placed
in the middle of an event to see what would occur. Today he speaks of
his past as if of another life."
I recounted these stories to Adrian, and I perceived a certain mischievous,
conspiratorial expression cross his face, (memories perhaps?) but when
he speaks, his love and respect for Wobble are only too obvious. He speaks
of Wobble's achievements with pride:
and Wobble go back a long way, and I love him. We've always been very
close. It's true, Wobble did have a problem with alcohol, but that's all
in the past now, and he's long left that behind. I respect what he has
become as a person and a musician, because he is an example of someone
who has really achieved and built everything from his own efforts. You
always hear people say, "Oh Wobble couldn't play bass when Public Image
started, and he just had a good, instinctive way with playing a heavy
dub bass-line" well, that may have been true back then, but let me tell
you, Wobble really can play now! He really understands his instrument;
he is the original MR FAT BASS SOUND. That is Wobble for you. The last
time I saw Wobble was at his wedding and he looked so happy. I'm proud
of the stuff Wobble has done with me on those African Head Charge and
Dub Syndicate records, and I love a lot of his solo stuff too. Some of
his early tunes on the Betrayal album are really good.
I was very keen to know more about the African Head Charge albums as
well. They were so prolific, eccentric and uncategorisable, yet no one
had really spoken about them at any great length, so I was very eager
to get Adrian's insight in to these strange records. He spoke about them
with obvious a sense of sincerity, but with a definite high spiritedness,
representative of the obviously bizarre and downright eccentric sounds
that Bonjo I et al had created all those years ago.
be straight with you, a lot of those sounds we created on those records
came out the consumption in large amounts of two very different drugs,
speed and marijuana! You know, those African Head Charge records were
a labour of love to me, and we didn't really expect too many financial
rewards. When you listen to a record like Environmental Studies,
it's clear that a sound like that might be intimidating to some people.
Woven into the mix, you can hear car crashes, water flowing, bottles breaking.
We used a lot of "found sounds" and many "environment sounds" from the
studio down at Berry Street where it was recorded. It's a long time since
I've listened to that record, but who knows what sounds we put into that
record, I think we even might have used water sounds from the toilets
and humming vibrations from the boiler room! I haven't listened to that
record in a long time, for the simple reason that when I was working on
the record, I listened to it repeatedly, day in, day out, so in my mind,
its very much a part of that time... I'll have to go back to it and listen
to it again some time
I mentioned that the Deadley Headley contributions are especially good
on that album, to which Adrian wholeheartedly agreed. I also asked
him about my favourite track from the My Life In A Hole In The
Ground album, the eerie and haunting Far Away Chant. It
is such a strange piece of music, and I was inquisitive to know, where
it had come from, deep in the On-U Sound psyche!
Yes, that's a heavy track. If I remember rightly, it came out of the same
sessions we had been working on with Prince Far I and the Dub Syndicate
for the Cry Tuff album. There was a slow and hard track, Plant Up,
with a classic, growling Far I chant about the herb... anyway, I wanted
something even slower, more threatening, heavier, so I took similar sounding
rhythm track, and slowed it right down, right down, making it ridiculously
slow and heavy, and laid Far I's anti nuclear chant over the top. You
know, the film director David Lynch took that track, and slowed it down
even further, which made it even more threatening, and used it in Wild
at Heart as part of his soundtrack which really pleased me. The
mood of the scene he chose it for was pretty dark
I believe it was
a ritual ceremony or sacrifice with Harry Dean Stanton.
I asked him specifically about a point in the middle of the aforementioned
song, when it just simply stops, cuts off randomly for a few seconds,
halfway through a vocal line, midway into a word, seemingly for no reason
before crashing back mid way through the tune
It creates a pretty
surreal effect! Adrian laughs at the memory
As I said, they were pretty strange times when we recorded those albums,
and random too sometimes! I can't tell you about that part of the track!
Who knows? Maybe I accidentally hit the pause button halfway through the
track and we left it in the mix?
He isn't joking either...
I went on to ask him if a he had received criticism from the reggae cognoscenti
mafia in London at that time for his bizarre experimentation with roots
music, and unconventional attitude to an often over orthodox form. (I
remembered back in the late 70's and early 80's some roots purists turning
their noses up and not buying certain tunes if they knew they had been
recorded in Wood Green or Peckham, even if the dubs were as heavy and
creative as what was coming out of Jamaica).
Yes, I did experience some of that, but I didn't care. We always believed
in those early On-U releases, and I felt some of them would have sounded
incredible as futuristic film soundtracks.
It's true that some purists on the London scene dissed me for those records
I was producing at the time. Perhaps it was the sheer unconventionality
of the sound, the inability to be able to categorise such a threatening
sound. I didn't give a fuck about the luddite purists with their little
reserves. Really, they didn't matter to me. I just went on to expand my
experiments, putting out hard dub records by Creation Rebel, featuring
entire tracks made up of backward tape loops, industrial drills roaring,
that kind of style. Anyway, what did the elitists matter to me? I remember
going round to people's houses to listen to tunes, and these guys would
be covering up the label with their hands so you couldn't see who it was
by, or blanking out the title. What is that behaviour, you know? I was
always very open about this music 'cos I love it. I used to give away
good rare tunes, help people get into the music and hear good tunes. I
enjoyed promoting good roots artists, artists who deserved the exposure.
I even knew some people who would be too intimidated to visit roots stores
because they worried the vibe might be intimidating, but of course it
isn't like that at all.
Finally on the subject of African Head Charge: what about Drastic
Season, I asked?
was extreme. The stand out track for me is Depth Charge, with that
slow, driving syndrum intro.
Seen. 20,000 leagues under the sea style! I always thought that was
such a harsh record, and I loved that aspect of it, its uncompromising
sound, its complete lack of concession to anything even remotely commercial.
When listened to repeatedly there were some extraordinary rhythms at play
here. A look at the track titles gives some indication of the bizarre
listening experience lying in wait for the (believe me here) unprepared
listener: African Hedgehog, Snake in the Hole, I want Water
tracks, it sounded as if an array of animals had somehow been sucked into
the wildness and primal coldness of the mix
croaking frogs, shrieking
birds, massively distorted so as to be rendered unrecognisable, snakes
hiss, and an assortment of other bizarre creatures make their presence
The over all result is disorienting, disturbing, but as a sonic
assault, deeply pleasurable
It is the strangest collection of rhythms
I've ever encountered, yet one of the most rewarding...
these African Head Charge works, Adrian's expression is bright, concentrated,
inspired. It is clear he loves talking about these old releases, taking
pleasure in how disorienting and ground-breaking they were and still undoubtedly
are, the mixture of menace and sheer euphoric spirit present in
the records. Apparently not many press releases ever came out of the On-U
Studios, but in the case of Drastic Season one did emerge, and
reading it back now is as extraordinary and baffling as the sounds on
the disc proved to be:
"A mix of human, animal and machine sounds
check it if you are
a dancer, a listener, a film maker, a computer programmer, a human or
an animal. Special treats in store for steam locomotive enthusiasts and
biologists. You've never heard such sounds in your life."
Changing subject now, I asked Adrian what he felt had changed in people's
attitudes to buying reggae, or indeed any good music, since the late 70's.
He reflected a while then answered:
too corporate and controlled now?
Well, in the past it was a whole
ritual... the vinyl, the sleeve, the record label
you know, down
the record shop on a Friday night, it
was pure ritual
black guys, young white guys, sound men
all enjoying the thrill and pleasure of the ritual, buying the hardest
12" disco, or spiritual 7" with a heavy dub on the version
it's largely a different matter, more of a commodity, a lot of people
with a disposable income, and besides, music isn't viewed in the same
precious kind of way, because so much is available now. This just wasn't
the case before. You really had to hunt around to find the kind of tunes
you wanted, it was a whole different process. The mystique is taken out
of record buying now in a way. Besides the commercial side, there is a
whole cross pollination and interchange of ideas and influences going
on, which just wasn't in existence in the late 70's or eighties, and that
in a sense demystifies the uniqueness of what was once a specific "reggae
sound" too. Many noises, vibrations, frequencies that were exclusive to
reggae are now being used in Hip Hop and other styles too, so that has
to be taken into account. Plus the influence isn't only one-way: reggae
too, is soaking up sounds and influences from other forms as well.
I went on to ask Adrian his view of the UK roots scene past and present,
and UK so called "Nu Roots":
UK has always had good roots music. I love what Neil
Fraser has done over the years. I especially liked the tunes he put
out by Aisha, Macka B and the good stuff he does these days with Mafia
and Fluxy. Those are really good tunes. As for the UK Nu roots? Yeah,
I like it too, it's all good works, but I would say this, I feel they
need to get away from concentrating exclusively on steppers
rhythms, perhaps use vocalists more. They need to get out of limiting
themselves to steppers. Having said that, it isn't a criticism. I like
what they do. So England has always had a good roots tradition, and besides
that, it's always had openness to a kind of avant garde thread in the
dub world. I had a taste of that myself when I worked with Suns
Of Arqa back in the late 70's and early eighties with their weird
cut ups and Islamic, Celtic and Persian influences which were way ahead
of their time. They came to me and said "give us some rhythms!" I duly
did so, and was impressed with what they did with them. So this openness
has always been there in UK, love of hard music and willingness to experiment.
In a discussion of UK roots artists, it was inevitable that I ask him
about Shaka. He answered with a sense
of awe, respect and reverence.
Shaka? I've known Shaka for over 25 years. We are close. I've got his
number, he's got mine you know? I have ultimate respect for the man Jah
Shaka. Shaka just loves his music! He's a soul head and he knows his jazz
too, deeply. Did you know that? Shaka just has his own thing altogether.
Playing music for ten, twelve hours without a break, until he enters a
trance like state, then he's on God's plane, following God's plan.
What was his opinion about the current roots music coming out of Jamaica?
There is a lot of hard, tough music coming out of Jamaica right now. Astounding
tunes. I especially like the Xterminator studio works, and the album MLK
in Dub was a real groundbreaker. Then of course there's people like
Daweh Congo. Good music. There is a lot of good music out there to check
out and follow. I think they are increasingly aware of an interest in
dubwise styles over here in Europe, as well as an awareness of Europe's
interest in the noise factor.
(This interest in keeping up with the cutting edge of Jamaican innovation
was certainly in evidence from the (literally) piles and piles of
modern Jamaican roots and dancehall 45's, neatly stacked in the studio,
cupboards and corridors: Productions by new and hungry contenders, innovators
out of Kingston such as Steven Stanley, Soljie, Bulby, Penthouse label,
African Star and Xterminator music... Bass Research and development...)
Where did Adrian think was the main market in Europe right now for
France, without a doubt. People like Burning Spear and Israel Vibration
are stars there in their own right, and why on earth shouldn't they be?
They do consistently good work and France rewards them accordingly, they
get appreciated. This kind of thing just doesn't happen in UK for roots
What is Adrian's opinion of the Junglist and drum and bass vibes, I
wondered, especially since some of the drum
'n' bass artists I had recently interviewed had name checked On-U
Sound as an influence?
When I hear Jungle and drum 'n' bass artists saying that On-U Sound influenced
them, well I feel that's very kind, because as Rasta philosophy tells
it, "each one teach one", and I was influenced by so many people too,
so I'm glad this vibe is continuing.
Finally, I felt I had to ask him about the death of Bim
Sherman. We had listened to his music for 25 years or so, but not
many of us had any insight into the man himself. All we knew of him was
his voice, with that uplifting, lonely and angelic character. Adrian looked
somewhat dark and serious at the mention of Bim and it is obviously still
a delicate point, since they had worked together for a long time.
you hear Miracle? That says a lot about Bim. What can I say? Bim
was a darling. I'm sorry for using that term, but I'm not sure which other
word to use. He was a lovely human being, just a pleasure to work with,
and I had been a huge fan of his, right from the early records. He was
such a gentle person. Don't get me wrong though, he could look after himself,
and cuss with the best of them. Bim is not someone you would fuck around
with. He could speak up for himself, stand up for himself.
Much later, I was to see Adrian's diary entry for the period covering
Bim's illness and eventual death
"It was to be my first proper tour as a live DJ
A few days prior
to departure, Bim had fallen ill and was in hospital. I visited him at
11.30 the night before I left. It was to be the last time I'd see him
alive. We got the news that he passed on the 17th while we were in Dijon.
I returned home the next day. Skip McDonald and Bim had a very close friendship.
I was sad for Bim's family, angry with
people and everyone around felt empty