Trojan Sound System selector Earl Gateshead on why Reggae is more relevant than ever
As Trojan Sound System’s selector, Earl Gateshead commands a ship of good vibes, grumbling basslines and thundering dub. And as the global mindset seems to edge ever closer to hate, apathy and greed, he’s adamant that the positive vibes of reggae provide a powerful – and much needed – escape.
Fans will soon be able to enjoy Trojan Records’ recent ‘Africa’ LP with a new slant when a new remix record of the sold out release is available for download. The reworks by Toddla T, JFB and Darkstar Diskotek, are sure to be crowd pleasers when Earl and Daddy Ad hit the road with the Trojan Sound System later this year.
Earl has been playing reggae since 1979 and had a weekly residency at now defunct Soho drinking hole Dive Bar. Partying is his business – not only is he the selector of the world’s biggest reggae label today but during the Eighties he kept London’s squat rave scene skanking to choice cuts of dub and reggae.
Who are you and what are your roles within Trojan Sound System?
I’m Earl Gateshead. My primary role is selector and at live shows it’s my function to “set the vibe” on the microphone too. In the studio Daddy Ad and I swap roles as we go along!
Do you think reggae is still relevant in an increasingly violent world?
More relevant and necessary than ever we think. Reggae isn’t just music, it offers a culture and a viewpoint separate from the contemporary position. We love that separation and we love to offer an alternative way. More particularly as we have no confidence in the material and non-spiritual viewpoint that most people are browbeaten into accepting, as is inevitable.
Why did Trojan decide to release a remix LP?
We’re very lucky in that our vocalists right great songs, currently the best in reggae music, we believe. All the remix artists are friends and people whose talent we believe in. It’s lovely to hear their interpretations of these songs and how they are all influenced by reggae and staying true to the original song.
What are the ingredients for a perfect reggae remix?
It’s got to keep the rebel and revolutionary spirit of the music and add something else as well, often something unexpected and different to the usual formulas.
How did you go about choosing who would do the remixes?
We like to work with people we respect. A lot of electronic remixers can make a good rhythm but don’t really know how to work in the context of a song. The people we work with understand the arrangement of music, it’s a very underrated virtue, it’s what’s missing in a lot of contemporary electronic dance. The producers we worked with are also all highly accomplished in their respective fields and none more so than Darkstarr Diskotek (Ashley Beedle and Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy), who are some of the best and most experienced DJs on the planet (we exaggerate not!), so they really knew how to re-edit Africa for an extended dance floor work out.
How did you end up working with Mau Mau for the artwork?
Mau Mau is a good friend and a very real and heart felt person. He has lived his life true to many of the values we share and his artwork really expresses that. Anti-corporate/anti-Babylon and funny yet deep. He’s amazing! He also LOVES his reggae and the heartfelt message we all try to express and share. His artwork tells stories like many of the great reggae songs do.
What will the new live shows be like and where are you going with the tour?
Lively as ever and striving for those moments were we (Trojan Sound System and the people) all come together as a force. We love taking reggae to the big crowds and the big stages, because it doesn’t find itself there very often.
Are there any young artists coming up through the ranks that really impress you?
There are a few great young reggae bands about at the moment, Gentleman’s Dub Club lead the way, they’ve already broken through really and it’s great to see. Close behind are The Resonators, The Drop and General Roots.
What are your three top tracks at the moment?
Almighty God – General Degree
Everyman Does His Thing - Errol Dunkley
Mafia – Blackout JA
What do Trojan hope to achieve in 2013?
We’d like to participate in a movement that eventually changes the world for the better. We know that sounds crazy but you did ask… and that is what we want to do.
Where are the best reggae clubs/venues/nights in the UK?
That’s a hard one… We’ve got friends everywhere that take the music seriously. Trojan tend to play in non-specialised reggae venues. We’ve had some great nights at Koko in London actually.
What UK cities have the best crowd for Trojan parties?
Bristol, Brighton and London have always been the UK reggae strongholds. These days Leeds and particularly Manchester are coming up fast. They ‘mad for it’ in Manchester currently.
Would you ever be tempted to throw a massive squat rave with your old Armoury 89 crew?
Ha Ha…YES, YES, YES, YES! Is the short answer. We live in a much more controlled world now. I loved the wildness and freedom of squat parties
Africa The EP is available from 24th February on Trojan RecordsTagged in: Africa LP, Darkstar Diskotek, Earl Gateshead, Toddla T, Trojan Sound System
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