Trojan Sound System have never sold out
Trojan Sound System need little introduction. Spearheaded from Trojan Records, an explosive influential musical force, legendary label and household name across the United Kingdom and worldwide for over forty years, the duo are infamous pioneers, rocking dub, reggae and bass riddims on dance floors across the world, their roll call reads like a who’s who hall of fame of quality original Reggae and Bass Culture, they are the originators. the instigators and mayhem makers of what we have now come to know as ‘UK Bass Culture’. Their star shines brightly.
We had a chat with Daddy Ad and Earl Gateshead from Trojan Sound System about Reggae, vinyl, recording and playing live:
There seems to be a lot of interest in Reggae these days with a lot of new talent coming through and nights popping up all over the place. Why do you think Reggae and dub is so popular and why do you love it?
Unlike everyone else, we’ve never sold out. The commercial world has never been able to absorb and manipulate Reggae. That makes it attractive to some people. Also the spiritual side of the music is appealing to many people in a non-spiritual age. Our music has always been separate, not easy to understand, because it has its own, largely third-world viewpoint. A lot of people are only finding a way in now and the rise of bass culture within dance music has helped open the gates. Dance music and bass culture is massively influenced by Reggae and its various forms and if you want authenticity and meaning, Reggae is the root of it all.
In this day and age of MP3s and serato/traktor DJ’ing – do you feel that Reggae is an area where people still crave vinyl?
Bass Culture in general prefers vinyl, because our pleasure is in the tone and texture of the sound, which are better heard on record. The Dancehall world on the other hand has totally embraced digital. Reggae people also love good sound and vinyl synthesis is exactly that, synthesised. The sound quality and overall vibe of synthesis doesn’t have the same impact and soul of vinyl and the magic captured in the grooves.
Generally, what is it about vinyl that keeps it alive?
Nobody disputes vinyl is the best way to listen to music. Other formats are just more convenient, but at a price. Music is a physical thing in terms of sound and it’s beautiful to see young people discovering the joys of vinyl from a sound and emotional perspective as well as its physicality compared to a thumbnail on a screen. Mp3s are about 10% of the quality of vinyl, CDs about 50% and whilst you still get the same blue print, arrangement, lyrics and riddim, it’s the emotion and feeling that has been stripped away by downgraded formats.
I recently read that you have a new set-up. What hardware/software are you currently using?
Ad’s always tinkering with the sound effects front and the front end of the sound. For Earl, new hardware is buying more records! As you can probably guess, we don’t use software and do whatever we can to get the best sound possible out of the system. Very few professional DJs even know how to set up a turntable properly whilst professing to know about sound and that’s a sad situation. We always set up the turntables from scratch as part of our sound check and it makes a massive difference in how everybody feels the music and the vibes. Because of vinyl synthesis, the art of acoustic playback is getting lost. All the turntables and cartridges are doing with vinyl synthesis is reading time code, so if they’re set up wonky, aren’t isolated properly and even not ground/earthed, the hard drive still plays the music and it doesn’t matter. To playback vinyl there’s a lot to get right and the benefits can be more than heard! We use a bit of hardware for sound FX, but otherwise it’s about bringing in high end Hi-Fi cartridges, setting up and isolating the turntables properly and using the best equipment possible. Most DJ mixers are terrible so we have to get quite specific to deliver a great sound.
Can you describe your workflow. If working with an MC is it a case of you producing the beats and them laying down the vocals later or do you all get in the studio together and exchange ideas?
It’s fluid, but usually we develop songs on existing riddims and in live sound-system situations, then we (Earl and Ad) go into the studio and build a new riddim from scratch with the vocal arrangement in mind and then bring the vocalists in to record their parts.
What’s the setup when you play live?
Two turntables, a high-end mixer and three way crossover, our own Hi-Fi cartridges, sound FX units and loads of concrete and acoustic matting to try and isolate the decks as much as possible. Any vibration, whether from the stage or from the bass, gets picked up by the cartridges when you’re dealing with high end sound equipment and as vinyl playback is a physical real time thing, it vibrates the cartridge and turns it into distorted mush. Check out classicalbumsundays.com for a fantastic example of how musical playback should be approached.
What advice do you have for any aspiring producers/MC’s out there?
Work hard! Analyse why you want to make music and who you would expect to like what your doing. Don’t get trapped into thinking it’s about the equipment you’re using. It’s about the idea your trying to express. The equipment is just a tool and almost any recording tools can make great music. You get out what you put in.
What does 2013 hold for Trojan?
We’ve got more productions in development at the moment and they’re really exciting. We just want to share the power and love of Reggae music and help people get into one of the richest and emotive forms of music out there, be that through a live experience or through what we produce.
All the latest Trojan Sound System news can be found here: www.facebook.com/trojansoundsystem
Interview by 25ThC