WCTD proudly present the first in a series of spotlights on UK sound systems, and what a way to start!
WiWith the very kind help of top flight Roots producer/soundman Russ D, we give you the sounds of the Mighty Boom Shacka Lacka Sound System...
Russ has dug deep in the vaults and over the coming weeks will be providing us with classic dances from his personal archives. He also kindly took time out of his very busy schedule to give us a bit of history about his works with the sound and his very successful production career.
So without further ado, lets get into the world of the Roots masters.. The Disciples are in the area inna Heavyweight style!!
WCTD: Greetings Russ, When was your first exposure to reggae music?
Russ D: Very first would`ve been the usuals like Marley, Desmond Dekker (Israelites), Ken Boothe, but that would have been amongst all other different music i would`ve listened to as a kid, i really start to check it later when i was about 17 (1978), and it was Dr Alimantado, Joe Gibbs Chapter 3 Dub, Augustus Pablo, Dennis Brown, Culture, i was helped along by my elder brother, Lol, and then the likes of David Rodigan on radio.
WCTD: What was the first sound system you heard?
Russ D: It was Jah Revelation Music, they came to Surbiton Assembly Rooms in the early 80`s, quite strange, a bunch of students crashed out on a one spliff, the Jah Revelation guys doing thier `charlie chaplin` skanking, Barrington Levy holding up the door, we had a quick greets with him then. After that it would have been sounds at Nottinghill Carnival, Java`s wall of sound under the flyover, and Jah Shaka holding a small corner in the grove, that was the first time we saw him, it was in `84, Frankie Paul `Worries In The Dance` was busting it then.
WCTD: Can you remember some of the dances you attended in the early days?
WCTD: Which sounds were running things at that time?
Russ D: As said, for us it was all about Shaka, i did`nt take much notice of what else was going on, can remember names like Saxon, and Nasty Love, thats about it.
WCTD: Did you have any favourite sounds and why did they appeal?
Russ D: Shaka, `cause it was roots and dub, i was buying and collecting old records, Pablo`s, Yabby Yu`s, Upsetters, and all the rest of it, and you`d here some of those still at Shaka, and the deepness of the bassline, and tunes you`d never heard before, it fitted with my musical outlook.
WCTD: Can you tell us about how you got involved with the recording business and running your own sound system. Which came first & what year?
Russ D: I`d picked up bass guitar in my youth, never really took it much further, but later on when i was about 24 / 25 i start get interested in making music, i see adverts for cheap 4 track cassette recorders, and drum machines, so just thought i`d get into it, it seemed better than the usual suburban lad thing of going to pubs 3 times a week and wasting my time and money on that useless pursuit, so i stopped going out and started making music, first things were rubbish, but you keep going, it was a hobby, then as i start progress my bro start take an interest, he could play guitar, we mostly just licked over favorite old riddims, Studio One`s, Freedom Sounds tunes and such, then i start play some things to other people and due to the style they say we should check Shaka, he had an Arts & Craft Culture shop in Deptford at the time, i had a dubplate cut of 4 tunes and we took it to him, he asked for 4 mix of each tune and gave us a flyer for his next dance. It all lift off from there, we had a direction, so we just kept making tunes for him, and going to the dances. After about 4 months he said he wanted to put an album out of our tunes, so Commandments Of Dub Chapter 6 `Deliverance` was our first release, we did 3 other albums for him over the next few years. Then in about 1990 we get asked to do a dj set by Kiss Fm dj Joey Jay, at a club nite in Dingwalls, we get a taste for it, then he gets a regular thing going in Southall Community Centre, and we get asked to guest on his sound a number of times, dances were boom down there, but joey always fret when i start pushing the bass, well its always hard running another mans sound the way you want, so i then get the idea to build my own sound, it took about a year but in `91 we`re off the ground and playing dances, nuff dances with Joey Jay, with Abashanti, Iration Steppa`s, and we start play all over, Bradford with Rootsman and Iration, dances over in Southend, dances down in Cornwall, and nuff dances with Culture Promotions at the Dome in Tuffnell Park.
WCTD: What made you choose the name of the set?
Russ D: My bro had started a `zine in late 80`s, it was about roots music, Shaka style etc, and he called it Boom Shacka Lacka, after the Rocksteady tune by Hopeton Lewis, it kinda fit in with things, so when i start the sound i decide we`d keep that same name, `cause it was an identity, and i also later used it for my label.
WCTD: What was your sound system equipment like when you first started playing out and how did things progress/change over the years?
Russ D: I just went in at the deep end, bought 2 piece of 2k Jah Tubby`s amp for bass, and 1 piece of 1k for mids, and a small 100w amp for tops, i had 4 scoop bins built by Larry Mr Dub from Southend, and i built 4 double reflex box myself, we ran 12 x 18" 400w Fane Collosus all together, at first i had 3 sets of double 12" mids, home built boxes, and 3 sets of Mr Dub`s Piezo boxes for tops, i later added some more midrange, 2 xtra double 12" loaded boxes, and i changed one of the double bins and got 2 xtra scoops... a friend of mine loaned me his old Barracuda pre-amp, it was already 11 years old by that time, i had to figure out all the controls `cause he had forgotten by then, but i sorted it ok, i still got the pre-amp, and unfortunately my friend who loaned it passed away this year, respects to him still... we had turntable, but also ran exclusive dubs off dat machine, i had built my own siren, and had a few other fx machines.
WCTD: Who was involved with the set and who did what?
WCTD: Did you ever have guest singers/deejays appearing live on your set?
Russ D: Dances in london you`d have guys come along, in Dub Club it was guys like MC Ishu and Danny Red, Sister Rasheda guested a couple of times... never really had other big names, did used to get a lot of `tryers`, some where good, some where terrible, but we always thought `give them a go`, like it was for the people, let the people be a part of it... if they were too bad then we`d try keep the mic away from them.
WCTD: How did you plan for special dances?
Russ D: I never pre-select, maybe just have an idea i might play such and such a tune, but mostly its just going with a vibe, in our type of dances we can do that, people understand its a musical journey, you dont have to prove you have such and such a tune, specials and such were`nt a part of it, of course we had our own exclusive dubs, so that really was what our dances where about.
WCTD: Did you get artists to cut specials for you?
Russ D: Kind of answered that already, as said specials were`nt a big thing in our dances, especially back then, we had one or two, but not really with `known` artists, just guys i worked with in our scene...even now i dont really follow that specials thing, i have one or two with guys like Sandeeno, Dixie Peach, Errol Bellot, but specials dont really impress me so much, its just a money thing in the end, who can afford it can get it, but having some named artist saying i`m the `best around` and so on, well i`ve heard little sounds and dj`s all over with those things, and to be honest i think its a joke, `cause what are they, the `best around...in thier suburb` or something, big deal !
WCTD: What were your biggest tunes to play out?
Russ D: Well, going by listening back to some sessions, i know i used to play our tune Prowling Lion out near every dance for years, and it seems i`ve played Rasheda`s `Shashameni` (Moffet Production) plenty, plenty times...there`s a couple other tunes i get regularly asked to play, Serious Warrior, a dub a did exclusively for Shaka, and one tune by a guy called Alan B `Wicked Man`, they go back to early 90`s, and i still tear up with them now... but i also get bored hearing same tunes all the time, so i like to vary selections, and even force myself not to play certain tune !
WCTD: Is there a dance that really stands out for you and for what reasons?
Russ D: If talking about my own, well its difficult to remember some dances after all these years, you have certain ones that where significant, and then you have dances you`ve done in recent times that are clearer in memory, and that where boom... i was recently reminded of a dance i did in Edinburgh a good number of years back, at Bongo Club alongside Messenger sound, i was there with singer Wayne McArthur, dance just lift off from the start, just pure vibes, but it was really at the end of the dance when we had to stop, due to management (as they say) and the crowd just start chanting `one more...one more`, then start stamping foot, clapping hands, clanking bottles, in rhythm, chanting for `one more`, 15 minutes and they would`nt stop, pure vibes, i think managment where staring to get vex !... this also reminded me that we had a similar vibe playing first time in Ireland, Dublin, alongside Firehouse Skank sound, the crowd just did`nt want us to stop... we`ve had great dances all over the world, some small, some big, we played at Asagiri Fest in Japan, playing on a stage looking out at Mt Fuji, quite awesome, just an hour and half set, but pure vibes...
If your talking about other sounds dances, then it has to be one Jah Shaka did at the Africa House in Dalston around `89, he just came back from Ja, people close knew he`d be coming back with fresh dubs mixed down at King Tubbys, so a lot of expectation, the dance was rammed, and some nice selection was warming up, but nothing out the ordinary, then he pulled out one of my tunes, a dubplate, and just start running it, and it just caught the crowd, Shaka run a first piece, then a 2nd, then he got a vibe for this chant, he start doing the `jah ah ah ah jahoviah` part from Twinkle Bros `Jahoviah`, then it hit him and he said `i like to hear the choir`...meaning he`d like to hear the crowd chant along with him, the crowd did`nt pick up at first, so he lift the needle on the tune and said `is the choir here or what ?...i would like to hear the choir..` put the needle back down, volume of tune was kept low, no bass, and he start this call and response `jah ah ah ah jahoviah` thing, then change it to `oh jah jah...oh jah jah` then back again, the whole crowd where chanting along, i was standing there with goosebumps !... never seen anything like that in a dance before, or since... he later started running his brand new Tubbys dubs, dance was ruff !
WCTD: Why did you decide to stop playing out the sound and do you still have the full set? Is there any chance of taking it back out on the road?
WCTD: When did you open your studio?
Russ D: I had a small bedroom studio in early times, but used to get nuff complaints from a next door neighbor, so then i build a small studio in the back garden at back end of 80`s, its where i`m still at today, although it got another small extension a few years ago, just big enough to act as a vocal booth. Its a private studio still, not really for hire out, but i do a lot of work for other people, mix work, remix, and so on.
WCTD: Which artists did you work with when you started out in the recording area & which artists over the years have you most enjoyed working with?
Russ D: At first it was all dub / instrumental stuff, then i linked with a guy called Jonah Dan, he wanted to voice some tunes, so we worked together, we`re still friends today, and its he who acts as my regular micman now, but in those early times he brought down Sister Rasheda, whom he knew from long time, she was there to help him with harmonies, Rasheda liked the music she heard from the studio and we start work together, so really she was the first `big` artist i worked with, around same time i had worked with Creation Stepper, he did works with Fredlocks back in the 70`s, then there were a few friend singers, Dayjah from Bradford, Delroy Dyer, Wayne McArthur. In 95 i start up my 2nd label `Backyard Movements` and first release was with High Priest `Judgement Seat`, he was formerly known as Dj Pebble`s, a noted micman for Sir Coxsone sound, it was`nt till later in 90`s and 00`s i did start work with some other names, Prince Allah, Prince Malachi, Kenny Knots, Color Red (he did the tune From Creation, 70`s Upsetter production, and former notorious Coxsone dubplate), Mykal Rose, Lutan Fyah, Sandeeno and so on... a lot of artists i`ve worked with are thru works i do for other producers, so not always the artist even passes thru my studio, they`re voiced elsewhere and vocals sent down to me to mix... i think the best experience was with Prince Alla, a roots legend, and one of the best people you could meet, always an upfull vibe with him.
WCTD: Who would you like to work with that you haven’t worked with before?
Russ D: Ah, difficult question right now, i`ve been trying to think that one, someone recently mentioned about Naggo Morris, and that really struck a note with me, a great singer in his time, although sometimes with those guys now thier voices might not be so strong, anyways nothing came with him, to be honest i`m not sure, i actually would like just to work with some singers that have some individuality about thier voice, like a lot of the ja artists thru the last decade or so just copy each other and all sound the same, like so many Luciano sound alikes, or Jah Cure sound alikes, and so on...half the time you cant tell the difference, when you check singers from 70`s, if you heard Culture you knew it was Culture, same way Spear, Dennis Brown, Delroy Wilson, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Heptones and so on... it`d be nice to find some singers with character, and in our uk roots scene it dont necessarily need to be some big name... the only thing you get with a named singer is studio experience, which always makes things easier.
WCTD: Who are you working with at the moment. What is next for the Disciples?
Russ D: I`ve got a number of tunes parked up, tunes with Sandeeno, Laza (from LMS), another Lutan Fyah, loads of tunes with Christine Miller, Tony Roots and others, so i need to deal with them, i have`nt really been voicing much this year, but have recently done a couple of tunes with Dixie Peach that i feel i want to forward with, they`re on the right type of riddims for me to deal with at the moment, but next releases will be Disciples Vintage, dubs i did for Jah Shaka back in the 80`s.
WCTD: The UK roots scene is very big nowadays, where do you see it going?
Russ D: Hmm, i`m not sure, having been in it for over 23 years i`ve seen things come and go, all the changes that are ever going to happen and so on, its all been done really, people say the uk dub style is something new, but how can it be if whats going on now sounds little different from what we was doing 20 years ago... maybe i see things a little jaded, its my years in it, but i`m still positive, i just decide that i`m gonna do my thing, my way...not to look at what everyone else is doing and be swayed by it...i like a lot of different styles of reggae music, i grew up loving Studio One, and thats not all roots, i loved all the digi roots yard stuff thru the 90`s, and of course i love my deep roots music... i`ve produced lovers rock riddims for a label in the USA, i do standard roots one drops for some singers i work with, and i still supply the likes of Iration Steppa and Jah Tubby with deep `n dark dubs, i like the diversity.. if i had the budget for it i`d like to do some full on live instrument stuff, but i`m not sure its financially viable at the moment... in the end we all just gotta remain positive, and keep striving for progression in what we do.
Many thanks to Russ for taking time out to answer a few questions for us...
Now its time to go deep in session Boom Shacka Lacka style with the Disciples at the controls, we have done some work on the audios to make them as crisp as possible... Enjoy!
Disciples meets Eastern Sher Tudor Rose, Southall October 1991
Boom Shacka Lacka Southall Community Centre November 1993
Boom Shacka Lacka Shrimpers Nightclub, Southend 1994
Boom Shacka Lacka vs Iration Steppas Leytonstone 94