We are at St. Pancrass Station next to the Eurostar, because our guest, Earl Gateshead, have to leave to perform in Paris, but we caught him last minute to talk about the launch their new single ‘Africa’ and about Reggae of course. Trojan Sound System need no presentation, as they are a spearhead of Trojan Records, the legendary label which has been spreading reggae across the UK and worldwide for over forty years.
Why are you going to Paris?
We are performing in a party for Fred Perry, the iconic sportswear brand, it’s their 60th birthday and we’re going to play at the party.
How did you get into reggae?
I was really into music, Daddy Ad as well, and reggae became my favorite music out of all the music. It’s not that difficult in England than in other countries to fall into reggae because you hear a lot of reggae in England. I like everything but I´m in tune with the spirituality inherent in reggae.
Does it make you feel something different?
Exactly, the audiences it’s not like house, hip hop and dnb, reggae is different and separate. Its separateness is what I empathize with.
How was the start of reggae in London? How was the reaction of people the first time they heard it?
That was around 1965, so obviously it was long ago, even I wasn’t around there and I’m old! A lot of reggae has come from Jamaica. Jamaicans started reggae in London in the 60’s when they came to get a job and brought the music with them. When reggae started in England everybody liked it, particularly young people. In the 60’s it took off with ska music. It’s been a constant theme a constant thread in British music since then and it never went away.
How British culture did influenced Jamaican Reggae and Ska when both cultures got together?
British reggae is very different, more now than it ever has been, different than Jamaican reggae, because Jamaicans are doing more bashment type things, most of its reminiscent of hip-hop and rnb. Whereas in Britain and Europe generally we stayed more in tune with reggae spirituality and roots. There is two sides of reggae in Britain really, there is the bashment side, which is doing ok, and this dubbie side, which the sound systems play. We´re in the reggae reggae side, like, Bob Marley traditional songs. There are not many people in the world who remain in that tradition, but we do, and we are happy to. We like good songs, good singing, we play every kind of reggae, but that’s the basis - the reggae that Bob Marley made famous.
What was the role of Trojan sound System in promoting reggae in London? What did they do to achieve this goal?
We felt Reggae was undervalued, it was little bit ghetto and more people would like it if they heard it, so we wanted to bring it to more people. So we were connected because our backgrounds, me and Daddy Ad. People had the confidence to allow us to play at festivals the kind of festivals like Bestival and Glastonbury, that everybody goes to. This was never been done before, reggae was always separated. People hadn’t been exposed to it. And we wanted to show how good reggae could be and that anybody could be able to like it and we did our best with that. It’s a common place now, but we were the first to take it there and also to big nightclubs like fabric. We played in the big dance clubs and we helped to push reggae more towards the mainstream, which is what we wanted to do we want more people to hear it. Cause it’s quite difficult to hear good reggae if you don’t know how to, a lot of people would like to get into it, but sort of don’t know the way, don’t know the route. We helped to built that rute for a lot of people and we’re proud of that.
Which reggae bands would you recommend?
There are not many reggae bands. Comers are The drop and Laid black, but they are not well known, there’s usually reggae singers and the singers hire a band to work with. They work with a different band everywhere. That’s a sort of arrangement that it’s only made in reggae, because reggae is more about records really. Records and sound systems are really the basis of what reggae is.
So released recently your new single, Africa, which has already reached no.1 in charts. What’s the song about?
It’s about the desire that people have to be in another place. A lot of people have a yearning inside them, to be in another place where they feel at home. Some people would call this place Heaven or Zion, Nirvana. A place they can feel truly at home. The desire to be away from where they call home, to somewhere they can RERALLY call home.
Do you think people feel alienated nowadays?
Not just nowadays but always. That’s what religion is about, isn’t it? Every culture has a religion, where there is a place where things are better. It runs very deeply in people. The desire to be a place where they fit and they’re natural and where they feel truly at home and truly happy. Some would say it’s not possible to be truly happy in THIS world…
You also have a full five track digital EP release of all sold out 12”and unreleased material on the 25th November. What can we find there?
We are happy with it because it has all sort of styles, it’s got a sort of reggae style, a sort of ballad style, a sort of dancehall style, it’s got all the aspects that reflect what we do live. All the songs are strong, love and respect to the writers of these. We reduce them in the studio during the production process, we’re proud of the result, and I hope it fits in in the reggae cannon. It’s hard, you just do your job and hope for the best. That’s all that matters, that’s all that we can be.
If people want to hear you life, where can day go? Any upcoming UK events?
We are playing in KOKO on Saturday 12th January, and around the country, Bristol, specifically in the west country for Christmas.
Do you still enjoy performing? How is your relationship with the audience?
It’s always a challenge; you always got to work yourself up to a point. We always enjoy it, as long as there are no major technical problems, as long as the sounds are ok and you can get yourself over. Provided you can the feeling over, we enjoy it, definitely, that’s what it’s all about. It’s always different. It’s not always the big ones are the ones you enjoy the most, sometimes it’s the little ones you REALLY get into. We have a hunger for it. We would do it every day.
By Laura Vila