An Interview with David Rodigan

Other | Monday 18th July 2011 | Annalisa


“What I do on stage is not acting, occasionally I may act the fool, I’m very enthusiastic about what I do but it is very real, not acting.”

Tell us who you are and what you are about?
Quite simply I am a Disc Jockey. My music is reggae, that’s the music I have a passion for. My purpose is to share my love of the music and introduce other people to it through my passion for it. I hope that doesn’t sound too grand but I believe when you think something is important and it has a validity, I think it is important to try and share it with people and this music has validity, it has very positive elements within it; we’re talking about conscious reggae music as opposed to thug endorsement, glorification of violence, homophobic type of nonsense which I am not remotely interested in. I am interested in the positive message that reggae has always carried...

Why do you play reggae more than other forms of music?
Well first of all, before anything else, I think what struck me about it was the rhythmic structure. Also, the magnificent voices and the uses of voice; from the spoken word of the DJ’s like Sir Lord Comic, Carl Pichuki and King Stitt, to more recent DJ’s such as Bounty Killer and so on.
As in singing, great singers, too numerous to mention, but the most obvious ones are clearly, the Wailers; Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bonny Wailer, The Abyssinians, Bob Andy, Culture....., Dennis sdfihpisfh, obviously Gregory Isaacs.......In more recent times  Luciano and sdlkfnsof Riley.

Why is the music so important to me? Because a great deal of the music is about the situations we find ourselves in in everyday life, from oppression, the affairs of the heart, freedom. Reggae music is a reflection of what has happened to a Jamaican society and communities stretching back over 500 years. From the 400 years of enslavement, freedom, then independence from a colonial system in 1962, and further developments.
There are various aspects of the music that reflects the cultural and social world in which the music was born.

Were people surprised to find that you were infact white?

Yeah I’ve had surprise, naturally. Shock yes, without doubt. When I first began broadcasting, 99% of the the listening audience had never seen me they had just heard me on the radio before I had done any live gigs. The majority of them presumed I was a black English person, when they did discover I wasn’t they were obviously shocked and surprised and obviously some people resented it, naturally they would because they felt it was not appropriate for a white man to be playing a black man’s music, we are talking about mid-70’s here.

But the general comment that was said was that “The shows were very good and that I knew about the music and that I cared about the music”, which I do. The flipside was “Oh, hang on...he’s white!” but it was a bit too late because then what they were going to be doing was practising a form of racism...

Tell us about your latest compilation “David Rodigan’s Dubwise Shower”
It is a reflection upon great Dub instrumentals created in Jamaica and more recent dubs created in Europe and in Jamaica. I wanted to join up the dots between Dubstep and Dub from Jamaica and that was the purpose of the compilation, it was to reflect upon the origins of dub music which has had an unquestionable influence in Dubstep music.

What area of the world do you get excited about playing at?
In terms of the world stage, I would say Germany, Italy, Japan, the American coast and Jamaica.

What item can you not live without on tour?
A novel. Usually a Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, asisd Doyle, I like classic novels. I’m currently working my way through an old compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories.

I’ve noticed that in some of your performances you use a Jamaican accent, what is your favourite catchphrase?
I have been very conscious not to attempt to talk in Jamaican when I do public shows because I don't want to appear as though I’m trying to be something I’m not. I am myself, I care about the music, but I don't try to be something that I’m not. I think it is inevitable that there will be the odd occasion when I say things that have a Jamaican lilt, a patois lilt.
I do have a couple of catchphrases that people have identified me with....”Gimme some signal!”, “Action Dino!” is a word for lighter I use in Italy and Italian’s always say to me when they come to my shows.

Do you think being a trained actor helps in your DJ performances/Soundclashes?
Oh yes, I’m sure it did yes.  

Do you act in your performances?
What I do on stage is not acting, I mean occasionally I may act the fool, but that is what is required from an entertainer and I always use humour frequently, especially in clashes to lighten the mood. I’m very enthusiastic about what I do but it is very real, not acting.

Can you can recall a ‘special/memorable moment’ that you had with a reggae artist that you would like to share with us?
I would have to say interviewing Alton Ellis was for me one of the most memorable and special moments in my career because I thought that Ellis was the greatest singer that has ever been put on this planet. He is truly awesome, he has never been given the credit that he has rightly deserved in my opinion. He is a very humble, loving, kind man and I learned a lot from him. I was fortunate enough to become a personal friend of his over the years and I felt very privileged. I learned a lot from him and I would say without exception that Alton Ellis was truly is a magical special moment for me to be able to interview him for the first time back in 1981.