LargeUp Interview: Orange Hill Talk “Electro Bashy”

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July 6, 2012

LU: How does your broadcast background influence your production?

RK: The experience and the knowledge. You can try and do music without all of that, but I’d rather do it with it.

JT: When you finish a record, whether you keep it or scrap it. That’s where all that experience comes in.

RK: You know whether the tune can run, because you’ve had years of 1. being in a record shop, and 2. selling your own records. You listen to records over the years of people trying to make records and putting them out, so by now I’d really hope that I gained enough knowledge to know a good one from a bad one.

JT: Ras has a really good liking for underground music. More than your average dude. When you say king of homegrown, he wears that crown without even having someone telling him to say “I own that crown.” I think the UK has a lot to thank him for really.

LU: Did you spend much time with your great uncle, King Tubby?

JT: [Until] I was about eight. I think I spent more time with him than I remember about, because it wasn’t always in the studio.

LU: Were there things you picked up from him, as you are an engineer?

JT: I think just being around gave me the interest. I’ve picked up other things in music because of the new world we live in. Back in his time, video making wasn’t a main issue…

RK: Let me tell you this. Jnr. Tubby is a humble guy, so he won’t even tell you… I’ve been in the privileged position to see many people do the thing—I keep coming back to who can do this thing—and I see that the spirit of the king is in the man! If [King Tubby] was the great innovator that inspired and informed a whole portion of black music with the whole build-up-and-drop in music, he’s got the thing fully. I see many people attack this music thing technically and I think he’s the wickedest at the thing. He’s also done a lot of big tunes around the world which have been ghostwritten. We aren’t really meant to mention it, but we just had to mention it. Nuff big tunes out there that man are walking around with have been sold on. He spent a lot of time in America. He was over there when Kanye started G.O.O.D. Music and there weren’t that much involved. Him and Alex Da Kid.

JT: Alex Da Kid used to come and do work in my studio in Hackney. That’s four, five years before Alex Da Kid! I give him super props for what he did.

RK: We can’t really talk about the ting but the ting is big. You know what I mean? Super big! People would be surprised.

JT: Music is not the one thing that I’m gonnna bring. It’s visuals as well. The video that we’ve got is state of the art…the last video to have this kind of thing going on is “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When it first came out, you look at it now and still people can’t do that in England for a cheap price. But we’ve gone higher than that. We’re at the level of 2012 CGI. It’s the same technology they’ve done in Avatar.

RK: He’s talking about the new forthcoming single with Vybz Kartel, called “Pon Time.” Obviously for that video, Vybz Kartel is not around, so we have to get around it, and the way is CGI capture motion technology. It’s the highest pedigree. Super sonic. When that one lands, it’s gonna be nuts. I tell you.

Orange Hill and Mavado. Photo: Ras Kwame

LU: That sounds mad. How did you go about getting the different artists and such?

RK: We did have good links with people who are solid in Jamaica. We have to big up Darius, a good friend of mine who, when we went to Jamaica the first time, hooked us up with people like Chino McGregor and the whole Big Ship family. Then we went again with Jazzwad— reggae music royalty right there. He took us to all the deep places. Mavado spent hours with him at his new building, talking about back in the days and all these things. So we formed our links and hustled man. It’s not easy to get big Jamaican artists to work with you.

JT: They are probably one of the hardest.

RK: They have to really like your ideas, really like you and really like your paper as well. There’s three ways they are looking to like before you can do a project and after that you’ve got Jamaican time as well. They like to take their time. You cannot rush the ting.

JT: It kind of deters people from working but if you can get it working…

RK: It’s definitely the best way, it’s the most exciting vibrant music that we are looking to portray with our influence.

LU: You have Busy Signal, Fatman Scoop and Kano on the single “Wine Di Best”. What would be the like dream collaboration of artists if you had to pick one if you had to pick one US, one Jamaican and one UK and they had to blend. It couldn’t just be the three biggest names. And what kind of song would you go for?

RK: That’s tricky because we do sit down and do these different types of permutations all day. Probably Junior Gong from Jamaica meets say Nas, with someone half in JA like Mavado. Maybe Kano meets Drake meets Vybz Kartel. Oh that’s a gyal tune. Sick gyal tune. That would be hot.

LU: Some people have said there’s a similarity between what you’re doing and Major Lazer…

RK: I’d say there is a similarity there. I can’t deny what Major Lazer have done has definitely been heard and has definitely influenced our take on things. But that’s great because the Major Lazer take isn’t our take on things. We’re doing our thing different. Loving Major Lazer’s work and how they’re increasing the audience. We’re not saying we’re trying to reinvent reggae—that isn’t what we’re about. We’re just loving our reggae influences and bringing it into what we do.

Photo: Ras Kwame

LU: As this is Jamaica’s 50th year of independence, which aspects of current UK music would you say have been influenced by Jamaican music?

RK: Bass. Clearly the love of bass has just traveled in a straight line right from Jamaica to London city and around the UK. I think it carries a heavy spiritual vibe, Orange Hill definitely carries that vibe. It has stuff for the ladies, because we are coming with the heavy electro-bashy vibe, but our album is really and truly about reggae music. You’re going to find artists like Demolition Man and Wayne Wisdom doing cover versions of songs by Eddy Grant and Frontline. There is knowledge and wisdom within it, but primarily it’s a party.

LU: What can British people do to advance the music and culture that Jamaicans can’t currently?

RK: I’d say what Orange Hill are doing. Use the influences of reggae and dancehall, and use your own influences to bring new sounds to the table. Not feel overly beholden to the thing. We love it at it’s core form, but it’s about expressing your own vibe on it. There’s no point in copying it—sprinkle your own flavour to it.

LU: Anything else you’d like to say about Orange Hill?

RK: Basically we’re a soundsystem but we are doing it the other way around. The soundsystem makes music and puts it out and that way the sound becomes popular as opposed to the sound system playing music and then starting to make music and then becoming popular. That’s what we want to do to drive the ship forward. Right now we are in the process of putting together the album. We hope that will be landing in October. It has features from the big guys in the reggae ting: I-Octane, Wayne Marshall, Mr. Lexx, Cecile, RDX, Vybz Kartel, UK-based talents who we like…

We’ve brought all our musical influences to the table. It is a unique sound. It is Electro Bashy. It’s where dancehall meets dance. It is very vibrant and colorful. It is a sound for the ladies but where the ladies go, the man dem follow—that’s the principles of the sound system. We put together the wickedest mixtape to showcase the sound—Electro-Bashy: Welcome to Our Sound—with exclusive dubplates, remixes. You find in a typical song myself or Jnr. Tubby is on the decks hosted by Maxwell D, Doctor, me, Mr.Lexx, Wayne Wisdom, one of these guys. We are trying to build it as a sound system. The idea is that the voices of the record—from a UK perspective, and that being live in the dance around the mic with the riddims playing—that’s like 360 back to the beginning of where the whole ting started.