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Culture, Music

Rub a Dub

by Rob Cockcroft / 01.11.2013

We’ve been on 7Ft Soundsystem’s case for ages trying to get him to produce this mix. Well, the badgering has finally worked and today he’s dropped the second instalment of his Honey, I shrunk the dancehall series. Since we’re getting these self-confessed ‘PROcrastinating’ musicians to put out more dope tunes then surely we’re doing something right and we’re taking some of the credit. So stream and enjoy today’s Mahala Friday Mix/ Honey, I shrunk the dancehall Vol. II and find out a little bit more about the man who blessed us with these riddims.

Honey, I shrunk the dancehall VOL. II by 7ftsoundsystem on Mixcloud

MAHALA: Can you tell us a bit about the mix you put together for us today?

7FT SOUNDSYSTEM: Well, I guess it’s a short preview of the stuff I’ve been working on of late, predominantly unreleased tunes that showcase the different sounds I’m playing with that incorporate my love for digital tunes as well as incorporates the more organic tones of traditional dubs.

So how did a Jewish kid from the southern suburbs of Cape Town become a dub master?

My dad hates reggae and my mom is completely tone deaf, bless her soul. I’m like the King Tubby of my congregation… haha. To be honest I’m not exactly sure how to explain my gravitation towards Jamaican music over the years. All I can say is that since I got the reggae fever, it’s been tough for me to listen to anything else.

But in the 90’s I was strictly hip hop and I discovered “reggae” music as any other white suburban would – through the sounds of bands like Sublime and, of course, Mr Marley himself. But as a bass player, I started appreciating instrumental music more and more and eventually I was listening to obscure digital dub records from the early 80’s. It’s been a very natural progression.

You’re staying in Antwerp, Belgium at the moment. How come you made the move there? Has it been a sound decision for your music career?

Well, as much as I love Cape Town, I needed to be surrounded by sound system culture in order to truly understand it and learn from the people and crews that paved the way for me. I thought I knew about soundsystem until I stepped into my first proper reggae dance. You just can’t understand these beats until you’ve heard them in the correct environment on a traditional, highly optimised soundsystem. As far as my career goes, I definitely had to step up my game in a big way. I went from playing to people that had no idea of the refernce points of my music to people that lived and breathed the culture so it definitely helped me to raise the bar.

What’s the digital dub scene like over there compared to Cape Town? I assume there’s a bigger scene there. What’s it like having more ‘competition’ for lack of a better word?

When I started 7FT in’09, there wasn’t really a digital dub scene per say and by the time I left Cape Town I noticed a drastic growth in the sound and people in the city were picking up on the producers and sounds that inspired me. The “competition” thing is actually a blessing. It’s easy being the “best” soundsystem when you’re the only soundsystem. Europe has a deep, rich history with the culture and there are crews that have been living and breathing soundsystem since before I even knew what it was. It’s been quite humbling.

7ft Soundsystem

What are your thoughts on the modern Jamaican scene? Any ambitions to pursue further links with other contemporary Jamaican artists?

I think today, the older the artist the more prestigious the accolade. The golden era of Jamaican music for people like me was the 70’s and 80’s, so linking with artists from that time is truly humbling and very rewarding. I look forward to what I refer to as a rub a dub revival in Jamaica, where we see new, young artists aspiring to capture the tone and energy of the original dancehall days and step away from the “dancehall” mentality. But it’s happening slowly I think.

I wouldn’t go to Jamaica myself until I had hard drives full of very heavy riddims.

It seems a lot of the digital dub stuff is coming from Europe. Are producers pushing the boundaries more in that scene?

Well, Europe has the resources and the external influences, so yes I think producers are pushing the genre forward in a big way. I think since its conception reggae music has been severely affecting producers on a global scale.

Has being based in Europe allowed you to meet and collaborate easier with the kinds of artists you’d like to work with?

Most definitely. Three years ago I was listening to records that inspired my whole sound and now I’m gigging with them and even having the honour of collaborating with and remixing some of my musical role models. The reggae community is very welcoming. If you are making a postive contribution to the culture you will be well received.

How do you see the dub movement in general, is it growing or becoming increasingly niche?

The genre isn’t mainstream enough to inspire that fame and fortune mentality which I like. People make dub music because they genuinely love it, there’s no pot of gold involved. Touring, pressing vinyl and linking with like-minded people is pretty much the vibe. But I think there is a growing understanding of the reference points to the real culture due to producers like Major Lazer and a lot of dubsteppers have converted as well. But the genre remains constant and predominatly unchanged, it doesn’t flucuate like other music “fads” (no diss). A dub listener won’t stop listening to dub after a few years so it’s timeless like that.

Do you play live sets as opposed to DJing your music?

Yeah, I make a point to play live at every show. Plus I’ve never DJ’ed, it’s not my strongest point and tradional dub is always done on the fly so I wanted to pay homage to that style.

7ft Soundsystem

Who are the biggest influences on your sound?

Coming from a hip hop backround I think it still has a strong influence on how I hear music. I love loop based grooves and I think you can hear that in my drums from example. As for other sounds, there are so many names but if I had to name a few: King Jammy, Stand High Patrol, Mungos HIFI, Jahtari, Maffi, Ernest Ranglin, Roots Manuva, I could go on…

What phases and stages did you go through before your sound become what we’re hearing now? How has your style evolved over the years?

Here it is in a nutshell: My first CD was The Simpson’s Sing The Blues, then Monster Hits 3 or something like that. When the grunge thing came about I was deep in that, played guitar, raged against the machine, etc. ’96 was when I discovered hip hop on a trip to New York to visit my cousins. I smoked my first joint and got given a CD single of Puff Daddy’s “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” which led to Busta, Tribe, Wu, stuff like that. And in ‘99 I was introduced to Sublime which was really the catalyst for the reggae seed being planted. From there I went into new roots, dancehall, followed by dub and the love for instrumental music which led to soundsystem culture as I know it today. I like to bring the rawness and melodic vocals of hip hop into the dub sphere. My sound today is just how I want to hear music. I try not to follow any rules which dub allows me to do. If I want to put my kick and bass abnormally loud, I can.

Your debut in 2009 had quite a long list of collabs, from Denver Turner to Zolani Mahola and Indiginus. How did you go about making those connects when you were still quite new?

That’s the “beauty” of Cape Town – everybody knows everybody

You collaborated with Riddim Tuffa from Edinburgh on your latest EP. Tell us about the process of putting it together.

Since the early 7FT days, Riddim Tuffa and I were communicating via the internet and when I moved to Europe they invited me over to Scotland. I spent the weekend there and tasted every beer Scotland had to offer, wrote four tunes and named each tune after the beer we were drinking at the time. The version on the B-side of the vinyl for example is called “Crabbies Riddim” after Crabbies, the alchohlic ginger beer.It was real cool, Shout out to Tuffa crew.

7ft Soundsystem

7FT started as a crew if I’m not mistaken. When did you decide to go the solo route and do you prefer having complete creative control on the beats you put out?

Ha, yeah, I’m a control freak. Honestly I do prefer working on my own, however, when the vibe in the studio is right and you work with the right people, shit is golden!

Tell us about your record label Bombaada. Where is it at now since forming in 2011? Who is involved in it? How do you decide which producers and artists to work with?

Fletcher (African Dope) warned me when I told him I wanted to start a label “DON’T DO IT” he said, followed by “ADMIN ADMIN ADMIN”. Haha wise words in hindsight. There’s nothing like giving a stoner, PROcrastinator more admin to do. However after two years and the launch of a new site, I feel that we are finally getting there. Josiah (co-founder of Cold Turkey event) and I run the label together and have been doing things at our own pace to create a place local producers would be proud to be associated with as well as use our international links to push SA’s sounds. To be honest after one year of being functional it feels like we only starting now. Exciting times.

What’s coming up in the world of 7FT Soundsystem in terms of releases and upcoming gigs?

I’ve got some killer gigs lined up for the end of the year. Unfortunately I can’t give away to much on request of the promoters, but three of the names I mentioned earlier on my biggest influences list are involved. And I’ll be in Glasgow again in Feb to play at Mungos HIFI weekly night Walk n Skank.

Big Up all my Cape Town people who I keep in my mind everyday during my pilgrimage here in Europe. #SApontop. Bless.

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