Hey James, how are you and the Reggae Roast gang and what have you been getting up to?
We’ve been busy getting everything ready for the release of our new album. We are releasing it 100% independently through our own label Reggae Roast Records, so there's been plenty to do! It's hard to imagine how much work goes into releasing an album behind the scenes, we are very proud of the album though so it will be great to see it finally released into the world.
So your new album, ‘More Fire!’. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your new album?
We are fortunate enough to have been able to work with some incredible artists over the years, through our events, touring and through our imprint Reggae Roast Records. We wanted the album to be a celebration of the talent that exists within our tight-knit scene we are a part of. We wanted to bring to gather as much talent as we could onto one record (which is why each track features a different artist) whilst tying the sound of the record together with our production style which blends classic retro sounds of yesteryear with new production techniques.
Reggae has so many off-shoots from Roots & Dancehall to more UK-centric developments such as Jungle & Dubstep, which coming from London have also influenced us. We wanted our experience as London-based Reggae enthusiasts to come across on the record whilst staying true to the music we love. We want the album to take people on a journey through these different musical styles, introducing contemporary sounds and production styles, whilst retaining that authentic Reggae sound. Hopefully, there's something for all kinds of music lovers on this album from the more rootsy tracks such as ‘Let's Live In Love’ with Horace Andy, through to more Dancehally tracks such as 'My Selecta' and ‘Portfolio' (with Gappy Ranks & Mr Williamz) through to tracks that are more contemporary such as ‘Blood & Fire Medley’, ’Smoke All Night’ & ‘Go Take A Hit' which have influences of Jungle, Dancehall and Dubstep whilst still keeping an authentic Reggae vibe.
How has your sound evolved since your last album?
Our last album was definitely more of a digital dancehall style, heavily influenced from 80’s Reggae. Many of the artists from our first album ’Turn Up The Heat’ are more dancehall artists such as Daddy Freddy, General Levy, Mr Williamz & Brother Culture. I feel that this style of artist works well with more contemporary production styles and synthetic sounds.
We wanted the new LP to be more diverse in musical style and working with artists such as Horace Andy, Earl 16 and Donovan Kingjay gave us the opportunity to explore different production styles. As a result, we used a lot more live instrumentation on our new LP ‘More Fire’. We used more live guitar, piano and horns in some of our new productions which give a more rootsy vibe to the music. Other tracks are more digital and lean towards a more dancehall style.
We were fortunate enough to start working with Adriano Rossetti, the sax player from UB40, who's just incredible and adds a real vibe to the music. He features on tracks such as 'Let's Live In Love', 'Crazy Baldhead' and 'Blood & Fire Medley’. We also used quite a few classic samples on the new album on tracks such as 'Blood & Fire Medley’, ‘My Selecta’ & 'Go Take a Hit’. Using samples of classic tracks gives a really retro sound to the records which I love, but we try and counterbalance this with more contemporary sounds, whether it's programmed drums or synth baselines and leads. We wanted to create a contemporary-sounding record that still pays homage to the classic sounds of yesteryear and brings those different elements together in a coherent way that gels together.
Can you talk us through your creative process when making this album?
I have a production partner, Matt Lane AKA Interrupt, for producing all the Reggae Roast music. He’s both an incredible producer in a technical sense as well as an awesome musician. Also, he’s just a lovely human being so it's great having him as a vital member of the team and we’ve been working together for about 6 years now (we also made the first album ‘Turn Up The Heat’ together). Sometimes I'll start an idea at home and get a vibe going and bring it to Matt to work on. Sometimes he does the same. But usually, we work on the productions together in the same room. There's more of a vibe that way and we can discuss creative ideas as they arise. We usually get an idea of a riddim to a point where it's sounding good before thinking about which artists would be good to work with on the track. Generally, we send the artist the riddim to write to and once they have something they are happy with, we get them around to record the vocals. Once we have the vocals we often go back and add some new elements and rearrange the track to get it working together. Then Matt goes in on the mix and mastering. He has an incredible ability to get a track sounding complete with a phat sound so I'm really happy to have him involved.
Which song on the album are you most excited for your fans to hear and why?
Ah, that's a tricky question haha. On a personal level, it was a high honour to be able to work with Horace Andy on ‘Lets Live In Love’. I love that track and Sleepy is one of my all-time favourite artists. I've been listening to his music since I was a kid so it's amazing to have such a legend on the LP. Same with Johnny Clarke who for me is one of the key foundation artists from Jamaica. I really like the Gappy Ranks track 'My Selecta’ and like how it uses a classic sample from the track ‘Midnight Hour’ by the Silvertones. I like how the track combines the classic sound of yesteryear with Gappy contemporary dancehall style of chatting. I also love the more uptempo ‘Blood & Fire Medley’ with two of Reggae Roast very own front men Natty Campbell and Horseman’ Again it uses its classic sample from the track Blood & Fire’ By Niney The Observer, which we’ve turned into a drum and bass dancefloor filler. I just really like the summery feel-good vibes of the record and Natty Campbell and Horseman’s flows really complement each other and bring new life into a surefire classic.
You have some great artists featured on the album. How did you go about getting these featured artists on the album?
As I mentioned earlier through working within the scene for many years over time I've had the privilege of working with many great artists, whether through organising festivals stages, our own events or releasing music through the label. I’ve worked with Culture Promotions for many years who manage artists such as Jah Shaka (who sadly recently passed), Horace Andy and Johnny Clarke so they helped me secure the foundation Jamaican artists on the record. I booked Horace for a festival appearance on stage I was managing a couple of years ago so we had already met, which made things a lot easier, as they already know me and are familiar with our work. All the other artists on the record I know personally through working within the Reggae community for many years. As I said previously, I wanted to record to be a celebration of the talent that I see through my work week in week out and somehow create a record that ties all those different musical styles together on one coherent record, so I hope that comes across with the LP
What do you hope your fans take away from listening to this album?
I wanted the album to reflect the different musical styles within Reggae, and also to showcase the talent that exists within the UK scene right now. I hope the album will take listeners on a joyful musical journey through the ages touching on elements of Rocksteady and Roots, through to Dancehall, Jungle and Dubstep whilst still maintaining a coherent sound and vibe. There is an array of world-famous reggae stars on the record (such as Horace, Johnny Clarke, Mr Williamz & Gappy Ranks) alongside some newer artists such as Natty Campbell and Charlie P. I feel that the British Reggae scene often gets overlooked by the mainstream media, so I hope people hearing this for the first time will like what they hear and want to explore the UK Reggae scene more deeply. Mainly we just want people to listen to the record and feel uplifted and joyful as there are a lot of positive messages within the music. There is a lot of negativity in the world right now and I hope people feel upliftment from the record.
What’s next for Reggae Roast after the release of this album?
We have a busy summer of shows ahead for the album tour supporting UB40 at some incredible venues as well as some great Festivals including Reggae Land, Brighton Reggae Festival (with the sound system) and an 11-hour Reggae Roast Takeover at Secret Garden Party.
Musically we are keen to start pushing the boundaries a bit more with our productions incorporating elements of UK bass music within our music (so more DnB & Dubstep elements with our music) but still retaining that Reggae vibes that were synonymous with. We are collaborating with Jungle Cakes (Ed Solo and Deekline) on a Reggae Roast Jungle Remix album (remixing some of our best tunes in a Junglist styleee) which we will start releasing later this year. We also have a Dub Album that's nearly finished and will be releasing that in the near future. We also want to do an album working more closely with our Reggae Roast Front men Horseman, Natty Campbell and Donovan Kingjay, shining a spotlight on them. They are incredible talents in their own right. We have been working hard producing the new ‘More Fire!’ Album and then releasing it (which is a huge amount of work behind the scenes) so we are really looking forward to getting the record out and being able to start work on some fresh projects.
More Fire!’ will be released on the 2nd of June