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A short film on the making of Mark Stewart’s ‘Learning to Cope with Cowardice’ (a DM premiere!)
02.28.2019
01:14 pm
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Mark Stewart and the Maffia live in Kentish Town, 1986 (Photo by Beezer)

Last month, when Mute brought out a double-LP reissue of Mark Stewart’s solo debut from 1983, Learning to Cope with Cowardice, we interviewed the man about the record and its historical, political, and musical context. Now we have a new short film by Charlie Marbles about the making of the album to show you.

If you’ve never heard Learning to Cope with Cowardice, it is a collection of sounds that wraps your nervous system around the spools of a cassette deck, then uses your brain to degauss the tape head and your cerebrospinal fluid to lubricate the capstan: a variegated cut-up of genres, styles, media, times, places, and identities. In the film below, Stewart and producer Adrian Sherwood describe the mixing and editing techniques they used to make this mental work of art, some imported from New York hip-hop and other audio collage forms—Stewart, in particular, credits Teo Macero’s work on On the Corner and William S. Burroughs’ tape experiments as inspiration—and some invented on the spot and probably never yet repeated, such as “scratching” multitrack tapes.

The singer and producer describe Stewart’s desires for unconventional sounds (Sherwood remembers a snare so trebly “it was actually cutting your eyeball off”) and his struggles to get them through the technocracy of the mastering process onto the finished record. Stewart:

I was constantly fighting with engineers about buzzes and hisses and noises, and trying to make helicopter sounds, and then they’d try and change it, they’d try and normalize you. I’m not gonna be fuckin’ normalized!

Learning to Cope with Cowardice plus The Lost Tapes is available on double vinyl (benefiting Mercy Ships) and double CD. Check out Mark Stewart’s new political resistance playlist, too.
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Mark Stewart talks with Dangerous Minds about ‘Learning to Cope with Cowardice’
Dub visionary Adrian Sherwood talks about his legendary career in music

Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.28.2019
01:14 pm
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‘Man Vs. Sofa’: Premiere of new music from Adrian Sherwood & Pinch
02.21.2017
09:03 am
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You could be streaming all of the brand new UK bass album by Sherwood & Pinch, Man Vs. Sofa, at the bottom of this post right now. But instead you’re here, reading this, like a sucker. It’s as if, rather than walking directly through the entrance to a massive party, you paused to listen to a guy in a ratty sweater who was standing by the door shouting about how much fun he had inside.

Sherwood is Adrian Sherwood, the English record producer and dub adventurer I interviewed for DM last summer, during the all-too-brief period when it was possible for me to feel smug about Brexit. The music on his second LP with the Bristol dubstep artist Pinch gets its science-fiction quality by superimposing claustrophobia on a wide-open dub soundscape: it gives you the experiences of contraction and expansion at once, like a spacesuit or a TARDIS.
 

 
However you interpret the title, couch-lock is not the vibe. It’s late-night, clenched-jaw music. You could, perhaps, bathe your mind all day in the jazz chords resonating in Martin Duffy’s piano on “Midnight Mindset,” if they did not hang over beats the press materials describe as “technoid, insectoid and paranoid.”

Sherwood’s longtime collaborator Skip McDonald, who played guitar in the Sugarhill Gang before he joined Mark Stewart’s band and founded Tackhead, is on here. Lee “Scratch” Perry appears on “Lies” to matter-of-factly inform the world’s liars of their damnation, as serenely as a postman delivers a disconnection notice. The London rapper Taz turns up on the last track, “Gun Law.” And is that Buckminster Fuller talking about infinity and self-deprogramming on “Unlearn”?

Of particular interest to the DM reader is the Sherwood & Pinch remake of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s theme from Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, the 1983 film starring David Bowie as a British officer in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, which enters unexplored territory. (My friend from German Army recognized the tune immediately when we were listening to Man Vs. Sofa in his car yesterday.)

Have a listen, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.21.2017
09:03 am
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Dub visionary Adrian Sherwood talks about his legendary career in music
06.30.2016
08:54 am
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The ongoing series of Sherwood at the Controls releases surveys the recording career of Adrian Sherwood, the visionary dub producer and founder of On-U Sound. Volume One, released last year, covers 1979 to 1984, while the brand-new Volume Two takes us from 1985 to 1990.

As these discs demonstrate, Sherwood’s talents were too great to be contained by any genre. During the decade-long period under examination, his work connects everyone from Prince Far I, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and the Slits to Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, and Ministry. (“Al [Jourgensen] would go to the toilet and copy down the studio settings Adrian used for his effects on toilet paper and put them in his trousers,” Revolting Cock Luc Van Acker remembers from the Twitch sessions.) As I mention below, I think On-U must be the only point at which the discographies of Sugar Hill and Crass Records intersect. These comps also contain a sampling of the pathbreaking records Sherwood made with On-U outfits African Head Charge, Tackhead, and Dub Syndicate, which redefined what dub was and could be.

I spoke to Sherwood on June 24, the day after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

Dangerous Minds: I spent yesterday listening to Don’t Call Us Immigrants as I was watching the Brexit votes come in

Adrian Sherwood: [laughs]

—I feel I have to ask you about that. What are your thoughts?

Well, we would like to have stayed. There’s lots of reasons I would stay in Europe, and I’m sad, really. Europe’s done a lot, really, for each other. Apart from keeping a lot of peace and stability, the farming lobby in France and the farming lobby in Italy’s very strong, Germany’s got the biggest Green Party membership in Europe, they’re very advanced in renewable energy, and the farming lobby makes sure that we’re not victim of any of the terrible things that happen in the States with the poisoning of the food chain. So they’re very, very good; they ensure the standard of organic food, et cetera et cetera, and they also fight for workers’ rights. So I could go on and on about it, but I firmly would have liked to have seen a strong EU that we were part of.

You know, if they’re worried about immigration, they could have a united policy, but it was all panic, panic, panic, and to be honest with you, it was more like the ignorant masses that wanted to get out, thinking “Oh, let’s stop immigration,” but there’s no such thing as an indigenous English person. Every last person in this country is of an immigrant extraction. Everybody.
 

Lee Perry and Adrian Sherwood, photographed by Kishi Yamamoto
 
I wonder if I could go back to the beginning of your career. What was the relationship like between the Jamaican roots artists and the UK scene? It seems like you were in a special position to observe their interaction. Was that a competitive relationship?

No, not in the least. It was very hard for the English artists to get credibility, because everybody was looking to Jamaica, as though there’s the great thing, like the British bands always looking to the great American bands. The situation was always the exciting new star coming from Jamaica, and everybody really wanted to see him or her—mainly males, but a lot of female artists as well—and people didn’t think they could get the sound. So it took quite a long time for the English… you know, that album Don’t Call Us Immigrants, it’s interesting that you mention that, ‘cause I’m proud of that album. But that reflected the development of the English reggae sound.

We developed a sound of our own in England, with bands like Steel Pulse and Aswad and Creation Rebel, et cetera, and, you know, Black Slate, Dennis Bovell, obviously, and then eventually the lovers rock scene and our own dub scene. But Jamaica led the way, so everybody in England was like “Oh wow, here’s the new hip hero coming from Jamaica.” It wasn’t really like competing as such, it was more “Bring on the new star,” really, and everyone in England was keen to see the new star. And a few of the really good bands in England got to back the stars, like Aswad did one of the most famous ever gigs backing a young Burning Spear in ‘76 or ‘77 or something.

Since you mentioned Creation Rebel, can you tell me a bit about Prince Far I? I’ve listened to a lot of Prince Far I but I have almost no sense of what he was like as a person.

Far I was a bit of a joker. He would stand on the table and do Elvis Presley impersonations. He had a very mad sense of humor. But his background was quite serious. He was friends with Claudie Massop who was a political gunman, and he himself had been like a security man at Joe Gibbs’ studio, the doorman. He’d worked on a bauxite factory, producing aluminum, where Claudie Massop was the foreman, and because of the politics, he was like a “big friend,” as Joe Higgs said, like a big friend to Far I. But Far I was a character, quite a complex character as well. He looked much older and seemed much older than he actually was.

Did he seem like a wise person? Was that part of it?

Yeah, he definitely had a lot of depth to him, was interested in things and read quite a bit. But he was a joker and a character, and I remember him being full of jokes and fun and stuff. Although he had a darker side as well, which was more one of feeling that people were working voodoo on him, y’know, things like that. So there was kind of a strange underbelly there as well.

From the little I know, it seems like the reality was pretty heavy for a lot of those guys. Tapper Zukie was involved in some violence… it seems like that was just part of life for a lot of those guys.

Well, I knew Tapper Zukie from that period. My friend, Clem Bushay, he lives about 200 meters from me; he actually produced the Man Ah Warrior album.

No way.

Yeah, the producer lives on the same road as I’m speaking to you from now. I knew Tapper Zukie for a long time.

They were all affiliated with politics, that was the thing. And in the seventies, in Jamaica, obviously, the CIA were moving in, trying to destabilize the country, because they didn’t want them to slip towards the Cuban model and affiliate with Russia, and have another Russian ally so close to the United States. So a lot of arms were put in to Seaga, who was affiliated with the Americans, where Manley wanted to stay with the Cubans and work more to a socialist state. That’s why there’s so many arms and, to this day, so much trouble for Jamaica.

It was a crazy election—I think it was ‘76—and I was eighteen at the time, and Far I was with us in England. It was mad. Phoning home and, you know, ten, 20 people shot a day in the political violence. And Far I obviously was close with Claudie Massop, who was one of the main enforcers, like his father Jack Massop had been. But we met a lot of those gunmen: Take Life[?], Bucky Marshall, Tapper Zukie, Horsie—not Horsemouth Wallace, another one called Horsie. Were some quite dark characters, really, but if you met them, you’d have thought they were really charming. But then what they actually got up to was a whole different thing.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.30.2016
08:54 am
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On-U Sound presents a previously unreleased Adrian Sherwood dub track: A DM premiere
06.02.2016
12:12 pm
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Adrian Sherwood c. 1987
 
Legendary English dub producer Adrian Sherwood and his On-U Sound label are getting ready to release the second volume of the career-spanning Sherwood at the Controls compilation. Devoid of filler, both of these beauties are “no duh” purchases for the discerning consumer: you get Sherwood’s masterful manipulations of time and space and a sampling of some of the most interesting underground musicians from the time period under examination.

The new disc, covering 1985 to 1990, collects Sherwood’s remixes of and collaborations with—among others—Mark Stewart of the Pop Group, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Flux (formerly Flux of Pink Indians), Tackhead, KMFDM, Ministry, the Beatnigs, and—On-U’s psychedelic dub outfit whose records are always blaring in my office—African Head Charge. (Volume One, released last year, covered 1979 to 1984 with tracks from Prince Far I, the Fall, the Slits, Annie Anxiety, Shriekback et al.)
 

 
As a taste of the delights that await you on Volume Two, we’ve got an unreleased dub of Bim Sherman’s “Haunting Ground.” Sherman, an early member of the On-U Sound crew, lent his otherworldly voice to records by New Age Steppers, Dub Syndicate, and Jah Wobble. Tessa Pollitt of the Slits credits him as an inspiration:

...I loved what he was doing with Adrian Sherwood. I used to listen to him again and again and again. Tracks like “My Whole World,” “Love Forever” and “Revolution/World Of Dispensation”: I listened to the purity of that music all the time, or more specifically, what attracted me was the purity which was so evident in Bim Sherman’s voice.



Adrian Sherwood and Bim Sherman
 
And here are Sherwood’s notes on the track from the liners of Volume Two:

Bim had started his Century label and had a house a few hundred yards from Southern Studios, near the police station in Wood Green. I originally recorded this for On-U Sound but gave him the vocal to use on his album. That’s Style Scott on drums, and I’m fairly sure it’s Crucial Tony on guitar.

More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.02.2016
12:12 pm
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100 mins of Adrian Sherwood’s best dub productions
05.09.2012
09:11 pm
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Dub fans and post-punks take note: Glasgow’s Optimo dj team/production unit have just put out another of their excellent podcasts, and this time it’s a whole hundred minutes of the best and most spaced out dub productions by Adrian Sherwood.

According to JD Twitch, who compiled the mix and skillfully blended the tracks together, it “covers music from the years 1979 - 88 and focuses on Adrian Sherwood’s dubwise productions, most of which were released on his ON U Sound label.”

Twitch also interviewed Sherwood after a recent gig in Glasgow, and the dub maestro talks at length about his introduction to reggae and dub music, and to djing, production and running labels:

How old were you when you were working for and running labels, Carib Gems and Hit Run?

I used to go to a reggae club in the town where I lived called the Newlands Club or the Twilight Club. I think Dave Rodigan did his first ever gig there. I was DJing there when I was really young. The owner of the club, a Jamaican guy, was like my dad. He looked after me. My dad had died when I was very young and I had a step-dad but I wasn’t close to him so this guy took me under his wing and I started DJing in there when I was at school, on Saturday afternoons… Then eventually Sunday afternoons and then moved up to doing the early evening stints. I worked there with Emperor Rosco a couple of times and lots of other Radio 1 DJs and Judge Dread, who came down and did a PA in the club. I used to play early evenings before the sound systems. It had been a funk a soul club… Then in around 72 or 73 or something, it was a really, really hot summer and no-one was going to the club for months. The only people going were the reggae fans. It suddenly just turned into this reggae club whereas it had been a lot of soul drinkers prior to 72 or 73… So it went from a group of people who drank a lot and listened to soul to a group of reggae fans who would only want to drink one beer and smoke lots of weed. So it was only a matter of time before the club went bust. I was doing it from the age of 13 – 15, then the club went under. I had became good friends with the owner and his wife so when the club went under the owner, who had previously ran Pama Records, restarted the label and I got a little job doing promotions for them. Then we started our own distribution company out of the Pama office. That pre-dates Jet Star, Jet Star started after we had left. They basically copied the model we had created.

Do you think any of the music on your early labels will ever get re-issued?

There was a bootleg a couple of years ago of a Carol Kalphat record. That was a fucking character! I had to send a message asking not to bootleg any more of my tunes. The real problem with releasing that stuff is that if I start re-issuing it begins to bring people out of the woodwork which isn’t always worth it. I think it’s actually better that they are there and available as collector’s items and that’s it.

If you are new to Sherwood and ON U Sound, then that interview (on the Racket Racket site) is a good place to start, as is this mix. Even if you’re not it’s well worth checking out: just over 100 minutes of non-stop, heavy, psychedelic dub, the perfect soundtrack to an evening in relaxing. Or tripping out.

As usual, Optimo have withheld the tracklist, and have promised to follow up this podcast with another focusing on Sherwood’s more dance-based productions from the late 80s and the 90s. That will be called part one, and here, confusingly, is part two:
 

   Optimo Podcast 12 - Adrian Sherwood On U Sound mix part 2 (dub) by JD Twitch
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Don’t call it ambient: Optimo Fact 214 Mix

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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05.09.2012
09:11 pm
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Adrian Sherwood keeping the fires burning: 30 years of On-U Sound
12.20.2010
02:41 am
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After 30 years of pioneering the UK dub scene, with forays into industrial music, and collaborating with artists like the eternally youthful Lee “Scratch” Perry and Skip McDonald, producer and founder of On-U Sound records, Adrian Sherwood, shows no signs of losing his passion. The man is still on a mission to reggaefy the planet.

To mark the label’s 30th anniversary in 2011, we will be reissuing a number of classic On-U Sound albums, a selection of new releases, renewed live activity and the release of an extensive box-set. The year of celebration begins in early March with the release of a new African Head Charge album and 3 classic reissues – New Age Steppers debut, Creation Rebel’s highly influential Starship Africa and African Head Charge’s hard-to-find Off The Beaten Track.

The plan will then be to release further new albums and classic reissues throughout 2011. The new releases planned include a collection of contemporary remixes of Lee Perry’s On-U Sound output, the long-awaited On-U produced Little Axe album and a New Age Steppers long-player – their first since Foundation Steppers in 1983 – featuring vocal contributions from the late Ari Up and Mark Stewart amongst others. Details of further new releases will be announced shortly.

Amongst the classic reissues are albums from some of the label’s most acclaimed artists including Lee Perry, Dub Syndicate, Bim Sherman, Tackhead, Little Annie and Singers & Players. There are also plans for a deluxe box-set which will include extensive sleeve-notes from Adrian Sherwood, rare and un-released tracks from the archive, a collection of classic tracks and a selection of some of Adrian’s finest remixes.

In this interview with Zwarte Jas, Adrian discusses his upcoming projects and the reggae/punk/rap connection and its political relevance in Britain.

The brief clips of Lee Perry performing demand to be seen in full. So far, I’m coming up snake eyes.
 

 
Via Tackhead

 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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12.20.2010
02:41 am
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