We’ve lost count of the number of times Shy FX has played Edinburgh, not to mention the Bongo. One of the original ruffneck, Ragga Jungle pioneers from the Nineties, he bulldozed into the public eye with stone cold classic anthem Original Nuttah, scoring his first UK Top 40 hit in the process, alongside equally legendary MC and ruffneck vocalist UK Apache, back in 1994. [There have been a fair few more since, not least his massive collaboration with T Power and soul/r n b vocalist Di, Shake Ur Body, in 2001.]
His light speed riddims married with rude boy rhymes create a unique sound that Edinburgh, and especially the Bongo, loves and he’s somehow managed to maintain his edge throughout a career spanning more than 25 years. Oh yes, we’re set for a proper scorcher tonight!
Check out the great interview/feature (from last year) below, courtesy of Skiddle’s Marko Kutlesa, where Shy talks about his many productions, recording style and reggae soundsystem culture.
Though he often wears a cap, perhaps in part to hide the hair he’s lost, I still wouldn’t like to guess the age of Andre Williams, aka Shy FX. Though he’s been consistently releasing music since his 1993 debut, barely a sign of ageing registers on his face and his voice, quite softly spoken, gracious and impeccably polite, sounds like that of a man in his late teens or early twenties.
However this is not a man whose appearance alone defies his years. Throughout his two decade plus career he has managed to produce music that sounds so fresh that, while maintaining a consistent fan-base, has also managed to appeal directly to the youngest ravers amongst us.
Brought up around reggae soundsystem culture (his grandfather was famed 1970s London DJ, record label owner and soundsystem chief Count Shelly), Shy FX’s first forays into music production were in the reggae indebted spheres of jungle. He scored a huge hit right at the start of his career with 1994’s ‘Original Nuttah’.
He established a trend for collaboration thereafter and has most closely been linked with studio partner T Power with whom he released two albums, 2002’s Set It Off and 2005’s Diary Of A Digital Soundboy, the former containing top ten UK chart hit ‘Shake Ur Body’, the latter released on Shy FX’s own label Digital Soundboy (which has also released music by Breakage, Calibre, B Traits, Zed Bias, Skream, Benga and Caspa).
Shy FX has since collaborated with and produced music for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Plan B, Yasmin, Naughty Boy, Wiley and Emeli Sandé plus Kano, Donae’o and Roses Gabor and re-emerges in 2017 with amazing new single ‘We Just Don’t Care’, which displays a wildly different music approach to previous offerings. You can’t, however, say that it’s a comeback, because Shy FX has never been away and you can’t call it a reinvention, because he’s made different musics throughout his career.
I really like the new single ‘We Just Don’t Care’. Where was the video filmed and what was the idea behind it?
Thanks! The video was shot in South Africa. I’m a fan of Craig (Moore), the director and I just wanted to get a high energy dance video that wasn’t, well… you know you can get some videos like that which can be kind of cheesy? I wanted something that was visually pleasing but still had a sense of urgency and was still pretty gritty, but polished at the same time. I know that sounds like a really mad description, but I definitely think it caught the vibe of the tune.
Is the other music you’re currently working on in a similar vein to ‘We Just Don’t Care’?
Yes and no. Everything’s completely different. Before playing ‘We Just Don’t Care’ to people I found it really difficult to describe. A tune at 128 bpm that sounds like me, quite tribal, that’s the closest I could get. Everything else, again, there’s a mixture of loads of different things thrown into the pot. Again, it sounds like me, but you just can’t quite put your finger on what it is or put it into a genre.
I suppose no is the easiest answer [laughs], because the next tune is at a different tempo and has a completely different vibe. It still doesn’t sound like anything else.
Is this single the precursor to an album?
Not so much. It’s just me getting loads of music out there. I think next year I’ll try and focus on putting an album out, but right now it’s about getting different styles and vibes out there.
I ask because, although you’ve been quite prolific as a producer, you’ve not really been that prolific in making albums (you had your debut and the two albums you did with T Power). Why is that?
I just think it’s important for you to have something to say when you do an album. I set up Digital Soundboy as well and along with all the touring and stuff… to sit down and think this is what I want to do and this is what I want to put out as a body of work, I take that seriously.
I think now is the time for me to do that. I had my head in the Digital Soundboy thing and in helping other people with production with their stuff and everything else that comes with being involved with running a label, other acts, but I’ve now put that aside and I’m fully focused on my own stuff.
What happened to the material you were putting together for the album that had the working title Cornerstone/Larger Than Life about 5 years ago? Did that material come out?
[Laughs] No, it didn’t, but it’s going to. With that project it was straight up reggae, but I always find that, when you do projects, people expect, for the rest of the year at least, for you to tour that and that kind of defines you for a period. And although I really love reggae I didn’t want to do a whole campaign around it, which is what would’ve been expected. But there’s over an album’s worth of music for that project which will come out as EPs. That way I can do it as an ongoing thing.
I didn’t want it to be like, “Here’s my reggae album and that’s that” because I’m always going to make it. I think ‘Cornerstone Vol 1’ and ‘Cornerstone Vol 2’ is going to work much better. That way I can keep it moving.
When the music you’re recording changes style should people expect the music you play as a DJ to also change?
Anyone that’s seen or heard me play knows that it’s very eclectic. It’s not so eclectic that it’s bordering on wedding DJ, the dots always join. And what I make is generally what I play in my set, but what I play in my set is also what I’m making, if that makes sense? It’s just what I’m feeling like at the time, what am I trying to say, let me make it, let me play it. I don’t really think any deeper than that. I’m fortunate enough to be able to make whatever’s in my head, whatever I’m vibing with, so that’s what I go with.
I just had this conversation with someone recently and I just think it’s nuts when you walk into a studio with a blank canvas, you don’t know what’s going to happen and a few hours later you’ve got something new in the universe. That’s so mad. For people to stick to one particular thing, I just don’t get it. There are so many different vibes you can put out into the world, I never know which one it’s going to be.
Which DJs that operate outside of drum ‘n’ bass music do you enjoy listening to?
Oh, wow. Right now, today, the answer would be someone like Benji B. Still Gilles Peterson, as well. They seem to catch my vibe, you never really know what you’re going to hear when you listen to those guys. It’s always a bit of an education, but you always hear grooves, music that touches your soul, when you listen to those guys. So, right now Benji and Gilles, but tomorrow that changes. There’s so many.
What do you see as being the similarities, if there are any, between ‘Original Nuttah’, ‘Shake Ur Body’ and ‘We Just Don’t Care’?
Woah! Erm… I think with all those three tracks I definitely went in the studio in I-don’t-give-a-shit mode. It literally was just sitting down making music until I was jumping up and down. I can’t say tempo, that’s for sure. It’s just touching on groove and mixing loads of elements together, which is what I generally do, I guess. With ‘We Just Don’t Care’ I think the closest thing I’ve done to that is ‘Bambaata’ in terms of it being tribal and the bass, the cinematic feel as well. But I don’t know if I can join those three. Can you?
I think you can join the dots between ‘Original Nuttah’ and ‘Shake Ur Body’. And I think you can join the dots between ‘Shake Ur Body’ and ‘We Just Don’t Care’, so yes. Not in the tempos maybe, not in the rhythms, but maybe in the vibe, maybe in the excitement of the music, yes. For me, they all sound like you.
Yeah, I think there’s a sense of urgency in there. Definitely the vocal, harmony wise, between ‘Shake Ur Body’ and ‘We Just Don’t Care’, you can join those dots. But generally I’d have to pass on that question, ha! I couldn’t tell you mate.
On the cover of the Simple Tings EP you’re pictured with your dog. Do you still keep a dog?
No, not anymore unfortunately. That was a Great Dane. Nobody’s ever asked me that question before, ha!
My mate, Shane Loughlin, used to work in a big secondhand record store in Manchester, Vinyl Exchange, and he was in charge of the drum ‘n’ bass. They had that record on display and he’d stuck a speech bubble above your head and wrote “I’m Shy FX and I love my dog” on the cover, so I never forget that sleeve.
Ahahahahahaha. Oh, wow. And that’s when I had hair as well. I had hair and I didn’t wear a cap.
T Power, your old production partner, is quoted as saying the reason he made his 1995 debut album in a more experimental drum ‘n’ bass style was he wanted to get away from a lot of the politics that were around jungle music at the time. Did you ever experience those politics and how did they affect you?
Yeah, every day, but just like now I don’t really care, I just get it done and keep it moving. I think that’s the only thing you can do. People come, people go, opinions are like arseholes etc.
At the time, when I was younger, there was loads of different camps and everyone was trying to fight for space, everyone was talking about what you should and shouldn’t do. Whenever that happens it just makes me fall into my own space and just make music, kind of like giving a middle finger up. I never really get involved in all of that. I just do what feel is right.
What, for you, are the parallels between reggae soundsystem culture and jungle/drum ‘n’ bass culture?
From basic stuff like rewinds to dubplate culture?
Whichever way you want to take the question…
[Laughs] OK, cool. Well a lot of us came from the reggae culture so I suppose we brought a lot of that vibe with; the way we played and selected music, the rewinds.
In fact, it’s pretty strange now where a lot of the younger guys who haven’t grown up on that culture and maybe not on the grime culture either, they just don’t understand the idea that when you get a tune that’s so sick, you rewind it and play it again from the beginning. They look at you like “What. Are. You. Doing?” I think they get it more now, but playing dubplates with your name on as well, they can sometimes be like “We know who you are. Why have you got your name on every track? What’s that about?”
The bass, the sense of community as well, particularly with the early jungle scene, not so much with drum ‘n’ bass. Yeah, I think because a lot of us came from there we just brought it into what we were doing.
In your own words, can you define what kind of unique voice the world of drum ‘n’ bass has lost with the sad passing of Marcus Intalex?
Oh, man… Can I think about that and maybe e-mail you an answer? I don’t just want to say something and not get it right, it just means too much.
[Unfortunately Shy FX’s incredibly busy schedule and perhaps the obvious sadness he displayed meant that no addition to this answer was sent]
Did your paths cross much? Did you see him regularly?
Not so much over the last couple of years. It was a couple of years ago I last saw him, at the Soul In Motion night. We were just vibing and, as always, talking about music and technical stuff, plug ins.
Which of his releases have you most frequently played when DJing out?
Probably ‘Lover’ by M.I.S.T. And the ‘I Like It’ remix which goes way back to 1995. When he did that I did ‘This Style’. It was the same kind of vibe. He definitely influenced me in making that. Obviously I play a lot of his stuff, but those are the two that stick in my set.
Headset tickets have been flying out the door since the event was announced in November and there are only fifty remaining tickets to be had now (4.30pm, 29.12.17), so don’t hang around if you’re keen to come to the Bongo for NYE.
The event features headliner Hodge (from Bristol) plus local star Telfort, with a veritable smorgasbord of local DJ support.
In short, this will be another great Hogmanay party at the Bongo, with everyone welcome!
Jamaican dancehall star and MOBO winner Gyptian makes his Bongo live debut this coming Monday, playing a rare Scottish date as part of a UK tour to promote his new single and we’re stoked to welcome him to the Bongo, which has been supporting reggae music since the venue first opened (in 1996).
This will be a very intimate show for an artist with his profile. Not to be missed!
Here’s an interview with the man from 2013, courtesy of guestlist.net, who published it:
‘UK’s my n*1 family’
You’re rastafarian, your father was rastafarian and your mother was a Seventh-day Adventist, how did that play out for you as a child?
You know, Jamaican people really care about certain things, which aren’t really a priority to us. The father would stay at home and the mother would go at church. Sometimes she’d come home shaking. She used to attend a revival church, it was frightening and traumatising, *imitating intensive breathing*. You know, the Rastafarian, he does what he wants to do, all he has to do is show peace and love and shall unite people. For me, as Rastafarian, no disrespect to Christianity, but it’s hypocrisy, right there.
I heard you were forced to do music when you were young, what does that mean?
First, Gyptian is very shy. Singing professionally wasn’t my thing. The vibes at the studio weren’t great. Then I got exposure on the TV stations. So I just made use of those and I realised there was something really good happening, people liked my songs. So here I am.
So, what can we expect from your show?
The shows are packed and the people are screaming, as usual, they love this Gyptian wine. As usual. I make the ladies’ bodies feel nice, go home make love to their boyfriend, make love to your wife, whatever. Gyptian please you tonight with music, naturally so. You never know if it’s going to outbreak tonight because different crowd, different feel, different performance. Just freestyle as it goes.
You have a reputation of an incredible artist because of your mix of RNB and Reggae with 8 million views on YouTube. Some classify you as a crossover artist, how do you feel about that?
Crossover whatever, I make it in the market, so pretty much a crossover. It’s all about me, showing the world of reggae, as a reggae artist, it’s not dead. Because that’s what I hear everybody saying: How do you feel about reggae this and reggae that? Reggae will never die because when I die there will still be people listening to reggae. The only way it can die is if they get rid of it in Jamaica, music and politics, I’ve seen, I’ve been all over the world. A lot of people are trying to push reggae aside and just stick to what they have. Come on people! Move on!
A lot of mainstream reggae stations are getting rid of their reggae DJs/shows. People are talking about a conspiracy against reggae and dancehall. How do you view that yourself?
Reggae roots shall weigh more than this. Because the spread of reggae was a real all and all task for Bob then to complete. If you have a strong mind, like Bob, you can do it. This is the people’s heritage, this is part of the heritage, part of the love, part of the thing. I think they should all just let it be, because it’s music. All these people trying to criticise and degrade reggae music. Reggae probably does more for them than many with their music. Because what reggae does for people, really, puts you in touch with answers, you see yourself, you can get meditation vibes. We can’t stop man from being man. And I think that is one of our biggest problems in Jamaica. That’s one of the main things that drives the music, because people think we are degrading them which we are not, because we don’t really know what it would lead to if we said what we really have to say. They should leave us alone, give us a break. For me, as an artist, I just try my best to sing a song that has no politics in it. My songs are all about joy and real time, not serious time. Going for the fundamental spirit of the music, without fighting with the politics. I feel like the people that are picking on the reggae artists should just leave us alone. Music is music. No matter how much you try to stop reggae music, you’re only gonna make it bigger.
The mixtape, sex, love, reggae, is out in October (2013). You have real mixes of tunes, ‘Serious times’ and ‘Mama’, and some covers, Gregory Isaacs ‘Number One’ and Cindy Lauper’s ‘True Colours’. There’s a freestyle with Snoop Lion, big combination, what’s the history behind that?
It was big vibes, because, you know, it was Snoop Lion, originally Snoop Dogg. We grew up watching him on TV. I was singing at the radio station and I was told that Snoop was going to be there. I heard that I was suppose to freestyle with Snoop. I was in the corner, it was his moment, so I was just chilling there just thinking. And then I freestyled, and people loved it, you know.
You’ve got some old tunes, remix of riddims, everything is there, it’s nice. A nice mixtape. Your current single, Vixen, featuring Angela Hunte, tell me about the track.
For her to get the chance to work with me and me with her, was just like a magnificent aim from the beginning. So, pretty much, we went in the studio working from time to time. It was a new experience and a new environment around the music. Pretty much, because she came from Jamaica just for a visit, so there was a good vibe of love. Love and respect and everything else. I really appreciated it, big up to Angela Hunte.
You ride a horse in the music video
I’d ridden a donkey, not a horse. I had this big gigantic horse. I was like: ‘Is this really necessary?’. I thought that was the interesting part. After that shoot they had this snake in a cage. I went to the cage that was standing there until someone came up and told me it was a snake. The snake is in a box, it’s not like it’s coming out. ‘It’s not venomous’. They didn’t tell me I was going to put a snake around my neck. I was like ‘Rascassa, no’. ‘Gyptian’s snake is not venomous’, no snake, the horse-riding was enough. We did one extreme part let’s stick to that. It was nice and everybody enjoyed themselves.
The way you move is fantastic.
You move like, some girls like it in some way. We all know this. You have to read the mind, you have to read the eyes, the body language and all these things. Because first, you have to know a women can take one glimpse at a man if she wants to. While we men, think our face is pretty and at the same time we wanna have a back stare, a back look when she passes. You’ve got 10 men in a room and everyone want this one girl, do you know who she wants? The one that isn’t giving her attention. That’s the man she’ll really want. You wonder why? Is it that he is not paying attention to her? I’ll be the one like, she’s staring, I’ll be drinking or I’ll be doing something different until she comes over. This is why, then we come and ask me. Pretty much, it speaks for itself.
When is a full studio album coming out?
20th of this month. You’ll get the sound that you need. I don’t know what else to say.
It’s black history month this month, any special message, especially to the black community?
Pretty much, we black people have come from far far away. We haven’t been paid for all the work we put in. I guess we are not gonna get any consultation. But at the same time this is our month, so listen, black with power, power with the people. Mad love, mad life, mad respect and everything. When I say mad I mean good.
Loco Kamanchi welcomes veteran UK MC/producer Congo Natty (aka Rebel MC) featuring Congo Dubz & Iron Dread on 25th.
Scoring a slew of crossover hits between 1989 and 1992 (Just Keep Rockin’ and Street Tuff with Double Trouble; plus Better World, The Wickedest Sound and Tribal Base), Natty and co mashed up dub, reggae, soul, hip hop, breakbeat and hardcore styles, ushering in jungle and bringing black and white together under one roof – a true pioneer and a proper legend.
There’s a great interview with him in The Guardian, where he talks about what it was like when jungle first broke and the power of music to bring people together, no matter what their colour, creed or culture, among other things….
“Black and white, they should be taken out of the dictionary, in regards to people… By the time jungle came in 94, you’ve got all nations together in London, as one. There’s no colour ting.. Music, for a moment, it cancels out all the shit, and” – he clicks his fingers – “we are one.”
Sentiments such as these resonate deeply with us at the Bongo, especially at fractious times such as these. But, quite aside from all that, jungle and drum n bass has had a massive impact on British pop music and culture and this man is a true original.
The countdown has begun for our Autumn re-opening party! As usual, Edinburgh’s original Roots and Dub lion, Messenger Sound System (est. ‘87) will be here doing this, in a rub-a-dub style, on Saturday 3rd September.
Messenger is proud to present legendary Roots artist Sister Rasheda, Queen of Dub (from the Jah Shaka, Rockers International & Disciples labels), singing anthems like Hear My Cry, Hail H.I.M , Shahamane I for a night of Roots and Culture – Lioness Style!!! All Roots Daughters gather round. Blessings.
Scotland’s original [and biggest] roots and culture rasta reggae sound system, Messenger has been spreading the word on their own custom built bass-heavy rig since 1987, with a flame burning brighter than ever today.
New Zealand singer-songwriter Jayson Norris brings an intimate performance to The Bongo Club, in association with Kiwi champions Spacific.
Combining his rich, earthy voice with a blend of soul, roots and rock, Jayson Norris offers music inspired by many songwriters including Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz and Bob Marley. Jayson’s cultural and musical heritage is subtly reflected with a South-Pacific feel resonating throughout his songs.
Moving to the UK in 2004, Jayson set to work immediately. By tirelessly gigging all over London, hard work and epic live shows, Jayson soon made a name for himself and carved a niche in the music scene, supporting and sharing stages with a range of artists such as Andrea Bocelli, INXS, Blue King Brown, The Black Seeds, Pete Murray and Dave Dobbyn.
Since his move to the UK, Jayson Norris has released two full-length albums A Basket Full in 2006, which sold in excess of 3,000 copies independently in London alone and Freedom Twenty Eight in February 2011 through Loop Recordings in New Zealand and Australia. Freedom Twenty Eight is a dynamic blend of sounds, subject matter and genre that conveys Jayson’s explosive and diverse live show and captures the soul and emotion of him both musically and in his heartfelt lyrics.
Freedom Twenty Eight hit the New Zealand Album Charts debuting at #25 on the New Zealand Top 40 and #2 on the New Zealand Independent charts. The second and third singles taken from the album, “Love Someone” and “Window”, both made the New Zealand RIANZ Top 40 Singles Chart with the music video for “Love Someone” making #1 on Juice TV’s Channel 63.
Following on from the success of his recent singles and album, Jayson Norris was invited to join the cast of the renowned kiwi collective Fly My Pretties, which toured NZ in January 2011. Not only did Jayson join the cast of Fly My Pretties, but he also opened each show with his own epic live solo performance, impressing audiences across the country. While in NZ, Jayson also performed at the 2011 “Homegrown Festival” (NZ’s biggest local music festival), which saw him being the first artist ever to be asked to play on two different stages, a true testament to Jayson’s amazing live show.