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Old Tricks For New Artists

22/09/2016 12:46

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I'm sitting on the back of a flatbed truck with a sound-system blaring music as it slowly trundles down Oxford Street on a busy Friday rush hour. The police are confused, there are a sea of smiles and people are dancing outside Selfridges like it's 1999. Welcome to 'The Fedz'!

I've been making and producing music since the 70's. I have continually been someone who tries to create interesting music and always working with new talent - as that's what inspires and keeps me motivated: eternally pushing the musical boundaries. For example: I remember when I made the album ''BRAIN DAMAGE''. It was a reaction against the ''fundamentalism'' that had seeped into reggae - making it too predictable and too safe. I just loved expanding the parameters. When a journalist once called my music, ''mutant reggae... It's tinged with jazz, rock, blues and punk'' (REGGAE INTERNATIONAL 1983) - that was the biggest compliment I could ever have had.

I have always loved the energy of a collective, of everyone working harmoniously together. From my days with Matumbi and my sound system: Jah Sufferer, and my collaborations with Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Slits and Arcade Fire, it has always been about a collective force. And that's what drew me to The Fedz. Here was a multi-cultural collection of young men and women comprised of Producers, Musicians, Singers, Dj's, MC's, Graffiti Artist, Videographer & their very own computer boffins - who were doing it their own way - in every aspect: from making the music to promoting and putting it out - as that was the only way they knew how. They shunned the normal banal promotions of using glitzy photos and matching shiny videos, or seeking the approval of the trendy magazines and much sought after bloggers. They were going to put out their music with no photos, no video, no credible social media campaign and let their tune do most of the talking and they were going to take their band of artistry to the streets (Old school style) in a series of unplanned events called: 'The Fedz Takes the Streets' on the back of a flatbed truck akin to what The Rolling Stones or U2 did!

I was extremely enthused by their ideas of doing it all themselves. I come from an era where what we were creating was often cutting against the grain and not through choice we had to do it by ourselves - in our own way. And here was a group of kids who were doing exactly that. But through choice! They had learnt from our successes and mistakes. I am amazed by their knowledge and respect for music history and how they have added their own slant.

They aren't afraid to really push the boundaries in every aspect, to be truly guerrilla in an age of brand conformity. One of my bug bears is how controlled everything has become. Everything is done by a formula, using algorithms. Even our enjoyment is now ''organised fun'' where the unexpected never occurs. Before we go out we're on the internet researching the place where we're going - leaving nothing to chance. We pretend to like surprises but really they are frowned upon. The Fedz are all about surprises. They are not about following the rule book - actually they don't even know one exists!!! They decided, after chatting to me about my sound-system days (they had just watched the film Babylon which I did the music for and is loosely based on my sound-system experiences) to start going out directly to the people with their music. But not in a gig or an event as that would be too''organised'' but to bring ''disorganised fun'' to people. The unexpected, the spontaneous gathering which are the ones you actually remember. We love carnival as it's not controlled, you can walk anywhere, you never know what's aroun the corner - that's what The Fedz want to create. And it's renegade, not because that's the aim - their aim is to bring unplanned fun to people - but is rebellious because hardly anyone else is doing that. People have become too scared (or is it years of brainwashing?) to do anything really outside the box - if they haven't got a license or a risk assessment they feel it can't be done. Well that's what I love about The Fedz. They're not asking for permission, but they may just have to ask for forgiveness!!!  

What first struck James Poyser (Producer: Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo, The Roots, etc) & I, and agreeing to do this project - after trying to do so on many projects for years - was that despite their wonderful philosophy, which reminded me of the spirit of the early punk and reggae days, was the 'QUALITY' of the music - this was truly special! Even before our input. Interesting, provocative and a true amalgamation of styles, with a deference to heritage but not a slave to it. As MistaJam from Radio 1 Xtra recently said to me on his Boxfresh Show ''you've been spearheading young British talent since the 70's... how come you still sound so relevant because The Fedz sounds fresh and new: like it was made by some teenagers in their basement'!! A friend recently heard one of The Fedz tracks on the radio and loved it. He was genuinely shocked as he thought it wouldn't be'' a proper great song''. But his surprise was because a few days earlier he had stumbled upon one of their guerrilla sound-system events and with his preconceptions, he assumed, because of the renegade nature of these street takeovers, it would be a standard ''urban'' track. And I loved that.... I loved the fact that he was surprised, it was nothing that he expected, we were making him open his mind. And this is what The Fedz brings to me, not following a formula, but doing things because they feel right, and long may that continue.

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