An insight on Liverpool’s reggae community with Rory Taylor
From club events, festivals and movie screenings, to managing the dub legend Scientist, Rory Taylor is a good example of a music business professional. Based in Liverpool, his passion for sound system culture and Caribbean music is hard to match. Rory is also the co-founder of Positive Vibration agency. Their next events are welcoming some of the biggest names in the reggae:
Our conversation gravitates around music promotion, sound system culture, and artist involvement in the development of the music community. His actions are a sneak peak into the Liverpool reggae and dub scene. Get to know Rory and the community he acts in. Don't forget to push play on the music selection he prepared to accompany the article while you read.
| Your work in the music industry gravitates around Positive Vibration. What is the story behind the company?
Positive Vibration was established in 2013 by myself and a close friend, Collen Chandler. I was a promoter going under the name Rebel Soul and Collen was the frontman in a reggae/funk band called We The Undersigned. Both big fans of reggae music, we felt that the genre was underrepresented in the UK, so we just wanted to do our bit in supporting it.
Positive Vibration is now a stand-alone brand (no association with Rebel Soul anymore).
There have been some tough moments mentally, physically and financially, but we’ve had a lot of support from friends, family and the reggae community, which has spurred us on. We hope to continue for many years to come, showcasing and celebrating the music that we love. The 2020 edition of the festival will bring together Mad Professor, African Head Charge, Mungo’s Hi Fi ft. Charlie P, Tippa Irie, DJ Vadim + Jman, Don Letts, General Levy + Joe Ariwa and Horseman, Hollie Cook + General Roots, among others.
| DJ, promoter, manager, how do you balance them?
Self-discipline is key. There are days when you really don’t have the energy, but you just have to get on with it. My background is actually in the legal profession. I trained and practiced as an Intellectual Property lawyer for years but have recently gone on a sabbatical to focus on the music.
I don’t really see DJing as work. It’s a privilege to play music to a room full of people. If they dance and smile, even better.
| How is the Liverpool music community from your perspective? Is there a type of event that the city gravitates to?
Liverpool is, and has always been, a great city for music. As one of the UK’s principal transatlantic ports, seafarers from Liverpool would travel to (and work in) the U.S. They would return to Liverpool with jazz, rhythm and blues and soul records that were not widely available in the UK. This had a huge impact on the music community in Liverpool back in the day and was pivotal in creating some of our biggest bands.
The music scene is still thriving, but in my opinion, there aren’t as many promoters as there once were and many of promoters nowadays are risk-averse. Perhaps this is due to the current financial climate.
Over the years, Liverpool has been big into soul/funk, rock n roll, punk and dance music. I’d say that dance music is still a firm-favorite in the city. Cream nightclub (and brand) was established in Liverpool, so dance is deeply rooted in the music scene. In terms of reggae, Liverpool has a strong Caribbean community, so the music and sound have always had a special place in the city.
| For some time, you managed the legendary dub producer Scientist. Was he the only artist you have managed?
Yes, Scientist is the only person I have managed. I booked him for the festival back in 2017. We remained in contact and became close friends -managing him just seemed like a natural step. As an internationally renowned engineer and performer, there’s a lot of demand for Scientist. This is great but creates a lot of work – I was negotiating and drafting contracts, preparing and filing visa applications and sorting out countless itineraries.
Overall, it was a great experience and I’ve learned a lot from doing it.
| In November 2019, Scientist performed, in full, Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires. Some of the songs were done with Kiko Bun and The Upper Cut Band. Whose idea was this generation meeting?
Back in January, we hosted a show at The Jazz Café in London where Scientist mixed Horseman, Tippa Irie + The Upper Cut Band live on stage. It was a huge success, and everyone involved enjoyed the experience. We, therefore, wanted to do more shows like this. Scientist and I spoke about doing more live shows with The Upper Cut Band and thought it would be cool if they performed some of his classic albums. With Halloween, a key date in the gig calendar, Scientist Rids The World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires was a no-brainer.
I’ve worked closely with The Upper Cut Band for a couple of
years and consider them one of the best reggae bands in the industry. With them also having a great relationship with Scientist, it made sense for them to be involved. Just to note, I’m a huge fan of Roots Radics, who featured on the original album, but it’s not always easy, logistically and financially, for Jamaican bands to play in Europe (unless a good number of shows are secured).
Kiko Bun is one of the finest vocalists in the UK and I thought his soulful voice would work really well with the songs, especially those originally recorded by the late, great Michael Prophet.
| Yellowman was on your recent program. How was the show?
I’ve seen Yellowman a few times over the years, so it was a pleasure to actually host him this time around. At 63 years old, he still gives it is all – raw power, raw energy! He now performs alongside his daughter, Kareema Foster, who’s a great young vocalist and has the same energy as her father.
Long live Yellowman!
| Oh snap, almost forgot, you also did a special Daddy G show.
Daddy G is a bonafide legend, so to have had him in the city to perform a DJ set in an intimate venue was pretty special. He was playing his favorite reggae tunes, alongside Solo Banton and Count Skylarkin.
My favorite Massive Attack LP has to be Blue Lines. It’s a stone-cold classic.
| Along the time you have put on a lot of shows, which of them would you say come on top?
From all the events we’ve hosted as positive Vibration, I would say Big Youth + The Upper Cut Band is my number 1. It was such a magical show.
I love gigs. There’s nothing better than live music. I’ve been to a lot of gigs over the years, so it’s really difficult to decide which of them has been the best. It’s always great when an artist takes you by surprise. Recently, I went to see a Cameroonian singer-songwriter called Blick Bassy who completely blew me away. I’d listened to a few of his records, but the live experience was just something else.
| The artwork of your events is carefully crafted and this reminds people about the close connection music has with the visuals. What can you tell us about the artists you work with?
We love a good poster at Positive Vibration. We work with various artists all around the world. For example, our regular gig posters are designed by a Liverpool-based artist called Thomas Sumner. He designed posters for the Dawn Penn, Horseman, Mykal Rose, Mad Professor Meets Sir Coxsone Outernational and Jah Shaka shows we’ve hosted. He also designed our posters for the Daddy G and Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires shows.
We also work with a Tel-Aviv-based artist called Ellen G, who designed our Reggae Social and Scientist Meets Horseman posters. For the festival posters, we work with a young Jamaican artist called Taj Francis.
For numerous years, we’ve worked closely with a graphic designer called IXIOD, who’s created, amongst many things, our logo and Scientist’s logo. All the artists and designers we work with and have worked with over the years, are unique in their way and put their stamp on the posters, which we love.
| What is your perspective in community building in the UK? How do you feel about the new generations of youths?
I think we do well in the UK, especially given the cuts in government funding. There are individuals and organizations who work tirelessly in providing children + young people with opportunities – whether that’s through sports, music, the arts or extra-curricular education. Most of this work is done with very limited budgets.
In my opinion, the UK media habitually portrays young people in a negative light. Their perception is that teenagers just hang around on street corners, causing trouble. Even when young people do well in their exams, the media will come out with some bullshit that exams are easier nowadays.
We have to ignore this negativity and continue to encourage and nurture the next generation. Music and the arts are a good way of doing this.
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