From Poland with dub. An interview with Radikal Guru
Photo by Dragana Rankovic
In 2012 I was writing for the first time to Radikal Guru to invite him at Subsonic Festival in Romania. Back then, his music style was not so well-spread. This combination of reggae and dub with other parts of the bass music was yet to make a name for itself. Seven years later I am happy to have Radikal invited again for a dance. He will play in Bucharest on the 14th of March, at Expirat Club. More details about the event on the Facebook event page.
His Moonshine Recordings discography boasts highlights that include his debut LP ‘The Rootstepa’ and the mighty "Dread Commandments" 12inch, or his second LP ''Subconscious'' that includes dancefloor killers like Stay Calm ft. YT or Warning ft. Echo Ranks. In 2016 he released his third studio album "Dub Mentalist" including more exciting collaborations and soundscapes.
Not only a talented producer, Radikal Guru is also a fine selector and deejay, conveying his passion for music through DJ sets that pay homage to the sound and culture’s rich history as much as they showcase the freshest cuts of sonic innovation from himself and his contemporaries.
| In over ten years of activity you have toured almost all continents and I am sure you have a backpack full of good stories. Do you feel that all those places you visited and the people you have met influenced your music?
Yes it’s been awhile now and I’ve had the chance to visit a lot of places during those 10 years. I’m always glad to see that people keep coming to hear my sets in different countries and I’m feeling very grateful to see how the enjoy listening to my music and support me by buying my next record. I think seeing that there are people out there waiting for another album or a show really inspires me to keep on going.
| Your sound is deeply rooted in the sound system culture, a lot of pressure on the bass doubled by a strong message. How do you balance the two of them? Is one more important the other?
Both of those elements are equally important. I always felt it’s important for the music to hold a message, something that people can relate to or that gives them inspiration or strength. A lot of music these days lacks a good and wise content that can be introduced to the younger generation.
| Some of your songs have imperative names such as Build fire, Back off, Move along, Stay calm or Know yourself. These type of addressing directly to the listener is part of a message you want to transmit through music?
A lot of those track names come from the chorus part sang by the vocalists that I work with and they come up with those lyrics and the track name eventually. But yes, definitely it’s good to have a strong title that already carries a deeper meaning and it also makes you want to hear the rest of the lyrics.
| You have worked with a lot of vocalist from the reggae/dub scene. How do you choose which one you invite on a track? For example, on Raggamuffin Souljah instead of Echo Ranks could have been Solo Banton?
When I’m working on the album I usually have a few vocalists that I would like to work with in mind. Mostly they are vocalist that I’ve met personally and heard them performing live recently, or heard some of their previous work with producers that I admire. I start writing a few instrumental tunes having them on my mind, thinking about how their voice is going to fit this particular riddim. Then, they usually send me a ruff sketch recording to see what they can come up with to fit the track and we kinda take it from there and start adjusting and arranging the track until the final result comes up.
Photo by Tomasz Taracha
| How do you start producing a track? Is the rhythmic part or the melody who comes first? Or is more a random choice?
It starts with jamming along and tweaking different synths, searching for the interesting sounds, then adding a simple rhythmic pattern, that I just keep adding layer after layer, melody structures, stretch out the arrangement so the song actually has a beginning and an end. Sometimes if I write for a vocalist I’m already thinking about hearing a chorus part and verse and so on.
| What makes you consider a certain track should have a dub version?
Well, usually I like to make an instrumental dub version for the tracks that have vocals in the original version. It’s really about holding on to the tradition of having a B-side dub on the flip side of the record. Comes handy when you play alongside a live mc or vocalist or just when you are playing a Dj set to have some space between the next track in the mix.
| How important do you consider the dubplates are in the overall atmosphere of a dance?
For sure it’s definitely a good thing to have during the set. People always love to hear something exclusive at the party, especially if it’s a crowd that knows well what is being played and they are not hearing you play for the first time. It adds a lot to the set and delivers the energy into a dance in the end.
| Most of the artists tend to release music at various labels, but since 2010 you stay close to Moonshine Recordings. How did this relation evolve on this path?
It’s a label that I’ve been close with since the first releases and I supported it from there. It represents the style of music that I’ve been trying to push forward when I started, which is about combining roots and dub steppers with other contemporary bass music styles. It’s a really great platform for my music to be put out. Mack, who runs the record label is my very good friend and also manages my bookings professionally. We also leave in the same area (Gdańsk, Poland), we have the same musical taste and we both share similar ideas about the direction we want this music to keep evolving.
This year we’re celebrating 10 years of Moonshine Recordings and putting out a 50th record release with some exclusive tunes by producers associated with the label. You can also catch us playing a special label showcase set at different clubs and festivals this year. We appreciate the support the label received over those years from so many fantastic people.
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