Riddim Magazine Interview (Germany, 2009)

Jah Dan and Andrew Moon Bain

Riddim:  I guess you have to mad in a way to help push the music, at least when you live outside of jamaica. how did you get hooked on to reggae in the first place? or was rasta first?

Us: We were exposed to reggae first. Listening to classic roots like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Agustus Pablo. It was through this music that we were introduced to Rastafari….

Moon: I first went to Jamaica in 1994 on a kind of ‘soul searching’ journey. I was only 18 and looking for answers to some of the questions I had about Rastafari and spirituality. It was just after Garnet Silk passed and  it was Silk’s music that was playing a lot on the radio. I became completely seduced by his voice and his message. Then shortly after Garnett, the current Rasta rebirth in reggae music began. Albums like Capleton’s “Prophecy” and Buju’s “Untold Stories” were sparking the fire for what was to come. When I came back,  I linked with Corrin as he was heading to Jamaica soon to go do a teaching internship. I shared with him the new music I had been exposed to. Already being an avid fan and collector of roots, Corrin was immediately intrigued.

Corrin:  So I went down later that year to teach in Kingston and stayed for 5 months. During this time, I met new people within the music industry (artists, producers, engineers, Djs, distributors, etc).  Most of my spare time was spent in either Papine or Nannyville among many different Rasta (specifically Bobo)  artists. It was through these artists that I became introduced to the industry and received first-hand exposure to a whole new way of livity. These early connections provided a platform for us to launch LK.

Riddim:  what was it that fascinated you so much about rasta in general and about the strict and churchical way of the bobos in particular, that you became part of it yourself? especially for a white person thats, well, unusual. and did taking on this livity have to do with starting the label? because there seems to be a strong link between the livity and what the label stands for.

Corrin: OK….another good question and one I have been asked a lot recently. I grew up without any religious background or much spiritual guidance at all. So when that point in life came when you seek out that higher spiritual force, I read into most so-called “religions”. But being that I was a student of history at the time, it was Rastafari that historically made the most sense to me. It also had a sort of purity to it, a freshness. It had sort of a free aspect to it, where one can find his own path within the culture. Not to mention the endless, ever-changing musical soundtrack that accompanies this livity. It was a combination of the historical significance of Rastafari (from ancient to modern times) and the music that promoted the life that really attracted me towards the Livity. As for the Bobo element, well, that is who really physically introduced me to Rasta in a person (rather than spiritual) form, as a flesh example. When I first went to Jamaica to teach, but I was also on that spiritual quest. It was the Bobos who embraced, encouraged, and welcomed me into the Livity. Being a teacher, who is used to a regimented schedule, the Bobo Order made sense to me and their undying self-discipline was something I greatly respected.

When it came time to start the label, the artists I was surrounded by were strictly cultural artists, so it really was meant to be so. We weren’t living that rube-boy life. We were absorbed within the Rasta community, so the music we put out should naturally reflect that.

Moon: (Not sure if this one was for Corrin alone as i am not white or a bobo but…) What fascinated me about Rasta is the culture, the music and the spiritual resilience of African people in the western world. It was the spirit of rebellion to Colonial religion and the way Rastafari resonates with that spirit. As well the affinity with Ethiopia, mysticism, nature and health and observing a black king through recognizing Ethiopia and the Solomonic dynasty. I am not white and I am not a Bobo. I do appreciate the militancy and regiment the Bobo Ashanti exude. As well as the sense of dignity, royalty and importance Bobo and Rastafari in general instills in the black youth, despite the physical and mental slavery, impoverished conditions they and their ancestors have had to endure. For me the label and the livity influence each other as art is life. Rastafari being a way life, putting out creative and conscious music felt natural. I don’t think that being Rasta influenced starting the label as much as having a sincere love of reggae music. Once we decided to put out music it was only natural that it was culture music with a message.

Riddim: so does the lk artist roster depend on who you are surrounded by, meaning that its based on personal

Corrin Haskell

relationship? or are there also artists that you want to work with because of what they’ve done previously and then try to get in touch with them? or how do you decide who you are going to work with?

Moon: I think it started out with artists that were surrounding us but then evolved into more personal relationships. They are some artists that we would like to work with because of their previous work but it may not have been the right time and space or we didnt come to an agreement monetarily. These days, after working with so many different artists, we tend to stick to mainly those who we have come to know personally and mainly are interested in thier talent, aproach and what they are saying. We are not spreading ourselves so thin as we once did. Mainly right now it is all about Jah Dan Blakkamoore of Noble Society. We have still have good relationships with the crew we came up with but we have all began to focus on our respective projects.

Corrin: At first it was artists that were around us, but as we were going to Jamaica more and more often we became tighter with these artists on a personal level. At the same time, artists were coming up to California and New York  as well and staying with us for extended periods, and same way when we went to Jamaica. We were working so diligently on music that the personal relationships evolved at the same time. Also, in the beginning, when we were building the label, we tried to get some “recognized” names in the industry in order to catch people’s attention and then shine the light on the rising stars we were closer with. So yes we have tried to go work with an artist who’s work we knew and respected, but in the long run we knew we were working closely with great talents and they just needed some exposure to get their due recognition.

These days we aren’t voicing as many “singles” or riddim segments, but focusing more on albums, so that cuts down on who you are trying to work with. We have recorded a lot of music over the years so even music that we are putting out now could have been recorded years ago.

As far as who we decide to work with long term, I think the personal relationship plays a part. We’ve tried to focus ourselves with a few artists whom we feel a tight connection with. Some artists get “big” in themselves and some stay true and loyal, despite even having success. So now we are just trying to focus on certain projects where yes,  there is some sort of personal connection as well.

Riddim: how did the two of you get together and how do you run a label being located at both coasts of the country?

Both: We grew up together in Seattle. We had mutual friends that brought us together and we then discovered that we were both reggae music lovers, as well as having an interest in Rastafari.

Running the label on opposite coasts is actually been beneficial for us. There are times when communication is difficult and that  can be frustrating. However living in the age of technology has helped make it possible. Over all, it helps our presence being in both parts of the country. We have more territory covered.  It allows us to connect with artists in different parts of the country. It also gives us more credibility to be active in New York and California simultaneously, which are both key markets for reggae in the States.

Riddim: i guess this one goes more to moon than to corrin, but you are both welcome to answer this question: whats a perfect riddim like to you and how to you go about to accomplish it?

Moon: This is kind of like asking an artist what their favorite color is. Perfection is a feeling to me. It is sublime, inspired and resonates inside my body. It is the memory of that feeling that keeps me searching to find it again. All the tones of every instrument are cooperating, striving for the same goal and thier respective frequency relationships are happy. All the notes and melodic phrases are in line with each other finding their right place and time within the space of 4 to 5 minutes. A good riddim makes me want to sing and to play while encouraging an artist to do the same, immediately when they hear it. Honestly I dont think I personally accomplish perfection in music, it just happens through us. It usually is from the most spontaneous thought or emotion that gets put to tape in that moment of inspiration. those immediate bolts and idea’s are usually the best compositions. Most of all it is experience and patience, taking your time with the beat and letting it come through naturally. Don’t rush nothing.

Riddim:  whats your motivation to run a record label in times of music industry decline and illegal  downloading?

Both: good question….Honestly, our motivation has been put to the test in recent times. As more and more reggae music is pirated and stolen, it leads to frustration for those who put their energy, time, blood, sweat, and tears into this only to see your work given away by E-pirates. It also creates additional tension between artists and producers, as the music is spreading but the money is not coming in as it should due to the piracy, so the key players involved lose. It’s sad really. The overall quality of the music being made as more music leaks out and gets pushed prematurely. Most of the pirates are so-called “reggae fans” who don’t seem to get that they are stealing the very music they claim to be supporting. In some ways it does promote music through it spreading rapidly but we, as a grassroots effort, can be affected negatively. We, LK, have our music available in most digital outlets, so the excuse that “I can’t get this music anywhere else” doesn’t apply. I think what keeps us going is, of course, a love for the music. As well, a sense of dutiful service to Rastafari music, to keep putting out uplifting, conscious and powerful works in order to combat and balance all the slackness and nonsense that is out there these days. The constant, positive responses we get from fans worldwide also serves as motivation to keep it going. Plus, I think we’re a bit mad too.

Riddim: so whats in the pipeline for lk?albums, riddim, contributions to other labels releases…

Founder & Label Artist Andrew "Moon" Bain
Founder & Label Artist Andrew “Moon” Bain

Us: In pipeline for LK……well right now we are about to press the third installment of the Culture Dem series volume #3. It follows the usual format of 4-5 riddims, with 3-4 songs per riddim. It features some familiar names, as well as some  rising stars. After that, we plan to release a new riddim segment entitled “Proverbs”. The riddim was built by Nick Fantastic, the creator of the “Hard Times” riddim, and features artists like Lutan Fyah, Pressure, Chezidek, Perfect, Chrisinti, Natty King, Norrisman, and so many more, there’s over 20 songs! We also have an excellent solo-artist project in the works by Noble Society’ s front-man, Jah Dan Blakkamore entitled “Babylon Nightmare”. This bredren is extremely talented and awaiting discovery by most of the reggae world. His album is a real treat with various producers involved. We plan on doing another bar-coded mix tape of our catalog with DJ Child of PGM, a follow up to the ’04 release “Calling All Jah Children”. We have an “LK in DUB” album ready to drop with versions and dub mixes we have made over the years, as well, Culture Dem vol. 4 is in the works….So much music!

Riddim: alright, before we wrap it up, is there anything readers of riddim magazine should know about lk that we havent talked about?

Us: We are just concentrating on putting out some uplifting positive music for the masses and hopefully provide something for generations to enjoy in years to come. We are a grassroots effort that has stayed dedicated to quality, livity, culture and conscious music. We do this with sincerity and compassion for putting out good music. Respect and shout outs to all the artists and producers we have worked and continue to work with who are all special and talented in their own respective ways. Please listen and spread the word, each one teach one, Rastafari Love.