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Interview: Truckback Records

Interview: Truckback Records

Interview: Truckback Records

By on - Photos by Joshua Chamberlain - 4 comments

"Truckback doesn't follow trends, we follow vibes"

Sampler

Operating out of the back of a truck, under an Ackee tree, in Kingston, Jamaica, Truckback Records has one of the most unique recording spaces in Dancehall. Steve Locke and his brother Adrian are behind this production unit, releasing some of the most popular tracks over the past few years, including Erup’s ‘Click Mi Finger’ and I-Octane’s ‘Lose A Friend’.

Siobhan Jones spoke to Steve about their truck, Jamaican dancehall and their latest riddim releases, Freedom Shines and Sexxx Tape.

Truckback Records

How did you end up working out the back of a truck?

The truck story is interesting. Where I come from we have tropical storms. We had all our equipment in a room in a house and then in the hurricane season lost the roof! We were trying to keep the equipment safe so we covered it all in clothes. We were shouting, “Where are we going to put the equipment?! The house is leaking!” The truck was in the yard, it was dry, so we moved everything there and it just stayed. We ended up renovating it and it is now a full production studio. It’s also a hang out ting for a lot of industry people - artistes, DJs, Sound Selectors. It has a nice, homely vibe. Everyone is comfortable, sitting there writing under the Ackee tree.

Truckback RecordsYour earlier riddims all had truck-related names such as Gearbox and Dashboard. What are your thoughts about how the space and the truck influences the music you produce?

That’s a nice question. The music is influenced spiritually. It’s a feeling, a vibe. The truck has a homely vibe. The truck is a real inspiration. A lot of things come out of that truck. When at the truck, you start seeing things, and start feeling things, and it just comes out in the music… outside on the step, laughing, joking and then something hits you so you go in and put it down.

How did Truckback actually get started as a production team?

I started off playing in a band called Kaushan back in the 90’s with, Teetimus, Ernie Wilks & Dia. We started touring the world as a backing band with artistes like Bounty Killer, Elephant Man, Lady Saw and Shabba. We’d be asked to go to studios like King Jammy’s and Bobby Digital to build tracks. However, when you’re in a band on the road, you’re playing other producer’s music.  

Although we all had a dream to produce our own music, it was hard. In the early days, studios used 24-track tapes and huge mixing boards. Not everyone could have a studio then.  So, as the digital age progressed, we realised that we needed to do things ourselves.  But it’s not like we set it up our studio and then tried to do music, we were doing it before that. Now a studio can be anywhere - a laptop and that’s all you need. I have always been doing music on way or another.

Jamaicans were the originators

One of the most recent riddims you released was Freedom Shines, which was released to mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaican music. You’ve said a bit about how you feel being able to get hold of equipment easily has influenced Dancehall, but what is your view of Jamaican Dancehall now and for the future?

This is funny as I was talking about this earlier. I like to talk about things openly to hear what people think. With Freedom Shines, we re-licked an original beat from back in the day and put a modern twist to it with current artists.  The response from the younger generation of selectors has been amazing.  

What a lot of listeners are saying that the Dancehall thing has been watered down as it’s gone hip-hop/pop, but I understand that, the generation has changed and that’s what the kids hear now. They put the dancehall deejay on a hip-hop sounding ting, merged with a little dancehall ting. But guess what, the world is not really comfortable with it… saying that’s not the authentic Dancehall that they know.

You see, a lot of the generation that is building dancehall now really haven’t taken the time to learn the history of Jamaican music in general. I’m just assuming but ask some of the new generation producers, “What is Mento?” (Mento is a Jamaican Folk ting from way back) they wouldn’t even know. They might know as far back as Ska but they don’t know past Ska.  Same as I said before, it’s easy to call yourself in Jamaica a producer.  

As far as the future of Dancehall, Truckback usually stays true to authentic dancehall riddim but music is subjective and I am not opposed to creative experimentation. I do like the way some dancehall has been mixed with the house and the euro trance sounds.  You hear dancehall influence in a lot of mainstream dance/pop playing on the radio now.... we need learn how to capitalize on that. Jamaicans were the originators. We definitely have the talent, maybe its just about learning to do business side of it  right.  

What do you think the implications are of this for the future of Jamaican Dancehall?

They have a lot of marketing to do – to try and sell you and I and the rest of the world that this is the music from Jamaica.

There's nothing wrong with slackness

Your latest riddim, SeXXX Tape, has just been released which feels like quite a bold statement. What are your thoughts on Slackness in Dancehall?

There’s nothing wrong with slackness. The SeXXX Tape exudes what a lot of people are really feeling but we need to get the Dancehall back to the Dancehall.

So this is your way of trying to get Dancehall back to its roots?

Truckback RecordsIt’s not our way of getting dancehall back to its roots. Truckback doesn’t follow trends, we follow vibes.  Earlier this year with Freedom Shines that was a conscious dancehall project that is getting good radio rotation. Now with the SeXXX Tape, it was created for the streets... the dancehall, not the radio. There is a separation.  Back in the day no dancehall was played on the radio.  It’s not exciting to hear the same thing on the radio and the same thing in the dance.  Quite a few radio disc jockies are selectors at night, the SeXXX Tape gives them the ability to play something they couldn’t play on air. A lot of disc jockies who are close friends heard what I was doing and they asked me to do the clean version, and I was like ‘are you crazy?’ I’m not doing radio, I’m sorry. This is not a radio project. There are no clean versions at all as you have to have the separation from radio to the streets.  Some of the radio disc jockies are selectors at night and a lot of them don’t know how to separate it. Although we as producers all want radio play, sometimes, Dancehall is simply music for the streets, for the dance.

Do you feel then that Dancehall is a type of music then that should only be played in the Dancehall?

No, but there must be some kind of variation to keep it exciting.  Why should we try to express ourselves– cursing, saying this and saying that- and have to clean it up? I don’t always want spins on the radio, sometimes I want spins inna di Dancehall.

Why should we try to express ourselves– cursing, saying this and saying that- and have to clean it up?

So you feel that it would be a censorship of you and your own creativity if you were to do a clean version?

Hell yeah! Not just for me but for the artistes and the songwriters too.  Obviously, they have something to say and people want to hear it, otherwise slackness wouldn’t get such a forward in the dance.  Why do you need to get the hardcore Dancehall on the radio? We don’t need that. If we want to do radio songs, we’ll do radio songs. If you want to do this for the Dancehall, you do it for the Dancehall. Don’t try and mix them.

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Read comments (4)


Posted by Brownsugar on 04.17.2012
I am glad someone heard my pray to reinvent true dancehall....I love the concept of the truck and ackee tree...The simplicity is creative....the mention of mento was a flashback we all needed to hear....TRUCKBACK Keep up the good work and hope to have the brothers on my building en ertaintment segment...great interview UNITED REGGAE...

Posted by Alotta on 04.18.2012
Real Jamaican yard vibes. I can feel the creative flow in all your productions. Would love to Hang Out at Truckback and take it all in. Awesome interview and photos.

Posted by Pablo/L.P.E on 04.22.2012
Been a pleasure making de link with Steve, Adrian and Flammable... bigup Truckback Str8.

Posted by the wife on 05.03.2012
@ alotta get a life not wanted or needed there

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