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Mungo's Hi Fi meets YT at the Art School

Mungo's Hi Fi meets YT at the Art School

Mungo's Hi Fi meets YT at the Art School

By on - Photos by Bartosz Madejski - Comment

Live show inna Glasgow – and an interview with YT.


Mungo's Hi Fi’s slogan is “forward thinking reggae music”. Where some non-Jamaicans want to stay sonically locked in one particular “golden age”, the Glasgow-based sound system and production house like to shake things up (“things” including genres, eras or buildings…)

It's not about reinventing for its own sake (they are too grounded in reggae and dancehall’s rich history). But they don't believe in stagnation either. Which is why, on Saturday February 27th, after years of creating in private and playing the results to dances around the world, they decided to bridge the gap with their first “live set” at heartland venue, Glasgow’s School of Art.

The idea is, Mungo’s producers Tom and Craig take turns on laptops to “live mix” their rhythms with real horns supplied by Richard Merchant, Roger Marsh and Duncan Horne - the latter two from local band Samson Sounds. On the mic is none other than Ipswich’s lyrical switch-hitter YT.

Mungo HiFi and YT

The date lands at the culmination of a number of significant projects. Mungo’s and YT’s new album No Wata Down Ting is due out in a couple of weeks. Although the night isn’t a Mungo’s release launch per se (Samson are officially unleashing their own record Desert Rave lower down the bill) it’s an opportunity to showcase tracks to a home crowd. It’s also the chance for Mungo’s technical geek Jerome to road-test two fearsome new Glaswegian-made CUK prototype speakers. And it’s co-founder Tom’s 40th birthday the following Tuesday (so the whole crew are planning a surprise after party…)

United Reggae and Jerome arrive at The Art School so the sound can be strung. The dance is not taking place in the famous Rennie Mackintosh building – gutted by fire in 2014 – it’s in the Students Union opposite. The Union has been expensively refurbished (although Jerome spots an empty bottle of Buckfast – Glasgow’s infamous adopted tipple – left near the entrance since Friday).

The main room has very high ceiling which bodes well for the bass-lines. Jerome complains that the posters advertising the session have been stolen from the hallways “because the design is too good”. He is joined by colleagues Ian and Thomas plus Roo (of Dumfries’ Cenote Sound) for the load-in. But not before a quick half of locally-brewed St Mungo’s lager in the downstairs bar (which will be playing Cumbia later). “It’s in the job description” Jerome laughs.

Lifting the CUK speakers is hard. They are wheel-less and it takes five people to carry each one from the van. Next it’s time to assemble the remaining boxes and tilt boards. Jerome’s additions look dark and industrial compared to the I-Tal wood of the rest of the rig. When tested they emit an unholy sub 30 hz vibration - as powerful as sixteen bass scoops. Tom and Craig appear after rehearsal with YT (who is still at his hotel). Tom protests his mixing table is jumping off the stage.

United Reggae and Thomas repair to a neighbouring sports bar to catch the Carl Frampton Scott Quigg fight. By the final bell it is midnight and a huge queue is winding round the corner of the School. Inside Samson Sounds have the punters bouncing to their “world bass” blend of techno, Afrobeat and reggae - played on a guitars, brass and a laptop. You rarely hear reggae and Afrobeat in the same venue in London (much less a dub cover of Reel 2 Reel’s I Like To Move It). Trombonist Nigel is also celebrating his birthday today. The album’s worth checking if it matches the show.

Mungo's often talk about the lack of hip snobbery in Glasgow and you can see it here. No one is hanging back. No one is being snide. Everyone is dancing and joining in. Co-founder Doug is getting ready for his pre live segment selection. He points to the makeshift cloakroom - a big pile of coats left unattended in the corner. “It’s because no one’s an arsehole”.

Upstairs YT has arrived later than planned after a kip in his hotel. He is a little bleary, having performed with Doug in Bristol the night before – but he’s up for a post dance interview. The dreaded speakers make presence felt during Doug’s set. You can hear and feel them through the floor.

“Greetings Art School massive. Are you ready for the world premiere of Mungo's Hi Fi live?” says a refreshed YT at half past one. Tom drops two unreleased cuts of their murderous lick of the Jaqueline rhythm – Disaster by Ranking Levy and Shanti D and Snap A Selfie by Ranking Joe. There is a blast of living feedback. The horns stab on the chop. When YT jumps on for album opener God Bless Pickney, people react to the live component. They flock to the stage. One man’s lighter gas looks dangerously high.

YT lets Little John sing Solomon and Mr Williamz chant Industry Groupie, interjecting his own Ragamuffin Girl off the new record. At the string up the building was hot - heaters working over-time against a chilly Glasgow evening. Now, filled with bodies, the place is boiling.

Craig spins the Hempolics Love To Sing on the Return of Django rhythm, and Sr Wilson’s Struggle over Unchained. The music stops. “Technical problem” explains YT “Original Mungo's live. This is not pre-recorded”. To be honest, nine out of ten kids leaping around would have thought it was a pull-up.

Tech teething is over by the time Craig splices Warrior Queen’s Poison Dart to his stepping Kuff backing – topped by Mad Mad/Johnny Dollar brass. YT’s energy levels reach full crowd synergy mode during his Write Some Lyrics. The flash point into maximum madness is England Story. Nobody minds that the words aren’t changed to “Scotland Story” – enough said.

Mungo HiFi and YT

YT again dips into his catalogue for Save Mi Life. A woman invades the stage to dance on top of Jerome’s speakers, followed by two friends. “Ladies” YT chastises “These speakers cost about 50 thousand pounds each and any footprints are going to cost about 200 pound”. They climb down. “But don't worry - Craig said he's going to pay it!”

“We’ve got a brand new LP on the street 16th March called No Wata Down Ting” he announces at 2.30. “This is the new single featuring Johnny Osbourne”. It’s the title track, a lick of Ice Cream Love. When the bass-line grows teeth for YT’s chorus, humans jump like frogs on a trampoline and Jerome’s monsters find their element. “We love the energy and we love the vibes, every time we go to Art School” he says, impressed by the response.

“Who wants one more?” he asks “This one is for all the ganja smokers Don't be nervous in front of security” closing with Tom’s pungent mix of Gentleman’s Dub Club’s High Grade and his own Plant More Weed. “Art School it's been a joy and a pleasure. Make some noise for Mungo's Live. I'm going to hand back to the sound system until it's time to go home”.

Due to the late start, home time is in five minutes. Galloway singer Tom Spirals takes the mic. Doug is on the decks. They spin a Sizzla dubplate using the Koloko rhythm. Everyone sings happy birthday to Tom. Tom is nowhere to be seen. As the lights go up a reveller reaches over the barricade and flicks a switch filling the room with one last blast of wobbly bass. Using lightning fast boxer’s reflexes, Thomas switches it off to chants of “one more tune”.

Upstairs in the green-room YT is sat in an armchair. “That was wicked” he says “really enjoyed that. Next level. Really energetic. The live thing adds another aspect.”

YT’s worked with Mungo’s since they invited him around 2009 for a show and to record two or three songs in their studio. “I came a couple of years later with Mr Williamz and it’s just continued from there.”

The album happened because “we had so much stuff. Every time I was up I was voicing two or three tunes. I knew there was some nice stuff that had been sitting down.”

YT’s last long-player, Revolution Time, on his Sativa label, was quite political lyrically. The new one is “different. More dancehall deejay style. Less serious. You can still hear the attitude but it’s not so topic driven. A bit more party vibes to suit the Mungo’s crowd”.

The combination featuring Johnny Osbourne is particularly special “Tom played me that rhythm and honestly in about ten seconds I had the idea for No Wata Down Ting. Just instant. Obviously it’s an honour to be on a record with Johnny Osbourne. I bought the Water Pumping LP when it was new.”

That said, now the Mungo’s project is done, he wants to calm down the vocal collaborations and get back to his Sativa thing. He’s currently working with the Innerheart Band. “Trying to get a single out before summer, with a view to getting the album out later this year or early next year. I want to get tunes playing on the reggae-dancehall sounds again. The Innerheart album will be some nice rub a dub, modern roots. Again not all totally serious –some girls tunes and stuff like that.”

He’s also cutting a conscious hip hop LP with Australian producer Monkey Marc from protest hip hop collective Combat Wombat. “His and the Mungo’s kind of balance each other out because his LP’s really serious. It’s a real conscious thing.”

YT is never shy about talking politics. In 2014 Mungo’s spoke in favour of Scottish Independence. Where does YT stand on Britain’s June referendum over whether to stay in Europe? “In!” he booms “why would I be against Europe man? I’m the antithesis of all this. I go to Europe and earn money! I love Europe. We should want to be part of it. Our trouble is we always think we’re better. We could learn a lot from some of our European counterparts but we refuse to take it on board. We’re caught up in old stereotypes.”

While we’re on controversial topics it seems the minor technical issues were possibly caused by the bass from the new speakers. “The vibrations were too much and the computer crashed.” He laughs “I think they were the culprit!”

Mungo’s Hi Fi feat YT – No Wata Down Ting is out now.

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