Following on from our recent podcasts & interviews with the likes of Chopstick Dubplate & Riddim Tuffa here’s a real treat for the Roots crew! Descendant Music is a record label headed by UK reggae producer Will Tee. It was launched in 2012 and has seen Tee release collaborative work with household name Jamaican artists as well as talent closer to home. He’s already getting some massive support from the likes of David Rodigan, Aba Shanti, Jah Shaka, Channel One & many more.
RR – Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind Descendant Music and how it all came together?
WT – Well, I’d had a string of instrumental releases on other labels but I’d always wanted to be putting out vocal tunes, both to bring in new artists and musicians as well as working with artists that I’d listened to growing up. Really it’s about being able to release music on my own terms, having a label and platform that could evolve with me as I evolve as a producer and basically just be a home to me and maybe a handful of others. I’d been planning to start the label for a while but had been busy with my final year of uni in 2011/2012 so I’d planned things out in my head and continued saving bits of money together until late 2012 when I felt the time was right and I kicked things off by pressing the Peace EP. That’s how it got started.
RR – You’ve had a really good 2013 so far, what are some of your highlights?
WT – One of them has got to be playing at a dance in Toulouse, France at the start of the year. It was in the basement of this club in the city centre, with a really heavy traditional reggae sound (I Station). It was like a sauna in this basement with a thick cloud of smoke constantly filling the room. The promoters spent the whole night taking it in turns to physically block entrance cos so many people were trying to get in. It was totally packed and everyone was really on it, it was a wicked introduction to the French scene! Working with Prince Malachi was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in the studio. We’d been talking about doing something together for a while and I got a call from him saying he was gonna be up north so we arranged to meet up one Saturday. During the phone call I asked him if he had any songs already written that he wanted to record, to which he answered “I don’t write the music, Jah will write the music”. So I was kind of apprehensive as to how the session would go but sure enough he turned up on the Saturday, earlier than planned (something I’d never encountered in the reggae scene) and we got some coffee and set to work. He had been very cool and relaxed, then I set the music running and it was like he switched to performance mode and just started free styling over the rhythm. He ran through a few different ideas before belting out the phrase “Looove Conqueeeeers” and immediately said, “that’s the chorus Will, you like it?” I agreed and the rest fell into place easily. We had written the lot and recorded all the parts and harmonies within about an hour. He had clearly adopted the Jamaican recording style whilst working at Xterminator and after finishing he switched back from performance mode, we did a little mix, chatted a bit more and he was on his way… That’s how we did ‘Love Conquers’.
RR – Are there any releases that we should be keeping an eye out for at the moment?
WT – From me? I’ve just put out a couple of 7”s on Descendant Music featuring Prince Malachi, K.O.G, Leona & Diddley Dee – ‘Love Conquers’ and ‘Round & Round’. I’ve also got a few dubs running exclusively on Aba Shanti and Iration featuring Fred Locks and an upcoming artist from the Jamaican roots scene Micah Shemaiah that are due to be released at some point but I couldn’t tell you when. Some from others that I’m feeling at the moment are Dub Conductor and Cornell Campbell – ‘Crisis’ (UK style) and ‘Inna Rub a Dub Style Riddim’ by John John featuring Chronixx, Jah Cure, Bounty Killer and a load of other top artists (JA style).
RR – How do you find running an independent label?
WT – Well it has been a steep learning curve that’s for sure but I’ve had a lot of good advice off other labels, reggae and otherwise, which I’ve tried to take on. You really have to love all aspects of it and learn to wear a lot of different hats. That’s what I love about independent labels though – the end product is very personal and reflects all the quirks of the producer(s). The thing about running a label is you don’t get any practice runs – like with making music you do a whole lot of practicing before you put anything out to the public but with releasing records you just jump straight in – you can prepare and everything but at the end of the day you have to learn a lot of things as you go along!
RR – Who are your influences and favourite Soundsystems?
WT – I mostly listen to Jamaican music from the 60s to present day in my own time as well as bits of other, mainly underground music. I probably take most inspiration from Fattis and his 90’s Xterminator productions. Not only did he work with amazing artists but with some wicked musicians and featuring live musicians is something that I’ve always seen as important as well. What I like to listen to at home and what I like to hear on a sound is kinda two different things and I guess I try to blend the two different styles when I’m making music, live musicianship with the kind of driving beat and rhythm that I like to hear in a dance. For me the soundsystem that most consistently brings those vibes is Aba Shanti and it’s an honour that he’s taken an interest in my music the way he has.
RR – Is there a certain track or artist that made you fall in love with the music?
WT – Well I had found Bob Marley and a handful of others in my early teens but it wasn’t really until hearing the music on soundsystem a short time after that it properly clicked with me. That was when I really fell in love with it and I would try and search out those raw sparse tunes like what I was hearing on sounds. So it was king tubby dub albums and things like that I was listening to, and then from there had a better appreciation for the more musical stuff again. I’m always going in circles listening to different styles.
RR – What are your thoughts on the UK Reggae based music scene at the moment and where do you see it going in the future?
WT – It’s good to see people like Shy FX coming in and doing things their own way, as well as a resurgence of roots reggae coming out of Jamaica and some quality European productions, there’s plenty to keep the UK scene on its feet. I just think promoters need to shake things up a bit to reflect what’s actually going on in the music, instead of copying and pasting the same handful of sounds onto every line-up, but you know, there’s always new people discovering this music so it’s good that they can still see these sounds after so many years. I see things continuing to merge more with the underground dance scenes, there’s always been a bit of an overlap but I think dubstep introduced a lot more people to soundsystem culture and they’ve got a taste for it and stuck around. It’s cool…
RR – Is there anything you want to say on the big Vinyl / Digital debate?
WT – It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about recently. I’m in the process of making the Descendant Music catalogue available on digital download soon and I’ll be making future releases available on both vinyl and digital formats. Some people are always going to love vinyl, myself included, but as manufacturing costs keep going up vinyl gets to be more of a specialist market so it only seems fair to make releases available digitally as well. I use both formats and think each has their place. If you’re chilling at home or whatever you can enjoy putting on a record, but if you’re sat listening to music on a train it’s gonna be digital… unless you’re a really devoted hipster…
RR – Who are your ‘Ones to watch’ for 2014?
WT – Just Is records and the Chief Rockas Collective from Norwich – they’ve been putting together some wicked music and are gonna be releasing it as a free album, I think with more things planned for next year. Violinboy from Poland, who has stirred things up this year with more in the bag for 2014. I think there’s big potential for UK & Descendant Music artist K.O.G and Jamaican artist Micah Shemaiah as well just to name a few.
RR – Top 3 Tracks of the year so far?
- WT – Jah9 – Preacher Man
- Micah Shemaiah – Dread at the Control
- Chronixx – Alpha & Omega
Check more out about Will by clicking HERE.