South East London’s finest come correct! Hylu & Jago have been mashin’ up dances all over the world for many years now either with the Unit 137 crew or with the onlyjoe band. The Unit 137 brand encompasses all the ingredients that are imperative in keeping the tradition of UK based Reggae music alive, they run a recording studio, record label and soundsystem, yet still manage to find time to produce their own music and tour extensively. We caught up with the duo to chat about their influences, the current state of UK music & what the future holds for them…….
RR – For those of our followers who haven’t come across your music can you please introduce yourselves?
H&J – Safe, Blessed Love out to the Reggae Roast massive. We are essentially a production duo who are part of Unit 137 Sound System, record label and studios. When we play out we perform as a DJ (Hylu) and vocalist (Jago). We are also both part of the ten piece reggae band onlyjoe.
RR – What are your thoughts on the state of UK Soundsystem music at the moment?
H&J – The UK sound-system movement is doing pretty well at the moment. In the UK there is such a rich history and schooling from sounds such as Saxon, King Tubbys, Jah Shaka, Channel One and much more.
It seems like there’s been a recent burst of fresh energy within the scene. There are new sounds starting all over the place. With that you get an interesting mix of different people getting involved and people from different walks of life coming together.
We think the main message between sounds is unification; it seems to be less about clashing in the UK. Saying that, it would be great to see some proper clashes happen; instead of having random DJs who aren’t part of any sound, clashing each other at events where a beer costs almost as much as it does to get in.
Sound System comes from the people and is for the people, or at least that’s how we think it should be. That’s why we have been getting involved with street events like Trinity Music London’s ‘RumBQ’. Due to the weather in the UK it’s a summer time thing only, unfortunately. However, we are actively searching for an indoor space to continue the events throughout the winter months.
RR – You run a record label, a soundsystem and still find the time to produce new music and tour extensively, how do you find the time?
It’s very restrictive in terms of having much else in your life. Whatever you do, if you’re in love with it then you are going to be doing it all the time. You aren’t going to be doing the things that other people do, like have evenings watching films, or out to see plays, or whatever it is that people do. Not too long ago someone said to us that the career of an artist is a very selfish one. That’s kind of true because everything else has to work around the music. It’s not the other way around.
H&J – You’ve played some big festivals and sessions this year, what have been your highlights?
The best ones have been the ones with the most link ups between crews. We love being able to link up our sound with our brothers Lionpulse from Bristol. We have done this a few times over the past year. Boomtown Fair and St. Paul’s Carnival are two that really stand out. We had Reggae Roast representing on both occasions, as well as a number of other vocalists and selectors from all over the place. It’s great to have so many creative people coming together through sound system music and culture.
RR – How did you get into the music? What are your inspirations?
We both got into music in similar ways. Through pirate radio and listening to music that both our parents listened to when we were growing up. Jungle music was a big factor too, which was a strong initial exposure to dancehall for us. It’s funny the different routes everyone takes to find the music they love. We aren’t close-minded to only listening to one type or style. That’s probably why we play such an eclectic mix of music in our sets.
H&J – Is there anything you’d like to say regarding the big Vinyl / Digital debate?
We prefer to play vinyl, but it’s not always practical with travelling around (weight/size). ‘Sometimes you affi fly Ryan Air!’ It’s also very frustrating when you turn up to perform at a dance and the decks aren’t calibrated properly, or the needles are broken; but that is another conversation. We generally use Serato; we don’t play MP3 files, we only play full quality WAV files. We both buy vinyl and support the scene 100%.
RR – Top 3 tunes at the moment?
H&J – Mikey General – Kuff N Dem, Ramon Judah – The Vibe, Prince Jammo – Sheep To The Shepherd.
RR – Which artists are you really feeling at the moment?
H&J – All new and old artists that are creating and influencing. Basically anyone who is doing their thing properly, not being too flash or show off; just representing music. It’s great to discover new vocalists and producers. It’s wicked when you get collaborations between artists from different countries or vocalists/producers from different eras. It can sound good to get a lover’s rock vocalist on a steppas tune or even a roots vocalist on a hip-hop beat. It’s important to school people. You have to show the young ones how to do it otherwise they wont have that certain know how from day. We especially feel artists that take time to give something back to the scene, in order to help it flourish and grow stronger.
RR – What are your plans for the future?
We are really looking forward to getting more releases out there. We want to double the Unit 137 Sound System at some point too. There is so much that we want to achieve and do within music. Its great to do separate works from time to time, but something that is really important is working together and having a family vibe with what we do.
RR – How important is it to have your own Soundsystem in today’s scene?
H&J – It depends what people want to do, and how they want to push themselves. For us it was a really important step that we needed to make. In general the most important element is having fun and being creative. Whether that is through organizing events, performing, producing or just dancing. It’s all part of what makes the scene.