The United Nations Of Dub Weekender is back! Now in it’s second year, the worlds only family friendly multi day indoor dub, roots and reggae festival, the United Nations Of Dub Weekender (U.N.O.D Weekender) is back at Pontins ‘Prestatyn Sands’ self catering holiday park in North Wales from 28th – 30th March 2014 for another instalment of bass fuelled fun and games featuring over one hundred of the biggest artists and sound systems out there. You can catch the Reggae Roast crew there on Saturday in the Mungo’s Hi-Fi arena! Prior to the session we met up with one of the event organisers and all round nice bloke I-Mitri to chat about his time in the music industry & what this year’s UNOD session has to offer….
RR: Easy! For people not aquainted with I-Mitri & the Counteraction label can you give them a brief intro?
I-Mitri: CounterAction is a UK Dub and Roots label based in the midlands, and more specifically in Leicester! We started releasing vinyl back in 2007, and have released to date 6 x 10″, a CD album/digital, and a couple of digital singles. CounterAction was started by I-self and the one and only Richi Rootz who sadly passed away a couple of years ago.
Richi is also one of the founding members of Vibronics, and a general legend in this city, responsible for having connected many of the local artists! For example, Richi introduced a very young Jah Marnyah who at the time worked as a labourer in his house here in Leicester through common family connections with Monserrat (the Caribbean island) to Vibronics! Making links and bringing up young talent was very much Richi’s mission!
You could say our first unofficial release and the birth of CounterAction, sonically at least,
is the the Scoops Records 10″ “Mama Africa” by the Vibronics Dub Family! On that tune Richi played bass and I played drums in separate sessions (and before actually meeting in person), before Steve Vibronics (another Leicester legend) put the magic touches on the mix and arrangement and eventually released it as a 10″ in 2006 after a few years of earth shaking sounds like Jah Tubbys and Iration Steppas blasting it around the world!
That was effectively our introduction and led to many a jam session in the Counteraction HQ studio! We would start by jamming, him on bass and i on drums, and record ideas which i then worked on and developed further into dubs and eventually releases!
My personal background is many years of live bands and music projects around Greece as a drummer, singer and percussionist.. After our first album release in Greece in ’98 i got a bit more seriously involved with the studio recording and mixing processes. This eventually lead to me moving to the UK in 2001 to live study and work close to the music scene and the industry that i had grown to love, one that has influenced and continues to influence so much of the world! I continue to work in that capacity as well as a mix engineer and producer for different labels around the world. I gig regularly as a mic man, DJ/Selector/Live mixer and percussionist with a live band representing CounterAction, as well as often tour/record with a few other well known live dub acts like Vibronics, my famo AMP Outernational and Dub Providers (Nuff Powa).. My day job is youth work through music focused around young people in difficult circumstances whether in a social respect or in terms of health with a fantastic non-profit organisation here in Leicester called Soft Touch Arts..
RR: How did you first get involved with the music?
I-Mitri: I would say before anything else it would be my parent’s record collection!
The stereo was the focus of our house, and the TV at the time was black and white and in a corner.. I have so many vivid memories of listening to records, lying on the carpet, while carefully studying the covers, or any lyrics etc inside the albums! From there i found myself learning guitar and drums and started a band in school in Greece very early on!
We mainly payed hardcore and covers at first, practicing in my sister’s room ,
but slowly Reggae took over after we tried to cover “Chase the Devil” by Max Romeo the first time, and tripped all over ourselves and the beat! Reggae then became an obsession, and the band is now known as AMP Outernational, co-founders of Greece’s roughest sound Dubwise HiFi
RR: You’re in a band, run a label, produce a radio show, sing and write your own music and run a major roots & dub festival, how do you find the time?
I-Mitri: Oh gosh, yes… I do wonder that myself often! I suppose I don’t have much of a social life heheheh! But on a bit of a more serious note, I think one supports the other, they’re not mutually exclusive. This way I have constant works to do, if it’s not one thing its the other. It keeps me excited and engaged, and I guess inevitably a little sleepless but content! The challenge is not to let the creative play and music writing suffer, and for that, sometimes, you have to turn the phone on silent and get off FB. I also have some great creative positive people surrounding and supporting I and we push each other on a daily to get better, and raise our game! I’m not I alone in this! UNITY is the key!
RR: Can you tell us a little bit about your reasons behind starting UNOD festival and what 2014 has in store?
I-Mitri: As you mentioned we have a weekly radio show here on a university FM station.
United Nations Of Dub was baptised by Richi Rootz who used to regularly select every other week or so. We had been discussing different event and business ideas with my partner Leicester promoter Felis Kontakt for a few years now, and attending each-other’s events. When the time came and we made the mad decision to realise our dream of an event modelled after the old Soul Weekenders or more recently, the electronic music weekenders in holiday parks, this time honouring and aiming solely at the Dub and the “bass” community it was obvious that the radio show name represented our idea for the festival perfectly and so was born the UNOD Weekender!
It’s the biggest indoor sound system culture event in the world, last year attracting people from as far as Japan, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, the US and so many European countries and beyond! No mud, no rain, no tents, and you can sleep!
It is an opportunity to experience the very top producers, performers and sounds in the scene as well as to get introduced to younger artists and sounds from around the world! We have many arenas, talks, a cinema, a heated themed pool party, and many surprises, and you can buy tickets including accommodation (in fully equipped flats with en-suites bathrooms and kitchens, where you have all you need to cook: fridge, oven, microwave, kettle and dishes pans and cups) as well as 3-day passes with no accommodation if you wished to stay near by in the numerous B&Bs and caravan parks
or finally single affordable day tickets!
for further links and the full line up!
RR: Which act are you most looking forward to checking at the festival?
I-Mitri: There are so many to pick from and choosing one is very difficult! So here are a select few! Jah Shaka opens the festival with full sound on Friday and last year that was a very unique experience! The mighty son of Augustus Pablo! The very talented rising star that is Addis Pablo shall be there representing this year with his melodica on Friday alongside Ras Jammy as Suns Of Dub! My hero Adrian Sherwood (ON U SOUND) is there on Saturday on our main stage show arena powered by Mungo’s Hifi full sound system!
The crazy 4-way (full sound) “meets” on our Sound System arena:
Saturday: Iration Steppas – Blackboard Jungle – Aba Shanti – Jah Tubbys and
Sunday: King Earthquake – OBF – Maasai Warrior – Word Sound and Power all on their own sets!
And finally on Sunday night, the might Mungo’s HiFI and their Scotch Bonnet show case set on their full sound!
RR: What are your top three tracks at the moment?
Loving the new JA (so-called) “revival” scene at the moment! Too many to mention but a great track for me is “Jesse Royal – Modern Day Judas” (many other great cuts on this riddim to check too, more recently for example the tuff “Jr Gong – Gunman World”).
Been loving the new Vibronics meets Brain Damage album, high quality musicianship and sound and serious historical background, as close to a dub concept album as it gets! My good bredrin’s tune (also from Leicester) “Madu Messenger – Letter Home” is one to check for sure!
Also been getting great feedback for one of i&i own works too! Watch out for the brand new tune (currently at DUBplate status) by the “Dubateers ft I-mitri – Learning Curve”
on a refix you might just recognise hehe
RR: What are your thoughts on the current state of the UK Reggae scene and how do you feel it compares with the rest of the world?
I-Mitri: This is a very interesting question and a very deep subject! It’s very interesting as the UK was the gateway through which Reggae, dub and sound system culture reached Europe and arguably the rest of the world! It also stamped its own identity on both the musicianship but also the sound system tradition, which coming from JA to the UK changed, to accommodate more of our climate, lifestyle and preferences! Much heavier sounds, a focus on more instrumental cuts and heavy dub mixes as well as a more Minor keys/chords/scales approach to composition, ignoring the Major keys that JA music often favours!
However that was the 80s and 90s and since then the tradition has taken hold of Europe especially places like France and Italy but growing elsewhere too! It has developed into a new identity, style and sound, again accumulating local culture and tradition but maintaing the basic elements as they came through the UK directly from JA. So, these days, the scene is actually more healthy abroad! And here in the UK, it has become harder and harder to find the right venues that would be willing to support sound systems coming, less and less street parties etc, and a youth culture that for a while at least turned its back on the Reggae/dub world. At the same time the UK still has many pioneering dub producers and acts, and they continue to shape along with many of the newer generations, the European sound of sound system dub music, and continue to gig heavily and feature on sounds around the world! With the emergence of the dubstep scene and the general return to vinyl, dub plate culture and heavy bass sound systems more recently, the new generations of youths are more and more getting involved in a revival of the bass sound, in a brand new form, and with now clearly influence coming back from Europe obvious in new crews out of Manchester, Leeds and Bristol as well as London of course and other places around the UK!
RR: Vinyl or Digital?
I-Mitri: I collect vinyl still, and i grew up with that sound so can’t think of a better format for bass music! I also very much fuljoy listening to sounds Like Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti I, King Earthquake and Channel One religiously sticking to vinyl in their sessions! Having said that, after WAY too many pints spilled over records in sweaty, small, rammed-out clubs, I made the decision very early on to record my records to digital and to fwd to gigs with a laptop based set up! My records that way are safe at home, and for practical reasons a laptop bag beats carrying record bags on planes and messy hot festivals any day! It’s also a lot easier to run our own exclusives and dubs as our show (whether live or as DJ Selection) is at least 80% original music and lots of live vocals either of my own or of one or more of the artists with which CounterAction often tours!
RR: Tea or Coffee?
I-Mitri: 95% of the time TEA! However there are some moments (on long drives after gigs late at night, or after very late gigs followed by early airport runs for example) when a double shot espresso is NECESSARY!
RR: What are your plans for the future?
More and more releases, session work and collaborations with producers, sound systems and promoters around the world. First release this year for example, featured on the tape is the “Get Along” tune by AMP Outernational available on JUNO and a few more tunes down the pipeline due to land on vinyl and digital release very soon! Also due to the festival taking over our lives this last year we have been sitting on some serious dubplates that I would love to see released through CounterAction Soundz and expect to get on with, certainly by the end of 2014, if not before
Hopefully also UNOD Weekender 2015 and many more after!
Big up Reggae Roast, thanks for the opportunity to share words and sounds with you and the family!
for future gigs, news, releases and merch!