“Rock and roll, what an empty generation.”

One of the initial notices of existence regarding the On-U Sound crew was the Major Malfunction album credited to drummer Keith LeBlanc, with Doug Wimbish on bass, Skip McDonald, keys and guitar and Adrian Sherwood mixing.  The cut up samples, robotic yet human nature of this work, it’s subtle and direct political nature, crossing racial lines, embracing the good, the bad and the damn ugly, percussion concussions, grabbed me by both ears and slammed me headfirst into many a speaker stack.

“Technology works, technology delivers.”

The search began, reading album sleeves, seeing the same names pop up, remixes by Adrian Sherwood here and there, Tackhead, Sugarhill musical crew of Wimbish, LeBlanc and McDonald. Listening to African Head Charge on my Walkman, sounds panning from the left side of my head to the right and seemingly moving to the front lobe then back, pausing midway to drop some rootical knowledge and dub science.  A psychedelic Africa indeed, never heard anything like that before.

“Adjust the treble and bass.”

So enamored with this sound when in London, I knocked on the door of the address that was  on the sleeves of these’On-U Sound’ productions.  A Japanese woman opened the door of the house, “Uh, is this On U Sound, I’m looking for Adrian Sherwood?”  The woman who introduced herself as Kishi invited me in.  In my head, juvenile enthusiasm was on, I was saying “Damn, that’s Kishi, Kishi!” Kishi Yamamoto was Adrian’s wife back then and she was responsible for the majority of the label artwork and also played keyboards. They didn’t know me from Jack, I arrived unannounced but yet here a fresh pimply yout’ living in Toronto who had a program on CKLN Radio was now standing in the living room / mixing studio of musical royalty, being offered tea, and more records to fuel my program and passion.  A massive mixing desk was on the wall, yes, on the wall, not on a table as normal,  it took up less space this way.

Pay It All Back

I used to have a cassette that had the first Public Enemy album on one side and on the other was “As The Veneer of Democracy Starts To Fade”, by Mark Stewart and The Maffia.  That shit was coarse, nothing like it existed before, apart from Public Enemy in a way, that’s why that cassette was so important to me.  Those two albums showed the possibilities that existed and they still do to this day.  When revolution has become a marketing tool and rebellion stale, put on those albums now, as the charge is still there, ready to inspire and set fire.  The world of control domination politics, statistics that blow minds, sounds that carry the hurt and aspirations. Reflect the time of the past, then and now. Techniques are being constantly refined to maintain the status quo that has been in place for hundreads of years  – yes that’s how I spell hundred.

You gotta check The Quietus interview with Adrian, it delves deep, really sets the record straight as to the conditions of the time that went into creating such an influential sounds.  Adrian and crew have touched thousands, from Massive Attack – vocalist Shara Nelson worked with Adrian that’s how come they knew her, Depeche Mode, Adrian did several remixes for them, Peter Gabriel,  Living Colour, Primal Scream – Echo Dek, what a great piece of work.

Me and my man Angus and a quite a few others would travel across London or up and down the country to catch On U Sound nights, legendary, two queues, one to get in, one to get out, ha!

You get the drift, enough blabbing from me, check that article and seek should you feel what’s been written.

One thought on “On-U Sound / Adrian Sherwood – 30 Years at The Controls

  1. lovely post ….just read the whole of the sherwood interview referenced in your piece …absolutely deadly ..with some really great insights ….On u Sound produced and produces brillant music ..and for me adrian is the absolute best on the dub mixing boards …for inspiration i like watching thatt video of him mixing at real world studio …where he so casually pulls off brillant dub mixing touches …he makes it look like it so easy …but i have seen many a great engineeer try the same moves and not pull them off ….big up to adrian

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