Every week resident FADER selector Eddie STATS runs through dancehall riddims and other artifacts from the ghetto archipelago.
Round about New Year’s a new brand riddim leaked from Truck Back, the upstart label which produced what is arguably the tune of 2008, Erup’s “Click Mi Finga” which was neck and neck with Serani and Mavado’s respective 45s on Unfinished Business for biggest vibe in dancehall not to mention award nominations and crossover chart success. It also came with a back story as word gradually spread outside Jamaica that Truck Back studios is so named because the riddims are built and voiced in a third world sound lab located in the back of an actual, factual container truck parked amid the ghetto palms of an empty lot somewhere in Kingston. I am not making this up.
Naturally people have been looking to this next riddim run on the Dashboard — especially the Erup version — as the follow up and it does not disappoint. I was an early-out supporter of the Gearbox riddim which spawned “Click Mi Finga” and my dude Josh Chamberlain offered me an exclusive jump on it, but sadly by the time I woke from my holiday slumber the likes of Max Glazer and Johnny Wonder had already blasted it out to the world. The only thing to do in the face of such fierce competition is to elevate game, so to accompany this Dashboard blend I have added new tunes on the riddim AND an extensive Q&A with Truck Back co-founder Steve Locke to get the inside scoop on the underdog label which has taken dancehall by storm in ‘08.
Dashboard Riddim Blend:
New Kid, “Ghetto Party”
Chris Martin, “Want me Ting”
Déjà vu, “Dat Mi Seh”
Mr. Lexx, “100 Dagger”
Erup, “Mek Noise”
Elephant Man, “Nah Beg Dem Nutten”
Flippa Mafia, “Wasp"
Download: Dashboard Riddim Blend
Q+A With Steve Locke, Truck Back Records:
Start me at the beginning. What’s your background?
My background is music! Technically I’m a musician—started out playing in Kaushan band.
How long had you been doing that before Truck Back Records came about?
Let’s see, from I was in school…I don’t know how long that is! I start playing bass when I was in school and from that put a band together and start tour Africa, Europe all over the place. We played with Gregory Isaacs, Shabba Ranks, Bounty Killer—we’re a support band.
So would you say you’re a live musician more than a studio musician?
Yes, because I came up in a live band. As a support band you learn to play with anybody.
So Truck Back has been around for about two years now?
From ’05, ‘06 we been doin stuff. We were close with Elephant Man and he was just always there. We worked on a lot of stuff for him; myself, my brother Adrian Locke and Andrew Locke. There’s 3 brothers—6 boys in all but 3 of em’s in Jamaica. So we start recording, you know, experimenting with things.
Before this you were working out of somebody else’s studio?
Yeah, we work out of whatever studio before that and you cyaan work because you watchin the clock, you keep on watchin the clock (when booking time at somebody else studio)—all dat stuff. Cyaan do dat. You cyaan make music on a time, you haffi have chemistry there’s no way you can do it if the first thing is negative energy.
So from what I’m told Truck Back studios is actually in the back of a container truck, correct?
Yes it is
Where in Kingston is it located?
In the heart of New Kingston, close to the hip strip and all those things.
How did you come to build it in the back of a truck?
What happen is, a lot of people have studios like in a room; little studios. I’ve seen you can even set up a little studio in a hotel room. What consist of a studio? Your recording tools, two speakers, microphone, headphones, what you get done. You can build a little studio anywhere, a lot of people dem have a little personal studio. We were like we just need a building right now, cause we’re workin at other people’s space and racking extra time. I had the truck parked, we used to use the truck, as a matter of fact, to move a soundsystem. That situation kinda fell off with the soundsystem, like the truck is just parked so I said, Hey! Soon as me put the two speakers in there. Set up a little thing in there and we just build it, just pack it out and sample the sound. “Ah what if we just build a little more over here?” Like that…until it just become an entity.
Paint me a picture of what’s inside the truck-back, is it mostly digital?
Mostly digital. It’s 26 feet long by 8’2” wide—that’s the dimension of the truck. There’s carpet inside, everything well padded. You walk in through the doors at the back a de truck and it have like 3 compartments in there. You come in, its like a place whey you have a likkle table there, you have computer, fax machine, internet stuff happening there, then you go through another door; that’s the control room. Then you have the last room which is the voicing booth which is all glass, everything see-through.
Are you involved mostly as a musician or working on the computer?
Well let’s talk about the studio first—I’m merging digital with the analog. Still do the live bass, still play the live keyboard, still play this, still play that. Cyaan do live drums in there. If we haffi do live drums then we take a hour, two hours to do live drums at friends place, just drums. If have three different live drum sessions we just do it and get it over with, come back to my studio and do all that stuff. It’s all Pro Tools set up, lot of the latest plug in, all of that stuff that’s needed.
So the riddims that we’ve heard—Gearbox and that—are those live drums or sampled sounds or something else?
Sample sounds with a live snare. I always tend to merge it because when you go full digital the music sound like “alright…another riddim.” When you merge a live instrument with a digital thing it produce that edgy sound and the whole thing is that hardcore, edgy sound that’s what I try to go for. I don’t try to go for too pretty, too digital, it have to have an edginess.
The first Truck Back riddim I heard was Gearbox, was there more before that?
That was the first thing that release after the Truck Back start. Since then we have the Clutch riddim, Spring Blade, Ole Axle and Dashboard is the new one. We got a lot of other things but we just have them. Some time we a go pull them down back and voice them, pull them down back and play a different thing around it…
After the way “Click Mi Finga” has blown up abroad, I know a lot of people are looking for the follow up tune. I heard you’re working on an LP project with Erup—what makes the collaboration work so well with his style?
You know I never tried to figure it out, it’s just a natural vibes. We vibe a lot, laugh, yunnerstand me. We doing a lot of work with Erup, true true. But no restriction, no schedule, no watching the clock.
Was he an artist you had a relationship before the studio was built?
No, he was somebody that came by since the studio was built and just came back again and again and feel a vibe.
What other projects do you have on the horizon?
We record for Erup, we working with another artist, a cultural artist named Baijie. The name of his album is Equilibrium, he have a single called “That’s Life” that’s what we pushin right now. Dashboard—we release that officially by the end of January and we try to push out Baijie’s album, should be ready by second week of February, so we doing simultaneous things.
With the Truck Back label as opposed to studio how does that work, do you press vinyl and everything yourself?
No we work with Energy Beat label, Richard Burgess. For those two, Richie B is doing the vinyl and we’ll also be doing digital distribution.
The tracks for Baiji—are those one drop riddims you’ll voice other artists on?
No, those are just compositions for his album. I mean I have one track on there I might just put three or four more artists on and make a small compilation or something. I think I could hear Queen I-frica, one or others, just to keep a vibe.
So what do you think defines the Truck Back sound?
As I was saying to you earlier, the edginess, it have to have a edgy sound to it, rough. All the killer we play we can reproduce it live. You have a lot of riddims out there that are terrible to reproduce live. You can’t play it back, you have to sample the original thing and then create a sample. Our stuff you can play it back live, artists say, It sound like a bands-man play dis! It sound like a musician, it don’t sound like a computer-man play it!—that’s what we hear all the time.
(At this point, Steve takes another call and begins to bawl, JE-sus Christ! regarding some situation involving a Maxi Priest gig scheduled for the DC inauguration festivities and that concludes the interview).