DJ Madd: Kunta Kinte

It’s been two years since we covered a DJ Madd release, so we felt a sit down with Peter to talk about his recent release on the Brooklyn-based record label Dub-Stuy and his worldly travels was long overdue. The release features production from DJ Madd in modern roots style backed with a plethora of MC collaborations including France based Shanti D, Bristol’s Rider Shafique of Young Echo and Jamaica’s very own dancehall deejay, Burro Banton. A short listen reveals a rework of the infamous (and now released) Kunta Kinte dubplate by The Revolutionaries – countlessly sampled over the years by the likes of Mad Professor, Rusko and Alpha Steppa just to name a few.

Thanks for taking the time for this interview Peter. Before we dive into the release, I’m sure some of the readers out there are interested in hearing about your travels. The last feature we had on TRUSIK took us back to RNF003 when you were probably still living in Japan. How does the USA compare?

Japan and the USA are very hard to compare (laughs). In a way you could say the music I am trying to push has an equally hardcore following in both places. Japan has so much love for reggae music – it blew my mind. That being said there was more than one instances where I would go to a random bar and there would be a full blown footwork rave on a Wednesday night. It was amazing. I am still figuring out how things are going in the USA to be honest! Everything is obviously much more spread out and you can find a crew with a custom sound system in the most unexpected places! I do have a soft spot for the current 808 love thats going on the USA and I think after the initial trap-boom the more twisted interesting tunes are starting to get more spotlight.

With a move to North America (or any new country for that matter) comes opportunities to meet new people, promoters and perform at nights that may not have been possible before. Beyond that, there are opportunities to enter the festival circuit too. Being Canadian myself, I couldn’t help but ask about your recent booking at the infamous Shambhala Music Festival in BC last year. How was that experience?

It was awesome. I usually play festivals around Europe so this was an entirely different experience. The festival is just being run proper. Both from a DJ point and from a raver point. The artists they book seem to be coming from all sorts of genres and thats what you really need at these massive festivals. My set at The Grove stage was with Thelem and Truth and even though we all play different vibes people just rolled with it and we all had an amazing time.

Digressing here, but I’m sure you hear often from your followers that there has been a noticeable shift in your production sound from the deep and moody dubstep sounds to more roots focused. From the Blackbox and Osiris days to now, is there a reason for this? Or is it just your natural progression?

This is purely based on what I am feeling and that always seems to come back to something dub influenced. Coming from a jungle and drum & bass background I was always fascinated how technical producers like Optical or Matrix can get and while I couldn’t make those techy sounds when I first started releasing, I slowly learned to write reeces and had fun with it for a couple years. It’s very easy to get lost in a certain sound and after a while I felt like I boxed myself in with it too much you know? It almost felt like I’m writing the same tracks over and over and the gigs I was playing were very focused on this one sound as well. So one day I sat down and tried to remember the times when I was writing tracks for pure fun without even thinking about it and I almost instantly came back to my WAR releases. That being said I learned so much writing those tunes and while my tracks today are not focused on the techy side of things, I still try to slip in some of those vibes in both 140 and 160 tunes. I guess the music I’m happiest with is when I can have a little bit of everything in there, finding that balance is the tricky part!

Being an avid follower of your releases on 1DROP, there’s a certain signature style of how you arrange the percussion on tracks like MJ or Simon Says. What is your recipe?

There really isn’t a go-to recipe for me when it comes to percussion. Obviously it depends on the tune but if I’m not going for a very tribal vibe track from the start, the percussion is there to fill in gaps and make the tune more rolling. For a long time I only used real percussion instrument sounds but these past couple years I have been exploring the percussion folders of old and new drum machines and been kicking myself for not doing it sooner!

Can you explain your vision of your Roots & Future imprint and how it differs from your second label, 1DROP? To me, I would describe RNF as more of a higher tempo footwork sound (as of lately) and 1DROP follows the more conventional dubstep “structure” for a lack of better words.

I set up Roots & Future to have a platform where I can release whatever I want, whenever I want. The label definitely follows my musical path as well, as it started with dubstep exclusively and the last couple releases were all more higher tempos. That being said, I definitely want more dubstep on there, the bpm switch is to keep things interesting and not to close the door on something I’ve been doing for a long time. I am currently thinking of starting to have more digital releases between the vinyl ones as well. 1DROP is definitely more of a ‘pure fun’ dancefloor thing. It’s also a nod towards my WAR whitelabel roots. It’s great to have a platform where I can release versions of tracks I love with my own twist on them.

Moving on to Dub-Stuy Records, let’s start off by how this release came to be: I can only assume that you had linked up with Double Tiger or DJ-Q-Mastah in the flesh since they are based out of Brooklyn?

Yeah I lived in Brooklyn for two years so getting connected with the Dub-Stuy guys came natural. We instantly became friends and our ideas about where to take reggae and dubwise sounds have a lot in common. They are definitely one of the most open minded crew I met over here. I have no doubt we will continue to work together on releases and we are well overdue for to our follow up tune with Jay Spaker!

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Kunta Kinte is a very well-known flute chord that has been sampled extensively in the “roots and bass music” community. Whenever I pop my 7” record of the Pressure Sound release on the platter for friends to hear, I am almost guaranteed a different answer of which track they heard it sampled first. What was yours?

My first introduction to the Kunta Kinte riddim actually came from jungle roots. I have vague memories of getting Rebel MC’s “Jahovia” on CD and a couple years later the more full-on jungle version that was titled Kunta Kinte, the flipside of Champion DJ feat. Top Cat. Back in those days I often heard a big sample in a jungle track and then I tried to hunt down the original. Thats how I learned a lot about reggae music actually. Today, it’s the other way around but still enjoy the odd sample back-track.

With this release comes an impressive list of highly regarded MC’s. From Paris, Bristol all the way to Jamaica: what are your relationships with these vocalists and how did these collaborations really start?

That was all sorted by Quoc from Dub-Stuy actually. We have been talking about a riddim series for a while so it all just came natural. I have been following reggae riddims for quite a long time now and it was a bit of an old dream to write riddims with that same mentality: Have a riddim and get vocalists on it with the producer sort of staying in the background. Being able to do that with a fresh twist on it is a bonus of course.

Being a big O.B.F fan myself, my personal favourite would have to be the Shanti D version. His melodic voice pairs well. The music video was also very simple, yet creative. What about yourself?

I could honestly not pick one (laughs). Shanti D definitely killed it. When I first heard his vocal on the riddim singing the melody I was so stoked! Burro Banton is an absolute legend. I’ve been listening to his music since ‘Boom Wa Dis’ and now we have a tune together. That to me is insane. Rider Shafique brought his unique sound and his lyrics go deeper than anyone in the game! He also gave the release that Bristol connection which I’m always happy for. This package really just ticks all the boxes for me and I’m very proud of it.


We couldn’t end the interview without some exclusive news or upcoming releases. Anything on the horizon for roots labels you’ve released on like Lion Charge or ZamZam Sounds?

Definitely more 808 heavy riddim flips to come via Dub-Stuy records! I am also working on Tumble Audio release which will be an unusual tempo from me, and a halftime tune on Redeyes’ Vandal LTD titled “Cheeky Steppa“. On the dubstep tip, I’m working on a couple remixes at the moment, one of them is for Radikal Guru & Solo Banton so keep your eyes on Moonshine Records for when thats dropping. In the next couple months I will see what tunes make the cut and will start to prepare new releases for Roots & Future and 1DROP.

Kunta Kinte Riddim 2017 is out now and available from Unearthed Sounds, Redeye, White Peach, Juno and the Dub-Stuy Store.

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