After joining Isan Dancehall late last year, UK dub producer Prince Fatty is riding into Thailand once again, promising “big bass lines, hot dancers and beats that will drive you crazy.” After appearing at Big Mountain music fest on Dec 7-8, he’ll head to Bangkok for his Tropical Dope Party at Rockademy on Dec 14. We spoke to him about his latest project and his ongoing fight for musical freedom.
What brings you back to Bangkok?
Big Mountain and Sticky Rice Sound System have invited us back, after we kicked it last year. This time will be even better. I am bringing over 30kg of dub plates [custom vinyl records] of fresh music. The speakers are even bigger this year, so the deep bass will travel far. We’ll be with special guests Cian Finn, UK soul legend Omar [Lye Fook] and one of Jamaica’s best dancehall MCs, Horseman. I will be selecting and playing some real killer tunes, the very best in reggae, afro, soul and disco.
How did you first get into reggae/dub/dancehall/ska?
I loved the bass in music, so I just followed my ears and my vibe. I started by listening to reggae and hip hop pretty much at the same time. I ended up in the ghetto of London where the good music is made. This is where I got the training from reggae producers and sound systems. Music is like martial arts, it takes years to learn all the moves, as you get older you get more powerful as your understanding grows.
Tell us about Tropical Dope – I understand it’s a label/promoter/party all wrapped into one?
Tropical Dope takes care of itself: we make some of the best parties, we control the sound, the mood and tempo. After a while, I felt we had to make our own music to keep things fresh. I did this with reggae, now Prince Fatty and Horseman are doing the same thing with afro, disco, funk and hip hop. We are now working with artists such as Marcia Griffith, Big Youth and Omar, who we are bringing to Thailand, and developing new younger talent.
You’ve been very critical of the music industry in the past—is Tropical Dope a response to this?
Yes, we need musical freedom--freedom of notes and of melodies, vibe and expression. I am told by the business not to work with foreign language artists. Why? This is negative. I love learning and hearing new sounds, exploring moods. This is why English music uses things like "baby, I love you baby" nonsense in songs. Other professionals who work in TV or performing athletes have rights; we have none. Musicians are treated badly, have no rights over their work and get very little respect even though the whole world enjoys the sounds we make. Can you imagine a world with no music?
What have you been working on lately?
I recorded a recent album by a fantastic singer called Mayra Andrade from Cape Verde on Sony Records and Hollie Cook, our lover’s rock reggae singer has just completed her album—disco reggae for romantics.
What can people expect from your sets at Big Mountain Festival and the Tropical Dope party?
Big bass lines, hot dancers and beats that will drive you crazy. Our reggae set brings together 30 years of great reggae into one big mix and Horseman is the master MC who will "rub a dub" dance all night long.
How different is your material live to on record? I hear you tend to play a lot of unreleased material…
Yes, we play what we call "specials;" these are songs we record just for the sound system. We take the vocals from famous songs and do our own music and beats, such as our afro version of "The Message". Eventually some will get released, like our reggae version of the disco classic by The Whispers, "The Beat Goes On" by Hollie Cook.
What’s your most memorable touring experience?
Doing a sold out show at the Dub Club in Los Angeles and hanging out in the Sierra Nevada mountains with all the reggae greats like Errol Dunkley and Cornell Campbell--chilling on my hotel balcony while they were telling me stories and drinking warm beer!
What was the inspiration behind your Battle for Seattle (2011) album of Nirvana covers?
Myself and Mutant Hi-Fi occasionally feel misunderstood. On this occasion I heard Nirvana in a shopping mall and I felt the inspiration. Both being fans of Nirvana when we were kids, it just felt right.
Doing a full album of Nirvana covers suggests you have pretty broad influences; how would you define your tastes?
Open and magical, I can tell if something is fake. In reggae the man choosing the songs is called "The Selector." I have tried to be the best selector I can without tricks just raw songs. Music takes on a life of its own. Once we have recorded something, it’s alive. I get pleasure from seeing the reaction on the dance floor. It’s often natural and the people just can’t stop dancing and vibing to the sound.