Interview: Adrian Sherwood

Super art, super tart, super mind... - By Morgan Short, Jun 19, 09

Adrian Sherwood is a huge, huge deal and he's coming the play The Shelter tonight. One of the most important figures in the development and dissemination of reggae and dub music in the UK, Sherwood is the main man behind seminal label On-U Sound, launch pad of Creation Rebel, Prince Far I, and Bim Sherman. He's also famous for his work outside the dub community in the mid-80s, producing, remixing, and twiddling knobs for acts like Depeche Mode, Einsturzende Neubaten, Primal Scream, Pop Will Eat Itself, Skinny Puppy, Simply Red, KMFDM, and Ministry.

Basically, all that great industrial stuff that you should listen to if you're looking to play Duck Hunt for 30 hours straight.

In recent decades Sherwood is famous for his work with dub legend Lee "Scratch" Perry, and has branched out as a solo artist performing all around the world. I think he just played with Brian Eno or some shit in Australia.

SmartShanghai sat down with a very jet-lagged Adrian Sherwood to pepper him with questions about Alien Jourgensen, the new dubstep, and being unjustifiably broke.


SmSh: How are you liking Shanghai?

AS: I love it. I reminds me a bit of Japan when things were starting to happen, '86 - '87, and you have lots of people with lots of money putting on things. Of course there's lots of people with no money as well... but I remember being in Japan and introducing people to reggae. You know, people who haven't been exposed to my background -- African Head Charge or Lee Perry or other things I've done, you know. Primal Scream or whatever. They've never heard of it. It's good to be in that, and you need people on the ground like Gaz [manager of The Shelter] who is building a reggae scene and then it's there for the next generation.

SmSh: Yeah, they've been working to push dubstep there among other things... connecting Shangahi with the new sounds in the UK. So I heard you had some special equipment requirements for your show on Friday.

AS: What I'm trying to do to be honest with you, because no one knows who I am out here, besides maybe expats or lads like yourself, is I'm trying to do a live dub show. I've got two CDJs, a laptop, a drum pad, a noise machine -- that there's only one in the world of -- I've got a DSP 4000 Space Echo Pedal, and hopefully get a delay and a reverb here.

So what I'm doing is playing where I've managed to get the voice on one channel and the rhythms on the other, and on the pad I've got drums, and I'm basically dubbing it up and adding noises. Basically making a big cacophony of noise.

I could do like a DJ thing but I'm trying to make it more entertaining...

SmSh: They just had Kode9 in like two weeks ago...

AS: Yeah he's my mate, Steve.

SmSh: Right on. So how do you feel about the whole dubstep thing. What do you think of the kids these days?

AS: I think it's great but Steve isn't so much dubstep. He's kind of more techno-ey with a bit of dubstep, and weird, quirky, interesting. He actually just did a remix of a new Lee Perry thing. I've got this new Lee Perry album which is like the best thing he's put out in like 25 years called "The Mighty Upsetter" [trails off].

You'll have to excuse me I'm a bit jet-lagged [Laughs]. Yeah, but the dubstep scene is amazing because it's like an evolution. You know, things like Digital Mystikz -- there's lots of people in the area -- and it's still Jamaican roots but it's modern. If you just stay in the same thing then it's nostalgia.

You know a lot of the dubstep, it sounds young and fresh and new. Friday, I'll play some of the new dubstep things and go right from roots. Make like a journey through dub.

SmSh: So about Tackhead and we should talk about industrial music...

AS: Well in '84 I got invited to the New Music Seminar by Tom Silverman [founder of Tommy Boy Records]. And I had no money and I was really poor but I got invited... you know that evening is when I met James Brown and I spent 30 minutes in a room on my own with him and it was very weird. His wife was named Adrian as well...

SmSh: Was he drugged to the gills?

AS: Nah. But he kept going [does James Brown voice] "I can't believe your name is Adrian, my wife's name is Adrian." He was really funny. And Africa Bambaataa was there that night, and that was the night I met them all...

SmSh: You did stuff with Flux of Pink Indians right?

AS: Yeah. I did a couple of tunes for "Flux" on their record in the late '80s and then it went on to Sugarcubes and then Bjork after that, you know.

SmSh: Yeah. Right. [Laughs]. So let me get out my sheet of questions here. I tried to do some homework so as to not come across like a dick. Okay, from Lee Perry to KMFDM, to Ministry, Primal Scream, going on tour with The Clash -- you must get a lot of people coming up to you asking what other people are like. Do you get sick of that?

AS: No, because I'm a producer you know and it's about other artists. I work with lots of great artists and I've got my own style and I supplied my techniques to whatever I did. If you ask me about any of them that's what it was.

SmSh: What's Alien Jourgensen [lead singer of Ministry] like?

AS: Well Al I haven't seen in 25 years but he was a really nice guy. He had just had a baby and I had just had a baby, so um... and he wanted to get less like disco music and more like... Mark Stuart and the Mafia to be honest. So the whole process was me trying to make a record and make the record company happy and him trying to get more radical...

SmSh: When was that?

AS: '85.

SmSh: Was that Sympathy or Twist?

AS: Twist. I produced it.

SmSh: My girlfriend wants to know what Trent Reznor is like.

AS: Well, before Nine Inch Nails, he would come to all our gigs and he was really into Mark Stewart. But I don't really know him to be honest, other than this lad who came around to the gigs. But there it is, looks like he went on to do what he wanted with his life.

I can't tell you any insight into...

SmSh: Other than the fact that's he's incredibly dark, brooding, and handsome? [Laughs.]

AS: [Doesn't find this amusing in the least]. I can't tell you what he looked like. Other than he came to our gigs had his vision of things and did what he wanted to do.

SmSh: When you look back on the projects you've been a part of and the work you've done, which is the work that stands out for you as something you're proud of. Something that stands up over time?

AS: It's a bit hard because most of the stuff, I've done for myself. Most stuff is hit or miss, and sometimes it works out really good. I did that album "Echo Dek" for Primal Scream. It's not that well known but it's a good album. It's like a noise record outside the usual genres I work with.

And my own stuff I'm pretty proud of because most of them were only made over a matter of a few days. Other stuff you spend a year on like Perry's "Time Boom" or Mark Stewart's "Learning to Cope with Cowardice" -- you spend a year making them. But it's also great to be a part of it.

SmSh: What are you working on these days?

AS: I've just started putting tunes out again. I've got a new Lee Perry, African Head Charge, I've just done the new Slits album. I've never really been hit-orientated though. And all this time I should have made a lot of money I didn't.

SmSh: You must have had a few things that have paid off.

AS: Not really, nah. I got fucked on everything [Laughs]. But it doesn't matter really 'cause I still got ideas and lots of people. I've been lucky, I've been lucky. I've gotten to work with all the people I ever wanted to work with.

So I can't say any better than that really.


Adrian Sherwood is blowing up The Shelter tonight. Go down check him out. Starts 10pm. Tickets are only 50rmb.


Jun 19, 09

Crap interview. Embarrassing. You get to talk to an all time reggae legend and you're asking him "Whats Trent Reznor and Al Jourgensen like?". Christ.


Jun 22, 09



Jun 22, 09

' Mom? ' hahahaha
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