- Tue, 2010-08-31 16:12
Rodney Smith is better known as his stage name Roots Manuva. The legendary UK artist has been making a huge impact upon music since his career began in 1994. Encompassing sound system culture, dub, funk, ragga and hip hop, Roots Manuva has had a huge influence on UK rap with his distinct British edge, school boy humour and creative observations.
I Like Music caught up with Roots Manuva to chat about his latest live project and set-up Banana Klan, his fascination with the accent of music and why, if you're a young musician, you should definitely break all the rules.
"I Like Music because...it touches life and it changes life in a way beyond any other creative entity." Roots Manuva
ILM: You've being playing live quite a bit recently, what's your approach to Roots Manuva live?
Roots Manuva: Hmmm....there's a running stream of humour. Sometimes it's misconstrued in what I'm trying to do, which is just to have fun. My whole thing, the whole Roots Manuva thing, is that I'm not that traditional with regards to having a band. It's more of a sound system, more of a sonic installation, more of a like, multi-media, digital platform of collaborators. And then the festival set tends to morph into whatever festival we're at. In my ideal situations, I like to think of the Roots Manuva live entity as the most flexible live entity around. It's my bar to be able to play at a folk festival, jazz festival, reggae festival or a thrash metal festival and still fit in unnoticed.
ILM: It's about the music...
Roots Manuva: Yeah. It's just about the music and the ability of the musicians around me to convey the song.
ILM: You've got new people on board this year?
Roots Manuva: Oh yeah totally. The band is constantly reforming. There is no one Roots Manuva band you know? We've always re-moulded. Ten years ago I had a string quartet, five years ago I moved into totally doing it live, and now we've kind of got a blend of triggering samples along with a bass player, a drummer and a DJ.
ILM: How do you approach the transition of bringing in new people?
Roots Manuva: I hate rehearsal. I hate rehearsal! I could think of, like, I've got this identity of Banna Klan, www.bananaklan.co.uk, and we do a regular club event. It's about the crew of Banan Klan, an artistic collective coming together and just jamming, you know? So, out of that, that wider context of rehearsal, we kind of go over what is good from the Roots Manuva catalogue to perform. Then from within that physicality, loads of new things come out. Every festival we try and have something new to do that's dedicated toward that festival.
ILM: How do you push yourself to evolve as an individual artist?
Roots Manuva: I think it's kind of easy because listening to radio and mainstream pop music out there, there seems to be such a straight jacket of what is acceptable pop music and what is acceptable club music, acceptable black music...It's a natural reaction to going against the grain of the day. That's what keeps me going. As a collective, the whole Banana Klan thing, the identity is the anti-label. It's not a record label, it's not a recording company, it's a collective of different people coming together to go against the stereotype. So, within the facility you've got an all black rock band, white reggae singers, white reggae chatters, you got older people like Dawn Penn the reggae singer....so we got all different age groups of people working around the Roots Manuva live thing...which morphed into the Banana Klan, then the Banana Klan website, and that then morphed into the Dub College club night, which I'm hosting and presenting...we're bringing a whole different flavour to the live experience!
ILM: And you're the nucleus...
Roots Manuva: Yeah man. It's been ten years of touring, you know? And I met loads of great people. Through just being a studio geek I've morphed into a performer, which is not something I would have considered doing when I first started, but it's become more and more important. Out of that, I've just wanted to create a unique live experience. Out of that, from being a performer, that's gone on into hiring venues and putting on my own events myself.
ILM: How would you describe the heart of your musicality? What has always fascinated you about music?
Roots Manuva: I'm fascinated by the accents within music. Music has an accent. So...not just duplicating sound chords, duplicating reggae or duplicating rock...but being true to the natural accent. Being prepared to work with the mistakes. Things like the whole two-tone thing, The Specials and those bands who were adapting Jamaican music for the English situation - they came up with the whole ska sound. That's what intrigues me, the whole mutation of the communication. Coming from a place where they were heavily influenced by Jamaican and American music, but trying to re-invent it from an innocent, non-self conscious British perspective. To the point where you kind of accidentally fall on a new form. Like drum n bass and jungle, to two step, to dubstep, into forms that don't even exist yet....
ILM: With your experience working in the music industry, what would be your advice to new musicians?
Roots Manuva: You know, new bands and new ideas are the life, the blood and the guts of the whole creative entity. New music, new artists, you should make your own rules, seize the technology and break all the rules that are there. You can do it... Don't be dissuaded by the old fashioned industry. The industry is old fashioned! It's built on a model that goes back sixty years and it's time for a change, so let's change it. Break all the rules, you don't need to be the same.