A history of UK sound system culture

But the Shock crew fell in love with and began playing more house-focused sets; very soon, they were in no-man’s land. “The house party format couldn’t work for us because of the style of music we were beginning to play – that’s when the idea came to go to Carnival, because in those days, all you had to do was turn up.” In 1987, Shock hitched up at Powis Square, the first house sound system to do so. They soon outgrew that square and were moved to Colville years later, where KKC, another house sound, still plays.

Although now far removed from the conscious reggae world of their elders, Shock kept the dubplate tradition, essential for any sound worthy of its name. Saint even produced his first track, ‘Give Me Back Your Love’, for the sole purpose of playing it out as a dubplate. The sound found a home in venues up north, where acid had already made inroads, and the legendary Clink Street, with Ricardo Da Force (of KLF fame) and Shamen frontman Mr C as their MCs. Paul Oakenfold, Nikki Holloway, Boy George and S’Express’ Mark Moore all made an appearance at one time or another. “I wasn’t there for reggae or punk, but from what I’ve heard about it, in terms of how there was a connection between the reggae and punk parties in the late ’70s, to me, that was what was happening with house – it was bringing together all different types of people. ”

Over in Bristol, sounds such as Enterprise, Iquator, Jah Lokko (which would later become known as Unique Star Sound), Raiders 32 and many others were strong on the roots and reggae scene. But a new style of sound was coming into play, chief among them, The Wild Bunch, which laid the ground for the trip-hop generation. Miles Johnson, aka DJ Milo, Nellee Hooper and Grant Marshall, aka Daddy G – of Massive Attack fame – spent the weekends listening to reggae, punk and new wave records before their sound came to life. The trio, which gathered a crowd for these informal listening events, were beginning to outgrow Marshall’s home, so decided to rent out a room in a pub just off Queen’s Square in the city center.

The crew started out with a large and varied record collection, one turntable, a Realistic mixer, and a few amps, later upgrading to a GLI PMX 9000 – the first mixer with a crossfader. They played random pubs and house parties, and finally, outdoor events, growing in reputation from the Downs in Clifton, Bristol’s middle-class neighborhood, to St Paul’s – “the Brixton of Bristol”. A dread from St Paul’s named them. “When we played St Paul’s, that was setting the standard for us,” Johnson tells DJ Mag. “We knew we were running up against Jamaican sound systems, so we had to run with something that was going to be heavy, otherwise we would get drowned out. We always came correct. “

Like any other Bristol sound system, they had their versions, a deep reggae collection courtesy of Marshall, and even indulged in the well-worn practice of labeling-out records. But it was the lively concoction of hip-hop, punk and new wave records that stood this crew out. They played UK DIY artists PiL, Jah Wobble and Delta 5, Brit funk numbers by Touchdown and all the early hip-hop cuts they could get their hands on. The MC line-up also grew, with 3D (Robert Del Naja) joining for regular gigs, followed by Willy Wee (Claude Williams) and later on, Tricky. “Because of the time we were born in and the social integration, it created something unique,” ​​Johnson explains. “We were doing what was natural for us – there was no ulterior motive. It was filling a necessary void, it was more of a spiritual thing. ”

A turning point came when the group laid their hands on a copy of the Wild Style soundtrack, a film widely held as the first hip-hop motion picture. “Everybody in England was blown away by it and how familiar it was to what we were experiencing in blues dances,” Johnson remembers. “That familiarity was something we could hold on to – the way they were presenting the music, that heavy bass, was exactly how we felt was the best way to present what we were playing.” Hooper flew to New York and got hold of a reel of the soundtrack, which wasn’t out on general – or limited – release. It was a canny move. “If a lot of crews didn’t respect us before, that really put people in a different mindset, especially in London.”

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