Interview : The heritage and legacy of Jamaican music – Don Letts
Hi Don, thanks for joining us, we’re here today to talk about your upcoming show at Holmfirth Picturedrome with Huey Morgan on October 4th. Do you get the opportunity to perform alongside your fellow 6 music DJ’s often?
Only on occasion, I’ve played with Huey before I think. The one act who I have played with a lot over the years is Craig Charles.
Craig has actually just been announced for Holmfirth Picturedrome in February I believe.
Well…Let me tell you now you’re in for a real treat with that one!
Holmfirth Picturedrome is a great venue; it has hosted many greats from Toots and The Maytals to Lee Scratch Perry, Billy Ocean to Dreadzone and many more inbetween. Have you ever been before?
Don’t believe so but as a child I spent a lot of time that side (Huddersfield) during the school summer holidays.
Huddersfield was of course well known for soundsystem culture back in the day.
It certainly was; well observed!
Do you prep a set or prefer to read the room?
My only prep is to play sets that reflect the heritage and legacy of Jamaican music and the islands gift to the world – bass. Ultimately it’s about moving the crowd and the more they give the more they get.
Do you prefer to perform with Vinyl or CDJs if given the choice?
My vinyl went up in a fire years ago so I was force to move to CDJ’s. To be honest I’ve come to embrace it as I now carry a bigger selection and my back doesn’t hurt! I can also accommodate all those acts n’ artists that can’t afford to commit their work to vinyl.
Where are some of the furthest afield places you have performed? Have you found yourself in any seriously obscure venues over the years?
I’ve been lucky in that respect as the appetite for Jamaican based music has taken me to places like Brazil, Tokyo, Moscow, Toronto, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. You could say I’ve reggaed ‘round the world.
You’re well known to have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to underground music. If you could build your dream band starring musicians from any era; what instrumentation would you have and who would be in it?
I’d cut to the chase and reform Big Audio Dynamite.
We recently watched a video in which you talk about the importance of Trojan records, last year was of course their 50th anniversary. For people who might be looking to delve deeper into the roots of reggae and dancehall (and beyond) where else might you recommend people look and why?
The BBC’s Reggae Britannia documentary series is a good place to start and the recent film about David Rodigan springs to mind. Oh yeah if you wanna know about dancehall my film ‘Dancehall Queen’s an interesting way to go.
What projects are you most looking forward to that you currently have in the pipeline for the future?
I’m currently working on a new film about The Clash as this year sees the 40th anniversary of their ‘London Calling’ album. Dipped my toe into the world of podcasts (check iTunes) and I always look forward to presenting ‘Culture Clash Radio’ my weekly radio show on BBC 6Music.
For people who might be coming to see their first Don Letts DJ set on October 4th at Holmfirth Picturedrome; what can they expect?
My aim’s always the same to nice up the place with some heavy weight bass – Huey watch out!
Huey Morgan & Don Letts co-headline Holmfirth Picturedrome on Friday October 4th.