A conversation with UK reggae band HASSLE
UK reggae band HASSLE was born in 2002. Since then they have supported such reggae greats as JAH SHAKA, TOOTS AND THE MAYTALS, ALTON ELLIS, BOB ANDY, MACKA B and PAMA INTERNATIONAL playing pubs, theatres, and live festivals all over the UK and Europe. HASSLE are influenced from the reggae sound of the seventies, aiming for a more warm, pure, and earthy sound, something often lacking in modern music. Influences such as LEE SCRATCH PERRY, BOB MARLEY, AUGUSTUS PABLO and KING TUBBY have helped inspire this, as well as our own backgrounds and culture.
The HASSLE sound combines a mix of lover’s rock, dub, conscious lyrics about the world today, and the beauty and power of nature.
When did Hassle begin?
We started or should I say I started hassle in 2002. It was basically a solo project , having said that my good friend and musical side kick Tony English has always been a main stay while some other musicians have come and gone in some cases but everyone of them has played their part along the way and their contributions will always be valued.
What music inspires you?
When it comes to Reggae, Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo and The Wailers . it’s quite simply the period of the 70s and those Reggae and Dub artists have inspired me fully. Regarding the sound and vibe, I’m interested in recreating; the warmth of those analogue recordings on limited equipment and recording in environments artists had to work with. On top of that the hunger they had, they to escape in many cases poverty. I’m not interested in having the latest digital equipment, 5 million tracks to record on, putting things through beat detective and then auto tuning the rawness of the time. Both recording and performance is what fires me up and as a result our first two albums were recorded on reel to reel tape machines using wem copy cat tape delay machines etc, rather than digital effects/plugins/vst’s. Other artists I like and have had some form of influence at one stage or another are Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene (especially Steve Cradock) The La’s, The Blues and Captain Beefheart
Where did you record your 1st album?
We recorded our first album in Islington, London. I travelled down to do about 5 sessions, recording about 2/3 tracks at a time and then some final mixing sessions over a period of a year or so. I basically wrote and demo’ed all the songs in Newcastle and then recorded them in Islington with Tony engineering the sessions and the pair of us co producing and mixing the songs to their final results. We tried to keep the spirit of it all as real and live and as close to the 70s sound as we could. From the those sessions we made the Live The Life You Love album as well as Dub The Life You Love album, we must have 20/30 alternative unreleased dubs from those sessions which we are aiming to put out soon
You have been signed as an artist previously, how did that happen?
We signed our first deal with a French reggae label after we had success in the underground reggae charts. We put out 2 albums 2 Eps and we were featured on 2 reggae compilation albums for the label.
What is your favourite gig or gigs you have played?
We’ve been blessed to support some mighty reggae acts over our time as Hassle. We have supported two gigs with Toots and the Maytals, Bob Andy, Alton Ellis, Bob Andy, Jah Shaka and Pama Intentional to name a few, they were obviously great nights. We also headlined an outdoor reggae festival in Corsica and that was something special, just the whole vibe and scenery was superb with a great crowd. However going back to the Toots and The Maytals 2 years in a row in our home town of Newcastle at the 02 Academy has to be the highlight.
You played a lot of acoustic gigs in recent years how did that come about?
After years of playing with a full band I felt I wanted to play some gigs acoustically, literally stripped back, raw and rootsy, which I ended up loving, just me and current hassle member Dave spending hours jamming in our allotment shed at one with nature. When I say hours, I mean hours and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable periods for me. We were obsessively playing day after day together and then playing gigs at the drop of a hat wherever and whenever, no complications. We ended up playing gigs with Miles Hunt from The Wonder Stuff, Mark Moriss from The Bluetones and from the Inspiral Carpets, Tom Hingley and I wrote loads of new songs. During this period I felt reignited by it all and at the end of it we signed a new deal with the Slowglass Sound Label.
How did the new release with King Tubby come about?
Well, we have had a good relationship with Griffiths Records over some years now and they have always been really supportive of Hassle. We did an interview for their web site and they also set up a radio interview for us via a Music/sports radio program (I’m an absolute football and boxing nut). So, I have always valued their support and when they managed to get their hands on a shed load of unreleased recordings they then asked if they could release a heavy Dub version of our track “Make Ya Mouth Run” as they felt it fitted in with that 70s era. I was then was asked if I’d like to remix a version of one of Tubbys tracks, which is an absolute honour to be fair and I’m thrilled at the opportunity. And that is it, we are putting out an EP via their label with Make ya Mouth run and the King Tubby Dub and it’s been a pleasure to deal with them. They are a proper rock solid label with a fantastic ethos and work ethic that I’m totally on-board with, it’s a no ego, no bull shit attitude, it’s extremely refreshing
Well our new label Slowglass Sound are releasing and have remastered our first two albums and two EP’s, so they will be available again from all the usual online digital shops and we have the, Hassle/Tubby release coming out very soon. Right now though, we are currently knee deep in the studio recording the new album that’s already been written. We will also more than likely release a new EP before the album is out as well as another EP of dubs that we have already finished. Hopefully then we will start gigging in the new year possibly with a full line up and look to play next years reggae festivals. So, full steam ahead, onwards and upwards.
What do you think of the current Reggae scene?
To be honest I’m not into Modern reggae as the whole vibe and ethos has changed to the point it barley resembles the era that influenced me, but that’s natural all things progress, so I’m still finding new recordings/versions of the 70s era that I’m into. It’s like a bottomless pit and as I mentioned before the stuff Griffiths Records are releasing is pure gold dust as it’s from the 70’s era and for any reggae fan I’m genuinely excited and reignited by it all. I’m extremely positive about the future.
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