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Back To (Grim) Reality With Jazzie B From Soul 2 Soul

Author: Benedetta Skrufff
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
'I have no comment on that". You didn't let me finish… 'I just said, I have no comment on that subject.'

Oh dear. Mentioning London gun crime to Soul 2 Soul veteran Jazzie B doesn't seem to have been a good idea, but then again, neither is asking how he chose the tracks for his new mix compilation 'Soul 2 Soul At The Africa Centre'.

"Have you listened to the CD-" he sighs. "The tracks on it are those we used to play in the club."

Despite his apparent determination to say as little as possible, as quickly as possible, he's otherwise polite, speaking on the phone from his London Soul 2 Soul headquarters. And by condensing what was supposed to be a 30 minute chat into 13 minutes, he at least saves time on transcribing his words and wisdom. Benedetta Skrufff posed the questions (and listened to the aforementioned CD…)

Skrufff: Were the tunes you chose the most popular tracks from the club days-

Jazzie B.: "They were probably the most influential tracks within a period. There will be two more compilations following in the New Year, which will give a comprehensive outlook of what was called the rare groove scene, of which we were probably considered the instigators for breaking those tracks."

Skrufff: Tears for Fears and Funboy Three are perhaps surprising tracks…

Jazzie B.: "Really, they wouldn't have been if you were there, or for anybody else who was at the night. It shows the diversity of the music we used to play."

Skrufff: Were there some other key pop songs that might have made it onto the CD but didn't-

Jazzie B.: "I don't know. I wouldn't have really considered the Fun Boy Three track as 'pop', since it wasn't that successful either… Tears For Fears was obviously a big track in the '80's, though that particular mix (of Tears For Fears' Shout) wasn't in the charts."

Skrufff: The CD ends with a quite serious sounding police raid; what happened next, did you get arrested-

Jazzie B.: "Well, that's why you'll have to listen to part two to find out."

Skrufff: Did you ever get arrested for throwing parties or locked up or harassed by the police-

Jazzie B.: "Yes, many times."

Skrufff: Did you ever do (prison) time-

Jazzie B.: "No, not for a party."

Skrufff: Were the warehouse parties of the mid 80s always successful-

Jazzie B.: "I cannot talk for anybody else, but for us they were very successful. Like with everything in life, though, nothing lasts forever, so you have to move on."

Skrufff: Were your parties busy right from the start-

Jazzie B.: "When we started back in '83/'84 during the whole warehouse period, it was all brand new, but then we were with other big organisations, there were lots of crews involved, so the parties were always packed. From your point of view it's when it all became commercial, then many aspects changed, because there aren't any rules to this game at all. Everybody will do things their own way, the way they feel suits them best. We had a particular way of running parties, synonymous to the way we were at the time."

Skrufff: At what point did you realise you could make a living from it-

Jazzie B.: "I made a living from playing my sound system since we started, back in 1977."

Skrufff: It seems like a big leap from throwing parties to writing chart-topping music; how did the whole music/ band thing come about-

Jazzie B.: "As you can hear from the CD, we often cut specials with big artists like Horace Andy and Shabba Ranks by working closely with sound engineers in recording studios. That was again part of our own tools, our own make up. We made records that related to ourselves, which we called 'dub plates' or 'specials'. Somebody had the idea to release one of these tracks and since we wanted to conquer the world with our sound system, we thought that was the best way; to have every DJ playing our records."

Skrufff: The collective always seemed very loose, wit