Sitting down with Wildlife! aka Samuel Riot in a warm and cosy Hotel bar when Berlin was still covered with tons of snow was a pleasure for us. And it brought loads of interesting insights in his work, his musical influences and what can be expected for the future…
Hi Samuel, would you like to introduce yourself first?
Well, where to start? It’s Wildlife!: I’ve been running a Dancehall Soundsystem, Goldrush, for almost 10 years and realized over the time that I feel the need to do something that has at least one foot in my local world. Just importing and adapting these Yard stuff all the time is to some extent an alien job. I’m still observing what’s going on on the island and can imagine travelling there on a regular basis again. But I really had the need to do something that’s also happening in my world. That’s where Terry Lynn came in: we met kind of coincidentally and then one thing came to the other.
So Terry was kind of a turning point for you?
Well, prior to that I had already started to do projects having a more electronic approach with other artists. But I never really felt like going public with these.
Then I met Russel ‚Phred’ Hergert, Terry’s creative partner, who also represents Afflicted Yard (he is doing the management for them). We organized an exhibition for Peter [Dean Rickards] in Switzerland. I started to produce for Terry, but more like: Let’s see what comes out of that. Somehow it just clicked and I ended up producing almost half of the entire album.
Did you start with an aesthetic vision like ‚that’s the sound I want to achieve’ or did that just happen while collaborating with Terry?
Nope, actually I already had a quite precise idea. A lot of vocal material by Terry was already recorded over trackingbeats, so I was allowed the widest latitude in producing and I had a quite clear conception regarding the sound aesthetic. And yes, so far I’m quite satisfied with the result.
Meanwhile we are working on the next album and I’m curious how it will turn out.
Terry Lynn – Streetlife (WILDLIFE! Mix)
Now you have done an own EP which differs a bit from the Terry Lynn album and actually goes a step further in the electronic direction.
Mhmh, I have to admit that the whole DJ thing I do besides producing is really dancefloor oriented, a lot of ‘four to the floor’, but always relying on a Dancehall background. I just thought I really would like to play more of my own productions – stuff that really works in the context of electronic music, in the club. And yes, that caused the Jumbie EP.
How is the feedback on vocals? Especially in an electronic music surrounding the people often adopt a reserved position when it comes to vocals…
Yes, in a club context it is often difficult to play too many full vocal tracks where someone is spitting like four minutes long. That’s even quite unfamiliar in the Electro/ Techno context. But once you operate with samples or shorter snippets it works excellent.
Currently there is a movement (which we also try to describe on our blog) caused by people coming from a dancehall or the like background daring to appear in the club scene and on the other hand the club scene searching for new influences and inspirations. Do you see a trend in this or are these singular cases which accumulate?
No, there is indeed a trend in the last years that this whole Worldmusic thing (whatever, be it Dancehall, anything african, brasilian or who knows) is going to evolve into a really big topic for electronic clubmusic in general. But I also think, that’s a hype at the moment, certain things will persist, others will disappear.
In the meantime it’s also common that oodles of acts and producers will fly over to Jamaica for voicing or will sample any african music – and well, currently there are also many bandwagonists.
I think amongst these are many extreme high-level examples in terms of quality, and basically ‘Worldmusic 2.0’ will have enduring effects on further developments in electronic music.
Basically the idea of Worldmusic is that it transports an authenticity which is in fact not existent. For example the Bedouins that grace the covers are also not existent anymore for 100 years now. In this respect I think that nowadays ‘western’ people get aware that there in fact is contemporary music/ Clubmusic in ‘non-western’ areas. Which is sometimes just a copy of what’s going on in London, but at the same time sounds completely different…
Definitely. That’s for sure one fascinating approach: stuff that swept over from the ‘2nd and 3rd World’, in particular made possible by the prospects of World Wide Web and affordable ways of electronic music production. On the other hand for me it’s really cool that, from a western perspective, their approach is often really unstressed. Authenticity doesn’t really matter but making good tempered music – that’s cool for me. In contrast all these hardcore Dancehall stuff has a more inhibited approach, it’s always about being extremely authentic. It’s supercool that this it completely not the case in those ‘Worldmusic 2.0’ thing.
While in Europe it is common to accuse people which are doing stuff like you do now of being not authentic anymore.
[laughs] That’s not a problem for me at all. I rather think that the stuff I’m doing now has by all means an authenticity, it’s just not like that it’s focusing on a Kingstonian backyard.
Especially as it is more a kind of authenticity stereotype that they call for.
You can also observe this in the whole homophobia controversy. Apart from all those ‘free speech’ arguments the main point that’s brought forward is that the living conditions in Kingston are just like that and so you need to reproduce this in Europe.
[laughter] Well, yeah… don’t let us start with this or we are still sitting here tonight. I think it’s such a complex story where you always run the risk of falling into the traps of neo-colonialism. On the other hand you can’t shrug it off like that’s the way it goes and it’s OK like this…
Yes, it’s a very difficult subject.
To get back to this whole Dancehall thing: What kind of feedback have you gotten from your surrounding in Switzerland respectively international as you already performed with Goldrush on that level…
Funnily enough feedback is throughout positive. Many of my old contacts from the world of Dancehall are opening up over the years as well, and I’m still in contact with a lot of promoters from my Goldrush days. Today they book Wildlife!, that’s how it goes.
The current EP Jumbie is a reference to the characters from Trinidad carnival of the same name. How come?
Basically the tune was already finished but I was looking for a story that depicted the mood of the track. Quite soon I found myself into Caribbean mythology and discovered the Jumbies. For me this covered as well the rather dark aspects of the track as the carnivalesque partymood on the other hand. Well, that’s how the Jumbies came into play…
WILDLIFE! – Jumbie (Original Mix)
What are your next steps? You said you are working on a new album with Terry Lynn…
Yes, we are in the initial state at the moment, we are recording quite a lot. Terry is in Europe, in Switzerland at the moment, so basically we are in the studio 24/7. Furthermore I’m adding the finishing touches to a new EP that will be released in spring. It will consist of 4 vocal tracks featuring 4 Reggae/Dancehall singers from different decades. There will be an artist standing for the 80s, for the 90s, someone for the 00er years and Terry for the future.
Above all I’m working on the Wildlife! Album, which is going to be kind of a snap-shot of the whole 1977 Punkrock story, when Reggae and Punkrock shook hands in London’s clubs. The album will translate this movement in the present.
So you wanna draw a connecting line between contemporary tendencies of fusioning styles and the past…
Exactly! Aside from Punkrock being my first big musical love… Actually I discovered Reggae via Punkrock, thus we have come full circle. And amusingly today I’m working with many Punkrock idols from my teenage days, and it’s a whole lotta fun!
Yes, the album should be released around the end of the year.
You also did some work for more commercial clients, for example a collaboration with Stress for Nike, and now CSI. Is this a field where you automatically arrive with certain things you do or are you actively looking for such projects?
Basically I want to make a living out of the music. And something like CSI, dubbing assignments, to be able to license tracks for videogames, TV series and movies, is one of the last existing income sources beside the DJ gigs and liveshows. I don’t have any reservations regarding this.
And sure, we work with publishing companies in the different territories who are trying to place us accordingly.
But that your music is used in such commercial formats is also alluding to the existence of a certain mainstream potential respectively to a general incorporation of such musical styles by the mainstream…
By any means! For example the huge featuring of M.I.A in Slumdog Millionaire and the leading role her music plays in the movie. And I really appreciate it when high quality underground music makes it into the mainstream, that’s supercool. And in my opinion a track is not necessary bad just because it is or is about to go Pop.
Jumbie EP is available on Beatport and other portals.
Interview by Jelka and Martin.