I’ve spent a weekend in the studio in uncharted territories recording reggae music with an amazing band called General Roots.
I have to admit, I’ve never done reggae before in my life! Not to mention a cross between reggae and dub! I was getting a bit nervous as the weekend approached but as soon as the musicians started playing, I’ll be alright. These guys are seriously good, and I don’t think I have the right words to do their energy and musicianship justice. You’ll just have to attend one of their gigs or wait for the EP release.
We started early Saturday morning (10am!!!) at the magnificent Snap Studios in North London. The homely and welcoming atmosphere of the studio make any engineer and musician feel at ease with the recording space very quickly. After a short set up of the drums in the most dead corner of the live room, we started working on the drum sound with Ben McKone at the kit and with the supervising help of Ernie McKone – a king of the bass and an accomplished producer. It didn’t take long before the drums were quite dead sounding thanks to plenty of toilet paper and gaffer tape
James McKone‘s Stingray bass was naturally sounded like it was made for this style of music! A bit of top-end roll-off and we’re cooking! Already, the drums and bass sounded a lot like a proper reggae track!
The melody was provided by the mind-blowing and talented King Solomon. This guy has one hell of a feel for the piano and Hammond! I’ve been fortunate enough to see some very good piano players and a lot of them have amazing technique, but it’s very special, in my humble opinion, to see the feel that Solomon has. Watch out for this guy – he’ll be making headlines one day! Snap’s Bosendorfer Imperial Grand and Hammond C3 were the perfect tools for the job for Solomon and it was a pleasure to watch and hear him play them.
On guitar, the very skillful Joe Price. He hasn’t missed a beat the whole two days!
The talent was oozing from the horn players! Each more amazing than the other one. Malthe Milthers from Denmark on sax and Joe Carter from England on trumpet provided the perfect phrases while recording in Snap’s Studio 1 lounge.
The soul of the band coming from the unique vocal arrangements which are more or less a conversation between Freddie Bado and The Minister — Yes, The Minister! Freddie is a natural. With no formal training, he swims like a fish through this music and is a force of nature on stage. The Minister provides a sort of inspiration and is the symbol of what the band is, but it would take a far more articulate man than me to explain it.
We recorded three songs in two versions each – a live version with the whole band playing live in various rooms of Snap Studios; and a more multitracked version with each instrument properly isolated from the rest and recorded more or less separately. We were lucky to have the band’s manager, Daniel Rose-Weir, present throughout the sessions who also took the following awesome photos:
All players were absolutely wonderful to work with. I could not have asked to work with a more professional bunch than these guys. All players several instruments, they could very easily decide to switch and play different parts one day. It was a pleasure to watch them play and would love to work with them again!
You can follow General Roots on Facebook and if you get a chance, do go see them live. It’s quite an experience!