Ed Foundation

Can you introduce yourself and tell the people a bit about how Foundation Sound was formed and how it has developed?

Greets. Foundation Sound is a roots reggae sound system and record label, my name is Ed Foundation and I have been involved with Foundation since 1998.

The sound system was originally established in 1980 by Tony Roots when he returned to England from time spent in Jamaica with Joseph Hill and the mighty Culture.  Tony recognised a need in the local area (Norfolk, East UK) for some sort of musical outlet for reggae music and the message it carries, the sound was named by Joseph Hill.

In the 1980’s and early 90’s Foundation used to play all over the UK at festivals and dances.  The sound system wasn’t a sound that clashed with other sounds in them days, Foundation would warm up and be the support for bands that were reaching from London and Jamaica.

After a few quieter years in the late 90’s myself and two mates, Papa Barn and Jethdub linked up with Tony in ’98 and helped build Foundation Sound into what it is today.  In the early 90’s Tony had helped us put on parties when we were at college with his son D-Boy – he had supplied the sound system and we deejayed playing a mix up of drum and bass through to reggae.

After those days and time living in London, me, Barn and Jeth decided we wanted to build our own sound system.  We had got a lot of inspiration from sounds like Shaka, Aba Shanti and Jah Tubbys and when living in London we had become close friends of Marcus The Conqueror who ran a sound based in Willesden – he won the Jah Works Promotions Dub Cup in 1999.  Doing runnings with Marcus taught us a lot about sound system business and he linked us up with nuff people who helped us source music, dubs and custom built amps/preamps.

In about 1999 we started doing free parties and our own Foundation Sound sessions again around Norwich and Norfolk.  We had rebuilt the sound so we had four scoop bass bins and mids/tops speakers.  Over time we gradually added more speakers and power to the sound system and by about 2002 we were running about 10,000 watts with six scoop bass bins and improved mids and tops.

At that time we were running regular sessions at the Norwich Arts Centre – for about four years we were bringing up guests to play on the sound alongside us, people like Manasseh, Fairshare Unity and Alpha & Omega.

During that time we began to get noticed by other promoters from around the UK – Dennis Blakamix checked us and gave us our first big dance opposite another sound.  He booked us to play at Dub Skool down in Bedford opposite Channel One from London.  We were proper nervous, we saw ourselves as lower league than Channel One, they were premier league and we were more like division one.  The dance was great and we represented, done our best, played well and learnt a lot.  I think most people who attended were pretty shocked to see a country sound come and play so heavy.

Those were great times, heavy sessions thick with smoke (pre-smoking ban) and proper meditation vibes.  Unfortuantly in about 2006 we had to stop playing the sound in the Arts Centre, complaints from local residents determined that sound level restrictions were introduced so it wasn’t worth playing the sound in there anymore cos we couldn’t shake the place like we used to.  Venue issues are unfortuantly a regular in the UK.  Venues get a bit of pressure from local residents or the council and then they don’t want reggae sound systems to play in there any more.

Since 2006 we have carried on playing where we can.  Generally we play clubs rather than the Arts Centre at home in Norwich – we can take sound in them but not the whole set.  Alongside these sessions we keep busy with festivals during the summer and then a few sessions we get booked for by other promoters around the UK.

In 2008 we took a break from the sound system and put it away for a while.  Papa Barn was busy with a young family as was Jethdub who had relocated to Mexico.  For the next couple of years me and Tony Roots concentrated on promoting a few live shows alongside me and my friend King Sammy, setting up the Foundation Sound Record label.

So Foundation Sound is also a label. What kind of sound does your label release and which vocalists are you working with a lot?

Yeh the label has been going really well.  Myself and King Sammy kind of do most of the production stuff, Sammy is the main writer and I produce and do most of the promo and manufacturing.  We’ve been working together for about five years now.

I don’t like to pigeon hole the kind of sound we make as I think music has become too catergorised.  I suppose if we fall into any style then it is digital roots reggae.  Our idea of what we want to produce is a blend of both digital and real instruments, usually the bass, keys and drums are digi and then we will get live guitar, melodica and/or horns on top.

So far our releases to date have been sound system type tunes but we wanna work on other styles as well, for example when I was in New Zealand I met the singer Synpa Levi and he has voiced a Nyahbinghi style tune which we want to do something with eventually.  I’ve been wanting to work on that riddim for ages but the time and finances just haven’t been right yet, building up the label has taken time, I believe music is like food, you gotta blend it, let it season and then serve it up when it properly ready.

Vocalists we have worked with so far in terms of releases include Tenastelin, Dark Angel, Mikey Murka, Ras Zacharri, Jah Rueben Mystic and Kelvin Judah.  Dark Angel and Kelvin we regularly voice on our productions as they are old friends, Dark Angel has been singing for all sorts of people recently and is an artist to look out for.

The main things we are working on at the moment is our next release and also some projects with my long time bredrin Jimmy Ranks and also another young singer called Darien Prophecy.  We always have got lots of ideas and projects on the go but unfortuantly sometimes we just don’t seem to have the time to get as many finished and done as we’d like to.

Which artists and producers are you feeling right now?

I never really have favourite artists and producers, if a tune nice then I’ll buy it.  One singer I am loving the vibes of right now though is Courtney John – he is predominantly a lovers singer, check out his tune Lucky Man on YouTube – love that tune.

UK wise there are a lot of great singers and producers here, my top favourites if that’s what you wanna call them would probably be Dub Judah and Manasseh.  For me Dub Judah is so deep in terms of lyrics and his musicianship is second to none.  Check his songlyrics which I think are on his website, proper deep.  Manasseh I think has been at the top his game for years, production and mix wise he can do the lot.

Also gotta give respect due to Russ Disciples and Dougie Conscious, their productions from the late nineties and onwards have always been featured on Foundation Sound System and alongside others they have had a big influence on the style we play and produce.

In terms of up and coming producers I really like the work of Kriss from Reality Shock, Easy Beat Productions (Solution Sound), Reality Sound System, Sugar Beat Records (Norwich) and a lot of the European producers (too many to name).  Singer-wise I think Dandelion and Jah Mirikle are making some excellent songs at the moment, both are young artists and very talented.

Norwich seems to have a strong reggae scene. How did this develop and how have you seen it progressing over the years?

Norwich/Norfolk reggae is an amazing scene really.  There has always been a large alternative community here and I think the messages that reggae deals with have alway been appreciated.  Over the years many reggae legends have passed through Norfolk to play and during the 80’s and 90’s, Tony Roots and the crew brought acts like The Wailers, Tappa Zukie, Eek-A-Mouse, Culture, The Twinkle Brothers and The Mighty Diamonds.  More recently we have had Lee Perry, Horace Andy and the Wailing Souls.

Since the early 80’s, alongside many reggae bands from the area, there have also been a lot of sound systems coming out of Norwich and each has played their part in keeping the music, sessions and shows going here.  The earliest sound systems here would have probably been Foundation and then Baseline.  After that in the 90’s Rebel Lion started and they like us have continued their works ever since. Gotta give Rebel nuff respect, proper roots defenders.

Today there are now about five or six sounds from this area – you got Foundation, Rebel Lion, Free King, Full Tone, Dub Conductor and Roots Renegade.  Free King were the next sound to start up after us and Rebel, the last three, Renegade, Full Tone and Conductor are the newest sounds starting up over the last three to four years.

How about the UK reggae scene as a whole? How do you think it’s going at the moment?

Yeh the UK scene is OK at the moment, there are a lot of great artists and producers here and as ever theres always loads of sound systems.  The main problem for the UK as I see it at the moment is venues and laws.  Unfortuantly sound restriction laws, lack of venues and the smoking ban has had real effect on the dances here.  There aren’t as many places to play a sound system now and venue owners are really scared of getting fined or shut down because of sound level complaints.

The smoking ban is also an obvious problem.  I think the goverment should have banned smoking in resturants, and given clubs, music and arts venues the option of being a non-smoking or smoking venue.  At least then it would be a more balanced and fair situation, people at least deserve the choice of going to a venue where you can smoke or not.

Finally I think we need to take inspiration from Europe and get more reggae festivals going in the UK.  It’s criminal that with the history and scene that has been here for all these years we only now have one or two dedicated reggae festivals.

You spent some time in Aotearoa in 2008. How did that go and did you link with any reggae crew while you were here?

Yehman loved NZ to the max.  Really blown away by the countries beauty and the people we met.  Proper warm and friendly vibes, met loads of reggae crew and was really inspired by the works going on.  It seemed like a scene that is in its infancy but to us that was really interesting and exciting as it can only grow.

On our travels we met promoters (NiceUp), producers (Reality Chant Crew), the mighty Vital Sound System family and nuff DJ’s and radio crews.  A lot of people doing their works to promote reggae music all in their different ways.

What has the crew been up to recently and what have you got planned for the next part of 2010?

Well, the last year or two has kinda been quiet for the sound system, family tings taking priority and we have really been concentrating more on the label and the live shows.

At the beginning of 2010 we started rebuilding the sound system as we felt it needed some upgrading.  That’s been going good but is taking a bit longer than we first hoped.  We’re now hoping it should be ready and playing again by the end of the year.  Alongside that we trodding on with the label works, doing a few festivals the summer where we are doing PA’s and as ever we’ll be carrying on our regular monthly radio show on the local station, Future Radio.

Any last words for the massive?

Yeh, big shout to all New Zealand crew and nuff love to Gaylene, Marty and Vicky Vital, Gabe Messenjah, David ‘Synpa’ Levi, DJ Dubhead and all the NiceUp fam.  Keep supporting the music, keep supporting your local sounds and crews,  keep the vibes level and increase the peace.

More info:
Foundation Sound website
Foundation Sound on Talawa
Future Radio

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