Iron Will

NiceUp talks to Auckland producer Willi the Kid about upcoming releases on his Riddim Central label, lessons he has learned in the world of production, and what’s fresh with NZ reggae and dancehall in 2011.

First up, please introduce yourself to the massive and tell us a bit about your musical background.  How did your love for reggae and dancehall develop?

Kia Ora Whanau! My name is Willi the Kid AKA Iron Will.  I’m a Producer, Instrumentalist, DJ and Promoter born and raised in central Auckland.

Well, some of my earliest and happiest memories are of my father putting on a record after dinner and the whole family dancing around, drumming on the couch ends to original Jamaican pressings of Gregory Isaacs (Mr Isaacs) Johnny Osbourne (Rub a Dub Soldier), Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley.

My brother Ben Holmes is an amazing musician, playing sax and piano and percussion in bands like Freebass, Spacesuit etc. He also has an amazing record collection featuring the entire catalogue of greats such as Al Green, James Brown, Sam Cooke and all the soul/funk/blues greats.

I really feel blessed for this early influence, and later in life as I started to go through trials and tribulations, it was the music that healed me and brought me back in line and closer to the great spirit of love and liberation.

Who/what are some of your major musical influences and inspirations, both in NZ and outernationally?

As far as New Zealand is concerned, a lot of those early memories are definitely Herbs. Straight after that I have to say DLT and Che Fu blew me away with the album 2b S.Pacific, particularly the track Chains. I grew up in Ponsonby and Grey Lynn right in the 80s and early 90s, so I feel that the lyrics and the beat on that track are simply the greatest thing yet to come out of New Zealand. That whole album still stands for me as the best New Zealand album ever so far! Every track gives me goosebumps and makes me so happy and proud to be from this area.

Then, internationally Sam Cooke was always my favourite. Also Al Green, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Later on as I grew I was heavily into hip-hop, including Wu-Tang, Pharcyde, Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village and anything Dilla touched.

Then around twelve or thirteen it was the new (at that time) Jamaican artists, such as Sizzla, Capleton, Jah Cure and Luciano that just freed my mind and soul from mental slavery and real pain and anger, and showed me there was a better way to go. I was fifteen years old, twenty-five grand in debt to the government, and involved in things that were not good for anyone. And then I saw the light.

Through observing the power of the Rastafari movement and the liberation of an oppressed people, I was able to see the rat trap I was falling into down here in the South Pacific. Since then I have been driven to give back and chant down this wicked system that keeps the poor down and the elite with more than they could ever need.

The last couple of years have been big ones for you.  You’ve set up and run your own label and production house, Riddim Central.  You’ve also been building a solid team of artists that you’re working with, including The Solomonix, Silva Emcee and Jah Red Lion.  How did Riddim Central take shape?  What’s projects are you working on and how are they coming along?

Riddim Central is our carriage and name to put everything under. I basically just needed a channel to put everything through. Now it is my studio, production house and crew. I couldn’t do it alone. Rugged Tekniques AKA Rinsey Jones has been heavily involved and there at the birth of it all.

Right now I am working on Daz Kass aka DR Seuss’s debut album (hip-hop), the Queendom EP (R&B/hip-hop), my compilation album featuring a whole heap of reggae, roots and dancehall, a bunch of remixes and a new dance based project, incorporating afro beat, funky bashment, dancehall and ragga type stuff.

We also a drum circle called Ayan-I, which includes Tiopira McDowell (High Stakes), 00Afro, Jah Red Lion, Ras Stone, Tala, Niko, and a bunch more people.  It is evolving into some deep riddim based bangers.

There is acually a lot more too going on, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

So the Jah Red Lion EP was just released.  How has the response been to this?  Where can people get a hold of a copy?

The response has been great, people are loving this EP. You can get it on iTunes, Amplifier, and in most stores.

You’ve also run a really successful series of dances called ‘One Foundation’.  Can you tell us a bit about how these came about, and what is the main purpose and direction of the nights?

One Foundation was a no-brainer for me. We had done a bunch of different little gigs and I was always the one running them and taking losses, having to build up each one from scratch.  We needed to get a regular following, and we wanted to set the bar with Ital vibes, massive sub speakers and a huge line-up (sometimes up to eight acts) to really pull the people, and get a name for a guaranteed awesome night.

Also I wanted to bring the reggae community together and put people on the bill together that due to whatever reason, never normally would be.  We wanted to have real unity dances, and not compete with any other local sound.

Do you have any words of advice for upcoming producers?  Are there any particular production techniques or ways of working you find helpful and want to share?

I think most of all make the agreements clear from beginning and sign contracts with artists early as a lot of singers don’t realise the amount of work and often money you put in for gear, rent, and final mixes/mastering, and expect to make a lot more off their recordings than is realistic in the economic climate these days.

It’s important to know that most of the time, in the beginning, you don’t make a lot off sales, it’s off gigs that you will recover money spent.

I reckon to start with, give your music away, to help build up your profile.

The other thing is to save everything and back everything up to external hard-drives and leave at a separate house.  It’s only 100 bucks for a terrabyte these days.  The Solomonix and Silva’s album should have been out earlier this year, but my G4 died with everything on it and I had to re-build the entire thing from scratch.

There seems to be a lot of linking up and collaborating happening throughout NZ reggae and dancehall circles right now.  What changes have you seen taking place and how do you think things are progressing?

Well I must say that High Stakes, Reality Chant and Dub Terminator have done huge things in the last couple years to put New Zealand on the map in the international reggae/dancehall scene.

I have to give a huge shout out to Tiopira McDowell from High Stakes who has helped me so much in the past few months with mixing, mastering and generally just really helping me to figure stuff out.

Next, Gabriel ‘Messenjah’ Callcott from Reality Chant for exactly the same thing. He mixed and mastered Jah Red’s EP and it’s sounding brilliant.

And of course Dub Terminator. These three guys are really leading the way at the mo, and have given me the insight and support I really needed. I think we are progressing really well and I am so proud of my bro’s!

So what’s in the pipeline for Iron Will in the next while?  Where are you headed in 2012?

Big tings a gwaan, I want to keep going hard. I want to bring up some new artists that have been waiting their turn for too long. Also want more international work, I want to have a few big Jamaican releases, and drop some big tunes on the UK/European dance market.

Any last words for the massive?

Just have to give a huge shout out to all my fams and friends, without them I would not be here today and able to give so much. Big thanks to Art and Vanita (NiceUp), always had my back from day one, can’t thank you enough.

I have to give thanks to the Lord of Lords, the Most High, the everything JAH.

Just want to say, stay strong, be true and be righteous. Blessed love to you all.

More info:
Iron Will on SoundCloud

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