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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Warrior Stance: DX7 Dub

The Jahtari Magazine is full of useful information (check out their easily-digested Reggae History). Catching my eye today is this story by Pete Murder Tone on a crucial piece of UK digi-dub history:" Warrior Stance" by Dread & Fred. You can hear the track via Jahtari's handy built-in player.
At the age of 16/17 in Bedford, UK, Dread linked up with his brother Fred and started to lay down bassline tracks with a simple Boss drum machine, playing percussion and bongos on top, with a borrowed Yamaha DX7 to compliment the hard core dub.

In 1988 they got four dubplates of their unique material pressed and took them to Jah Shaka. Shaka played the dub plates for around a month and then called up and told them to come to his next sound system session down in Cheggars Hall / London. He always played his best or most exclusive song last - this night he played 'Warrior Dub' - now known as 'WARRIOR STANCE' and it took the roof off the building... Shaka that night requested that the dub plate should be released on his own label.
Remembered as the first real digital stepper, "Warrior Stance" is unabashedly synthetic, and was tremendously influential on the new wave of UK dub. Speaking as someone with a bit of a synthesizer fetish (I myself own a DX9, retarded cousin of the mighty DX7), it's exciting to hear how Dread & Fred took the limitations of their equipment and used them to push the music forward, cranking up the machine feel with a beat like clockwork and those cold, FM synthesis sounds. Even the faux-brass, often a kind of sonic kiss-of-death, is perfect in this context.

For more on the impact of "Warrior Stance" ("Warrior Charge" or "Warrior Dub", if you prefer) and on the UK roots scene relative to that other hugely influential electronic dance sound bubbling up in UK at the time, acid house, check out this blog post (scroll down for the bit on Dread & Fred):
The track which gets credited for shaking everything up (in all senses!) is Warrior Charge by Bedford's Dread and Fred. According to the Rough Guide, this actually came out in 1988 as a 12" on Jah Shaka's label, which is impressive if you think about it in terms of acid house, but a bit of a lag in reggae terms when you consider sleng teng and its various precursors. (Though I'm sure Shaka caned it on dubplate for ages before its release.)

Apparently there were serious mixed feelings amongst the cognoscenti about the arrival of Warrior Charge and the tracks which followed it. In some ways the purists were right to be nervous, because a load of producers such as Iration Steppas saw to it that UK Roots would never be the same again.

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