Releasing music on labels such as Zamzam, Cut Recs and Shanti Tone, as well as three outings’s on V.I.V.E.K’s legendary System imprint, Versa has become something of an authority when it comes to dub and soundsystem music. His productions are filled with rich, seemingly infinite reverberating sonics, rolling hypnotic drums and deep sub-pressure.
No surprise then that he relocated from his hometown of Milton Keynes to Bristol, one of the key homes for sound system culture in the UK. His new three-track release, and 30th of System Music, sees Versa delve into the deeper side of dub and sound system culture, exploring the crossroads between dub and techno with a nod to specialists like Rhythm & Sound and Lee Scratch Perry.
Catching up with the man fresh off the release, we ask Versa to trace ten of his all time dub influences that helped him master his own sonic space. With music from figures like King Tubby, Jah Shaka and Creation Stepper, get lost in his selections below.
1. King Tubby – Zion Dub.
Probably the most influential and important figure in dub. I was first introduced to dub music and King Tubby through albums like ‘Crucial Dub’, ‘Essential Dub’ and ‘Declaration of Dub’. At this time I was just getting into music production after playing in live bands as a kid. The abstract use of effects and emphasis on rhythm section (especially bass) really blew my mind and changed the way I approached music forever.
2. Tommy McCook – Lambs Bread Herb.
This track is from one of my favourite childhood CD’s, the Trojan ‘Dub Rarities’ boxset. The flute is so haunting and I will never get bored of playing this track, it has a special place in my memory.
3. Mad Professor & Jah Shaka – Morphing Dub.
Another tune which did, and still does, blow my mind! The way the melodic elements chop in and out, in a call and response fashion, is truly magical. This track also taught me that delay and other simple effects can be on the drums to create swing and rhythm.
4. King Tubby – Bionic Horn.
Crucial Tubby version but this time the horns are the star of the show.
5. Ranking Joe – World in Trouble.
The title track from one of my favourite dub albums, it really is a masterpiece and I never get bored of putting it on at home. Ranking Joe brings a conscious message with impeccable delivery and Twilight Circus production is always top notch.
6. Bush Chemists – Look to the East.
I remember coming across a video of Dougie Conscious dubbing this one out on Youtube. There was no track title and the video had some random name so it took me years to find it. Bush Chemists have also been a massive influence to me and the depth of their discography is amazing!
7. Creation Stepper – King Nebuchadnezzar (Disciples Production).
Majestic steppers from the legendary UK dub powerhouse, Russ Disciples. Painfully beautiful vocals from the late, great Creation Stepper. One of my favourite tracks of all time. Still gets played out regularly and is best enjoyed on a sound system!
8. Lee Perry & The Upsetters – Curly Dub.
There’s something about Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry production, everything just sits perfectly. There are certain sounds, like the unmistakable phased hi-hats, which allow me to recognise a Scratch production a mile off. The Black Ark recordings are of the highest quality and he is certainly one of the most important people in roots reggae and dub music.
9. Rhythm & Sound – Aground.
I have no words for this one. Pure meditation, let the music talk.
10. Capdown – Dub no.1.
Capdown were my favourite childhood band, from my hometown of Milton Keynes, and the first live show I went to when I was 11 years old. They would have a jungle DJ play a set right before theirs every time they performed at our local venue ‘The Pitz’. Not your average hardcore ska-punk band!
This track is off their album ‘Civil Disobedients’ and is wildly different to the rest of the album, showing their musical knowledge and diversity.
Temple Song is out now on System Music.
Buy it here.