Features

Spikey Tee: Serving you Sole Food

Relocating to Australia from his home in the UK around five years ago, Spikey Tee has managed to carve out his own niche down under. The MC, vocalist, producer and DJ first came to prominence as a member of reggae legend Jah Wobble’s touring band, and over the years has also lent his talents to everyone from Rae & Christian to DJ Hype. He’s headlining this weekend’s Sole Food launch party for Foreign Dub, and we tracked him down for some Q&A.

You’re a Londoner originally; why did you decide to make the move to Sydney?

I moved to Sydney because I wanted to leave England and make one of those broad sweeping changes some of us choose to make in our lives. I’d been here before in 1995 with Jah Wobble and loved it, came back in 2001 with Rae & Christian and found the music scene like it was ready to burst with some really good bands, DJs, club nights, not to mention the festivals in the sunshine… No brainer.

Has music always been a passion?

I would say yes. My dad was my music hero when I was a kid. When he used to play his records it was like watching a sound engineer tuning a rig. Every tune he played would be re-EQ’d to his preference. I got the bug from him when I check it. We would play tunes together and have clashes every so often, it was a great school.

You’re a DJ, singer and producer? Do you have a preference?

Hmmm. The question… I love all aspects of the process, there is a certain freedom that comes with it all, moments of magic, call it Jah’s will, but overall? Inspiration to make something you hope the people who are exposed to it will enjoy.

You’ve obviously worked with some huge names in your career, but have any stood out as being really defining?

Definitely. Jah Wobble has been the most influential on the direction my career path took. Being involved with a band lead by a truly free musical mind was very challenging for a young singer thrust into the limelight, but you have to man up and do the job you are being paid for. I used to think damn; here I am this little geezer from Tottenham getting paid by this famous guy who likes my voice, to sing in his band… Wicked!

Did DJ Hype give you the funk?

Hahahaha. No, but he did get my vocals to a new audience and for that I am very grateful. A lot of people in Europe know me for the other work I have done and had been calling out for me to get on some drum and bass tunes for a while, but commitments and travel kept me off it for a while.

How do you feel the Australian music tapestry differs from the English one?

It is very different because it doesn’t run as deep here and the cultures that brought the music to the fore do not live in this hemisphere… Unfortunately for many.

You say DnB is your passion. What is it about DnB that gets your blood stirring having been in the hip hop scene so long?

Well for me it’s one of the only genres still pushing the envelope and continues to find a way to harness several sources of inspiration. It’s a heartbeat music, it’s in some cases future dub because of the legacy left behind by great reggae producers like King Tubby and Scratch Perry.

You’re doing the Sole Food gig at the end of May. Is it gonna be a huge night?

I certainly hope it’s a big night. It would be nice to see Sydney’s lovers of this music come out and support Foreign Dub because they have been doing these things for a while and to the best of their ability, if Marky was still coming it promised to be as big and thoroughly entertaining as last time. I will say this though, the DJs on the bill can hold their own with the best of us international travellers, have done so and will continue to for as long as there is support for what they are trying to do for drum and bass in this country. Show some love people.

After five years here how do you rate the DnB scene in Sydney?

I have sadly seen it fall off in a big way over the last couple of years. A lot of punters in Sydney don’t understand the music because they haven’t been exposed to the culture that spawned it, I might have a word with Kev… “Come on bruv, you ‘ave to get some more black geezers over here Kev, we could stimulate ya music culture…” Sorry I just channelled only fools and horses.

DnB and dub seem to go hand in hand, but actually are pretty much impossible to mix. Why do you think they’ve become so wedded?

It isn’t impossible to mix, you just have to find the right tune. They are so welded because the thing that made jungle jump out was the combination of the amen break triggered to pieces with a big old school reggae tune that we grew up with sampled in there. It was like a revelation and the scene really grew from there.

You have an album coming out. What’s the vibe of it and when can we expect it?

I have an album that should come out, but it ground to a shuddering halt due to differences with the label and touring. It’s 80% there and I would love to finish it sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t look like the opportunity will arise before December realistically. The vibe is reggae, soul, hip hop, dnb, songs from my heart, songs from Jah. But Jah put the songs in my heart right?

Don’t miss the launch of Sole Food this Saturday May 30th. Check out ITM Whatson for more info.