GRAMMY award winning documentary Director, BBC 6 Music presenter and all-round musical magician Don Letts has been heavily involved with the reggae scene since the 70s. He’s worked with Bob Marley, The Clash, The Sex Pistols and many others of punk and reggae’s heaviest-hitters.
In 2017, Don started a new podcast with the Caribbean food chain Turtle Bay to delve deep into the genre, it’s music and its incredible impact as a culture. His latest episode of ‘Reggae 45’ celebrates 50 years of Trojan records and we caught up with the Rebel Dread to discuss things further…
Hi Don, great to chat to you. The Reggae 45 show is back! Excited to hear what this series brings…
First of all, we’d like to ask how you feel about the podcast format? Being a Radio presenter and all, do you feel that this is the future of people listening to music?
You said it – ‘radio presenter and all’ – Podcasts are just another way of communicating music and information which can’t be a bad thing (well it could be if your podcasts are shit I guess).
You’ve released 6 Reggae 45 podcasts now, and although they’re all obviously centred around reggae, we were wondering if there was a particular episode that you enjoyed delving into the subject of more than others?
I treat each one with the love and respect the subject matters are due, and they’re designed to have a long shelve life – they’re not meant to be disposable! And although you’ve picked up on my ‘Reggae 45 Podcasts’ I’ve got others out there that are not music based at all.
The latest podcast celebrates 50 years of Trojan Records, a label that you have a big association with – did you ever think the label would last 50 + back in 1968 and why do you think it has?
I had no idea the label that sound-tracked my early teenage years would be so enduring and that’s a real testament to the singers and players of instruments. Trojan’s been kept alive in hearts, minds and feet of the people.
If you were discussing the music of Trojan Records with someone that perhaps hasn’t heard any of it before – which 3 tracks would you put forward as the ones that encapsulate the label’s sound and style?
Man, I’d just cut to the chase with tracks like ‘The Liquidator’, ‘Double Barrel’ and Longshot Kick The Bucket.
Focusing on the UK Reggae scene, who are your tips for 2018, who’s impressing you the most?
There’s a bunch of UK bass warriors out there – off the top of my head anything by Mungo’s Hi Fi, Vibronics, Hempolics and Bristol’s Gardna.
If someone is totally new to the reggae sound but gets into your podcast, what recent albums would you recommend they got their hands on?
The new Dubmatix album ‘King Size Dub Special’ a must as is the new Last Poets album – ‘Understanding What Black Is’ produced by Prince Fatty.
Can we expect to hear more Reggae 45 podcasts in the future? Are there any particular topics you’ll be discussing in the episodes?
Got another in my head as we speak and that’s where it’s gonna stay until I get the green light.
Aside from this, you’ve also just been DJing in Tokyo, and of course have Culture Clash Radio to take care of on the BBC. Which type of work gives you the most satisfaction and why?
You missed my main occupation which is making films, but it’s an expensive business and there’s more time spent not making them. So, I supplement my income with the other stuff. Ultimately, I see it as all part of the same thing and in my books if you can make a living doing something you enjoy you’re on to a winner.
Finally, you’ve partnered up with Turtle Bay to put these podcasts together and they’ve definitely been influential in spreading the UK’s love for Caribbean food and music, do you think the reggae scene is growing again in the UK?
Dude it never went away – in the 21st century reggae is part of the fabric of contemporary music and that’s a testament to Jamaica’s gift to the world – bass.