In the attic with Rebel Spirit Sound
We get into the attic with Jack Young, one third of the trio that make up soundsystem giant Rebel Spirit Sound. Getting to know their past, and plans for the future as well as delving a little deeper into the pool of underground DIY event culture in Leeds. On our expedition we look into how one becomes a rebel, and where to look for sound systems in disguise. Want to know more about the physical impact and social importance of sound system? Then you’ve climbed into the right attic!
Thank you for agreeing to come on Alone in the Attic we’re just gonna start with some basic questions. Can you tell us about how you came to form Rebel Spirit?
Jack : Yeah so rebel spirit is three people, me, Akash and Peter - Peter already had his own sound system called lion paw soundsystem 3 - he were doing mostly weddings and parties. Akash has been with Iration Steppas for many years now, he's in his early thirties and he’d been in since he was in his late teens I think and then I joined Iration Steppas cos i went to school with Akash’s brother so I pretty much lingered on and a couple years down the line i decided fancied starting a soundsystem. By luck Iration Steppas were upgrading their soundsystem at the time so they were selling their bassbins. So i spoke to Akash and said shall we get two and he said what's the point in two lets get four and somewhere down the line we ended up with 8.
BONBON: A 400 percent increase
Jack : It got a bit out of hand
BONBON: got about 100 in your bedroom
Jack: So we just use 4 at the moment cos that's all you need in venues now. Then we have another 4 in reserve so if we want to start upgrading we can do that. So from that we had the bass bins and then we were looking at more and what else we needed and anyone that's started building a sound system will tell you, you think you go get speakers and that'll be sound but the annoying thing about it is the hidden costs, you don't realise your gunna spend hundreds of pounds on drills.
BONBON: We just wanted to about how you've coped with lockdown and everything with the government abandoning the music industry and support for them?
Jack: I think between the three of us it's been varied, some of us had secure work some of us didn't, I myself were alright. I'm using this time to focus my mind on other projects such as Sound Mag so it gave me the opportunities to get the foundations of other stuff strong.
BONBON: So we read that you were apprentices of Iration Steppas and we were just wondering what it means to be to an apprentice of Iration Steppas. Is it like making tea, finding music?
Jack: Yeah, so to be an apprentice of a sound system is the way I think most people should do it, if you wanna be a top soundsystem. Cos it goes back to the origin of soundsystem, you look at all your greats and the greats have been an apprentice of someone such as Scientist who I think was an apprentice to King Tubby. A lot of these people have come through ranks - to be an apprentice it's not contractual you’re not on a scheme.
BONBON: Yeah the government aren’t like ‘soundsystem’
Jack: You're basically just a box man, you move boxes. But there are certain tips and tricks you learn along the way that mean you just have that advantage. So if you put a sound system in an arena with another soundsystem you've been through that experience. And it's all about how you play your sound system, how you’re gonna play your next tune - you listen out if they play a certain tune at you. There's a clever way of doing it so the other sound system might play tonnes of tunes with no vocals so you've gotta be careful cos otherwise if you go too far it becomes a repetitive riddim with no substance. And then you can put a bit of a curve ball in it you can play tunes that will put the soundsystem off there's a lot of little mind games.
BONBON: That's really interesting. It's like a DJ having a conversation with another DJ from a distance like a battle …. Like a … soundbattle.
So which artists inspired your love for dub music and when you did discover it, thought this is the sound that I love and this is the sound I want to pursue?
Jack: I think for all three of us proper confidently say Iration Steppas, Peter before he found Dub sound system he went into room 2. He was more of a dnb man.
BONBON: Ah we love Room 2 had some great lineups - lotta dubstep acts
Jack: So many big names in room 2 such as Metalheadz and Goldie
Jack: And I think one of the subdubs the dubstep they had in there really early on in the dubstep days they had like for the first time most of them DJ’s like Benga and Skream played.
BONBON: Yeah cos skream's album cover on Rutten is at subdub in like 2005 /2006
Jack: Yeah it’s at West Indian Centre, there's actually a funny story to that so skream was supposed to get his photo shoot taken outside in chapel town so he was walking around and I think he basically shat himself. It was either him or the photographer but they ended up going back inside
BONBON: No way! They Can't hack leeds
Jack: So people that went through room 2 found it that way - so Akash got shown it by people he worked with at a young age. He went to Subdub with his mates that he met at work and myself I went unity day - for all of us its something fresh and its mad you look at a sound system and fucking sky high above your heads shaking your body and youve never felt like that before.
BONBON: How do you plan to expand rebel spirit in the future?
Jack: To have more opportunities to do bigger venues but the thing that's put a spanner in works is that most venues don't require sound systems or are not allowed any more because of decibel counts. We don’t know if that's gonna change after lockdown and they say absolutely no more than 4 and going over to the EU now is so awkward. And with the visa you've got to prove over 23 thousand pounds worth of work guaranteed - no one's getting that. We are gonna do is continue the Run the Dub nights and try to get more bookings around the UK.
So what do you think of the importance of keeping the DIY soundsystem scene in Leeds?
Jack: The events and the promotions thing is something i ended up on a touchy subject about not long ago in that i don’t mind people coming to Leeds and putting on big events but as long as you remain in Leeds and you’re paying local artists and bringing in local artists.
Jack: I think a perfect example is Highrise cos he gets big names but he also fills it with local names and local people
BONBON: Thats what you want thats the beauty of the culture getting everyone from the same city just helping you out.
Jack: Yeah, what i dont agree with is theres certain big names now and without trying to say who they are - they come to Leeds, Manchester and Brighton. They put on events which is a massive name for example Shy FX and they might have one other name or be djing themselves but theyre not from around here they take the money and they move on ive seen it done multiple times with the same artist and all theyre doing when theyre doing that is taking away from underground culture cos say when your doing that with drum n bass the local drum n bass night isnt gunna get all the people coming in theyre gunna go to the big name
BONBON: Yeah there’s no love in that, give people a chance.
Are there any other genres or nights that make you excited, something thats not even related to dub maybe Abba, Earth Wind and Fire?
Jack: In truth, I take a lot of inspiration from a lot of different genres to make the dub community better. I love dub and soundsystem but the branding of the culture isn't done that well.I look at skateboarding culture, and think how can i take bits from that. The same goes for indie rock, the fans are so loyal to the music and touring in that scene.
BONBON: Yeah it used to be such a big encompassing culture, you see the band you buy the t shirt!
Jack: In terms of music i like and you dont get nights of it at all - trip hop. I think a lot of people would like it, stuff like DJ shadow and just scratching. You never ever see a trip hop night, such a cool little genre
Jack: A lot to be said about taking from grime aswell same kind of DIY, so good for awareness. We tried doing something similar for soundmag - we do mixdown videos on our youtube channel people from all over and its similar to watching SB.TV. There’s certain elements of all music - classical music. Whats’ massive in dub at the moment is using world music, especially mantras from india are in a lot of dub at the moment
Jack: Did i answer that question?
Is there anything you would never want to put out of the soundsystem?
Jack: Yeah donk and stuff like that
BONBON: Nooo why?? We love donk!
Jack: Anything thats at such a ridiculous bpm that its uncomfortable to dance to. Its like epileptic music
What decade would you like to go back and play a set to?
Id have loved to have been in the dub and soundsystem scene during the 90s, it was so fresh then with the introduction of all the electronic equipment. You had Disciples, iration steppas, aba shanti, alpha and omega, zion train.
BONBON: Its quite a timeless genre. Early dub poets from the 70s and 80s like Linton Kwesi Johnson have such a contemporary sound and carry a similar political message
Jack: In terms of actually showing a soundsystem to somebody in time I’d want to go way back to the Iron Age. Love to put that in front of them and see how they reacted.
With the government trying to get everyone currently in a creative job to take on a new more ‘practical career’ - what would you disguise the rig as to blend in with society?
BONBON: For example it could work in advertising, its day time alter ego
Jack: Weird one because its the opposite of what I’d want to do, weird question…I tell you what would be quite cool, maybe something like stone henge, loads of tourists coming round like whats this whys it making so much bass why am i dancing
Could you describe yourselves as a collective in 3 words? You have 5 seconds?
Jack: Rebels, Yorkshire, Hooligans
BONBON: How do you go about being a rebel? What are you rebelling against?
Jack: For us it was more doing things our own way, keeping same traditions but pushing forward. We want to rebel against the norm. The attitude we always have when we go places, we go with a big crew and go in like an army. We were playing a gig at Blueberry Hill and another soundsystem had already set up in the space we wanted so we just took their soundsystem down and they turned up and were like fair enough
Jack: Its difficult to rebel against the system as such, politically we are different minded the 3 of us but in terms of the covid thing theres an element of keeping respect. In these times as much as you want to rebel and as much as you disagree, you can make yourself into an enemy of the people. Trying to get soundsystems into venues now is hard enough as it is without bringing a bad name to soundsystems. Over the years have been working that bad name off. Could be detrimental to community halls and community venues if soundsystems sack them off and just start doing free parties and then getting a bad name and the council wont give them permits. Dubs always been about being in the local community hall
What are you guys doing next?
Jack: There will be a soundmag label coming at some point
Would you recommend us some tunes that you love at the moment or that have inspired you?
Jack: Tunes that come out of leeds are a big influence. Iration Steppas tunes like follow me come.
Jack: Theres this tune from Chapeltown - Rivers by Mystic Levy unbelievably beautiful tune that captures the Leeds vibe so well. You can feel the Leeds style which I have theorised with some friends that the style has come from sounds of acid house style, beautiful melodies, orchestral strings and very hard hitting drums
BONBON: We were now going to ask the more abstract attic questions. We want to focus on the other side of interviewing and get more into your individual personality.
What is your attics physical form?
Jack: Ive probably got 2. If I’m at my house I always like to go and sit on my steps, for some reason i always find comfort sitting on the stairs. And I try and go walking as much as possible and love walking in the yorkshire dales. Im pretty good at daydreaming, my mind will go off anywhere
So what are sometimes the thoughts in your attic?
Jack: Mostly thinking of ways to push Sound Mag forward and push the culture. I have a big belief that soundsystem culture can become more of an industry. I think culture has many avenues - music, fashion, media, photography and i go through phases of little things that can improve each of those avenues
Jack: There’s no fashion focused directly at just soundsystem culture. Back in the day, well not my day but in the 70s, 80s you had farrah slacks, diamond socks, kangol hats and clarks boots. Soundsystem is becoming more open and it would be nice to find a style and identity again. I just think about that all the time
What/who is hiding under your bed?
Jack: The fear of letting people down - to the point where i overwork myself. It probably holds me back because i want to please everyone but some stuff just cant be done
The year is 2050 authoritarian big brother reigns supreme, what are the thought police arresting you for thinking?
Jack: Probably setting up a session sneak in the rig
Jack: But I’ll just say I’m off to see stone henge