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Overproof Soundsystem - Operating System

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Birmingham’s finest live reggae outfit, the Overproof Soundsystem, is coming to Australia for a few gigs this February, bringing down vocalists, DJs and instrumentalists to combine into a real lovin’ sound on stage. 3D’s Carlisle Rogers spoke to Brian Nordhoff.

“I’m sure you’ve seen Fat Freddy at some point – it’s a similar kind of set-up,” says one half of G-Corp, Brian Nordhoff, who is one sixth of the posse coming to Australia. “It’s basically a band with a DJ for a drummer, four vocals, two percussion, melodica, keyboard and then another DJ. It’s a party. We’re not as chilled out as Fat Freddy, it’s a bit more full-on than that. But having said that, I’ve seen a couple of shows that got quite excited and I’ve got quite a bit of respect for them having seen them live. They’re good lads.

“Because of the label, we’ve had quite a connection with New Zealand and Australia over the years. We did a mix on Salmonella Dub a few years ago when they were just kicking off and we’ve had a quite a bit of interaction with that side of the world. Although for us, it’s the first time we’ve managed to get there. We’ve always been in contact with people over there and I think there’s been some great music coming out of Australia and New Zealand to be honest. Because of the kind of music scene we work in, because it’s sort of left field, it will be the kind of thing that we do because it’s not straight down-the-line commercial music. It tends to be groups of like-minded people around the world that connect to each other and help each other.”

Brian says that during his DJ sets (the guys are playing a mix of live and DJ sets around the country) he just plays a whole bunch of tunes and waits to see how people react. “But with the live Overproof thing,” he says, “we started it as a live club night, because reggae music in Birmingham had become sort of compartmentalised – it was all a bit fucking dark. Everyone was a bit sick of going out and worrying about whose train you’d tread under.

“So we started a night that played ’60s reggae, dub, mash-ups and reggae-influenced mixes right across the board and we ended up with a real mixed crowd literally from 16 to 60 and a regular crowd of 1500 every week. It was a real positive event, it was a real party and a German promoter happened to come to one of the nights and said, ‘I’d love you to bring this to Germany.’

“The nights were almost tribal, they ended up as an almost release to people. It reminded me of the early, early dance days when people were going just to let go. Because loads of people love reggae and were in an environment where they could just let go and not worry about what they looked like or who they bumped into, they always ended up as great parties.

“Then we took it out on the road and it developed very organically into its own thing. It started out with me DJing and people picking up the mikes and doing head-top stuff and then scenes would develop and eventually Rob and I went, ‘You know what, there are some great songs developing here, we should record all of this.’ And then it got to the stage where the Overproof is all its own material and it really does come across as a live band.”

Brian says the band always approaches the writing process as an ‘organic’ affair, beginning with the band just playing whatever is in their heads, and ending with a few magic ideas on wax. “I’m a great believer in that most ideas are airborne. It has to be as open as possible. For example, you might think of an idea, and I know from experience if you think you really should cover that track or use that sample, and you don’t act on it and get it out, you can guarantee within six weeks you will hear somebody else doing it.

“I think you do pick up things and filter them through your own influence, so we tend to literally just get in front of the desk and the instruments in the studio and start playing and then somebody will go, ‘That sounds great,’ and we put it together from there.

“Most of the songs we’ve written came about because we were working on an instrumental and somebody would walk in and sit in the back and you’d hear this murmur from the back of the room, which is somebody singing along to it. And eventually your ears tune in and you think, ‘That sounds really good man’, and then they get in front of the mike and we end up with a song. There’s never a lot of sitting around with paper and angst. Everything we do is based on having a good time, otherwise we might as well go work in a car factory. We’ve never tried to be pop stars so we’re never going to be millionaires, but you’ve got to enjoy doing it.”

Fans of Overproof’s dubby beats should also check out the latest drop from G-Corp, Dub Plates From The Elephant House Volume 3: G-Corp Meets The Mighty Tree. The release features Dub Food, a tunes cookbook. “Because it was the third in that series, we wanted to do something a bit different to keep ourselves fresh. We actually got together with a live reggae rhythm section that’s a killer. For us that was great fun just miking up the kit, the bass, the guitar, etc and plugging in the keyboards and jamming. It was a real pleasure for us to not have to sit there programming. We’ve gone out live a couple of times with the full band and all the vocalists and that’s really good fun.”

WHO: Overproof Soundsystem
WHAT: Play the Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Friday 8 February