Adrian Sherwood has been around for a long time. He's the man behind the On-U Sound label, and eponymous sound system. The one that usually does the rounds at least once a year, and has done so for as long as you can remember. If you've ever been to an On-U gig you'll know it's loud, uncompromising, live dub sound, and you'd remember there's lots and lots of noise, as you recall the ringing that's left in your ears for hours after.
On-U Sound have released over 100 albums and singles, and the list is endless as to whose careers have been launched, and is even longer if you add the number of people influenced by the label.
Adrian Sherwood has been at it for over 15 years. He's like the great grandfather of the organisation, wise, sincere, and he actually cares about his family. When you talk to him, although it's on the stairway of a cold college corridor, you can sense his pride, and feel the warmth of his sincerity, as he talks about the posse, and as he ponders over the things he has achieved and the things he has still yet to achieve. Not just for money, but for a genuine, honest bash at producing music that he believes in, whether or not it's popular or mainstream, he wants to put his energies into talent and do it for those who can't particulary articulate themselves as well as other unfairly privileged groups in society.
Adrian's life with On-U Sound started in 1979 when he collaborated with Mark Stewart, and members of the Slits to form the New Age Steppers debut album, a sleek debut with strong elements of Sherwood's passion for reggae shining through.
Since then he's worked with a diverse selection of the industry from the mad industrial noise of Mark Stewart and the Maffia's '... Democracy ...' to Keith Le Blanc's technologically funked up grooves of 'Major Malfunction'. From the cool Dub Syndicate and the wild tribal sounds of African Headcharge, to Prince Far I, Lee Perry, Keith Le Blanc, Bim Sherman and Gary Clail. He's also remixed and produced bands such as Depeche Mode, Simply Red, Cabaret Voltaire, The Woodentops and lots, lots more...
It's strange that in a scene where DJs are becoming remixers and producers, and some only having been at it for 5 minutes, that you can still find them in all the appropriate music mags. But with old Adrian, the person and producer that has no doubt had a massive influence on the use of technology in the house scene today, you're hard pressed to find much written about him, let alone what it is he really does.
"I organise the bands" explains Adrian, "and make them up, because a lot of them are studio bands before they become real bands, I produce the records, record the records and mix the records, and then I try and make sure our records are presented in a way that is suitable to me, that feels right with my own sensibilties."
In short he does an awful lot, and quite often doesn't get much credit for it. But maybe that's why he's still there after all this time. Adrian's not interested in competing in the current house scene although some of the On-U Sound stuff, old and new, has had the potential of slotting quite aptly into some of the more leftfield clubs.
"I don't really want to compete on that level. I'd rather try and create a niche amongst like minded people, and create our own little market place be that 5, 50 or 500,000 sales" Adrian muses "and also be true to our principles of making things, and to your own spirit that you put into the work. I watch all the dance stuff, what's going on in it, and I think there's some fantastic grooves, but if you start competing in that for the sake of trying to make a few pounds, I think I'd rather be broke