Chances are, you’ve heard of Jstar, or one of the hundreds of remixes he’s produced for over the last 14 years. An esteemed reggae and dub figure hailing from London, Jstar’s substantial body of work as a DJ, remixer and producer has been widely acclaimed by the likes of David Rodigan, Norman Jay, John Peel, Grandmaster Flash and Don Letts.
“Jstar is an original don. Early Dj that helped inspire the Major Lazer crew! Bad man!” Diplo (Major Lazer)
“… always good to have a J-Star moment … like it.” Daddy G (Massive Attack)
“..the Jstar touch works for me everytime!’ DJ Andy Smith (Portishead)
Most recently, acclaimed albums such as Stand To Order and Dub To Order have propelled his unique, forward-thinking sound into a wider international spotlight. Meanwhile, hits like his militant dub single ‘Holy Rastafari’, ‘Inna Zion’ (featuring Alpha Steppa’s Linval Thomson) and ‘Urban Mystic’ have remained selector favourites in clubs and on radio.
In the past, Jstar has also been lauded for his deep catalogue of reggae, dancehall and hip-hop remixes for the likes of Blackstreet, Gang Starr and Busta Rhymes.
Next week, fans will finally get to see Jstar up close and personal (thanks to Heavy HK) as he makes his long-awaited Hong Kong debut at XXX Studio on Friday, 3 February 2016. We had a chat with Jstar, his latest collaborator – MouseFX and Heavy HK’s BloodDunza.
Tell us about your first experience with reggae music
That would be hard to say, certainly I had bought Bob Marley’s “One Love” and “Waiting in Vain” in 1984 when they were re-issued on 7” and I was at school. Also at this time we had bands like UB40, Madness, The Specials, The Selekta in the 2-Tone Ska revival. That led me to be interested in the sound and feel for reggae, and soon I was buying dub albums of Aggrovators, Yellowman, Aswad albums, and taking many records out of our local Library in Ladbroke Grove and Kensington in London, which was well stocked with Reggae. I bought Michael Prophet & Ricky Tuffy’s “Your Love” on 12”, plus Reggae Hits Volume6,7,8,9 at Tower Records and knew that I found something I really liked
Famous for mashups with HipHop lyrics into Reggae, how did you come up with the idea and how did the Reggae community respond?
I remember my friend called me from the Caribbean barbers shop where he was getting his hair cut to say my remix of “No Digigity” was being played on one of our local Jamaican pirate radio Stations (either Unique FM or Roots FM). I went round and I think they were surprised to see a white guy with long hair at the time. Then I did a couple of tracks with some guys from the barber shop who were great singers and Deejay style too. Lots of the ideas came from DJ sets where I would blend / mix vinyl or use parts of records to make choruses. I had no money for dubplates so I needed to make something special and different!
Your “Stand to Order” album has received very positive feedback around the globe, even in Hong Kong!
Thank you for that! Many people have different favourite tracks as it is so diverse. The artists, musicians and the music connected so well, and we went to a really high standard of production, as I knew it had to be very good and different from normal reggae albums. Nick Manasseh, who helped me mix it, really understood the sound I had, and the mastering engineer added an extra 10% of magic fairy dust!
How did u discover MouseFX?
I guess I wanted a new sound, many producers using the same artists on the tracks, and I travel a lot and know there is great talent in every country. Maybe I felt that there was an under-representation of Chinese sound in Reggae music? The Chinese people have contributed much to Jamaican economically and historically. I had heard Stephen Cheng’s ‘Always Together’ on Studio One, and obviously knew about Santic label, Clive Chin and other producers with Chinese heritage. After listening to the current Chinese reggae music online (quite Peter Tosh style), I contacted Chong Long / Hidden Dragon aka Roger in Hong Kong – maybe Jahtari or Soom T had told me about him- and he was massively super helpful with so much information about the scene that he is part of, and has contributed to over many years. Mouse FX and I started to collaborate on this track which went through many permutations to the the wonderful final piece “Baby Fan Ying” (I know the actual title is “Bei Dei Fan Ying”, the working title stuck with me as it was easy to remember for English ears!)
Tell us your favourite Chinese take away shop in UK
I have 2 favourites
This is where all the Chinese families, traders and restaurants in London buy their food supplies, and also other Chinese items. They have several giant supermarkets. In the North London store near where I have lived, they have a great restaurant which serves Dim Sum at lunch, and many authentic dishes. Also is a small street style café. All of it is excellent and genuine!
In the area of London I grew up in , near Queensway, is a small Chinatown, where at Chinese Lunar New Year there used to be a street party and Festival. It doesn’t happen any more, and there are less traders, but still there are many good restaurants. I have taken my father (91 years old) here for Dim Sum and also many bands and musicians. In the 1950’s when beansprouts first came to London, my father would go to Soho in central London to buy this new delicious item, which he always loves to eat, and when my mother would be away we would have chinese takeaways – a special memory!
Find out more about the event here
Written by: Cynthia Liu