Dubcentral interview with Dougie Conscious
16 April 2014
AUTHOR: Gita Patel aka Shakti (Dubcentral)
Conscious Sounds is an Independent UK-dub / roots label & studio run by producer Dougie Conscious. Dougie started his career in music production with humble means while running Dub Shack Records at Camden lock market in 1988. It wasn’t long before Dougie began creating his own dub tracks; his first attempt at mixing was the instrumental ‘Stepping time’ recorded on 4-track at Nick Manasseh´s house – it was released in 1990 under the name Century and laid the foundations for the Conscious Sounds label.
Bush Chemists formed in the early 1990’s alongside the Century project with core members consisting of Dougie Conscious, Chazbo and Culture Freeman. Over the years Bush Chemists have worked with a variety of vocalists including Kenny Knots and King General.
Dubcentral has interviewed Dougie Conscious ahead of our forthcoming Bank Holiday event at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield on Saturday 3rd May! It has to be said Dougie Conscious & Conscious Sounds has helped to pave a way for UK reggae and dub music across the globe, creating killer riddims time after time.
DC: Back in the 70’s, reggae was a huge sound in your neighbourhood (Hackney) and there was an abundance of sound systems. Are custom built sound systems still as popular in Hackney now?
DOUGIE: Back in the 70s and early 80s reggae was huge in Hackney and there were sound systems everywhere, along with record shops. I had to walk past 3 reggae record shops on the way to school! Nowadays, there are no record shops and very few sound systems. You still have the regular roots & dub sounds, Jah Tubbys, Aba – Shanti, but no new sounds that I can think of.
DC: You used to have a record shop and today you continue to promote vinyl through your Conscious Sounds label. Vinyl is still a huge part of the Roots Reggae / Dub culture and there seems to be new releases coming out on vinyl every day. Do you think the new digital era has affected record sales, or do you think vinyl is still very much alive?
DOUGIE: Vinyl is still selling but not as much as sales 10 years ago, the internet has kind of killed it. Even the legal downloads don’t sell that much. It’s a double edged sword, there are loads more people listening to dub reggae music on the internet but they are just not buying it.
DC: Do you think reggae artists get many vinyl copies pressed for each release? Also, I’ve noticed a trend of people buying records in bulk which retail for £10 and then hiking up the price on eBay, what do you think about that?
DOUGIE: Again, that’s a direct result of low sales; most labels only press 500 copies which will sell out in a few months. You do get people buying 3 or 4 copies, keeping them for a few months then putting them on eBay. I always press 1000 copies of all my tunes; the first 500/600 sell in a couple of months, then the rest just trickle out. If all labels pressed 1000 copies you’d see less on eBay for big money.
I can give you another example of how much it costs: I order 1000 copies of vinyl which sets me back about £900 to press, and it’s around £200 to pay for a vocalist, also take into account the studio costs etc. I sell the records to the distributer for £3.50 a copy, who then sells on an online shop for maybe £8 or £9…. the store owners earn more than me!
You probably can make more money selling music than producing it; an ideal solution would be to have a one price for all 12inches!
DC: Roots Reggae originated in Jamaica, but in JA it’s not the mainstream sound of today. Why do you think Roots Reggae went more underground in Jamaica? Do you think Conscious Roots Reggae is making a comeback in Jamaica with artists like Chronixx, Jah9, Micah Shemaiah and events like the Kingston Dub Club?
DOUGIE: Reggae was created in JA, why they stopped producing it I don’t know. It’s a big shame there not producing it the same way they did years ago. It’s one of the reasons I started making tunes was because I couldn’t buy any from Jamaica anymore. It is good to see new artists coming from JA but there very few and far between. If I went to Jah Shaka 20 years ago 80% of the music played would have been from Jamaica, nowadays its 90% UK / Euro music that’s being played.
DC: Your productions sound so unique and I love the Conscious Sounds label. Many people say that you, Manasseh and some others were the second generation of UK Dub pioneers and your innovation and production styles were inspired by the melodies of vintage Roots Reggae. What do you think to all the new styles of UK Dub? Some of it sounds like really hard, pumping dub techno?
DOUGIE: The first generation that pioneered the UK Dub sound was Jah Shaka, Mad Professor, Aswad etc. Manasseh, Disciples, Dread and Fred, Jah Warrior all helped start the second generation of UK Dub. I was heavily influenced by Jamaican Dub. I wanted to be ‘Scientist’ at King Tubbys! A lot of new music these days is being produced by people, who don’t have much musical experience and depend on the music software too much. The music has definitely gone more towards the techno dance tip.
DC: How’s Conscious Sounds label going? What projects have you been working recently?
DOUGIE: Conscious sounds are in a pretty good place right now. I’m doing lots of mixing and engineering for various labels, and getting lots of shows. Hopefully this will continue!
DC: There is a lot of piracy happening in the music industry. Do you think piracy is on the increase? What can we as promoters and public do to stop this problem? Are we doing enough?
DOUGIE: Piracy has always been there, the only difference now is it’s a lot easier to do. Promoters could do a lot by not letting people sell dodgy CDs in the dance. But they are probably getting some money from the sellers, so it will probably continue in ways! Money run tings! The public could just not buy the CDs, but everyone like a bargain.
DC: What are all the original members of ‘Bush Chemists’ up to these days?
DOUGIE: The original members are Chazbo, Culture Freeman and myself; we are all doing our own musical works. Chazbo loves Japan and has his own Roots Temple Label and Culture Freeman has the King David Styles label releasing older Bush Chemists productions.
DC: Do you prefer to fly the ‘Bush Chemists’ flag or to be known as Dougie Conscious Sounds?
DOUGIE: I’ve always been the motivator behind both Bush Chemists and Conscious Sounds. With Conscious Sounds I can be more versatile, working with lots of different artists and also I get more shows if I have two identities.
DC: This will be your first time playing in Sheffield! We’re looking forward to having you and King General perform at Dubcentral. Are you looking forward to coming to the Steel City?
DOUGIE: I always look forward to playing music, it’s what I strive to do. It’s going to be nice to come to Sheffield and dub it up, playing in new places we haven’t performed before will always be Boom! Just want to say big up yourself and your crew members! Keep up the works; we need more people like you in the bizness!
DC: Thanks Dougie, See you in Sheffield. We can’t wait!