In anticipation of our Wuk Up event this Friday, we took the chance to interview one of the UK's most cherished dancehall DJs. His career spans several decades and continents, and the influence his trailblazing BBC Radio 1 dancehall show had on the UK music scene is still reverberating today. We are talking to the man with the Midas touch, Chris Goldfinger.
Henry: What was your favourite sound system before you got involved as a DJ? What influenced you to get involved?
Chris Goldfinger: Living in Jamaica I used to love listening to Stone Love Sound System.
H: Tell us about Asha World, how did that come about? What are they up to these days? Are the rest of the crew gonna be there on the 24th?
CGF: The Asha world Movements are to this date still highly active in the dancehall arena, we tour worldwide maybe more than any other sound in the UK and are always on the road. I will be rolling out with the crew on the 24th. I have a nightclub in London, so some members do have to stay back and take care of that. Asha World came about when the UK needed a change in the way they were being entertained. It was all about the Juggling and away with the single turntable culture.
H: So Asha world was making a break from the more reggae / rootsy style of sound system, into what would become a more dancehall / bashment-oriented sound? When was this? We clearly see the two different sorts of sound system emerging, why do think this change came about?
CGF: When I came to the UK, coming straight from Jamaica where juggling was the big thing (mixing records back to back using 2 turntables), I didn't want to do the same thing as Coxsone or Saxon, I was more into the dub plates than having live artist toasting on the sound/mic. All this came into prominence in the early 1990's due to the Asha World Movement, hence the success of the sound. The UK was ready for this change, as loads of cassette where coming up from Jamaica with this style of playing.
H: What is the your most memorable clash? Favourite special?
CGF: I have too many specials really to pinpoint one favourite, but one of my all time favourite artists is Shabba Ranks, so his dubs are really special to me. The killing of Coxsone and Saxon are my biggest moments, as a little sound coming up in the ranks.
H: Two legendary heavyweights! When was this? Why don't we see so many dancehall / bashment soundclashes in the UK nowadays?
CGF: The clash with Coxsone and Saxon were in the 90s, we had to defeat these big heavyweights just to stamp our authority in the dancehall, back then you couldn't say you're a top sound without clashing the top sounds. Nowadays you can boast of being a top sound, just by downloading some tunes from the Internet, that's how easy it is to also become a DJ :) I guess you don't see many clashes anymore due to the fact that many sounds don't have a sound system anymore in terms of equipments and the cost of running a clash sound is not something many of today's DJs or sounds want to spend on. As for me and my sound, we keep very much competitive in cutting dubs even today, as we play across the globe in all sorts of arenas.
H: Was your show the first dancehall show on the BBC? Were you nervous how it would go down? Did you think it would go on for so many years?
CGF: Funnily enough when I got that contract it was only for one year, and that one year turned out to be 13 years. It was the first of its kind, first ever dancehall show on Radio One, I was a bit wary, thinking it might be a bit too hardcore for the mainstream audience, as most of our hardcore dancehall audience were mostly listening to community radio stations, I had to convert them to Radio One, which I did, proudly to admit.
H: The show started in the late nineties, when dancehall was going through a bit of a low point, would you agree? Your show must have helped the scene massively?
CGF: I have many accolades from record companies thanking me for the success of their artist, which I am grateful for. I remember breaking artists like Sean Paul, Beenie Man, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Elephant Man and Wayne Wonder to name a few, to a mainstream audience.
H: Why did it take so long for the BBC to run a dancehall show? Why do you think the BBC don't support dancehall as much as they used to, considering it is more popular in the UK that its ever been?
CGF: There's always changes at the BBC, some for the better of the station and some not so much for it, I was fortunate to have a boss at the time who was a massive reggae/dancehall fan, who if he didn't fully understood it, would take time to get to know the songs and the artist, he was an all round music lover, which if you're going to be a programme controller of a radio station, one thing you must have is an open ear to all genres of music.
H: You interviewed some heavyweight artists over the years, what was your favourite / most memorable interview?
CGF: Wow!! Too many to mention, I did have fun interviewing Capleton, his freestyles are always awesome, you can view on YouTube chrisgoldfingerTV, Josie Wales was another memorable interview I did, he'd make me laugh so much... too much to mention!!
H: You met with many big artists such as Buju Banton in the early nineties, what was the dancehall scene like back then compared to now?
CGF: There was so much fun in dancehall back then, it was hard work to break the songs I believed could crossover into mainstream, i.e. Mr Vegas - Heads High, but it was a great challenge for me. Elephant Man came and put the DANCE in dancehall.
H: Who is the most exciting artist of 2013 so far?
CGF: If I was still on BBC Radio One, I'd be trying to do more for artist like Popcaan, Konshens, Chronixx, Christopher Martin and a few more, I'd be working to get them mainstream.
H: What is the biggest dancehall tune/riddim you have heard so far this year?
H: What is your biggest dancehall tune/riddim of all time?
CGF: DAAAMMMNNN!! Must take you back when I just started out and was Juggling the Sleng Teng riddim in Jamaica and mashing up the place with my mixes and making a huge name for myself back then.
H: So this would have been in the mid-eighties, and you were a DJ in Jamaica, what was it like in JA when Sleng Teng burst onto the scene for the first time?
CGF: I was a very young DJ back then, making cassettes for all the public transports running the road, I was a household name and was learning my trade, when the Sleng Teng riddim came out it took Jamaica by storm, it was so much of a pleasure mixing those riddims together, as that was the start of the riddim sets, where you'd find the likes of 20 songs on the same beat, made it so easy for me to make a mix tape.
H: What was the best party you ever played at?
CGF: I've done sooooo many great parties, that I've walked off the set and said to myself WOW !! That felt good.... And let me say this I LOVE the HOT WUK parties, and I'm not saying this lightly.
If you don't know, get to know! You can catch Chris Goldfinger alongside the Asha World Movement this Friday at the Bank of Stokes Croft in Bristol.