Thursday, 11 December 2014

Chatting with Russia's Reggae Don Steppa Style

Irish Moss' newest release is an 18 track full-length effort straight outta Russia.  See the World is full of reggae riddims, good vibes and more than nuff love. Most people probably don't think of Russia as a reggae mecca, but our man Steppa is keeping it alive and well in the cold zone. We chatted with Steppa about life in Russia, the album experience, his rass class collaborators and the blessings of life. Here's what he had to say:

See the World is an 18 track full-length album, a huge undertaking for any artist … especially in this day and age of digital music, where music comes out so quickly at times it’s almost disposable. You must have been sitting on some of this material for quite a while. How long have you been working on this project?

Actually its my first album and some of the tunes I recorded a while ago, “See The World” tune, for example, was recorded around 2010 and had never been released. So I have some old and new stuff on my album and I never been sitting on some tunes, its comes out of me in mystical mood and condition which is a definite  blessing.

IMR: Obviously, it must have been important to you to some degree to have what I refer to as “the album experience.” Bob Marley’s Legend comes to mind when I think of “the album experience.” Why did you choose to go the full-length route as opposed to splitting everything up into singles and EPs?

STEPPA STYLE: Every artist should have a preview of his work in one place and vibe. I mean I wanted to show my love to different types of music on my album. From roots reggae to dancehall to jungle. And when you listen to the album from first to the last track, hopefully, you gonna get the feeling, that I wanted to convey. Also it’s my progress – I mean some tunes are older and my voice is not as fat as it is now, so you can see the changes, and I think that it's interesting too.

IMR: You’ve got some pretty great collaborators on this album. How did you choose them?

SS: Yes – most of  the artists that I collaborated with are my friends, that I met in living colors. “Digital”  for example, which is a banger for me and many people loving it, was recorded in Moscow when we booked Solo for a show. I run a soundsystem and the promo group named Trudebwoys Sound. We make parties in Moscow since 2005.

Same thing was with Skarra & Deadly Hunta, we just caught some vibes and made tunes, simple. Kris Kelly I never met, I just wrote her on Facebook and we made everything through internet.  But I love this tune “My Time” hopefully it inspired some people to make it inna life and not waste the time given to them ... same message I have in the tune “Work Hard” with Deadly Hunta. Music, from my point of view, should have a message; it should touch something in people. 

IMR: For those readers that don’t know, you hail from Russia. I don’t think most people would assume Russia has a huge scene when it comes to reggae, dub, ragga jungle etc. Tell us Steppa, what’s the scene like in Russia?

SS: I think it started in late 80s over here, when Soviet Union collapsed, and iron curtain fell down. We had some hippie reggae groups but I think it was never a strong movement not in reggae neither in hippie ways. Then in 90s jungle came. First I heard jungle from a radio show called  “Storm” in the late 90s – it was a jungle &  breakbeat radio show, that smashed my child brains badly. So I started to record this program on tape and exchange them and share in school with my friends. So in 00 years there were many dnb parties with some ragga jungle too, but it was all mixed. For reggae in that period there were some groups that were playing hippie reggae and no soundsystems or sounds. So I started with hip-hop first, but still was listening to reggae and jungle, these two styles never were separate. I'm talking about ragga jungle of course,  not about techno drum and bass. So my promo started to make ragga jungle and reggae/dancehall parties from 2005, and jungle was on the main dancefloor and reggae in chillout. These two styles were,  and they still are together like Yin and Yang . So we started  to bring artists from 2007 – 08, such as General Levy, Top Cat, Demolition Man, UK Apache to name a few,  mostly UK based, so we had the most influence from the UK. Also we started to make a small venue reggae and dancehall event and were bringing sounds and artists like Supersonic Sound, Sentinel Sound, Debuzz and Skarra, Solo Banton etc. It was with another guy called Ladjack and Likedat sound. Through the years there were many promoters who tried to make reggae and jungle but most of them are gone.  Now we have my promo group Trudebwoys Sound, Clockwork Heads and some roots reggae guys who are active at the moment. We don’t have massive festivals like I performed in Europe. The biggest events here are maximum of 1000 people and you're lucky if you have them ( Beenie man was here and had less). Russia is very big, and I traveled all over, we have some places where people love our types of music but its not massive (around 100 people in the gig). Soundsytem culture is poor still, just a few sounds for all Russia.  We live in the cold zone, and coldness is not only the weather, but we still perform and promote the music and vibes that we love, and hopefully some day more people will be involved in this.

IMR: Once See the World comes out, you must be planning a tour to support the album. Where can the rudeboys and rudegirls see you play?

SS: Yes, I have some gigs in Russia supporting my album, I hope to get some gigs in Ireland with Dirty Dubsters, also a little tour in Austria gonna happened in March, Some gigs in Finland and hopefully Asian tour with Skank di Tank Sound from Vietnam. Another idea was to jump in the car and make a European tour in june. I have many promoters and sounds interested. Just have to work, be respectful to people and spread the vibes!

Big ups to Steppa, and thanks for taking the time to chat! See the World has been on constant replay on our official Irish Moss sound systems for the last couple months (read: cars, studios, laptops,offices, headphones), because essentially, it's fiyah! See the World is available now on iTunes. Get a copy to bring some fiyah to your day!