The guys at Blazer Sound System put together an exclusive "Murder Mix" for Allday's Heavy Set series. The hour long set, live mixed from vinyl, features Jah Shaka, Mavado, DMZ, New Age Steppers, and Monster Shack Crew (to name a few) dubbed through the Blazers analog gear (think: dancehall, police sirens and gunshots).
We asked them a few questions on the essence of Reggae, the true meaning of a "Sound System," and tips for the best Reggae parties in NYC. Check out the interview below.
Tell us a little about Blazer Sound System... When and how did you guys come to be?
We first met through the underground music scene in NYC in 2004. The system started coming together physically in Santa Fe, New Mexico in spring 2012, with a few dances scattered around the Southwest. But the power and potential of the project was actualized all in a night, summer yard session for our friend Hira's Earthstrong in Bed-Stuy in August, 2013.
For those who don't know, can you explain the context of a "Sound System"?
At it's heart, it is a stack of custom loudspeakers set for full frequency amplification. It's a tool for autonomous, musical empowerment. It's made by and for cultural rebels looking to a new scene, a new vibe, a new sound. Sound systems develop out of a need for gathering, unity, and inspiration especially as gentrification squashes the possibility for venues and sounds that aren't explicitly commercial.
What was the music scene like where you guys grew up?
Primarily punk. We grew up in Colorado, feeding off what Denver had to offer both in terms of shows and records. We were listening to and making all kinds of stuff. Jazz, noise, techno, reggae. It's an isolated place so most of what influenced us was imported through a few key record stores. Wax Trax, Twist and Shout, Black and Read...
What is it that draws you guys to the Reggae genre?
Sound worship. Rhythm and bass structures that coax meditation/trance/dancing for a listener. An emphasis on "universality." There is less of a boring focus on "self" in reggae -- taken to the extreme on the record's flipside "version" that shatters the concept of an absolute, original. It's rebellious music intent on total seduction.
The genre is continually unfolding especially as you look back. We've both been consuming music ravishly our whole lives... always digging. Reggae is a tunnel with no end, the further you submerge the deeper it gets.
Tell us about these parties you guys throw. How often do you guys do them and how do we find out about them in the future?
We try to create an autonomous space where our listeners can feel inspired and free. The dances start early and run late. Friends like Nick Nauman and Kiki Kudo serve healthy food. Marijuana is encouraged. We play pretty rare and some times previously un-heard tunes, aligned with the dubplate culture of reggae sound systems. A unique record can highlight the specificity of that shared moment and bring people closer. For future dances, there is an invite list you can write to at blazerss.net.
"Reggae is a tunnel with no end, the further you submerge the deeper it gets."
What's the deal with the local reggae scene? Any nights you want to suggest to our reader?
NYC has always been blessed with a really vibrant Caribbean community. Most of the records we play were cut in NY, to be played at parties in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx. Nowadays a lot of the actual sound systems are gone, but there are crucial energies still. Deadly Dragon and Federation run a free party every Thursday night at the Delancey; roots in the basement, dancehall upstairs. The vibe is always nice. Ras Tayo who runs Majestic Twinsound runs a few dances a year and posts up regularly all over town... namely at one of our favorite spots, The Den, in Flatbush. King Lion Sound runs it. It is a cultural place. They have a ton of selectors and performers every Fri, Sat and Sun. Usually it's free.
You could probably find a heavy session any night of the week in any part of the city though, in all kinds of places. Go to Flatbush for some food and check the posters and flyers. Soundclash is still happening at places like Albany Manor, and Amazura has crazy shows. Once you start looking, there's no shortage.
Any plans for Blazer Sound for the future?
We are relocating our HQ to Chinatown at the moment.. Stay tuned. In the next couple of months we're sharing some original productions, a zine we made with Rockers NYC, a couple videos, a few mixes, and some shirts...