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Interview: Origin One

11 November 14 interview: Bridie Squires
illustrations: Cameron Bain

After dominating this year’s summer line-ups, Origin One now possess a body of work with a bassweight to bust your tabs ten times over. With their reggae, dub and digi-dancehall vibes, they’ve become notorious in Nottingham for turning rooms wild. We caught up with Kevin Thompson, the bloke behind the beats…

What were your early experiences of music?
My mum loved Irish folk, Motown and soul, whereas my dad loved ska and new romantic music. I played guitar from the age of nine and did all my grades in funk, jazz and soul. I got really frustrated playing in bands, I’d rather control everything – that’s how I ended up producing. Growing up, I spent time with my cousins in the Meadows who were big reggae and jungle heads – that rubbed off.

How did Origin One form?
As a listener of bashment, digi-dancehall and future sounds like Iration Steppas, Mungo’s Hifi, Vibronics, Dub Chasm and The Heatwave, I realised there wasn’t anyone doing that in Nottingham. I was making music while working with Parisa at The Maze and she ended up singing You, Boy for me. When I started working for YMCA, I met Ben who came to a jam and never left. When we were putting an EP together, my family recommended that I get in touch with a friend of theirs – Percydread. He got involved and it all clicked. That was the early version of Origin One – me, Parisa, Percy and Ben.

We were doing a lot of shows with The Afterdark Movement, so we’d all be out and we’d ask Bru-C if he wanted to jump up and do his thing with us. He never left. Around that time, we played a show in Sheffield and I met Kweku of K.O.G and The Zongo Brigade who stayed for a long time. One of the most important things was that everyone worked well together.

What have been the highlights of this year?
Soundwave Festival was amazing. Playing dub and reggae on a beach in the blistering, Croatian sun was pretty cool. Boomtown Fair too, the energy was really nice, everyone was a little bit messy – it was one of the biggest crowds we’ve played to. The reaction at our album launch was mad. This summer we had thirteen shows in a row, every weekend. It’s been a good year.

You played many dives?
There are a couple of places in London where the sound has been shit – there’s one working CDJ and no monitors. You’re just there like, “What is this?” You’re getting paid alright but it’s not worth it. I’d rather not get paid and know I’m not sounding shit to an audience.

What are the differences between your experiences with RubberDub and Origin One?
We started RubberDub Sound System when we were fifteen and massively influenced by garage and jungle. A bit later, I made a lot of dubstep with PNG. It was electronic, but still roots-based. Around that time, I moved to Holland with some of the RubberDub guys and worked with a label, Riddim and Culture, for a year. When I got back I wanted to make straight, roots-influenced music. That was not long before the concept of Origin One came about. It’s difficult to cater for what Origin One wants because it’s sound system-based culture and we’re a live act. Origin One has a wider appeal, so sometimes it’s a different audience. They allow me to express myself in different ways so they’re both vital to me.

What’s your production process like?
There’s no concrete structure, it’s just going with the flow. Sometimes I’ll approach the right vocalist to write to a track. Other times I’ll write a batch of tracks and send them to the guys to go through – if something catches with them, they’ll send it back and tell me to add some bits to it. Or we’ll all have a couple beers and jam for an evening.

What is Deeper Than Roots?
We needed a platform to put the album out on and I wanted to run a roots label from day one. I’ve had issues with a couple of records and digital releases so I was like, “Let’s release it ourselves, then we can do what we want.” The first release was with Fable who’s recently put a new album out. I’m gonna get Fel from RubberDub to help choose new artists and once we’ve got more signed, we’ll host a Deeper Than Roots presents. We shouldn’t have to go to Leeds for SubDub or Exodus when Nottingham appreciates bassweight meditation and the appreciation of a higher consciousness. When I go to a big dub night, I just wanna find my spot, have a jug of wine and skank. 

Would you switch to happy hardcore for a million quid?
Never. I’d rather be broke. I’d fuck that right off.

What were your experiences with YMCA Digital?
I did music production, took kids climbing and cycling in Sherwood Pines, stuff like that. I was working with this kid who was getting bullied and he confided in me that he wanted to be an emcee, so we had a couple of studio sessions and I invited Birdie Mack down to help out. The kid was buzzing and he started to improve. Towards the end of the two years, I worked specifically with kids who’d been kicked out of school. It was their last chance, and I was helping them get through lessons. Unfortunately, funding cuts meant I couldn’t continue but I loved engaging with the kids and talking to them on a level. It’s a demanding job and something I’d like to do in the future but it’s nice to be able to focus primarily on music.

Why does everyone lose their shit so much at your gigs?
When you’ve got a room of 200 people going mental, it’s quite surreal. I focus on a strong beat with a really heavy bassline. Ben’s always goes in, ripping his clothes off and screaming, Parisa and Bru-C have great energy, and Kweku was incredible to work with too. We’re natural on stage because we’re all genuinely good friends.

Origin of Species or Orangina?
Wow. This is getting deep. I’ve got a lot of love for Orangina but surely it’s all about the history of man?

One Direction or One Born Every Minute?
I don’t know what One Born Every Minute is but I hate One Direction.

What do you see in the future of Origin One?
Everyone’s really busy at the minute. Parisa’s doing Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, which is amazing, Ben and Bru-C are focused on The Afterdark Movement and Kweku’s got his band. I’ve got a couple of big hip hop names I’m going to be producing for. Over winter we’re writing new material, as well as doing solo stuff that we’ll bring together. I just wanna keep working hard and wait for the sun to come back out next year.

Origin One will be playing alongside Natalie Duncan at Nottingham Contemporary at 8pm on Friday 14 November.

Origin One on Soundcloud

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