Adrian Sherwood: 'I'm Successful In My Own Brain'

Grabbing the dub master for a chat at Red Bull Music Academy New York.
The dub master in action.
Adrian Sherwood © Tadamasa Iguchi (Qetic)
By Hank Shteamer

We caught up with the legendary British dub producer and On-U Sound label boss Adrian Sherwood at RBMA headquarters, the day before he joined Lee "Scratch" Perry, the Congos and others on a bill called Pass The Gates: NYC In Dub.

How did you get started working with Pinch?
What happened with Pinch was, his big brother was an On-U Sound fan, so he grew up listening to a lot of our new stuff. I'd heard some of his tunes, and I got invited to a Tectonic night at one of the big clubs in London. And it was such a good vibe we had in there that I invited him to an On-U Sound night in Paris. I love the way that when I finished, it was really powerful, and he started with the slowest tune possible. He just completely changed the whole mood. Then within 15 minutes, there was a trance going on in the room. He's quite a musicologist; he likes all the classic roots tunes. I think his sensibility suited mine.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry live in New York for Red Bull Music Academy.
Lee 'Scratch' Perry © Christelle De Castro/Red Bull Music Academy

What's the main thread connecting early Jamaican dub, On-U Sound and what you're doing now with Pinch?
I try to explain to everybody that what it is now and what it actually was are two different things, because a "dub" was originally called a "dub version". You'd have a song and then they'd strip the song down and disassemble it or deconstruct it and then add reverbs and delays. They were made like Pinch is doing now, to play out in a sound system. I'm doing dub versions of what me and Pinch are doing; we've got unique versions of our own tunes. I don't think there are many people even in the dubstep arena doing lots of versions of their own rhythms. I'm still surprised to this day why there aren't ten different versions of Where's My Money or any of those great rhythms. Why haven't they got three singers, three DJs and an instrumentalist on those rhythms?

‘I've worked with nearly all my heroes’

What was it like to work with people who'd inspired you, like Lee Perry?
It's unbelievable. I've worked with nearly all my heroes. People say, "Who would you like to work with?" I'd like to work with my friends who are dead! Rather than particularly wanting to work with somebody really successful. I'm successful in my own brain by the fact that I've done all that I want to do and by the fact that people still want to listen to me making records. That's because I've worked with good people.

I'm a very lucky person, working with people like Lee Perry, Style Scott, Little Roy, Bim Sherman and all the great people I've worked with. But I obviously have to bring something to the table, so I've worked very hard putting thousands of hours into developing my own sound. But having said all that, I'm eternally happy. Being here today [lecturing with Lee Perry at RBMA] is a great day; it's what life's about. I'm not thinking "I'm looking forward to tomorrow" or something; I'm excited about today.

Hank Shteamer covers music weekly for Time Out New York, where he serves as Senior Associate Music Editor. Read more of his work at

More from Red Bull Music Academy New York 2013 right here.

In conversation at Red Bull Music Academy.
Adrian Sherwood © Red Bull Content Pool
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