Jamaica, that beautiful Caribbean island is known for its dreamy beaches, a natural jewel, premier tourism destination and of course the birthplace of reggae. Music is an important aspect of the country and is deeply rooted in its culture and way of life. The Kingston based dancehall and reggae collective Equiknoxx is one of Jamaica’s most interesting musical exports of the last decade. Ninja Tune legend The Bug has invited the band for the next “Pressure”, his own regular night at Gretchen, on September 14. We had the chance to talk to Gavsborg, one of the producers of Equiknoxx, about the band, their work and music in general.
Jamie: Thank you so much for taking the time. Let us start with a simple question: What does the name Equiknoxx stand for?
Gavsborg: You are most welcome 🙂 , the name Equiknoxx stands for a group of truants who found more comfort in the library rather than the classroom.
Jamie: Equiknoxx is often described as a collective, but it seems like the brains and muscles behind the project are the producers Gavsborg and Time Cow. Who else is part of the group and is there a clear hierarchy within the band?
Gavsborg: The muscles behind the group are all the components as we all have been integral to facilitating our current position. The members of Equiknoxx are: Bobby Blackbird, Gavsborg, Kemikal Splash, Shanique Marie and Time Cow. I was releasing tracks under the name Equiknoxx from 2003, then Blackbird and I started the label officially in 2007. Time Cow, Shanique Marie and Kemikal Splash joined us between 2009 and 2012.
Jamie: You have worked with the likes of Aidonia, Beenie Man, Busy Signal, Capleton and Elephant Man. Do you still feel nervous going into the studio with some of the biggest names of reggae and dancehall music?
Gavsborg: Not necessarily, in respect to Aidonia and Busy Signal, we came up together in about the same time, 2003-2005, we were all just youth roaming different studios, trying to make it in the industry. In reference to Capleton, Elephant man etc, we record them only in times that is comfortable to both parties so there is nothing to be nervous about as this only happens when both parties are genuinely ready.
Jamie: As you might know, in Germany there is a massive reggae and dancehall scene. Artists such as Gentleman even make it into the charts over here and I have heard he also entered the Jamaican charts once or twice. How do you see the development of Jamaican music on a international market and have you or would you concider working with European artists?
Gavsborg: Well, Jamaican music always has the possibility of churning internationally as it is from Jamaican culture and the world loves Jamaican culture, so anything is possible. I personally have worked with some European acts, mainly Junior Stress and Eastwest Rockers from Poland and some of them are well received there like Junior Stress’s “(nie)Prawda”.
Jamie: In 2016 you have released your long awaited debut album “Bird Sound Power” which surprisingly was not following the traditional way of Dancehall music as it had no Vocalists on it. I have listened to the album and every track definitely speaks for itself, but what made you decide to do an entire instrumental album instead of using your well connected network of artists?
Gavsborg: It was actually a collective idea of Jon K and DDS, when they ran the idea by us, I personally had no problems with it as from age 15 I was already just DJ’ing in my room for hours with only instrumentals and was quite entertained by it. I had no idea that this was actually a thing in the world and that others would enjoy this approach too.
Jamie: Appart from “Timebird”, the tracks on the album are either produced by Gavsborg or by Time Cow. How can we picture your workflow in general? Do you even produce in the same studio or does everything happens at your own home-studios and then you send ideas back and forth via e-mail?
Gavsborg: Well produced by, composed by, arranged by, mixed by and things like this are just related to time and space, either one of us could have either but things are the way they are just because of how nature facilitated them and when the time is right to collaborate it normally flows well, like “Timebird” for example was made in a few minutes one night after, if I remember right, a strong helping of food and a overall good feeling to create together. But generally we are all close to each other and see things similarly, eat similarly and socialize similarly, so the end result is sililar and generally harmonious with what we each, is doing, want to or could do.
Jamie: Instead of releasing “Bird Sound Power” on an Jamaican imprint you have chosen DDS, the label of Manchester’s dark ambient duo Demdike Stare. How did this come about?
Gavsborg: The connection with DDS came about after Manchester based Jon K, DJ Samrai and others in Europe supported our music, this caught the ear of the label who realized and loved what we were doing.
Jamie: With this move you have almost instantly reached a whole new fanbase worldwide. Was this the plan or are you surprised yourself about the success of the album?
Gavsborg: This was not planned and was surprising to see the love from new fans plus new love from old fans. Plus the pressure from both to release more with vocals and more without vocals and also good to see the curiosity of new fans to explore old work or work parallel to “Bird Sound Power” – for example one guy came up to me at Outlook Festival very surprised when he found out I produced Charly Black’s “Bike Back”, in his situation he loved both our approach on the album and our different approaches outside of the album.
Jamie: Since the “Bird Sound Power” LP you did not sleep, worked hard and kept releasing tracks. Is there any major projects you have planned for the near future?
Gavsborg: For now we are constantly working in the studio, both home and away, and seeing what comes to fruition.
Jamie: Thanks again for this interesting conversation. Any words to our audience to build anticipation prior to the event?
Gavsborg: Thank you for inviting us to your space and we encourage the peeps of Berlin to come out and fulljoy!