Dread At The Controls – DBC Radio

Due to the untimely departure of a humble legend and pioneer of the London pirate radio scene, I feel it necessary to repost this last interview with Lepke. Lepke was the inspiration behind a wider acceptance of the pirate radio scene across London and even Europe. His DBC Radio inspired many ‘legal’ radio stations today.

This may well have been his last interview, conducted in Summer 2017.

 

 

 

 

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As a child growing up in the Ladbroke Grove area (Notting Hill), one of my earliest memories of the music scene, besides my father’s need to glorify the bass of the Mighty Diamonds every Sunday morning, was DBC radio.

Being influenced as a child by their presence on Portobello Road every Saturday morning, I have to attribute a large part of my ongoing love for music to those earlier experiences. It was only natural that Urban Dandy should eventually catch up with the man who pioneered such an influential station…

The architect of the revolutionary radio show, posse and collective: After sitting in The Tabernacle for a short while, Lepke arrived ready to lay down the station’s rich history. Unfortunately for me, time wasn’t on our side. Lepke told me he had about half an hour so, I got my Magnus Magnusson on. So, Lepke, you have 30 minutes on the story of DBC Radio starting …now.

UDL- What does DBC stand for?

Lepke- DBC stands for Dread Broadcasting Corporation. It’s a pun on the BBC. It was a friend of mine called William who came up with it but it was originally called Rebel Radio.

UDL- Okay, and when did DBC start, who’s idea was it?

Lepke- I started it on my own then my sister and a few of my close friends came on board. I was on my own for six or seven months then a friend called Douglas, aka DJ Chucky, came on for a few months, then a third DJ called Lloyd Rainford, or Doctor Watts, came in. He knew how to build amplifiers and he set up the system. Then we kept adding people and varying the music, it was reggae at the start then went to Soca and then Jazz, original music really and of course then Hip Hop and Funk.

You couldn’t get that music on the radio, you might hear a bit, maybe a little on Radio One but no Soca and hardly any Jazz. Hip Hop was breaking through at the time. The first Hip Hop show was with The Rapologists: Early Daze and Flakey C, then Neneh Cherry came in.

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UDL- I read online that DBC was the first black pirate radio show.

Lepke- It was the first black radio station owned by black people in Europe. As far as I know, there was no other black-owned, black music radio station in Europe. There were stations playing black music but not owned by black people.

UDL- Did you guys have a presence at Carnival as well?

Lepke- Yes. I went to the first carnival as a kid. Later on, I had a spot by Ronnie Biggs (on Portobello Road) in the 70s, then later I got a spot outside Honest Johns record shop, he handed me the keys. Then we had a spot by the print shop opposite Honest Johns. As far as we know that was also the first live broadcast in the carnival. That was when Wilf Walker used to run the carnival. Any time major artists would come through like Bunny Wailer, the Mighty Diamonds, Burning Spear…he’d put us on the show so we got well promoted. The flyer would say DBC on it, through that he’d give us control of the stages.

 

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In scrubs one time they had a super tent run by Alex Pascall, Melody Makers was there and Freddie Mcgregor and with me being me, I decided to put it on MW (medium wave), we were still on FM but I hooked it up so that the prisoners at scrubs could tune in too. They couldn’t really hear it from where they were.

I used to try to link the stages up too. There was the Meanwhile Gardens stage, the tent on Portobello Green, The Tabernacle stage and the Super-Tent at Scrubs. We were broadcasting from the Super-Tent so we had links to all of the stages. I controlled it from the print shop location on Portobello Road. I’ve still got most of the tapes from 1980 to 1984, I’ve got lots of the tapes. Some have made it onto the internet too. People recorded it so it went abroad.

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UDL- There is a mention of DBC on the New York Zulu Beats Show with Afrika Islam, was there a connection there?

Lepke- I wasn’t aware but the person who was responsible for that was probably Jollie Mcfee. He used to make badges for all the punk groups and he was also on Portobello Road. I used to go see him and one time I saw all these wires under his desk and asked what it was. He told me it was a transmitter but it wasn’t working. I asked him what he wanted for it. So I bought it and he gave me the contact who could fix it. He came to my yard, fixed it and showed me how to rig it up, he used to play Rocker Billy music and he later became a Dj on the show. They used to call them anoraks because they used to always wear anoraks. They would wear anoraks while messing around rigging up in the bushes. In the fields, everyone wore them to shield them from the wind and rain so I also became the first black anorak.

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Leroy Anderson AKA Lepke, at the controls

UDL- How long did you guys reign and when did it end?

Lepke- It ended in ’84 but people think it ended because of a raid, There was a raid but it wasn’t because of that. We joined a group called the Free The Airways Campaign. In between that we still used to play Glastonbury. We were also the first Reggae sound to play an all-night Shabeen at Glastonbury and also to broadcast from Glastonbury. So the owner would give us the main stage so we were also the first to do the main stage. We played it with Aswad.

UDL- (I’ve started so I’ll finish). It seems like the area has so many firsts, there’s a strong original energy there.

Lepke- The ley lines.

UDL- Yeah I’ve heard that before.

Lepke- But the reason we stopped was the government told us if we came off the air by a certain date (they gave us a date) then we could apply for a license, most did and it was bullshit. They took my Sister on board. First, she did a guest appearance on radio 1 and then John Peel put in a word to his heads to do this. It turned out I was his favourite DJ. I think it was on his 50th birthday they did this surprise for him. They put the decks up, brought him in and I jumped up from behind the set and started playing some reggae roots. He was happy.

Dj John Peel

DBC came in two parts. After the station closed I started JBC. One of the last DJs I brought on, Stanley Burns, also known as The Challenger, asked me why I didn’t continue. I told him that I couldn’t do it in that same name then he told me he had premises so we hooked up and started JBC. I’ve done a lot of others too, I did Grove FM, Globe FM, it had a small transmitter but it went out local. We set up one in St.Lucia too. They named the station Enola because that’s the true name of St. Lucia, after a while, the government gave them a break and they’re still on today. It was such a good transmitter I think they’re still using the same one.

Time’s up. (Stepping out of Mastermind mode)

Well there you have it, as short as our talk was, If anyone can break down the history of DBC radio and the host of other artists that could attribute part of their success to this early music revolution, it’s Lepke.

As you can now see, whether it’s ley lines or just living in the best area on the planet, the Grove is never short of firsts to note. Nowadays we have internet radio, (Portobello Radio in particular) done with an air of safety and exposure in comparison to the days that posed the possibility of the dreaded police (Babylon) raid. We’re hopeful that at some future point we will resume this history lesson with Lepke, but in the meantime, you can catch the 80s vibe below.

 

Angel Lewis UDL

 

My condolences to the family of beloved Leroy Anderson, Rest In Peace

 

An Un-Zulu Nation

In respect of the natural path of truth and also empathy, we felt it necessary and an honour to speak with an ex-Zulu Nation member, to set the record straight, hoping to inform the world of how one man suffered out of a perverted salacity going on behind closed doors during the preliminary days of the Zulu Nation.

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The Kinky In The Chain

When you hear the power in the word Zulu, you’re taken back to thoughts of the 70s movie Zulu Dawn. You think of group strength, greatness, unity, trial and victory among a tribe overcoming conflicts together as one unit. These appear to be some of the fundamentals that made the Battle of Isandlwana (1879), which the movie was based on, impossible for the British to win against the united Zulus.

Fast forward a hundred years and change, to the 80s. African Americans and their displaced counterparts around the world re-discovered and then embraced the word again; only this time as a nation with, instead of a physical battle going on, a psychological war in their midst. They combine music, rap, graffiti and dance culture together like links on a chain to a proud past. This came as a salvation to a people that had long been politically and strategically dismantled.

The new and fresh Zulu Nation was full of soul and hope, having all the potential and elements within to resurrect those ancestral spirits. It should have been as easy as A , B , C, but there was a warp in the design – a kink in the chain.

It was formed by Afrika Bambaataa, aka Kevin Donovan, aka Lance Taylor, becoming the so-called father of The Zulu Nation and Hip Hop in a sense; yet he and his associates managed to keep the fact that he was covertly homosexual, with a fetish for young boys, under their hats. This eventually became the straw that broke the camel’s back.

 

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Afrika Bambaataa, The Zulu Nation

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Angel Lewis’s Hip Hop Time Machine 4

From the UK to the US and back these are the reflections of one man’s travels and experiences outside of the boundaries of time.

Thrown back and forth in hip hop’s colourful history. Enjoy the ride

 

Different Stages

When Wu tang dropped Protect Ya Neck, Hot 97, WBLS and Kiss played it like it was a loop. At that point I realised we could find success in this business because the size of their group made our group look cool. A fifteen man crew was now acceptable, well two were females one of which was Nick Boo, at this point standing right in the doorway of my studio apartment in Fort Green, she was the trigger for this mental jump back to 1995. The Medgar Evers Show in Crown Height’s Brooklyn gave us the confidence we needed to bust out but our band was ESP and being 70% from East New York, we customarily generated enough friction amongst ourselves to fragment the crew into dust…

As such, everyone went their way. I formed a group called Complex Simple with one of the other members of ESP, the Fabulous Soul Free. Keith The Vultcha found Jesus, went solo and dedicated the rest of his music to serving God, Eric The Hawk went from state to state entering hotdog eating competitions,

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Go figure, and Nick Boo…well she’s standing in front of me. She rang the door bell thinking I was a prime candidate for selling some type of plan but the surprise of her old partner in music behind the door had us bypass all of that. We went straight to who’s doing what where. She’s now a mother, stopped rhyming and now sells Medical Insurance.  Who’da thought?  She was so talented with a natural flow and voice. Anything we wrote she just ate it up. Her high pitch voice complimented the crew. She sounded, then how Remy Martin sounds now. It’s a similar concept, the petite female surrounded by all that male machismo.

I can’t think what possessed me to go to Remy’s show in Harlem that summer.  I’m at a Terror Squad gig in this Latin club in the Bronx, looking real foreign, waiting for Remy Martin to get on stage – waiting yet knowing my friend Sauve’ wouldn’t show up. At 1.30am I knew my boy wasn’t gonna come through and the two things I hate that come just before trouble are building around me, too many guys and too few women. Testosterone’s a mutha.  I’m tempted to leave as it looks like  I’m rolling dolo for the night, I’m watching the stage hoping she’ll just appear. Observing the way that half the doods in here know each other, the diminishing space and the pulse of that continuous latin hip hop drum, in every song my spirit said ‘okay lets go’.

Of all nights this night I forget to bring paper money and it took some real brainwork to get home to Brooklyn. A New York cop is about as sympathetic as a veteran mortician yet somehow I successfully pleaded with a transit Cop to let me into the subway to get on the A train home.

As disappointing as that night  was it still remains an experience yet almost the direct reverse of the estrogenic George Clinton parliament experience. George Clintons red hair and high heel boots don’t quite exist in the same world as the Terror Squad’s Timberlands yet the essence of the music was pulled from this planet of freedom, love and platform boots.

While walking to the pyramid stage at Glastonbury’s 40th celebration on the old land of Avalon I hear Atomic Dog playing in the distance influencing my pace. I needed to see those legendary Afros, flares and roller skates close up. You’d be excused if you were not able to picture the visuals of the summer solstice 2010 with a full moon illuminating the east and fireworks going off to the west of the stage. All this majick on the heart Chakra of the planet was raising the spirits more than anyone really knew. As I had just finished performing with the Astra Project all that energy made good celebration for the great performance we just pulled off or was it a call to return to that great feeling of being on stage again?

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Angel Lewis’s Hip Hop Time Machine 3

From the UK to the US and back these are the reflections of one mans travels and experiences outside of the boundaries of time.

Thrown back and forth in hip hops colourful history. Enjoy the ride

It’s strange how much easier it is now for me to travel in time. I question whether I’m in the future thinking about the past, or if I’m in the past thinking about the future?

I’m reading George Orwell’s book,  ‘1984’ and wondering why he never mentioned anything about scratching, ‘cos here I am in 1984 making horrible noises with my brother’s ‘Ray-gun-omics’ LP. Flash made scratching look so easy in the movie ‘Wildstyle’. I figured by pressing the tape button on the stereo system I could switch from the record player to the tape deck and be like Flash, but it sounded more like screech than scratch. I guess that’s where the journey began. ‘The Girl Is Fine’ is playing on a tape I made, compliments of Radio Invicta. On the other side of the phono button, that pop sound as I switch back and forth from turntable to tape, was becoming a problem, but as my fingers got faster the noise seemed to disappear. Interesting how you can master those compromised tools you acquire.

Almost between an inhale and an exhale, my Bush stereo system became 2 Technics turntables and a phonic mixer. Thanks to my mother recognising my commitment to the cause, she thought a new pair of Technics SL 1200’s worth going into debt for.

Exchanging record titles became commonplace for DJ’s. I gave up, ‘I Just Wanna Do My Thing’ by Edwin Starr for ‘Take Me To The Mardi Gras’ by Bob James. Cut Master Swift was one of my trading partners and thought the, now classic, Bob James song was common knowledge in West London but it wasn’t; maybe to Bertrum and Froggy from Krew, but I wasn’t in their league yet, so he threw in another title for free.

Remember these were just the names. We’d now have to do the searching from record shop to record shop for those rare singles. These titles were songs DJ’s would play but would rarely reveal the Artist or Title.  I remember tearing off the record labels and devaluing the records, a small price to pay, if I was to be true to the exclusive DJ fraternity.

How many times I bought the right artist, wrong song and vice versa. The important part of the song was the drum break but not all breaks were alike.  This is probably the sole reason why Hip Hop absorbed every single genre of music. It was like a monster that kept eating anything funky and growing and growing. I remember when I cut the hell out of ‘The Big Beat’ by Billy Squires it was at the Albany Empire in Deptford. You have just four bars of the break before the singing is followed by the rock guitar, revealing the genre of that song to a mainly dance hall crowd that are barely ready for Hip Hop let alone un- hip Rock! If I wasn’t so nice on the turntables the crowd’s patience would have run out but they let me cue up the next record despite Billy Squires screaming.

But then again DJ Big Bob at Empire Boulevard got away with more than that with a much tougher Brooklyn crowd. It wasn’t all Rob Base and Big Daddy Kane, it was ‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll’ to ‘Put The Music Where Your Mouth Is’ then ‘Liquid Liquid’. I remember skating to the whole of ‘The Mexican’ by Babe Ruth (beginning to end) but Big Bob had turned a simple roller skating rink into a church of music from his Tuesday and Thursday contributions.

I broke my leg in one sermon, but that’s a whole nother story. The mid 90’s were just about when DJ’s were getting their props and people were starting to realise how important the DJ was with Zhane’s tribute ‘Hey Mr. DJ.’

Shorty’s even prettier in the flesh… that’s when I realize I am actually in the future thinking back to the past, sitting across the salon and waiting for one half of the singing duo to sit in my chair, while I’m figuring out what to do with these uneven patches in her head and why in hell a public figure at the height of their game would risk a homemade hair cut – go figure. I admit I’m a bit star struck, but you would be too if you were a budding producer. Anyway I gotta figure out how to get her back to the studio…

R.I.P.

Dear friend Shem McCauley DJ STREETS AHEAD.

Angel Lewis’s Hip Hop Time Machine pt.2

From the UK to the US and back these are the reflections of one man’s travels and experiences outside of the boundaries of time.

Thrown back and forth in hip hop’s colourful history. Enjoy the ride

…Its 1983 I’m on the cobblestoned streets of Covent Garden London, the stomping ground of opportunists and the training ground of many entertainers. Ozzie’s crew are popping in the background, its not new to me although at this time people don’t quite know how to place body popping and break dancing. It’sjust starting to blend in with the juggler, the unicycle rider and the clown. Absent from this type of street scene is the attitude of the street.

There’s a Carousel set up just as you enter the square. On one of the wooden horses right ahead is a girl that looks like baby love, it is baby love! Hey you the Rocksteady crew is playing on a turntable in my head.  The crowd’s star struck eyes supported my hunch then crazy legs, coming into view, made it a fact. At this point in time I saw them as competition. I had ambitions to one day take over their spot.

Fast forward a few years and My ego’s expanded beyond control. I won first prize in a breakdance competition held and hosted in wormwood scrubs by Mastermind Roadshow.  These all day events are held in summer this is a time when ragga, rare groove and hip hop are just beginning to blend. Mastermind roadshow made a name for themselves in the Notting hill carnival and played a variety of musical genres, so they were, at the time, the most likely medium to introduce the hood to this different flavour. Because hip hop was still new in London breaking was misunderstood by most, by rolling around on the floor, I risked my credibility yet who cares when I got my crew with me, besides the Lisa lisa and Cult Jam album I had won was like a trophy testifying to my skills making it well worth it.

Yet I blame all of this on Malcolm McLaren and his Buffalo Gals. See them here.  Who told him to show us body’s twist, spin and lock like that?  It took exactly 3 minutes and 40 seconds, the length of the video to get me over Jeffrey Daniel’s moon walk on Top of the Pops.  But this wasn’t gonna be as easy to get. As a kid all things are impulsive so to me, concentrate in maths class or use those smooth polished floors to figure out this backspin thing wasn’t even a real question. Some believe aspects of the dance came from sailors in the 50s, some believe it came out of lindy hop dancing from the 1920s and others believe its from Brazilian capoeira, to me it didn’t matter I just needed to be spinning.

Freestyle 85

The Crew came together like magnetism as all five of us had seen that video. We somehow found clips of most of the Rocksteady’s
performances, they circulated around the area, our addiction was obvious, Alf broke his wrist in Maths class.  I didn’t have much of an idea where this would take us yet at the same time I didn’t quite picture my future in this doing forward flips through the carriage of the A train uptown before it reaches Manhattan.  Impressive as it seemed, I couldn’t quite write home about that. This aspect of the art form just wasn’t me. This was often the scene on the train to Manhattan to be exposed to even more entertainment as the train pulled in to Times square, it always felt to me like it carried the same air as Covent garden, it’s the street without the street thing, that I couldn’t quite understand. Although the break dancers and poppers had often made a few extra bucks on the train journey back to the hood, you’d think it was legal, I could never quite imagine them doing those maneuvers in the hood, its like they were permanently attached to 42nd street.  Maybe that’s because the lino only came out between 4th avenue and 110th which, for the most part, was the safe, commercial district of Manhattan, tourists and all.

It’s 1998 I’m standing on Broadway outside MacDonald’s in Times square, looking at duke spinning on his neck I realise that I had succeeded in leaving my break dancing addiction back in London. After my crew buried The London Allstars, our adversaries, at Hammersmith’s Riverside studios way back then, I had all the justification I needed to go on to bigger and badder adventures in Hip hop, It was goodbye breaking hello scratching.…..