David Rodigan is the most unlikely of reggae legends. A white, middle-class soldier’s son from Oxfordshire, in his 40-year career he’s interviewed everyone from Bob Marley, to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, smoked with Burning Spear – “I was sitting in the grass stoned and he was looking down at me and just said, ‘Rodigan, yah red’” – and, most unlikely of all, bested every great Jamaican sound system in the sound clash.
In the new issue of Jocks & Nerds he told us about his career and his love of reggae music. Get a sneak preview of the interview here, then pick up the mag to read the full feature.
On his first clash with Jamaican radio legend Barry G
It was in 1983 and it wasn’t planned, it was just ‘headtop’, as they say in Jamaica. He’s playing a Gregory Isaacs, let me try this and see if he can counteract that. It wasn’t pre-planned, it was of the moment. In those days you had a master control room with the engineer, you pointed and he played the record. So we were running into the engineer, “play this”. I’d run back in and do my link, Barry would run in and do his. Then we’d do a link together. We were running continually into the master control room to give records to the engineer.
On his first ever dubplate
It was by Jah Walton who became known as Joseph Cotton. And he made a dub for me in Jamaica and brought it up on a plate and the vocal said, basically, “David Rodigan’s a boss DJ” or whatever it was. And I said, “This is very flattering, but I can’t play it.” And I didn’t play it, because I was too embarrassed to play it in public. And then Mikey Dread did one for me on a Barber Saloon rhythm. That was my second plate. But that wasn’t commissioned, he did it as a gift. But that was before this whole idea of having your name on a dub was part of the genre.
On his first big sound clash, against Bodyguard
One of the biggest dubs I got was Junior Dan and General Levy on a combination. It was based on a U Roy record, “What is catty? Big boy ask”. It was popular, so I changed it to, “Who is Bodyguard, Rodigan ask?” So I recorded it, as a dubplate, with the two of them, Junior Dan and General Levy. And it was a militant attack. The other big card was getting the Mighty Diamonds to go into the studio with Gussie Clark as the producer and revoice a song they’d done for Channel One called Bodguard. And it was revoiced: “Who’s gonna bodyguard you, Mr Bodyguard?” And it went, “Rodigan!” And those two dubs were customised so they could only be played against Bodyguard. Couldn’t be played by anybody else. Those were the two big calling cards that I had. The aces in my pack I could throw down and they really did work.