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Adrian Sherwood (1958 - )

Lifespan: 1958 -

Related: Mark Stewart - Afrian Head Charge - music production - dub - reggae - mixing and remixing - UK music

Unidentified photo of Adrian Sherwood

Adrian Sherwood has been making 21st century dub since the 1970s with Creation Rebel, African Headcharge, Singers & Players, Dub Syndicate and a host of other artists. Often wildly experimental with studio techniques, sometimes running whole tracks in reverse, his mix services have been used by the likes of Depeche Mode, yet he still runs his On-U Sound label, working with Little Annie, Little Axe and similarly small but potent acts. David Lynch used "Far Away Chant" by African Headcharge for the torture scene in Wild At Heart (but then excluded it from the soundtrack album). --David Toop


Adrian Sherwood (born 1958) is a British record producer best known for his work with dub music as well as for remixing a number of popular acts such as Coldcut, Depeche Mode and Sinead O'Conner. He is co-founder of Carib Gems, and founder of Hitrun Records as well as Green Tea Records and Soundboy Records. His most well-known label is On-U Sound Records. He is also the fourth member of industrial funk outfit, Tackhead, credited as "mixologist".

In 2003, Adrian Sherwood released his first album as a solo artist "Never Trust A Hippy" --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Sherwood [Aug 2005]

On-U Sound Records

On-U Sound Records is an English record label best known for releasing its own unique flavour of dub music since the 1980s. The label is owned by producer Adrian Sherwood and home to acts such as Tackhead, Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, The London Underground, Little Annie, Creation Rebel, Mark Stewart, Gary Clail, New Age Steppers, Audio Active, Asian Dub Foundation, and others.

The On-U Sound dub style differs from the traditional dub sounds of King Tubby, or Lee "Scratch" Perry in that many of the extended family of musicians who are part of the On-U crew have backgrounds in Punk, New Wave, or Funk, producing a sound which is not considered pure reggae though traditional reggae performers such as Prince Far I, Bim Sherman, the Roots Radics and even Lee Perry himself are also associated with the label. Producer Adrian Sherwood generates the On-U signature sound however. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-U_Sound_Records [Aug 2005]


When British producer Adrian Sherwood started his On-U-Sound label in 1980 as an outlet for scruffy punks and righteous rastas infatuated with reggae and its experimental spectrum of dub, he just wanted to make good records. In the process, he influenced a legion of producers, decimated the boundaries of funk, noise, and reggae, and as a member of Tackhead, made the position of the live mixing engineer a viable band member in terms of creative input.

Born in London in 1958 (on a cusp between Capricorn and Aquarius), Sherwood showed a precocious talent for music. Spending many nights away from home - next to a Mars Bar factory in Slough, Buckinghamshire - he worked initially with now nostalgic names like Emperor Rosko, Judge Dread, Johnny Walker and Steve Barnard. Early contact with the reggae world was through work with the Pama and Trojan roadshows, and school vacations were spent working for the legendary Pama and Vulcan labels.

At the ludicrously early age of seventeen, he co-founded the Carib Gems record label, showing commendable foresight by issuing the first Black Uhuru sides, not to mention some fine early dub work by Prince Far I. Far I was to become a regular colleague of Adrian's until his tragic death in 1983. He also licensed Ms. Pottinger's famous High-Note label in England on Skynote.

As a producer, Sherwood cut his teeth on the fine "Dub From Creation" set from Creation Rebel issued on Hitrun Records, Adrian's next label formed in 1978. The label issued a total of 34 twelve-inch singles; classics including Carol Kalphat's "African Land" (with Eastwood & Dr. Pablo) and Prince Far I's "Higher Field Marshall." Hitrun also issued the first Roots Radics dub set "Dub To Africa" and the first chapter of the renowned "Crytuff Dub Encounter" by Prince Far I & The Arabs, mixed and co-produced by Sherwood.

1980 saw the formation of the current ON-U Sound Records, in partnership with photographer Kishi Yamamoto. Setting new standards of dub production,Sherwood produced a vast army of reggae, funk and rock artists including New Age Steppers, Singers & Players, Creation Rebel, Bim Sherman, Mark Stewart & The Maffia, Judy Nylon, London Underground, African Head Charge and Dub Syndicate - just to name a few. Throughout the early 80's Sherwood also turned the knobs on non-ON-U Sound records such as the stupendous "Crytuff Dub Encounter Chapter III" on Daddy Kool, "Revenge of the Mozabites" by Suns of Arqa on Rock Steady in Manchester and "One Way System" by Dub Syndicate. Other artists who have enlisted Sherwood's production talents include: Depeche Mode, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. His live mixes for Creation Rebel, The Slits, Maffia, London Underground, early Rip Rig, & Panic gigs, Prince Far I and Bim Sherman have been revolutionary since the late seventies using (at the time unheard of) ambience and delay.

A deeply committed and hard-working producer, Sherwood's new inroads into American-style dance music look like being as influential and innovative as his work in reggae.

  • African Head Charge
  • Dub Syndicate
  • Revolutionary Dub Warriors
  • New Age Steppers
  • Strange Parcels
  • Little Annie
  • Creation Rebel
  • http://server.tt.net/onusound/sherwood.html
  • http://www.catascopic.com/issue1/article-1.html
  • http://www.obsolete.com/on-u/sherwood.html


    1. Adrian Sherwood (2003) - Never Trust A Hippy [1 CD, Amazon US]
      Adrian Sherwood: "Never Trust A Hippy" - Following a remix session for Temple Of Sound at RealWorld studios the label asked him if he would be interested in doing an album of his own for them. He agreed and the result is NTAH - a dubby, downbeat affair based in Jamaican rhythms that lay the foundation for African and Asian inspired melodies. Sly & Robbie make guest appearances here, as do Sherwood's daughters who contribute backing vocals to two tracks. After close to 20 years of producing music for others, it's nice to see Adrian step into the spotlight with his own record. [...]
    2. Tunes from the Missing Channel - Dub Syndicate [1 CD, Amazon US]
      Personally, I've always considered it a sad professional failing for the authors of album sleevenotes to inject any hint of subjectivity into their work......... When "On the Wire" launched on BBC Radio Lancashire on Sunday 16 September 1984 its first guests were Adrian Sherwood and Keith LeBlanc, its adopted theme tune, and therefore the first tune to be heard on the show, was a remix of the yet to be unleashed "Ravi Shankar Pt.1". "Tunes from the missing Channel" was originally released in June 1985, ostensibly as the follow-up to two previous Dub Syndicate outings. Firstly 1982's "Pounding System", sub-titled "ambience in dub"! and whose titles were piss-takes of the then current Prince Jammy "zombie space invaders versus voodoo ninja footballers" style albums coming through on the Greensleeves label. Followed by 1983's largely experimental "One way system", released on cassette only format in the States but then seeing unofficial CD release in Europe in the early nineties (remarkable for achieving a listing in the Sunday Times best-of-the-year round-up, this sort of recognition having been something of a rarity for an On U product).

      However "Tunes", as we shall refer to the album from here on in, was not so much a follow up but more of an initiation of a whole new genre, for what we now know today as "new roots" can track its modern development back to this album as its source. From the late seventies Sherwood had ploughed a lonely furrow, with only the likes of the underground Shaka, Dennis Bovell and Neal Fraser a.k.a. the Mad Professor vaguely approaching similar work. Dub Syndicate was, and still is, a conglomerate formed around the drums of Jamaican Style Scott and producer Adrian Sherwood. As the drummer for Roots Radics Scotty's link with Sherwood was forged via their mutual work and friendship with Prince Far I - and therefore the "correct reggae pedigree" for On U productions should have been assured. This cut no ice with the critical mass of the London based press corps who at the time had no time for reggae, let alone UK productions.

      The routine for Dub Syndicate albums was that Scotty drove out the rhythms in Kingston and Sherwood manipulated the finished product in London. What was different about "Tunes" though was the discovery of some new technology, its use and abuse. Whilst in Switzerland working with Marc Hollander, of Aksak Maboul fame, Sherwood together with partner and keyboard-player Kishi Yamamoto discovered an emulator for the first time - hence the delight in pulling the sitar sound from the keyboard which resulted in the almost prosaically titled "Ravi Shankar Pt.1" (because it was!) Also, before sampling had a name, Sherwood stumbled upon the technique of what he called "captured sound" by utilising the locking function in the AMS digital harmoniser. No need to bleed all over the tape deck a la Double D & Steinski as a result of razored edits, instead you just invoke Emperor Rosko (the album's Fats Comet) via machine triggers to appear in "The show is coming".

      And so in "Tunes" we have the earliest manifestation of the use of the kind of technology which is today commonplace in the production of the new roots reggae/dub all over the world. But the album, with its mad splashes of sound and out-of-time beats remains uniquely an On U Sound/Sherwood creation. The collaborative nature of the enterprise brought together ex-PIL playmates Wobble and Levene in addition to members of African Head Charge and Creation Rebel, the sweet crooning of Bim Sherman and the apparently game for anything Steve Beresford. The result was the grouping of tracks that eventually became "Tunes", one of the best-selling albums in the entire On U catalogue, re-pressed here on CD for the first time and re-mastered from the original mix-down masters. It would not do justice to "Tunes" to say that it sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1984 because for most people either their ears were just not ready.

      Steve Barker - On the Wire
      July 1997

    3. Adrian Sherwood Presents the Master Recordings [Amazon US] Pressurized Listen Listen 2. Autobiography - Mikey Dread 3. African Space - Creation Rebel 4. Quanté Jubila 5. Blood Shed [Dub] 6. Stebení's Theme - African Head Charge 7. You Are the One - Bim Sherman 8. Pounding System - Dub Syndicate 9. Dinosaur's Lament - African Head Charge 10. Depth Charge - African Head Charge 11. Meander - Missing Brazilians 12. Show Is Coming - Dub Syndicate 13. Belinda - African Head Charge 14. Water the Garden - Prince Far I 15. J.A. Minor - Dub Syndicate 16. Mind the Gap - Barmy Army

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