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Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood hosts stellar compilation for Trojan’s 40th anniversary

This year sees the 40th anniversary of the legendary Trojan label, which in the ’60s and ‘70s did much to popularise Jamaican music in the UK, via seminal budget-priced compilations like Tighten Up.
To celebrate its anniversary, Trojan will be releasing a new series of compilations highlighting the label and its music – the first of which is curated by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and features classic tracks by Gregory lsaacs, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Desmond Dekker & The Aces and Delroy Wilson, “the cool operator”, immortalised by Joe Strummer on The Clash’s “While Man (In Hammersmith Palais)”.
“Jamaican reggae is the style of music I always reach for when ranting to friends about how you could listen one style of music exclusively for the rest of your life – and it would all be great and varied and worth hearing,” the Radiohead guitarist observes. Warming up for an exclusive interview with Uncut about Jonny Greenwood Is The Controller.

UNCUT: How did this come about?
JONNY GREENWOOD: I think Trojan heard that we’d been playing lots of reggae stuff at our concerts, in between the bands.

How long have you been a fan of reggae generally – and the Trojan label specifically?
It’s all pretty new to me. Aside from a Lee Scratch Perry best-of when I was a teenager, and a Scientist album a little later, I didn’t really start digging around until three or four years ago. I started with a Trojan compilation, in fact.

Trojan has a seminal back catalogue. Were you daunted?
My first instinct was to assemble the most obscure, impenetrable collection of dub I could. But that doesn’t really represent what’s best about the Trojan catalogue. Then, still an idiot, I thought I should find out what Trojan stuff hadn’t been re-released, and stick to that: but there’s not a lot of that – Trojan are pretty good at keeping their catalogue available. Which is a good thing! Then realised that I should just be putting my favourite tracks together, and treat it like a compilation I’d give to a friend who only had a Lee Scratch Perry compilation, and wanted to hear more – ie me three years ago! It was daunting. I took it seriously, suspecting I didn’t really have any right to be doing it...

In what way has this music influenced you as a musician?
I hope it’s influenced the way I think about sounds. Lee Perry pushes the sounds of acoustic instrumentals so far, they sound like nothing on earth. That’s a good aspiration.

Who are your favourite artists and producers from this period?
Lee Perry is still under-appreciated outside of reggae. Also Scientist. King Tubby, Marcia Griffiths. Junior Byles – his cover of “Fever” is delicious!

…and your favourite track on the compilation?
Probably Delroy Wilson’s “This Life Make Me Wonder” [Track 12 on this month’s Uncut CD]. It’s so urgent. Not how reggae is meant to be at all.

Turbulence’s “Notorious” is played as Radiohead leave the stage after gigs…
Thom chose that. It’s a fantastic song isn’t it? Should have been heard far more...

Do you listen to much new reggae?
I’m still slowly catching up. Ask me next year...

Jonny Greenwood Is The Controller is released on Trojan on Feb 19