INTERVIEW: The Courtney John Project

While Reggae music has been known for its stripped down and organic nature over the decades it’s had an interesting influence over the growing genre of electronic music. In the early 90’s you had the techno subgenre jungle (which was the early forefather of drum and bass) that featured speed up reggae bass lines fitted around hyper beats. Most recently Diplo’s Major Lazer, a dance music project based around the sounds of Jamaica, has been largely successful playing festivals all over the world.

Reggae music itself has also freely borrowed from outside of its genre. Modern dancehall, taking a queue from the minimalist hip-hop production movement that’s came into vogue, has long been building great riddims out of sinister bass lines and synths. While the cultural exchange to and from reggae music has been a staple of the genre since its inception it’s rare that you find a project that balances both sides of the coin well.

Enter the Courtney John project. Dubbing their sound, “Rootstronic” they play a surprising mix of roots reggae and atmospheric EDM. A super group of sorts, it feature Nastassja “Wizarrd” Hammond (successful producer/songwriter and daughter of world renown crooner Beres Hammond), musician Steven “Lenky” Marsden the originator of the diwali rhythm that ruled pop radio in the early 00’s (remember Wayne Wonder “No Letting Go” and Sean Paul “Get Busy”) and reggae star Courtney John.

Couch Sessions recently got a chance to sit down with Courtney John and talk about the their work together.

The sound is pretty far out there as far as atmosphere is concerned, how did you come up with it and how did the band form?

It was nothing that we planned. We (Courtney and Nastassja) did a soundtrack for an Oliver Stone movie (The Savages) and out of that came this sound we were like…wow…this shit is crazy. Can we make more of this? As artists and producers we are always looking for new things that the world is going to love.

So the band basically started as a duo. How did you eventually decide on a third and hook up with Lenky?

So (afterwards) its like who are the people who would best represent the sound? And myself and the Wizard decided we should bring in Lenky. He’s always on the cutting edge in terms of music and style. So we reached out to him and he goes, “Yeah man”. He’s down.

How did you come up with the name, do you fear that naming it after yourself might affect how people see you since this is a different sound from your solo work?

Me the Wizard and Lenky at the time were actually trying to figure out what we could call the band. I said well, since I’m already out there let’s call it the Courtney John project and everybody was cool with that. Everybody was like, will you alienate the core fan base but you can only go so far. The music came out of everywhere and we just kind of assembled everything around it. And it’s been great.