Interview with Leo B

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Interview with Leo B


Entertainment and sport


1. How long have you been into reggae?

I guess a bit since school - the cool kids liked Bob Marley, so I thought I’d try. But back then I was more into heavy metal, punk and grunge. That seemed more rebellious! It really kicked in when I was a student in London in the 90s. At that time I was into dance music. And it wasn’t traditional reggae, more dub (the experimental form of the genre, whereby individual musical elements of each track are isolated and manipulated in atmospheric ways). Then after I moved to Oxford in 2005, I had a radio show with a local station for a few years, as well as writing for various publications, where I began to specialise in the genre.

2. What is your most memorable gig?

That’s a hard one. Now I’d say Toots and the Maytals; when he came to the O2 on Cowley road a couple of years ago, it was incredible.

3. What do you like about performing?

I was in a band before and played bass, that was all about getting a groove. I guess now, while DJing - connecting with an audience is nice. I do sometimes play productions I have made, but that is more fraught!

4. What’s the Oxford reggae scene like?

Obviously very quiet at the moment (Summer 2020) but before that it had certain characteristics. Even though there are many aspiring musicians, sound system aficionados and DJs there are a limited number of individuals who make it ‘big’ in terms of exposure and live performance. This is true of bands in general - Oxford has very high standards! It can be hard to break into it. But in terms of punters, there is always a lively crowd. The Cellar, sadly now closed, was always a favourite haunt and had a great sound - the cavernous quality of being underground was excellent for bass frequencies. In general, Oxford being near to London also gets many of the touring bands and artists. The Bullingdon and O2 Academy on the Cowley Road have hosted many sound systems.

A long standing reggae-related event is Oxford's answer to Notting Hill Carnival where local sound systems (and bands) set up on the Cowley Road in July. This year was online, with local legend DJ Count Skylarkin' doing his thing, but usually the area is transformed into a massive street party with lively vibes each and every time. Don't forget your ear plugs!

5. Have you met or performed with any other famous people?

Well, famous is relative! I have DJed alongside Iration Steppas (a sound system from Leeds) and opened for Dreadzone - one of my favourite bands, a long established dub/dance collective from London. More broadly speaking, for my radio show and magazines, I have been able to interview Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, who created the ‘flying cymbals’ riddim, and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (an early producer of Bob Marley and a dub originator) twice, and I actually made a track out of the audio. I also interviewed Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (Marley’s bassist) as well as Jamaican superstars Chronixx, Protoje and legendary singer Susan Cadogan (who had a lot to say about the under-representation of women in reggae) and many more in the sound system and live performance scene: I’ve been very privileged in this regard.

Leo B was interviewed by Museum of Oxford volunteer Graham West.


July 2020


Graham West and Leo Bowder


Museum of Oxford

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2: men talking, some wear big woollen hats

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