People from the era tell their stories.
» Joe Peng
I was born in Cornwall on a gypsy site. I'm a Romany gypsy boy. I finally settled in Bristol at the age of 12. I left school in 1985 so my first likes away from my dad’s collection of reggae was The Specials. I remember space invaders and thinking I was going to play professional football.
I’ve always loved the mix of people in Bristol. I was in a sound system called Rid dim Wize. In the nineties I found the rave scene and that’s when it all started. I remember going to see Loose Ends. They were amazing! But I was mainly into sound systems so Saxon and Coxone sound systems were my thing.
I was an MC in Rid dim wize sound system. We used to play in an empty shop underneath Smith and Mighty’s studio in St Paul’s. Then I started MCing in the rave scene and performing all over the country at raves such as Universe, Fantazia, Dreamscape and all the rest.
Tippa Irie was my main influence. He was top boy in Saxon sound system. And I’ll never forget Bob Marley, Elvis and all the unsung heroes of the reggae world.
One name that I have to mention is John Nation. He's done so much for the Bristol underground scene, from giving people like Inkie a platform to spray whilst working as a youth worker in a Basement in Barton Hill, to getting me my first residency at Exstatic. He was major player in the early rave days. We all owe him a lot.
Between 1985 and 1998 I left school and spent my time trying to find my place in this unforgiving world and making my name as a performer on the rave scene.
The ups of my career have been performing with greats such as Desmond Dekker, Luciano, Julian and Damian Marley and going on tour with the Wailers, Lee scratch Perry and the Easy all stars. Also getting Chris Blackwell out of studio retirement to mix my song “Whoa”. He hadn’t been in a studio for over 14 years. I’ve have no lows, it’s all been a blessing.
I love doing gigs, the energy, the love, and people singing my songs. There's nothing like being on stage.
I’m still living and loving Bristol. I’m in a band called Laid Blak and I work a lot with R.S.D. I still love my MCing and I’m trying to give a little back by working as mentor with our less fortunate young people.
Check out Laid Blaks album “Red and Black”. The next one will be following very soon. I have just finished a project with RSD called “RSD meets Joe Peng in a dub war”. We are now searching for a label to put it out.
Peace out PENG.
Interview with Shirley Etaix
Words © Joe Peng
Photo © Laid Blak