Earl Gateshead – Trojan Sound system

This Saturday, the highly-respected Trojan sound system arrives in Liverpool courtesy of Gold in the Shade, and the event is playing host to some legendary names in English reggae.

Lead selector Earl Gateshead is one of these. A reggae DJ for nearly thirty years, he can also claim to be one of the first non-Jamaicans in the UK to set up a sound system:

“I’m a Geordie originally, which is why I’m called Earl Gateshead, and I got into soundsystems and reggae when I was on holiday in the Lake District. I built my own sound system in London, I started very early on, this is about 1980, and I mixed with a lot of other sounds. We were the first white people to go: ‘F*****g hell, that’s fantastic, I want a sound system’ and to take it seriously. There might have been people in Bristol, but we certainly never knew of anybody before us, white English people making a sound system.”

DJing at clubs and squat parties across London throughout the 80s, Gateshead built up a fierce reputation. In 1986 the Sound Armoury 89 sound system that he was part of played some of the first house records in England, he held a twenty year residency at the legendary Dive Bar in Soho, counted future Faithless’ frontman Maxi Jazz amongst his MCs and set up the world’s first broken beat night at Smithfields.

Gateshead joined the Trojan sound system on its formation in 2004 to represent the legendary reggae label throughout the world. Trojan doesn’t actually tour with its own equipment, but Gateshead believes that they’re still bringing that sound system feel to the club scene:

“We haven’t got an actual physical sound system. But we do take the essence of the system, which is the performance, and we do have the sound effects and the way of personalising a record by performing over it. It’s the same philosophy but without our own bass bins. That way you don’t need a huge crew and a van. It’s hard enough carrying all the record boxes, let alone the bass bins. A sound system is hard work!”

Gateshead is in particular proud to be representing Trojan, the label that he sees as popularising the reggae sound in the UK, and he hopes that the sound system will continue to bring the sound to all of the people:

“We try to show people the positive quality of reggae. Trojan was the record label that brought reggae to Europe really. Earlier labels just reached the Jamaican communities in London and Birmingham, but Trojan took reggae right to everyone. We see that like a personally missionary thing, and we want to spread reggae in that way to everyone. Like Bob Marley said, ‘only them that feels it, knows it.’”

By Kenn Taylor

Saturday 31st May,

Gold in the Shade Presents Trojan Sound System Writing On The Wall Festival Official End Party Selectors,


45 Hardman Street,


9.00 pm – 5.00 am,

£8.00/£7.00 NUS/£6.00 with WoW brochure before midnight.


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