Laid Blak are recognised as a pillar of Bristol’s urban reggae scene. Famous for tracks like Bristol Love, It’s a Pity and Red, this band know how to draw in a crowd with their charm and finesse in their live shows. Core members MC Joe Peng and DJ Bunjy are a perfect team when it comes to fusing together the powerful essences of hip hop and reggae, and the release of their latest album About Time is a perfect example of craftsmanship and skill in its purest form.
This Saturday, Laid Blak will be performing tracks from their latest album along with some classics as part of Thekla’s 35th anniversary celebrations, in a double headline show with Dr Meaker. Nitelife caught up with DJ Bunjy aka Ivor Anderson ahead of the show.
Laid Blak have had quite the journey, spanning fifteen years. The band has seen many faces over the years and has only grown in sound and respect as time goes on. But before the band came to form, Bunjy and Joe had been carving their own separate paths in the Bristol music scene.
‘I started off DJing at raves when I was younger’ Bunjy explains. ‘I used to DJ a lot of jungle, but I was really into hip hop as well. Joe started off as a soundsystem MC and travelled the country with Riddim Wize, before going on to be part of one of Bristol’s biggest club nights in the early 90s, X-Static.
I used to go to raves where Joe MC’d before I properly met him
‘I used to go to raves where Joe MC’d before I properly met him. Our paths eventually crossed when big-time graffiti influencer John Nation at Barton Hill Youth Club saw potential in us both and decided to introduce us. After getting together, we realised we shared similar tastes and styles. We both wanted to create something organic that was hip hop and reggae inspired.’
We both wanted to create something organic that was hip hop and reggae inspired
‘I suggested we get together to do a mixtape and, in 1993, that’s exactly what we did. Our Bunjy and Peng Volume 1 mixtape is still pretty legendary – if I do say so myself! Not long after, Laid Blak was born and fifteen years later, we are still going strong.’
With successes like 2012’s Red and Blak – which inspired an Ed Sheeran cover of their hit track Red – Laid Blak are widely recognised Bristol’s favourite live reggae and hip hop act. Last year saw the release of their highly anticipated album About Time on Sugar Shack Records, that continues to celebrate the band’s diverse mix of flavours.
The response to About Time has been amazing. We’ve done three tours since its release
‘The response to About Time has been amazing. We’ve done three tours since its release and the response on social media has been really positive. Sugar Shack were so happy with it, they even cut it to vinyl after popular demand at the beginning of the year.
About Time has not only been blaring out of fan’s speakers at any given opportunity, but it’s also recognised as a momentous project for the band, tipping its cap to previous band members and celebrating the band’s journey across 15 years.
We felt it was important to include elements of old and new in this album
‘We really felt it was important to include elements of old and new in this album. We wanted to show the band’s journey and celebrate previous band members’ contributions to the Laid Blak family. With their blessings, I took some of our older recordings and brought them up to date, alongside co-producer Chris Deccecio.
‘For the first track on the album we chose Cool Dude, because that was the first track I ever produced. That track is important to us because that’s when me and Joe realised we were going to work well together as musicians. Even though we’ve touched it up a bit for the album, the track itself is timeless. You wouldn’t think it was fifteen years old.’
About Time also – finally – sees the official release of longtime fan favourite It’s a Pity. Although the band’s ever-fluctuating lineup sees Girl Rae replace Tita Lau as the band’s lead female vocalist, Tita returns for guest vocals on three of the album tracks, with more guest vocals across the project coming from Tanya Lacey, Flex, Da Fuchaman and MC Dee.
With such an inspiring track record of his own, DJ Bunjy shares some advice to aspiring musicians on how to be successful in the music industry, whilst admitting it wasn’t always easy going for Laid Blak when they first started out.
‘If you want to get far, you’ve really got to love music and be in it to win it, because it’s going to slap you across the face all the time. If you enjoy your craft, you will put your all into it and it will pay off.
our music is colourless. It’s for all races, ages, sizes and genders
‘I remember when Laid Blak first started out, a lot of our friends and family didn’t think we were going to be that successful, because they thought we were “too black”. Our music isn’t about that though, our music is colourless. It’s for all races, ages, sizes and genders – it’s basically for anyone that’s feeling it!’
‘We ignored what our friends and family said and continued to do what we were doing. Laid Blak went from performing to 10 people to 40,000 people and proved everyone wrong.’
Laid Blak went from performing to 10 people to 40,000 people and proved everyone wrong
As we wrap up our chat, DJ Bunjy tells us what’s on the horizon for Laid Blak for the rest of the year, along with his solo project too.
‘Joe and myself have an album coming out later this year, which is very exciting. We will be working on some new Laid Blak material across the year too. We’re feeling really energised at the moment and ready to work on something new.
‘We still have a couple more music videos in the pipeline for About Time too. We recently filmed a music video for Mic Man, and we’ve got a few more up our sleeve that we plan to announce across the year.
‘I’ve also recently released my own hip hop album called Offside under the name The Classics. It features music we made from 1997-2005 that was never put onto an album. Some of these tracks were even played on Tim Westwood’s show. I love everything I do, but hip hop is my true passion and I am so proud of this album.’