UK dub heavyweights since the 1980′s Alpha & Omega are amongst the earliest of the UK dub and reggae pioneers. With releases on the legendary Greensleeves label and their own Alpha & Omega records they played a vital role in the global rise of reggae music and soundsystem culture. Steppas Records presents a very unique A&O release: It’s not a re-issue, it’s not a re-press, it’s not a compilation: it’s ‘The Half That’s Never Been Told’, an unreleased ‘lost’ Alpha & Omega LP produced between 1989 and 1995, painstakingly remastered and featuring original A&O artwork, coming early 2014. – steppas.com
Ben Alpha aka Alpha Steppa aka Steppas Records chiefbossman was in Helsinki a few weeks ago playing a set at Ivah Sound‘s FRWRD#3 session. And what a session it was! I had the chance to ask him a few questions Inna Dub Style…
When did you produce your first tracks and how did you get into bass-heavy rootikal dubstep?
I suppose it started when I was quite young. Some of my earliest memories would be going to the studio with my dad (John of Alpha & Omega), I was probably 3-4 years old. I remember… quite vividly, him giving me the microphone and telling me to say something like “Alpha & Omega” or “Rastafari” so I said “Rastafari” and he recorded it, but played it back to me pitched down, so it was like “RRRAAASSTAFAARRI” and this kinda blew my mind. I thought he was a wizard at the time.
I thought he was a wizard at the time.
Do you think that I’ve heard you on some Alpha & Omega tracks?
Actually yeah, technically my first release would’ve been in 1991 at the tender age of 3 or 4, and that was on the Almighty Jah album with Dub Judah. I’ve given up the vocal work since those days.
How did you end up starting a record label?
Well, I’ve been making music for a while… different types of music independently from my dad and my aunt Alpha & Omega. Creating my own sound, you know. And then in 2009-2010 I put a few tunes together with kind of eastern influences, because I was living in South Korea at the time. So I had a lot of influence from the traditional music there. So I just wanted to put one of the tunes out and just see how it went. I thought to put one tune out and be done with it. Then I put a record out and decided to call it Steppas Records, and it turns out that it’s quite addictive, so I didn’t stop.
Then I put a record out and decided to call it Steppas Records, and it turns out that it’s quite addictive, so I didn’t stop.
You have lots of things going on. How do you balance yourself between running your own label, producing your own music and doing live shows?
I just do it…heh, there are always ways to make time, you know. You have to find space and find time, and you really also have to find time to do other things, to kind of take you away and gain your inspiration. I travel a lot through touring and DJing, and I get to meet a lot of interesting people and go to a lot of interesting places, and that kind of inspires me to keep going with the music. So I go home and make music.
Your sound is quite unique as is the sound of Alpha and Omega. Do you get musical advice from your dad and aunt? If you do, do you listen to it?
Heh! That’s a good question. I have to say that obviously Alpha & Omega are my biggest influence musically definately. From a young age I’ve been listening to Alpha & Omega. I do have my own sound because I’m interested in bass music, dubstep and deeper dubstep, and that also influences my sound, so I’ll make tunes and often send them to my dad and my aunt. Sometimes they get back to me and say “This tune is bad! It’s rough!” and sometimes they won’t get back to me at all. You never know really, you have to play tunes out to really truly test them and find out whether they stand up and are strong enough to release.
I’ve noticed that you have lots of oriental/asian elements in your music and you seem to be into Asian philosophy. What inspires you and how does your creative process work?
Basically, the way I see it is that umm… I can’t really take full credit for the music because it’s not fully coming from me or my identity. Maybe it plays a small part, but the music is coming from my inspirations that I come across meeting people and traveling. All I’m doing is transferring that inspiration into a kinda physical form, which is, the music. I’m quite interested in traditional music of various countries, particularly Asia because I used to live there, so it rubbed off on me, you know.
What are your future plans for yourself and Steppas Records? Heavy tunes coming up?
Yep. This year is quite busy, we have a lots of releases coming. I don’t really plan too much, you know, I try to focus on the present, but when you’re running a label you do have to think ahead. We’ve got the second Dub Dynasty album coming in a few months, which’ll be me, my dad and my aunt (dad + aunt = Alpha & Omega), our collaboration together. It’s not Alpha Steppa and it’s not Alpha & Omega, it’s something different, and that’s the second album coming. I’ve got a few more 12”s in the pipeline, and I’m running my sister label, Trigram, and there are only 8 releases altogether and we’re on the third one now. So the next [Trigram] release is coming in June, and actually it’s the first full Alpha Steppa-only release on a 10”. Trigram is a deeper and darker side of Steppas and bit more leaning towards bass music, instrumentals, and things like that.
Why do you do it?
I don’t know really, sometimes you just… it’s not really me doing it, it’s just doing it by itself, you know. I do play my part, but it’s doing it by itself. And really, you find out why you do it, you know, as a producer you spend a lot of time locked away in a studio while other people are out enjoying themselves in the sunshine and you’re in a dark studio damaging your ears repeatedly listening to the same hi-hat for 2 hours or something like that. But when you go and play a session and you play the tunes out… if it’s a serious heavyweight session, you can see people brought into the present moment, so for a while their true self is revealed, you know. It’s liberation. It has all to do with liberation.
It’s liberation. It has all to do with liberation.
So you go to a soundsystem session and you really don’t have a concept of past and future, all you have is the present and you’re lifted into that. And within the present it’s just… pure joy. And if you can help other people reach states of pure joy, you should definitely do that. You know, why not? If you have the ability then do it, so I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.
Here are a few Steppas/Trigram -mixes for your listening pleasure. Click through for a free download too!
“Alpha Steppa introduces the Eight Trigrams of Steppas Records with the first of eight Tricasts, featuring all unreleased tracks and many forthcoming Trigram releases. This is the sound of Trigram.” Click through to a free download of this mix! Alpha Steppa live today alongside Ivah Sound and LAS x Mikael!