Krista Henry, Staff Reporter
Producer Stephen McGregor at home in Big Ship Studios. -
Photos by Krista Henry
The Sunday Gleaner continues with its series looking at influential studios in Jamaica. This week highlights the small, but powerful Big Ship.
Sometimes waking up to the raspy lisp of dancehall artiste and neighbour Elephant Man calling him to start work for the day is but one of many interesting experiences for producer 'Di Genius' at the Big Ship Recording Studio.
The home studio of reggae veteran Freddie McGregor, Big Ship studios in Havendale, St. Andrew, is now the base of his son and one of the most noted producers in reggae and dancehall music today, 18-year-old prodigy Stephen 'Di Genius' McGregor. Built in 1995, Big Ship almost never came into existence. It wouldn't have if it had depended solely on the first architect asked to design the studio in the small space allocated for it in the McGregor home. Yet, despite the temporary problems a small, yet colourful and high-tech studio was finally built when Stephen was but five years old.
It is the building process that Stephen still remembers as the beginning of the Big Ship. In the home studio Stephen strove to imitate songs heard on the radio, acquiring his self-taught knowledge of drums, guitars, keyboards, bass and violin. Since he began producing at age 12, Stephen McGregor has been in charge of his family's studio.
Some of the awards that work from the studio has won.
Big Ship Studios has put out numerous rhythms over the years. Among them are 'Cartoon', 'Red Bull and Guinness', '12 Gauge', 'Work out', 'Powercut', 'Tremor', 'Stick Up', 'After Dark', 'Dark Again', '2070s', 'Party', 'Darker Shadow', 'Shadow', 'Ghetto Whiskey', 'Chiney K', 'Daybreak' and 'Forever'. Big Ship is also responsible for singles such as Always On My Mind by Da'Ville, Overcome from Mavado, Bounty Killer's War Bridge, I'm Sorry by Laden and numerous others.
The youngest McGregor has worked with 'everybody' in the business, including regulars such as Elephant Man, Vybz Kartel, Aidonia, Sean Paul, Freddie McGregor and Big Ship artistes Laden and Stephen's brother Chino. Working extensively in a small space doesn't seem to bother the producer, who enjoys his home sound. "Every studio has a different sound; most bigger studios don't have the same sound as a small one. When I mix stuff here it sounds different from when I do mixes at other studios. I like how it sounds here," Stephen said.
The Sunday Gleaner was blown away by the huge sound emitting from the speakers as Stephen played an Aidonia song on his latest (and as yet unnamed) rhythm, to be released in the coming week. Stephen soon got absorbed in the music as he laughingly says to his friend "a well want that rhythm deh drop. Mi sound like a fan".
The talented youngster is obviously a fan of music seeing it as his future and having never wanted to do anything else for a living. Outside of the controls and the voicing room, Stephen has his own 'magic corner' containing a number of his instruments which he uses a lot, especially on one drop rhythms. Rarely renting the space to outsiders, a work day at the Big Ship runs from 9 a.m to 5 a.m, giving the producer few hours of sleep.
Mixing and recording
The name is announced proudly.
"During the day we do recordings, mixing, which is what I'm doing now. Most artistes just pop in most time. Ele is my neighbour, so him just run in more time," he says. The only person Stephen hopes to get to work with before its too late is Stevie Wonder, who he cites as his musical idol.
Known for unusual and intricate productions Stephen likes his music with variation. He tells The Sunday Gleaner, "I'm always trying to come with something different, to do something different in the music. I try to go in the opposite direction from everyone else."
Currently he is in the process of making the right connections to work with international acts. He plans to continue working on more singles, more rhythms and albums such as the upcoming one he's producing for Vybz Kartel. Tentatively entitled The Teacha Is Back, it will hopefully be released in October and features 18 exclusive tracks plus seven bonus tracks that have already been heard by the public.