ANIMAL London: Trevor Sax and the Mighty “Saxon” Sound System

June 17, 2013 | Bucky Turco

“I hate going to countries where I’ve just got to walk with a Mac, because it seems like I’m not doing nothing,” says acclaimed reggae selector Trevor Sax of the legendary Saxon Studio International sound system to ANIMAL. “I like to play the vinyls.”

Thanks to an endorsement from some very solid people on the ground in London, we recently gained exclusive access to the illustrious reggae music expert, who agreed to do the first-ever interview inside his flat.

There he gave us a glimpse into his vinyl collection, which is so massive that records are piled in virtually in every room. Some are even stowed away behind hidden panels, which Sax laughingly pried open with a butter knife to exclaim: “More records!”

As Sax pulled rare 45s and 10-inch acetate dub plates out of their sleeves and slapped them onto the turntable, he spoke to us about Saxon, reggae music and his hopes for a resurgence of vinyl. “We were always together at Overcliff Road number 22,” he recalls. “The home of Saxon. The real foundation. South East London, Lewisham. That was a ground base.”

Originally founded in 1976 as the Imperial Rockers, by Dennis Rowe and Lloyd ‘Musclehead’ Francis, the sound system changed its name to Saxon Studio International two years later. Trevor Sax became part of Saxon in 1981. Along with its selectors, the sound boasted a slew of vocal talents such as Peter King, Papa Levi, Tippa Irie, Smiley Culture, and Grammy Award-winning singer Maxi Priest.

It was these deejays and singers that set Saxon apart from other sound systems and truly put London on the map. Saxon was creating a sound that could rival what was going on in Jamaica, the origin of both reggae and sound system culture. And they weren’t trying to merely parrot Jamaican artists–Saxon’s MCs were creating something new. In 1983, Saxon formed its own label, and a year later, Greensleeves Records partnered with the sound on the collaborative UK Bubblers label.

This was the same year that Papa Levi’s “Mi God, Mi King” shot up not only the UK reggae charts, but Jamaica’s as well. Ten years later, Saxon went on to win the 1994 World Clash, a worldwide competition of sound systems, making them not only the UK’s #1 sound, but the world’s.

The rest is history.

(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)