SABOTAGE SOUND SYSTEM
Text: Daniel Ikaika Ito
Images: Gollestani Photography
Like the grade-A chronic in the movie Pineapple Express, the music of Sabotage Sound System is a potent, edgy hybrid with the ability to floor you with their first hit.
If reggae legend Johnny Osbourne met punk rock pioneer Joe Strummer and had a baby; then meanwhile if Pennywise and Long Beach Dub Allstars met and had a baby. Then by some miracle those two babies met and fucked! Then Sabotage would be the music they birthed.
With their debut album, Sabotage Sound System Presents The Boto Machine Gun, this group is rocking listeners with explicit lyrics, reggae dub effects, head-bobbing beats, Hawaiian hip-hop cameos and killer solos.
According to Sabotage DJ and dub technician Remy DeRochment, the name of the group is derived from Jamaican culture, in particular, reggae music and the sound system battles.
“A sound system is basically, a DJ crew down in Jamaica and they used to just setup in the streets. There would be two sound systems, one on each side and they would go back and forth playing songs,” Remy explains. “It was a battle to get the crowd’s attention and they’re called sound clashes.”
In these street battles for listeners, the sound systems would get exclusive tracks from reggae artists called dubplates. These were played toward the end of a sound clash as a finishing move to shut down a rival sound system.
“We’re Sabotage Sound System because they [other bands] think they’re ahead and we just bust out the last dubplate and full sabotage them. That’s where it came from,” Remy states.
Sabotage is primarily a two-man group, comprised of Remy and Kaleo Wassman, who is also the guitarist and vocals of Pepper. Wassman and DeRochment are not only band mates and childhood friends from Kona town, they’re also brothers-in-law. Kaleo is married to Remy’s sister Melanie.
Originally, this group started out as Remy and Kaleo jamming during downtime after a tour. They recorded the sessions and Sabotage blew up from there.
“It started as a bedroom project. I have a home studio. We were back from tour and wanted to make some music. We never really expected anything to come from it, but it seems like people are pumped,” Remy says. “You don’t need a big recording budget to make music. We came out with a CD and it was all recorded at home.”
Songs like “Going Home” show Sabotage’s reggae influence, Hawaiian roots and their love for Steinlager. While tracks like “Just A Lad” with its anti-war message, show that Sabotage’s music is just as much good times as it is politically conscience. Yet, the majority of their music deals with booze, love and the various body fluids and parts associated with them.
Kaleo’s vocals on the album undeniably drive listeners to compare Sabotage Sound System with Pepper, this doesn’t bother the SSS members though. Wassman is unsure if the groups’ music is distinct from one another, but he’s stoked on his friendships and the opportunity to jam with his boys.
“Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a difference [between Sabotage Sound System and Pepper’s music]. All I know is that I’m really fortunate because I know so many good people and they wanna play music,” admits Kaleo. “I’m just in the right place and I’m having fun. As long as I’m having fun I want to play everything, everywhere, it doesn’t really matter.”
This project allowed Kaleo to play his guitar without limitations. Throughout the album Wassman flexes his muscle as a musician with finger-blistering guitar solos, both electric and acoustic. Boto Machine Gun is a hash mark in his development as a guitarist. Instrumental tracks “Strings Attached” and “Roped” are laced with dope beats and dub effects by Remy while Kaleo wails away with his ax. A far different style of music than Pepper fans are accustomed to, but are sure to be stoked on.
There are also a lot of tracks where Sabotage Sound System collaborates with some Kona boys that toured with Pepper. “Respect” and “Love What You Got” feature rap parts by Splinta The Rat and Philly B. Incidentally Remy, aka Dub Nasty, is also a member of Arena Productions with Splinta and Philly.
With the cameos and various genres incorporated in Sabotage Sound System Presents The Boto Machine Gun there’s one central theme to their music.
“No ice cream sound! Ice cream melts and gets soft,” explains Remy. “You’re a soft sound and we’re a hard sound. No soft sound!”