Saturday Night Headliners in The Big Top Smith & Mighty
Forming the now legendary production duo Smith & Mighty in 1985, Rob and Ray’s early releases on their own ‘Three Stripe’ record label were influential in laying the groundwork for both the trip hop and jungle scenes for which Bristol would become renowned.
After kicking off as guitarist in late 70s reggae group Restriction, Rob Smith hooked up with fellow Bristolian reggae identity Ray Mighty in the mid-eighties to form the production duo Smith & Mighty. On discovering that they had a similar interest in synchronizing beat machines, synths and sound effects, the untrained pair began producing their own sound based on hip hop beats, dub reggae treatments and sixties melodies.
With their roots firmly in both the reggae scene of Bristol’s St. Paul’s district and the early Bristol beat scene around the Dug Out club, Smith & Mighty were a bridge between the enraged Bristol post-punk sounds of the early 80s and the more downtempo Bristol sounds that emerged on the early albums of Massive Attack and Tricky. Smith & Mighty were among the originators of what became two of the major musical trends of the 90s: trip-hop and jungle/drum’n’bass. In 1987 they played Erik Satie over a breakbeat to create ‘Stranger Than Love’ for post-punk icon and former Pop Group vocalist Mark Stewart. Many now regard this track as one of the the first ever trip-hop tracks (years before the first releases by Massive Attack and Tricky).
In late ‘87, on their own ‘Three Stripe Records’ label, the pair produced and released the 12” four track single ‘Anyone..’ a bass driven cover version of Bacharachs ’Anyone who had a heart’ (featuring local singer Jackie Jackson and MC’s Kelz & Krissy Kriss) and after their follow up underground hit ‘Walk On By’, took on a string of productions including ’Massive Attack’s’ debut single ’Any Love’ (featuring Carlton), and UK chart top ten hit ’Wishing on a star’ for ’The Fresh Four’ (who’s members included the young DJ’s Flynn, Krust and Suv)
Later joined by fellow Bristol bass music producer Peter D Rose, the crew began touring and eventually signed a record deal with London based ‘FFRR’ but the failed marriage came to a crash after an unfruitful 5 years of misunderstanding between label & artist.
With characteristic Bristolian languor, Smith & Mighty did not rush to cash in when jungle/drum’n’bass and trip-hop exploded, but in 1995 returned to independent status and released the certified classic album ‘Bass is Maternal’ on their own More Rockers Records label.
Smith & Mighty remained a key name for roots & soul oriented breakbeat and dub throughout the 90s and from there went to a world-wide respected musical career with world-tours and releases on ‘K7 records’, including the now legendary DJ Kicks Mix series.
With a staggeringly extensive discography under their belt spanning nearly three decades, Smith & Mighty are still producing and touring to this day. As well as other shows in UK and abroad, you can catch them at this years Glastonbury festival.