Robin Giorno – A Joyful Noise

For the third in the Joyful Noise series we caught up with musician, producer and label owner Robin Giorno. Robin Giorno is the man behind the Friendly Fire Music label, the Friendly Fire band, a stalwart of Birmingham reggae night Jam Jah and a regular at reggae events up and down the country. 

I first got into music through cassette tapes from my best friend’s older brother. It was mostly hard rock, which inspired me to learn the guitar; my music taste evolved through being exposed to other musicians. I discovered reggae when I was a little older around 16 and as I was always into technology and equipment, I got involved with DJing and by the time I moved to the UK in 98 I had started collecting reggae vinyl seriously, and eventually moving on to producing my own tunes to play on the sound system.

Friendly Fire Music was the logical evolution from playing with Bongo Damo on the Jam Jah Sound, which will be celebrating 15 years of existence at the Hare and Hounds on the 18th November this year. I was at university studying electronics when I joined Jam Jah, and had started teaching myself to produce and build riddims as computers were just starting to be fast enough to handle audio – so when I met a few artists through doing events, I invited them home and started recording tracks.

On one of those tracks, I played bass, keys and guitars over a raw drum track of another song that Bongo Damo had previously recorded for another project, and it was then voiced by the amazing Paradox aka Tha Usual Suspec. Someone suggested that we enter a competition on the back of this, but we needed to submit another few tracks. We had no band, let alone 3 other tracks and so that was the catalyst for getting a band together to record these 3 tracks, using musicians from local funk/hip hop outfit Munchbreak to complete the lineup.

The setup now is based around the studio where I do frequent dubplate sessions, recording custom tunes for soundsystems around the world, which has allowed me to meet a lot of artists, some of which feature on Friendly Fire Band tracks. The band plays live with our own crew of artists; mainly Lion Art, Myki Tuff, and Tomlin Mystic. We have played for artists such as Dawn Penn, Susan Cadogan, YT, Daddy Freddy, Tippa Irie, Earl Sixteen, Anthony Johnson… This summer we are doing some shows with Michael Prophet as well.

It’s difficult to choose a highlight, as I love performing and recording with veteran artists, hearing them sing songs I knew and heard a long before I even knew the artist’s name, as much as I love working with fresh new artists who have the hunger to explore and push their limits and comfort zone.

With the Friendly Fire Band, each artist that rehearses with us will have his own vibe, techniques and method of working, so every new artist makes the band progress to another level the same happens in the studio. It’s been a while since Friendly Fire Music released a full length album, so the next one should be coming very soon. The album will be a compilation based on Friendly Fire Band riddims, featuring artists from the UK such as Tippa Irie, Lion Art, Peppery, Parly B, as well as current Jamaican artists like Duane Stephenson and Luciano and foundation artists like Al Campbell.

There’s a backlog of riddim EPs that are waiting to see the light and a few 7″s and 12s that need offloading from my studio computer as I have been accumulating tracks and not dealing with the admin of making them available to the world :) Watch this space!


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