Oi-maica

DC Sound System on his ska-reggae past, present and future

DC Sound System is tired of cliches, like Ska is dead, and The Sex Pistols weren’t punk. Alex DeChoiseul believes ska is very much alive and well.

25-year-old DeChoiseul is a veteran of many high school punk and death metal bands, and his surname is the inspiration for the DC in DC Sound System. 

It’s a one man-operation, thanks to his background in guitar, bass, keyboards, accordion and harmonica. The harmonica was his first love, inspired by the work of early reggae practitioner and The Godfather of Ska, Laurel Aitken.

“But the harmonica isn’t the most versatile instrument, which is why I learned the other ones,” DeChoiseul says. He lists the Romeo and the Emotions song, “Rudeboy Confession,” and bands such as Operation Ivy as key stylistic influences that inspired him to expand.

DeChoiseul admits his chosen musical genre is far from en vogue. He’s proud of his early roots in punk and ska, but has always gravitated toward old-school Jamaican reggae. His love affair with reggae began in his childhood, in which he was immersed in the culture.

“My cousin’s wife is Jamaican and she was really important in that way for me,” DeChoiseul says. “Ska is like reggae and soul, but with teeth! But I also want to work in more varied sounds. I don’t wanna just keep covering ‘Knowledge’ over and over.”

His early recordings, such as “Try” and “Baby Blue Dub,” are catchy throwbacks to the simpler days of indie punk. Each instrument is recorded separately, which gives DeChoiseul the freedom to manipulate the individual tracks when performing live.

His early songs are beautifully lo-fi. It’s an aesthetic DeChoiseul adores, but hopes to tinker with on an upcoming eight song EP. His ambitions are grand, citing that he wants to expand his music - something that started as a mere hobby - into something truly massive. 

DeChoiseul plans to blend his lo-fi vibe with a crisper, more produced modern reggae sound, akin to Welsh reggae-punks Skindread.

“I want something close to that, except (Skindread frontman) Benji Webbe is from Jamaica and I can’t do a Jamaican accent,” he says with a laugh.

You may have already heard his tunes, as DC Sound System often busks outside the MTS Center, playing acoustic guitar during Winnipeg Jets games. Despite the lack of electrical accompaniment, DeChoiseul finds the busking exposure rewarding. It even landed him a spotlight on Global News in 2014.

DeChoiseul’s reggae-ska stylings will be featured in the upcoming Manitoba Music Night at Ozzy’s on Feb. 4, along with fellow local acts Diverse and Ambrosia Skylab. It’s sure to be an important night for DC Sound System, but he approaches performing with a genre-appropriate attitude.

“I don’t get nervous because I always feel like I’m not playing my music for people,” DeChoiseul says. “I’m there to force my music on people. I don’t really give a shit if they like it or not. But luckily, I’ve had very few people feel like it was forced on them.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 18 of The Uniter (January 28, 2015)

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