In memory of Keith LeBlanc

All of us at On-U Sound are heartbroken to share the news that the great Keith LeBlanc has passed away.

Keith LeBlanc started out as a session drummer with Sugarhill Records in the early 1980s. He formed the Sugarhill House Band with fellow Americans Doug Wimbish (bass) and Skip "Little Axe" McDonald (guitar), working with leading rap artists such as the Sugarhill Gang ("Rapper's Delight") and Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel on "The Message" and "Freedom".

Adrian Sherwood originally met the trio in 1983 at the CMU conference in New York City, connected via Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records, for whom LeBlanc had just made the ground-breaking “No Sell Out” single, utilising cut-up Malcolm X speeches, and an early example of the use of emerging sampling technology. Impressed by what he heard, the British producer invited the Americans to join him in London. Once ensconced in the studio, they continued their sample-based explorations, with the producer as a fourth member manning the mixing desk. This is something they would also replicate in their live set-up, with Adrian dubbing and processing the musicians in real time as they played on stage. Cutting records simultaneously as Fats Comet (for the more dancefloor-oriented material) and Tackhead (for their more aggressive political tracks), they also became the second incarnation of The Maffia, the uncompromising backing band of Mark Stewart. The members were additionally involved in solo projects, session assignments, and appearances in other mysterious guises on the On-U roster, such as Barmy Army and Strange Parcels.

Keith's landmark album "Major Malfunction" (considered to be the first Tackhead recording, although credited to LeBlanc solo) was of great influence to a whole generation of musicians. The album, a reaction to the 1986 disaster with space shuttle Challenger, inspiring a lot of the musicians in the US industrial scene in particular.

Apart from his work as member of the On-U Sound posse, Keith LeBlanc continued to experiment with new sounds via his own Blanc Records. His writing and production skills were utilised by Living Colour, Peter Gabriel, The Cure, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails. As a drummer/programmer he worked with everyone from James Brown to Trevor Horn, Seal to R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Jalal (Last Poets), The Stone Roses, Robert Palmer, Bomb The Bass, Annie Lennox, Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry, Depeche Mode and Sinead O'Connor.

The last Tackhead show was at the On-U Sound 40th anniversary concert at the Forum in London.

An incredible drummer, producer and musical maverick, he will be hugely missed. Rest in power Keith.

“Keith was a major, major talent ..incredible drummer, producer and musician.. Along with Doug, Skip and also dearly missed Mark Stewart we enjoyed some of the most creative times together that shaped my musical life. Thank you Brother Keith..Love Forever. Heart and Soul.” - Adrian Sherwood