Q: What was your impression of Glen Brown at the time? He had said something, according to a liner note from Ian McCann some years ago, that you were a man who 'had to be encouraged to get into music before you got into trouble' (chuckles), whatever that meant? You had that reputation?
A: Yeah, because the reason why he said that is because, y'know, them days, the song 'Tel Aviv Rock', right, that really made from a gang that I was a part of, you understan', and that's why Glen say that. Because the part of the community that Glen used to live into, is the side which is the Skull gang, right, and I born and grow up in that side too as much, y'know, in the Skull gang side. But I was slapped up and really get punched up an' type a t'ing like that, because I was just a Rastafarian. You know, because as I said before, I get to understand the Rastafarian culture and my way of living was just Rasta. And with me, what I used to do those time, I used to go around and like get Lignum Vitae wood or what kind of a piece of board I can maybe carve things out, and when I've carved things out of board an' t'ing like that, and go around and sellin' them to people. And then again people don't just like to see you living such a life, you understan', they need to see you being problem. So I find myself involved by joining the Tel Aviv gang, because I was being abused by the Skull gang, you understan', and being abused by that side. And because I've been abused by that side I had to take side myself, and taking that side it's giving me a chance to kinda either prove my standard of being a part of that over there, and not really get nutten to do with the other side. Because it's either you gonna stay with one side and you're gonna be OK, or you gonna get mixed up with both sides. And you find that you can be enemy from any side, y'know, because you're stuck in the middle. So it's either you take a side and, as I said to you before, you leave the community and try to live somewhere else. But it's not easy to leave the community and live somewhere else, because, y'know, various parts of Jamaican communities take money, and the better part of the community you live is the more expensive the rent is. And in Jamaica is the same, you have to pay for the lights, you have to pay for water, you have to pay taxes, you have to pay your rent, all these things, so either you really have to be making a lot of money to really live, move from one part of the ghetto to a more better part. And as I said to you before, I've grown up with my grandmother, so I've been brought up in a poor community. But my grandmother's done her best to keep me on the right side of the world. That's why she introduced me to the church and everything like that, so Christianity could be a part of my life. But then again, as I said, if you don't join something, you're not a part of nothin', and nothin' out of nothin' you get nothin'. So, you get involved. So Glen tried to help me out, as I said, because givin' me the chance to be an entertainer would give me a chance to get out of what I was really involved in, and getting tied up in every day. Because I've been in that gang for nine and a half years, I've been fightin' for all those nine and a half years, been to jail, I've never done a prison sentence in my own country or anything like that before, 'cause I've never been found guilty in my own country. Never ever, y'know, for the nine and a half years I've been fightin' with the gang. So, that was a good thing anyhow, because it give me a chance, was to move on with my life. Because, as a guy, I used to love work and everyt'ing like that, because it's not jus' music. I used to like do construction work and so on, workin' on building sites. And the reason why I get involved is because my older foreman on the building site, he is the one who really get me involved, mixed up in this kinda political kind of madness, and draw me into this gang war type of a thing. And he was my foreman, I left the guy at work the same day, and the same night, y'know, they're having like political rally, where the MP's them would come out and they would have these big meetings and all this for the people there would be on the street, listening to what these guys have to say. And these people going around now trying to bully people to vote for their side, and because I was just walkin' on the street just going about my business, I was just being approached and been gun-butt up an' everyt'ing like that, by my own foreman! You know, I remember I leave this guy at work the same day. But, because I was a PNP - because I rather the PNP party more than the JLP party, and the reason for that is because my - I had a little baby when I was about fifteen, I get a little baby daughter, and she died. And I used to go down by Tivoli Garden and so on to try and see if I could get some money to bury her. Because I was only a pauper anyhow, I couldn't find anything, because I wasn't living on me own in those times. And my lickle baby died and I couldn't find money was to really like bury her, and I keep going down to Tivoli Garden, back and forth, back and forth, trying to get help from these political people to really help me out, and I didn't get any help from them. And somebody introduced me to go to the Michael Manley, which is - he was a MP, y'know, at somet'ing street, beside somet'ing street courthouse in Kingston, and somebody introduce this, said, "Why don't you ask him instead?" And I went in, and the first time I went to him I could not believe it. The guy said to me, say, "What?"- when I told him my baby was under ice for three months, y'know, and they say no, that's wrong. He just send me straight up, he said, "Listen, give me a letter, go up to Madden, funeral parlour, give this details to the guy, and tell him I sent you, and then come back and tell me what happened". And I went there, and the guy said it was fifteen pounds to bury my baby. It was pounds those days instead of dollars. And I took back all these details to him, and he gave me the check and everyt'ing to go and bury my baby. So he was like a member of the PNP party, he was like going to be the leader, you see, and when I go back to him he give me all these money and this check, and says "Go and pay for the funeral", and so on. And I said to meself, say, 'Well, I'm gonna look out for who look out for me'. Because I was going the other side asking for help, stood outside, I didn't get any help, so I went to the PNP side, they are the one that helped me. So they are the people that I will be able to vote for. You know, you only give help to whosoever help you, and that's what I did.
Q: That was the link.
A: Right, and workin' on this building site, on this construction site on the South Side of the city near, y'know, on the seaside section, because everything was developing down by the waterfront area. And my foreman was workin' at the site as much, but he was a JLP and I was a PNP, and he knew that I liked PNP party. You know, I didn't say the reason why I liked them but I use to say I liked them. So, that night when they was doing their rally, they're preachin' and they're tryin' to get other people involved with them and so on, that's the night when they saw me walkin' on the street. And because he knew that I liked the other side, he and his two mates just come up and start gun-butt me up an' really do what they wanna do, an' t'ings just get out a hand from there.
Q: You didn't use any sort of nickname or an artist name in those days, around the time when those two records for Glen came about.
A: No, I start off with Berris Simpson, my right name.
Q: It's a bit confusing which one is your right name, I've seen about three different spellings or variations, one is Beres, one is Berris, and another one is Berry.
A: Yes. Well, you see, they used to call me 'Jah Berry'.
Q: So you are the one who cut tunes for Roy Francis' label Phase One, as Jah Berry?
A: No. But they used to call me Jah Berry, and it's true Glen Brown wife use to call me Jah Berry, right. But my right name, when I was born my birth-paper show me that my name spelled as B - e - r - i - s, right. But when I looked into the terms myself, for my own a feeling, I spell it as B - e - r - r - i - s, so I've add a single 'R' to my name, which is not really on my birth-paper. So that's why you get things mix-up there, y'know wha' I mean, because I just spell it different ways. But my birth is really B - e - r - i - s. And like Beres Hammond even now, he spell B - e - r - e - s, yunno. His name is spelled different from me, even though it's pronounced 'Berris'.
Q: Right. So how did they take off, your tunes for Mr Brown? Glen Brown was more like an underground name at the time, with limited pressings of his tunes.
A: Yes. Because he was trying his best, because he had a lickle record shop, y'know, it's like a Caravan type a t'ing in Cross Roads, Kingston, that is more a posher part of downtown Kingston, is a upper part of Kingston that. And that's where he start out his business from. But he had people like Coxson Dodd and Joe Gibbs, y'know, he have a lot of different people who was really doing a lot better, Randy's Record and all these people and so on, yunno, Techniques, and so on. So there was a lot more other producer which is more mainstream people who is really doing things more better. But Glen Brown, he used to play the flute and so on, and he was really popular because of what he played.
Q: He played melodica, that was his trademark.
A: Yeah, that melodica type a t'ing is what he played, and he was really popular because of that. Because, in those days in Jamaica, that sound was really a big sound. You know, if you listen a lot, there was a lot of record with that sound, innit.
Q: Augustus Pablo for instance, 'Java' and all that.
A: Yeah, Augustus Pablo and all those guys. Pablo come to be the mainstream guy whe everybody listen to when it come to that. But Glen Brown was one of the most recognised artists in the community at the time, in my community, you see, and made somebody for me to look up to anyhow, because as I said I get inspiration from these people, seeing them walkin' up an' down in my community knowing that they're artists, y'know. The people that are in the music business, something that I would like to be into one day myself.
Q: So, explain that song (chuckles), 'Whole Lot of Sugar' - it's a girl song, right, on top of one of those great Glen Brown rhythms.
A: Yeah, it's like (laughs)... saying to a girl: 'Wow, you so nice, you so beautiful', right, 'but you've got a lot of sugar down there', y'know what I mean, because 'with me making love to you', and so on, 'I'm really enjoying my time makin' love to you', and so on, y'know. Yeah, that's why I said 'that daughter with the bow leg'. Because in Jamaica those time, girls with bow legs, y'know bandy leg, I used to admire girls with bandy legs a lot. And that's how the bow leg come in the music, you see, because you would give them such a shame how the way they walk because of the bow leg and so on. And that's how I said 'that dawta with the bow leg give I a inspiration to say a whole lotta sugar down deh', that's whe the lyrics come from.
Q: And the other one 'Tel Aviv Rock' was to acknowledge the fact that you were a part of that posse, in praise of the gang culture.
A: That come from the gang that I used to be with, Tel Aviv. You know, everybody used to know about Tel Aviv, because if you listen to even the songs now, the now songs, you're still gettin' people singin' about Tel Aviv now. Because it's one of the gangs that will always be there for the... for years and years to come, you see. And that gang has been going, it was like - the gang used to be Max, it used to be called 'Max', before it change from Max to Tel Aviv. And they used to have people like 'Buckles', y'know, he was like the main guy, and a guy called 'Leniments', those were the leaders of them times. But, before that you used to have gangs like the Mau-Mau gang, which, these guys were more bigger guys.
Q: So what became of those Glen Brown records at that particular time?
A: I get a very good response in Jamaica from that record, y'know, both record, because they were all over the place, they was played on the radio a lot in Jamaica, and lots of the jukeboxes in Jamaica did have it. You know, that was a part of my dream, to see my record in the jukebox as a kid growing up, y'know wha' I mean, because as I said to you before was a mesmerized type a t'ing for me, y'know, somebody miles away and their voices is in the box, makin' a lot of noise. So I get a chance myself, and yeah, it done very well, both record done very well. Because a few years back it came out on a Greensleeve - there was a All-Star album, various artist album...
Q: 'Dubble Attack'.
A: Yes, and that track was on there as much. And everywhere I go, even now people been asking me about that song! Everywhere I go, people... I've down a few weeks ago someone asked me for a copy of it.
Q: I don't think Glen Brown has put it out again after that album, because that one was released some sixteen years back now, the 'Dubble Attack' album.
Q: Well, he constantly put out his back catalog again, from time to time, like on the Hot Pot label now for example, so I don't have any doubt that those two will see a re-release pretty soon anyway.
Q: It's still in demand, so I guess it's more a question of time, 'when' rather than 'if'.
Q: One day.
A: Yeah. Glen Brown is in the States now, so when he come back over on this side again we siddung an' we'll have, y'know, a good talk together again, and try to see if we can get things put together.
Q: Did you record more than those two tracks for him?
A: I used to like run up an' down, to like go to Joe Gibbs studio up at Retirement Crescent, trying to get them to record me.
Q: I suppose you recorded at Tubby's studio with Glen?
A: They were recorded at King Tubby's studio, in Waterhouse. Yeah.
Q: At this time you linked up with the late Clancy Eccles to do some live shows too, with a band, like on his package shows or tours that he took around the island.
A: Clancy Eccles!
Q: You performed together on his artist showcase, like.
A: Yes, well, I did some shows. My first chance on being on a stage show, is Clancy Eccles who gave me that chance. I did my first show at the Gaity Theatre in Kingston, just in the same community, the Tel Aviv community. That's on East Queen Street, East Queen Street is just across the Kingston Central Police Station, there's a theatre called Gaity Theatre, and that's where I get my first ever stage show I've ever done. And I went on stage and I did a song, and - you know, them got these lights up an' all these type a t'ings, these pretty lights an' so on, yeah? And as a youth growing up an' so on, that was my first limelight. I said to the guys, says, "Can you please shine this spotlight on me", type a t'ing (laughs)! And the theatre was full! It was full with people there, I can't remember which of which artists was on the bill except myself anyhow, but...
Q: You recall the band backing you on that occasion?
A: It was We The People Band.
Q: OK, Lloyd Parks.
A: Yeah, Lloyd Parks and We The People. And that's where I get my first chance to be on a stage, and the response I get from the crowd and the people them there, it was such a massive one that he had asked me to appear on the next other show he's gonna put on, was at the Carib Theatre in the upper parts of Kingston, Jamaica, in the more posher part of Kingston, and that's where I get the chance was to meet 'Scratch', Lee Perry. Because, I'm not sure, but I work with Big Youth, Dillinger, Chalice, Mighty Diamonds, there was a lot, y'know, there was Clint Eastwood, there was... who else was there...? There was all, there was so many different people on the bill that day. And I went on stage and I did myself very well there, but when I came off stage 'Scratch', Lee Perry, call me and said to me, say, "Heh, what's your name again, man? What's your name again?" I say, "My name is Prince Hammer". He say, "Listen man, you are the best stage-man I have ever seen for many, many a years, the best I have ever seen!" Because, y'know, I used to like to dance a lot on stage, do a lot of snap-falls, split, fling my mic up, catch back my mic, all a them type a t'ings and so on, y'know. So I was like a extrovert on stage, and from ever since they've always called me 'The Dancer'. Because when I'm on stage, I'm really really workin' on stage, I'm at home when I'm on any stage at all. So that's why when I'm workin' anywhere when my audience come out, they know they'll have a good night. Because I really really work my socks off for these people - it's called entertainment.
A: But I didn't get the chance was to work with Scratch, because I didn't get into him enough to really get around to go to his studio, the Black Ark studio, and to maybe get a chance there to really record with him. But I get the chance was to know all the people them I really want was to know, like Johnny Clarke and all these people, y'know, John Holt, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, all these people, y'know what I mean. I just get the opportunity, Mighty Diamonds, everybody jus' come along the way and I get the chance, Marcia Griffiths, and so on, Errol Dunkley, Delroy Wilson, you name it. I get the chance to know people that I really really wanted was to get involved with. You know, Gregory Isaac is my main guy, y'know what I mean (chuckles), he's my number one person. We're coming like siames-twins, y'know wha' I mean (laughs)! We're that close, very very good friends.
Q: At the time when you cut those records for Glen Brown, were you still one of the deejays on the Vee-Jay sound, or did you leave there and become resident deejay on a different sound?
A: Well, yeah, I still worked with Vee-Jay at the same time, because it's not really workin' permanently with Vee-Jay, is like I work with them whenever I get the chance. Because like I said, being around and being in the gang and everyt'ing like that, that would've kinda dumpin' a lot of what I used to do with Vee-Jay. Because Vee-Jay used to be on the side where the Skull side used to be, and I used to be over on the other side, y'know, on the Tel Aviv side, which is the - between the borders, you understan'. So that take away a lot of my chances of being there on that sound system where I really want was to be.
Q: What brought about the name change, when you turned into 'Prince Hammer' from the guy name Berris Simpson on those two 45's for Glen?
A: You used to have a guy called Willie Lindo (the guitarist), and he used to be locally in my community just as much. And he turned to me one day and says, "You know somet'ing? Why don't you change your name from Berris Simpson?" Because as a deejay, you need a more kind of a...
Q: Something more recognisable, outstanding, like, 'catchy'?
A: Yeah, a more 'attacking' type of a name, like some cowboy.
A: Because them time Clint Eastwood and...
Q: Trinity, Dillinger, outlaw names.
A: You know, all those were the guys, the guys who were really doing the t'ing for the cowboy shows and so on, yunno, and he says, "C'mon, get your name changed", and so on. So I said to him, say, "So what should I do then? What should I call meself?" And he says, "Why don't you call yourself 'Prince Hammer'?" You know (chuckles)? And I accepted what he said, because I know this guy singin' somet'ing before I even get involved with music, and he was a part of my community too. That give me the chance to change my name to Prince Hammer, and that name really really expand and explode a lot. Because I'm sure you know of the movie 'Rockers'?
Q: Absolutely, where you played a part.
A: Yes, well, that name has been established through that movie just as much too, y'know, workin' with Dirty Harry, Horsemouth and Jacob Miller, Gregory Isaacs and all these guys, y'know wha' I mean, Dr Alimantado, we all starred in that film.
Q: I suppose from pretty early on you got established doing your own productions, how come and when did you set up your first label, Gold Cup? That was the first one you had set up, right?
A: Yes, Gold Cup label.
Q: What was your first records there? I have managed to track down two of them, one is called 'Lord of Lords (King of Kings)', and another one is titled 'Addis Ababa'.
A: Yes, 'Addis Ababa'. Well, 'King of Kings' and 'Addis Ababa' were the two first songs on that label, and one of the reason why I did that is because I've tried, I was like walkin' up an' down trying to get myself record by - as I said before - people like Joe Gibbs, an' so on. Because most of us guys used to go to Joe Gibbs' studio and hang around Joe Gibbs' studio, every day. There were loads of guys there, y'know, trying to get involved in the music business. So we all hang out at the recording studio, and so on, and just wait for him to open it and say, "C'mon, you're in charge of that, c'mon, here's a riddim, listen this one, what can you do with it?", y'know wha' I mean, that type a t'ing. And Dennis Brown was the top guy them time, y'kno' wha' I mean, he was really really hot at Joe Gibbs and so on, he do a lot of things for Joe Gibbs. And just trying my best, y'know, I couldn't get the chance to really record for these people. So I find myself with a little bit of money, and I said 'OK, then I'm gonna make myself my own riddims', and I went to Joe Gibbs' studio where I make those two riddims - the same studio that never give me the chance. And I voiced them, write the songs and voiced them there.
Q: Who backed you up on those two?
A: Those were the Revolutionaries.
Q: Right, which was basically Sly & Robbie.
A: Yes, not Sly & Robbie...
Q: Sly and Lloyd Parks?
A: It was Lloyd Parks them and so on, yeah. Those were, you see, the Revolutionary were like guys who was like a pick-up of different people, it wasn't just one set of guys, y'know wha' I mean, there was like every other day there was somebody there different. Whenever they would wanna do a t'ing together they would all go out and they say alright, this guy or that guy today now, and they would put a jam together and do their thing. But there would've been a lot of people at the recording studio, they just choose who they want to play for you there. But the main guys who used to be at that recording studio was Lloyd Parks and We The People, they were the main guys in the recording studio at that time, those times at Joe Gibbs' studio. They was like resident people. Sly & Robbie them, and so on, those were guys who used to be at the studio too, but they were more at Channel One, the Channel One studio. That was the number one place.
Q: The congregation of musicians at Joe Gibbs' studio used to be called the Professionals, often led by Lloyd Parks at the time.
A: The Professionals, yeah. You know.
Q: But who played that lead guitar riff on 'Addis Ababa', that kind of rock-styled stuff?
A: Phuh... To be honest, I couldn't even tell you now, because I don't have all these details right in front of me right now. But as I said before, right, I think it was Bingy Bunny. Bingy Bunny, he was the one who played on that song. Yeah.
Q: And they were recorded around 1977 or thereabouts?
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