Winston McAnuff interview

by Nov 26, 2018Articles, Interview

Winston McAnuff


When: January 2003

Where: London, UK

Reporter: Peter I

Copyright:  2004 – Peter I

There is clearly a resurgence of old-time singers in the reggae market these days, the old names becomes the new and newcomers to the music find this music for the first time even if it was released twenty or thirty years back in time it still sounds fresh today. Winston McAnuff is one such name.


Also known as the “Electric Dread”, McAnuff is actually author to the classic ‘Malcolm X’, a song popularised by Dennis Brown and Earl Sixteen in the late seventies. Some of you might have seen him appear as lead singer for the Black Kush band in “Deep Roots Music”, a television series done for UK Channel 4 in 1982. But for many he is still an unknown artist which is due to change soon since the reissue of previous recordings on ‘Diary Of The Silent Years’ and recently the 1980 album ‘Wha The Man A Deal Wid’, both released by the upcoming Makasound/Soundicate reissue collective in Paris. This interview was conducted shortly before Winston had to leave London and jump on a plane back to Jamaica in January ’03. Thanks to Winston, Romain Germa, Earl Sixteen, Mike, Russ, Teacher & Mr. T and Nic – merci!

Your early days wasn’t in Kingston, where were you born and raised, Winston?
I was born in a little place called Spaulding Hospital, near Christiana, in the centre of the island. Near Manchester, yeah.

Big family?
Yeah, and my father is a preacher and my mother is a preacher. I was brought up in the church, really.

It was a Baptist church?
New Testament Church of God. So, I started singing in church and so forth and eventually when my father died in ’72 I went to live with my sister who was teaching at a school by the name of Tarrent Junior Secondary. That’s where I met Earl Sixteen because he was going to the same school. So I started writing some songs from early days because I was inspired by people like Desmond Dekker, so I start to write my own songs and so forth.

Flabba Holt 1983 (Photo: Beth Lesser)

Flabba Holt 1983 (Photo: Beth Lesser)

We’re talking the 60’s now?
We’re talking the 70’s. Yeah. And then I went to Kingston and I was living near to Hugh Mundell, coincidentally. I started checking some producers to see if I could record some songs. I went to Joe Gibbs one day and I was there playing the guitar, waiting for Errol Thompson. And then Flabba Holt heard the song ‘Malcolm X’ and then he ran to call Errol T to tell him “this youth have a wicked song”, an’ t’ing. So he came and he listened so he say we should come on Thursday. I used to work out that time with a keyboard player, from Black Uhuru, called Franklyn Waul (aka ‘Bubbler’ – P). We used to go to high school together so we worked out the songs early in the morning before devotion, on the school piano, y’know. So I decided… I was doing a little recording then with Derrick Harriott too, and then I found out he was playing better than the (other) musicians so I carried him to play on that song ‘Malcolm X’. So I bring about Hugh Mundell as well, y’know. So he did a song about (sings) “natty dread is not on First street, natty dread is not on Third street, nowhere is natty dread…”, Hugh Mundell, y’know? I have never heard the song released. After – I tried to sing the song, but it wasn’t up to standard, so I went to Earl Sixteen and he sang the song. Then I was waiting to hear the song released, yunno? And then we saw the song came out with Dennis Brown, they (the Mighty Two) gave the song to Dennis Brown.

With or without your knowledge?
Without my knowledge! Yes, so we were really down at him.

How did you react, and act, towards this problem? I mean, Dennis was a big name, so the push for the song must have been positive in that way?
Well, I react… I was happy still, but it was a bittersweet situation. But what we did, we went and re-recorded the song for Derrick Harriott. So that’s how you see that ‘Malcolm X’ is on the Wildflower or Crystal label as well.

By the way, were you a part of the recording session for Harriott, the version that Earl (Sixteen) did?
Yeah, actually I recorded the song in the studio. Earl was present when that song was recorded. I did a recording and then I brought in Earl to do it, y’know.

Do you know if Harriott has ever put out your cut of the song?
No, I don’t have a version. I only have one version that I sang personally. Derrick released the one that Sixteen did. My cut is on the ‘Diary…’, on the new album. I did that song in ’85, at Music Mountain studio, Jamaica.

Derrick Harriott

Derrick Harriott

Back to the earlier days – were you ever part of a harmony group?
Yeah, well, I used to sing originally… when I was in high school I start to sing originally. I have left out this on many of my interviews, you know, unknowingly. But I used to sing with a folk group, you know like The Jamaica Folk Singers? You have another folk group – The Carib Folk Singers. Well, I was a member, a long-standing member in that group. So, it’s from there that I left and then we started a group me and a singer called Richie McDonald. Yeah, and another singer. He’s the brother of the (late) deejay Scotty – Calman Scott.

Alright, he’s in Japan now?
Yeah, I brought him there with my band. Yeh, I brought him there to live.

He did this (rare) tune ‘One Teacher One Preacher’.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!! So we had a group together, y’know. But then eventually we just…

What was the name of the group?
Head Corner Stones. Yeah, the Head Corner Stones. But the people… The songs were so excellent at the time, it causes some argument so we just took our songs individually. And went our separate ways, y’know?

Did you record with that group?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Actually, three of the songs are on the album (‘Diary…’). The ‘Head Corner Stone’ song, ‘Peace’ – yeah? ‘Fear’, and ‘Sun Setting In the Sea’ – those four songs. So I took my songs, y’know. Yeah, Calman co-wrote the ‘Sun Setting In the Sea’ as well, Calman Scott.

You started from pretty early on to write your own songs?
Yeah, I was approached by Inner Circle and did an album at Channel One studio, in ’78. They released it in France as ‘One Love’. But originally it’s ‘Wha’ The Man A Deal With’.

Bwoy… you’re jumping too fast now! Don’t go so fast please…
Am I jumping too fast now (laughs)?! Sorry…

No big thing, really. After this group disbanded, was that when you went to Harriott with Earl for the ‘Malcolm X ‘ session?
No, the Head Corner Stones was actually within the same timing, y’know? Between Derrick Harriott and the Inner Circle thing. Yeah, we were hanging out at Aquarius (studio).

And Richie McDonald he used to record for Glen Brown, yeah?
Yeah, and also he is a member of Chosen Few, you know that?

Richard McDonald?
Yeah, he’s the guy even in ‘Shaft’ (which Chosen Few covered successfully, even giving the original version a run for its money – P), he’s the guy with the low song (singing), for Derrick Harriott, yeah man! Yeah, that’s Richie Mac… yeah man.

What is he up to these days?
Well, actually he did most of the backing vocals. We work together still, yunno? Yeh, he did a lot of backing vocal but I’m plannin’ to, like, record some songs with him now, y’know. Beca’ he don’t want to do recording for certain people. But he is an excellent singer, man.

I saw a couple of years ago that he did some songs for Augustus Pablo?
Yeah, actually man he was in tears when Pablo died, yunno? Because, you know – he had a good t’ing going.

Dennis Brown 1977

Dennis Brown 1977

So, the inspiration behind a song like ‘Malcolm X’ in times of Garvey-ites and all the praises for that man’s works, did you wanna bring on another philosophy, or ideology – of Malcolm, or you felt the need to have his ideas across to those times?
Well, no, to be honest with you, that song I didn’t write it – I heard it, you see what I’m saying? It’s just like you have a vision and you could wake up and tell me what went on in the vision, yeah? It’s just something like that, because I just heard it. ‘Cos most of the things that I was singin’ in the song at the time I was questioning myself to say ‘how is it I am singing these t’ings if I don’t know it’s that way?’, you see what I’m saying? But, it was because of the fact that it was something that I did. It’s something I heard. I just sang what I heard.

There must have been something behind it, which brought up that particular subject, wasn’t it?
The vibe? Well, actually when I did that song and Dennis Brown did it, he came back and he didn’t know who was Malcolm X, yunno! Yeah, believe me! He didn’t even know who was that guy. So, you know, wha’ apn when I started reading about the guy and understood after he went to Mecca and came back, he was a changed person. And then now, this song I’m singing, ‘Malcolm X’, is just like saying that! Just like the new man that came back, you see what I’m saying? The reformed man. So, everything was right to the song even though I did no research (laughs)! You see where I’m coming from? Yeah, because I was too young to even know ‘ bout certain t’ing if you see that. As I told you it’s not something that I thought about, it just came and I heard it and that’s what come along.

What was the general reaction for that song, at the time?
Well, it was really an underground song for a long time. Beca’ it wasn’t released in Jamaica, yunno? Apart from… like on the ‘Visions’ (the 1977 Dennis Brown lp). But even Derrick Harriott after like fifteen years, when they started to wear these shirts with his face on the front and so forth, Derrick said to me “Winston, you’re a prophet, because how could you know that this would happen weh the man would rise again this way?”. Yeah man, so it was even a surprise to me too!

A bit ahead of your time then, it seems?
Ahead of the time, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Your work with Harriott now?
After Joe Gibbs, when he didn’t put out the song we went to Derrick Harriott and then I was doing most of my recordin’ now with Derrick, because he listened some songs and he said I should just come and record. He was recording some of the songs too like ‘Roma’, I wrote the ‘Roma’ for Derrick, and ‘Heavenly Love’, ‘Mr Windbag’. I wrote a couple for him, and one for his niece Kim Harriott… (sings) “never will we fade away til they come my way…”, that song. I wrote something for Sixteen too, ‘Charmaine’ and all those songs – ‘Dreadlocks Unite’.

The thing about you and your career, and where you stand within the business on a whole, is that I see you more as a songwriter for others than a recording artist on your own, after all you haven’t been that prolific and had success when others have done your songs?
Yeah, one of the reasons is because we came up in a time when artists had gotten more sensible. You know, in terms of knowing that we shouldn’t prostitute the business, you see what I’m saying? So if you can see from when I started out with Derrick Harriott, who is like a pioneer in the business, so I learned certain principles. Then shortly I was working with Inner Circle in 1978. So after working with those people then you really start to pick and choose who you want to work with. Yes, so that was part of the reason. Beca’ I could’ve had out, like, ten albums. But I refuse to do certain things for many years. Now everything is gonna change, yunno? Yeah man.

Winston McAnuff 1985 (Photo Beth Lesser)

Winston McAnuff 1985 (Photo: Beth Lesser)

There was a good amount of singles Harriott did with you, like ‘Armageddon Time’, ‘Bassline Party’, ‘Disco Medley’, ‘Having A Party’, ‘Hot Number’. Also ‘It’s You’, ‘Ugly Days’ of course, ‘Unknown Melody’, ‘My Pick To Click’ and ‘Two By Two, Four By Four’?
Yeah, those are on my first album for Derrick. That’s my first album, called ‘Pick Hits To Click’. Came out in ’77, yeah man. And then after now I had the Inner Circle album (‘Wha’ The Man A Deal With’ on Top Ranking). Then I did the Skeng Don album, again with Inner Circle.

That was later on. So what happened to that first album again?
Well, Derrick is… we’re gonna release it in France, so… It’s a thought (?) of the album, yunno? But Derrick’s – they need that album, so some people gonna license it shortly. Beca’ the people don’t play around Derrick’s things, yunno? Yeah.

But around the time of its release, originally, did it take off at all?
Yeah, he used to do a lot of export on it. It’s an album that did very well. Beca’ I’ve met some of the guys who used to distribute it in New York, Michael Rose’s cousin. Yeah man, and he told me – he said, “Winston, I ordered another 500 of that album, when I ordered it from Derrick I always take another 500”. Yeah man. So the time has now come for it to be released in a bigger market, y’know?

You and Derrick had a falling-out when you went to Inner Circle, or what was the circumstances?
No, not really. It’s because I was doing so well, that was why Inner Circle come to see me. They wanted me to do that second album with me, ‘Wha the Man A Deal With’. ‘Ca you had the ‘Electric Dread’ and you had the ‘Bionic Dread’. Jacob Miller was the ‘Bionic Dread’ (laughs)!

Is there any possibility to bring out that ‘Wha the Man A Deal With’ album again?
To bring it out again? Yeah man, I just had it to court…

Who is sitting on the master tapes for it?
No man, listen – I own that album worldwide. Because I just… Some guys pirated it in France for several years, yunno? So I had a court case with them which we’re gonna release it through Makasound now. The court tell him to leave that alone. Beca’ you had Tommy Cowan as producer and I’ve never recorded a song with Tommy Cowan. So he made a big mess up the case in France – Enzo Hamilton from Culture Press.

Oh… yeah! A well-known bootlegger…
Ah, okaay! Yeah man, well… he got a beating this time! You know wha’ I mean? So I took my things, yunno? Yeah.

And the court case went on for how long?
For seven years! It’s the number three best selling CD in all his catalog. Best selling album. Only Jacob Miller and Bob Marley has sold more albums than that album, yeah man.

Haile Maskel

Ras Starr aka Haile Maskel

How come that you linked with Inner Circle in the first place?
Well, I think… because there was a program in Jamaica called ‘Where It’s At’. That use to come every Saturday, you know, so… Like, 70 per cent of the country usually used to watch that program. And the guy who had that program is a close friend of Derrick. So, I went and I did some shows and the people kept requesting the shows, y’know? I think it’s the account of the popularity of ‘Where It’s At’ and how they came, y’know. They were doing a project…? I think they were just giving back something to the music. They recorded like, about, seven or ten albums. Jacob Miller, David Jahson, I believe Lloyd Hemmings – a couple of singers, man. They did some recordings.

So there wasn’t any hesitation to do an album, just a few songs for single release?
No! They did the album straight off! No, we record the album straight. We went on an audition and they picked the songs and then we went and recorded it. It’s Inner Circle mostly. They use some guest musician, like Sly (Dunbar, drums) on one or two track and some other musician them use… Ah, Ras Starr! You know there’s a group in Jamaica by the name of… what’s the group again?

Light of Saba?
Light of Saba, man!! Yeah, yu a wise guy yunno, Pete!! Yeah, but that basically had a wicked scene, y’know! So they used to bring him in to play one or two songs. Yeah, beca’ that guy he just had a certain feel, man. Wicked!

I think he used to play bass, Michael Ras Starr.
Yeah, yeah. Ras Starr, Michael… He’s in California now. He has a group there.

I think he’s called Haile Maskel these days.
Yeah, Haile Maskel man! That’s the man.

Well, that’s certainly something to look forward to, if you own the master tapes for that second album you said?
Yeah man, I’m gonna release it in France shortly. I’m gonna release it with the dubs.

With the dubs? They were never released at the time, I guess?
Yeah man! We’re gonna release them with the dubs, like how I did it with the ‘Diary…’!

Who mixed the dubs for the ‘Wha the Man A Deal With’ lp?
Maxie – at Channel One, yeah.

So on to the next thing now after this album for Top Ranking, you went into forming Black Kush?
Yeah, that is my brothers. That is me and my brother, yunno? After that album with Circle now I was doing an album with Cedric Myton.

From the Congos.
… from the Congos. We were doing three album. One with Richie Mac, one with me, and one with Cedric, yeah?

Cedric Myton

Cedric Myton

So Myton produced all those albums, or what?
Well, no. What happened, he didn’t have the money at the time to go to studio, right? The people told him that if he got the album done, they would… you know? It was EMI. Yes, so… I went and I speak to Chris Stanley, and I ask him if he could give me some studio time because he was just finishing his studio. So I asked him to give me some time for a project, and he said “yeah!”. Because he want to hear what the studio sound (like). After I went and I told Cedric and “Cedric, Chris Stanley say we can do some work up there”. But he didn’t know the magnitude of the work that I was gonna do! When he heard the songs that we were doing, he said that he wanted a turn of the deal (laughs)! So Cedric and him getting a big fight now. So what happened is that I asked my mother for the title from the land, I borrowed some money from the bank and I went and I took my tapes. You understand? So by this time now I had the tapes from Aquarius, and I had these other songs I was doing with Cedric, yeah? Up until today, ca’ Cedric was in France the other day, and he saw the album – ’cause Cedric did the backing vocals on ‘Malcolm X’, yunno? He did the backing vocal on my ‘Malcolm X’, right? So, up until today, his tape is still there. And he was trying to get it and he found out that it is in Atlanta. ‘Ca Chris Stanley died, he was the boyfriend of Grace Jones. So he died and his daughter came down from America and she took all the tapes. She ship them out and it’s with her lawyer in Atlanta. So Cedric is trying to negotiate with them to see if he can get back his tapes.

What time are you talking here? When was all this recorded – early 80’s?
A: About early 80s. A little bit after Bob Marley’s death.

Before we get into Black Kush, you hooked up with and recorded something with Ossie Hibbert?
Yeah, yeah, yeah!! Yeah man! It’s Derrick Harriott’s friend, yunno? I did two songs for him – ‘I Love Jah’ and ‘I’m Getting Married’.

He is still sitting on these tunes, not doing anything with them, I guess?
Yeah, he is still sitting on these songs – but is a friend, yunno? He is in New York most of the time. Is Derrick’s friend as well. So maybe I might finish up a project with him. Yeah, I think I might do that.

There’s another one-off, called ‘Ital Yud’? On the KG label.
Well, that song! You see, it’s a national pantomine in Jamaica, yeah? So I did the juvenile lead alongside Charles Hyatt. Yeah, Ronnie Williams and those guys. ‘Ca I do acting on a professional level. You know, stage work. That was the theme song from the pantomine. But the pantomine was so successful that the people who produce the play, they produce that song. They said they wanted to record that song, so that’s how that song came about. I don’t have a copy of that song, yunno? That song sound like it’s a very rare song.

Can you remember when it came out?
That should be about ’77, yunno? Yes, I think it’s just after high school. After I left high school. Yeah, ’77…

And there was a few singles off the Inner Circle/Top Ranking album?
Yeah, but I didn’t know about that. Those were released abroad. There was one discomix with Trinity, yeah. And ‘Hypocrites & Parasites’. That’s on the ‘One Love’ album, first Inner Circle album.

So after doing this stuff with Inner Circle, Ossie Hibbert and Cedric Myton – what came next? Black Kush? You formed that group around this time, didn’t you? Around ’79 – 80?
Yeah, yeah. Me and my brother. So, we went to France and did some tours there. You know, some shows in France with the group. And we did some recording. I recorded ‘Can You Keep A Secret’ and ‘Grand Time’. You don’t know about those singles, but I did those two singles. You know, for a brethren of mine, who got me into the ‘Deep Roots’ series. ‘Fear Fear Fear'(laughs)! Yeah, but we did that song and…

Tell me more about Black Kush, because not much more is known apart from that episode in the tv series?
OK. Yeah, well, Black Kush is… I don’t know if you know about a group called Afreques (or ‘Afriques’)?

Yes, they did at least one tune (on Belmont) for Joe Gibbs?
Yeah, well, Afreques are the two guys doing the backing vocals, yunno? On the ‘Deep Roots’ series. Yeah, but that is before Afreques.

They did this ‘Cool It Brothers’ tune for Joe Gibbs.
Yeah, yeah, yeah! That’s before that, you know what I mean?

So they harmonised for Black Kush?
They used to do some backing vocal with me, y’know. In the early years. But it’s really a guy, Peter Kush is in Germany now and my brother and me… and who else there was? A player by the name of Ras Appa, he is playing now with Lord Kadkwa (?), a dance group in Jamaica. Yeah, so we formed that group.

What happened to the guy who did all the talking – in the episode where you are featured?
He died…

He died? He was called “Mark St John” something?
Yeah man, he died man… I gave him the opportunity to speak at the time, beca’ he was more educated than us at the time. He lived in New York for a long time, so he knew the system inside out. But he told me though that if he’s gonna put down the gun, he knows he’s gonna die… And something happened with him one day with some guys, they went for a gun. You know, with an M16, he was walking on the road going back to have some problem with some guys, and the police saw it. And they said: “Yo! Freeze! Police!” And he was saying: “Police!” And the police say: “Police”! And he say: “Police”! And they end up shooting him!

When was this?
That was just about, like, two years after the ‘Deep Roots’. Yeah, and that’s how the guy died, man. Just like that.

He was like a manager for the group?
Yeah. Well, actually he came in from the States and he was doing dutty, but is a guy who was very enthusiastic. He was the friend of the guy who got me into ‘Deep Roots’. He used to carry my records all around and he was really a good spirit. So, I wanted to like work with him, and whatsoever problem he had I thought the music would, like, balance him, y’know? But, he was so good, man. And then I just heard that happened. But he cut his wolfe/role (?) from New York days, yunno? Like he got the deported, and involved, y’know? Yeah…

Winston McAnuff

Winston McAnuff

So what happened with Black Kush now? You formed the band around your brother and a few others?
Yeah, but my brother is in Japan, you know that? He lives in Japan. He’s old now and we’re setting up a 32-track studio right now, so we’re gonna get everything back in line. Yeah man.

This is in Kingston?
No, in Manchester, Christiana.

So these singles with Black Kush, were they done and released independently, or for Channel One?
No, I did it for a guy. I did one single for Channel One but I didn’t release it, yunno? On the ‘Far East’ (rhythm), ‘All On Top’. Yeah, but these two songs are just songs I did for a guy who is a friend of the guy who came with the people from ITV Channel Four to Jamaica. You know, Pepe Judah. There’s a Ethiopian World Federation building here in London, and that’s the guy who bought the building for the Rasta House. But he brought down the people from the ITV to do the documentary at the time, yeah.

What became of Pepe Judah (man behind the old Dread & Dread label and shop in London – P)?
He’s in Jamaica, he’s living in Jamaica.

So the only release bearing the name Black Kush were these singles, there was never an album?
No, although I released ‘Get Thee Hence Satan’. Did a 45 release of that track – ‘Get Thee Hence Satan’, a track off the ‘Diary…’. But I only printed about 500 copies. I didn’t do any promotion or such, yunno? Just did some copies for a couple of sound guys and…

And the reactions abroad from the appearance on the documentary, what did that do for Kush?
Yeah man, we heard many things but we weren’t able to tour, y’know? We came and we saw some people with the documentary and so forth an’ t’ing. But when we came that time it’s like it was early because they didn’t know the ‘One Love’ album in France, y’know. So, like, we were ahead of our time.

But Kush toured around the island at the time?
Yeah, yeah, we did the “King Size Reggae Festival” there, we did Sunsplash, y’know wha’ I mean? So we went to levels.

Suppose there was a lack of finances to cut an album, to finance all this yourself at the time?
Yeah, yeah, you know… lack of finance to do it at that time. Beca’ we were young on the scene. We recorded that (‘Deep Roots’) series at Bob Marley’s first house, yunno? Accidentally…

Tuff Gong?
No, his house in Bull Bay, it’s just below the Bobo Camp. That was his first house, real house, in Kingston. But he had moved, so… His friend, the guy who got me into the ‘Deep Roots’, he was living there. A guy by the name of “Cud”. He’s a friend of Pepe Judah, that’s how we did it out there. It was Bob Marley’s house, it’s a strong line, y’know?

And the group split a couple of years after this?
Black Kush? Yeah, well, my brother… we went to Japan to do a tour there, yeah? Like, six of us. And then he said he just wanted to live in Japan, y’know. This is like ’86 or ’87… So, I told him, beca’ I had a recording deal weh I have the saying in it, ya know, so I’m not in a haste – see what I’m saying? It’s not a rush t’ing. So I told him, “OK, but I have to go back to Jamaica to deal with it and carry on the work”, y’know?’Ca I can’t be living in a foreign country.

Winston McAnuff

What did you do after the documentary, otherwise, between say ’82 up to the late 80s?
Well, we used to just hang out in Half Way Tree at Aquarius studio. Waiting for… It was like it was just a make-shift office on the street side. ‘Cos whenever anyone wanted to see a singer we didn’t have an office. So we used to just gather at this place. Skateland is near. Bunny Wailer and… Skateland is there now. But the studio is just beside. So people like Beres Hammond, Ernest Wilson, Richie McDonald, Earl Sixteen, you know wha’ I mean? Many singers used to just hang there. And there was a corner, Chancery Lane, right? It used to be downtown beside Randys record shop – Idlers Rest, right? So when I started hanging out in Half Way Tree after a while, it became the new Idlers Rest – Half Way Tree. That’s where the singers use to congregate now (laughs)! Yes, so that’s what happened. Then after that now I was just hanging out for years and then I got this call and I did a video from one of the tracks off the ‘Diary…’ – ‘I Do Love You’. ‘Cos I went to France in ’85 and I got some money from a guy, and the guy run away. Never heard again from this guy. I did a video, with Carl Bradshaw. He directed the video. Then, this guy in Miami saw it – Skeng Don (Kenneth Black). And he sent for me and when I went there I saw Inner Circle working with this man. So I ended up doing an album again for this other guy.

‘Electric Dread’?
Yeah. With Inner Circle.

But this stint as an actor in ‘Miami Vice’, how did that come about? How did you end up doing that?
Well, it was because of the same occurrence that I told you about. The man who sent for me, because of the video. I went and I was working with Inner Circle and the people from ‘Miami Vice’, they were in Miami as well, right? They know some Jamaican guys who were doing some recording. So they sent to ask if we could send down a couple of singers because they want to give us a part in an episode. So, I went with the Tamlins, and that’s how we cutting it… We did three songs inside there, yeah.

Trevor Douglas aka Leggo Beast

Trevor Douglas aka Leggo Beast

Tell me some about the content of that ‘Electric Dread’ album, and Skeng Don himself? Who was he, he was pretty forward in the business at that time – late 80s?
Well, he’s a Jamaican millionaire. A Jamaican millionaire living in Miami, you know? So he just wanted to do something beca’ he used to keep a lot of sessions with, like, King Attourney (sound system) with Danny Dread (the old Attourney Hi-Fi selector and known for his work with Tony Welch’s Socialist Roots sound, aka ‘Papa Roots’, Junjo Lawes’ Volcano Hi Power and Stur-Mars sound -P) and those guys. Yeah? And U Brown and these deejays… So, he had a love for the music. When he got rich he just wanted to help some of the guys, yunno? By spending back some money in the business. A so it happened.

Skengman had a studio in Miami, what happened to it?
Well, they rented out the studio to some people – Maxine Stowe, Sugar Minott’s wife.

So the album gave you a new start, financially and so forth?
A: Yeah man, we got a nice money… Well, actually that’s the biggest advance I have ever got! For singing an album, y’know. But I plan to release it soon (again), they want it in France as well. I can do whatever I want to do with it. After this I went to Japan to do some work and I came to France, again, and I just kept recording. Me and Leggo Beast (Trevor Douglas) started an album.

I assume at his studio?
Yeah, I’m going to finish it now. I need to do some more songs.

How did you hook up with the current label you’re working with, in France – Makasound?
Me and Earl Sixteen went to do a show for Patate in France. And these guys came. So after I told them they should come to Jamaica – I’d take care of them. They came there and they only have money for a couple of days. I took them to my house, take care of them for, like, two weeks. Take them around the whole a Jamaica. When they were leaving I played the album for them and they were flabbergasted! So I told them to look at this to release it? And them say “it’s difficult”. So I said, “No man, try it!”. And after some nine months they got the deal. So we just took it from there. And I came back and do a tour there with Horace Andy – a 20 city tour. It’s going good, man. And they really did the album good, y’know. I’m really happy. The album is really philosophy, yeah, beca’ we try to keep it in that way, y’know. Some evergreen songs. Straight, original things – we do it to the best, yunno? It’s a proper album, not some overnight thing. It’s from the ’85 days with Congos, and then from the Aquarius tapes…

Winston McAnuff has for various reasons never been magnifying enough to be one of the “written chapters” in the music. But there’s a time for everything, and the time is now for an artist like Winston McAnuff. And the indie Makasound label in Paris has to get a lot of credit for that. He has at this stage – much to the efforts of his record company – built a loyal following in France, in part resulting in Makasounds reissue of the former Top Ranking album ‘Wha A Man A Deal With’ late last year. It was recorded at Channel One with Maxie and Crucial Bunny at the board, the rhythm section consisting of Mikey Ras Star (aka Haile Maskel) on bass and Calvin McKenzie on drums and of course the foundation of the Inner Circle/Fatman Riddim Section – brothers Ian and Roger Lewis, the latter responsible for the production on a whole along with Electric Dread himself. While being in London McAnuff has recorded a couple of one-off ‘s at UK labels like Gussie P and Jah Warrior as well. So the future looks bright for someone we have heard very little of over the course of the past twenty years. ‘Wha The Man A Deal With’ gets my choice between those two Makasound releases, having much stronger material featuring for example Trinity on the extended Bob Andy-penned ‘Unchained’, and including some nice dubs thrown in for extra good measure.