Interview with Guillaume Bougard (Tabou1)
Since he founded Tabou1 back in 1996, French producer and record label owner Guillaume Bougard has released some noteworthy projects, especially those which came from an exclusive alliance with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Jamaica’s foremost production team. In recent years it were in particular the Bitty McLean albums “Movin’ On” and “Love Restart”, and the dub LPs “Dubrising” and “One Fine Dub”, that attracted worldwide attention. Also his latest project, now with veteran singer Keith ‘Foundation’ Douglas, is a remarkable piece of work in every aspect. Time to have a chat with Guillaume.
INTERVIEW WITH GUILLAUME BOUGARD: “BACK TO FOUNDATION”
It’s quite amazing you did an album with Keith Douglas of 1980s group Foundation as there wasn’t anything heard from Keith Douglas for a very long time. Why did you decide to work with Keith?
I think I was on Facebook and I saw a post about Keith by this guy Rob Dulcemania in America and I thought… WOW! I didn’t know Keith was still around you know. I really enjoyed their three albums they did for Island Records in the late ’80s and mid ’90s. And I remembered watching a video, ‘Deep Roots’ an old documentary on Jamaican music, where Keith was auditioning for Jack Ruby. So I thought: Wow, this is really cool!
How did you make contact with Keith?
I sent a message to Rob, the guy who’d posted the video on Facebook, and he put me in touch with Cecil Campbell. He’s a person who’s involved in the music industry in Jamaica… (and he just found out he’s an official child of Prince Buster!). So, Cecil put me in touch with Keith, because Keith doesn’t have internet and doesn’t have a smartphone… he’s living in the countryside… in the hills in the Parish of St Mary. So, what I did was having a messenger conversation with Keith on Cecil’s computer.
How did Keith react when you approached him? Did he instantly think it was a good idea or was he a bit reluctant at first?
Well, he said… you know… it’s his job, so he’s ready to record. Anytime somebody comes and wants him to record, and agrees on the terms and conditions, he will do it.
Do you know why we haven’t heard that much from him for a such long time?
He hasn’t been active on his own, because it takes money to record and he doesn’t have much money. And he is not used to do recordings over riddims. He likes to have riddims built for his own songs. So he’s trying to work like… nowadays by getting riddims from Vin Morgan from Studio One, with whom he sometimes works together. He hasn’t been really active, because he prefers to go into the studio and record.
Keith Foundation (Photo: Cecil Buster)
Which role played Robbie Shakespeare, with whom you have a long working relationship, in making this project with Keith happen?
Robbie told me that it was cool to do this project. And then I was lucky because Robbie was recording for Zak Starr, Ringo Starr’s son, and himself a badass drummer and guitarist, who has a studio on the north coast of Jamaica in Ocho Rios and was recording top artists, including U Roy, Big Youth and new singers, with top musicians, mostly from Jamaica, but also from New Orleans. So Robbie had a few days left before going back to Florida, and I asked him if he could go in the studio and record with Keith and he said “Sure”. And I said… “Well, can you please ask Horsemouth to do the drums”… because I really like to have Robbie and Horsemouth work together like they used to do when they were working for Jack Ruby. And I already had recorded some songs with Horsemouth, Chinna, Robbie and Robbie Lyn for Scully, and I thought they played wonderful together. And it’s different from the Sly & Robbie sound…
You’re mainly known for working with Sly & Robbie. Can you explain why you didn’t want to do that for the project with Keith Foundation?
I’m interested in exploring different aspects on how Robbie Shakespeare plays with different drummers. When he was playing with the Aggrovators and Santa (Davis) he had a different style than when he played with Sly and a different style than we he played with Horsemouth. Robbie and I are really close and I like to explore the different facets of his talent, you know. So he was able to get a hold of Horsemouth, Chinna and Robbie Lyn, and they went in the studio and did their job.
It must have been a real joy for you to have these legendary musicians involved in this project…
I was so happy to have reunited Horsemouth, Chinna and Robbie. What a fabulous section. Man I feel so blessed to have produced music by this formation!!! Jack Ruby’s productions in the ’70s are the top of the top in Roots Rockers music. One of my top 5 albums is “Jack Ruby Hi-Fi” and to have the nucleus of those musicians is a source of joy and blessings.
Black Disciples: Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, Robbie Lyn, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Robbie Shakespeare
There are only 7 songs recorded for this album. Why weren’t there more tunes recorded?
We didn’t record more than 7 songs, because first of all I didn’t have enough money and that’s a big factor. And usually I like to record an album in two or three sessions, because I found out that when they have done like 5 or 6 songs, they usually run out of steam. And then they need a couple of more days to get their creative juice flowing again. You know, when I did the album with Brinsley Forde, which I haven’t released yet, I saw that he was running out of inspiration quickly. He did 6 songs and then he needed more time to write proper songs after that. So that’s what I did with Keith… you know… we agreed on 7 songs.
So the conclusion is, you didn’t want to it to be a rush job to get let’s say 10 or 11 tracks done, because you’re going for quality, which you only get when you do about 6 tracks within that particular period of time.
Yeah. I thought we would be better off…
Were you there when the songs were recorded?
No, I was in Paris. But even though everything was cool on the phone and everything was cool on video and so forth, I still would like to meet Keith. Face to face, you know.
And talk to him and see what kind of person he is –
– and also what kind of plans he has for his career and how he is going to promote the album and so forth. What really encouraged me with Keith is that… when we negotiated the contract to record the songs he wanted to make sure that I would support a tour… that he would promote the album. And that’s really important, because I’ve had artists in the past who recorded an album and do nothing for the promotion you know. No interview, no video, no nothing.
Keith Foundation (Photo: Cecil Buster)
So, are there any plans to come to Europe to do shows to promote the album?
He would like to come to Europe and tour the US, of course. Right now there’s nothing started as far as looking for a band. It would be too expensive to travel with the band he recorded with. Plus I’m doing other stuff with Sly & Robbie on the road, so Robbie wouldn’t be available anyway. When the album is ready I will talk to a couple tour promoters in Europe… I will talk to a couple of bands that I know, that I think could work well. I think Homegrown in France would be a natural candidate to back Keith. I’m also thinking about Roberto Sánchez from Spain. He’s a good guy, he’s a great producer and he has a great band. It could be interesting if we can find a package that isn’t too expensive for the promoters, because promoters nowadays… they have no money. It’s getting ridiculous. So I have to find a solution that is acceptable.
When you compare the sound of the new Keith Foundation album with the Jack Ruby produced Foundation albums, which had an Island Records type of sound, because they obviously had the intention to reach a wide audience. What’s the difference in sound? Can you explain that?
That’s a very good question… First of all the albums that Island released for Foundation were with Sly & Robbie. Some of the songs were with Cat Coore and Richie Daley on bass, but it still sounds like a Sly & Robbie album to me… like what Gregory Isaacs did… “Private Beach Party”… that type of sound. And that sound is very unique to the late ’80s/early ’90s, when there was nothing but dancehall. But Island still tried to record roots like with Foundation, Donovan, Earth Messengers, Luciano… and all these guys. The sound of 2018/2019 has changed a lot since then, you know. And I didn’t really pay attention to the sound of… I didn’t really tried to differentiate myself from what they had done twenty years ago. I knew the sound I was going to get because of the Scully sessions. And I really wanted to have something that was really raw. And that’s why I didn’t record overdubs with horns or… I didn’t add percussion, I didn’t add layers of synthesizers and all these… because it really didn’t fit what I really wanted to do. I wanted to have the voice, the drum, the bass, and… just the riddim section. So I didn’t put a huge band together… I like it more and more to just have a bare minimum of musicians. not a full band. I have done albums with full bands like Horace Andy when I had two guitars, two pianos, two percussions. It’s a different attitude I guess, we wanted to have.
Do you have plans for working with Keith in the future?
I would like to continue working with Keith, because I have other ideas for him. Other musical atmospheres, other attitude… you know. When I listen to the songs… I love them… I mean I’m really proud of this album. But I keep hearing… I keep wondering how Sly would have sounded. I’m a huge fan of Sly Dunbar obviously. I keep imagining how Sly would have played on that song or this song. I’m really interested in having Sly play on the next songs I want to do with Keith. I will use a different guitar player than Chinna, probably Mikey Chung or one of those guys, to make it a more Taxi attitude.
Does this mean that this album with Keith isn’t a one-off project?
I hope not. I really like how he writes the songs. It’s different from the usual ‘Jah Rastafari, Selassie I’ and ‘Red, Green & Gold’ type of songs, you know. I mean… he seems to be obsessed with… you know… he wrote songs like “Beverly Hills”, and this time he did “Broadway”. He has funny, weird ideas and I’m really interested in exploring those with him a little bit more. And I really like him… he’s really cool, he’s a humble, he understands the reality even though he has no relationship with the rest of the world. Where he lives, I mean… he lives in the jungle with very little… But he is not a bitter person.
You’ve often worked with engineer/producer Gaylard Bravo. Did he also do the mix for this record?
There are a couple with Bravo mixing. The record was mixed in Paris, in the bedroom overlooking our small garden with the windows open!!! No soundproofing, we used our ears to mix the way we wanted it to sound. It was fun.
The album will be out on vinyl and as digital download. Any plans to put it out on cd also?
CD… No, it will only be out on vinyl. I do not intend to release a cd. If I put it on cd there will be only 7 tracks. These 7 songs will be about 45 minutes and that’s a little short for a cd. It wouldn’t be good value for the consumer.