Prince Hammer: Life’s Trials & Tribulations Part 1 (The Interview)
Where: Manchester UK
When: Approximately 2006/2007
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Peter I (Prince Hammer), Pekka Vuorinen (King Tubby), and Teacher (Prince Jazzbo, Lloyd Parks, Mikey Dread)
Copyright: 2022 – Peter I
It’s time to tell the tale of one Prince Hammer and you’ve got one of the more colorful producers, if not even deejays, from the unforgettable era of the 1970s to put the spotlight on. He started as a deejay for the Vee-Jay sound system; cut his debut 45 for legendary producer Glen Brown in the mid seventies; went on to produce himself and others for the Gold Cup and Belva labels like ‘Addis Ababa’ and the majestic ‘Ten Thousand Lions’, the latter a song he sung and perhaps his best known to date; starred in the epic ‘Rockers’ movie alongside ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Gregory Isaacs, Kiddus I and the late Jacob Miller amongst others; found himself producing the classic ‘If Jah Should Come Now’ album for Rod Taylor; had his first LP ‘Bible’ out on Virgin Records’ Front Line subsidiary in 1978; and toured with big names in the pop world such as UB40, The Clash, Boomtown Rats, and The Slits before slowly fading into obscurity in the eighties like so many of his peers from the ‘rockers’ era of the golden previous decade.
So what became of him? Hammer (born Berris Simpson) issued a different mood of an album out of his Manchester base the other year; ‘Back For More’ on the KSJ label features him in a soul style and contradictory of what you might think, the album has met favourable comments and reviews throughout the local reggae music community and associated areas. My thanks to Hammer for an enlightening afternoon, Dom (Blood & Fire), Donovan Phillips, Richard Davies, Steve Barrow, and 354 Skank (for label scans).
You were a child of Kingston City, Hammer?
Yeah, right. Yea, I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, at the Jubilee, Kingston Jubilee Hospital, and I was grown up in the south part of Kingston, which is more like a kind of… more like a ghetto. I’ve been brought up by my grandmother who’s now deceased, y’know, she done a lot of good job with me anyhow, so that’s where my life come from, a lot of my ideal comes from.
The common Christian type of upbringing from those days.
I was brought up in a Christian home, as a Christian lad I used to go to Seventh Day Adventist Church. It’s like I used to go to school wherein we were like God-fearing children from those times and from an early time I got in contact with Rasta, I learned a lot of the Rastafarian faith. Because there’s a place called Rhymeland in Kingston, Jamaica, where a lot of the Rastafarians come from, and that’s in the south side of Kingston. Growing up and seeing those guys on the land, the gullybank, y’know, because they used to have like they sleep in hammocks and all those type of things and so on, so I’ve grown up knowing a lot about Rastafarian faith. And round the back of Tivoli Garden where there’s another place called the Back O’ Wall, where a lot of Rastafarians were, y’know what I mean. Yeah, the environment of the Rastafarian, that’s where my religious culture come from, y’know, my background of being a Rastafarian come from. Growing up and seeing these people, because in Jamaica, right, as a youth growing up, they used to say that the Rastafarian, the Rastafarian people they are like ‘Blackheart’ people. You know, people who suck your blood, like cut… They used to say, well, they would cut your neck, and they’d sprinkle your blood on the rooftops, and so on, to use that like a pulpit to the Almighty.
Looked upon as some sort of ‘voodoo business’, a sect or whatever, bushmen.
Yes. Rastafarian people, yes, that was the way they see Rastafarians. But you know, getting to know these people, that’s giving me a chance to understand a lot more about them. Because you know, I think what they try to do, they try to explain about these people, in their way, to prevent you from getting close to these people so you could understand their religion. You know, because in Jamaica as I said about the God-fearing people, you’ve got the Church of God, you’ve got the Catholic, you know, you’ve got the – all different sector of church bodies in Jamaica. And to them they see Rastafarian people as bad people, because they smoke weed. But what they don’t realise, what they didn’t tell us about, is that these people were serious religious people, who really take their faith very strong and who really mean love, peace, unity, and so on, y’know, amongst every people and every nation. This is what they didn’t told me as a kid, y’know what I mean? But for me going around these people, getting to know them, they give me a chance to know these people and understand the culture more.
Someone in particular who influenced you to approach the Rasta in those days?
Yes, because as I said before, in Rhymeland, Rhymeland is like a big piece of land where it’s like a loose piece of land where people don’t pay taxes or anything like that, yeah? They just go, they just build these kind of a, like, shackhouse, y’know, wooden house or whatever they have to build, whatever they can use to build their houses, yeah?
And that was close to Back O’ Wall?
No. Well, it; s close to Back O’ Wall but it was about two miles from Back O’ Wall, yeah? So it was a lickle different area from, y’know, because Back O Wall is in the west, and Rhymeland is in the south.
But Back O’ Wall is no more, I believe they bulldozed that part sometime in the seventies, even the mid sixties, even a little earlier, to get rid of those that had settled there. It was a bit too rough at that time?
Yeah. Back O’ Wall’s been pushed down now, is like it’s been Tivoli Garden now, and, y’know, it’s been like a lot of different commercial buildings and so on now at the moment, y’know what I mean, business places and all of these type of things now that’s built on the land.
More specifically, why was that part of the ghetto bulldozed at this time?
Because those days, right, what they tried to do as I said to you before, they’ve seen Rasta as people who were bad people, not people who was good people. And in Jamaica those days, in the early sixties, and so on, seventies, if they caught you with just a spliff, you would’ve got eighteen months in jail for it! You understan’? So they see Rastafarian as people that would direct all the good people in the bad direction. And as I said, getting to know these people myself, it would give me a different outlook on these people. I understand that these people were very beautiful people, very good people, good at heart, good at nature – everything. And that is one of the reason why I have really chosen myself as being a Rastafarian. Most of the information as I said is like speaking to these elder dread, because a lot of these were like fifty, sixty year old people, up/down to five year old kids, three year old kids, etcetera. And in Jamaica as a kid, y’know, it’s not like in some state, like most kids stay in their house or stay in their yard and all them type a thing, and so on, and stay close to their home. In Jamaica as a kid, you run up and down trying to make your own, you try to survive in the best way possible, even though you’ve got your own parents trying to help you, y’know, you go about. With like me now, I used to run up and down in the street pickin’ up juice bottle (or ‘bockle’), soft drinks bottle, and I would take them home and so on, and build up an amount of them and then I take them to the shop and go and sell them and I make my pocket money from there, or maybe copper-wire. You know copper-wire, electrical copper-wire? All brass or maybe the lead, all these type a things that would go about in the communities and so on, search out for these things, which I would make my pocket money from. So I’m brought up, I’ve grown up with a lotta knowledge in the ghetto itself, and being a ghetto youth I get to understand a lot more about these people because the more I go amongst these people the more I’ve learnt. But at the same time I was a Christian, going to church, because I’ve gone from Sunday school, y’know, from Church of God Sunday School to Seventh Day Adventist Church, when my grandmother take that religion as a more serious religion than the Church of God religion, and I had to take part and I’m baptised there myself.
What time is this now, like mid sixties?
Yeah, I’m talkin’ about the sixties then. And even when I was a Christian, a baptised Christian, I’m still seeing the Rastafarian faith – because I did admire the Rastafarian people them, and as I said getting to know them and understand what they really stand for, giving me a stronger outlook on their religion and the way they treat people and the way they wanna live their life. And one of the thing is about the way how they treat their family, there was really really a strong family unit in the Rastafarian religion. You know, them gone out to pay them respect, gone out to seek to find the food, to find whatever it might need to survive and to make that family unit strong, and that give me a good outlook as much, you understan’?
So how you began, your first attempt to do something in the music business, this was the Vee-Jay sound system in the early seventies?
Yeah, well, what I used to do…
Or even something else before that?
Yeah, I used to like run around on the sound called Vee-Jay The Dubmaster, and I did a lot of work as a deejay just learnin’, learnin’ my skill and so on, y’know. Because in my community there was a lot of reggae artists who used to live in my community, people like Freddie McKay, Dirty Harry (Richard Hall), Glen Brown, and there were a few people from my ghetto who naturally I used to see passing there and I used to admire them all the while, yunno. But as a kid growing up in Jamaica, right – this is a story for you to know; as a kid growing up in Jamaica, I was mesmerized by the record itself, y’know, the plastic record, the seven-inch record. Because on the radio itself, because in Jamaica in those days we used to rent radio, and you used to have a radio called Rediffusion, which my granny would’ve rent the radio and pay the rent every week or whatever time she paid. And I was amazed, ’cause I always think that people always go to the radio station and sing over the mic, singin’ from the radio! I didn’t know it was like a record itself, plastic, that’s played every day! I just think that people go there every day and sing, sing, sing! You know, different people (chuckles).
But then they open up a bar in the community I live in, y’know, they open up a bar, and in that bar there was a jukebox and this is where I get more mesmerized with this thing. Because when I went in and seeing this jukebox and realised to myself that there’s a plastic there, and I said to myself, seh ‘Wow, this is really really amazin’, because these people’s voices is in this box, and they’re at their homes!’ You know? They’re miles away from these boxes and their voices is in this box and it’s making noise, it’s singin’, it’s doing everything, and I was like ‘Wow, wow, wow! I wanna be that, I wanna be that, I would like my voice to be there as much’, you know what I mean, in a box playing and I’m at my home! So I’ve grown up just really mesmerized with everything around me, everything seemed so unnatural instead of natural.
Yeah, and I was fascinated by seeing these things happenin’, because imagine to see you’re miles away and your voice is miles away from you but yet still it’s making noise ’round there and you’re saying something beautiful, y’know. And I was unhappy about that, so I said to myself ‘One day, one day I would like my voice to be on a record like that’. This is late sixties, that time.
In the time of Stitt, Machuki, Sir Lord Comic, before U Roy changed the whole scene for deejays.
In those days you had like Alton Ellis, Bob Andy, Derrick Harriott, Prince Buster, all these guys, these guys were really really making up a lotta noise those times.
But if we speak deejays?
In deejays? Well, in deejay terms is like U Roy, I Roy, y’know, (Prince) Jazzbo, a lot of these other guys, y’know wha’ I mean, used to be there in them times. But as the years go by you find seh there’s different people who come up gradually like Big Youth, Dillinger, Clint Eastwood, all of those guys come in a different era.
What was the deejay that appealed to you in those days?
Well, it was Big Youth anyhow, because we were very close. Big Youth and U Roy, those were my two main deejay anyhow. Because U Roy were the king of deejays anyhow, but Big Youth really come and really did so well.
He revolutionised the style, the whole deejay format, and paid special attention to the lyrical department, to bring in a cultural and social content.
Yes, it was more like a sing-jay instead of a deejay, you understan’, a kind of a sing-type of a deejay instead of a straight deejay type of style. And that was pretty cool, because he give you somet’ing different from what U Roy used to be doing.
And he had something to say too.
Yes, like the ‘S 90′ and all them type a skank and so on, what he did, he did some really really nice songs at the time. And I was like a ghetto youth growing up, I just admire these people an’ everyt’ing, because Big Youth was a good friend of mine. As a ghetto youth growing up I always get the chance to know these people, I always tried to kinda get close to these people, trying to see them, trying to know who they are. And Big Youth was just about half a mile from where I live anyhow, so it wasn’t very hard for me to get to know these people. But as we go back to whe you said before, about my first record. Glen Brown was the person who I mention, y’know, I have asked permission to record my first song with.
How did you first get to meet him, he found you in session at the Vee-Jay sound system, and that’s how you hooked up to do the record?
No, he – as I said, he lives in the ghetto, in the south part of Kingston as much, and I live in the south, so it was very easy for me to see these people almost every day, every other day I would see these people, right. And one day I just go up to him and I tell him that I got this song called ‘(A Whole Lotta) Sugar Down Deh’, and a next other song called ‘Tel Aviv Rock’.
Right, take a listen to this (playing ‘Whole Lot of Sugar’ off the now deleted Glen Brown-anthology ‘Dubble Attack – The Original Pantomine Deejay Collection’ on Greensleeves/Shanachie, issued in 1989).
That’s the one! ‘Whole Lotta Sugar’, that’s the one.
That’s the one, great song.
Yes. At that time Keith Hudson – you remember Keith Hudson?
He was a part of my ghetto too as much, and Keith Hudson used to do a lot of things around Glen Brown as much, so I get to know Keith Hudson very well, very very well. We were very good friends before he died and everyt’ing. So my first two records came from, y’know, just inspiration being in the ghetto myself amongst people who’s usually just nice people, and getting to know these people, and these people giving me the chance that I really wanted, y’know what I mean, was to be the star.
Who was the resident deejay for Vee-Jay before you came there, who was owner for that sound by the way?
The guy’s called – that’s what his name is, we always call him ‘Vee-Jay the Dubmaster’. Yeah. And he was the number one, the sound’s named after the guy himself, yeah.
He was the deejay for the sound too?
Well, I was one of the number one deejay, right.
But before you came there?
Before I came there, I can’t remember the guy’s name now, because it’s been so long now. But there was other people who used to just like run around. There wasn’t any permanent deejay, because there was just people who just come and they would’ve just gone on the sound and just do whatever they need to do. Everybody would take a chance and get up there and said ‘C’mon tonight, I’ll go tonight an’ do somet’ing’, y’know. But I was one of the most popular guys being there with him, I’m always gone and I always stick around with him, because he live about three-four minutes from my house. So it was very easy for me to go there and especially on Sundays and practice, y’know, when the sound would’ve been stringed up in the yard – this is a big concrete yard and everything, and he would’ve just put all these big massive boxes out and everything like that, and I would’ve just gone there, and just really really do my style there and everything like that. Just try to improve as days go by.
But Vee-Jay is not one of the sounds you hear much about from those days, it was more of a small local affair, just a small community sound system?
No, it was a popular sound, very very popular, he was one of the biggest sound in Kingston. Yeah.
When did he stop playing out with that sound? He hasn’t been in business for many years now?
He stop playing about – in the early nineties. Yeah, early nineties, that’s when I think he kind of, like, I don’t know if he sell out the sound or what he did, but I think it’s the early nineties he stopped play anyhow.
Is he still there in Jamaica?
I suppose the sound is still around, but maybe he sell out all those equipment now. But those equipment was like volt, big valve equipment. No computer or anything like that was around them times, so it was like volt amps. The amplifiers were built with these massive volt amps inside of them, y’know what I mean, like 78 volts, massive volt with them, which give the sound so much power. That’s why so much people, even now the sound system guys them would rather if they were using these type of amplifier more than the one they’re using now. Because those amplifier last for years and years and years, and you get a better sound and quality from those type of amps than you get from these ones now.
Did you guest on King Tubby’s sound in that time?
Well, with King Tubbys, right, I’ve known him even before he start up with sound system or even before he get into the recording business. He used to be in the same part of the South Side like me. There was a guy called Chin, all over as young boys we used to hang about right at the shop on Maiden Lane and Law Street, we all used to hang out at that shop, yunno, as group and group of guys and so on, and that’s where King Tubby used to come all the time. And those times, in those days it was Quickly bike, the bike them call ‘Quickly’, those lickle slim motorbike whe sound like ‘aaaeeerrrhhh aaaeeerrhh’, y’know, those were the bikes. And King Tubbys had one of them, and King Tubbys used to be a part of that community itself. But when he moved from the South Side and go to the west, in Waterhouse, where he passed away, and had his business place and so on, that’s when he build the sound system, King Tubby’s (Home Town) Hi-Fi. You know, that’s when he build that sound, and most of his time he used to play at the PNP headquarters, PNP headquarters in South Camp Road. I remember one night I was in the dance and there was a lot of problems there, gunshots and all these type a things, and there was a wall, a massive wall, a block o’ wall had fell down on this lady’s leg, and really really smashed her leg, and all these type a t’ing happen to her, y’know wha’ I mean, she was really really pinned down. You know, because a lot of people were running left, right and center, and that was the first time there was ever being a problem in a dance where King Tubbys had been playing, because it was the leading sound. But Tubbys was a very very good guy, very lovely guy, very quiet, y’know. Because I knew his sister, I know his niece, and so on, because his sister used to live on the same lane, Foster Lane, that I used to live on. So we was living on the same lane, his sister, so that’s how I get to know him, y’know, a lot. My chance of getting to know King Tubbys is because he is coming to his sister’s house there, and I get to know him a lot better. But then again, with him sparrin’ around Chin and all these guys, yunno, at Maiden Lane and Law Street, they used to have a kind of a crew, and the crew’s called Wires, it was ‘Wires’. At that time you used to have another gang called the ‘Max Gang’. Max, and they came from Rosemary Lane, and you had another gang called Skull, and the Skulls just come from… just South Side guys, y’know. But they were like political guys, so one side was like PNP and one side was like JLP. You know, Jamaica Labour Party and the other one is People’s National Party which is the parties in Jamaica, the two important parties in Jamaica. So one side would’ve been like, there would’ve been like one road would have been a border between the two sides, the Skulls and the South Side. So, that’s how it used to be. Growing up in the ghetto them times I get to know these people, because my grandmother used to, she used to push up handcart, makin’ ice-cream in this bucket, we used to kind of, like, turn the bucket with a handle kind of thing to make ice-cream, and she used to make like coconut cream, soursop cream, papya, and all a these type creams, y’know, rum and raisin and all that. And we used to get up like five o’clock in the morning and go down to the South Side, on the Skull side – the guys them from the Skull gang, down their side, and we used to go to the ice factory down there and buy crushed ice and coarse salt, which we used to use in the bucket to – at the side of the bucket, a part of the bucket, to make the ice cream and so on. So, with me growing up in the ghetto with my granny moving around, we used to push all these handcarts and I walk there beside her, and I get to know these guys by walking around in the community myself with her, y’know.
Yeah. Speaking about all these gangs that move around in Kingston, for outsiders who didn’t experience this, what was the vibe like to go into a dance at the weekend to enjoy yourself for a while, to even feel secure when you have those gangs coming in, it’s like ‘am I safe here?’, you know what I mean? This was the reality of Kingston nightlife at the time anyway. Not saying it is specifically something that belongs to Jamaica though, it happens all over in one way or the other, but due to the political circumstances, it was heavier than most places at the time.
Yes. Well, you see, things and times change, y’know what I mean, because you see at the moment now it’s like there’s not a borderline now, everybody’s going into each community at the moment now. The communities is properly open now, y’know, everybody’s going left, right and center now, so it’s all a lot better than before. You know, even though there’s still a bit of a tension, people have eyes on each other same way. But what they had before, which is more like every day war, it’s not there anymore. It’s like a more like a unity type of a t’ing now, but I’m still a bit of aware, aware of still a few, you understand what I’m saying? I knew one of them. But I’ve grown up knowing these guys and knowing these gangs and so on in the community, before I get to even know these guys, which is knowing them in a more better way. You know, people I can go up to and talk to, but when I was younger with my granny now I used to like pass and I could know by just seeing them, and not really get to relate with them. But as you grow up as the years go by and you get more bigger, you get more time and more access to these people and get to know them a lot better. Because we all go to the same seaside anyhow, y’know wha’ I mean, in Jamaica everybody go to the same and have a swim and so on. And in that part of the ghetto where I lived there, all of the seaside is down that side. You know, most of the popular sea, everybody go to those sea, so we all meet up at the same sea and the same water and we get a mix-up an’ (chuckles) talk to each other and so on. So, yeah, we get to know each other better as the years go by.
In that environment, living in a place like South Side, Gold Street and Maiden Lane and so on, how difficult was it to not be drawn into the gang mentality and that whole scene, to avoid something that more or less controls the community, like parts of it?
You feel the pressure to take side, or you more or less have to in the end, is that the vibes you had in those days?
It was very difficult, because in those times they used to say, like them woulda say ‘Find a gear’. You know, ‘What side are you on?’, right. ‘Find a gear!’ So it’s either you’re on the right or you’re on the left.
You just had to choose.
But, you see, you don’t have to choose because it’s down to how you live amongst people anyhow still, because you can walk away from things. But then again there’s people who’s always trying to draw you into things, you see, and that’s how it happened, it happen to me just as much. You know, there’s people trying to drawing me into gang wars and all them type a things and so on, because the ghetto is like that. You know, it’s either you be with them or you’re against them.
You know, it’s either you find yourself mix up with what they wanna do, or what they’re doing, or you go somewhere else and live somewhere else in the community where you feel you won’t get involved. And even when you move to another side of the country or another side of the community, if it’s not really the posh part of the community, you’d find yourself to get involved. Because almost everywhere in those days, those times in Jamaica, they used to be the same. It used to be like war, war, community war everywhere, whether east, west, north or south. So, y’know, if you’re in a posh community then you have a very good chance of not really getting too involved. But if you live directly in the community itself, which is a ghetto, then you’d find that you meet these people every day, it’s either you’re with them or you’re against them as I just said.
Daughter A Whole Lotta Sugar Down Deh
King Of Kings
African Iron Gate
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?
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.
That was the link.
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.
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.
No, I start off with Berris Simpson, my right name.
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.
Yes. Well, you see, they used to call me ‘Jah Berry’.
So you are the one who cut tunes for Roy Francis’ label Phase One, as Jah Berry?
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’.
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.
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.
He played melodica, that was his trademark.
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.
Augustus Pablo for instance, ‘Java’ and all that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So what became of those Glen Brown records at that particular time?
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…
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.
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.
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.
It’s still in demand, so I guess it’s more a question of time, ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
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.
Did you record more than those two tracks for him?
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.
I suppose you recorded at Tubby’s studio with Glen?
They were recorded at King Tubby’s studio, in Waterhouse. Yeah.
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.
You performed together on his artist showcase, like.
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…
You recall the band backing you on that occasion?
It was We The People Band.
OK, Lloyd Parks.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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…
Something more recognisable, outstanding, like, ‘catchy’?
Yeah, a more ‘attacking’ type of a name, like some cowboy.
Because them time Clint Eastwood and…
Trinity, Dillinger, outlaw names.
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’?
Absolutely, where you played a part.
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.
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?
Yes, Gold Cup label.
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’.
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.
Who backed you up on those two?
Those were the Revolutionaries.
Right, which was basically Sly & Robbie.
Yes, not Sly & Robbie…
Sly and Lloyd Parks?
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.
The congregation of musicians at Joe Gibbs’ studio used to be called the Professionals, often led by Lloyd Parks at the time.
The Professionals, yeah. You know.
But who played that lead guitar riff on ‘Addis Ababa’, that kind of rock-styled stuff?
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.
And they were recorded around 1977 or thereabouts?
Where did you get that name ‘Gold Cup’ from? Like from a deejay competition at the time, I seem to remember there was one of those in Kingston, a competition, it was named Gold Cup as well, right?
No, it was just something that come to my head, y’know, and a Gold Cup is something that everybody would like to win! You know, so I think that would’ve given my label a good chance.
Because if you run… because as a youth all I wanted was like to be a athletic type of person, and so on, in sports and all type a t’ings, which I never get a chance to. So this give me a chance now to build a label called ‘Gold Cup’, y’know what I mean (laughs)! So I did that.
Right, a connection to sports.
You set up a shop on your own at this time too.
Where was it located?
That was on Orange Street and it was called ‘Prince Hammer Records’. But then I had a friend like Prince Far I, and Prince Far I didn’t have anywhere where he could be like distributing his songs from and so on, and he ask me permission if he could kind of, like, join up with me. And I said OK, yes, then I change up the name of the shop from ‘Prince Hammer’ to ‘Prince & Prince Records’.
How long did the shop last?
That shop was there for about – maybe for about a year and a half, or maybe two years, somet’ing like that. And the reason why the shop went down and never really worked, it was workin’, it was doing fine, but because I was gettin’ like a lot of contacts from abroad, everywhere, coming there, y’know, letters from fans, etcetera, etcetera. But I came to England and did a tour with Adrian Sherwood…
Yes, we’re coming to that.
OK. But when I went back to Jamaica, when I went back to Jamaica, the bailif people – because I had a sound system box outside, and this massive, loud speaker, y’know those big panny (?) type of a speaker, yeah? And that was a upstairs/downstairs place, and downstairs it would have to be a big 15″-inch box, and upstairs I have got this massive speaker blaring straight up Orange Street (laughs)!
How about the neighbours (chuckles)?
Well, they didn’t mind anyhow, because Jamaica is what it is, innit, and it’s all about music, innit (chuckles)?
And I wasn’t disturbing what wasn’t disturbing enough to really get thrown out or anyt’ing like that, and I was paying my bills and everyt’ing, and so on, so I think I was OK there. But when I came over here, when I came over here to do some pieces of business – to England, and when I went back to Jamaica, Prince Far I didn’t pay the rent, because I had another guy in there called John Dread who… what I did, I was manager/director of the place, Prince Far I was like manager, and John Dread was like foreman. But Prince Far I did not pay the rent, he wanted was to like take money from the business and John wouldn’t let him take the money from the business, y’know, John Dread wouldn’t let him take any money ‘No, no, no – no money cyaan move from this place ’til Prince Hammer come!’ And the rent never pay, etcetera, and when I went back to Jamaica, there’s some Bailey’s people, y’know, receiver people went to my place, and took my speakers and with some pieces of things that they took from there. Because what I tried to do, I was trying to turn that place into, like, different section of business. You know, one section was gonna be like a bar, y’know, we have a section which was a record shop section, and there’s an office section, and there was another section whe I wanted was to turn into harbodashery (9-11 style) type of a t’ing, where we sell like crackers, plates, spoons and cups an’ anyt’ing to do with utensils, etcetera, etcetera.
For the household, yeah.
Yeah. So I was trying to divan this place to a big standard, on the steps, coming up the staircase, on each step there’s an artist name on each one of those steps coming right up the staircase, that’s the way I designed the place. On the inside of it, it would’ve been Alphabet, y’know, like A, B, C, one, two, three – mathematics, and all these type a t’ings on the wall. Because, where the shop was is a part of the community where most of the people come to take buses, like the kids them when they leave school in the evening, they have to take bus right outside my business place. And that would’ve given them a chance to still keep their knowledge going by coming into my shop, once they come in there it’s still educational for them! So that’s why I designed the inside of the shop that kind of a way, for when they came inside the brain would be still kickin’ over watchin’ all these type of a mathematics on the wall and these kind of a English literature on the wall, etcetera. So that’s the way I designed it. But with these people coming to my shop and taking things from my shop, I was really really down. My pride, y’know, really just went. Because I’m a proud person, very very proud. And to know that people come into my shop and took things the way they did, I just smashed the place up, call in people from outside the street and tell them to take what they want from the shop. And I just smashed up an’ give away and throwing away things an’ shut down the place and called it a day with that. ‘Cause I was pretty annoyed with the fact that my business was going so good, yet other people that I was dependin’ on was to help develop this place, the person that I’ve given a chance to help develop my business, y’know, let me down. So I wasn’t happy with it at all, I just said ‘goodbye’ to the business there. But still continue making my records, pressing 7″-inch singles, with a bag on my shoulder, with my bike, riding from record shop to record shop and jus’ dropping off records all over the community in Kingston.
Such a shame it went that way, because becoming independent and producing your own stuff, you either need an outlet like a sound system or a record shop, as a reliable outlet for the records.
Yes, that’s one of the reason why I develop my shop, because that would’ve given – as I said to you before – I was gettin’ a lot of fan-mails from Germany, all over the place, people gettin’ to know the shop writin’, askin’ to send them stuff, etcetera, all different type a record. Whatever they can’t get anywhere, they would’ve to call us and ask us to maybe get these records for them and post it, mail it back to them, which we used to do. We used to get mail in the post from people, you understan’, because, remember, England was one of the biggest outlets for reggae music still inna those days as much, right. Germany was not as big but they was pickin’ up a lot, Holland was another place that was really doing well. America was like ‘uh-uh, uh-uh’ type of a like a on-and-off type of a t’ing, it was just trying to get to know the music, y’know, America. So it was chance for everybody who wanted was to get to know the music, there was a chance for them to really get to know us, for us to get to know them, for them to get the chance to understan’ what we doing, and why we do what we do. So we was gettin’ fans, people – beca’ in those days a lot of tourists used to come to Jamaica, because it wasn’t really over the board with political violence or anyt’ing like that, and so on, so there was a lot of tourist jus’ walkin’ up an’ down locally, in the community – everywhere! And these people would’ve come to my shop, and people would’ve introduced other people and tell other people when they go back to their own countries.
How did they take off, the Gold Cup records? To get a seller you need space in the media, and radio was crucial as a platform to establish a new record. But you had a lot of hustle with ‘payola’ – the ‘pay-off’ system – in Jamaica in those days, didn’t you?
It wasn’t like that. In truth, right, in Jamaica, you could just go to the radio stations those days, yeah, and leave your records at the desk, ask them to give it to this DJ or that DJ, whoever it may be, somebody you might recognise or admire, and you’d listen the radio and you’d guaranteed you’ll hear your song. Is not like you would have to go and pay these people money for these people to play your records, but that was happening as much. People would pay people to get their music plugged as many times as possible. So for a young guy like me, a young producer and a young entertainer coming up in this business, I’ve learned what door to go through by askin’ questions from bigger people, like people like Gregory Isaac, and I’ve learned a lot through these people. So, yes, you could’ve gone through radio station them times, and you would’ve given the people the records there, and they would’ve played them. Now it’s a lickle bit different, because now a lot of people are trying to get their record played on the radio now, but most people would have to pay. But still they do the same thing now, they still play your records without even that you pay any financial to get it played on the radio. Because if a record is good in Jamaica, once it start play on the sound system, in the dancehall, these people will have to take it up and play it. They’ve got no choice, you see. So it’s not like in England, this country, where you have to go to like Radio One and all these places and so on, they would have to listen to all your songs, like put it all in category A, B, C, these songs play ten times of the day, this one only play two, this one only play once. It doesn’t work like that in Jamaica. You can go and you can see somebody and you can get your things played and you can get a few things a play on the radio, and you can get as much play on the radio, independent of what kinda relationship and what your label is really doing.
Who used to play your stuff back in those days?
You used to have like Mikey Dread – ‘Dread At The Control’.
Right, JBC as it was known as back then (since the eighties an amalgamation with RJR), the first really serious (reggae) music program in JA.
Yeah (laughs)! He was the top guy, and he was a community guy too. You know, I could’ve gone to him and said, well, ‘I’ve got this record, yunno’. I gone up to BBC Radio – sorry, to JBC Radio, and leave my records there for him to play, and he would’ve played it. But those days, it was different, different DJ’s anyhow, and as I said to you before, these people would’ve played these songs. Because if you make good songs they will play them, that’s how they do it in Jamaica. Once your song is very good and they admire you for what you are, or you got respect in the community, is no need for them not to play your song.
But you did switch from the ‘normal’ type of deejay approach on ‘Lord of Lords’ for example, to an early kind of sing-jay style on ‘Addis Ababa’, how did you come up with this at the time?
Yeah. Because you used to have people like General Echo – you remember General Echo?
Yes, he died. Used to be quite slack in his day.
He used to do a slacky music and all type a t’ing, right, we were very close too as much, friends, and he was doing very well them times. But what I wanted was to do, I wanted was to change the deejay style a bit, instead of doing the kind of a style of a deejay whe I used to do earlier on, I said I would’ve tried somet’ing different, and I’ve tried to move my tongue in a different position, to kinda get a different flow on the record itself, and that’s how I come up with these styles. ‘Cause I found meself – the reason why I did it, it was Techniques had a record shop on Chancery Lane, you remember Chancery Lane used to be called ‘Idler’s Rest’?
Right, and they and a sound system there once playing, and I went on the sound system, and I was really doing these type of a style, and them said ‘wow, wow!’ And everybody was like ‘hey, hey, hey!’ You know, it was somet’ing new to them all, y’know wha’ I mean (laughs)? And that’s where I developed that style from, you see. Because if there was any interest, I wouldn’t have really, maybe, tried to do it anyhow. But because there was so much excitement about this style and the way how I was really doing my thing, everybody was happy for me doing it, and I was happy myself getting response from all these people. So I developed that stye for myself, and other people catch on from it then anyhow.
If we speak deejays technically and otherwise, how would you define what’s ‘good’ deejaying?
Uh, right. A good deejay, a good deejay is somebody who really write good lyrics, y’know, whe the lyrics really really have a good meaning, good understanding. Because you can chat anyt’ing, yunno, ‘ey didley, the cow jump over the moon’, etcetera. And some of these t’ings, they’re just gimmickal, right, but in earnest, they’re really – people take onto these people, because it’s what they’ve been taught in school. But, if you really really wanna be a good deejay, you gotta write reality songs. You know, really good meaning about what life really give, what it’s really entail, what life really mean, and that’s what I think a good deejay is, writing about your lifestyle, about other people’s lifestyle, about the sufferin’ you go through. And not just sufferin’, but all the good things you go through as much, your schoolin’, etcetera. Because life is a very funny thing, and there’s a lot of different words out there. But words have meanin’, and they can be good meanin’, and they can be stupid meaning. But then again, sometimes people don’t just listen to the words of a song, they listen for just a instrument in a record, and they dance from the instrument itself. So in every song there is something that a person listen for, or look forward to, in a song. Because most of the songs now, once they go on the record table, just the introduction alone, you can know what the song is coming on, because there is something to give you a hint, say ‘oh, that’s that song’. You know, either a keyboard, a saxophone, maybe just a guitar sound, or maybe a drum roll or somet’ing, just to introduct the song. And you can say, well, ‘oh yeah, I know which song is coming on next’. So to be a good deejay, you gotta write good lyrics, being constructive with yourself. If you wanna be gimmickal it’s so good too, you understan’, because at least you must be happy for really doing gimmick songs. And if you’re happy doing that, then naturally you’re a good deejay, because that’s all yourself, that’s how you feel yourself. You can only go by what your heart says to you. But I think the original deejays are the best of the deejays anyhow.
Nowadays they just seem to go on a riddim and shout whatever they have to say, constructive or otherwise, and don’t have much sense of what’s beneath them, what is backing them. While the foundation deejays had often more sense of the feel, what was backing them, the rhythmic structure, the melody, in comparison.
Of the original? Yes, that’s what I said to you before, if you listen the sound it’s different, because you can choose the words properly, you can listen properly, you can catch the words very properly. Because all words were really put in the right position, or really take time to put on that record. With these deejays now, they’re doing a lot of good, because I’ve listened to them and I’m very proud of them as much, very very proud. Because they’re writin’ some good songs these people, really really sit down and listen what they’re writin’, they’re writin’ a lot of good songs. But they have really diluted the record itself by doing these kind of a, like, slacky type of a music. You know, about women, about what they’re doing to woman, and what they expect a woman to do to them, etcetera. And you’ve got to really – either you go back to your real self, because one of the time, yunno, they was talkin’ so much about guns and all these type a t’ings on the record, that’s in Jamaica the people them start to protest about it. And even in England, they wouldn’t play the records them if they are talkin’ about guns and all these type a t’ings, because it was really establishing a lot of bad people, it was makin’ bad people. Because people adapt things, yunno, and you look up to a artis’ for direction, an artist is like your mentor, somebody you put your trust into, your faith – your everything. You listen to this guy, yunno, ‘this is my artist, man – whatever he say, that’s what I do’, y’know. And if you say good things, then they will follow good things. So that’s why in those days, when the record was all about guns and guns and guns, gun this an’ gun that, they would’ve, y’know – a lot of radio station, a lot of people in Jamaica say, ‘Alright, c’mon, cut it out, cut it out!’ Because it’s not doing any good! It only created more war, because a lot of people would be getting hurt, because all you were talkin’ about is really madness and badness. So people kinda try and changed their style, and they changed their style to girls, and talkin’ about girls, girls, girls! ‘Girls that, girls this, girls haffe do this to me, girls haffe do that to me’, and it’s really good in a some sense because, really and truly, all the girls them love it (laughs)! Because they’re talkin’ about them! So, if you talk bad about girls, they love it. If you talk good about girls, they love it. If you’d talk good about them, they’d love it, yunno. But if you notice like people like Buju Banton, he start off talkin’ about girls, and he changed to reality. You know, more Christianity, more cultural, because that’s the right way to go! If you read the bible, the bible’s gonna tell you to do good. If you read like a fictional type of a story, it might be throwin’ you a lot of stupid things about you, you can fly to the moon and all them type a t’ings, which you can’t do. You can’t just get up and just walk outside and say ‘I’m gonna fly straight to the moon now!’ It doesn’t work, something’s gotta take you up there. So you really gotta put your ideas right, which way you wanna go. But then again, every deejay can’t be the same, beca’ everybody singin’ culture, if you want everybody singin’ Christian lyrics, and so on, because there is wider market out there, and the market is more wider now for girl lyrics, for lyrics with girls. Even though it’s changing a lot now, because a lot of people now do want to hear a lot more about culture. So the lyrics is changin’ a lot now and a lot of these deejays now, they’re singin’ song about their mother, and say ‘Mommy, I love you, thank you for takin’ care of me, carrying me for nine months’, y’know. ‘I’ve got so much love for you, mommy, even though you die and you gone away, I miss you so much’, all them type a t’ings, these are the type of lyrics that people are singin’ now, which is more to the heart, more than just chattin’ out of your head. Because you wanna make quick money. So it’s more constructive lyrics now than diluted lyrics. Beca’ if you dilute yourself, yunno, the drink will only taste a lickle all right, but if you put the right stuff to it, the right ingredients you put in it, you’ll get the right taste. Now, a lot of the deejays now are changing their style. And then again now, is like the public themselves now changin’ too as much. Because what they want now is the original lyrics from the seventies and the sixties, they’re askin’ for these records. These records are so much in demand now that every record company, or most record companies you’re talkin’ to now, they says ‘have you got something from the sixties, have you got something from the seventies, have you an abum from that time?’, etcetera. Because these are the records that’s sellin’ more now than the records that’s making now, because everybody’s saying the same thing now. Those days everybody was saying something a lickle bit different, you see.
Different level of creativity, perhaps even ‘higher’.
(Part 2 of the interview is coming soon)