Eek-A-Mouse: Beng! (The Interview)
Where: Ladbroke Grove, London UK
Reporter: Colin Moore & Ray Hurford
Photos: Courtesy of the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright: 2023 – Ray Hurford
I first met Eek-A-Mouse at an Eastwood and Saint show at the Venue, even though I’d never seen him before, and didn’t know that he was in town, I knew that the Mouse was in the area as soon as stepped languidly into the dance and stood right in front of me. In build, he’s slim and tall so tall in fact that he completely obscured my view of the stage (and I’m 6′ 4″). So I didn’t bother to approach him at first as he seemed curious to view the London runnings – I just moved to one side to see the stage again. However, it wasn’t long after the Eastwood and Saint session that I spotted Chris Cracknell, chief of the Greensleeves posse, who carried out the formal introductions between Small Axe and the world’s largest Mouse.
Eek-A-Mouse’s temporary address turned out to be a luxuriously fitted basement flat. When we arrived, the front room was stacked with dreads, but within a few minutes, most of them had left, and we settled down to probe the Mouse.
When you first recorded, you sang under real name of Ripton Hylton, didn’t you?
Yeah, my first recording was in 1974, you know, just record as Ripton Hylton, singing name.
The label’s name was Eek-A-Mouse. I and a fellow was producing and ting. He was a teacher. And at the time I was a student at college, so I decide me go into the music business. I was singing just ordinary at those times man, you know. It didn’t sell and ting – is about 500 of each tune we press.
Just a small quantity then.
Just two 45s – ‘My Father’s Land’ and ‘Creation’ – but I was just singing ordinary so I decide to just stop sing and build a style – to sing just like no man.
Who were you influenced by in the early days?
Well, I listen to all kind of musicians, long time musicians man. Man like Ken Boothe and them man, Alton Ellis and John Holt, because at those times and ting, we hear all those men singing as a lickle youth, you always sing along with their tune. I was just singing you know, and I just cut a few tracks for myself as a young writher coming up. And then I just wait until 1981.
How about that record you made in 1978 ‘Wicked Can’t Reign’?
Yeah, was a friend of mine called Tommy and ting.
No man. Tommy Mughead we call him, a friend of mine. At that time, I was kinda getting the style, but I didn’t complete it and ting. And I didn’t sing in the studio again until 1981. I just find myself start singing that style.
How many tunes did you make before 1981?
Well, it was about three – ‘My Father’s Land’, ‘Creation’ and ‘Wicked Can’t Reign’.
‘Wicked Can’t Reign’ that sounded a little like Pablo Moses, don’t you think?
Well at that time, it’s like some people say some of the tune is my tune, and some say I sound like Burning Spear on that record. So I just say cho, I still sound like someone. I just have to find Eek-A-Mouse style ’cause I don’t want wanna sound like nobody. I just mek my style ’cause most time I go to the movie and seel different kind of movie you see Egyptian movie and Chinee movie and you hear some sounds.
Yeah, the Apache style, same time you can just say cho I a build the Eek-A-Mouse style thru I get the vibes you know.
And that style is probably the most original style in the music today, isn’t it?
Yeah man, yeah man.
So how did you come about inventing that style?
Well, when I’m singing and ting, I find myself just different ting like “Biddie biddliebongbong biddiebongbong biddiemin bedamoy bedamendengen beng” And my friend dem get to like it you know, and I just start going on that.
Who was the first producer you used that style with?
Well, hmmm, it was Joe Gibbs you know, ‘ca I recorded ‘Wa Do Dem’ for him first, and he didn’t like the style you know. I waited about five months and tell him that all that music supposed to go out on the road long time because the people dem love it it, when I sing it in a dance hall, you know the crowd always cheer and ting – dem love the music and ting.
So you were playing a lot on the sound systems then?
Not really, you know. In Jamaica, when you have sound systems and ting, you have various entertainer – singers and deejay, and sometimes you just go live pon record.
Which sound do you play most?
Well, I usually go on the ‘Shank I Sheck’ riddim. I usually go on that one all the while ‘Ca the crowd like it and ting. I went to Joe Gibbs and do it live, but he didn’t accept it and he didn’t want to release it although it mix down and ting. So I decide it because it mix down and ting… So I decide mek Junjo Lawes get the music and him release it and get a number one in four weeks.
It sold well over here too.
Where did you get the idea for the tune?
Well, me just get inspiration that tune thru me girl short and me tall. All the time when we walk and ting, people always mek a fun outa we, and I just mek a music about it.
How short is she?
About 4’11”. Not really short, kinda medium tall.
She must have to wear high heel shoes.
Yeah, high heel shoes, she love the high heel shoes, you know.
My Father’s Land
No Wicked Can’t Reign