Eek-A-Mouse: Beng! (The Interview)

by Dec 6, 2023Articles, Interview

Eek-A-Mouse Interview

 


Where: Ladbroke Grove, London UK
When: 1983
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.

The following week, after a few phone calls, we arranged to meet for an interview at Eek’s base in Ladbroke Grove, and so it was with great expectancy and not a little curiosity that we (Ray & Colin) headed for W.11.

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.

My Father's Land
What was it released on?
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.

Tommy Cowan?
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.

Creation
Apache?
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.
Yeah man.

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

Creation

No Wicked Can’t Reign

When you first went into the studio for Junjo, that wasn’t the first tune you cut, was it?
No, I cut a few tracks you know like ‘Noahs Ark’ and some of those tunes are on the first album. Is like at the time, I really wasn’t ready yet because I wasn’t really singing over the dancehall and ting, but I start to sing in the dance now, over the dub and ting.

What Sound System did you actually play on at that time?
Gemini, Virgo… Jammy and dem sound… Black Scorpio… And when them playing, lotta people there you know. That means is a good promotion for the artist, although you don’t get no money still.

Have they been letting singers on the Sounds for long?
Well, long that going on you know, yeah man a few years now man – about seven years. It start to get regular now because some say bwoy just sing or deejay for five minutes. It just like ina studio you know, but the record is playing you have the mike ina you hand and you sing. When record finish, you just spin it over ‘pon the second side, and just go on still.

Isn’t that very hard?
No man, it no hard man. Well you just hear riddim playing and you just know what to sing. I mean you just follow the beat. No just DJ control sound system you know, singers too.

Don’t you have to make your words rhyme more as a singer?
Tru, yeah. Is like them say Eek-A-Mouse singjay, but I don’t singjay. I don’t deejay or toast. Is just singers sing. In Jamaica we call them ‘Slurrers’. Is like when a man is singing and him stop sing the lyrics, him just say “La la whooah whoah yeah yeah” But Eek-A-Mouse don’t say that. Is just my style. But a lot of deejay follow Eek-A-Mouse you know, yeah man.”

Do you feel that people like Madoo are influenced by yourself?
Bwoy, it wouldn’t be right to really say that ‘ca when a singer and another singer say you influenced by them, it like him have a jealousy inside him, you know. So anything you say might be right – a just Eek-A-Mouse style.

Are there many other singers in Jamaica who are going to come forward with your style?
Well, there’s a few of them – a lot of them trying to sound like Eek-A-Mouse. They just think I sing in my nose, but I sing from down here – diaphragm and ting – that’s where my singing a come from.”

What do you think of Simple Simon?
That can’t sound like Eek-A-Mouse, that sound totally different.

You seem to be quiet interested in history with tunes like ‘Do You Remember’?
Yeah man, that music now, I sing to make everyman know themself. Ca is not Blackman alone who suffer thru slavery – every different nation – but the Blackman suffer the hardest way. Yeah, everbody was slave, so I don’t want Blackman to get away with it and say “Bwoy, him don’t like Whiteman.” Is a tradition. Some man who is really intelligent and know himself will say everyman a man.

What’s been the response when you’ve been on stage in America?
I do about 4 gigs over there – yeah man, them love me in California man, pure sell out ting, whole ‘eap a crowd, and I didn’t really set high that time.”

Is the Tuff Gong album still going to come?
Well, I didn’t really get the right money, so them just release a single, and tell them don’t release no more ‘ca them don’t come upfront.”

What was all the business about ‘Assassinator’ being pirated?
Well, I ask dem and ting, about the single being in England on Pre-release. So I ask them if they did it, and they said it was piracy so I couldn’t bother deal with them.

I thought that Tuff Gong claimed it wasn’t even released in Jamaica?
No! Tuff Gong released it in Jamaica, but over here it’s piracy, and that Tuff Gong don’t deal with piracy and that I must look into it. But just have to cool off and ting.

Who did you have playing on that?
Radics and Wailers.

That tune had a different sound, was it speeded up?
Well, you see all that now, is like dem didn’t mix it good or speeed it up. But I mix it over the other day and get a fluent sound now. All those tapes in my hands now man, so it should be released and ting.

Assassinator

Wa-Do-Dem

Ganja Smuggling

Has the ‘Wad Do Dem’ album been released in Jamaica?
Yeah, about a couple of months after here, by you know, me want a big company man who can carry my music to all part of the world. I’m not saying the company (Greensleeves) is small, but certain amount of money supposed to know that the producer can be alright.

How about the Linval Thompson album – were you a bit upset over it? Was it a bit rushed?
No, not that still, you know, but that come out too quick. It kinda stope the sales of ‘Wa Do Dem’, but it’s business you know. Bwoy, it’s not say you get your name there regularly, regular – you have to have a standard.

What do you think of artists being over exposed-like Yellowman having 12 albums in one year?
Well that amount gonna kill an artist man. Is like some of the producers them hustling. But is everybody have an LP with Eek-A-Mouse. When I was young, I just think that singing is a singing, but thru I start go overseas now, you find out the business. Is like I’d want to find a big company.”

Someone like Island or CBS?
Yeah, a big company man to carry me name worldwide – ca I’d like to make it big like Bob Marley and them man.

Are you happy with Greensleeves?
Well, I’m not really saying unhappy, but in a way like. Though I’m not saying I underrate Greensleeves. I wanna deal with a bigger company who deal with reggae music and give it worldwide distribution, even promote artists, have posters on the road where you can see all the artists and ting. Have it upfront. I want the artist to elevate – not just a quick money ting. Artist want to see him face upfront, getting your record out with whole heap of promotion and stage show and ting. I come up here and see the business right now and say cho… is like certain money now, not right. Is the producer make the artist know that, you know. They promote your name it you na get no money – is like praise without raise.

In my opinion Greensleeves are doing a good job for you.
True, yeah man, but me just wanna get bigger. Take Junjo. Junjo’s losing now because he have a lot of artists, and when he come, he have several albums to give Greensleeves from various artists.

By this time, Eek had told us enough to have made our journey more than worthwhile. However, you could imagine our surprise when he introduced us to Heny ‘Junjo’ Lawes, who seemed to appear from nowhere. Junjo had plenty to say, but we had another surprise when Linval Thompson walked in. Linval is a very amiable young man – quiet and unassuming, always smiling.

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