Carlton “Tetrack” Hines: Let’s Get The Story (The Interview) – Part 2

by Mar 6, 2024Articles, Interview

Interview with Tetrack Part 2


Where: Somewhere in the US
When: About 2011
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Carlton Hines, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2024 – Peter I

In part two of the interview Carlton Hines talks about the work you do as an artist, the lyrics of a song, Paul Whiteman aka Paul Blackman, Augustus Pablo, the ‘Let’s Get Started’ album, Artistic Productions, and much more.

I saw something on telly the other day with a seasoned actor commenting on ‘new acting’, he felt the new ones were just rushing to the ‘last syllable’, and it is sort of the same with modern Jamaican music, it is a rush of energy and they stuff too much words in there – they don’t seem, too often, to give it the ‘space and time’ it deserves. How do you see the development?
Well, clearly, in order to really accept new things you usually compare it with the old. It’s usually difficult to accept change, especially radical change. From an artist/producer’s point of view, and with regards to Jamaica, there are still some very good talent around. They’re dedicated to their craft, they take pride in the quality of their work. Of course you understand that you have to keep in mind the availability of financial resources. Right now I think people are focusing a lot on what they think can work, or what can sell, or hit. I believe that some of the artistry has been lost because of the overwhelming desire to get something marketable. That is a dilemma for most artists and producers because success is measured primarily by how much money you earn and the quality of the work doesn’t seem as important.

Can you look back to whatever you can remember, what was the thoughts in the market, overall, it was pretty much the same, looking towards the ‘this will sell’ aspect, or more something they really felt like doing, that the public should take part of and experience?
Well, I think that all of the producers and artists had an eye out for that. Coxson, Duke Reid, all of them, they were thinking about the marketability as well. After all music is a business. However, what I think happened is, they did not lose sight of the “quality” aspect. They were still keen on getting good songs. I was listening to an interview with Sugar Minott recently. He was talkin’ ’bout his early days in the business and Studio One’s role. Now you know that Sugar is the godfather of the dancehall singers and going on riddims that have already been used. He raised a very important point. He said that in his early days at Studio One he used to selec’ riddims from Coxson’s archives. He knew all the tuff riddims. And he told Coxson Dodd: “You don’t have to make any new riddim for me. I already have songs for all of these.” From that came classic Sugar tracks like ‘Vanity’, ‘Never Gonna Give Jah Up’, ‘Mr DC’, and all these songs. Producers saw the success of that approach. Besides it was the most economical way for a producer to test the ability of a new artist. Nevertheless, the artist ultimately has the responsibility to constantly strive to achieve that balance between marketability and quality. The work you do as an artist is a reflection of you, some way, some how.

And that in itself is a process where you have to compromise a lot, isn’t it?
Yes! Definitely. And one thing too, back in the days there seemed to be what one could call a ‘friendly rivalry’ that existed among artists. When the Paragons put out a song, the other groups around want to release something that is as good or better than that. There apparently was this pride, y’understan’ (chuckles). Their song must be able to compete in every way. The same thing I believe applied to the solo artist. That is just how it was. In my view they used to ‘push’ each other and it kept the standard of the music high. It was just a t’ing.

That sort of ‘striving’ for quality back in those days, isn’t that a bit lost in this time? That kind of competition, what you spoke about before, it’s so totally different now, isn’t it?
Yeah. All right, let me tell you something now. A lot of people might disagree with what I’m about to say, but as a writer and as a producer, I have a different perspective of the music than a consumer. I can also see it from the point of view of the consumer, but I can see aspects of this that the consumer wouldn’t ordinarily see, ’cause that is not their forte. All right, I would tell you for example that I find dancehall music to be very creative – and you’d say “Oohhh, how can you say that?!” – but I find it very creative. I see an improvement, I’d say I see a different level than it once was, like when U Roy had some classic songs. But that was U Roy freestyling on some riddims. Nowadays you see dancehall artis’ doing songs with solid verses, chorus, harmonies and all that – that is a whole different thing. Now, one of the problems I think is that people sometimes, because they don’t like the content of the song, they cannot see anything creative or musically artistic about it. But as a writer I can see that. For example, whereas some people would find the content of a song offensive, if you were to look at it objectively jus’ from a point of view of the writing and the melody and the production, it’s top notch work! Y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’ (chuckles). And it sounds like a contradiction, it sounds like a contradiction. Although it’s not necessarily the kind of song that I would write, but as a writer I can appreciate the creativity, an’ so on, that goes into the song. So it’s really like that. So, I tend to be – I try to be very objective about these things. I can tell you for example that I think that there’re a lot, a lot of very good reggae songs that have been made over the years. But what’s happened is that the marketing side of the business is caught up with the hype of the dancehall genre. And so a lot of very good songs fall under the radar. They just don’t get picked up, because the radio people for example don’t pick up on certain t’ings. It’s all about hype and the money to create the hype. Consequently, a lot of very good songs get overlooked, a lot of excellent songs. I went to Jamaica not so long ago and I heard some songs on the radio on a station called Best FM, a female DJ was playing. And for about an hour it was jus’ some irie music, and there were so many songs I had never heard before. I had to remark to my brother about it. Nice, nice songs. So good songs are being made and will always be made, but they get lost in the shuffle. It’s not like they’re not around.

Carlton Hines
Mmm, it’s a matter of promotion.
Yes, it’s a matter of promotion and exposure. And the dancehall t’ing now is very popular with young people, the hype an’ blah blah blah blah. As I said before, you don’t hear a lotta dem, a lot of the good songs. This is even more true in the case of the artist who is doing good work but as we say in Jamaica, “no bust yet” [not yet popular]. It is even harder for that artist’s work to get the needed exposure. Often times that artist is only known or recognized by the real connoisseur of the music. I was listenin’ to an album “For Whatever The Reason” done by my brethren, Hopeton Lindo, an album he did some time ago. The album was still so irie and fresh that I had to remark to myself that anybody who say that good reggae music is not being made any longer, “dem mad.” Y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’ (chuckles). But a lotta people are not hearin’ it ’cause what people are runnin’ with now is what’s the most popular. I really believe that the problem is that the consumer is not being exposed to the music on a wide scale. Whenever they get exposed they are quite capable of identifying ‘good songs’, whether dancehall or traditional reggae. Take for example a song like ‘She’s Royal’. ‘She’s Royal’ is a lovely song – I mean the Tarrus Riley song. People grew to appreciate and love that song because they were exposed to it. If that song did not get the good exposure, chances are it would never be a hit song in terms of widespread appreciation. It goes right back to the original dancehall days when the only time the people could hear most new reggae songs was in the dancehall. It is because of the dancehall that people know ‘Satta Massa Gana’ and so many other songs. It was primarily from sound system and not from the radio. But in those days people used to go to these places and hear it, and they’d appreciate it. But right now it’s a narrow segment of music which will reach the people, that’s the whole problem. It’s not that good music is not being made. It’s just that it’s not getting channelled, it’s not gettin’ out, all form, the way it should. Yeah man.

Sometimes it feels like looking for a needle in the haystack to find those decent tunes, but…
Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes it feels like that, but people – the consumers – need to look past what is put right in front of them. Because if that were not the case many artists who we look at as some real icons in the business, you’d never know. I think that is one of the biggest problems.

What the seventies ‘roots’ era brought to Jamaican popular music was from there on a certain expectation among some, a format or even label that reggae music was, first and foremost, a ‘conscious music’. This stuck hard with the foreign press when reporting about the music, and it has remained in that light since. You had the occasional social comment even in the 1960s. But it certainly wasn’t like that from the beginning if you look at it from a wider perspective. How do you view the role of the Jamaican entertainer, is it his, or her, duty to keep the public informed of the social issues of the day, or are you checking it from another angle?
All right. I believe that the type of songs you do, it really depends on how you, the artist, see things in general. Some of the greatest Jamaican artist, they sing every kind of music. D. Brown did every kind of song, he’d sing about social /political issues here and a love song there. And basically all the artists were like that, Heptones, everybody. Bob, everybody. So, even though most people see Bob as a ‘conscious’ artist, you probably check and find that some of the top selling singles that Bob had was not ‘conscious music’. It was jus’ a nice song. And as I said earlier, in my view, as an artist you are a reflection of life. So an artist sings about problems and struggles and inequality. But that same artist also sings about the relationship between man and woman, because it’s all a part of life, and life has all these aspects. What aspect of life’s reality you choose to sing about at any given time. I think is a personal thing. You see, when a man goes out and struggles all day to make some money, and he earns that money, when he goes home, he goes home to give it to his woman and his kids. He uses the money to support them. There is a powerful emotional relationship between man and woman. And it’s from this emotional relationship between man and woman that people write and sing the most hits. I personally, as a songwriter, when you get a melody you get a feel, and the feel jus’ – you couldn’t sing/write no other song except a song dealin’ with certain vibes. You get another vibe again and it might turn into a love song. So that is how I feel. Still the truth is, reggae music during the seventies made its mark and was widely seen as ‘conscious’ or ‘message music. I see that as the emphasis at that specific period of time, but to me reggae is really a music about life in general.

It might as well be a novelty tune, a nonsense lyric, party lyric, whatever?
Party lyric? Yeah man, you feel like going to the dance and jumpin’ up an’ down blah blah blah. Hey, let me tell you this. I wrote a song for our new album that’s comin’ out, there’s a song on it called ‘Shirley’. (Chuckles). And ‘Shirley’ is really a song about a real situation that existed during the days when I used to go to dance. And the song starts “Every man stand in line, if Shirley even look thru any dance gate”. Now, here’s the situation. You have some men in a dance. They all have their eyes and minds on Shirley. You see, Shirley is a “champion bubbler” and a man is looking for the chance to bubble with Shirley. This is a real and normal dancehall situation in those days. As I said in the intro to the song “every area have at least one girl like Shirley”. Of course ‘Shirley’ is jus’ an arbitrary name I use for the song. But nuff man really want to dance with her, ca’ she’s appealing like that, y’understan’. So, I dunno if it’s a ‘nonsense’ song, but it’s a reality song. It’s very real. It’s a very real t’ing, that’s just how it is. It’s just another part of life. An’ after the man come to the dance and enjoy himself an’ the woman come to the dance an’ enjoy herself, the nex’ mornin’ you wake up, you face another reality. You face another reality now of kids going to school, making sure they have their lunch money and school books and pencils an’ all this. But all this is a reality, they’re all aspects of the life (chuckles). Sometimes it comes into a song.

I guess that ‘foolishness’ serves its purpose too?
Yes! Beca’ it sort of ‘diffuse’ the depression, and it brings a light moment into an otherwise heavy situation. I view it as the artist reflecting life in general.

Girl name Pat
Talking about lyrics, wasn’t this adjusted to what the producer, in this case Pablo, what he demanded or expected, because his base was of a cultural expression.
No, Pablo loved what we refer to as ‘conscious’ or ‘message’ music.
Conscious music. Pablo loved that, because at that time a Rastaman is a man who have that type of vibe and awareness. That conscious element was a very powerful element because of what was happenin’ in Jamaica and internationally, the whole t’ing. You know that a huge part of Rastafari is its support for ‘truth and rights’ and opposition to injustices both locally and internationally. So Pablo as a Rastaman loved stuff like that, loved that. There’s no – I don’t think you could bring a song to Pablo that was really ‘conscious’ that Pablo wouldn’t like. He probably wouldn’t like your arrangement of it from a musical point of view, but in terms of the content you wouldn’t have a problem. But that same Pablo also liked a good Lovers rock tune. For example, you take a song like ‘Love Don’t Come Easy’ with Leroy Sibbles, he did it over, some songs that he did with, like, Jacob Miller, can’t remember the names but a couple of songs like ‘A Girl Name Pat’, an’ so on. Because, as I said earlier, the roots music, to me, it was more about the feel of the music rather than the content of the music. The feel is what makes the roots. It’s the feel, how authentic it is. How it touches you, how it rocks you, how it moves you.

A pretty lightweight lyric wouldn’t get rejected in Pablo’s camp in other words?
No man, no problem at all! Pablo had no problem with that.

He was more looking at the quality of the song rather than…
Yeah, you bring a good song to Pablo and Pablo would like it. But his preference would be for the most part conscious music. That is what he’d prefer. But he would not reject a good song, at all, or a Lovers rock song. What we need to understan’ now, Pablo, like the vast majority of all the people who accepted and exposed Rastafari in the seventies, their diet, their early musical diet was not conscious lyrics, primarily, it was Lovers rock. It’s Lovers rock, (laughs). And people think them sing conscious lyrics, as we refer to it, and only love conscious lyrics from the beginning right through. But there was always a lot of lovers rock in it, comin’ right through, early Jamaican music. Check out Alton Ellis for example. That was just how it is, Ken Boothe, Paragons, and these t’ings are, like, for instance… Let me show you now, show you an example. You know a song name ‘Satisfaction’, ‘you are the one who give me satisfaction’, seen. A Lovers rock tune, wicked tune by the Paragons. And Culture came back an’ using the same riddim, did the song ’bout ‘I’m Not Afraid’. And it didn’t make a difference to the people ca’ the feel an’ the vibe was basically the same. In fact the riddim helped ‘I’m Not Afraid’ to become a hit. It’s like when a song came out name’ ‘Mean Girl’ (imitates the melody), seen. ‘Mean Girl’ was a big tune in the dance, a classic lovers rock tune by Larry Marshall. And Diamonds come back later and did ‘I Need A Roof’, one of their biggest hits for Channel One. Using essentially the same riddim, the same music. So, that was how it was, it was a vibe thing, it wasn’t so much the content as the feel. And from the early Jamaican music, that’s how it was. And you hear Sugar Minott say the Heptones’ ‘On Top’ is the wickedest album ever produced at Studio One. And ninety per cent of that is Lovers rock. Everybody in Jamaica know that album, ‘Heptones On Top’. You have a riddim like ‘Pretty Looks’ (imitates the melody), I mean everybody in Jamaica know that, an’ it’s a Lovers rock. But you have all type a t’ing that has been done on that riddim . It’s jus’ the feel, and those are the riddims that Pablo an’ all these people grow up on. ‘It was some rootsman a mek dem riddims, an’ its some rootsman use’ to write dem songs (chuckles) an’ t’ing, an’ the rootsman use’ to play it. And it’s roots people who use’ to dance it. So for somebody to say that a lovers rock song is not roots as opposed to a conscious lyric song, to me, it’s an artificial difference. It’s an artificial separation. Both songs are a reflection of the life of the people, of a particular social stratum. It’s a reflection of their life, whether we’re talkin’ of their love life, or we’re talkin’ about their struggles to make ends meet. It’s the way its presented that makes it roots. That’s how it is. D. Brown’s first hit song I think it was called ‘Silhouette’ was a Lovers rock. But at the same time Dennis Brown sing about ‘Revolution’, or ‘To the Foundation’. But the same Dennis Brown did ‘Love Has Found Its Way’, another classic D. Brown we’re talkin’ about now. So it’s a combination. One of Gregory’s wickedest songs is ‘Night Nurse’. They don’t come rootsier than Gregory Isaacs, yunno (laughs). But you check Gregory’s discography and see how many of Gregory Isaacs’ hit songs was about love, ‘Love Is Overdue’, ‘Tune In’, ‘Soon Forward’, but he had two styles of hits, two styles him come with because he also did some tuff conscious/ message songs.

Right. Did you collaborate a lot with the other artists in the Rockers stable, like, in terms of straightening out the songs for them when they worked for Pablo, that he gave you that kinda…?
That role?

Ah, no, not really, yunno. Most of the artist within the Rockers camp were basically self contained, they would write their songs for themselves. Whether it’s Delroy Williams, Ricky Grant, Hugh Mundell, they used to write songs, write their own songs. There was a group he worked with called Sister Jam that I wrote a couple of songs for, but by and large they were all self contained. When I performed that role it was primarily for Gussie Clarke, Music Works. Yeah, I was like the ‘in house’ songwriter and even producer to a certain extent.

If you dig deeper into your memory bank, can you recall more specifically the people Pablo worked with, whatever you can remember about them and what they produced at the time, like for instance this guy Bongo Pat?
(Chuckles) Yeah man! I know Bongo Pat, man.

Did a track for Pablo titled ‘Young Generation’.
Yeah man, I remember Bongo Pat. He was not around that frequently or as constantly as the others, but he… I remember Bongo Pat. And this guy Barry.

Barry Reid?
Barry Reid, he used to be more… I think he came from the North Coast, and he used to come into town sporadically to record. A tuff singer, irie sound. I remember people like Sister Bunny (Brissett) who came from the States. I remember people like Jah Bull, also there was Paul Blackman, his name was really Whiteman.

(Chuckles) His name was really Whiteman, Paul Whiteman!

(Laughs) I tell you somet’ing ’bout Paul Whiteman, or Paul Blackman. Paul was a youte from uptown, seen. All right, an’ quite a few of these uptown kids used to take piano lessons because that was part of their upbringing so to speak. And Paul Whiteman, he actually played piano and studied music formally to a fairly high level. And then he jus’ dropped it, didn’t pursue it. Pablo never had that training. The thing is when you have that special creativity and that vibe, it sometimes beats technical training’. You see, you have some man who have formal training, but they don’t have that creativity. So if you give them something to play, they will play it very well. However, for them to create something, that’s a whole different thing. They might be very weak in terms of their creativity. You see the ‘creativity’ part is a gift. Creativity can’t be taught. On the other hand, there is the person with no formal training but who is very creative. If you are creative and you also have the technical training then you are in an enviable position as a musician.

What became of ‘Paul Blackman’ then?
Paul Blackman? Paul Blackman used to – the last time I saw him, years ago, many years ago, I was still in Jamaica. I haven’t seen him since I left Jamaica. He was workin’ for the government or something like that. That was it. He did a song ’bout ‘Earth Wind & Fire’.

That’s the one, and ‘Say So’.
Yeah, that’s Paul Blackman (chuckles). Irie youte.

(Chuckles) You gotta love that name-change.
Huh (laughs)? Yeah! Yeah man. It’s just funny to me now. You know what was/ is so striking to me ’bout the whole t’ing? When I look back at Pablo who was a very heartical brethren, an irie brethren, seen, and see how he accepted Rastafari and actually adapted and immerse himself in that way of life, y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’. Yeah, a life style that was literally opposite to what he knew growing up. Mundell the same t’ing [his father was a lawyer] an’ several of the people aroun’ Pablo at the time, Micko (McKenzie), Theo Dread, an’ all these people. When I met Pablo now, most of them guys, Pablo an’ the res’ of the crew was natty [dreadlocks]. An’ here comes Carlton Hines, who worked a 9-5 office Job. And sometimes at lunchtime I would go check the man dem, down at Rockers record shop. When I show up I am wearing shirt an’ tie.

Y’understan’ (chuckles). I went there with a shirt an’ tie. And you know what was funny? What was funny is that, my roots credentials unquestionable, not withstanding that I come in an’ I look like a government man or a beast [policeman]. Yet, my situation an’ my background, socially an’ economically, was significantly different from their original lifestyle.

(Chuckles) So, some t’ings that they had to adjust to, an’ accep’, that was my natural living. So when I come around Pablo an’ all them t’ings, there was never a question about if dem baldhead man ya ‘a really roots?’

And the type of environment you grew up in, in Saunders Lane and so on.
Yes. It was sort of weird. If somebody came to see Pablo and saw me with him, they might figure that Pablo is a roots an’ I am some uptown bredda who’s trying to link with some rootsman (laughs). If you’d just look at the visuals that was what one would get. More time I would check Pablo and Pablo would say “Hey, Carlton, the man haffe leggo dem bank work ya now an’ turn to Selassie I’ seen? I an I haffe a look fe do Jah works in dis time, a wha yuh a deal wid Iyah?” That was a typical way Pablo would make fun of me working in the bank (chuckles).

Pablo is a brethren. Yeah man.

But he really had to make a journey with that kind of choice, even if he didn’t even look at it as a ‘choice’ as such, it was just a sort of awakening that he chose to live that way, according to those principles.
It was an awakening?

I mean considering his background or, perhaps, what was ‘expected’ of him, and he went the opposite way.
Yeah man!

Carlton Hines
I could imagine him getting a whole heap of arguing from his family, from the type of background they came from?
I tell you this. I remember that Pablo grew up in Havendale this is a real uptown area. When I met him he was living at Grovesnor Heights that’s even more uptown, swanky uptown. And I remember we used to check Pablo, and Pablo had a piano in his house and more time we would do a little rehearsal there. If a car drives up and it was Pablo’s father, everybody had to scatter an’ hide! Everybody jus’ scatter an’ hide ’cause he didn’t want Pablo to have or encourage these type of t’ings in the house. He and his father were usually at loggerheads, ’cause he wanted a certain kind of life for Pablo, but Pablo chose a different path. And what happened is that, when he saw that Pablo was being successful with his musical endeavours…

Then he supported it?
Yeah! To his credit he did. He used to try an’ help Pablo. His father was a successful accountant and he had an accounting firm. And he used to instruct one of his staff – his chief staff member – to assist Pablo with any accounting support that he needed in order for his music business to run properly. But Pablo couldn’t keep up his end of the arrangement (chuckles). Pablo would do it a little and stopped. So people like me or Ricky Grant we use to try and help out in terms of record keeping especially. The Rockers International shop that is still there now have become a symbol in that area. Ricky Grant was the one who got that shop for Pablo. Yeah, from back in the days. I remember thieves broke into the shop one night. Ricky was the one who got workmen to reinforce the roof. Of course he also made sure that words were spread aroun’ the neighbourhood as to the connection of the shop. As far as I know the shop was never ever broken into again. That whole neighbourhood is a whole different t’ing, it was one of those really tough areas.

You had other names Pablo found, like Sister Frica, known for her ‘One In The Spirit’.
Yeah man, I remember Sister Frica well. It is the same t’ing I tell you ’bout the whole uptown vibe, ca’ Sister Frica was a sistren from uptown. I think she was also a teacher. But, you see, as I try to explain to you, there was a revolution, a social revolution that took place at the time.

Where uptown checked downtown, and vice versa.
Yeah, the whole flow. And a lot of uptown youtes got alienated from their families as a result of the ‘consciousness’ that these youtes would embrace. And they start mash down the barriers, ca’ it was a lot of social barriers an’ all a that. You also had poor and working class youtes who got alienated from their family too. You see, to be a rasta in those days was to choose to be a social outcast. So there was this social phenomenom. Youte and youte just mix and mingle. Girls from uptown start dealing with guys from downtown and vice versa, so it was a whole thing, yunno. (Chuckles). When I look back now it was a very exciting time, really. One of the special places to see this “change, ‘these social barriers’ breaking down was at a ‘Jah Love’ dance. A lot of fundamental changes happened, politically, with the government, an’ socially among the youtes from the different classes of JA society.

Can you recall another obscure Pablo deejay, Jah T, also known as Jah Iny?
Jah T? I don’t remember the name, the name doesn’t ring a bell, yunno, off hand.

And the duo Asher & Trimble?
Yeah man, Asher & Trimble. Yes.

One of them became one half of the production team Myrie & Marshall?
I don’t recall, but there was a Myrie, I dunno if it was the same Myrie?

More known as Michael Taylor, perhaps?
Michael Taylor! Myrie. That Myrie now is a musician, he plays both bass and guitar. Yeah man.

They did ‘Humble Yourself’ for Pablo.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. ‘Humble Yourself’, yeah man, I remember them song deh. I remember them days, and in those days you go into Pablo’s shop an’ you see people passing thru letting off, distributing record. People like even Robert Livingston [Shaggy’s manager] use to pass thru and distribute records an’ blah blah. You use’ to see man like Leroy Smart come through. When Leroy Smart have a new song, he would come by the record shop an’ say “Pablo, play this!” or “Hold this inna de shop”. And when the song hit the turntable The Don, Leroy Smart, start dancing some wicked skank.

You know that NOBODY used to vibe their songs and push their song harder than Leroy Smart. (Chuckles). Him jus’ come with all the excitement ’bout his song an’ everyt’ing, very positive artist. Yeah man, it was a time. Sometimes I go down there, like lunchtime, and it caused me some problems because I always stayed longer than I am supposed to stay. I was usually late getting back to work (chuckles).

And then it was time to explain yourself for…
Yeah man, you always had to explain yourself. You have to squeechy [try not to be noticed] when you’re getting back from lunch late. (chuckles).

Sister Frica
What happened to Sister Frica and these people, Bongo Pat, they were not even ‘one hit wonders’, but those tracks stuck among aficionados.
Well, Sister Frica… I really dunno. I haven’t seen her in a very long while. She is still in Jamaica last time I heard. I’d love to see her. Yeah man.
And Bongo Pat?
Bongo Pat, now I haven’t, I haven’t seen Bongo Pat for probably, like, thirty odd years.

Maybe some of them didn’t have that deep deep desire to be in the business as a recording artist?
Yeah, that could part of it. But also, survival dictates so many things.

You have to get the money in from somewhere.
Yeah, they have to trade the music for survival. There’s no guarantee with music. It was pretty much the same thing for Tetrack that’s why we never dealt with music as a career. So even when we were among Pablo recording, everybody had meaningful jobs. I was the one who basically wrote most of Tetrack’s material, so the question is how is it I have a meaningful job and I write those types of songs? I’ve met some people in New York who thought Tetrack was some dreadlocks.

Yeah! A brethren, a rastaman, told me that ‘Only Jah Jah Know’ was one of the songs that made him feel strong spiritually every time he heard it. He was a member of Twelve Tribes and he lives in NY and he said in that time it was very tuff being a rastaman. He asked me “How you write da song deh?” You see, when he looks at me I don’t look like the kind of person who would write a song like that. But I write that kind of song because of my personal background. My life experience comes through and also my world view, my perspective. They all easily and naturally facilitate that type of writing. Besides, I am a man always into – I love to tell people that I am not a historian, I am a student of histories. I always try to learn something from the past. ‘Cause without the past its almost impossible to understand the present.

It kinda hangs together…
Yeah, it all comes together. Ca’ the present is but a second, a moment, after that it becomes the past. Yeah, so that was the whole t’ing, my whole perspective. When we [Tetrack] look around and see the whole situation, we figure that, hey, better just get a job and jus’ take care of your family and ting. The music was a hobby.

A pretty serious hobby though.
Yes, it’s a serious hobby ’cause it sort of took hold of me over time but I’ve never been able to dedicate myself strictly to music. In fact I am the only Tetrack, the original Tetrack that has never left music. I’ve never been ‘able’ to ’cause that creative side of me always comes out, whether its writin’ songs, doing some production or whatever it is, I’ve never lost interest in that. I’ve always been into the creative side.

And no matter what you’ve got to have an outlet for that, your creative veins.
(Chuckles) I tell you, I don’t even know how it really works, it’s always there. Always there, yunno, jus’ like that. I can hang up the phone right now an’ jus’ walk outside, walk up the road or whatever, an’ anything can happen. By the time I come home I might pick up my guitar and just put down a melody or something. ‘Cause you constantly hearin’ things. Most times I find myself just humming a melody, playing around with melodies, you just hear it! I don’t know how it works but it’s like that. I suppose it’s like this for people who are into the creative side of music. Yeah man, that’s how it is.

Are you ‘surprised’ about the presence of the golden era in the music, maybe not in Jamaica itself, but basically for the rest of the world, it hasn’t lost its grip or the attention among music aficionados.
No, there was something special about that time. To me it was something so pure, it was something authentic, there was something unpretentious about the music that came out from that time. It’s like people would express themselves musically without thinkin’ about, as I said before, the marketability of the song. To me it’s like the marketability was not the driving force, the driving force was the vibes; you want to get out the song and love the vibe of the song and it was very authentic. And a lot of people who got interested in the reggae, they got interested from that period of reggae and then they float to the foundation and then some float forward to this time. Some people get caught in that time and they find a home, and that’s all. But there was jus’ something special ’bout that time. It was certain t’ings happening in Jamaica during that time that came right through, the outpouring of a certain kind of vibe, a real militant vibe, y’know (chuckles). And it was during that time that we didn’t have a lot of Lovers rock coming out. Reggae became the home of conscious music, the awareness of and the concern for the serious socio-economic and political problems that existed all around, and the need to struggle to bring about meaningful change. That is how, that’s the way it was.

Tetrack – Heartless

Tetrack – Understand Me No Man

Tetrack – Dread Out Deh

Is there any sort of ‘values’ in the music from that time that you wish we had in the music of today?
I believe that some aspects of it have been carried forward. In terms of the music itself, I have noticed for example, that there’s a move, an effort now to try and get the music more ‘live’, more live horns and stuff like that. That is a real carry over from that period, the “live” sound. Another feature from the past that I would love to see more of is the respec’ for the art form itself. The art of making the song. It’s an individual thing, how you hear the song, how you personally hear it, not what a nex’ man might hear. So when you go to the studio, and you have four musicians, five musiscians, and you are singin’ your song, what the musicians play, it is a direc’ result of how they individually interpret what you are singin’ even though everything comes together and form one song. That’s the reason, for example, that you can have one riddim, two chords, and you have seven different songs on the riddim, an’ the only t’ing that is common about all the songs is that they’re on the same riddim, but every artis’ interpret it differently. And that in itself is creativity at work. Because for you to hear twelve songs on a riddim, and each song has a different melody and a whole new flavour, it takes creativity. But sometimes a man hear that an’ say “Bwoy, a jus’ a one riddim t’ing… de man dem nah mek no songs”, without recognising that creativity. The artist could easily sing that same song for some musicians and they make a brand new riddim aroun’ it because of the melody, y’understan’ (chuckles). It’s an original melody, it’s a fresh melody. The real issue has to do with the cost of production and commercial success. So the creativity has not been lost it’s just being used in a different way because of the reality of this time. And that’s why I say, when I talk about the music, my perspective is somewhat different from a lot of people who are not involved in the music the way I am.

I’d like to ask you what actually became of the album when and after it had come out, I’m familiar with some kind of information that ‘Lets Get Started’ not disappeared as such, but the release happened to coincide with the new and upcoming dancehall era with the Roots Radics, when a new sound emerged, and most of the songs were recorded from an earlier period. And when Greensleeves Records reissued the LP ten years later that’s when the status of it came about or when the final recognition of the disc was for all to see and hear, appearing on CD for the first time, and so on. Is that an accurate observation, putting the album into a perspective like that, would you agree with this at all?
Well, its difficult for me to say. Let me tell you why. As I said before, producers put out the albums and you didn’t know what was happening. When the album came out first I think it came out on the Hawkeye label [England]. I do not know exactly – even to this day – I cannot tell you from a commercial point of view how well the album did. Greensleeves re-issuing the album on CD was a huge plus for its exposure and ultimate recognition. What I can say to you is the feedback about the album had been very positive. And to be honest I was very surprised that was the way people felt about the album. Now because you figure that the people love an album, or they respec’ an album, that the love would be reflected somewhere, somehow, in some type of sales an’ so forth, an’ so on. And I can tell you that I’ve never been given any numbers or seen anything that indicated that this album was so widely appreciated – I didn’t see any numbers, I didn’t see anything like that. And, you see, even right now when I check Greensleeves about certain things, certain arrangements that have been made, I get some stupid answers, things that don’t make sense.

When the previous owners were dealing with Greensleeves, that was a better situation because they were more respectful. Now that VP has taken over Greensleeves, I would like to think that I have a good relationship with VP and I will be able to get more information. I’m hoping that I can get a more favourable response from the people who handle stuff like that. (Chuckles). But that is the most that I can say and that is as honestly as I can say it.

Right (chuckles).

So tell me about the production company, label and studio you have together with your brother, Artistic? What have you been working on over the years, and how did that evolve to what you have now?
OK, right. We have a label called Artistic Productions. At one time Artistic was part of Reggaemuffin, which was another company. But the Reggaemuffin faded out, so it’s just Artistic, original. And we’ve done a lot of work. We produced under the Artistic/Reggaemuffin collaboration, we did an album with D. Brown, ‘Limited Edition’, we did an album with Gregory, ‘Unlocked’. Did a Tamlins album ‘No Surrender’, we did a number of 45’s with a lot of people.

image host
Like George Nooks.
George Nooks, Cobra…

(Anthony) Red Rose?
Red Rose, Simpleton, Tristan Palma, Elijah Prophet, a lot of people. Right now, the latest t’ing we have is an album with Fred Locks, we have an album with him named ‘Keep On Trying’. We have a new Tetrack album, ‘Unfinished Business’. We have a new artis’ that I think is going to make some noise, called 7 Seals . I think he has a lot to say and I like what I’m hearing. We did some work with him. There’s a young lady called Mesha Steele that we did some work with. We’re hoping to complete an album with her. We have about seven tracks a’ready, some combinations, an’ so on. So we have stuff in the can to come out and we’re very optimistic about the whole t’ing, in terms of getting out the work. So that’s where we are right now. This year we’re lookin’ forward to making some major strides. The studio has a nice sound, some nice vibes, and we feel comfortable with it. Love how things are progressing. I would’ve loved to progress a lickle faster, but we can’t go faster than it is going.

Yeah (chuckles). So how is this new album ‘different’ from the previous two, apart from the fact that it’s probably digitally based, most of it?
No, well, all righ, first of all, it’s not really ‘digital’, many of the drum tracks are not live drum tracks, but that was a result of finances, basically. But we have live lead guitar, rhythm guitars, people like David Madden an’ Tony Green on horns, man like Wrong Move on keyboards, man like Chris Meredith on bass. So it’s not really digital, it is more a “live” album. That’s how it is. Musically, the name ‘Unfinished Business’ in many ways really sums up what the album is about. Ca’ after about twenty-five years and doing this album now, the idea was really to get, do an album that sort of summarize that gap in time. So you find on the album – you’d find songs that came from different eras, various periods, you have songs on the album like the same ‘Shirley’ that I mentioned before, songs like ‘Some A Dem”, that was like Pablo’s time. He loved that song. But you also have songs like ‘Dread Out Deh’, it was part of an album that we did for Gussie that didn’t come out. I re-arranged it. You have other songs, like you have a chant named ‘Reflections’. It was always a desire of mine to record a chant. And you have a song what you’d refer to as a nowadays dancehall feel, a dancehall song in that it’s the same type of beat but it is an original beat. So it has a range of t’ings and the whole idea was jus’ to sort of capture a period of time. Because as I said before, the time that you’re in always tend to have some impact on the work that you do. Overall I love the album, there’s a lot to love about the album. I like the work, y’know, very good work in terms of the vocals, in terms of production – everyt’ing. And this album is unique in the sense that all the previous music, the two Tetrack albums were produced by somebody else. This one I had a lot more input into the production, myself an’ my brother Jimi, we are the ones who really shaped this album in terms of the sound itself, an’ so forth. Also, we have my Idren Norris Reid who brings a lot to the table, y’know, with respect to the whole vibe an’ everyt’ing. Vocally I think it is one of the strongest albums Tetrack has ever done.

So this one consists, basically, of you and Dave from the original line-up, and Norris as a new, added member?
Well, that is it, that is it right now.

So Paul is not really willing to get into the music business again?
No. Well, no, Paul really has been out of the music business for a loooong, long, long time. ‘Cause if you recall, yunno, he was replaced by Dennis Creary.

Mmm, right.
Paul hasn’t been in it for the longest time. And the other person now, Dave, he has not been in it for the longest also, and when this project came up he decided ultimately to jus’ take a pass on it, for personal reasons. So it turns out that it’s just Norris an’ myself now.

Carlton Hines & Norris Reid
What do you hope or wish to achieve for Tetrack now in this time, now that you jumped on the train again?
OK. That is a major question, I was hoping that you’d ask that question. Over the years, having been involved in the music I have come to realise that a certain foundation has already been laid. And also, as you pointed out earlier, the music from that era still has a grip on the audience worldwide. I’m looking at it now from the point of view that we need to, providing we still have the will and the ability, that we should capitalise on that if we get the opportunity to do so. We have the opportunity right now and we should make use of that opportunity. Because when you look aroun’ and see the veteran artists still touring, you get a sense of what is possible. I have gotten several requests from reggae fans wanting to know when Tetrack is coming on tour, when this and when that, an’ so forth. So I know that there’s a market for veteran artists. And I believe that Tetrack can be a real addition, a real nice spice to any veteran roots line-up. Firstly, for the simple reason that we had songs out there that made a serious impac’ on the roots audience. Secondly, we’re brand new in the sense that we have never been out there on the circuit, like a lot of the other artists. And finally, we still have the sound. So, we have all that. I think it’s worthwhile to try an’ jus’ deal with it. So that is really the whole idea. If you have the opportunity then you should do it. You owe it to yourself to do it.

Before I forget, will this project Norris (Reid) mentioned a couple of years ago be realised soon, the supposed ‘Tribute To Pablo’ album with the remaining Rockers stable, will this ever be completed and finished for release?
It’s still on the drawing board now. It is still something I’d love to do, I’d really love to do that. And I’m going to see how soon we can get started on that. ‘Cause it’s not as difficult as it might seem to be, it’s not as difficult. It’s jus’ more – it has more to do with logistics. Because I have the studio, I can get a lot of the work done. But you want this Pablo t’ing to be done a certain way. And, as I said before, about six of the people who Pablo did the most work with are still around, y’know, the bulk of the people he produced.

In other words, that would be like Tetrack, Ricky Grant, Norris Reid, Delroy Williams…
Yeah, Bunny (Brissett) also, still around.

And you never can tell. I might be able to get Sister Frica to sing something.

Or Paul Blackman?
Paul ‘Blackman/Whiteman’ (chuckles).

(Laughs) Yeah! That’s what I’m saying, ’cause as far as I know he’s still in Jamaica. So, it can be done. I’d say it’s just about starting it, you plug away. You get two songs from this artist one song from that artist and before you know it you have an album. It’s not something that you can do with all of us at the same time.

No, sure.
‘Cause we’re all over. It’s just something you have to keep plugging away at. That’s how it is.

Is there anything else you would like to add to the conversation which we haven’t touched so far?
I’d just like, for people who love the good roots music, who like the original sound, I would like them to give a listen to the new Tetrack album and check it out. They will realize that the good reggae music, it hasn’t gone anywhere. It hasn’t been lost in the process, it is still very much alive. I also want them all to know that their support for Tetrack and reggae music in general is greatly appreciated.

The creative vein is something you just can’t let go, it’s there and you have to take care of it, to let it flow freely and naturally when inspiration takes hold. Mr Hines knows this, as the recent 7″ ‘Dread Out Deh’ testifies; it’s as if time stands still listening to the piece, the seventies in the digital age so to speak, but it leaves you with a fresh taste for more and curiosity what went on during the same sessions. This is supposedly titled ‘Unfinished Business’ and will be the return to the market for Tetrack in the album format, a recognised and respected group, not the least for its association with Augustus Pablo, but also for the sharp songwriting of Mr Hines, just check ‘Private Beach Party’ or other mid eighties productions by Gussie Clarke for proof of the lasting quality of his own work. Now, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Gussie decides to give ‘Trouble’ another (re)pressing, would it? Who would’ve thought that Tetrack could make a return after such a long break, but now they’re here and if you thought it was the end after the last tracks out of Pablo’s quarters, it’s just the beginning…