I understand you just got back from Africa. How was that?
Yeah, it was nice.
Where all did you play?
We played in Malawi .... We went to places like Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, South Africa ...
So you did a lot of different stops.
Yeah, a lot of different stops.
Was it just you on the tour, or were there other artists as well?
It was me, Jesse Jender and Ibo Cooper from Third World. And then in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, we had myself, President Brown and Admiral Tibet.
That must have been fun. How did it compare to playing in the United States?
It's nice, because, you know in Africa you have a lot of people. In Africa you find the people turns out more.
They don't get as many shows ....
Yeah, they need to know about their culture ... some people like to come out and see Jamaican culture. That's what they said, "I like to see Jamaican culture, I would like to know about Jamaican culture". Well, they believe that they know that we was the same ones that been there before. Because upon a reality basis, we have been robbed, I and I, from Africa and they have taken us in the Western world, in Jamaica.
Right, it's the same culture, or different parts of the same culture.
You know. So it was nice there in Africa, so peaceful.
Before I ask you anything about your earlier career, I want to ask you a little bit about your label, 'Blend Them'. How long has it been going?
Well, it's going about 3 years now.
Are you happy doing your own productions?
Yeah, it kind of a little tight, but I know one day ... you know, it's going to get loose, going to be free.
Who are some of the other artists you are producing?
President Brown, Admiral Tibet, Louie Culture, Jah Mason ... we have, like, Spanner Banner, Richie Spice, Determine, Anthony B, and tending to some more like my daughter Isha, and we have Currant Man and Ichie Wonder.
So you have a big posse.
Yeah, we're growing, you know.
I know you have a new single out with 'Weeping Eyes', with some other singers on that rhythm as well. How has that single been received?
Yeah, it's going pretty well, because it's on the charts. I don't know if it is up there in Canada, but's in on somewhere in the States, and somewhere in Europe. It's on the chart with Norris Man ... Norris Man have a song on it to.
It's a really nice rhythm. That is Chinna Smith on guitar, isn't it?
Yeah, true, he played guitar on it. It's a beautiful song.
Are there any other singers or DJs that you are looking to work with?
Yeah, sure. I would like to do a combination with Luciano. You know, Everton Blender, Luciano ....
That would be nice.
Anthony B ....
How about Prince Malachi? Have you heard any of his works?
I'm not familiar with him, you know, but I've heard about him.
How has being your own producer changed the way you work?
Well, you know, it's the same thing ... just like how you have a promoter who would take us into the studio, the only thing is we are spending our own money now. It's hard and tough and tight, but as I said earlier, I know one day everything is going to be alright .... because it's good over evil, you know.
Well, your career is a demonstration about how persistence pays off ... right?
Yeah man, straight up, you know.
Now that you have your own label, are you still continuing to do songs for other producers as well?
Yeah, it's not a problem. Sometimes, when you are putting out an album, you can get those songs and put them on the album.
Yeah, because I was thinking about Tony Rebel's label, 'Flames'. When you two had 'Ghetto People Song' and 'Jah By My Side' out at the same time - that raised reggae to a new high level at that time.
Are you planning to do more work with Tony Rebel?
Well ... in the future, pending ... yeah. Because the work can't stop, you know.
How about dub plates. Do you get asked a lot? Do you do many?
Yeah, I do many dub plates ... some free to.
How do you feel about doing them?
You know, I don't feel anyway, because sometimes it helps promote you. It also helps promote the sound man. Because, sometimes when a sound man playing with another sound, and he's playing Everton Blender on dub plate, not on a 45 ... it's great, you step one up. Every time a sound man plays a dub plate of another singer, he steps one up. Because not every sound can play a dub plate, them only can play 45's. So when you can play, and say, "this one coming from such and such a sound", and, you know, you hear the singer call the sound name on it, that will put you one up.
Tell me about the upcoming Birthday Bash in Clarendon. I hear you have a big line-up planned.
Yeah, it's going on, promotion-wise and things. People are preparing. People are coming from Canada, people are coming from Europe, England, Japan, Miami, New York, Australia.
Yeah, people are coming from all over. It's getting bigger and bigger every year. So we just give thanks, because we never leave the Almighty yet, you know. We never leave him yet, because we are not ungrateful .... we come to live, we like us to live, because we don't really come to support Mr. Coffin, or Mr. Cemetery or Mr. Hospital. You see what I'm saying. We not want sick to go on in the place, we just want to stay healthy, and just live on.
Even though you are often compared to older, roots style, singers, I find that your music always has a real dancehall flavor to it. Do you think this is because of your sound system background? Your music always sounds contemporary.
What really happens now, sometimes it's what's in you. Because what is in you ... is like, you can hold on to it. Because if a man even tries to be a good person, and he's not, you know what I say? One day they want to see that tune, and know that he's not a good person - that he was only pretending. So right now, you know, Everton Blender coming from the sound system, yes, the dancehall system, but there is the vibe within you. It's what's within you that you push out. You cannot push out what's not within, so you have to push out what's within. As a youth coming from the ghetto, sometimes it's what you overcome in the ghetto.
So you are talking about what you understand.
Yeah, you know, sometimes in the ghetto, what you have in, you put it out. You see, in dancehall, you have a sound system, that's the kind of music you have, so that's the kind of music we push out ... reggae music, hard-core, dancehall. Because I can sing rock steady, you name it .... versatile, lovers rock, lovey-dovey, you know. The millennium is coming now, 2000, a different thing.
Yeah man, different thing, because I deal with some versatile songs. We have some lyrics, that we built in Africa, last time in Malawi .... we have a lot of lyrics. So next year, or later on down this year, in December, we will probably have a few things out.
So you are going to have another album out later in the year, or early next year?
Yeah, next year we have a live album coming out.
Is that going to be on Heartbeat?
Is it already recorded?
Yeah, we originally did it at the White River Reggae Bash in Ocho Rios.
Over the years you have updated a lot of classic Studio One rhythms. Why do you think those Studio One rhythms are so indestructible?
Well, you know, anything original always .... like, when I mean original, you know you have a lot of songs that are original, but, one time done they used four or five men in the studio, and they all come together and laid these rhythms. So, in those days it has heartical days, it was loving days. Now, one man using his machine and doing everything.
You're missing the chemistry.
Yeah, so you have one sound, because you have one man. If you have a different man playing the guitar, or playing the ska, and you have a different man playing the drums, and you have the next man playing the bass, probably it would have a different sound. But, choose one individual to play everything, it sounds like ....
..... It sounds like one guy.
Yeah, you know. So if you can find that groove, that original groove that these four or five chaps, or these four or five brethren ....
Leroy Sibbles and all those guys.
Yeah, like in the earlier days, when you have guys like Leroy Sibbles on bass, the Heptones, and probably you have Horsemouth on drums, or Santa on drums, you have Clive Hunt on keyboards ....
Jackie Mittoo .....
You know, so it's like a mystic.
The original ... the oneness vibe, not just a one man thing.
I know a few current artists have done some new recordings for Coxsone Dodd recently. People like Glen Washington, Alpheus. If the chance came, would you do some recordings for Studio One?
Yeah man, I'm supposed to do a tune for Coxsone Dodd.
Yeah, I'm supposed to do a cover version, a song that Delroy Wilson had done a few years ago. A song ... I don't remember the name of the song. Have you ever heard a song, 'I Hear You Telling Everybody'?
I don't know it.
Soon you will hear it by Everton Blender.
When are you planning to do that?
Sometime next year.
Are you going to be using the original rhythm?
Yeah, I'm going to use the original rhythm. The Delroy Wilson song, it goes something like, (sings) "I hear you telling everybody that you're glad I'm gone, do you tell them how you cry whenever you are all alone".
(laughter) That sounds great.
(laughter) It's a little lovey-dovey tune. So I make them know that Rasta man can sing love songs.
(laughter) True. How did you first get involved with sound systems? Did you go to dances as a youth? Were there lots of sound systems in the area where you grew up?
Yeah, when I was a youth growing up I used to thief out and go to dance. And when they came for you and you can't go, you get locked out, you have to sneak around the corner, where the kitchen back (laughter) .... sometimes we used to get beaten, but it turned out to be nice.
Who were some of the singers and DJ's that you followed in those days?
Like, Sugar Minott, Dillinger, Danny Dread ...
I don't know who that is.
He do a song about free Mandela ... and you have Jah Mikey, Brigadier Jerry.
So we are talking about the late 70's, early 80's.
Yeah. We used to listen to King Stitch, Jah Youth ... Big Youth, Daddy U Roy. We used to listen to guys like John
Holt in those days.
Some of the songs you have covered, like 'Westbound Train', and 'Sun Is Shining', were those some of the songs you enjoyed when you were younger?
Yeah, yeah, you know it.
I understand you worked at Destiny Outernational Sound system, with people like Garnett Silk. Tell me a bit about that.
I was in Clarendon, and this sound 'Destiny' come to Clarendon and play one night. And the brethren who was promoting the show knows me, and he invited me. When Blender go in, the place was nice, and the owner of the sound like how Blender sing. So him give me work wherever the sound go. So I used to get a small salary in a week time, and that was good to get some food for the kids. So everything was alright, everything was fine. After a while, now .... things wasn't working financial-wise. It wasn't working out, so we had to leave, we had to all split up and went to the streets to get some jobs. Some man didn't look for any work, but I looked for work because me love my youth, and me no want them to beg. 'Destiny' kind of get mash up. 'Destiny' was a tough sound, we used to rule the place man. So that sound helped me a lot. People knows Blender, you know, Manchester ....
You guys were based out of Mandeville, right?
How did you team up with Richard Bell at 'Star Trail'?
After we leave Mandeville, after we leave 'Destiny', and then for a good while nothing was going on. I checked Garnett Silk one day, and he told me to come and check him out by Pembroke Hall. And I checked Garnett out by Pembroke Hall, and he introduced me to Bobo, 'Star Trail'. And Bobo said he wasn't ready to voice yet ... as soon as he was ready to voice he would come and check with me. So, eventually we voiced a few tunes, 'We No Just A Come' ... 'Create A Sound', that was the song that ....
It's a great track. Do you ever plan on doing more with Bell?
Well, you don't know what can happen in life, but I'm not sure.
How about Anthony Rochester. How does he fit into the picture? I know you and he co-wrote some songs together.
Yeah, because sometimes when me have a vibe, sometimes me just sing it to him, and him write it out. Sometimes him get two songs from it, with my vibe him get another vibe. So, sometimes when me come with one song, they always get two songs off it ... it was created ... it's a vibe, because him write 'Family Man', and then him write 'Coming Harder'.
Both nice songs. Do you still work with him?
Yeah man, because he says him have some tunes ready for me right now.
Your career reminds me a little bit of Glen Washington's, the last person I interviewed. You have both been around a long time, but it is only in the last few years that you have started to get rewarded for your efforts.
Yeah man, so it go, you know.
Have all of these years of trying, and waiting, made success that much sweeter?
OK, for real. Yeah man, everything alright. Blender just one love ... behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining ....
So what are your plans after the Birthday Bash? Are you going to do some more touring?
Yeah, I'm supposed to tour Europe next year, in February.
And the live album will be out in the new year.
Yeah, it will be released in the new year.
Do you know what the title is going to be?
No, not as yet.
Well, I look forward to hearing it.
Copyright 1999 Jim Dooley