Observant fans will know there is more to Culture than frontman Joseph Hill. In fact, it was Albert Walker's idea to form the group some 21 years ago. In this interview Albert updates what is happening in the Culture camp as well as giving us the early scoop on his solo project. I spoke with Albert, who was in Orlando, over the telephone (please Bell, go easy on me) as Culture were in the middle of a mini-tour of Florida. The following day the group was scheduled to play 'The Fourth Annual Bob Marley Festival' in Miami with Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. As Albert reminds us: 'Spiritually you have to be working all the time'. For interview assistance 'give thanks' to: Dean Pond, George Michailow and Jackie Watson. To Albert: Respect every time!
The first thing I want to ask you about, Albert, is the Rebel Salute show in Mandeville - how did that go?
Well, it was nice you know. I will tell you, it's the biggest crowd I've ever seen in Brooks Park for a long time.
Really. Who else was on the bill?
People like Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, Culture, Everton Blender and Tony Rebel. A lot of artists, if I named them it would take a long time. But it was real real real good.
How about your trip to France to play at MIDEM (jd - MIDEM '97 reggae showcase was held in Cannes, France Jan 18-23), how was that?
MIDEM was a really good experience for us, you know. We did hear about MIDEM, but we didn't know anything about what it will do in the future for the music. So we take a try, and it work in a manner that I see progressing in the future.
Who else did you play with in France?
Well, we only did one show. But, we went up there with Papa San, Ken Boothe, Everton Blender, Culture, Jimmy Cliff and Tony Rebel.
So after these dates (in Florida) you are planning to do some recording?
We are going to the studio this month. In two weeks time.
So you have another album on the way by the end of the year?
Yeah, we are shaping up for the future.
So who is going to sing third vocals? (jd - Ire'lano Malomo who has been singing in the group since the departure of Kenneth Dayes in 1993, has himself moved on)
Well, I think we have to do everything, you know.
So you are going to do all the backing vocals yourself?
Yeah man, no problem.
You got the range right.
Yeah man, we can do that.
Listen, I want to ask you about a couple of older things. I want to ask a little bit about this 'Roots & Culture' record with Don Carlos. How did that come about? You did that in the early 80's when you were on a break?
It's about 1979 I think, and I was at home and once I went to the studio, so I saw these guys. That's 'Junjo' Lawes doing something for Greensleeves Records. So that day I wasn't doing anything, so I just try to see if I could really do a thing with them. And, it really work out. I do 5 songs for them, and they release it on an album with Don Carlos by the name 'Roots & Culture'.
It's a superb record.
Yeah, and I get benefit from it too...so it's not bad you know.
Did you do any other solo recordings?
Well, I'm working on an album now, for the future.
Just by yourself?
Yeah. I do about 5 songs already.
Where did you record these songs?
Everything I do, within the record region, we do it in Jamaica. We get a better feel there.
Well, sometimes it don't matter the brand studio. I tell you, you see in Jamaica we have so many good name studios to deal with. Sometimes you know, if you had a plan to go to Mixing Lab, maybe you don't get Mixing Lab you get Dynamic. But, I record in Dynamic.
How about Kenneth (Dayes). Have you seen him at all?
Well, I have not seen him for about 3 years now.
Really. He has not got his album out yet?
I don't really know. I don't see it in the shop neither.
That's too bad. I've heard some of it and it sounds fine.
Yeah, I heard it too. I was there when he was doing the songs. I gave him a helping hand....
Albert, tell me a little about your trip to Israel last year.
We went there with Third World and we do, I would say, about 3 shows, and it was real nice. We got to went around many places that I read about and I didn't see. Like we went by the Sea of Galilee, places like that. We go to Jordan River which I had been hoping to see for a long time. And we really do nice. The shows were really packed.
What other countries do you like going to? You don't have to say Canada (jd - where I'm calling from) by the way.
(laughter)...I love Europe. The respect that they give for the music in Europe is different from every other place in the world that I go.
Really. I wonder why that is?
I don't really know, but most of the people there are really interested in serious things. They really want no gimmicks anymore - most of the people. They have to speak with an open mind.... like Roots and Culture, thinks like those. Things that they can see and know that it's really..... they love Culture, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals and Third World. We do good in Europe.
I wonder why reggae has not caught on more in the US?
Well, I don't really understand...maybe the media? It's growing though, it takes time. We the people have to put out more too. Sometimes because of the songs, the type of release that you are making on the songs - some people don't appreciate it. It's not easy for you to get to America 'just like that'. You have to do something real real real great, that they can appreciate.
But the problem with that is, it is often not the great stuff that makes it big.
True. The measures is a little bit different from their culture. You will find a difference there.
You like touring?
Yeah man. I love it a lot. It really help us.
It must be different from everyday life in Bog Walk (jd - Albert's home in JA).
True. You know when you are in Jamaica, you don't really get to do anything so much. Now and then a few shows. When you do recording, you know, it pay, but it don't pay like touring. You could tour every year, every month and maybe the record are not selling, but you are touring.
Do you do any farming in Bog Walk?
Well, I have a big farm there now. And I am going back this year for a bigger one.. a bigger farm.
Yeah, what are you growing?
Vegetables, yams, things like those and cocoa .. a lot of things. You know, Jamaican food.
How many acres do you have?
Well it's only about 10 acres, but I don't farm no more than about two.
It must be very quiet up there.
Yeah man, in the country. I'm not really in the town area, more like in the country side. My parents have a lot of place in the country.
You have a big family?
Yeah man, real good big family.
Are they all in that area?
No, the most of them are in America. But, a few of them are there.
Why do you think that you and Joseph have lasted so long?
Well you see, we are one and the same kind and quality. We are family too. We grow up in the same community, so we know each other from the year of 1. It's not bad for us - I know his ways and he knows mine so we could get along.
You guys have been together a long tome.
Yeah, even before I sing, we were living in the same community. Joseph was my neighbour.
You once told me 'If there are any musicians out there that we haven't played with, they must be hiding.'
Do you have any favorites?, favorite studios, favorite players? I guess you have to say Dub Mystic (jd - Culture's touring and recording band for the last 5 years) if they are in the room. (laughter)
Well, Dub Mystic play Culture songs the best, out of all the bands that we been playing with. I'll tell you, many other singers, I don't know what they think for the people. You see this band Dub Mystic, they are the future band for Culture... they good man. And see the first album that they play for us (One Stone), you see how it's really stepping - it's like a stepping stone.
Have you written any stuff for the new Culture album?
I always have songs in mind, in store, that I do for a long time. We don't really stop from making songs. We're going to do something. I'm going to put a few there... could only make it look more better. But, you are going to hear my album when it come. My album going to be called 'Purple Rose'.
'Purple Rose', how come?
Well, I once saw a rose grow in my garden, a purple rose that I didn't plant... so I just make a song from it.
I can't wait to hear it.
You are going to hear it man. I'm going to finish it this year too. Maybe about August, September.
Have you talked to RAS or Heartbeat about it?
Yeah, RAS, I reason with them and a few more people at other places that hear and love it too.
Is it more in a dancehall vibe?
Roots, roots and culture. I'm going to mix it up with some love songs and things like that. That's the way I love to make my songs. Like the region of 'Money Girl' and things like those.
Right. 'Money Girl' is a nice song.
Yeah and it's my production.... style like those.
I can't wait to hear it.
Well, I'm hoping to get it on the streets early.
Good, I should let you go. I just wanted to get some updates on what was happening with you guys. See what your plans were.
That's good news. I'm hoping you come back to Canada soon.
Well, you know them fight us in Canada a little early. (jd - at the border) But spiritually we are coming back. They don't like Jamaicans, I don't know why. But we are not stopping from coming there.
What do you think is wrong with Canada?
Well, to me nothing is wrong with the place, but some of the people they have to be careful what they do.
It's hard to find good promoters up here I think.
I know, it's cold down there sometimes.
Cold in more ways than one.... (laughter)
Well it was a good show last year in Montreal. We had a nice time ... it was too late (approx 3:00 am ending) but that's ok.
The people them love the show there. When you say Culture in Canada, they appreciate to sell that you know. But on the government side, you know, they kind of keep away the people mind from Canada. And they don't treat us good at the border ... they don't want us to come in their country. But, we are still coming.
Albert, who are some of the younger artists that you like?
Well, me love both younger and older artists. Everton Blender and all them man there, still my artist. I love the dancehall thing, but some of the songs are not my type. But I still go for the music.
I think right now Tony Rebel is the man with the songs.
Man, I love Tony Rebel to my heart. Capleton... I love Capleton too.
Any guys that I haven't heard of?
Well, every year you have a lot been coming new. 10, 20 artists, new artists, every year, that you didn't hear about. So you have to listen man, we're going to hear some nice songs from Jamaica. For the people they have it within their heart. But, they have to get someone, really to help out, on the music side in Jamaica. For it really pressurized for some people. And when you are living in the country, and to come to Kingston to do a song, and to wait from a promoter to listen to you. It work out sometimes and it kind of pressure your mind ... it's not so easy. Many people look on music and think it's just easy, but it's not so easy. Spiritually you have to be working all the time.
I'm sure Kenneth (Dayes) is finding out how difficult it is.
Well, I'm sorry for him to know that he is not in the group of Culture, but I regret to know the way him leave it. For him just leave himself alone and say that he don't want to be with us anymore.
It's too bad that he couldn't do his own thing at the same time, and stay in the group.
Yeah, he make his own decision - so who to be blamed?
Well, if a man has got to move on, he's got to move on I guess.
He have to move on and live his life the way him want it.
OK Albert, I will let you go. I know you are a very busy man. I don't want to take too much of your time, but I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me.
It's a pleasure man .... One Love.
Copyright 1997 Jim Dooley