Triston Palmer (Tristan Palma)

interview by Carter Van Pelt, Feb. 3, 1998

Unedited raw transcript

It was an interesting circumstance how I got hooked up with Steve (Ibanez of I&I Foundation). I was at the soundcheck for Ernie Smith, at the Pegasus last fall, and one of the engineers was playing the CD Born Naked. I ran over and had to find out what it was.

Okay. Right.

I want to get a full kind of career retrospective on you. I wondered if you could tell me about growing up in Waltham Park and how you knew you wanted to become a singer and things like that? . . . (at this point, Triston says he will fax me a bio to cover this)

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a singer?

From about 10 year old.

What was the first opportunity that came along for you, to sing and actually get into a studio and do a track?

[We] used to have a band name Soul Syndicate. This guy name Tony Chin. He used to be a guitarist.

How did you know Tony?

Through Soul Syndicate Band. He was living in front of (near) my house.

All those guys are from the same part of Kingston?

Yea, Tony Chin, Santa, Fully. All those guys. So Tony Chin now, he used to play a box guitar. After he done rehearse even time he used to play a box guitar. That's where I start from. I used to sing and he used to play the rhythm then. I used to singer harmony now with Sugar Minott and Tony Tuff.

They're from your neighborhood too right?

Yea. Used to sing harmony from them. The first . . . recording that I did was a song name "Love Is A Message" for Bunny Lee. On Bunny Lee's label. Then for Black Solidarity, a song name "A-Class Girl."

Black Solidarity, that's you and Ossie Thomas.

Yea, Ossie Thomas, a good friend, a very close friend.

He still co-writes some of your songs right?

He is not here now, but he used to in those time.

So when I see 'O. Thomas' on a song, that's him?


You just did the one track for Striker Lee, and then you went on to this next "A-Class. . ."

Yea, Black Solidarity . . . do a song called "A-Class Girl," one name "I'm Ready." All these songs are number one songs, "Water Bubbling," "Susan." You know, quite a few songs. "Spliff Tale."

These were number one, hits in the dance at the time. Would you call these lover's rock or were these still the rockers era? When were these tracks?

They're the rockers era, dancehall.

So like late 70s?

From the 70s. And then I leader now, Jah Thomas now, heard about me, when he was in England, and then he came down and I did the first hit song for him, "Entertainment."

"Entertainment" -- there's a story I read about that song. Do you recall when he came and woke you up out of bed in the morning and took you right to the studio?

Yea, yea. Me just know seh one morning me deh-ah me house an me just hear that him dere deh and me get up. And when me get him, him just start telling me about the song "Entertainment," and then me just get through it. Bwai, me and him just go, reach a de studio, King Tubby's, and me go deh and me just start voice it. But on the way going, he was telling me about the lyrics, putting it together.

Had you heard the rhythm track before, was it a rhythm that you . . .

I didn't know the rhythm track until I reach the studio.

Was it a rhythm that somebody else had used before?

It was a Studio One rhythm, that they used before. ["Heavenless," orig. Skatalites w/ Don Drummond or Vin Gordon, Studio One; see also "Greetings" Half Pint 1986]

When you used to go to King Tubby's studio to voice tracks, what kind of place was that? What do you remember about that legendary studio?

When we went to King Tubby's, it was in Waterhouse. It was sort of a vile area then. It was a ghetto area and going to that studio and reaching there, you get a different vibes. Cause those times when you go there, you see other big singers like Pat Kelly and John Holt, and you as a young youth them time deh, maybe you get a nervous, just seeing them kind of big singer them, knowing you is just a youth a jus a try. Just starting out.

What age were you when you recorded that track, "Entertainment"?

About 14.

Wow, very young, Was King Tubby by the studio all the time or did he leave it with his engineers.

No man, King Tubby was the person who take it. King Tubby's was the owner, he was there. Him and Jammy's, King Jammy's?

Right, Prince Jammy at the time.

Jammy's was working as an engineer in those times . . .[then] Scientist.

Right. So the rhythm tracks then, most of the rhythm tracks you worked on were the Roots Radics when they started to go to Channel One, but when did . . . wasn't there a time when Soul Syndicate did most of the rhythms tracks in Jamaica, and like Sly and Robbie, but then there was a transition to the Roots Radics. Do you remember how that came about?

In those times, Soul Syndicate was making a lot of rhythms for artists like Big Jah Youth and certain groups like even Rita Marley them. And it was like a phase just come it just change. Roots Radics take over with Gregory Isaacs. So Roots Radics start lick all of the riddim. Everybody just start use Roots Radics, Flabba Holt and them jus come.

How would you describe their style of playing compared . . .

In those times, Roots Radics was more harder dancehall, hardcore dancehall band. Their feel was a bit different than Soul Syndicate. They were into the hardcore.

They called it a 'drum and bass' style . . .

Haaard, Hard-core drum and bass style.

I also notice there were less horns in the mixes typically.

Those time Roots Radics didn't have no horn player. It was mostly keyboard who play the fill-ins.

Okay. You were talking about your work. You did "Entertainment." That song, was that your biggest, most popular track?

Yea, it was a number one song. You have song like "Entertainment," "Water Bubbling," "Spliff Tale," "Raving," "Run Around Woman," a lotta hit song in those time.

Do you have a notion as to how many tracks you recorded for Jah Thomas?

Well, I think I recorded about nearly to thirty tune for Jah Thomas in those times, as a youth.

And many of those have been released outside of Jamaica. Tell me about the track, one of my favorite tracks, favorite rhythms from that time is "Give Me A Chance" . . .

'Give me a chance fe nice up the dance?'

Yea. Yea. What do you recall about that?

Inna dem time deh now, seen, [due] to the amount a artist then that was hitting it, me try a tell people ya haffe gimme a chance, cause me know me can nice up the dance. Me know me can mash up the place. Just give me a chance, me prove meself, ya know? At so it so be done.

Do you know the track Linval Thompson did on that rhythm? Called "Six Babylon"?

"Six Babylon attack three dreadlocks . . ."

Yea, that's a classic rhythm. That brings me to the next question then. There were a number of producers who were working then, Jah Thomas of course, Linval and Junjo. How did you hook up with Linval? You recorded at least one full album with him, the Joker Lover . . .

Joker Lover, alright. Linval now here me start work with Jah Thomas, go to England, get a deal with one of dem record company deh.

At that time it would have been Greensleeves or Trojan.

Yea, him get a deal with them, come back, check me now and Thomas had kind a get away, cause [some] a say Linval want take away him artist, but not like that. So Linval now him check me alright, me deal the album and so it go. We just go work pon the album, but that was the only set of songs I did for Linval.

Just the ten songs?

Yea, "Rub A Dub Session" and those songs. *

But you say it was cool with Jah Thomas that you work with Linval at the same time?


What was it like working with Linval compared to working with Jah Thomas?

Well is two different vibes now. Linval was an artist and is two different vibes right there. Jah Thomas to me in those times, me have a better vibes round Jah Thomas. But Linval was cool them times still.

Yea, Linval says you see each other occasionally still.

Yea mon, we a friends mon. Him check me regular, ya know?

So you never recorded any tracks for Junjo Lawes?

I did two songs for him. Years ago, but Junjo had Barrington Levy at that time, so Junjo didn't really want me to be in his camp . . . Junjo camp at that time was full -- a lotta artists.

Based on the amount of his albums, Junjo produced albums that made it outside Jamaica, it looks like he produced most of the music during that era, but I don't know if that's really accurate to say that. Do you think he was putting out more work than Linval or . . .

Well, at that time he was putting out more work than Linval in Jamaica, outside Jamaica. Yea, Junjo did lotta work more than Linval, and Junjo was the leading producer.

Is it true, it's true that Linval brought Junjo into the business?

Yea, yea, yea. That's true.

So who was the engineer, listed on the Linval album (Joker Lover), Peter Chemist?

Peter Chemist, he used to work at Channel One.

Same time as Scientist, as an alternate?

Yea, same time as Scientist and dem, but Scientist was the more established one then.

So was Channel One and Tubby's pretty much just going all day and all night?

Straight through!

Straight through twenty-four seven?

Yea, them used to have different engineer in shift.

Wow, that must have been quite a sight . . . Are the studio buildings still around?

Still around with the board in there same way.

Both of them?

Only Tubby's. From when he died, they just empty the building and people are living in it. Channel One is there same way.

It's not used as a recording studio though, is it now?

Channel One? Not really, no.

That's too bad, cause some of the best music that ever came off of your island came from that studio.

You know. (laughs). That's true.

Then moving on up in time, did Jah Thomas ease out of the business? Talk about the transition in sound that started to take place before "Sleng Teng" came along . . .

Jah Thomas left Jamaica and he was in New York. He left on and go to England. So that time now, he was there for a very long time. He wasn't really doing any recording. He was mostly dealing with the older stuff that he had.

When he slowed out of the recording business, what did you do at that point in time, cause I know you had a hit called "Folley Rankin" for George Phang.

Yea, for George Phang, "Folley Rankin." At that time, if you are working with someone and at least they migrate, you haffe find something else, right? You cyan make your career just go a place, so I start doing some recording for myself, just as a producer.

Did you release singles on your own label at the time?

Yea, Black Solidarity.

How many singles did that label come up with over the years? Do you have a feeling for that?

Quite a few you know, cause we used to even record other artists. Quite a few.

What about Winston Riley?

I did one song for Winston Riley. I never really feel his vibes, just one song I did.

How much recording did you do when the sound changed so much when "Sleng Teng" came along right, wha happen?

That time, when it change, is like people were more focusing on the slackness part. So me kinda jus cool out a little. Not really cool like finish, just ease out a lickle. But still was doing like one and two songs at the same time.

And then what's your trade or profession that you've done throughout the years aside from the music?

Nothing else but music.


Music alone.

I didn't know that. I kind of got the impression that a lot of you who were singers have also had another trade along the way too.

No, just music alone. See'n me. I eat music. I sleep music. I talk music. Everything I do is music. Everything. See'n me is music.

How about up through the 90s, you've still been working all this time. Tell me how you met Steve (Ibanez) and let him put out the CD (Born Naked).

Well, Steve heard about me cause I have some songs that going on very good now. Him check me and me and him reason, and we just became friend and then we start work together. Right now we even working on a new album.

This album, Born Naked, that was recorded . . . that's a compilation over a period of time. It's sounds like it's from different studios and thing.

Yea, yea, but we have this new album that we working on. New brand tracks. New tracks and different different feel.

How would you say that over the years that your approach to writing lyrics and music has changed, especially the lyrical content. You were associated with a certain style when you started because of the message that was going on the dancehall at the time, it was like your song "Entertainment." That was kind of reflective of the style of the time, the lovers rock time. The lyrics weren't political is what I'm saying.

Right right. Well right now you know, the writing it nah matter me. Hear me now, time change, things a gwan, ya haffe jus sing weh you know what's happening around you. Good things, you haffe try an teach people truths and rights. You can even mend some broken hearts or try to heal some of the man dem weh a gwan with some dangerous things through the music. That's the only way we can deliver a message, through the music.

Do you think the way the music is in Jamaica, let's say the last few years since Garnett Silk and Luciano came. Is that more receptive to the kind of vibe you're trying to spread?

Yes. That's why I am playing so very hard now, cause is those kind of message song right now. I have a lotta song play right now in Jamaica. Lots.

Who do you think is doing the best work in Jamaica right now?

As a producer or as an artist?

Both, two questions.

Well, right now in Jamaica as culture singer, Luciano, me, Beres, quite a few as culture singer. I don't compare nobody as the best you know. Just compare who doing good work them, who spreading message. You have different category of artist. You have different deejay like Bounty Killer and you have Beenie Mon, right? You have cultural deejay like Anthony B, Sizzla -- those are cultural deejay. So we no really compare none as the best. Every mon just a do the work, and the work a hear. . . a lotta good work is going on right now.

How do you feel about the environment, about living in Jamaica, living in Kingston right now compared to when you were coming up as a young singer?

Right now all you haffe do . . . it's simple you know. You haffe just know seh bwai, you don't involve in no wrongs, politics, and don't involve in doing evil and them thing deh. You a pray to the Father and you doing the best. You have ignorant, evil a provoke you, but ya haffe just lock off that and know seh truth and rights ya a deal with and the Father himself ya a deal with.

True, yea, true.

Yea, ya haffe know that.

Is there anything else you want to say about the new project you're working on or any new things to look out for from Triston Palmer?

Right now me a work pon a new album, and right now I have a lotta new songs now that is hitting in Jamaica in the charts. And right now all them can look for from Triston is good message and truths and rights. Is that me a deal with right now. Straight up.

Triston, thank you very much for taking the time this morning.

It's just Jah Love, you know?

Yes, Jah Love. I'll come check you in yard when I'm there next time.

Yea mon, make sure you find me mon.

Stay strong. Respect.

Respect, Jah Love. One Love.

Copyright 1998 Carter Van Pelt. May not be used without permission.

For More Information on Triston Palma:

I&I Foundation Records
3318 Indian Wells
San Antonio, Texas 78245

210 670 1974

Triston Palma albums:

Showcase In A Roots Radics Drum & Bass
Vista MRLP 90000
prod. Jah Thomas

Joker Smoker
Greensleeves 43 (Shanachie US) rel 1982
prod Jah Thomas

Joker Lover
Jah Guidance VPRL1015
prod. Linval Thompson

Settle Down Girl
Trojan 215
Produced by Linval Thompson
* different tracks from Joker Lover according to Hany Hosny

Touch Me, Take Me
prod. Jah Thomas

Triston Palmer Meets Jah Thomas Inna Disco Style
Munich Records / Majestic Reggae MRCD 1003 rel. 1996
prod. Jah Thomas

Bungem BG1-001-LP-A/B
prod. Bunny Gemini, Triston Palma 1989

Born Naked
I&I Foundation INICD002 rel. 1997
prod. Triston Palma

Nice Time (with Toyan)
Jam Rock386
prod. Tony Robinson

Trison Palma and Phillip Frazer
The Big Showdown

Triston Palma and Early B -- The Doctor
Sunset Label

On The Attack
Blue Mountain 009
prod. Jah Thomas

Bun Gem 1004
prod. Bunny Gemini and Triston

Presenting Triston Palma
Black Roots
prod. Sugar Minott


"Cuss Cuss" (Massive B 7") prod. Bobby Konders 1997
"Melissa" (JR 7") prod. Junior Reid rel. 1992
"My Father Love" (Vasco 7") prod. V Carney
"Spliff Tail" (Black Solidarity 7") prod. O. Thomas
"Another Girl" with Phillip Frazier (Solidarity International 7")
"Ghetto Vibes" (I&I Foundation 7") prod. Triston Palma & Steve Ibanez
"The Struggle" with Norris Man (I&I Foundation 7") prod. Triston Palma & Steve Ibanez
"Can't Let Them Do That" (Artistic 7") prod. Carlton Hines 1997
"Jah Is In Charge" (Ruff Stock 7") prod. Lloyd Barnes & K. Parker 1997
"Original Fussing & Fighting" (Ranking Joe 7") 1998
"Sweet Reggae Music" b/w "Let Me Know" (Corner Stone 12") VPRD-250 prod. Steve Byfield