Interview with Sly Dunbar [Listen 1:04:45 min; Sly= 17:30min and Bonus interview with Jim Wilson= 47:15 min] – Love and Respect for Sly Dunbar
Special Guest: Sly Dunbar (a.k.a. one half of "Sly and Robbie" or also know by some as one half of “the Riddim Twins”) is quite possibly the most important drummer in Jamaican Music History. Lowell Charles Dunbar’s impact on music (not just Reggae but music in general) is immeasurable. It is said that he has over 200 000 recordings behind his belt (not including remixes or Dubs); has had over 100 #1 hits in Jamaica. He is easily one of the most influential drummers of the second half of the Century. In this podcast we talk about the Sly and Robbie’s album” Language Barrier” and “Rhythm Killer”, Chris Blackwell and Compass Point, and Grace Jones.
Please note: there is a bonus forty-five minute long interview with Jim Wilson (Black Dub, The Sparks, Mother Superior, and writer of songs for Henry Rollins, Meatloaf and Alice Cooper!) tacked on the end of the podcast! Also: I will be taking a small break from Sly Dunbar so that I can bring you a Reggae Christmas Special! The next interview with Sly Dunbar will truly be "EPIC" for both Reggae fans and drummer fans alike. Ho Ho Ho!
Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and the Studio One Sessions
GTV - “Did you work with Clement Dodd?”
Sly Dunbar – “No, I didn’t work with him, but I have so much respect for him because I am one of his greatest fans . . . and people like Jackie Mittoo who really inspired me to play. I called him ‘the Martin Luther King of Reggae.’ He laughed, Cox said 'Why?'”
[I said] 'Because you come and do all this; you must have had a dream why you decide to do it.' He had this vision and went for it . . .” Sly Dunbar, GTV interview 2011
Most people know the names and the music of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh; they have entered the “Divine Icons” pantheon, even being placed alongside people like Mahatma Ghandi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The reggae stars I mention here were remarkable people and they completely deserve their respect, but they are far from being the complete or only Jamaican story. Let me introduce you to Clement Dodd, and Studio One.
Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and his “Studio One” studios is a person and a place, that for me, is as deep and interesting culturally as anything that ever came from the island of Jamaica (Bob Marley and Peter Tosh included). Often referred to as “the Motown of Reggae,” Mr. Dodd pumped out hit after hit like a musical assembly line constantly delivering the highest quality of music with his unique “Studio One Sound.” His roasters and players are the “who’s who” of early Jamaican music; people like: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, Ken Booth, King Stitt, Alton Ellis, Burning Spear, Jackie Mittoo, Dennis Brown, The Heptones and the Skatalites just to name a few! But unlike Berry Gordy, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd is respected and loved by the artists he worked with, aside perhaps from a few personality clashes.
Starting off as an avid music fan, “Coxsone” Dodd would bring his Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Dizzy Gillespie records to his mothers liquor store/grocery (more similar to a “Bar” in today’s classification)1 and play this type of music for the clientele. Word of his musical understanding and fantastic taste spread. As the crowds grew, so did his stereo. The word on the street grew to a sensation. This was the origin of what was later to become “The Soundsystem” culture. (of which Dancehall culture would later spin off.) Every roaster, dj, artist, band, and the multitude of musical styles that would emerge from this (including rap) owes something to the foundation that Coxsone laid.
It didn’t take long before Coxsone had five soundsystems running simultaneously all with different DJ’s. By this point though, competition had moved in and the battle for who had the freshest and newest beats was on. Competition was fierce and sometimes came to violence and sabotage. (check out last weeks article) People like Duke Reid (Treasure Island), Prince Buster, and Coxsone himself were entering the studio at an ever increasing frequency, taking the newest and most talented artists into the studios to cut the newest hit.
“Studio One is, like, Universal for me, The sound with people like Jackie Mittoo, Joe Issac would play, Bunny Williams drummer player Phil Calinder Horse mouth, I grew up listening to Studio, for me I still do, cause it just magic and the soulful playing of the music that they were playing and the producing and it touches my heart and soul . . .” -Sly Dunbar GoingThruVinyl 2011
But the magic really came a year after Jamaica got independence; Coxsone took his money and invested in a studio for himself (creating Studio One). This gave him and the artists complete freedom to create and make their own type of music, and in their own way, without limitation or restrictions. From 1963 until the day that Coxsone closed the studio in the early 1980’s to move to New York he had recorded a large quantity of the island's most important records. The studio was there for all of the island's most important movements including Dub, Ska*, Rocksteady, Reggae and Dance Hall.2
Basically, to me, the Studio One label is a sign of quality and a piece of rich musical history that is well worth picking up if you can find it.
I was lucky enough to talk with a really great up and coming solo artist by the name of Jim Wilson. He's known as a founding member of Mother Superior, but he is also notable for playing in Daniel Lanois' band for over a decade now (currently in Black Dub) and for playing lead guitar in the amazing band, “The Sparks!” He now has a new album coming out (Yes, on vinyl, of course!) and it's amazing. He runs a blog himself that is really fantastic so check it out: