(C) Small Axe 1986
(C) Muzik Tree 1992
(C) Small Axe 2005
By Ray Hurford, Colin Moore and
All Rights Reserved
Peter King - Fashion Records
"Who inspired me? I used to like General Echo a lot, a helluva lot, Cause I liked the way he would chat a rhythm-comfortable and make you laugh. At the time slackness was kicking up dances, but he used to do other lyrics as well 'Soldier Take Over' all them kinda of things. A whole heap of lyrics, it was him who inspired me a lot. Then after him it was Nicodemus."
"When I heard Brigadier Jerry, cause of being into Echo - the slackness and then coming right down into culture, and me being a little rebel and not really respecting the culture in dem times, and that's the truth of the matter. So when I heard Nicodemus, it was on tape and Briggy never turned up. I thought Briggy was a coward!
Was that the infamous Jack Ruby tape?
"That's right, that tape. So I started off MCing. I've got a cousin called Mellow, who comes from America. We grew up together. Then when he was about 14-15, he went to America. We was like brothers. He came back over on holiday and he told me that he had started up MCing, over there - started doing lyrics. So we went to Saxon, and he was chatting on Saxona little bit with Levi, Dirty Desi and the rest of them."
When was this Peter?
"It could have been '81, say '81 coming up to '82. That was all sweet and nice. So he goes to me, Mellow my cousin 'You had better start to write some lyrics-originals without pirating other peoples.' See everyone starts off like that. So I said alright. Then I used to live off of Nicodemus and Echo tapes. I never chat like Echo, it was just easy to follow him. That was why I used to like him. He gave me so much inspiration. I started to write a few lyrics. The first forward I can remember getting in a dance was in a Saxon dance, when I chatted 'Billy Boyo Black' which was an original I wrote out. Then I said yeah, people appreciate it. But money wasn't getting paid, but I just did it for the love of it. So I kept writing more style like 'Ganja Business A Money Business'. Things like that, that people can easily relate to. Financially we all want money things like that."
"Like I was getting a bit of a name sparring with Levi, but people used to say that I had a voice like Nicodemus. And they never liked me, just because of the voice thing."
You didn't do the fast style like Nicodemus!!!
"No not the fast style. I never chat the fast style then. That was in '82, near the beginning, but time coming on now and I noticed how a lot of MC's were just rhyming lyrics without a point. Just rhyming, rhyming, rhyming. Just as long as it ended in the same idea. But my thinking was that lyrics should have a story. Unless you have a different style of chatting. Yard tapes I used to listen to a lot. Then one day, I don't even know how it came to me...To tell you the truth...I heard someone, I think it was Dennis, Dennis Rowe. He was doing something like "Me Neat, Me Sweet" round his house one day."
Is Dennis part of the Saxon Posse?
"He owns Saxon, and he was doing 'Me Neat Me Sweet'. And I was going you couldn't neat and sweet like me! Then I said neat and sweet - yeah. I can do lyrics out of neat and sweet - all what it takes to be neat and sweet. So I went home and started writing this lyric. And at first it started off like, 'Me use ultrabright to brush me teeth at night, it's out of sight, yes me dynamite-things related to that."
"Like me wash me hands, me brush me teeth, comb me hair, things like that. Just things to be neat and sweet, not just gimmicks, because it had the point of being neat and sweet. And so I thinking like - 'me neat me sweet, me know how fe do it, me wash me hands, me wash me feet, me brush me teeth'...then chatting it a bit more , it got fast faster! And I said yeah, yeah!! I've got a style. And the style just come, and by writing it, the way you write it down...well they are secrets I'm not letting them go yet, and I finished it."
Peter then gives us the whole lyric in fine style. Or should that be fast style (both terms apply anyway) Peter continues.
"And that was it. By the time I had done that the whole place would have erupted already. Then after that I just put in what I was going to do first of all."
How would you deal with the rhythm. I've heard some Saxon tapes, where you use a fast Studio One rhythm.
Gussie P - Ray Hurford
The one with the fast bass drum 'Baby' suggests Gussie Prento. That's the one. So you would have a special rhythm to do the fast style lyrics too?
"No, no, what it is, what it is what you're doing with the fast style, your running it hot. Cause if the music is slow or fast it don't matter. You're just doing it fast. You're not not doing it to fit on anything."
"Like 'Boby Babylon'. When 'Boby Babylon' was playing, I fit it on that originally. The first time it sounded nice. so I kept chatting it on 'Boby Babylon' wherever I went. It started in '82, December. That was when I started it. And I just kept on doing it from then. When I first did it, Levi (Phillip Levi) never liked it. He went 'Ah no'. He wasn't really into it."
"I chatted down at Dick Shepard's at this [DJ] 'Explosion' and everyone stood to attention when I dropped it down there. That was when everyone started to do it. That was the first big dance I'd been to and everyone started to do it. and then er...I heard that Smiley was doing it. Pirating my style, word for word, but because it was fast it didn't really matter, just as long as people can follow one or two words, but Smiley made his one slightly longer than mine."
So you can fit any lyrics into any rhythm, just as long as it's at the right speed?
"That's right, when I did it, it never rhymed continuously, but it didn't matter. If you're doing it fast it don't matter, but then I changed it. And I just said, I'm going to do just lyrics. When it came to putting it on music when the fast style was everywhere...what happened was, I stopped. You see there was confrontation in Saxon. Like we weren't getting paid enough. so we started up a posse called the Crucial Posse."
"Which was like all the MC's like Maxi [Priest], Levi, Smiley, Asher and me. We was all in the Crucial Posse. If you want us you have to pay us for your dances. So we went to dances when was Saxon was playing out and no one was on it except beginners, novices. The crowd was going mad. So two of the rest of the posse (Louis & Basher) went round with a hat 'Money for the MC's - Put money in the hat for the MC's'. And it worked! There was money in there, over thirty odd pound. I can't remember exactly, but there was enough for all of us. It was a joke thing. We was in a dance, and people paid. So we said this is sweet, if we could always do this it would be good...It never lasted, cause people was going I'm not going to pay money to hear Saxon and then afterwards they are going to want money as well! That cooled out and stopped."
"Then, like some people went back to Saxon - er Levi and this time Smiley and Asher was chatting on it. I just cut. I had something behind me already - electronics. I was working on computers, designing computer circuit boards. I was working on that and I stopped MCing...sod it I'll live and work a normal life. So I stopped writing lyrics for over a year... and the fast style kept getting big. People kept saying how come you're not doing it. Then the work situation got hard, work got short and I got laid off. And trying to get a job was hard. I wouldn't want to do anything and go right down the scale."
"So I thought, well I don't know what I'm going to do, after a few weeks or months I thought I'll start writing lyrics again. And by this time the fast style was still getting big, but I was thinking I don't want do MCing again really, cause it would look like I'm following the rest. They had used the style and I would only be following it as they were making the money out of it, and I wanted a cut."
"I was thinking people were...I wasn't that worried about people. Just thinking myself, that going back into it...You see usually I like to go into something, achieve something and then cut out. I was a blackbelt Kung Fu. Once I got that, I cut out. I did Table Tennis, I got trophies then I cut out. Everything I do, I get to a certain stage, then I cut out, but I cut out too quick for the fast style really (laughs)."
"So people were asking me to do it. but there's no point in putting out just one lyric and that's it. So I've got to build them up. So lately I've been writing styles, and I'm still doing it."
And this is working exclusively with Fashion?
"Not really, I'm working with Fashion, but it's for the purpose of putting something out, to build up my name. And I want to do that with Fashion, cause Fashion are a good studio to work with. It's like a school down here. You learn. I could do a style and say yeah use it. I want it on music. And certain producers would say alright, then put it out, and it might not be right, cause it might not be done right, but here they would tune it up, get it right."
"Once the lyrics are together you can see the commercial aspect of it. Which I don't really know. Which the buying public side of it. So I learn a lot as well."
In a way you are the UK equivalent to Brigadier Jerry. Even though you wern't inspired by him. As he's also an originator?
"Yeah, I find that I do one or two lyrics and a lot of people like it. Then they do different styles to it, but I wouldn't like to claim anything. So what I've been avoiding...I could go and chat on a sound system now, but I don't want to flash out my lyrics and let people use them. So what I would rather do is try...If I do a music, and it does something for me and people recognise that I'm not washed up after all, as I'm sure a lot of people think that I am."
I think people are surprised that it's taken you a long time to come forward, being the originator.
"And that he was in England sitting down all the while.."
A bit of mystery (laughs) Now it's been revealed it's an interesting story.
Have you seen anything coming off of the fast style, any direction that you didn't expect?
"Well it's getting big all over the country, all over the world, that shocked me. And here was me not doing nothing much about it. And right now it's time that I should. That's why this one I'm doing now, I design it with a fast style in it."
What's it called?
"It could be called many things 'Step On The Gas'. It's got a story, it's got style and finesse everything is in it."
How about some of the criticism of Saxon, that they have taken the mix down style too far? The live LP on UK Bubblers, there's more talk on it than music. There is a lot of...(Gussie P who's also present at the interview) 'Haul And Paul'. Colin adding that the DJ has become more important than the music.
"Well what it is, since MC's realise that people listen to actual lyrics rather then just dance to the music, it's changed, but big headedness is another thing. If you get too big headed it will be your own down fall. Lyrics wise you're putting yourself over the people. Imagine you're doing lyrics about - I'm brighter then this and cleverer than that, and that and this and all that right. And people are going yeah well so am I. I don't want to hear about you, cho. Now if you can do something like 'Police Officer' that's wicked. It's something everyone can relate to."
Why did some of the tunes on the Johnny Ringo meets Asher Senator album get faded out Gussie?
"Everyone of those tunes had to be cut down. Just too much lyrics for the actual tune."
That's unusual isn't it?
"Not really" replies Gussie. Peter see's my point and continues. "That's true, one time lyrics were much too short for a record. Then again (Gussie comes back) 'Smiley and Asher and you PK write lyrics', Gussie indicates to Peter's book of lyrics, and it's clear what Gussie means. Peter's book is full with lyrics.
Peter continues. "If I was to show you my book, there were over two pages [to one tune], that had to be cut to two, then down to one and a half. A lot of what I put in there has been chopped out and twisted around. A lot of work. What a lot of MC's forget is that things that swing in a dance that people can click to, Sometimes it's what people can say - a catchphrase."
Gussie continues. 'That's what it is. A song has a chorus and from time you hear that song once you just remember it...you might not remember all the verses, but you know the tune is nice, from the chorus, which a lot of tunes don't have. It's just three minutes of rambling, but if you lay the song out properly you only have to hear it once, and the second time you hear it you can sing the chorus."
Peter King continues. "Also style is important. There are many different ways of saying things. And what MC's are penetrating now is lyrics, and a lot of MC's are fogetting about style."
How about the change in calling DJ's MC's now is that significant. Does it mean anything. That you now prefer to be called MC's rather than DJ's?
"Well, that was started by a Yardie, Ringo-really. He said don't call me no DJ, a DJ is a dirty John Crow! (laughs) an MC is a master of ceremonies. Call me an MC. Everyone goes wicked, yeah, me is an MC. And everyone switched, and he done that with a few lines in a lyrics, off a cassette. It's not even on record. When that happened everyone changed. Everyone is an MC now. Now some MC, now say they are a lyrics banton, or a banton. Some people don't know the meaning of it."
What is the meaning of it?
"Well more or less it's known as a fowl." Gussie then mentions that there is a chicken called a banton.
"I wouldn't call myself something I don't know." continues Peter. "Like you get MC's who say they walk pon the sea and swim on the land, but I can't do that, I could do the lyrics, easy to do. You just think of impossible things to do. It's just gimmicks really, a joke business. What is harder to do is to form sensible lyrics. That's why people write lyrics like that."
Do you think slackness is another easy way out of writing good lyrics?
"I used to use it a long time. When I chat slackness. I said I want to do something that would make people laugh. Make them say forward. so you put a little nastiness into it. Since Echo use to kick up with it for long time, but then it started to run down. He died (General Echo) and they said slackness bite the dust. Briggy come out with that. 'Slackness bite the dust.' And people would say slackness bite the dust, he's dead. I don't want to chat slackness. I don't wanna be dead. Satan works that, and thing. Everyone stopped chatting slackness, and I stopped as well, but certain DJ's carried on 'cause they couldn't find no other way keeping the dance lively. And when you have to resort to things like that your intelligence doesn't really show. It won't be appreciated after a while, where there are people who are chatting intelligent, who don't need to do that.
Gussie then comments that a lot of people are saying - "Intelligent they're intelligent, instead of actually being intelligent and showing it.'
Peter adds "That's why I've done the lyrics '10 Commandments of An MC'. That shows everything that I'm talking to you about. I've put everything that I've thought in it."
"There are MCs who are chatting like they are intelligent, but are only using long words out of a dictionary. They're just looking in books seeing long words - 'Oh yeah me dis.' Ask them a year afterwards what was that again? 'Um I've forgot now'. It's not a natural instinct. It's best to chat off of your own original natural instinct. Why try to be something that you're not."
What do you think of the Ja MC's who are now using your style. How do you see that?
"Yeah well people should see that British MC's should be getting the headlines. Not just the Yard MC's. When they are over here they kick up. Alright, repect due for them drawing style from a long time, but the English MC's are trying to get through as well, and they are getting a fight down. They are not getting the respect, and why not, we are the home base. Why fight within yourself? But reggae music as a whole always get a fight, yet we could go international. Look at Smiley Culture's record, and that's just one record. If everyone got a breakthrough, people could hear all the lyrics."
"One thing, I'm not rushing to get big, I'm doing it for the love of it. Just love, cause I would do a PA and they might get away with me doing do it free. Which is a bad thing in a way. It's one of the reasons I stopped. I wasn't rushing it. There was nothing stopping me anyway. I could have. I could have gone to a studio - look I originate the fast style Levi did over the other day. Let's flash the original one right now, but I didn't want to rush it out. I could have done it, even before Levi, flash one."
"I was in the studio, Max, Maxi (Priest) introduce me to go a studio, the same time as Levi did 'Mi God Mi King' and I didn't go cause I didn't want to. I could have gone, and it would have been out at the same time on Level Vibes...everything, but I said no, cause I always think the music business is a rip off. I remember Sir Lloyd after that Dick Sheperd dance. He did a LP thing and there was like pennies coming in. Real pennies. I went, oh boy, music business is like this. He's giving me all these percentages and that. I don't know. I don't know, I thought sod it let me work man. I'm earning more that way. Do some overtime. If I wanted to chat, I could chat on a sound, when I wanted to. But then I thought, no I wouldn't even bother. I won't chat on a sound, I have other little runnings and things."
Where do you get your inspiration from today?
"I don't look at other MC's. I hear other MC's, I hear a whole heap of MC's, but I don't hear anything that worries me, boy I can't write nothing like that. There are many things to being an MC than just lyrics. You can capture people with many styles you know. A fast style, anyone could do a fast style."
Gussie: "Once you know the lyrics inside out, it's only a question of time. You then just say it fast, something you know off by heart."
Peter: "Yesterday in my little home studio, it just came to me that I could have got the fast style off of something, but it wasn't that. I know it wasn't that, cause it just came to me. I was sitting down and chatting to myself all sealed off."
Does that help you?
"Yeah it does 'cause I don't listen to the sound tapes at all now. Then it came to mind, hold on, I thought the fast style could have been done like that. Then different lyrics come to my mind. I have many different ways of writing lyrics, sometimes it's not lyrics it could be a style."
Other styles cited by Gussie include a Car auction or the bookies at the race courses.
Smiley Culture and Asher Senator - Fashion
Gussie: "Asher and Smiley went to buy a car, and they just heard this guy chatting about a million miles an hour, you know what I mean."
Peter: "Sometimes it depends how quick you are. I've found a different style of riding the same rhythm which brings melody into it. What I mean...No I don't want to tell you that, top secret(laughs). Alright this is 'Boby Babylon' which has just begun to be played in the shop above. Mow if you wanted to be a classical MC..." Peter stops as the rhythm changes to 'Won't You Come Home'.
"Now if Levi was riding the rhythm to that, he would go 'Now me are big, and me are hard, and me is massive and me are broad." If he was styling to do a rhythm like that. If a man wanted to think of style, it's the melody you could do a complete lyrics out of it. I'll talk to you again like after the music is out and see what happen. I hope the people like it. It's only love I'm dealing with anyway, it's not going to change me."
And it didn't. Fashion released only a few tunes by Peter, including 'Step On The Gas' on a 12", and 'Me Neat Me Sweet' on the album 'Great British M.C.'s'[Fashion]. These were very well received, and more would have probably followed but at about the time the LP and 12" were released, reggae music went through one of its traditional and dramatic musical swings. Part of this meant that DJ's were out of favour and singers were in. The ragga style left the UK DJ/MC's out in the cold. When DJ's came back, it was the Jamaican DJ's that were on top again. Still nothing ever gets wasted in reggae music. It was green [environmentally] from time. The fast style will one day return, that you can be certain of. And when it does Peter King hopefully will laugh when he reads of some little youth claiming he invented it. Peter, myself and now you know different.