»I started at Dynamics - roughly about fifteen years ago. I knew an
engineer there Graham Goddall. He invited me down there, he wanted a technician
to help start fixing up Dynamics Studio, at that time, the name of it was West
Indies (Recording Studio) - WIRL. So this is where I
When was it that you went to Studio
»Well, I was by Dynamics for about two years,
and er when I left Dynamics - I went immediately to Studio One. That would be
Sid Bucknor was the engineer
before you at Studio One?
»Yes Sid Bucknor, he was
the original engineer.«
How about Dodd
»Well he used to do a lot of mixing, before
I came...yes I would say he did a certain amount of mixing before I came, but
when I went there the bulk of the work came onto me. He didn't really do much
work when I came, and got myself a firm hold on the instruments and so
So you did all the recording of the
»To be truthful I would say I was
both the engineer, the producer and arranger of a lot of those musics, because
the majority of times Coxsone wasn't even in the studio so he didn't know what
was happening. The most, what would happen is that at times he would do some
auditioning, so he would audition the artists and then I would do the actual
production as such«
Who were the artists
»Let me see now, well there were a lot
of artists like the Heptones, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, Dennis Brown, cause he
started there as a very young chap.«
Who was the band , Leroy
»Yes Leroy, he used to play bass, and this
chap by the name of Bagga.«
Jackie Mitto still there?
»Well yes, I would say that
between me and him - we used to do a lot of arranging - myself and Jackie. He
was the musical man as such, but he left after a while, so myself and Leroy
Sibbles started to do a lot of the work.«
Most of the classical rhythms are from these times, the ones that
are still recording now.
»Yes, what is happening now
is, pratically all of his tunes have been done over by other producers. They
sort of use them as a pattern, so it's a standard as such you
So you still recognise all of them,
when you hear them?
»Yeah, definitely, you see we
used to cut what you call dub plate. So this is how a lot of the tunes got
popular. You see what would happen is that the chaps would come and buy the dubs
and they would give them a name, these were just rhythm alone - and they would
give them a name that they feel. So if the dub gets worn out, or they lose a dub
- they would come back and say that they would want this tune, but they would
call it the name that they give it! So sometimes they would have to bring back
the dub and play it for us, then we can remember the rhythm.«
We have come across tunes on the Studio One
dub albums where we don't know the original cut, do you know the original to
'Rub And Scrub' cut by Lone Ranger?
Scrub..., no not at this moment. You see what is happening is that so many of
them have been done over. And they keep being called a lot of different names,
and you get really mixed up with them.«
about a rhythm called 'Fussing And Fighting' done over by Sugar Minott late 70's
»'Fussing & Fighting' to be truthful
I can't recall it at this moment. I would have to hear it.«
Its on the 'Showcase' album.
really recall it.«
What year did you leave
»Well lets see was there about 6 years,
it was around '74.«
Did you do a
lot of LP's at Studio One?
»I did all the mixing,
both recording and mixing.«
Did any dub album
come out in those days?
»No, I wouldn't say we did
any dub albums at the time. It was shortly after that they started doing that.
The dub thing was just coming to the fullness at that time, cause like I say -
it was brought about to a degree by the sound men because they came and they
wanted probably just a rhythm, a particular rhythm. And if you give it to one
man, another would want a different version. So you had to improvise - you had
to give some a little bass and drum, and some...everyone of them sound
different. This is how the drum and bass thing came about.«
So you left Studio One and went straight to Harry J's
»No, well I left, er thats right, but I forgot I left Dynamics
and came to Duke Reid. I was by Duke Reid for a short period. I was at Treasure
Isle for about 3-4 months, but I didn't like the environment, the actual
location, it was a bit too rough, the people in the area. So I didn't stay there
too long, but I did one or two tunes with The Jamaicans, even their big hit 'Ba
Ba Boom' it was mixed by me, a festival tune.«
When was this about '67/'68?
roughly about that era.«
When rhythms were
made at Studio One - what was the procedure?
Jackie Mittoo had a lot to do with the formulation of bass lines, when he was
there. We had a thing going where sometimes we had a tune, and we wanted to do
another tune, and we would use the bass line and turn it backwards! So you would
get a sound that you was familiar with, but you don't know where it's from. So I
would play it, play it from the back to the front instead of the direct
It was just the bass line?
»Yeah, just a bare bass line, it was a method that we used. A lot
of people don't know all the things still (laughs). So probably you would have a
hit tune - and change the bass line, the same bass, we would use it in so many
different ways. We might skip a beat here, put in a beat there, but use the
Treasure Isle and Studio
One have a lot of similar material - Which one was the originator?
»Originator of what?«
like John Holt and Alton Ellis have recorded the same songs for both studios.
Which studio recorded them first?
»That would be hard
to say. There was a lot of rivalry going on between both studios. They was
trying to do each other er...I would say Duke Reid - Treasure Isle had a a
certain amount of personality to its sound, but like I said it would be hard to
say who was first - I couldn't really part them.«
I feel myself that Duke Reid was first to slow down the beat.
»Yes I would figure that, more or less. He had a
certain personality that was in the rock steady vibration.«
Who were the musicians at the Treasure Isle studio during the
rock steady era - they were not the same as Studio One?
»No, well, I'm not too certain - like I said, I wasn't at
Treasure Isle for any portion of time. I would be able to tell you more about
the musicians at Studio One.«
We was just
wondering about the type of rhythm that came out of each studio, and why Studio
One rhythms sound fresher and so much harder than Treasure Isle
»Oh, to be truthful, these chaps they used
to have a name that they gave me, they call me 'My Engineer'. Now the reason for
that, was that at the time I was very strong in getting the tune to sound a
particular way in which I liked. So when they would formulate a rhythm - we
tried to get it to sound a particular way. I built a box a bass box - a speaker,
an enclosure and we miked it from the back - and we got a special sound. To me I
always hear a heavier sound from the back of the box, but it doesn't really
penertrate out. If you put a mike there you will get it, and we usually do that.
So it had a lot to do with arranging and engineering, cause I don't think they
can get back that sound. Even Coxsone himself is still using the old rhythms.«
Was it 4 track in those days?
»No it was 2.«
When did it change over?
I left he still have two tracks - then change over to eight. So all those works
you hear, have been done on two track. What we actually do, is that we would
record the original rhythm the bass and drum on one track, and all the other
rhythms on the other track. What we would do then is play it back to the singer,
and then record it on another two track, we had two machines. So we would have
the whole rhythm on one track, and the voice on the other. And then we probably
do another mix to bring the whole together. It was all done on two
How about the other equipment. Some
of the musicians we have spoken too have said that the Studio One equipment is
the best on the island - keyboards etc?
»You mean now
»Well, what I would say is that the organ, a Hammond organ, a
B.3, had a very unique sound. I don't think at that time another studio had that
particular organ, but to say that the equipment was that good - I myself as an
engineer - couldn't really say that.«
kind of tape recorders did he have?
»Well, he had
Ampex, which is good, you know.«
»A quarter inch. Like I said a two track
machine, but Ampex is a very good machine, the tape recorder itself, but the
actual console which was a 'Lang' or 'Long' was the name of the board, it wasn't
top of the line. He had some good equaliser, Pultek equaliser and so forth,
which was OK, but what I'm saying is that the sound came from the actual
knowledge of myself and the musicians.«
Something we have been very interested in is the echo and reverb
machines that he had, and you used.
»Well, to be
truthful what we did, what I did, when I came there was to reloop the playback
head into the record head - which we used always on voicing - which gave us a
very good sound. If you are familiar with a lot of the rhythms you will a hear
Sound Dimension piece of equipment that he brought there - one of the echo units
- the name of it was Sound Dimension, and we use that on the rhythm guitar a
whole lot, when Eric Frater used to play.
So when he played the guitar
you could always hear that extra reverb which he used on it. That was one of our
main equipment that we used to get a certain sound - Sound Dimension was the
name of it. We used AKG mikes on the piano, a unique thing was happening there.
Some of the mikes, they weren't sensitive to the bass end of the spectrum, they
were more sensitive to the mids and the top end. So we would use them in such a
way to get a mixture. It was a unique arrangement, you had to use your
imagination to get the right vibration. Even the miking of the drums, at the
time. The way you mike drums sophisticated now, having eight mike or more on the
drum, we never used to do that. We had about two - so you would get a overall
sound of the drum, you have to place it a strategic spot to get everything. You
notice on the tunes that you don't get the heavy bass drum beat, but then its
together, which made the sound so good.«
was the drummer then?
»Horsemouth did a lot of the
drumming then. Knibbs did a portion of work too, and Eric Frater.«
He was drumming too?
»No, not Eric, sorry, Phil Callender. And then there was the
chaps from Bog Walk - who formed the band the Soul Defenders. There was a lot of
different bands that came about, there were mixtures«
Were there any other bass players apart from Bagga & Sibbles,
was Lloyd Brevitt still playing?
»Well, when I went
there Brevitt was on his way out in terms of the vibration. So he didn't do
much, maybe now and again he came in. There was another tall brown chap, who
left about 3 weeks after I came in. I can't remember his name, but he was a very
tall brown chap. I think he went to Canada, where he used to play with Jackie
Mittoo, but most of the works were done by Bagga and Leroy Sibbles.«
With Jackie Mittoo on keyboards?
»Jackie Mittoo on keyboards, yeah.«
And the horns were?
»It was a mixture, there was this chap called Trammie on
Trombone, I don't know him by any other name, other than Trammie. Im Brooks, Im
Brooks used to do a lot of playing, also David Madden and Vin Gordon.«
Did you rework any ska
»Maybe now and again - he would use those
tunes to influence you, but most of these tunes just came up from the musicians
and myself. A singer would come along - like Burning Spear, Burning Spear came
by Studio One, one day, he said he had a vision that he should come by the
studio to sing. So he came and we listened to the songs that he had, and then go
into the studio to create a rhythm to suit them.
When I left Studio One I
had lost so much time in working...but when I went there I was working like I
was the man's son. I got a lot of promises, that didn't really come about. So
when I left it was like I tried to erase a lot of it from my memory. I don't try
and think about it, I lost to much time doing a lot of work, and not collecting
enough for it. Coxsone is a very smart chap, but I think what hurt me the most
was his...it seems as if he exploited the youth, he outsmarted then in other
words. So you would have to put it that he exploited them. If a man is young,
and just coming as a artist he don't really know much. So you can always out
smart him. They should have gotten a better deal from him.«
How old was you when you went there?
»I was quite young, about 19...«
By Tero Kaski & Pekka
ALBUMS SYLVAN MORRIS