Did you start off in the church?
»I started off in the bathroom! I'm always singing and enjoying myself. I'm a welder by trade, and when I'm working I'm always singing. And that got me through the work. Especially if it was a though job. Even my boss used to say why don't I go into singing.«
When was this Trevor?
»This is like 1975.«
And this is in Jamaica?
»Yeah, I used to have the radio on and sing along with it. People used to say ›bwoy, you sound good, why don't you go into it.‹«
So you never worked with any harmony groups?
»No, I came straight from the bathroom straight to Joe Gibbs studio. I went to one audition on a Sunday, and I was in the studio on the Monday.«
Was this session for Joe Gibbs?
»No, it was for the Pele label.«
We are not talking about thee Pele are we?!
»No, it was just someone who fall in love with this name Pele. And decided he wanted to do some recording. It was Ronnie Davis, and me and Flabba Holt was the one playing rhythm guitar while I was singing. This was new to me also. Cause I usually just sing without instrument, yet somehow it was natural for me. The man, the producer his name was Lloyd Grennan, he say well he like what he hear.«
What were they called?
»One of them was named ›Rasta Don't Go On So‹. I can't remember the next one. I gave the dub plate, a test press to one of my friend; he had just arrived from the states. I gave to him to listen, then I fly to England without hearing it.«
So they were the only tunes you did in Jamaica at that time?
»Yeah, and then the tape got burned in some fire. The master tape burned. We never got to mix the song or anything it was just a rough run off. The Ronnie Davis song got released.«
Do you know the title of that?
»I remember it was a nice love song...When we did the song with The Radics, they were working with the Morwells at that time. «
So how did the connection with Matumbi and ›Skip Away‹ and ›Selassie I‹ come about?
»Well, when we did it. It was done by Dennis Bovell, Jah Bunny, and Elroy from Black Slate. We didn't have a label so asked permission to use the Matumbi label.«
That was one of the first 12" releases in this country that was a big hit.
»I was fresh in this country at the time, so I remember the lead singer from Black Skate -Keith Drummond saying to me that I was brave to do the song. They were singing about roots all the time, and it wouldn't take to the market. He was saying that I was brave to take this chance. I didn't know anything about the market anyway, it was just vibes we get, and the song we sing. To be honest, I would say six weeks it was just sitting there. I remember Count Shelly saying...We gave Count Shelly a box and Count Shelly ›Come and take this dead stock out of our shop, cause it's not selling.‹ So we went to his shop and take the song back. Then about a week later he come and say he want the box back! A week after he came back again and want two boxes. Then it was hundred, then two hundred, and he kept doing that. But the first six weeks it wasn't really doing anything.«
It was a very hard tune to get hold of.
»I think at that time we was doing it ourselves.«
So that was a tremendous success, then came the Phil Pratt album. Did you go back to Jamaica, or was that voiced over here?
»The Phil Pratt album was voiced here. At Chalk Farm with Siddy Bucknor. ›Africa‹ was voiced there as well. While I was doing the tracks for Phil Pratt, Ruddy was in Jamaica. Building other tracks to put an album together the ›Selassie I‹ album. He went away for about two weeks, within those two weeks I had done those tracks for Phil Pratt.«
There was a gap between ›Selassie I‹ and the album.
»A big switch. Then Burning Sounds went bust in September 1979.«
It was a very hard album to buy.
»As soon as they release they went bust! To be honest it was a joy to me at the time! You see I did that album in a rush. Phil Pratt gave me 13 tracks to voice. Yet only 9 show up on the album. I did 13 tracks. It was a rush; everyday he would come and say ›You don't finish yet, you don't finish yet.‹ And I'm writing one track a day. These guys are used to working with Pat Kelly....they could go into the studio and do it one day. Yet I thought I was doing it quick. One track a day. And he's telling me I'm supposed to be finished. It took me two weeks to write and record the songs; it was a rush thing. I didn't get enough time to look into them. It was only after I had done them, did I have enough time to think how I could have done it.«
What are your favourite songs on that album?
»›Feeling Lonely‹, is one track that I like, but I tell you the track that I really like is not on the album! I did 13 tracks and with only 9 showing up on the album. I registered them and posted them back to myself as proof of ownership. There is one track called ›Two Of A Kind.‹ I can't remember I don't play the album, I don't even look at it. I got it at home in excellent condition because I never play it.«
After that, once again you kind of disappeared.
»Yeah well within that time. Well after Phil Pratt, Sugar Minott come on the scene. And we were recording some tracks at Easy Street. The original place not where they are now.«
How did you find working with Sugar?
»Well was staying in the same place, the same house. Sugar was around and he could hear the potential. He wanted me to be on the Black Roots label. I tell you something when he released ›African Girl‹ - the picture on the front was from the wall. There was a picture on the wall and he took a liking to it. That was where he got the inspiration for ›African Girl‹. And he also used the picture on the wall for the album cover.«
You were working on an album with Sugar?
»Yeah we start doing the tracks, but Sugar was taking on so much and there was so many people in the studio you would sit there from morning to evening. So many artists doing vocals and that. I didn't get a chance to do my work. That when I decided to drop out, cause it seemed to me at the time that it wasn't going to take place.«
How many tracks did you actually end up doing?
»The tracks I did ended up on Uptempo. Somehow those two fall out at one time. When the recording was going on it was Uptempo that was financing what was happening in the studio, and that was why he held onto the tapes. I got a chance to do ›That's Life‹, and ›Cross My Heart‹. I just dropped out of the whole thing quick; I didn't like what was happening. I also did ›I Can't Used To Losing You‹. Jackie Mittoo played on it.«
It was sad, because everyone was looking forward to yours works with Sugar.
»Well, there is a saying ›Your in the right church, but your sitting on the wrong bench.‹«
So it's now the early eighties and UK reggae was finally building up again. Did any of this appeal to you?
»Yeah, but I'm not good at pushing myself, or promoting myself. I'm good at promoting other people. I will tell someone about a new singer, or something. I keep a low profile, which isn't good in this business.«
All I would say is that most artists are like yourself. Quality rather than quantity.
»I don't have too many people who have my songs. I always wish I could just work with just one person.«
You were very successful around the time of the GLC Reggae Show concert in London.
»It gave me a lot of inspiration, I found it a lot easier working with a band live, then in the studio.«
Can you remember the backing band at that show?
»It was a pick up band from the UK. I wasn't the one who put them together. I think it was something to do with Flip Fraser.«
It was a very good show.
»It was a rare event, to get a chance to work with a band.«
Around about that time you came forward again.
»Yeah, I started to work with Tads. I did a version of Bob's ›Craven Choke Puppy‹. I voiced it at Count John studio in London. Do you know him; Count John He was down by White Hart Lane in Tottenham. With Count John you have to make sure you do it one take. He won't settle for anything less. - Laughs.«
So Tads was the Producer. Was it easy working with him?
»Yeah, he have a lot of inspiration, he knows how to get you fired up. He have that vibes about him. But that session wasn't booked for me, to be honest. That session was booked for Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott. They didn't turn up, I was there, and so they said ›OK, go in and do something.‹ When he hear what I could do he decided I should sing ›Craven Choke Puppy‹. I also wrote some new lyrics to the same rhythm track. So I did two on the same track. And some other songs.
Do you remember them?
»›The Good You Do Live After You.‹, I also did ›No, No, No‹.«
So you never felt the need to go back to Jamaica?
»Oh yes, I always wanted to do all my songs in Jamaica. Yet so many times I could go back to Jamaica - even the same year that I came here. I was supposed to go back and do ›Sleaze I‹ and all those kind of songs. But my position with the authorities wasn't right at the time. No one stopped me from going, but coming back could have been a problem! That is why ›Africa‹ was built in Jamaica, bring the tape back, and voice it here. Take the tape back to Jamaica for mixing. And so on.... All of the Phil Pratt riddim track was built in Jamaica and was voiced at Chalk Farm in London. Sometimes I do songs here and I'm not pleased with them. I know what I want. When I went down and did some tracks for London Records - you see the big difference when you record. I see why their songs sound different.«
These are the Gussie Clark Music Works sessions?
»Yeah, you see here although they have the computer thing it's programmed. In Jamaica, they don't do that. They play it live, so you have that live vibes. It don't come out too perfect.«
I have big discussions with people about this. The Jamaican way seems better.
»Anyway before the this, I had done some songs with Top Ranking label - Mark Angelo. I did some songs with him and Lindel Lewis. I worked with Patrick Khan - the Arawak label. With him I did ›Hanging Around‹ and ›In My Home Town‹. It was by Dennis Bovell who produced these tunes. I worked with Paget King, Handel Tucker, and Sly. One of my biggest regret was with Jackie Mittoo, cause he always wanted to do an album with me; I was so disappointed when he died. I did work with Clevie and Pablo Black. We started working on an album together, but we didn't finish it.«
So ›Hooked On You‹ led to the London contract?
»That was around 1987, I think I did ›Call On Me‹ in 1984. Somehow Erskine T heard ›Call On Me‹ and he was at one show that I did in Birmingham at The Muhammad Ali Centre, and he saw me working on stage and call me the very next morning.«
It really looked you was going to go into the pop charts with that tune.
»It opened the door it was supposed to be something big, even his wife was hot about it. They reckon when the song release on the market, and they took it back off the market the very same day. The plugger went away on holiday. These people go by timing, they held it back.«
Going to Jamaica with Erskine and big label backing, you must have thought that was it. What went wrong?
»I never thought anything was going to happen! Everytime they do something, they wonder why I'm not impressed, why I'm not excited. They sit around their big desk and say this, and say that. That can make your head swell. What they are going to do ›ray, ray, ray.‹ I said I would have to see it first. I will produce a song and we will see how it will go from there.«
How much work did you do in Jamaica?
»I only did three songs. Which was disappointing because I was trying to do as much as I could while I was there. Then they could choose from that. I got so much inspiration, you have the right musicians around, - you don't have to worry. All you have to do is sing, and they come up with the goods. I'm talking about Robbie Lyn and people like that. But they were strict on budget and they only wanted to do three songs. It was ridiculous going all that way to Jamaica to do three songs. The songs I decided the last minute just before I fly out, they cancel those songs. Saying they don't like them, and they think I should do this set of songs. So I have to learn these songs on the plane. I know I have to be quick, because when you go into the studio with these guys they don't play around. They just come in and they work. So you have to be ready, and I was ready with the other songs. Months after I realise that it wasn't that the company didn't like the songs. At one stage I was acting like a guinea pig. So many songs that I choose, they reject and then they ended up on Maxi Priest album.
So I told Erskine to get me off this big label because nothing wasn't happening. I was always working. Then Erskine said he wanted Errol T to produce a song, and I said no. I'm at a level where I want a producer, because I know the right approach.«
Why wouldn't Erskine get you the producers you wanted?
»The problem was the fee. I remember one guy wanted 7000 dollars to produce a track, and Erskine say ›Can you guarantee a hit.‹ The guy said ›No‹. How can anyone guarantee a hit?«
That is a lot to ask even in the reggae business.
»But he want this commercial flavour.«
In 1993 Trevor began work on his second album. Recorded in London for the Jove label. With rhythms built all over the reggae world by some of the best reggae musicians in the business including Sly & Robbie, and Mafia & Fluxy. Voicing was done mainly at Fashion in London with Gussie P at the controls.
Eventually being released in 1994 ›Hartical‹ showed the reggae world what Trevor was truly capable of . The album is a typical reggae album in that all styles of the music are represented from roots to lovers, and includes originals and classics.
Originals are the militant ›Children Know Your Culture‹ that recalls Trevor early work. More typically would be ›Love You More‹ a tender love song.
Classics on the set are ›Beatitude‹ made very popular by Slim Smith in the early seventies. And the Curtis Mayfield tune ›I'm The One Who Loves You‹ which is Trevor's Ariwa tune, produced of course by Neil Fraser.
Released at a time when reggae music was recovering from another bout of self -destructive imitation. Trevor's ›Hartical‹ set played a vital part in its long and very difficult road to recovery.
After the release of ›Hartical‹ Trevor found himself well in demand from UK producers again. Rather than engage in this, he decided to resume working with an old long time friend. Paul ›Fu Man' Cho.
Tell me about Paul ›Fu Man Cho‹
»Paul was always there you know we were always doing songs. ›Culture‹ was originally Paul's song. I wrote that song for Paul. ›True Desire‹, ›I Want You To Know‹, and those rhythm tracks were built in Jamaica. Then he leave it, but now he's back he' says he's serious. We are recording a lot of tracks.
Another connection is Peter Hunnigale.
»Even now Peter is coming up with some plan.«
How about Neil Fraser?
»Mad Professor, I found him very easy to work with. He give me inspiration, very relaxed. I'm looking forward to doing more work with him.«
You've only done one tune with him so far?
»Yeah, it was supposed to be more, but we managed to do one. The original plan was for us to do an album. The plan is still there. And that plan was before Peter went in and did his album. I'm looking forward to working him with him more, because the one song we did was a good tune.«
It was unusual tune for him.
»He realised with me he needed a different approach.«
Fashion and Gussie P?
»Well I've not done anything for Fashion directly.«
But you have worked a lot at the studio?
So tell me about this new compilation set - ›Vocal As Ever‹.
»I thought it was about time I did something for myself, get all the tracks I've done together. Unreleased tracks, tracks that were taken off the street the same day or same week.«
It's an excellent selection. Your fans will love this.