Wackies House Of Music
Photo: Ray Hurford
From Treasure Isle To NYC
|I used to hang around at Treasure
Isle with Prince Buster. Although I used to listen to plenty of Studio
One, I used to go anywhere that Coxsone used to go; you had King Stitt
and Count Matchuki. I grow up on Studio One and Treasure Isle.
What year was this?
It had to be 64/65, I went to America in 1967.
We know about the tune that you done with Prince Buster.
There was two, one was called While I Was Walking.
How old were you when you voiced that tune?
Im not sure, I used to hang with Stranger Cole as well, and Ken Boothe. They used to sing together."
What was it like in the Ska/Rock Steady days in Jamaica?
It was a lot different from now, the Skatalites were like a real big band. They used to play out on a Sunday. The sound system was the thing, Studio One, which is Coxsone; Treasure Isle was Duke Reid. Then you have Prince Buster, Prince Buster, and me; we used to get along real good, cause I was a friend with Stranger and Gladdy. Stranger Cole did a lot for me, Joe White was there at the time.
Did you record anything for Duke Reid?
No, I just used to hang around there. I went to a lot of Skatalites sessions.
Were you hoping to be a singer yourself?
I wasnt thinking so much of singing, I was around good singers. At one time I thought of playing the keyboard. I know the keyboard.
You left Jamaica in 1967. Was it with your parents or just on your own?
It was strange, because I was going to come to England.
Once you got into the music, how did you acquire the name Wackies?
We used to have gangs, and I used to be a Bull Wackie boy. The only difference was that we wasnt street fighting. The name Wacky really comes from Cocky. It was like saying Cocky Boys. Then the name just stick.
Who was around in New York, when you got there?
You mean in the music...You had another sound system. When I started out, I started out with a sound system. We used to ride the transit.
Ride the transit with a sound system! How did you do that!
We had a lot of people. Then the sound got to big. There was another sound called Quaker. It was hard for a sound. You had a soul sound called Soul Seekers. We all used to play together. Those days people who used to come from Jamaica, would bring me the latest music.
You were playing Rock Steady/Reggae?
Yeah, we was playing that. We started to play dub plates from Treasure Isle. Different cuts. Then it became very violent, it was too much."
Even in the early seventies?
Yeah, I play a dance where I had to pick out bullets from the speakers. After that I decided that to give it up.
When was that?
About 73. It was then that we built a basement studio.
Who were you working with then Lloyd?
At that time it was, like me and Munchie Jackson. We used to work with Ken Boothe. Munchie had Little Roy. We started doing stuff like Tribal War, Prophecy.
They were actually recorded at the Wackies studio? Everything was mixed there, but we recorded some of the stuff at Upsetters studio.
Lee Perry (Photo: Unknown)
So the connection with Scratch goes back a long way. Yeah. Who were the musicians working at Wackies then? Well, there was a group called Wreckless Breed. You had a next group called... Two brothers the Sylvesters, one played drum, one played bass. Then there was a group called Itopia. They was with the Congoes, They went to Europe and America with the Congoes, and ended up getting stuck in America. So they wind up, everyone wind up at Wackies.
The Wackies sound is unique, is there a secret to it? Everything is personal identity. You hear something, and you trust it. You can go anywhere and get a basic sound, but if you make something different. Then its ahead of its time. You make tune, and then ten years later, everybody want it. When I was selling it....
What sort of studio equipment did you have then?
I used to use one inch tape, eight track, and 1/4 quarter tape on four track at the same time. It was big Ampex machine.
What was the size of the studio?
About 10x12 feet. We had a drum booth built in there.
You always got a very good drum sound.
We had a special booth built, We use a certain kind of padding for the top, and aluminium foil, it reflected the sound, it was a good sound.
Bass, now, well we didnt eq it.
Did you have any special techniques for getting that bass sound?
Well, we use a DI Box.
Now that you have moved to Jamaica, have you taken all the studio equipment with you?
The tape machine is in a museum, Les Pauls Museum. This is where the machine came from originally. He came to my studio a couple of times. When the first sampler came out, he was curious. Since I was involved with the Japanese I had this machine really early. He really wanted to see what it could do, cause he still could play.
You were into dub at a very early stage. You were one of the first people outside of Jamaica, who were making it.
Well the thing is, when your expressing yourself as an engineer, you have to be individual, even today we use tape delay, rather than a digital delay. Just a two track machine. You dont calculate it like a number, if you do that, you wind up with something without feeling. Its more like an instrument if you use a tape delay. I still have a Moog Synthesiser, the sound is... I wouldnt make the same music I made in America, in Jamaica. A lot of good music is made in Jamaica, a lot of good music is made in England. Its hard to make certain sounds in Jamaica if youre working in a commercial studio. The atmosphere dont allow it, people dont have the time. Its very hard to get people to relax. When we was working, we would stop. We had made a basic rhythm track. I know what I want. It doesnt make sense for me to want to mix. Most time, when a rhythm is made the singer sing his song, there is no arrangement to accompany it. Hes only really singing on top of a rhythm track.
With regards to the amount of music you have released, just how big is the Wackies catalogue?
The last time I checked, it was 87 albums.
Released or just on tape.
Some of them have only been released in Japan, by Tachyon. The cost of manufacturing in Japan is so expensive; those records never made it to the rest of the world. Albums like Horace Andy sings Bob Marley.
How did the connection between Wackies and Sugar Minott come about?
Sugar Minott's latest set for Wackies
'From The Heart'
Sometime around 1979, was when it started. Sometime Girl by Sugar, came out in 1979. It wasnt released here in the UK till about 1981. We did some really interesting things together. The stuff we did together would have been hard to do with someone else. Hes a good friend.
The Wackies New York operation is that now come to an end?
Yes, and no. We are still working there; I overdub and voice stuff there. The only place I can and mix now is Dougies. I just cant go into a room and mix, I have my only fx that I like to use. We are setting up to work in Jamaica.
One of the last things that I heard from Wackies, was the album with Scratch - Satan Kicks The Bucket. Was that one of last New York albums?
No, quiet a lot was done after that. No ones heard it, but its there. Jackie Mittoo and me worked for about 18 months, making tracks and overdubbing."
So what made you want to go back to Jamaica, and build a new studio?
At this point in time, I think I can do more in Jamaica than in New York. You have people like Luicano coming up, and I want to be a part of that.
A lot of the people you have worked with, Sugar, Clive Hunt, is at the forefront of the music...Yet both are part of the ragga/dancehall scene and the roots scene.
We have all sorts of music to come, we are not just going to stop at just drum and bass. To me the dancehall is something else, it more like machine to play the drum.
What studios are you working at in Jamaica now? Scorpio. Music Works, How do you find working there? Its alright, I cant get to use them as much as I need, you know.
Do you prefer analogue sound to digital?
For certain stuff, because they both express different things. With analogue everytime you touch it you will get a different sound. With digital its the same sound everytime. Its hard to create something with just numbers.
The horn sound at Wackies is great; Jerry Johnson is a great sax player. Are you still working with him?
To record that is different, we spend time recording that. We go track by track. Jerry Johnson is a really talented musician. He plays more than one saxophone and clarinet; he might express himself with three different reed instruments in one song. We then use a keyboard to accommodate parts that the horn might be playing. Then we call in Tom - Kevin Bachelor. I love working with those guys, because I love horns.
That Wackies horn sound is very similar to a New Orleans horn sound.
I think I influenced them from the sound system. How we used to play the sound we used to play, deep bass and high tops and move the music around for entertainment.
Going back to the New York operation. Youve mentioned Munchie Jackson, Dougies and Major Little. Did you do a lot of work together?
Yeah, well. Well we were all kinda living together. We used to make music right throughout the night. Some nights it was like a constant shift, between us. Even today, its easy to work with these people. Jerry Harris used to play rhythm guitar with Wreckless Breed or Jerry Hitler, as he was known them. Jerry Johnson, was practising at that time, and was really young. He has Jamaican parents, but is an American kid. They are dedicated men; they have studied the music. Some of these guys they have grown up around me, and they couldnt play anything. Now they can play all kinds of instruments. Wackies was like a school to them. They used to practice harmonies, keyboards. This is why the music was different. It wasnt just coming in to record, and then come out. It was like hanging together, type of thing. It was a respect that one guy could work, and the other guy would keep quiet. You could be there when Im working but you have to have the discipline...Its hard to concentrate on what someone is doing, if someone is talking to you.
What other producers have passed through Wackies?
A lot of them used to release stuff through Brad Osbourne/Clocktower, so I used to do all the Clocktower work. The stuff we do with Scratch and Bunny Lee, when he closed his business at night, he head up to my place. He used to try and make his stuff a little different. Like he would probably get a tape from Bunny Lee. We would overdub percussion. The same tune in England would be different to the Clocktower one.
Maka Dub sounds like a Wackies album?
I did all the overdubbing on that. I used to do Brads work.... People used to be scared to record in America.
Well they say, it wasnt Jamaica, but to me I was recording the music, not the country. Now I live to see even Studio One have a studio in America.
Have you ever worked with Coxsone?
No, I cant say I have. Ive been there for a few hours.
How about King Tubby, any connections there?
He was my favourite engineer. When you play something, thats melody and feel the engineer will hear it and express it he. It makes it sound much better. King Tubby was that kind of person; I listen to lot of his stuff. He was a real genius. Right now, there is no one that is doing like him. This is the thing. This is why we have to have a production studio; I cant go and do the same thing as everyone else. We cant make another Tubbys, but its important for the music. You cant present the music one way all the time. I listen to a lot of music, all kind of musics.
Another very important engineer is Andy Capp/Lynford Anderson. Do you know him?
Who used to work with Bob Marley? Errol Brown, was the engineer at Tuff Gong? When they tour live? I know whom you mean. We used to do some work together. In reggae music, you have engineer that is engineer for the sound, and then engineer who is experimental. Its hard to be both. A production engineer is...This is how Dougie, got a chance to express themselves.
What is the story behind the recording of Junior Delahays Rent Man?
Laughs, that is one for Junior. Even today we try different things, we dont record the vocal through the board. We are always looking for something different. I really wasnt competing with the people in Jamaica.
How are the Chosen Brothers these days?
Laughs. I know there are at least 3 CDs available now? Yeah, What happened is that 2 of them are released in Japan. I did some work for Tachyon. I did nine shows in eight different cities. Normally I dont do that. I enjoyed it. Musicians have more respect for you if they know if they consider you to be a musician. It make a big difference, because a lot of producers, when they are in the studio they sit reading a book! They dont know whats going on, I cant work like that.
What is the purpose of your visit to the UK now?
Well, everywhere I go now everyone want Wackies. It get to a point where although I would want to introduce some of the new stuff, we are concentrating now on making sure they get what they are asking for. I want to introduce some new stuff. We will be releasing CDs and LPs, cause some people have switched over to CDs. We are working on mastering stuff for CD. We will be releasing singles in Jamaica.
I enjoyed the music you did with Frankie Jones, Coozie Mellors and Mortie Butler will you are releasing anymore Dancehall music?
Yeah, What happened with a lot of stuff was that when my good friend Jackie Mittoo died, it was like...that when I really stop, took a real break. For a while I couldnt do anything. We were working together for about l8 months straight, and then he died. I just chill out, we had so many plans. The main musician I work with now is Carl Wright, hes really a drummer, but he plays all the instruments. Hes very very dedicated; hell work all day and night. He has the patience. Hes Wackies at heart.
How about Jerry Johnson, anything new from him?
We have a new album from him, hes playing keyboards now, Hes extended himself. Good musician, good personality. What you hear in Jerry Johnson music, thats Jerry Johnson. Everywhere I go, I get asked about Jerry Johnson.
Where are you building the new Wackies studio in Jamaica?
Kingston, right now Im working with Sugar Minott at Youth Promotion. I did some vocals there.
Wackies House Of Music.
Various Artists - Wackies Selective Showcase SH 190
Various Artists Jah Son Invasion W 2384
Various Artists Jah Children Invasion W 2393
Various Artists - Tokyo Reggae Clash Album 25RL W-003
Wayne Jarrett Bubble Up W 191
Maxine Miller W 294
Jezzreel Great Jah Jah W 0790
Junior Delahaye W 1382
Horace Andy Dance Hall Style W 1383
Jezzreel Rockers W 1482
Love Joys Lovers Rock W 2283
Jerry Harris Im For You W 2385
Max Romeo Mek Wi Rock LU 25-5009
Wayne Jarrett Mini Showcase (10) W 1716
Tyrone Evans For Lovers Only W 2389
Audley Rollens Role Model W 2396
Naggo Morris Meets Horace Andy (10) W1722
Annette Brissette Love Power W 1723
Milton Henry Who Do You Think I Am? W 2450
Clive Field Marshall Poor House Rockers W334
Jah Batta Argument W2395
Dub And Instrumental Albums
Roots Underground Tribesman Assault L 0038
Bullwackies All Stars African Roots Act I HA 001
Bullwackies All Stars Black World Dubwise W 1040 Bullwackies All Stars - Creation Dub W 0041
Prince Douglas Dub Roots W295
Bullwackies All Stars Natures Dub W 308
Wackies Rhythm Force African Roots Act II W 617
Wackies Rhythm Force African Roots Act III W 1717
The Mysterious Mixer Jamaica Super Dub W 1720
Jerry Johnson For All Seasons W 1721
Wackies Rhythm Force African Roots Act IV W 2453
Clive Azul Hunt Rockfort Rock W0079
Stranger Cole Revolution MJ 210
Junior Delahaye Movie Show W 151
Tony Jackson Mother I Love You W 158
Mill Henry & Clive Field Marshall
Come On And Rock Me W159
Jerry Harris Love Me Forever W 180
Leroy Sibbles This World B 1050
Sugar Minott Sometime Girl W 180
Wayne Jarrett Youth Man W 181
Horace Andy Serious Thing W 280
Sugar Minott Same Thing It Took W276
Horace Andy Zion Gate W279
Junior Delahaye All I Need Jah LB 782
Jezzreel Where Must I Go GH 2011
Mill Henry & Nagasa Never Love Another MED 777
Junior Delahaye How Many Times W 273
Tony Jackson & Mikey Jarrett Reggae Music - PG 22482
Sugar Minott Cool Runnings TD 31881
Owen Stewart & Itopia Beautiful Girl Like You PG 22481 Andrew Ranks Massive Skank LB 781
Ras Clifton Queen Of The Universe W 3482
Joy Card Boy I Love You W3483
Tyrone Evans Love Vibration T 330
Sugus Wicked Man Gotta Pay FH 7264
Jezzreel Stop Playing Tricks W 672
Max Romeo Call Me When The Heartache Starts W 689
IanRoots Stepper LB 882
Jerry Harris Give Me Your Love W670
Rae Wackies & Lloyd Barnes - In London 1996
Lloyd Barnes interviewed in 1996 by Ray Hurford & Colin Moore
© Small Axe 2001