The Wailing Souls -

Keeping The Dream Alive

©Greensleeves 2001

By Chuck Foster

© Chuck Foster 2001

Though they slimmed from a quartet to a duo over the years the Wailing Souls have survived to be one of the most enduring of the vocal groups first established in the early seventies. Wisnton "Pipe" Matthews first recorded as a child-member of the Schoolboys then with partner Lloyd "Bread" McDonald in a band called The Renegades. Also singing under the names Pipe and the Pipers and the Classics, their earliest work as a The Wailing Souls took place at Studio One under the guiding hand of Clement "Coxsone" Dodd to whom they have recently returned to record an as yet unreleased album.(Wow!)

Coxsone Dodd:

Their major early hits were cut on riddims that today help define reggae music: an overwhelming number of hits have been cut in the last two years on revamped versions of "Fire Coal Man," "Things and Time" and "Back Out" (the latter two setting the precedent as they were back to back hits by the Wailing Souls on the same riddim in the early 70's). Unlike many the Souls' story doesn't end at Studio One.

They went on to cut (again often on revamped Studio One riddims) a huge body of work at Channel One in the mid-to-late seventies that established them for all time as one of the great roots vocal groups while scoring hit after hit in Jamaica followed by a major international release on the Island/Mango label.

In these days they appeared as a foursome joined by George "Buddy" Hayes and Garth Dennis, a founding member of Black Uhuru who returned to that group after a decade with the Wailing Souls. Despite the paring-down of their lineup Pipe and Bread went on to issue a huge body of work for Jamaican producers as well as major label releases for Sony that have included coups Jamaican artists can often only dream of like selections on soundtrack albums, television appearances and three Grammy nominations.

Now based in Southern California (though they continue to record in Jamaica and America) the Wailing Souls--Winston "Pipe" Matthews and Lloyd "Bread" McDonald--visited Chuck Foster's Reggae Central radio show on KPFK-LA July the 23, 2001in conjunction with their latest release, Equality issued on the Music Blitz label.

Chuck: It's been a long, long time the Wailing Souls have been contributing to Reggae music, going back to the early Studio One days in the first place Pipe: Yes, as you know we've been around for quite a good while, putting out the good music and continually keeping going stronger and stronger, y'know what I mean? Chuck: True, true. And Waiuling Souls were a big, big part of music in the mid-seventies when you had a major string of hits for Channel One as well, remaking some of your Studio One hits and making some new classics that seem to have become a part of the foundation of Reggae music now as a lot of people are bringing back those riddims.

Pipe: Yes because you see what really happen is we were ahead of our time, you know. And we were creating sounds that was way ahead so is like now the people them really realize this is really what was happening: was a good thing. So they just re-return back and start to re-do these songs.

Chuck: True, true. Now a little later in the late seventies the Wailing Souls led the forefront of reggae music as you crossed over, put out a great album in the Mango label of your own productions and really were one of the first Reggae groups to get radio airplay in America back then.

Pipe: Yes because first of all we were, even before that, we were the first Reggae act ever been played in any disco club in the United States. Beca' we have that great shot called "Jah Jah Give Us Life To Live," you know. We had a disco 45, you know. And then afterward now is like we did "Bredda Gravalicious" which was another big hit for us and we went and did the thing for Mango. And you can also see we add that one to the list also on the Mango tracks. Well from there it really step us further because the group becomes well well big in Europe. Because that album is a very big album in Europe. So it's like we keep moving forward, not looking backward but keep going forward.

Chuck: True, and a great body of work over all the years, many independent releases. You had releases recorded in Jamaica, came back strong, did a couple of albums for the Sony label here in the mid-nineties that again garnished airplay most Reggae never see.

Bread: Yes and we really have to give thanks for that, Chuck. And all of that is the work that we put into it, taking care to always put out good good lyrics, good riddim track as Style say, we are ahead of our time because people always ask us that question: how come we always right up there with everything that is happening and that is why. And even as last week Sunday when we had our record release I hear they come up to me twice in the same week it happen I hear them say bwoy, you guys getting better and better everytime I see it! You know, we do it. And it's the same thing, dedication and determination, you know, hard work!

Chuck: True. And you really put your finger on it as you say in the interview in the chapter of my book Roots Rock Reggae where I interviewed you and it come out to say that the Wailing Souls never wrote a bad song.

Pipe and Bread: No, no, boss! Bread: If we feel it bad we scrap it. And sometime too is somebody have to come to us and say that song is a wicked song man, you nah do it? Yeah.

Chuck: I was one of the critics who really loved the work you did when you did some cover tunes in movie soundtracks like Cool Runnings, I really did love that album called Psychedelic Souls where you covered some great English and American hits but I know a lot of hardcore reggae critics who kind of thing reggae stopped in the seventies don't as much like that kind of music as the kind of music you're doing on this brand new album where you return to that Channel One sound, you return with even Sly and Robbie playing and to these great cultural tunes that no one really writes like the Wailing Souls.

Bread; Yeah, true. Pipe: You see what really happen, Chuck, is that the Psychedelic Souls album was a t'ing that we tried to improvise on by doing all these American number one million seller into Reggae. Because as you know, Americans do Reggae.

Chuck: True. Pipe: So why can't we take their songs and do it in Reggae? Chuck: And true American don't always acknowledge when they do Reggae.

Pipe: (laughs) What you see, Reggae is the people's music. It doesn't matter whoever do it as long as you have that vibration and that positive sound. Everybody gwan cling to it. So is like we, doing Psychecelic Souls was a good experience for us and moving on to another stage where we really let the American public know that we can do songs that they know. Because most of the time we always do our original songs. We want to let them know that we are very versatile, as Bread say.

Chuck: True, and that is so much in the music industry. We're speaking live in the studio with The Wailing Souls right here on Reggae Central, Pipe and Bread, two individuals who've been involved in Reggae music from a long way back and have a long history. Close with our brother the late great Joe Higgs, with the Wailers themselves...

Pipe: Yeah, you see what really happen Chuck, we were the smaller guys. Growing up in the ghetto you have bigger older guys and you have the smaller guys. We were the smaller guys that were dealing with much more positiveness that negative so you find those older guys try to have us among them, encouraging us, giving us good ideas about being kids, giving us good feelings about ourselves. So yes little guy, you good you know, keep doing this, continue with singing that way and always write your songs. Knowing those people was like going to school you know, and is like you're getting teach by the teacher. So is like all these years we have developed so much intelligence from that. Know about the business, know how to go about writing songs and things like that. So you know we gain a lot of things from that. Bread: Well rich, true man. Because you know,

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Joe Higgs. Photo by Chuck Foster.
Joe Higgs is a man whe business, he's all about business and that is one of the first thing Joe will tell you. Pipe: Yeah, he was the first. Me wanna tell you, him was the man who tell all of us, Bob, everybody. Him tell all of us, say watch here guys. You guys make certain you write your own material. In style, man. Him even take us to register.

Bread: Even from those days, man. Pipe: Yeah, he was the one who took us down to the office to register our first set of songs. So we have to give him all the respect for that. So he's not here but his words live on. Yes I.

Chuck:Yes, in all of us. Well it's such a pleasure to have the Wailing Souls here in the studio on a day like today, this, His Majesty's birthday. Pipe and Bread: Oh yes, give thanks!

Pipe: Because is not plenty of who is around today to give praise. So you have to give praise every time.

Chuck: We want to give the people the chance to hear some of this excellent new release. In the past I've had the great opportunity to feature some of the classic music of the Wailing Souls but right now I'd like to concentrate on some of this great new music coming out right now.

Pipe: Yeah man! Yes, definitely. Bread: 'Cause you know it's out in the store right now and we want the people them to run go pick up their copy now.

Chuck: Why don't you tell the people a little something about this next track I'm gonna play now called "Foundation." Pipe: Well "Foundation" now was really written by myself and a friend of mine. And this song was really showing us, all people you know, that we have to have a foundation. A strong foundation. Basic! Because if the foundation is destroyed everything crumble. And most people don't have no foundation this day. Most people they just deal with make believes. And when the real McCoy comes, they don't know what to do. So you have a strong foundation Bread: Else you can't build nothing Pipe: A foundation that no one can break. Yes, I! "Artificial," another new song on Equality, indicts modern living in classic style that wouldn't sound out of place on a Channel One release from the seventies. "Technology revolution is causing great confusion" Pipe intones on this burning critique of society.

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Chuck: Wailing Souls with "Artificial" from the brand new Equality album on the Music Blitz label and the cd is out there for sale right now everywhere, in the major chains and independent shops and we're speaking live in the studio with Pipe Matthews and Bread McDonald of the Wailing Souls. Tell me about this song that we just listened to, we live in a world that is increasingly artifical, it's a very interesting theme.

Pipe: Yes, Chuck. Bread: Is Pipe write this song you know and it self-explanatory really. A whole heap of things going on which is not natural. Everything is artifical, artifical grass, you name it.

Pipe: If you check it everything is straying away from the natural resources of life. Growing up as a likkle youth in the ghetto of Trenchtown, I used to have this brother who ususally say "everything is artifical." He always say everything is artificial." Bread: And dem time deh Pipe: Hard to tell! So now that we come and see it's been artifical ages right now. Say oh man, this man was seeing things just like how we used to write our songs. 'Cause what people don't realize now, the ghetto of Trenchtown is like a University. Or a college and everything. You can get everything there as long as you put your mind to whatever you want to achieve, you can get it there.

Bread: Yeah, knowledge is there. Pipe: You know from the older guys that is around. So as Bread would say this song speak for itself and everyone know that everything is artifical. 'Cause of technology revolution.

Chuck: A couple of songs I've featured in the last few weeks on the show, the title track "Equality" and again it's so wonderful to see you returning to these I-niversal themes that make us all thing

Pipe: Well Chuck, the thing about it you know is like nothing has (changed) completely so far, you know what I mean because even injustice is still around. There are still people not getting the benefit of the doubt.

Chuck: They get the doubt but they don't get the benefit. Pipe and Bread (laughter) Really Chuck, it's true. Pipe: They way I look at it you know, people are still struggling and suffering out there. All over the world it's just the same. And the thing is that there is no equal rights and justice among man and woman.

Bread: True, true. Pipe: Because if you look at what the Holy Book say, God said all man are equal under the sun. So I see in which everybody should have a equal chance. Equal view, equal opinion of everything. Because you know we are all born free. We are put on this land and we are here to cherish it. Everything that is here is for us.

Chuck: That takes us to another of these great songs we played just last week and got phone calls on and that is "The Power and the Glory." This is something a lot of people don't talk about in this time that we live in now.

Pipe: Yeah because most people try to seek glory you know and them don't know that is God that have the power and teh glory. 'Cause is HIM make everything work. You is only his instrument, you know what I mean, his child down there. So if him mek you be wealthy, give thanks. Don't seek power. Beca' remember you can never have no more power than whatever you get man

Bread: Than all you achieve. Pipe: Yes. So you have to make sure you give him the power and the glory. Bread: For sometime man feel that them so powerful like them know more than the Almighty. Like everything that you see them try to explain it scientifically. And we know seh that a spirual thing, you know wha' I mean?

Pipe: Well no man can show me so powerful anything. Look when you have a natural destruction like from a tornado, earthquake, hurricane, some wicked typhoon--which guy can stop that? A guy can't go assume say bwoy it can't happen here. OK, look how many times you say rain's falling over here and it's not falling over there. Right? So check that. Jah own the power and the glory, man.

Chuck: We're talking live in the studio with the Wailing Souls, featuring their new cd Equality. Now I want to jump over to another cd from the Music Blitz label, we featured a song from this by the Wailing Souls called "The Underdog" a few weeks back. There's another track on here credited to the Reggae Blitz All-Stars but I hear some familiar voices in this song, "What You See Is What You Get."

Bread: Yeah man, we are a part of that too. Pipe and myself along with Andrew Tosh and Bunny Ruggs from Third World. You know, it's on the Music Blitz label too. It's still hard to walk into a dance today and not hear Wayne Wonder and Baby Cham's "Joyride." The devil-may-care attitude it celebrates has a downside the Wailing Souls explore on Equality.

Chuck: A big hit record a couple of years back there was called "Joyride" and just wonder at the message you're putting out here that life is "No Joyride." Bread: Yes basically that is it you know 'cause especially

Pipe: What we really a try to show the world is nothing is easy and anything you need and want you have to work hard to achieve.

Bread: True, true. Yeah mon. That a it basically: no joyride. Because even recently we was in Jamaica, we go home to do a video in Trentchtown and we see a lot of them weh we a grow up with and them a look like still they take it for a joyride cause they still same way we left them, no further and as a matter of fact now they have a thing down there called the Culture Yard and we the Wailing Souls kinda contributing towards it because it have a lot to do with the culture of the place and some museum and tourist area and all that. So we give a contribution toward the Culture Yard down there and as a matter of fact right now every record we sell a contribution will go to the Trenchtown Development Association to see if we can't elevate, develop and make some a them youths have something to look towards.

Pipe: Some of the youths don't really have a chance to achieve anything because as you know the area has been branded so it like we have to try as youths that come from down there whatever we can put back inside. Bread: And if any youth right now who a listenwe want to tell them Trentown to do whatever you can 'cause 'nuff progress seen with the Culture Yard. And any badness and everything wha you a try right now, cut that out. Pipe: The Governor is involved and people like the Governer General and thing. And I was told told that they have turned over Trentown to us for

Bread: Forty-nine years so is like they give us a lease down there to see what we can do in this forty-nine years if we can really turn the community around. We are just hoping that with the help of the Almighty and fellow members from Trenchtown and from our record sales and thing that we can be be able to do something for the betterment.

Chuck: So what you're saying is life is a serious thing Pipe: Yes, yes. Because is each one help the other boss so you can't just talk, you have to live it.

Bread: Put your mouth where your money is.

Chuck: We're speaking live in the studio with the Wailing Souls and I wanted to tip over to another very interesting release. It's the soundtrack to a film called Titan A.E. and among the many artists on this soundtrack again The Wailing Souls (with "Renegade Survivor"). So Pipe and Bread, how you get involve with this soundtrack?

Pipe: Well what really happen you know Pam Turball, our new manager, played a great part in that. She got the deal from Fox to do the song. What really happen they had a space and they wanted an uptempo song. We didn't see the movie or anything but we got an idea what the movie (an animated science fiction film) was like. We had a deadline where they wanted the (song recorded) by Monday and it was like Friday! So we write the song the Saturday and Sunday we did it just like that and we took it over to Fox and they say yes this is it they want it and they accept it so eventually it's in the movie and on the soundtrack.

Bread: And we want to give thanks and big up to Fabian Cooke who co-produce this song with us.

Chuck: Longtime Bullwackie's resident musicianship Pipe: Yeah man, Fabian is one of us from long time.

Chuck: And this too shows the diversity of the Wailing Souls that you could do something like this so quick and so kind of futuristic

Bread: So good so excellent because quick but if have to be so that people could accept it for these people Fox and Capital Records could say this song not up to standard so not only quick but it have to be just right on.

Chuck: One of the songs on this cd is called "Hard Living." Wailing Souls really know hard living from way back. Bread: Yes brother Chuck. We always have to go back to the University which is Trenchtown. 'Ca that is where everything started for us, all the hardship. But interestingly enough you know we wouldn't trade any of that for anything. All of those upbringing make us to be the people we are today. Personally if we had never had that kind of upbringing we wouldn't be who we are today.

Chuck: You couldn't write a song like "Renegade Survivor."

Pipe and Bread: No! Bread: No, boss. And although it was hard it was sweet. Because we have all the fun in the world growing up. We had our sport, we had music, we had food but we don't know say we living in the ghetto and is like it was us against the world inna that sense. Because when you live in a trenchtown if you're going to get a job out there in the world you can't let them know that is where you're coming from. You have to use somebody else address who live uptown. Or else you're not getting that job, man!

Pipe: Yeah because is a stigma for Trenchtown. Bread: 'Cause you come from the ghetto. "Nothing good come out of Trenchtown."

Pipe: But I would like them to know the best come out of Trenchtown. We are here to prove, Bob is here to prove, and there's many more. Bread: Many man more! Lots of scholars, lawyers Pipe: All different work people came from there Bread: Great sportsmen

Chuck: And a lot of what the Wailing Souls are about is not just having come from this background but having come strong and come with some decisions in your life. This song "Not For Us" (from Equality) is a good example.

Pipe: Yeah man! The thing about is we always just try to think positive. So is like even although we know that you have negative vibes we don't try to accumulate a lot of negativeness. Because when the negativeness come we turn it into positive. We always try fe know if we gwan write a song it is something that can really uplift your mind. Because our work is to rehabilitate and educate our lost souls. Because we are the Wailing Souls. So you know we don't really come to really cheat the people or to tell the people the wrong thing. We are here to show the people the right thing. Because coming from the ghetto we were youth that we see everything: we know everything. Cause in the ghetto there is everything and anything you want is there.

For youth to really hold onto what you want. But we always think that our aim and view is to make something happen in this lifetime. And as long as you are doing something and giving back something to the people 'cause we get our talent you know naturally from God so it is our mission to do whatever he tell us to do, write whatever he tell us to write. So that the people can always know there is hope because a lot of people don't know there is a God. But I know. And many more people know. But still we hve to deal with the people that don't really know. You know wh' I mean?

So that is the reason that we always keep and try to strive to do the very best every time. So that we can always in the forefront with the music knowing that some of the major guys should be here today. Because the music is still growing you know. It is like we are the only guys right now which really represent certain things in the music right now. Because there is not much creativity coming out of Jamaica again from the music. So is like being living in America and still have that spiritual vibes and things with us you know we always continue to do the good work and to know that the people are always satisfied with what we do. Because we're not going to put out any mass production.

Chuck: Yes. Especially on this release having a great drummer like Sly Dunbar playing here and these great musicians you're using, this classic kind of Channel One sound, the Steppers rhythm,.

Bread: Yeah, yeah! Pipe: Well Chuck alla this connection come from between when we first started because is like a lot of the musician them like the most famous and the best musician in Jamaica they always like to play with the Wailing Souls. Because what they say is only one thing: when the Wailing Souls come to the studio they don't joke. We don't waste people time. That is one of the things. We come, we have our song ready, we come with our guitar, we play, musician can create them own ideas. So is like a joy when we come in the studio. Whatever time we come to Jamaica to do any kind of recording we can always move with these people.

Bread: We have our choice of the backing musician them.

Pipe: Yeah, yeah. Bread: Because the man a feel good to create something out of themself. Because they know this is new music. Pipe: Fresh blood! Bread: Yeah! (laughs)

Chuck: Before we get back to another cut from the Wailing Souls I brought along a little treat. Pipe this is your first record--it's kind of a scratchy old copy of "Little Dilly" by the Schoolboys. Pipe: Yes Chuck! I really did this song when I was like nine years old. So this is like starting off Winston "Pipe" Matthews.

Chuck: Pipe, you were telling me when this was recorded everything was done live. Pipe: Yeah because in those days you know it was like 1963 in those days was like all the musician and the singers would all be in the studio room and we just play live. It's not like with technology advanced now where we can say "take from there." When we made a mistake we had to start at the top again and come back. So this was an experience for me and I'm glad that I came up in this time because this time prove how good you was because you cannot go into the studio and make mistakes because everybody is playing, you have to stop it one time! And that time I see where I have that potential. Because Prince Buster was the producer, he love me from that time and anywhere him going he always take me with him so that I can really see the place and know whenever time they are doing certain concert and thing I would go.

Chuck: What an amazing history from those early ska days to the great recordings that you two did at Studio One with "Mr. Fire Coal Man," those classic songs Bread: "Back Out With It," "Things and Time"

Chuck: All the way up to now I just give thanks that you Souls can stay so long through all of this

Pipe: We always give the Father the praise for is him giving us the breath of life you know and as long as there is the breath of life there is everything Bread: Plus the challenge and the inspiration Pipe: Everyday we just have to give thanks and praise you know because every day is another day and is another adventure in life because there is so much thing happening every day you don't know what can not take place tomorrow.

Chuck: I want to say thanks so much to Pipe and Bread The Wailing Souls for coming down to join us today playing some tracks off the new album, it's such a pleasure always a pleasure Pipe:

Well Chuck you know we always love to do these things because what really happen some people come and see us on stage sometime and sometimes they can't even come backstage to talk with us so speakin' on the radio like this they have a full view of what the Wailing Souls really about and what our aim and views are like and those are the things we like to come on the radio and express to our fans. So this is something that we always love to do.

Chuck: Well and the Wailing Souls are such a message group. Another song on this cd is "Stop the Conflict" Wailing Souls still to this day trying to stop the conflict Pipe: There is so much conflict boss happening all about. All these conflict come from some kind of misunderstanding or this guy want to be the badder than this other guy because there's so much Superman business going on now Chuck. But Jah control all things and have the power over all things.

Chuck: True and that's why I kind of wanted to end this set with this new song called "Down On Your Knees" that you have on this new cd. Because this is really Wailing Souls with that strong and humble message that you have from the very beginning

Bread: Yeah, the spiritual vibes you know. Give thanks! It's always a pleasure sitting in with you whether it's the book or this. And one more thing: go and get the cd on the Music Blitz label. Respect! One love. Pipe: And I say blessing to all Wailing Souls fan and as Bread says, go and get this one for you no regret it.
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