Interview: Fred Locks - Music Is My Calling

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by An gusTaylor


Interview Fred Locks

Coxsone said „Hey Red Bwoy! What you do?“ I said „Sing“


Interview by Angus Taylor Album-Review by Justine Ketola Photos by Ryan Moore & James Lord

Interview FRED LOCKS


The ruddy, long-locked deeply spiritual Rastafarian singer Fred Locks is best known for the rough-hewn 1975 repatriation anthem Black Star Liners, although fans of Shaka style steppers will also recall his militant late seventies work with the Creation Steppers. But the man born Stafford Elliott‘s career spanned from Studio 1 in the 60s right through working in the 1990s for Fatis Burell and beyond. Like contemporaries such as Little Roy and Junior Dan he became involved with the 12 Tribes organization and felt the sharp end of a tough, and at times cruel, music business during the roots era before re-settling in the USA in the 1980s. Now back in Jamaica he released a new album Music Is My Calling on Irie Sounds International on February 28th. Reggaeville spoke to a veteran who has seen and done it all in Jamaican music yet who has remained upbeat and philosophical throughout. Where do you think your distinctive vibrato style comes from? My father was a self taught guitarist who used to play songs and sing but my mother was a good singer too and she loved to sing. She‘s 83 in March and she sings every day, in the bathroom, the bedroom, everywhere so I knew I was born to sing and started writing songs from very young. My father used to take me to bars when I was eight years old to sing for his friends and they paid me! I don‘t know where the vibrato came from but that was my style! I was surrounded by music and I used to play a lot of Dakota Staton and Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby records. I used to sing those songs in bars and people would say „This lickle bwoy can sing yunno!“ Tell me about your first musical group. I started my first group in school when I was about 12 years old. I wrote my first song called I Thought She Loved Me and sang it to my friends Donald Harrison, Junior Harvey and Harvey Campbell. Harvey wrote a tune called Did You Know (Looks Are Deceiving) so they made me the lead singer and we were like some doo-wop kind of group. But we were schoolboys and we didn‘t know anything about harmonies! Donald‘s father heard us singing and wanted to manage us so he would take us to his home to rehearse and entered us into the amateur festival where you had groups that were much bigger than us and we came second in one of the auditions but got knocked out in the semi-finals. We were called The Flames (before we knew of Alton and The Flames). We did well as a little group and a lot of people who were competing against went

on to become big singers like Hopeton Lewis and Vic Taylor, who came with a group called the Eagles at the time. We were chosen above them and they were told „The Eagles must fly away!“ (laughs) But that group didn‘t last because some of the brethren lost interest. How did you form your first professional group the Lyrics? The group was formed when I was about 15 or 16 years old in 1965-66, just as the rocksteady era was coming out of ska. I met two guys Delmar Campbell and Albert Tomlinson who were elders to me and were singing together and I started to jam, singing some of my songs with them. Some guys were passing when we were on a street corner rehearsing and said „You guys have a lot of Lyrics!“ So he said we should call ourselves The Lyrics! You and your fellow Lyrics auditioned at Studio 1. Did you audition for Mr Dodd, Jackie Mittoo or someone else? I knew Jackie Mittoo personally. He used to sleep at my house. My bigger brother Levi Elliott who is now deceased was a good friend of Jackie. My brother was a guitarist and the first band he played in was called the Rivals with Jackie from about 1960 when I was a youth. That was how the Skatalites heard of Jackie Mittoo and then took him over. Jackie was always telling us to come to Studio 1. My brother‘s nickname was Leroy and he would say „Leroy brother you sing well - you should come to Studio 1“. So I went there in 1967 and me and my group went for three months straight before Coxsone even gave us any notice or attention! Delmar Campbell,


who we called Snore, he gave up his work as a customs officer to come to the studio full time in the days before we got the go-ahead from Coxsone. Then one day Coxsone came along and saw me and said „Hey red bwoy! What you do?“ and I said „Sing?“ and he said „Sing!“ Then he said „You sound good. You and your group can go in and let the band hear your song“. So we went in to where Jackie Mittoo was in charge of the music - with my brother too so he could play the guitar and let them know the chords and the key my song was in. You would later become known as a singer of cultural songs but in those days love songs were the order of the day... Yes, the first five songs for Coxsone songs were in 1967, a little over a year after we formed the group and all of them were love songs. A Get It and then You Made Me Sore and then Money Lover. Then the following year we went back and did two more songs Old Man Say and Girls Like Dirt where Coxsone renamed Music Like Dirt. That was an original rhythm that my song formed and gave Bob Andy the rhythm to do Desperate Lover. But my song that created the rhythm was not released until long after in the 1990s. You also did some work for Randy‘s - did you leave Studio 1 or was this happening concurrently? It was happening concurrently because I went back to Studio 1 after Randy‘s. Delmar migrated to the US and myself and Albert continued to sing. Albert was a very great background vocalist and harmony singer. At Studio 1 he did a lot of background for artists like Carlton and his Shoes and the Heptones. He was hanging out down by Randy‘s doing some background vocals and he told me to come there one day. I had written a song called Give Thanks and he had one called Heed To The Right so we did those two songs together, then we did a cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water before Jimmy London did it. I heard about that from Junior Dan - how Randy‘s wife preferred Jimmy‘s version? Oh you talk about Junior Dan! (laughs) He played bass on that song. After we recorded those two

Interview Fred Locks

songs Randy‘s seemed to have liked our thing and suggested that we sing Bridge Over Troubled Water. We tried to do it like Simon and Garfunkel line by line in harmony doing a duet kind of thing. I was surprised when he gave Jimmy London the rhythm to sing over the song solo and then released his first. But a lot of people heard our one after a while and loved it too but his own made a hit for him because it was released at that time and he did a good job of the cover so we couldn‘t claim anything or feel bad about it. We did a few more songs for Randy‘s like A Love That Is Real and something that was never released, some sound system tune. It wasn‘t a special but we did it for a sound saying that sound can mash up the dance. Didn‘t you self-release an early cut of Sing Along before he left? Yes, Albert produced that. He had written most of the song because he was a good writer. Delmar was a good writer too but he migrated before he got a chance to sing a lot of the songs he wrote. We co-wrote a lot of the songs - I wrote Old Man Say and You Made Me Sore by myself, Girls Like Dirt myself and Delmar wrote, but Albert was always instrumental in putting words in songs when I got stuck and vice versa. So Sing Along was a song where he had one and a half verses and a chorus so I put some parts in. Then he decided he wanted to produce the song instead of doing it for Randy‘s but we still recorded it in Randy‘s studio with some of Soul Syndicate band and it came out on our own label, Lyrics. So when I was doing my own album later as Fred Locks I decided I wanted to do it over in reggae rather than as it was done in the rocksteady era. After Sing Along Albert did some songs by himself for Studio 1 while I was not doing anything and holding a spirituality. He did Don‘t Wait Around as Albert Tomlinson for Studio 1 and then at Randy‘s he produced a song called Haile I-Jah coming off Wholly Holy and changing the words. Then Albert migrated to Canada! By that time it was early ‚69 and I was growing my locks so I took a kind of exit for a while.

Interview FRED LOCKS


How did Rasta come to you? When His Majesty came to Jamaica in 1966 I wasn‘t Rasta inclined so to speak but it somehow stuck in my mind that His Majesty was a special person. So a couple of months away from my sixteenth birthday I started to seek. I started delving into the scriptures and making comparisons and decided that this was something that sounded right. I was getting my calling so around the tender age of 18 I started to locks and started to see the thing plain and straight. My brethrens Albert and Delmar were Rasta minded but they didn‘t wear the locks. Now Albert is in Jamaica after being in Canada for a lot of years and he is now a locks! He used to ask me „Why you have to locks?“ and I used to say „Every man different this is my calling“. We kind of grew apart because I wanted to take time out from the music because we weren‘t getting any pay. How did you survive when you quit music? When you ask that question you must know when we did a song for Coxsone he didn‘t pay us! I got my first payment from Randy‘s and Albert or Beenie was an ardent race horse gambler who took me down the track and I lost my first payment! So I had to get a lift home from the track which was far from home and the guy who was driving the truck didn‘t like me because of my hair and didn‘t want me to come in the truck! So eventually I went into exile because the music business was unfair and I wasn‘t getting any money from it. I was working doing odd jobs but it was hard to get work as a locks. Fortunately by that time I had joined the PRS and MCPS so I was getting some royalties from some of my songs.

Your friends were dropping like flies! What kept you in Jamaica? My aunt had wanted me to come to America from around that time but she told me I must get a haircut and come. It was at the time I had started to locks and everybody was telling me I was doing the wrong thing and they wanted me to change. I wasn‘t about that so I let everything pass me by until in about 1974-75 my brethren Howard came back from America saying „You have any new tune?“ I said „I did write a tune long time but we never recorded it“. I had written it a long time before from about 1968 but we weren‘t so close then and it was a spiritual kind of song I was writing. So I started singing, he started playing guitar chords and my cousin started playing a paint can. But there was this You must have done that from pretty early on then guy with a tape recorder and an open mic and he compared to most artists... recorded the song on his recorder. Then a coupI did it from early on because a brethren Anthony le of hours after I saw him coming with this guy Rocky Ellis introduced me to it. So by the time I from 12 Tribes who would eventually become decided to come out of exile I recorded a couple of the producer of my album Black Star Liner. songs a guy named Howard Roberts with as Tony and Howie (I used the moniker Tony) who would Hugh Boothe? play on Black Star Liner too. We did three songs Yes. He was a 12 Tribe member and I wasn‘t for Coxsone but he only released one named Fun and they never used to deal with other Rastas It Up but it was the same unfair game and we so I was wondering why this guy was coming didn‘t get anything and then he migrated! (laughs) towards me! He said „Natty! Why you look so scared? This youth just came up from the house


yunno and play a little cassette and when I check it out it sound so clean and clear I couldn‘t believe it! So I as a man who is Rasta minded and Ethiopian and Africa minded I would love produce the I album. I never produce anyone before but I have faith in the song“. At that time he was around the Jahlove Muzik Crew in 12 Tribes. He and his brother-in-law Mickey Mowatt decided both of them were interested in doing it. Most people only mention Hugh Boothe but Jah Mick, as we call him, was very instrumental in the production of that song. So we went to the studio and I had another song called Time To Change also known as Last Days. We went to Randy‘s and recorded the rhythms to those two songs with Chinna Smith, Jah Jerry from Skatalites and Howard Roberts - we had three guitarists on that session - along with Pablove Black on keyboards, Bagga Walker on bass and Benbow on drums. Then I think I went to Tubby‘s to voice afterwards.

Interview Fred Locks

How well did the music take off? It was slow moving because we had a producer who was a first timer and never really wanted to give any big company [records for distribution] so he was giving some 12 Tribes guys hundreds in boxes to try and sell. The first song we released was Black Star Liners and it wasn‘t really going so fast until we gave it to Tommy Cowan. His company Talent Corporation seemed to have a big say in the music business because they controlled the radio stations. Once they were distributing a song they could just call the station and say „Play it!“ I had given it to the two major radio stations in Jamaica at the time and they weren‘t playing them because they said they wanted money. I guess Tommy was giving them money because he had a network with Jacob Miller and Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer songs and he was getting airplay. So it started to sell and in the first three months locally it had sold nine thousand copies which was amazing. It just came at a time when everybody was looking for hope and was well supported by the youths

Interview FRED LOCKS

who were looking towards Africa. It did well for me for a couple of years but unfortunately the follow-up Time To Change, which was known as Last Days, was a better song to me but didn‘t do much in sales. Tell me about how you released the Black Star Liner album... I got a call from a company in England called Vulcan who had heard of me through Black Star Liners doing very well there and going to number one in a couple of reggae charts, and they wanted to do an album. Unfortunately they sent us a bounced cheque! (laughs) It was a Jamaican guy called Junior Lincoln who is now back in Jamaica and was part of Dennis Brown‘s thing. He was with a guy called Webster Shrowder who was a German Jamaican. They took the album and gave us nothing - just five thousand dollars to share between three people. But I had copyrighted the songs so I started to get some royalties at a later stage from the PRS and MCPS. A company in England took the album and because they were based in England they could track my things better. Would you say Rasta is more accepted in society now than when you first grew your locks? Yeah, I would say it‘s more accepted than 20 years ago. In Jamaica especially they have come to realize that Rastas are not really criminals and not everybody who is dread is Rasta! (laughs) There is a difference between a rudeboy dread and a Rasta because over the years they have seen that he hasn‘t got himself involved in anything like that. Police and government and even parents are more able to relate to what we are doing and accept it. What kind of discrimination did you face when you locksed up? When I was locksed I was a teenage of 18 going on 19 - it‘s 44 years coming as a locks in April. My father threw me out! (laughs) He said I wanted to shame the family. It was rough because I didn‘t have any intention and I don‘t know why he thought that. He would see me on the bus or on the road and you wouldn‘t know I was his son. Sometimes I didn‘t have anywhere


to live so I would have to come home and sleep on the house top, sometimes when I couldn‘t find anywhere but ranches and dumpland - when the police would come and burn down the ranches because they didn‘t want any Rasta there. After a while I went to live in one of my brethren‘s houses whose family had migrated so a couple of us lived there and we didn‘t have to pay rent just provide food and pay for some of the bills. Then in 1978 I took my first trip to England and when I came back I brought my father a pair of shoes. But when he saw me said that nothing had changed and I must find somewhere to go. He didn‘t want the shoes. He didn‘t want anything from me. I cried like a baby. I think I gave the shoes to someone else. I asked him if I could just stay for the night until I could find something else but he said I must leave. I left with my luggage after travelling for 13 hours from England, really tired, and went to find somewhere to sleep. Did he ever accept you? Yes, after a while my father learned to accept me and I now live in that same house. He‘s passed away now but he left that house after he got married to a different woman after my mother had 12 children for him! But he used to come to visit and I used to cook for him and he said I was his best child! (laughs)

„I named that group Creation Steppers because we used to walk everywhere - we were always broke!“ How did you join Creation Steppers - was this happening concurrently with your solo career? When I went solo and did my album a couple of people from 12 Tribes who were playing on some of the songs like Ilawi [Albert Malawi] Pablove Black, Bagga Walker and all those guys became a kind of 12 Tribes outfit. But this guy I knew from England from a long time, Lloydie Coxsone, used to come down to Jamaica into the area where I stayed. His brother used to tell him about me but he used to say „No, Dennis Brown and Junior Delgado I am interested in. It‘s name artists me a deal with!“ Then one day he came down and

said „You can sing Fred Locks. That tune you a do. I want to carry you ‚pon a tour“. Of course, my producer Hugh Boothe was totally against it because he had been planning with 12 Tribes people in London to bring me on the first tour. But this wasn‘t near to coming together at the time and I wanted to really go out and promote my songs. I said „I‘m an artist and someone wants to bring me to England to tour I don‘t see why I have to wait. You‘re not my manager - you‘re just a producer!“ So a bad blood came between us in a small way. How did Eric and Willy get involved? By the time Lloydie Coxsone took me to England I had sung harmony and recorded a song written by Eric Griffiths and Massive Willy who just passed away in England. Eric I knew from when I was 10 years old. His brother had introduced us and I knew he could sing very good harmonies and was a very good singer. Anyway, him and Willy used to sing together at the time and they used to come to my area and we used to sit down and smoke. We had songs and Willie could play the guitar so we would sing some of my songs and some of theirs. So Lloydie Coxsone decided to do an album with us but he wanted me to be the featured artist. He did a song with me, Love and Only Love but

Eric had produced Stormy Night by himself. Then he started seeing us together so we just kind of formed this group and Lloydie and asked if he would take us there. He said he would get me a new harmony singer because it was a Fred Locks tour he had wanted but I said I would prefer them to be my background and we just sing together. I didn‘t have any other group at the time. I named that group Creation Steppers because we used to walk everywhere to go to the studio because we weren‘t making any money and were always broke so I used to say we were stepping from creation! (laughs) So he agreed to take you to England... and you went from one to Coxsone to another! Eventually he said he would take us but he didn‘t look into the work permit. So we tried a late thing and went to the British High Commission who refused a work permit because the time was short and they thought he was taking us up there and presenting us as producers he wanted to do a deal with. But at the time you could go to England without a visa so we reached in about April ‚78 and they detained us at the airport saying they didn‘t believe our story and that they would send us back to Jamaica. Now I was so angry about that shit I

Interview FRED LOCKS

was saying „Send us back to Jamaica! I‘m just here to do some business and you people have us like prisoners!“ So a guy came and said (puts on effete official English accent) „I am the chief immigration officer - what is your problem?“ I said „You are my problem! You are keeping me like a prisoner. I don‘t want to know England so send me back on the first flight“ This was the Friday night of the show at a place called Liberty Cinema in London. But they let you go? So the guy said (puts on effete English accent) „Do you know what I am going to do for you? I am going to let you out for tonight and when you come back I am going to put you on the first flight back to Jamaica. You come back and tell me if you like England. Do you think that‘s fair?“ The driver, a Ras from England, was waiting outside because Lloydie Coxsone and everyone else had gone saying we weren‘t going to make it. And when we came out he said „Selassie I, I know the I would make it“ and I told him to race to the venue but then some police came and said „You guys in that Jaguar pull over!“ It was a very hard day. The driver said „These guys come from Jamaica to do a show and they are late and ting“ and they escorted us! (laughs) Even at the red lights they made sure we passed through ok! By the time we reached there, Castro Brown who was the mc was telling everyone we had immigration problems and we didn‘t make it. So we ran out on stage and said „We deyah!“ and it erupted. We did the show without a rehearsal because the guys were familiar with the songs Lloydie had given them and the rest was history. We did about six shows and they were all sold out - they loved us badly. I‘d open the show and then say „You should hear my harmony brethren“ and say „Come in Willy“ and he‘d do some songs that he was doing for Coxsone. The tour was a smash. How did the album ‚Love and Only Love‘ come into play? I had done four songs in Jamaica for Coxsone, and Willy did five and another guy did one song. Coxsone and another guy were promoting the shows but they tried to dodge out of paying us.


I was supposed to do some more songs for him so I didn‘t and he compiled it as Fred Locks and Creation Steppers from the songs he had, so a ten song album was released. I notice he brings it out all the time on different labels and my publisher is in England so from time to time I see my songs come up. Willy passed away and Eric hasn‘t been getting anything from Coxsone. He‘s acting like he‘s not right. He carries himself very badly in Jamaica. Lloydie Coxsone even brought out Eric‘s production Stormy Night and said he was the producer. I think Eric gave him the master from that time. Roland Burrell sang it over and tried to say he was the writer and Eric hasn‘t got anything from that. He has a sad face. People think he‘s odd because he just gave up on it. He‘s not crazy but he carries himself really low. He comes to my house every day and I give him what I can. But he‘s not into nothing. I carried him to the studio to sing and he can‘t even sing a note. We sung a good harmony for a song I just did for a guy in Boston but I took back him to sing on a song that a guy from California wanted me to do and he couldn‘t sing. He has a kind of speech impediment since recently. People say you went out of the business in the 80s. What happened? A lot of people thought I was gone into obscurity or I was out of the business but I wasn‘t. It was just that the music wasn‘t being released too tough. I was in America and I had to do a regular job because I had a wife and children to deal with but I was doing some gigs and recording still. I went to America on a tour actually in ‚79. After I left England I came in to Jamaica for a short while on a tour and because I was married to a Jamaican who was a resident alien she applied for me and I stayed there until I got through. But after a while we split and I was on my own selling roots tonic on a part time basis for a brethren I knew and doing some singing. Who did you sing for in America? I did some songs for Parkhouse Records in the 80s - one called Love More Than Money and A Place Called Africa. I did an independent thing for a guy named Junior Thompson. I did some songs for him like Nice Up The Dance in the


80s and one called In My Bible - those songs were released on his Revealers label. I ended up doing about 47 songs for one brethren Johnny Goldburn or Bubbles who wasn‘t releasing. He did release one in about ‘96 called Go With The Flow on his Bubbles label but that was from since the 80s. Pama took that song and released it on Jetstar and it did very well in England so he said to my brethren „I hope you‘re not going to sit down on Fred Locks thing now“ and he said „I have a lot of tune and every month we will release a thing“ but of course he didn‘t! Before him I did a tune for a brethren who had a company called Tanya Records and Philip Smart of HC&F Studio in New York was instrumental in co-producing the album. Another guy was executive producer and fronted the money but it was done at Philip‘s studio and he was paid for it even though he had no financial input. The other guy, a little Rasta youth wanted to record me so I did a 12 song album called Fred Locks Culturally which came out in 1994. So I was doing things. But you did an album for Fatis ‚Never Give Up‘ in 1998 that got released. Yes, I came back to Jamaica in ‚96 to live. I met Fatis a few months before when they were doing a show with Luciano, Mikey General and Sizzla. My brethren Johnny came to the show and we met unfortunately with Fatis! We were in the dressing room and Luciano was complaining that some guys went to buy food for him and went for hours and never came back. So my other brethren was saying „The manager should have made sure everything was alright“ and this big gigantic guy Fatis was the manager! So he said „Ey, bloodclaart bwoy, come out of the dressing room!“ So we came out of the dressing room and we were really frightened because my brethren was like David to Goliath! He was a short guy, not the one who made the comment but my producer Johnny Goldburn. He reached Fatis‘ waist! But he said „I man no love how the I man handle I and I. Fred Locks this yunno!“ and Fatis said „Well me never enjoy when your little brother run off his mouth and no stand up yunno. But if you ever come down Jamaica you must check me.“ I said „I will be coming this year“.

Interview Fred Locks

What was Fatis like to work with? I went to check Fatis and asked him to give me a rhythm but he said „I don‘t give riddims. You must come and listen to some riddims“. So I went to the studio and heard a rhythm which became the title track Never Give Up and when I sang the song I heard him say to the engineer „Same thing me tell you“ and I said „What did you tell him?“ and he said „It‘s not your business man, just cool, seen?“ So afterwards he told me that the engineer said „Fred Locks is an artist that done. What you record him for?“ but when the song came out so good he was saying „Oh man, me never know seh him a still sing good yunno. The tune wicked“. So Fatis said „Any time you come a studio, any riddim you hear - just sing“. So I would come to sessions and just make tune on the spot. I had about 26 songs but he released the album Never Give Up with just 11 tracks. Why did you not release more with Fatis? When I did the first tune it was like back to Coxsone days. He wasn‘t offering anything. I was just anxious to get a little money. So every time he would give a small thing he would add it up and say „I wanted to give you 80 thousand for the album but you had 55 already so now there is only 20 left. And I said „Bwoy if I had known that I would have taken it one time yunno!“ (laughs) It was like he would even add carfare into the thing - anything you had put! (laughs) He wanted me to do a follow-up album but he was offering half the money upfront and then half when I finished the album. He said „Come up the studio and me a go bring some money“ so I went to the studio and he didn‘t come. I wasn‘t watching the money but I didn‘t like his vibe so I went away. He came to the studio asking „Fred Locks record any tune yet?“ and they said „No“ so he said to me „No ramp with people because if you can‘t make tune for us we‘ll use Gregory Isaacs yunno“ and I said „You know Fatis I don‘t really feel too creative round here no more“ and then he started flinging some obscenities so I just turned by back to him and left! (laughs) But he‘d see me after that and humble up himself and he‘d take my number several times but he never actually called me and then he passed away.

Interview FRED LOCKS


How did you react to his passing? When he passed away I went to the Bob Marley birthday celebration at the museum and I saw his son who was a little youth when I first came to Jamaica about 16 years ago and is in his 20s now. He said „Fred Locks, you must give me your number“ and I said „Two time you take it and you never call me!“ I told him we had 15 more tunes together but you know what happened? It was like a spate of misfortune had hit them, because he said their house was burning down recently and when fire fighters came and put it out Fatis had a room full of a thousand or more 24 track tapes because he believed in the live thing. But that room got flooded and most of the tapes got lost. But he told me last Friday that they are doing some more sessions and he is going to call me to come and voice some more tunes because he has taken over his father‘s business. Tell me about what you got up to in the last decade. I saw you at a great show in London where Junior Delgado had just died and his son took over and sang in 2005. It was you, Meditations, Wailing Souls and Israel Vibration. You were there? My God, I was sorry I didn‘t meet you! It was one of my better shows but the people backstage caused some problems. We had been running some dress rehearsals where Meditations would open, then I would come after them and then Wailing Souls and then Israel Vibration. Then on the night of the show the promoter Bagga John sent the driver to say everything had changed and Wailing Souls were going to come before me. Pipe from Wailing Souls was upset about it and said „How a little red bwoy is going over people who get nominated for Granny yunno!“ But you can‘t blame the artist when it was the promoter. I had met Pipe in Jamaica when we did Sumfest together and I‘d dealt with him properly and he‘d said „Respect“ because he‘d met my cousin in California. But he came back to California and told my cousin that I came to the venue late because I had wanted to come on after him! Anyway that was one of my better shows because when I was on stage some nice Rasta girl was saying „I waan you!“ (laughs) They were loving me. I‘d gone to do an

interview with Daddy Ernie from Choice FM a couple of years before that and he was saying that the only Rastafarian artists that he rated were Morgan Heritage and that it was a mere formality that we was even interviewing us. But at that show he was saying „Kill them Fred Locks! I hope you have about a hundred more tunes because the people love it!“ You have a new album out Music is My Calling produced by James Lord for Irie Sounds International. That is my latest project. He is a white Rasta youth who came to Jamaica a couple of years ago to do dubplates for a sound system thing in California and other places but he also told he was a producer. So around the middle of last


Interview Fred Locks

year he gave me a CD with about 12 rhythms saying I could voice any one I liked. One was a Dennis Brown, the first track on the album called This Loving Feeling. I went to the studio with him just to voice that one track and he wanted about two hours just to make sure the tune came out good. Now I am a very good writer as Fatis would tell people so when he gave me the 12 rhythms I wrote 12 songs for those rhythms in two days. So when I went to the studio I told James I had songs for all the rhythms but he wasn‘t too enthused about spending money for studio time so he said we could start off with one. So you just did it anyway? I didn‘t even get an advance. What I do when I sing songs for people is I can get up to a thousand dollars and at least five hundred. „Fred Locks“ he kind of stuttered, „I don‘t really give advances but I would like to try to spend the money on promoting the song so I you want to do it do it but if not we‘ll just do the one song“. But the vibes were so right and the spirits blend. So I went in the studio and ended up saying „Next!! Next!“ and ended up doing seven songs in less than three hours. He was so excited he couldn‘t believe it. So he went back to America and sent me down some money for just two hours to do another five songs and because it was the vibes I did voice the next five songs in about three hours at a different studio. So that was

how the album came about and I liked the work because he put some nice background vocals and overdubbed instruments on the songs. One of the tracks was just mastered because I wasn‘t pleased about the voice. So I did it over and he just remixed and remastered it. It sounds like you must have some other albums on the go then... I am doing an album for myself where I coproduce all the songs. It‘s with a brethren who I grew up with and he has started to produce and I co-produce and helped pay the studio rate and everything and decided to put them together for an album. Jah D Fearon who is a longtime keyboardist from Studio 1 days gave me six rhythms to voice and I took them to the studio and voiced and added things - so then I added their names as co-producers. But then I put those songs on a hard drive and when I went to my brethren‘s studio to voice the last few songs and some error he made or something on my hard drive now means the hard drive won‘t open for a couple of months now! (laughs) And because my other bredda was using the hard drive it‘s got thousands of other people‘s songs on too. I have a lot of things in the pipeline. A lot of producers who I have done work for have given me songs I have done for them to put together so I have about five or six albums of finished work. But I wanted to bring out the album I was producing myself so that has got messed up a bit.


Album-Review / Interview James Lord


MUSIC IS MY CALLING Justine Ketola linked up with James Lord, the 23 year-old producer of the new release from Fred Locks to discuss the recording process and the development of the artist and producer relationship. A deep roots reggae veteran, Fred Locks appears in the brilliant documentary film, „Rise Up“ that highlights the music industry in Jamaica, he serves as sort of the narrator, making his presence as an orator known by the sea shore in dramatic segments throughout the film. How did you link up with Fred Locks to produce the album, and how did you end up creating the album? It was in Harborview, when I first came to Kingston in 2007 that was when I came to know Fred Locks. He was right around the corner from where I was staying. From my various strips we kept in touch and in 2010 I showed up at his house with a couple of riddims, he liked those riddims. I had come to the States for awhile, it was right about the time of the state of emergency. I ended up being gone from Jamaica for pretty long time, at that point. I spent about eight months away which was the longest I‘d spent in my adult life. So the first time you presented some riddims to him and then you decided to do the album together? That initial time, I let him know I had a riddim I was working on that he had come up with a tune for and we never got a chance to record it. When I was back in Jamaica, I gave him a CD with about 12 or 13 of my riddims and dropped them off at the house. We were talking about doing one song, when he got the CD and listened to it, the first day he called me up and he was like ‚James I already wrote on four of your riddims‘. It took me some time to book the studio time and by then he had already to written to about seven of the riddims. We voiced the first half of the album in one marathon session over at Caveman studio, that is the one who released the album The Chant by Sizzla in March 2012.

What is the recording history of Fred Locks? He has had albums released recently, he‘s someone that has always been recording. I think his last album was in 2008, called „Glorify the Lord“ and recorded it for Blacker Dread out of England. He‘s always around, he can find rhymes and catchy things just in conversation. Fred‘s delivery has always had an in your face quality, with steady tone and vibes on „Music is My Calling“ he brings forth a set of tunes that are consistent musically, deep roots based and addressing topics of concern from a Rasta perspective. On the first and the tiltle track, „Music is my Calling“ he playfully tells stories from his past, that is the best part of a song, when it tells a story and the best songs do so. Fred Locks recalls his father telling him when he was growing up to find what he does best and do it to the best of his ability, he sings that he got a job at a store and there was a conflict, „When the boss man fired me and didn‘t give me my salary“….(with the background harmony vocals chiming in, „me no like that“)He goes on to tell stories from back in 1967 when he went to his first audition at Studio One with Mr. Coxsone and recorded his first song….. On „This Loving Feeling“ there is strong groove, with delay effects on the vocals and real

14 Album-Review / Interview James Lord

authentic sounds that echo the past. The lyrics are based in reality too, „Oh what a feeling, to share it I need some help, I am willing to stare in anybody‘s face, and tell them love don‘t have no color, no class, creed or race.“ He becomes a motivator on „Cheer Up“ riding the one drop over nyabinghi drums interweaved with moody guitars singing, „don‘t you be downhearted, rejoice and sing our song….have no fear for the wicked, cause they cannot get us all, Jah love all his people, more than any other nation, we are the first who have his garden, and the chosen generation….and if we give Jah our heart, he‘ll give us a place in his kingdom.“ Fred is something of a romantic, and on the tune „My Love“ he declares, „Ain‘t no greater love, than my love, my sweet love. My love is so marvelous, yes my love is pure and clean, and my love is a gracious love, such a love is seldom seen. If you want you can check it out, my love is beyond compare, there is no greater love can ever be found, any time or any where. My love is everlasting, girl my love don‘t have no end….this is what I am asking, let me be your lover and your best friend. No body can get my love but you, nobody can steal my love from you, nobody can take my love, it belongs to you, baby, love you true, true true. If you want you can

check around, cause no love can compare….no greater love can ever be found, anytime, or any where. My love is genuine, because my love is real, I‘ll stick by you through thick and thin, I ain‘t going no where……they can‘t take this love away, love you more each day.“ This tune is hitting big on the airwaves, an obvious nod to the times, when we need more love and grace. There are warm horns to heat up the heart on „Come Home“ where he suggests, why don‘t you come home? There is a mystery in his heart and mind, he asks, „When I analyze the situation, I think I deserve an explanation….I cannot recall any wrong that I did, I have always been faithful, I have never cheated…..cause lately baby you have been acting strange, I don‘t know the reason why you are acting strange.“ „Never Give Up On Love“ is written on the same riddim and in obvious tribute to Sugar Minott who voiced his last tune, „Games You Play“ here on a horn-healthy, bass driven groove. A wonderful tribute to the Almighty, with supreme background vocals that follow the path of his refrain, „never give up on Jah love. In my times of despair, he is always there, in

Album-Review / Interview James Lord

my times of distress he gives me happiness.“ On „Ababajahnoy“ he is joined by San Francisco Bay Area DJ, Binghi Ghost whom Ras James brought in for the tune and explains, „Binghi Ghost was an artist that I had a relationship with for a long time, the first tune I ever recorded with him was 2006 and he voiced the first riddims that I recorded. What happened with Fred is that we did the tune and there was a perfect 16 bar space where Fred hadn‘t written any lyrics and we thought ‚lets find a DJ to throw on this‘, and the first person who really came to mind that I thought would work with the tune was Binghi. He did a rough take sketch, and I liked what he did, at his home studio in California.“ Fred takes a morality direction on „Pretty Face (Dirty Ways)“ where has a message to the ladies. By 30 seconds into the tune, he is pointing out, „Pretty looks ain‘t all, your pretty face and your very dirty ways, wont get you no where baby nowadays. Girl your much prettier than most of your friends, you cause me so much problems when you pass by my ends, your pretty dreadlocks is longer than your mini-skirt, and everybody knows, you really like to flirt.“ He has that mournful sing-song style of Dennis Brown, telling you about the girl, like she is right there in front of us, making the case against her stronger and building it up with each phrase. This is followed by „Fatal Attraction“ a reminder to a female that a certain dude should not take her away from Fred who warns, „He‘s just trying to impress you, with the things he possess, but he don‘t love you like I do, the boy is obsessed, it‘s just a fatal attraction and that‘s a serious thing, he wants a piece of your action, but don‘t let him win. He‘s trying to show off on his friends, that‘s what he is doing, but don‘t let him have the last laugh in the end…. he wants to prove that he can get any pretty girl. Cause he don‘t love you the way that I do, he‘s just trying to use you and abuse you and all he wants to do and then he will turn around and refuse you. It‘s just a fatal attraction, the boy is infatuated. He wants a piece of your action and his plans are x-rated, and look how long I have waited.“


The riddims get a bit more spacey and tripped out as the album starts to close….on „Lonely Life“ he is backed by a riddim that feels like it came from Sly and Robbie, with great percussion and delay on the vocals. With „Police Brutality“ the artist delivers the message over driving keys that carry the riddim, with a newscaster sample, sinister siren sounds and melodica, sax and the message from Fred, „blow Mr. Hornsman blow, blow your horns for freedom, blow your horns against injustice, blow your horns agains oppression…. The good things that you do, will bring a blessing to you, but the bad things that you do, it will come and haunt you.“ The sax sound still meeting the lyric and punctuating it….there is a dub wise sort of portion with newscaster samples about people in altercations…flowing in and out of the mix. „Hey Mr. Cop why did you shoot, that little innocent youth…“ This tune has some experimentation on the vocals here, using autotune manipulation coming in at nearly 8:00 minutes it is a very intriguing expression indeed. As for the instrumentation and production on the album, we return to the interview with Irie Sounds producer, James Lord. As for your own instrumentation abilities, are you playing live drums and what type of ensemble is involved in terms of musicians on this production? Basically what it is is there is a few kind of core set of people, I am on there playing guitar, a little bass, programming some drums, doing some keyboard work. Then the horns were done by two different people, there is a guy named Samson in Germany, who did the horns on a few tracks, and he had recorded those for me for different projects and Fred used those riddims for the one on this album. And then Everil Ray the trombone player from Lloyd Parkes and We The People band played horns on „Never Give Up On Jah Love“. That one was recorded here in Jamaica over at Computer Paul‘s studio. And again that is another old Harborview link, my house was on one side, Fred was around the corner, and Paul is around the corner from Fred. Even though the music was recorded all over, We

16 Album-Review / Interview James Lord

were able to get a good dynamic, another artist I work with a guy I went to high school with, Joshua does the backing vocals on some of the songs on there, parts were recorded in California, the last two songs on the album, „Police Brutality“ and „Lonely Life“, that was done by a guitarist out of Oregon named Ras Cricket. On „Never Give Up on Jah Love“, the keyboard and the bass were done by a musician up in Portland Stefan Forsland. He did the keyboards on that and on „Fatal Attraction“. It was a blessing on here to have a lot of different people who I had worked with on things before and different people who I had never worked with at all. This was not a huge budget by any means, but it was everyone kind of coming together and adding their piece in here and there. I am a guitar player but what I was getting on those last two songs, I wasn‘t quite, happy with so in that case I was able to send it to Ras Cricket and he put down some guitar work that I was really happy with, was better than anything I could have done. So you are playing guitars on many tracks, keys any other instruments? I play bass on a couple of tracks, and all the

programming is done by me, there is live drums on „Never Give Up on Jah Love“, a guy named Nathan Thibodeau . Everyone calls him Drummy Nate. The album has original artwork by an artist that does live painting on stage at a lot of the festivals, Ras Terms, how did you get that going and why did you do that? Ras Terms was somebody who for different projects I wanted wanted to work with. I wouldn‘t say I knew him well, but both being in the Bay Area, I‘d always respected his work and really loved it. Once I had all of Fred‘s vocals recorded, didn‘t have backing vocals and overdubs and all that stuff yet, the only thing we really decided was that we were doing an album called „Music Is My Calling“ and we have the very rough tracks of it. Somehow Terms found out I was working on the album with Fred Locks and looked me up and told me that that was one of his favorite artists. Terms had his own ideas on what to do with it, and my vague ideas of what I said and not being a visual person by any means, so I told him to do what he thinks looks good and he came up with the original art.

Album-Review / Interview James Lord

How do you see his album being received so far? I just talked to Fred about ten minutes ago, he said he got a call in England who called him from England and told him he bought is his new album on I-Tunes and he loves it. What about a particular single from the album? The one we are getting a lot of feedback on and neither of us initially planned on it, is the song „Come Home“, I think this is the one people are feeling a lot, I am talking to my video guy about having him come down in May for either that song or one of the others. Are you pressing vinyl for this album? The realities of the music business make it hard to do vinyl especially since they don‘t print it in Jamaica any more. I would have to go to Europe or one of the few places that actually does it. Currently there is a digital release, what are the plans for a physical release on CD? The digital release came out 2/28, and it looks like we are going to do the physical release in April. We are still solidifying plans, but it looks like we are going to do a release party some time in April in Kingston as well. What are the origins of Irie Sounds as a label? What it is now it started when I was on the airwaves back in the day in Sonoma, California in 2004, I must have been 15 or 16. I started doing occasional live DJ gigs around Sonoma and different places in the Bay Area, and had a couple friends, that were more into spinning the modern tunes. They actually are still out there DJ‘ing pretty regularly in the whole Sonoma area. So our dynamic changed cause you know I am not so interested in DJ‘ing or playing other people‘s songs and so I determined that we were going to make your own musi and Irie Sounds was born. Since then I have used the name for my productions because it was convenient we have put out a few releases, we have a lot more unreleased stuff than released stuff, we put an album out for an artist named Steve Steppa about four years ago, then we have put out a few riddim compilations.


So this is the first time that an album has come out on Irie Sounds in four years then… How did you transition to the music starting out as a DJ? If we start off in high school, that was when I was touring with Junior Reid and some of those other people. After I graduated from high school, I did a particularly long Junior Reid tour which was about a month on the road, in 2006. After that tour, I decided rather than going to college I would take the opportunity to do an internship at a studio in Negril called Jah Freedom. I worked as an intern for a while, basically the last half of 2006. I came back to the States for a little bit and was kind of bouncing around from touring work and studio. With the same set of characters, Jr. Reid, Don Carlos, Warrior King, Sugar Minott, and Fire Pashon. And how could your parents just let you leave and do this? I would have to say that my parents are very cool people. I guess they figured I was doing something productive and I was for the most part, around a good set of people, they knew that I wouldn‘t get myself into too much trouble. What made you make the transition into Kingston? Basically the Kingston thing is just because there is more going on over this side than there is in Negril and also Jah Freedom moved their studio so at the time, he kind of stopped operation, he built up his studio, he built like a giant guest house in his studio. Did you continue your internship. or did you work on recording the people that you met since that time? I was in Kingston just cause of my work in Negril, and my travels, and my links in town the rest of the time I was working around those people, spending a lot of time with Sugar Minott‘s studio. James Lord and Fred Locks have a solid production and business relationship developed in Music Is My Calling, a great tribute to the roots and culture on what is apparently a global effort with its origins in the Harborview neighborhood.


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