Winston McAnuff

»Electric Dread« short-circuits Parisian Ground … Makavibes …

In the 70s, Jamaica has known lots of wonderful singers … Sweet voices could be heard at almost every corner, coming from every studio’s window … One of those voices was Winston McAnuff\’s. The »Electric Dread«, born in 1957 in Christiana, Jamaica, recorded his first album »Pick Hits To Click« in 1977 with legendary producer Derrick Harriott. He then travelled a lot but recorded yet »What A Man A Deal With« in 1978, »Electric Dread« (with Inner Circle) in 1986 and »One Love« in 1995. In 2001 he met Nicolas Maslowski and Romain Germa from French Label Makasound. The same year they released a Compilation of some of his songs called »Diary of the Silent Years«. After this first success, they decided to release in France Winston’s second album »What A Man A Deal With«. In 2005 Winston met the musician Camille Bazbaz in France and recorded with him the album »A Drop«, which is a mix of Reggae, Soul and Rock … They toured this album in the whole country and there is now a Live Show on DVD called »A Drop Tour« which is available at www.makasound.com like his other releases. Last summer, R-Wan, the singer of French Hip Hop band »JAVA«, who recently released a solo-album on Makasound, introduced McAnuff to his musicians and they decided to go to a studio to record some sessions. Fixi, Accordionist and Keyboarder of Java, composed some riddims (a mixture of 70’s Soul, Rock and typical Parisian Accordion sounds from the 50’s) and Winston put some lyrics on it … The Congos, who were at that time in Paris for a show and who are Winston’s friends, recorded some background vocals and French Guitarist -M- added guitars on some tracks … Winston’s new album »Paris Rockin’« was born … In last December, a tour was organized in France with R-Wan as support … We met Winston just one hour before at he last show of this tour. He accepted to answer our questions:

I’ve read that your father was a preacher, does that mean that you started singing Gospel at church?

Exactly, it was at an early age. A thing called »Sunday School«. We go to the church and sing many songs, ya know …

When did you really start your career?

Professionally it was in 1976. It was the first time I actually did a song and a producer decided to put it out. It was a song called »Ugly Days« (from his first album »Pick Hits To Click«)

Was it your first Hit?

It was the first record I have released but it was a mild underground hit …

You’re also known as the »Electric Dread« … Who gave you this nickname and why?

It came through a man who saw me at a show performing and who was trying to take a photo but I was moving very fast … And after the show he was telling my producer: »I saw Winston at the show and I was trying to take a shot but he was moving like electric!«. So Derrick Harriott said: »Oh, maybe that’s the right name for him!«. So that’\’s why Derrick Harriott decided to call me this name and it’s good because the voice of the people is the voice of God … And electricity is a form of energy, a current ya know … So it’s all good …

Your last two albums »A Drop« and »Paris Rockin’« both of them sound Soul and Rock … Why did you decide to make such a change in your music? Were you tired of the Reggae business or was it really a will to experiment something new?

Well it’s not really a change ya know … If you notice Bob Marley and for instance »I’m hurting inside«, I mean we, as Jamaicans, we say that water adopt the environment that it pass through, all right?

If it pass through some dirt and then through some oil, it’s gonna be mixed with dirt and oil. Well we from Jamaica we were exposed to … I’m gonna tell you what we were exposed to … because the poor producers didn’t have the money to pay for their records to be heard on the radio. So when your thing was heard on the radio, it gave a certain stamp of approval which the poor producers couldn’t afford … So what we used to hear on the radio was like The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, a lot of them on Blue Note, ya understand what I’m saying to you? … Mick Jagger, Skitter Davis, another singer called Jim Reeves from America, he was one of the most popular singers in Jamaica for years upon years … He sang country and religious music … (he sings). So all the Jamaican singers were strongly influenced by all these stars from America. Look Alton Ellis when he uses »lookyoo!!« in his songs … And I use it a lot in my records too, even in the BazBaz album on »Rastafari is his name« … »Lookya!!« … I heard it coming through Bob Marley and Alton Ellis … (He sings »Sunday Comin« from A. Ellis) … it was his token sound … and recently I was in the bus travelling with Java and I was watching an Otis Redding movie and I saw the singers Sam & Dave during their first time in Europe … They were singin‘ this song … (He sings) »Hold on, I’m comin’« … and then I heard those guys singing »lookya« … When I heard it Alton Ellis came up in my head, Bob Marley … so it’s a whole circle of things … when you ask me why I’ve changed … No I have not changed anything because even to work with Java, I came not with a song asking them to make the music … No, I asked them to play me some of them compositions and then I’m always writing songs in my head … So if I find a composition that is good to transpose my song, I ask him to change the structure to adopt it to my song but I never ask him to change what he’s doing. Maybe I would ask him to play it tighter … the speed of the beat … It’s still the same thing but the attitude is different … So what you get in the end is up to your fusion!

Among all the famous singers of the early 70’s, which one influenced you really the most?

I didn’t talk about that one, that one was Desmond Dekker … cause I used to love Desmond Dekker (He sings »Israelites«). He is my singer … but I didn’t even mention his name … You see… We’ve been subliminally adopted by all these influences …so it’s like you teach me to do something all my life and then I do it and you ask me: »Why d‘ you do that? … It’s funny … it’s all in me man … Soul!! James Brown!!!« (He died just one week after this interview)

Yeah man I found that Paris Rockin‘ sounded a little bit like »Man’s world« …

Thanks for the compliment!

You’ve also recently recorded an album with one of the members of French Dub Band Improvisators Dub …

Yeah man, ManuTension

Can you please tell us more about this project? When will it be released and what sort of music is it?

It’s a Dub album that we have together like King Tubby’s style … because I have to work in different ways … not only this new way that you see that I’m doing. I’m still working at the roots… I’ve an album with Mad Professor, another with Gussie P … hardcore roots … I did both of them before the Bazbaz Project … So all these things are to come. I can’t keep on doing the same thing because the thing is already set … ya man, Foundation!

When will these albums be released?

It can come anytime … like a Tsunami … so watch out!!! (He laughs)

The show tonight is the last one of the tour, what can you tell us about the atmosphere of this tour … the audience’s reaction? I mean, the way you felt it …

The most common word that I’ve heard since I’ve started is »COMPLETE« … Everywhere we plaid it was fully booked … The Elysée-Montmartre was complete like ten days before the show … so we can’t ask for more … And we plaid in bigger venues than with BazBaz …

I’ve read that you had some problems with the Label »Culture Press« some years ago …

No man, THEY had some problems!! Yeah man, they had some problems so we had to solve them out, that’s what happened … but I have no problem with them …

It was about a pirate edition on CD of your second album »What A Man A Deal With« …

Yes because that album was done in 1978 by me and my friends and there is a understanding. So I’m actually the owner of that album but people don’t know that cause most singers in those times sung an album for a producer who then owned the thing …

Yes. and I’ve read that this Label had said that Tommy Cowan was the producer of this album …

Yeah but I’ve never sung a song for Tommy Cowan … So I went to Jamaica to check Tommy Cowan because he knows them and he never gave them the permission to do that … but he didn’t want to get in trouble with them … So I told him to write me a letter proving that I had never sung a song for him … yeah man how can they put his name on this album and where is the money that they paid him for the album, where is the receipt of the money that they’ve paid from the royalties?

You are also a producer, are some of your productions already released?

Yes man I’ve been producing for a long time, maybe not so prolific but … I produced »Diary of the silent years«, the first album that Makasound put out. It’s my album, I was the executive and all dem things … And I’m working with my children right now. I’ve have a son called Matthew, he has been given the name MacLAW, he’s a rapper and he did a song on the »Fisherman Style« Compilation of Blood and Fire … a song called »Nah worry your mind« … (He sings). One other son is a drummer, his name is »Kush«, he plays on the »Inna de yard« albums, and I’ve also a daughter in America, Nadya, she’s a singer too …

Nice vibes, the whole family in music …

Well, yeah, sometimes it happens that way …

In the seventies you wrote »Malcolm X« that was a big Hit for Denis Brown …

Yeah, it was originally made for Earl Sixteen but they gave it to Denis … I also sung it for the »Diary of the silent years« album … There are different versions of this song …

How do you see the relationship between Rastafarians and Black Muslims …?

Well the Malcolm X things comin from Jamaica … The roots of his philosophy is comin‘ from Marcus Garvey because Marcus Garvey was a friend of Malcolm X’s father. Malcolm used to go to some meetings with his father in some backrooms after the church … and at the end of the meeting the people used to say »Up you mighty race« but he was a little boy then … That’s why Malcolm X told the black guys in America: »You have to look to the Caribbean for your salvation«, You have to listen cause if you don’t listen … Listening, Observing and deep Thinking are the three qualities that you need to be wise, ya understand? That’s the whole thing man … Malcolm X wanted to help the Youth dem, he was a reform guy … cause he saw the light … like anyone of us … If people keep you trapped up telling you: »There are some Indians outside with machine guns!«, you can’t know because you don’t go to see … But when you go to see you say: »Wha, there are no Indians there …!!«

Here in France the Media still describe Jamaica as a place full of violence and gunshots and all dem thing dey … but how would you describe your island today?

Well the new slogan of the tourism promotion in Jamaica is: »When you go you know! « … We were in Jamaica for instance and there was some destruction here in France with people burning cars … The people told me »It\’s a long history here in France with people burning cars … In those suburbs some guys do that regularly«. But I can tell you that when you are in Jamaica and you watch the CNN and you see how they’re describing what’s happening, you don’t want to come to France. I was there in Jamaica at that time with the two guys of Makasound and when they saw what they were showing on CNN, they had to make a phone call fast to find out what was happening in Paris … I’m just showing you how the media is and if they do this to France, don’t you think that these people are able to do it to Jamaica? He laughs … There are good and bad people everywhere man because the smallest particle, the atom, is made of thirteen negative pulling one positive … so that’s why you find so much badness in the balance between good and bad in the world … because in the smallest atom, that’s how it is … so in a bigger world it must be more, you know I mean? It must be more water than syrup and less sugar than water, that’s the same … Two sugars for a full cup of tea for instance … that’s normal …

Yes but for Jamaican people it must be hard to hear what the media are telling about their Island …

The people who travel often, they know … and there are more people who don’t travel than people who travel so what do you think, it’s gonna be a bigger opinion that the thing is wrong …

Some artists of your generation say that the music that is made today in Jamaica and that is called »Dancehall« is absolutely not the real »Dancehall music« that was played 30 years ago?

Yeah man the music that is called Dancehall is the music that is played to make the people dance … Today it’s just a different style … It’s normal … To be wise is to be a man of the times … You can’t live so much on old philosophies telling that it’s the truth … It’s like the clothes, you have to improve the fashion … I mean the people who used to play Ska, when they heard Bob Marley and those guys playing Reggae, they said: »Oh no man, that’s not the ting man, Ska is real music …!!« You always have that … I mean in Jamaica you have people sayin‘ »Oh it’s too hot here!« and here in France I hear people say: »Oh it’s cold! « … People always complain … You always gonna find somebody complaining, it’s normal …

Now that your whole concerts are fully booked, what do you expect from the future?

What I expect from the future? Simply what it is bringing man, nothing more …

Thanks fi this interview Winston, guidance and blessings fi ya …

No problem man, it was a nice interview, Jah guide and Protect …