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Roger Steffens Interviews Keith

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  • Roger Steffens Interviews Keith

     

    In May 2003, Keith Richards had an in-depth discussion with reggae archivist Roger Steffens about the Wingless Angels project. Read the transcript and listen to the recording here:

    

Introduction:
    Part 1:

    
RS: I can hear you. May I call you Keith?

    
KR: Yeah, of course. What else are you going to call me?

    
RS: Yeah man!

    
KR: Rog!

    
RS: Irie, how are you?

    
KR: Cool man.

    
RS: I’ve been wanting to talk to you for as longer than I can imagine. You know we have so many friends in common you and I…

    
KR: Ok really.

    
RS: … especially in the reggae world. I’m the Founding Editor of The Beat Magazine, the Reggae magazine. And Ever Ready Eddie, Eddie Fannell, and I use to go down to SunSplash every year.

    
KR: Yeah, I saw Ed just a few weeks ago.

    
RS: How’s he doing?

    
KR: He’s fine. (Inaudible) you’re doing. I catch the sight of him in the front row when I am working.

    
RS: (laughs) Every time I think. Well this is an interview for your Web site.

    
KR: So I hear.

    
RS: So I want to concentrate basically on Wingsless Angels and a little bit about your history with Jamaica and with reggae.

    
KR: (Inaudible Portion).

    
RS: Yeah mon!

    

Part 2: Beginning

    
RS: Now, I’m wondering off hand if this project really has it’s genesis in Bells Of Judgment?

    
KR: Excuse me?

    
RS: Wasn’t Bells Of Judgment a project that you were involved in a long time ago?

    
KR: I don’t remember the name.

    
RS: But a Niyabinghi Project?

    
KR: I know that there were several that were coming my way. But I really have never worked with anybody in the Niyabinghi area except with my Steel (?) town Wingless Angels.

    
RS: With Justin and the men?

    
KR: Yeah, with Justin Loxley. He was the leader and he was brilliant, brilliant drummer. And I mean it could well be at Strawberry Fields. I played occasionally when there was a gathering, when there was a meeting so as to speak. (laughs)

    
RS: So you went to Groundations in Jamaica?

    
KR: Oh yeah!

    
RS: How early on would that have been Keith?

    
KR: That’s around 71, 72 and maybe even earlier slightly. The Stones were cutting Goats Head Soup in Jamaica. SO that was in 72. And I stayed on from there. SO basically… although I’d been to the (inaudible) a couple of times, I was already intrigued. But that’s when I started living there. (laughs)

    
RS: Aah, I see.

    
KR: I became a part of the brethren, you know.

    

Part 3: Ska

    
RS: Well I should go back maybe ten years earlier because when you were just beginning with the Stones, were you familiar with Ska music at that time?

    
KR: Oh yeah, you heard it around because there were clubs already… a lot of clubs in London, Ska Clubs and I mean if you wanted to score, you know (laughs) you were bound to hear it. (Laughter) And this rock steady going. And there was a definite thing in the air about Jamaican music already. And especially in London, which has quite a large population then of West Indians, especially Jamaicans. So you were well aware of it as a going thing, although I must say it wasn’t sort of right over the horizon. But if you were playing clubs, if you were a musician, you heard it and you were aware of it.

    

Part 4: Early Stones

    
RS: In those early days of The Stones, when you were still like a pub band, did you ever cover any of that Jamaican music?

    
KR: At that time, no. Although it’s hard to say because we’d sometimes attempt really bizarre bits of music… you know Calypsoish (sic). And sometimes we’d get carried away. I can’t remember sort of actually concentrating on it or anything. But as The Stones they’ve all have, you sit them around and they’re playing. It could be a bit of you know, something from Africa (laughs) or something form Portugal or something from anywhere that would crop up as something to sort of knock around.

    
RS: Yeah, and there were people around you like Remi Cabbaca(?), right?

    
KR: Oh yeah. And a friend from Aron. I mean you just knew a lot of Jamaicans. And if you were living in London on the music scene at that time, just because I mean a lot of the club, you know you’d just bump into people walking in or studios or whatever. Or walking out. And the music, the Jamaican music scene in London has always been vibrant. I mean it just got more vibrant. (laughs)

    
RS: Yes. In fact, I’m speaking to you from London.

    
KR: I know. I figured that.

    
RS: I’m in South Cannes right now.

    
KR: How’s the weather?

    
RS: Oh, it’s just awful.

    
KR: Yeah, it’s terrible here too.

    
RS: It’s a constant mizzle.

    
KR: It’s exactly the same here.

    
RS: I was hoping to bring some of my L.A. sunshine with me. But it didn’t work. (laughs)

    
KR: No, you can’t carry that shit!

    
RS: No. (laughs)

    

Part 5: 60’s Reggae Scene

    
RS: So we you aware for example, in the 60s Keith, people like Count Ossie and the Mustic Revelation Of Rastafari or Ras Michael and The Sons Of Neegus?

    
KR: By the late 60s, yeah. My feeling in all this was in the 60s was that it was slowly poking (laughs) it’s nose in internationally. Even from like Millie, you know and the most simple…

    
RS: And Prince Buster.

    
KR: Yeah, and Wet Dream, Max Romeo.

    
RS: Max Romeo, yes the song about the ‘leaky roof’. (laughs)

    
KR: yeah right. (laughter) The one, yeah I gather. I must talk to the tailor about that (laughter) Yeah, I think another big one was the Israelites.

    
RS: Desmond Decker.

    
KR: Desmond Decker.

    RS: (inaudible) the Israelites.

    
KR: And I mean there was … slowly one, you got aware that there was a growing thing happening.

    

Part 6: The Harder They Come

    
KR: And then when I went in the early 70s… 71, 72 to Jamaica, I mean ‘The Harder They Come,’ came out as a movie. I mean I was in some (inaudible) theater that night. And they were shooting the screen mon!, you know. (laughter)

    
RS: Wow! SO you first saw that in Jamaica?

    
KR: Yeah, I saw it in ads at the local palace or whatever. There were actual guys shooting back at the screen man. (laughs)

    
RS: Oh, Lord! Well you know they’re planning a sequel to that right now?

    
KR: That would be interesting, although a lot has changed…unfortunately.

    
RS: No, no, in fact, Jerry’s story for it is fascinating because they’re going to have Jimmy in it. And I said to Jimmy a couple of years ago, ‘how could you make a sequel to a film… (overlapping voices)… in which you were shot?’ No, he’s going to play himself. I said ‘how could you make a sequel when you’ve been shot 28 times in the last reel?’ And he says, ‘well you see me shot, but did you see me die?’ And it’s going to involve him getting out of jail and finding a son he never knew existed in England, who is a reggae singer. And the son goes back to Jamaica to get revenge for his father on the producers who ripped him off.

    
KR: Oh dear. Poor old what’s his name? (laughter)

    RS: Yeah, yeah, Mr. Hilton. Yeah. (laughter)

    Part 7: Toots

    
KR: It’s funny because I just… two days ago, I did a all night session with Toots and The Maytals So we were talking about The Harder They Come, you know it came up over the course of the evening.

    
RS: Yeah, this is it’s 30th anniversary year. What was the session for, his new album?

    
KR: Yeah. We did ‘Pressure Drop’ and ‘Careless Ethiopians’.

    
RS: Oh how great.

    
KR: Yeah, had a great time there. That man’s in shape man.

    
RS: He’s amazing.

    


Part 8: Jamaica

    
RS: So you’re attachment to Jamaica really began around 72 when you cut Goat’s Head down there?

    
KR: Yeah, basically that’s when I said ‘I can live here’. And I met a lot of really nice guys. The Rasta thing was really popping, you know. A lot of young dreads around and I started to drift up to the villages up in the hills.

    
RS: What did you get out of Jamaica for example, that you couldn’t find in a place like Mystic or the Bahamas or one of the other Caribbean Islands?
KR: There, you’re the eternal tourist (inaudible). In Jamaica at that time, especially at that time, I was just one of the crowd. I mean they had no idea who the Rolling Stones were. They didn’t even give a shit! We just (inaudible). Being taken at face value I guess. And I guess we all got to know… they use to take care of my kids. I mean my kids, I mean they were babies would be up in Steel town for the next three weeks sometimes. (laughter)

    
RS: Wow, wow. So you felt safe up there?

    
KR: Oh, yeah. No, it if was in the hands of my brothers, even if there’s some trouble there, the old lady got busted and they took the kids up in the kills. But I mean I had no problem with that. (Inaudible portion/laughter)

    
RS: We’re there Groundations going on that early that you were around in the early 70s?

    
KR: Yeah. There was a lot of things going on that I really didn’t know about. And of course things were going on around me. I mean I basically just knew from my own Steel Town Team. They all keep very much together. But every now and against there would be, like whispers and hubbles (?) and I go ‘What’s going on?’, Well mon, you know a big meeting you know. (laughter) There was a big thing going on, and whether I decide to go to it or not and endless stoned out arguments about (inaudible portion). 
RS: Reasoning, yes.

    
KR: And as down creeps over the horizon, is there a decision or not.

    

Part 9: The Singers and Player

    
RS: So who were your key brethren in that time? Did you know Justin Hines that early?

    
KR: I didn’t know Justin that early, although he is from Steel Town. So I got to know him pretty quickly. I mean within a year of being there. Justin is always a lot working, still is. So I mean sometimes when I go down to Jamaica, ‘hey where’s Justin? He’s in California or something.’ But Justin and I are great friends, and what a singer.

    
RS: He’s a prince isn’t he?

    
KR: Yeah. He’s a nobleman. (laughs)

    
RS: There’s a great difference between those with the country liberty and those who are raised in a place like Trenchtown.

    
KR: Oh, yeah.

    
RS: You can always tell the countryman.

    
KR: Well it’s a gentler life there you know. I mean if you consider Trenchtown for much then maybe going up to the hills is a damn good idea. You’ll lead a quieter life and well a poorer life probably.

    
RS: Well, richer(?) and the important things, the ones that really count.
KR: Seen, seen!

    
RS: Another one of out mutual friends is Wayne Jobson(?)

    
KR: Oh Wayne, yes. I saw him fairly recently. A few weeks or a month or so ago.

    
RS: And he has told me over the years, many times, about the fact that you have brought many unknown musicians into the studio to record privately for you.

    
KR: Well I mean what happens is it’s not that I brought them. Somebody says ‘oh, I’ve got some studio time free. It’s just around the corner. Do you want to play?’ And so you end up playing with some guys you’ve never met before. But you have a great time. So (inaudible) I’ll come back against and we’ll do a bit more. I mean Jamaica has always fascinated me in a way, I mean suddenly a guy will stroll up your driveway with a guitar and sing you the most beautiful (laughter) song. And then you know, you give him a beer and you know a joint and then he’ll just stroll away. I mean that’s the sort of beautiful thing that can happen there. That doesn’t happen much anywhere else.

    

Part 10: Keith’s Tapes

    
RS: And what do you do with those tapes, Keith?

    
KR: Well hopefully they’re all stored away. My filing cabinet is a mess, put it that way. (Laughter) But I’ve always kept hold of them. I’ve always made copies and storied away so they’re (inaudible).

    
RS: So they are safe?

    
KR: Yeah.

    
RS: Well maybe you need somebody like Eddie to sort it all out for you. He’s a alchemist.

    
KR: Of course. And also, I mean I still have (inaudible) Another Wing’s Angels… I mean what we used was maybe a third of what we got on tape.
RS: Wow!

    
KR: So I mean there’s always the possibility of working the rest of it to…

    
RS: Oh, that would be marvelous.

    Part 11: Music and Spirituality

    
RS: You know I look at this album as a progression from Gounation by Count (inaudible) into Dabawah (?), that great Groundation album that Ras Michael did with China Smith and others.

    
KR: Ras Michael (inaudible).
RS: And then into this, Wingless Angels. It seems like a direct progression. And the thing that impressed me most about it is that it really represents a spiritual side of you that I don’t think a lot of The Stones fans even know about you. Is that fair to say.

    
KR: (Laughs) I don’t know. I mean other people’s idea of my image, I mean I’m probably more aligned to the other side (laughs) that to Heaven. I’m probably more aligned with Hell, right.

    
RS: Well Goat’s Head Soup to the Groundation, that’s quite a jump. (Laughter)

    
KR: Yeah, I know. Lucifer was spiritual too, you know.

    
RS: Well yeah, in his own way.

    
KR: (inaudible) a fallen angel.

    
RS: Would you describe yourself privately as a spiritual person Keith?

    
KR: Yeah, spiritual absolutely. I claim that (inaudible) religious.

    
RS: Now, I don’t mean religious, I mean spiritual.

    
KR: Religious… exactly that was the difference I was to make. I’m not religious at all. I mean (inaudible) formalized religion. It’s just like gang war to me. Spiritual yes, very much.

    
RS: Well Taj(?) called it agonized religion. (laughs)

    
KR: Yeah, he did. He should know right (inaudible).

    
RS: yeah, right. Who better? Keith, do you know a book called ‘The Mysticism Of Sound And Music’ by Hazrad Indiop Kahn(?), the Sufee(?) Mystic?

    
KR: You know what, I think I do have that. I think somebody gave me a copy of it.

    
RS: Yeah, it’s an amazing book. And in that book he says ‘music raises the soul of man even higher than the so called external form of religion. That is why in ancient time, the greatest prophets were great musicians.’ And he talks about how ‘man is vibration and so is music. And music is the highest of Earthly arts and the work of the composer is no less than the work of a Saint.’ Does that make sense to you?

    
KR: Well it kind of elevates me (laughs) rather. But yes, I mean that makes total sense to me. I mean I only know of the effects that music has upon me. And I sort of got super extra like glee when I hear it, than other people have. But no everybody… I mean you look around. That’s why I’m talking to you. Is that music be the food of life maybe.

    
RS: Yeah, the play on. (laughs)

    
KR: (Inaudible) play on it. It might be true you know. Because where ever you are, whatever you do, I mean the music world wide, is and essential need. As much as breathing, as much as food, I think. To have some rhythm and so harmony and some melody to regulate you moods. You know it’s up to you, which kind of ones you want. But I say where ever I go, I just got back from India man, and they’ve got some great stuff from there. Great drumming. And some of it could have come straight out of Africa or even Jamaica. You know I mean some of it is so much common between us all.

    
RS: Did you record anything in India?

    
KR: No I, well it was on the video, because I was just enjoying. And also we just finished a tour, so I was like kicking back.

    
RS: Well there’s one other quote from Kahn that goes exactly with what you just said. Kahn wrote ‘man love music more than anything else. Music is his nature. It has come from vibration and he himself is vibration. There is nothing in the world that can help one spiritually more than music.

    
KR: I have got to check this book out.

    
RS: Ah, it’s an amazing book. And a lot of it is very technical, so that I as a non musical cannot follow everything. But you would be able to relate to it more.

    
KR: I don’t know. I mean I’m not that studious a musician. I mean I’m a spiritual musician. But from what you said he said, I could have written that. (laughs)

    
RS: Yeah.

    Part 12: Recording Wingless Angels

    
RS: Well tell me about the birth of Wings With Angels? How did if finally begin to coalesce? What was the turning point from just listening to the music and saying ‘wait, we’ve got to make an album?’

    
KR: Every time I went down to Jamaica, and I usually go down two or three times a year. Sometimes longer gaps, odd occasions (Inaudible) irregular. But we’d always, all the guys, I’ve got the drums and they were happier with the drums being kept at my place and having them up in the village. I guess so they could some around and rehearse when I wasn’t there. Because my house is a better place than… (Inaudible/Laughter). But that was cool. I mean I like that (Inaudible). Those guys are my guardians. So every time I go down there, we’d start playing and I would record it on a cassette machine. And drom 72 on, I have some incredible cassette recording which still go. Those things, they hang. But I think it was 96, yeah 95, 96 I finished a tour with The Stones and this weird combination of events happened. Somebody from Jamaican broadcasting came by my house with a friend. And the guys happened to be there and we were playing. And she said ‘you know we’d like to record this’. But I thinking about all those microphones and cabled and I know what the guys are like when they’re confronted with… I mean they work better mostly when they’re just totally alone and when they feel really smooth. And always like when there’s technicians and people around, its always a little tight. So at that moment, somebody else walks in, a old friend of min, Rob Forboney(?)…

    
RS: Oh, I was going to ask you about him. I know Rob.

    
KR: Yeah, Rob is a great engineer. He said ‘I could do this with three mics.’

    
RS: Three mics for that big a group?

    
KR: Oh yeah man.

    
RS: Wow!

    
KR: I mean Rob is a master at recording. And this was my front room. This was not a studio. (Laughs) Turn the T.V. off, we’re recording, you know what I mean. (Laughter) Suddenly he turned up and he says ‘we can do this.’ SO suddenly I had this recording track in my drive way and Rob Forboney and this board. And all the guys ready to play in sort of their own sort of ambiance. You know without the feeding. You took them to a studio, they always get uptight. And people tell them, no, no move here, do that. They’re not like that. (Laughs) You’ve really got to preserve the feeling that they’re at home in order to get the stuff and just let the tape role. And eventually that’s what happened. These things fell into place and it turned itself into a record.

    
RS: Who chose what material to include now that you’ve told me that you have so much more than what was released?

    
KR: Well that’s very… first off, we can make it (Inaudible) over. On top of that, I did add Frankie Gaven (?) who is an Irish musician. But he plays everything guitar, fiddle, accordion, concert (Inaudible). I said to him ‘you know a lot of these Rastas, they’re really old English and Irish…’

    
RS: And Scottish.

    
KR: And Scottish hymns.

    
RS: Yeah, from the slave masters.

    
KR: Exactly. We’ve got to integrate where this thing come from, as well as what goes just on down in here to make he connection. So we did a lot of over dub work on that. And they were like ‘how much can you do?’ We did as many tracks as we could. But the rest of it is sitting there. And when I get some time away from these damn Stones man, I’m going to get into it.

    
RS: So do you think it may someday be a double album?

    
KR: Yeah, I think I can pull another one out of there without and doubt at all. It’s just a matter of is there a lot of listening.

    
RS: You might even put some on the Web site, in fact. Some of the extra tracks.

    
KR: Well dude, that’s a good idea. I’m still a bit new to that, sort of.

    
RS: Well you want to give people a reason to pay to get into part of it.

    
KR: Yeah, that would be a good idea. Just throw out an extra track.

    
RS: You know they say that…

    
KR: Promises, promises! (Laughter)

    

Part 13: Reggae Music

    
RS: Well they say that reggae is the beat of the healthy human heart at rest. And that is the secret of it’s international success. Because it works on your viscerally, even if you don’t understand the language, the music hits you on a level that…

    
KR: As far as we call it, it’s not just bone music. It’s marrow music. The pulse hits at a special spot. I mean you can just tell in room when it comes on, the difference in atmosphere that chances amongst a group of people. At the same time, there’s a different thing that rock and roll does, although that can do a very similar thing. But it also had to do with the climate.

    
RS: I was going to ask you about that, how that climate in Jamaica, the tropical feel to Jamaica affects you differently than where you’re in England or in Connecticut?

    
KR: Oh I mean all of the tropics is different. Jamaica I would say, when you get there, you’re not there long enough. And there is a certain tempo to life which is just absolutely natural. It’s just in the way that people walk, people talk. The way they breath.

    
RS: And the whistling toads at night. (Laughs)

    
KR: Oh they’re great. The tree toad and the frog. And the cicadas(?).

    
RS: It’s al; ‘soon come,’ isn’t it?

    
KR: And there’s a certain eternal feeling there. It’s just very stabilizing I say, in a way. And so a lot of Jamaican music, I mean the climate is not to be ignored. That’s part of the ingredients of reggae.

    

Part 14: Reissue

    
RS: Why did you decide at this time to reissue the album?

    
KR: Because somebody wanted to. I put it out in the fist place. I said ‘look, this is not a hit. It’s just something that has to be done.’

    
RS: It’s for the ages.

    
KR: Yeah. And then I started to find out, I mean over the next few months when it came out, the Hopi Indians were playing it every night in the reservation radio station.

    
RS: I’ve done my Bob Marley show on their Reservation. It’s amazing. They worship Marley as a fulfillment of Hopi Prophecy.

    
KR: Amazing. The pulse and so therefore our Oriental friend was probably right.

    
RS: (Laughs) In what respect?

    
KR: In the power of music.

    
RS: Yes. And do you know about the Havasoupi(?) who live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?

    
KR: No, I haven’t dropped (Laughs) in on them lately.

    
RS: There’s about 500 of them left. And when Bob died…

    
KR: How do you know of this shit?

    
RS: I’ve been into it for 30 years, and I’ve been obsessed. And I have an archive that fills six rooms of my house, floor to ceiling, that was exhibited at the Queen Mary for eight months in 2001. And it’s just about to be bought by the Jamaicans and made the National Museum Of Jamaica, of Jamaican Music

    
KR: Oh fuck! Oh (Inaudible). I should be interviewing you.?

    
RS: Well I would love to share some of this stuff. You know I’ve got a whole heap of unreleased acoustic solo Bob Marley that I would love to play for you sometime.

    
KR: Cool. I’ve got a great acoustic version of ‘Pressure Drop’ with Toots… (Overlapping voices)… two years ago.

    
RS: Oh Gosh, wow!
KR: Just him an me, yeah. (Laughs)

    
RS: And Toots is a old and dear friend. He was on my show. I did the Reggae Beat Show on the radio in L.A. for 400 (Inaudible) days worth. And Bob was our first guest. We started with Bob, so it’s been in my blood for a long time. It’s like you , once you hear it you just can’t get away from it. I went to Jamaica with my wife in 76. Leroy Smart pick my pocket in Tuff Gong.

    
KR: Yeah, he would. (Laughs)

    
RS: And they had no Marley for sale in Tuff Gong or Peter. And we went down in the middle of the state of emergency in June of 76 to Kingston to find records. And could find almost nothing. Found Moore(?). I found Dadawah(?) that I went all over… (Overlapping Voices)… the island looking for, in a store in San Francisco.
KR: (Inaudible Portion) remember the most records in Jamaica because 45’s with no label on them. I mean it was just like you have to go an hum it then say I want this one. Or the one on the radio you know, and then you’d have to wait for it to (Inaudible) play, yeah that one. And they’d give it to you. But other wise it would just have a stamp on it (Inaudible).

    
RS: Yeah, pre-release. And they’re still doing stuff like that. I mean they’re still cutting 7 inches down there.

    
KR: (Inaudible Portion) bootleggers. After all, Jamaica was born on smart (Inaudible).

    
RS: (Laughs) Yeah, well they made good use of it haven’t they? SO what in the long run Keith, do you hop this record will achieve?

    
KR: I’ve always thought that it should just be there and just see if it slowly becomes you know… to me the most interesting thing is that they want to rerelease it. Because this thing is like starting off you know with just a tiny little pin prick, and just see how it will finally seeps through the whole system. See what happens with it. SO the idea that they’re going to rerelease it is like ‘wow that’s sort of the other party of the plan really. I mean I never knew if it was going to happen or not.’ But you know the interest one way or another just keeps growing around it. It’s like the beat itself, it’s insistent and relentless and it won’t let you go. And the songs are so beautiful. And they’re hearts are in it all the way. I mean these guys play serious, serious you know.

    
RS: Seen.

    

Part 15: Bob Marley

    
RS: Were you at the ‘One Love Peace Concert?’

    KR: I don’t think I was.

    
RS: That was the night Marley brought Manley and Seaga together.

    
KR: No, I wasn’t there. I think I was on the read. But I mean I did hear about it. And I heard a lot about it when I got back to Jamaica. Good try!

    
RS: Can I ask you about Marley?

    
KR: Yeah.
RS: Did you ever meet Bob?

    
MR: I met Bob…


    RS: Under what circumstances?

    
KR: Several times. Usually on the road. You know a quick hello and a quick joint. (Laughs)

    
RS: Did you see him play live ever?

    
KR: Yeah, I saw him in London. I believe the first time we went to London at the…

    
RS: Was it the Lyceum in 75 or earlier when he was with…

    
KR: Earlier, 72.

    
RS: With Bunny and Peter playing with him.

    
KR: Yeah, yeah.

    
RS: Oh my God, really!

    
KR: Just North of Regent(?) Street in London.

    
RS: It wasn’t the Speak Easy was it?

    
KR: No, it wasn’t the Speak Easy, it was another club. But yeah, I know it was still very Binghi, very Niyabinhi.

    
RS: I think that’s when they were opening with ‘Rastaman Chant’ with the big bass drum.

    
KR: Could well be yeah. That was the first time I saw him play.

    
RS: What are your memories of that night?

    
KR: I had just actually got to London. I had been living in Jamaica for like months and months. Like nine months or so. SO I just got toe London and felt like a total alien myself… (Laughter)… like an immigrant. And so I went to this oh, Bob Marley, Wailer. I mean I just felt like I hadn’t left Jamaica for a, you know a couple hours. And then back to the show of Regent Street. But it just tired in very nicely. I said boom, this guy… and at the same time ‘Catch A Fire’ was just coming out. So it was all starting to happen. And ‘The Harder They Come’ was happening and there was definitely a feeling of an explosion of some kind starting to happen within Jamaica. At least culturally.

    RS: Yeah, that’s the album that changed my life. When I heard that, my whole life went on a different path from that day forward.

    
KR: Yeah, so our Chinese friend is right. Or is he Japanese?

    
RS: No, he’s Persian.

    
KR: Oh, He’s a Persian.

    
RS: Yeah. He was a Soufee…

    
KR: Soufee (Inaudible Portion).

    
RS: … master who played the Vena(?). That ancient one…

    
KR: I know it.

    
RS:… and he was…

    
KR: I tried once.

    
RS: … and it was said that he was the greatest exemplar on that instrument in the history of that instrument. And so he stopped playing. He said in order to achieve enlightenment you must give up that which you love most. And he never played it again. 
KR: Oh my goodness, he’s a hard man.

    
RS: But he lectured and wrote. (Sigh) I don’t know. I couldn’t do it. (Laughter) But that book, The Mysticism Of Sound and Music, it’s extraordinary.

    
KR: Maybe he just found a fantastic chick. (Laughter)

    
RS: Or guy maybe.

    
KR: Whatever, you know what I mean. How did he fill that enormous vacuum?

    
RS: He lectured and he wrote. He became a preacher and we have these…

    
KR: I’ve got to check him out, mon.

    
RS: Yeah, Shambala(?) Press. It’s still in print. It’s a magical book.

    

Part 16: Peter Tosh

    
RS: Who decided to sign Peter to Rolling Stone Records? Was it you or Mick?

    
KR: I think both of us. He has just done the split with The Wailers and we’d been working with him. Sly and Robbie. And at that same time we were still (Inaudible) Rolling Stones label, ‘oh let’s try and expand it a bit, you know rather than it just be just our records, let’s put out some other stuff on it. But you don’t get a lot of time to do that. Peter came out just at the right time, so to speak. We were working on the road together. We all knew each other. It seemed the natural thing to do. And then you Bush Doctor mon at Core Records.

    

RS: Ugh, it’s an amazing record. My new book that I wrote with Lee Jaffee(?) has just come out from Norton. It’s called ‘ One Love, Life With Bob Marley and The Wailer.’ And it’s got hundreds of Jaffee’s pictures from 73 to 76. You know Lee produced ‘Legalize It’ and took the cover picture of Peter in the ganja field. And I’d love to send you a copy of that.

    
KR: Oh man, please do.

    
RS: Should I do it through Jane?

    
KR: Yeah, please. Absolutely I mean this is H.Q.(?).

    
RS: And then the one I did before that, I’ve got to get to you, because it’s the catalog from my exhibition at the Queen Mary. And it’s of sixteen hundred illustration from Ska, right through the year 2000. The whole history of the music with…

    
KR: Oh man, research, research.

    
RS: Yeah and this was part of all the stuff that was going to go to Jamaica. And you know privately I wanted to ask you a little of your feelings, because you know that country so well. I mean this is a 30 year archive that I’ve assembled. And the people in Jamaica are all telling me not to do it. And I think it belongs to Jamaica. It’s the county’s history, which they’ve basically ignored and now realize they’ve got to catch up. And I’d love to see it there. And I have so many people telling me not to do it. What do you think?

    
KR: Why would you think they would do that?

    
RS: Because they don’t feel it would be safe. They think the country is on the brink of revolution.

    
KR: It always is.

    
RS: Well (Laughter) yeah. So what else is new, right? But they’re afraid the stuff with disappear slowly.

    
KR: Oh yeah, so they want it preserved somewhere safer than their own place?
RS: Yeah, but they don’t know where that would be.

    
KR: Then they’ve got to make up their minds and make a safe place. They’ve got to make sure it’s safe. It’s their stuff. How can you have a history stored in another country?

    
RS: Well that’s my point, you know. Because I’ve had offers from… (Overlapping Voices)… the Japanese and other people.

    KR: You’ve got copies right?

    
RS: Of the important stuff. I mean there’s 20,000 hours of tapes. There’s 12,000 records. (Overlapping Voices) There’s about 10,000 posters.
KR: I said Jamaica. I say Jamaicans, ‘you know, make sure you’ve got somewhere safe to keep your history.’

    
RS: Well that’s the final part of the negotiation.

    
KR: And that’s really the meat of the matter.

    
RS: Yeah. I’d just hate to see it destroyed. My bottom line is that it’d be kept intact and make available to everybody who wants to use it. Because it’s their history.

    
KR: I mean what would anybody do with it without it being all together in one place. I mean only if you looted it. What’s the point. I mean I know there is the odd mad man with machete (Laughter) that you can never account for.

    
RS: Yeah mon!

    
KR: Oh look who’s coming through the market. OH no, it’s him again.

    
RS: So you think it belongs in Jamaica too?

    
KR: I think a country deserves to be (Inaudible Portion) and has the responsibility to be able to house it’s own history.

    
RS: There you go.

    
KR: And it they can’t, then you’ve given up.

    
RS: That’s how I feel to, I really do.

    
KR: I mean you have to put it at risk, but…

    
RS: It’s like a kid, you know … (Overlapping Voices)… at some point, you have t let it go.

    
KR: … Canada or something?

    
RS: No, no way. You never really get out of L.A. do you?

    
KR: Not very often. Usually just working. But I mean I like L.A. I use to live there, but I don’t get there a lot.

    
RS: Because I would love to show you the archive sometimes.

    
KR: I’d love to see it.

    
RS: There’s so much stuff in there.

    
KR: I didn’t even know that it existed (Inaudible).

    
RS: When I get back to the States… I’m in England for six weeks. I do a video show…

    
KR: I’ll be over in Europe in two weeks.

    
RS: Are you going to be in England?

    
KR: … England last.. Well I don’t know. I think we go straight to Germany first. My schedule, I don’t know. We can stay in touch. Jane (Inaudible Portion).

    
RS: Yeah, I’ll do it through Jane. There are several things I was to send you as soon as I get back.

    
KR: (Inaudible Portion) really interested, you know.

    

Part 17: Peter’s Death

    
RS: I Lecture all over the world on the life of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. And I show a couple hours…

    
KR: What do you say about Peter’s death?

    
RS: Well (sign) you know they never caught the other two guys did they? And they were reputed to have been off duty cops. One of whom was very tall.

    
KR: And the instigator was in jail at the time, right?

    
RS: Well, no Lepo(?) was there with him, you know the guy who brought them there. But he’s still in jail.

    
KR: I know there was somebody in jail that has him set up.

    
RS: I think so. I don’t (sighs) … (overlapping voices)… I don’t really know. I cant come to a conclusion.

    
KR: Nobody can, I know.

    
RS: I think Marlene pissed Lepo off so badly.

    
KR: (Inaudible Portion) Peter was pretty easy to piss people off when he wanted to.

    
RS: Well in conjunction with Marlene even more.

    
KR: That period, I had no connection with him though while he was with her. So I just saw thing accelerating into some…

    
RS: Way dark area.

    
KR. … inevitable war (Inaudible) of dark.

    
RS: Did that feeling have anything to do with his takeover of your house?

    
KR: No, but that’s when I saw the dark side of Pater, you know.

    
RS: How?

    
KR: And also how insecure he was. I got to Mobay(?) Airport and called up the house. Because Peter has been living… I’d let him stay there for like month, you know. ‘What are you doing there man?’ ‘I want to talk to Lena, the maid and my friend.’ ‘I got a machine gun man.’ I said, ‘well you’d better fucking learn how to use it man because in an hour and a half, I’m coming up there. I get there and the place is deserted dude, except for goat shit. So I kind of left Peter on that level.’

    
RS: Was he looting your house?

    
KR: I had let him stay there.

    
RS: No, no I mean when you had got there, was stuff missing?

    
KR: Well when I got there, it was trashed up…

    
RS: Trashed.

    
KR: Pretty much.

    
KR: Yeah, you know I mean do me a favor.

    
RS: That’s just disrespectful… (Overlapping Voices)… on top of it.

    
KR: (Inaudible Portion). That really gets my blood up.

    
RS: But you know the last four years of his life, he was never on stage again.

    
KR: No. I mean I knew he was going somewhere. Same feeling about Gregory Issacs around that time.

    
RS: Oh God.

    

Part 18: Marley Legacy

    
RS: What do you think Marley’s position is in the world in 2003? How do you think Marley is looked upon 20 years after his death?

    
KR: I think that in a way, Bob Marley is really taken on a stature that has nothing to do with just reggae or Jamaica. Because his song writing was so fine and sensitive and different that it takes it really out of just being reggae. I mean you can call it anything you like, it’s just great music. At the same time, while he was alive, he became reggae to most of the world. And with his death, reggae basically died. You know, a global scale. Not completely obviously.

    
RS: Well it turned into something very different.

    
KR: Yeah. In other words, what I guess I’m truing to say it that Bob became so big and so representative of reggae music that with his death, the decline set in. I was waiting for somebody to pick up the standard. You know like Tosh or Gregory or somebody else. But nobody quite managed to make that stature that Bob had. I mean and is a creation of his time you know.

    
RS: What do you think of article like Luciano or the late Garnett Silk?

    
KR: Garnett, he’s late?

    
RS: Well yeah, he died about 10 years ago in an explosion.

    
KR: (Laughs) An explosion, how weird. Ouch man! I didn’t know. I’ve got a couple of his albums, but I know nothing about Gernett except his music. I had no idea…

    
RS: But he is another one of those they were touting as the next Marley being a conscious artist at the time.

    
KR: I remember Jacob Miller too at the time, but then he…

    
RS: He died before Bob. That was a real shame.

    
KR: Put his hand through the steering wheel. He was a good friend of mine, Jacob Miller.

    
RS: Is there any contemporary reggae that you listen to Keith?

    
KR: I (Inaudible Portion) know if you can call it contemporary. To me, the unique touch of Jamaican music was that it was all hands on. And if you’re going to start to use synthesizers and all of these time saving and money saving devices, you actually dilute what it is you’ve got. I mean Jamaica has got some of the best rhythm section sin the world. If you’re going to do it with a typewriter, forget about it.

    
KR: And that brings us back to Wings With Angels. There’s a whole crew of people playing live off each other’s inspirations.

    
KR: Yeah, and I got a couple of them that have died since. And whether there’s any younger Niyabinghi players coming up in Steel Town, I don’t really know. But the Brethren is there. They have in quietly high in the jungle. (Laughs) in the bush man.

    Part 19: The End…

    
RS: Well, I’ve stayed my half hour. I hope you don’t mind.

    
KR: I don’t mind. No, great chat man. And please send me the stuff.

    
RS: I will indeed. Now my other question before we go is.. this specifically done for your Web site… but I know some of our reader for The Beat Magazine would be fascinated by it. Would it be possible for me to use some of this in The Beat?

    
KR: As far as I’m concerned, yeah. (Overlapping Voices)…

    
RS: And plug the Web site with it.

    
KR: You talk to Jane about that.

    
RS: And tell her that it’s cool with you.

    
KR: Yeah. But from me, it’s cool.

    
RS: Oh, that’s great.

    
KR: Yeah, mon!

    
RS: And it will be about five weeks before I get home. But as soon as I get home, I’m going to send you a package of my books and some of The Beats. Do you know The Beat Magazine? Have you ever seen it over the years?

    
KR: I’ve seen it over the years off and on. But I’m not a subscribed. Why don’ you (Inaudible Portion).

    
RS: I will put you on the list, absolutely. Keith it’s been a joy to talk to you. Thank you for taking all this time.

    
KR: One love brother, one love.

    
RS: Irie. You too. Goodnight.

    
KR: Goodnight. 






 




    Posted by: WebCrew
WebCrew's picture
on May 19, 2003

 

In May 2003, Keith Richards had an in-depth discussion with reggae archivist Roger Steffens about the Wingless Angels project. Read the transcript and listen to the recording here:



Introduction:
Part 1:


RS: I can hear you. May I call you Keith?


KR: Yeah, of course. What else are you going to call me?


RS: Yeah man!


KR: Rog!


RS: Irie, how are you?


KR: Cool man.


RS: I’ve been wanting to talk to you for as longer than I can imagine. You know we have so many friends in common you and I…


KR: Ok really.


RS: … especially in the reggae world. I’m the Founding Editor of The Beat Magazine, the Reggae magazine. And Ever Ready Eddie, Eddie Fannell, and I use to go down to SunSplash every year.


KR: Yeah, I saw Ed just a few weeks ago.


RS: How’s he doing?


KR: He’s fine. (Inaudible) you’re doing. I catch the sight of him in the front row when I am working.


RS: (laughs) Every time I think. Well this is an interview for your Web site.


KR: So I hear.


RS: So I want to concentrate basically on Wingsless Angels and a little bit about your history with Jamaica and with reggae.


KR: (Inaudible Portion).


RS: Yeah mon!



Part 2: Beginning


RS: Now, I’m wondering off hand if this project really has it’s genesis in Bells Of Judgment?


KR: Excuse me?


RS: Wasn’t Bells Of Judgment a project that you were involved in a long time ago?


KR: I don’t remember the name.


RS: But a Niyabinghi Project?


KR: I know that there were several that were coming my way. But I really have never worked with anybody in the Niyabinghi area except with my Steel (?) town Wingless Angels.


RS: With Justin and the men?


KR: Yeah, with Justin Loxley. He was the leader and he was brilliant, brilliant drummer. And I mean it could well be at Strawberry Fields. I played occasionally when there was a gathering, when there was a meeting so as to speak. (laughs)


RS: So you went to Groundations in Jamaica?


KR: Oh yeah!


RS: How early on would that have been Keith?


KR: That’s around 71, 72 and maybe even earlier slightly. The Stones were cutting Goats Head Soup in Jamaica. SO that was in 72. And I stayed on from there. SO basically… although I’d been to the (inaudible) a couple of times, I was already intrigued. But that’s when I started living there. (laughs)


RS: Aah, I see.


KR: I became a part of the brethren, you know.



Part 3: Ska


RS: Well I should go back maybe ten years earlier because when you were just beginning with the Stones, were you familiar with Ska music at that time?


KR: Oh yeah, you heard it around because there were clubs already… a lot of clubs in London, Ska Clubs and I mean if you wanted to score, you know (laughs) you were bound to hear it. (Laughter) And this rock steady going. And there was a definite thing in the air about Jamaican music already. And especially in London, which has quite a large population then of West Indians, especially Jamaicans. So you were well aware of it as a going thing, although I must say it wasn’t sort of right over the horizon. But if you were playing clubs, if you were a musician, you heard it and you were aware of it.



Part 4: Early Stones


RS: In those early days of The Stones, when you were still like a pub band, did you ever cover any of that Jamaican music?


KR: At that time, no. Although it’s hard to say because we’d sometimes attempt really bizarre bits of music… you know Calypsoish (sic). And sometimes we’d get carried away. I can’t remember sort of actually concentrating on it or anything. But as The Stones they’ve all have, you sit them around and they’re playing. It could be a bit of you know, something from Africa (laughs) or something form Portugal or something from anywhere that would crop up as something to sort of knock around.


RS: Yeah, and there were people around you like Remi Cabbaca(?), right?


KR: Oh yeah. And a friend from Aron. I mean you just knew a lot of Jamaicans. And if you were living in London on the music scene at that time, just because I mean a lot of the club, you know you’d just bump into people walking in or studios or whatever. Or walking out. And the music, the Jamaican music scene in London has always been vibrant. I mean it just got more vibrant. (laughs)


RS: Yes. In fact, I’m speaking to you from London.


KR: I know. I figured that.


RS: I’m in South Cannes right now.


KR: How’s the weather?


RS: Oh, it’s just awful.


KR: Yeah, it’s terrible here too.


RS: It’s a constant mizzle.


KR: It’s exactly the same here.


RS: I was hoping to bring some of my L.A. sunshine with me. But it didn’t work. (laughs)


KR: No, you can’t carry that shit!


RS: No. (laughs)



Part 5: 60’s Reggae Scene


RS: So we you aware for example, in the 60s Keith, people like Count Ossie and the Mustic Revelation Of Rastafari or Ras Michael and The Sons Of Neegus?


KR: By the late 60s, yeah. My feeling in all this was in the 60s was that it was slowly poking (laughs) it’s nose in internationally. Even from like Millie, you know and the most simple…


RS: And Prince Buster.


KR: Yeah, and Wet Dream, Max Romeo.


RS: Max Romeo, yes the song about the ‘leaky roof’. (laughs)


KR: yeah right. (laughter) The one, yeah I gather. I must talk to the tailor about that (laughter) Yeah, I think another big one was the Israelites.


RS: Desmond Decker.


KR: Desmond Decker.

RS: (inaudible) the Israelites.


KR: And I mean there was … slowly one, you got aware that there was a growing thing happening.



Part 6: The Harder They Come


KR: And then when I went in the early 70s… 71, 72 to Jamaica, I mean ‘The Harder They Come,’ came out as a movie. I mean I was in some (inaudible) theater that night. And they were shooting the screen mon!, you know. (laughter)


RS: Wow! SO you first saw that in Jamaica?


KR: Yeah, I saw it in ads at the local palace or whatever. There were actual guys shooting back at the screen man. (laughs)


RS: Oh, Lord! Well you know they’re planning a sequel to that right now?


KR: That would be interesting, although a lot has changed…unfortunately.


RS: No, no, in fact, Jerry’s story for it is fascinating because they’re going to have Jimmy in it. And I said to Jimmy a couple of years ago, ‘how could you make a sequel to a film… (overlapping voices)… in which you were shot?’ No, he’s going to play himself. I said ‘how could you make a sequel when you’ve been shot 28 times in the last reel?’ And he says, ‘well you see me shot, but did you see me die?’ And it’s going to involve him getting out of jail and finding a son he never knew existed in England, who is a reggae singer. And the son goes back to Jamaica to get revenge for his father on the producers who ripped him off.


KR: Oh dear. Poor old what’s his name? (laughter)

RS: Yeah, yeah, Mr. Hilton. Yeah. (laughter)

Part 7: Toots


KR: It’s funny because I just… two days ago, I did a all night session with Toots and The Maytals So we were talking about The Harder They Come, you know it came up over the course of the evening.


RS: Yeah, this is it’s 30th anniversary year. What was the session for, his new album?


KR: Yeah. We did ‘Pressure Drop’ and ‘Careless Ethiopians’.


RS: Oh how great.


KR: Yeah, had a great time there. That man’s in shape man.


RS: He’s amazing.




Part 8: Jamaica


RS: So you’re attachment to Jamaica really began around 72 when you cut Goat’s Head down there?


KR: Yeah, basically that’s when I said ‘I can live here’. And I met a lot of really nice guys. The Rasta thing was really popping, you know. A lot of young dreads around and I started to drift up to the villages up in the hills.


RS: What did you get out of Jamaica for example, that you couldn’t find in a place like Mystic or the Bahamas or one of the other Caribbean Islands?
KR: There, you’re the eternal tourist (inaudible). In Jamaica at that time, especially at that time, I was just one of the crowd. I mean they had no idea who the Rolling Stones were. They didn’t even give a shit! We just (inaudible). Being taken at face value I guess. And I guess we all got to know… they use to take care of my kids. I mean my kids, I mean they were babies would be up in Steel town for the next three weeks sometimes. (laughter)


RS: Wow, wow. So you felt safe up there?


KR: Oh, yeah. No, it if was in the hands of my brothers, even if there’s some trouble there, the old lady got busted and they took the kids up in the kills. But I mean I had no problem with that. (Inaudible portion/laughter)


RS: We’re there Groundations going on that early that you were around in the early 70s?


KR: Yeah. There was a lot of things going on that I really didn’t know about. And of course things were going on around me. I mean I basically just knew from my own Steel Town Team. They all keep very much together. But every now and against there would be, like whispers and hubbles (?) and I go ‘What’s going on?’, Well mon, you know a big meeting you know. (laughter) There was a big thing going on, and whether I decide to go to it or not and endless stoned out arguments about (inaudible portion). 
RS: Reasoning, yes.


KR: And as down creeps over the horizon, is there a decision or not.



Part 9: The Singers and Player


RS: So who were your key brethren in that time? Did you know Justin Hines that early?


KR: I didn’t know Justin that early, although he is from Steel Town. So I got to know him pretty quickly. I mean within a year of being there. Justin is always a lot working, still is. So I mean sometimes when I go down to Jamaica, ‘hey where’s Justin? He’s in California or something.’ But Justin and I are great friends, and what a singer.


RS: He’s a prince isn’t he?


KR: Yeah. He’s a nobleman. (laughs)


RS: There’s a great difference between those with the country liberty and those who are raised in a place like Trenchtown.


KR: Oh, yeah.


RS: You can always tell the countryman.


KR: Well it’s a gentler life there you know. I mean if you consider Trenchtown for much then maybe going up to the hills is a damn good idea. You’ll lead a quieter life and well a poorer life probably.


RS: Well, richer(?) and the important things, the ones that really count.
KR: Seen, seen!


RS: Another one of out mutual friends is Wayne Jobson(?)


KR: Oh Wayne, yes. I saw him fairly recently. A few weeks or a month or so ago.


RS: And he has told me over the years, many times, about the fact that you have brought many unknown musicians into the studio to record privately for you.


KR: Well I mean what happens is it’s not that I brought them. Somebody says ‘oh, I’ve got some studio time free. It’s just around the corner. Do you want to play?’ And so you end up playing with some guys you’ve never met before. But you have a great time. So (inaudible) I’ll come back against and we’ll do a bit more. I mean Jamaica has always fascinated me in a way, I mean suddenly a guy will stroll up your driveway with a guitar and sing you the most beautiful (laughter) song. And then you know, you give him a beer and you know a joint and then he’ll just stroll away. I mean that’s the sort of beautiful thing that can happen there. That doesn’t happen much anywhere else.



Part 10: Keith’s Tapes


RS: And what do you do with those tapes, Keith?


KR: Well hopefully they’re all stored away. My filing cabinet is a mess, put it that way. (Laughter) But I’ve always kept hold of them. I’ve always made copies and storied away so they’re (inaudible).


RS: So they are safe?


KR: Yeah.


RS: Well maybe you need somebody like Eddie to sort it all out for you. He’s a alchemist.


KR: Of course. And also, I mean I still have (inaudible) Another Wing’s Angels… I mean what we used was maybe a third of what we got on tape.
RS: Wow!


KR: So I mean there’s always the possibility of working the rest of it to…


RS: Oh, that would be marvelous.

Part 11: Music and Spirituality


RS: You know I look at this album as a progression from Gounation by Count (inaudible) into Dabawah (?), that great Groundation album that Ras Michael did with China Smith and others.


KR: Ras Michael (inaudible).
RS: And then into this, Wingless Angels. It seems like a direct progression. And the thing that impressed me most about it is that it really represents a spiritual side of you that I don’t think a lot of The Stones fans even know about you. Is that fair to say.


KR: (Laughs) I don’t know. I mean other people’s idea of my image, I mean I’m probably more aligned to the other side (laughs) that to Heaven. I’m probably more aligned with Hell, right.


RS: Well Goat’s Head Soup to the Groundation, that’s quite a jump. (Laughter)


KR: Yeah, I know. Lucifer was spiritual too, you know.


RS: Well yeah, in his own way.


KR: (inaudible) a fallen angel.


RS: Would you describe yourself privately as a spiritual person Keith?


KR: Yeah, spiritual absolutely. I claim that (inaudible) religious.


RS: Now, I don’t mean religious, I mean spiritual.


KR: Religious… exactly that was the difference I was to make. I’m not religious at all. I mean (inaudible) formalized religion. It’s just like gang war to me. Spiritual yes, very much.


RS: Well Taj(?) called it agonized religion. (laughs)


KR: Yeah, he did. He should know right (inaudible).


RS: yeah, right. Who better? Keith, do you know a book called ‘The Mysticism Of Sound And Music’ by Hazrad Indiop Kahn(?), the Sufee(?) Mystic?


KR: You know what, I think I do have that. I think somebody gave me a copy of it.


RS: Yeah, it’s an amazing book. And in that book he says ‘music raises the soul of man even higher than the so called external form of religion. That is why in ancient time, the greatest prophets were great musicians.’ And he talks about how ‘man is vibration and so is music. And music is the highest of Earthly arts and the work of the composer is no less than the work of a Saint.’ Does that make sense to you?


KR: Well it kind of elevates me (laughs) rather. But yes, I mean that makes total sense to me. I mean I only know of the effects that music has upon me. And I sort of got super extra like glee when I hear it, than other people have. But no everybody… I mean you look around. That’s why I’m talking to you. Is that music be the food of life maybe.


RS: Yeah, the play on. (laughs)


KR: (Inaudible) play on it. It might be true you know. Because where ever you are, whatever you do, I mean the music world wide, is and essential need. As much as breathing, as much as food, I think. To have some rhythm and so harmony and some melody to regulate you moods. You know it’s up to you, which kind of ones you want. But I say where ever I go, I just got back from India man, and they’ve got some great stuff from there. Great drumming. And some of it could have come straight out of Africa or even Jamaica. You know I mean some of it is so much common between us all.


RS: Did you record anything in India?


KR: No I, well it was on the video, because I was just enjoying. And also we just finished a tour, so I was like kicking back.


RS: Well there’s one other quote from Kahn that goes exactly with what you just said. Kahn wrote ‘man love music more than anything else. Music is his nature. It has come from vibration and he himself is vibration. There is nothing in the world that can help one spiritually more than music.


KR: I have got to check this book out.


RS: Ah, it’s an amazing book. And a lot of it is very technical, so that I as a non musical cannot follow everything. But you would be able to relate to it more.


KR: I don’t know. I mean I’m not that studious a musician. I mean I’m a spiritual musician. But from what you said he said, I could have written that. (laughs)


RS: Yeah.

Part 12: Recording Wingless Angels


RS: Well tell me about the birth of Wings With Angels? How did if finally begin to coalesce? What was the turning point from just listening to the music and saying ‘wait, we’ve got to make an album?’


KR: Every time I went down to Jamaica, and I usually go down two or three times a year. Sometimes longer gaps, odd occasions (Inaudible) irregular. But we’d always, all the guys, I’ve got the drums and they were happier with the drums being kept at my place and having them up in the village. I guess so they could some around and rehearse when I wasn’t there. Because my house is a better place than… (Inaudible/Laughter). But that was cool. I mean I like that (Inaudible). Those guys are my guardians. So every time I go down there, we’d start playing and I would record it on a cassette machine. And drom 72 on, I have some incredible cassette recording which still go. Those things, they hang. But I think it was 96, yeah 95, 96 I finished a tour with The Stones and this weird combination of events happened. Somebody from Jamaican broadcasting came by my house with a friend. And the guys happened to be there and we were playing. And she said ‘you know we’d like to record this’. But I thinking about all those microphones and cabled and I know what the guys are like when they’re confronted with… I mean they work better mostly when they’re just totally alone and when they feel really smooth. And always like when there’s technicians and people around, its always a little tight. So at that moment, somebody else walks in, a old friend of min, Rob Forboney(?)…


RS: Oh, I was going to ask you about him. I know Rob.


KR: Yeah, Rob is a great engineer. He said ‘I could do this with three mics.’


RS: Three mics for that big a group?


KR: Oh yeah man.


RS: Wow!


KR: I mean Rob is a master at recording. And this was my front room. This was not a studio. (Laughs) Turn the T.V. off, we’re recording, you know what I mean. (Laughter) Suddenly he turned up and he says ‘we can do this.’ SO suddenly I had this recording track in my drive way and Rob Forboney and this board. And all the guys ready to play in sort of their own sort of ambiance. You know without the feeding. You took them to a studio, they always get uptight. And people tell them, no, no move here, do that. They’re not like that. (Laughs) You’ve really got to preserve the feeling that they’re at home in order to get the stuff and just let the tape role. And eventually that’s what happened. These things fell into place and it turned itself into a record.


RS: Who chose what material to include now that you’ve told me that you have so much more than what was released?


KR: Well that’s very… first off, we can make it (Inaudible) over. On top of that, I did add Frankie Gaven (?) who is an Irish musician. But he plays everything guitar, fiddle, accordion, concert (Inaudible). I said to him ‘you know a lot of these Rastas, they’re really old English and Irish…’


RS: And Scottish.


KR: And Scottish hymns.


RS: Yeah, from the slave masters.


KR: Exactly. We’ve got to integrate where this thing come from, as well as what goes just on down in here to make he connection. So we did a lot of over dub work on that. And they were like ‘how much can you do?’ We did as many tracks as we could. But the rest of it is sitting there. And when I get some time away from these damn Stones man, I’m going to get into it.


RS: So do you think it may someday be a double album?


KR: Yeah, I think I can pull another one out of there without and doubt at all. It’s just a matter of is there a lot of listening.


RS: You might even put some on the Web site, in fact. Some of the extra tracks.


KR: Well dude, that’s a good idea. I’m still a bit new to that, sort of.


RS: Well you want to give people a reason to pay to get into part of it.


KR: Yeah, that would be a good idea. Just throw out an extra track.


RS: You know they say that…


KR: Promises, promises! (Laughter)



Part 13: Reggae Music


RS: Well they say that reggae is the beat of the healthy human heart at rest. And that is the secret of it’s international success. Because it works on your viscerally, even if you don’t understand the language, the music hits you on a level that…


KR: As far as we call it, it’s not just bone music. It’s marrow music. The pulse hits at a special spot. I mean you can just tell in room when it comes on, the difference in atmosphere that chances amongst a group of people. At the same time, there’s a different thing that rock and roll does, although that can do a very similar thing. But it also had to do with the climate.


RS: I was going to ask you about that, how that climate in Jamaica, the tropical feel to Jamaica affects you differently than where you’re in England or in Connecticut?


KR: Oh I mean all of the tropics is different. Jamaica I would say, when you get there, you’re not there long enough. And there is a certain tempo to life which is just absolutely natural. It’s just in the way that people walk, people talk. The way they breath.


RS: And the whistling toads at night. (Laughs)


KR: Oh they’re great. The tree toad and the frog. And the cicadas(?).


RS: It’s al; ‘soon come,’ isn’t it?


KR: And there’s a certain eternal feeling there. It’s just very stabilizing I say, in a way. And so a lot of Jamaican music, I mean the climate is not to be ignored. That’s part of the ingredients of reggae.



Part 14: Reissue


RS: Why did you decide at this time to reissue the album?


KR: Because somebody wanted to. I put it out in the fist place. I said ‘look, this is not a hit. It’s just something that has to be done.’


RS: It’s for the ages.


KR: Yeah. And then I started to find out, I mean over the next few months when it came out, the Hopi Indians were playing it every night in the reservation radio station.


RS: I’ve done my Bob Marley show on their Reservation. It’s amazing. They worship Marley as a fulfillment of Hopi Prophecy.


KR: Amazing. The pulse and so therefore our Oriental friend was probably right.


RS: (Laughs) In what respect?


KR: In the power of music.


RS: Yes. And do you know about the Havasoupi(?) who live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?


KR: No, I haven’t dropped (Laughs) in on them lately.


RS: There’s about 500 of them left. And when Bob died…


KR: How do you know of this shit?


RS: I’ve been into it for 30 years, and I’ve been obsessed. And I have an archive that fills six rooms of my house, floor to ceiling, that was exhibited at the Queen Mary for eight months in 2001. And it’s just about to be bought by the Jamaicans and made the National Museum Of Jamaica, of Jamaican Music


KR: Oh fuck! Oh (Inaudible). I should be interviewing you.?


RS: Well I would love to share some of this stuff. You know I’ve got a whole heap of unreleased acoustic solo Bob Marley that I would love to play for you sometime.


KR: Cool. I’ve got a great acoustic version of ‘Pressure Drop’ with Toots… (Overlapping voices)… two years ago.


RS: Oh Gosh, wow!
KR: Just him an me, yeah. (Laughs)


RS: And Toots is a old and dear friend. He was on my show. I did the Reggae Beat Show on the radio in L.A. for 400 (Inaudible) days worth. And Bob was our first guest. We started with Bob, so it’s been in my blood for a long time. It’s like you , once you hear it you just can’t get away from it. I went to Jamaica with my wife in 76. Leroy Smart pick my pocket in Tuff Gong.


KR: Yeah, he would. (Laughs)


RS: And they had no Marley for sale in Tuff Gong or Peter. And we went down in the middle of the state of emergency in June of 76 to Kingston to find records. And could find almost nothing. Found Moore(?). I found Dadawah(?) that I went all over… (Overlapping Voices)… the island looking for, in a store in San Francisco.
KR: (Inaudible Portion) remember the most records in Jamaica because 45’s with no label on them. I mean it was just like you have to go an hum it then say I want this one. Or the one on the radio you know, and then you’d have to wait for it to (Inaudible) play, yeah that one. And they’d give it to you. But other wise it would just have a stamp on it (Inaudible).


RS: Yeah, pre-release. And they’re still doing stuff like that. I mean they’re still cutting 7 inches down there.


KR: (Inaudible Portion) bootleggers. After all, Jamaica was born on smart (Inaudible).


RS: (Laughs) Yeah, well they made good use of it haven’t they? SO what in the long run Keith, do you hop this record will achieve?


KR: I’ve always thought that it should just be there and just see if it slowly becomes you know… to me the most interesting thing is that they want to rerelease it. Because this thing is like starting off you know with just a tiny little pin prick, and just see how it will finally seeps through the whole system. See what happens with it. SO the idea that they’re going to rerelease it is like ‘wow that’s sort of the other party of the plan really. I mean I never knew if it was going to happen or not.’ But you know the interest one way or another just keeps growing around it. It’s like the beat itself, it’s insistent and relentless and it won’t let you go. And the songs are so beautiful. And they’re hearts are in it all the way. I mean these guys play serious, serious you know.


RS: Seen.



Part 15: Bob Marley


RS: Were you at the ‘One Love Peace Concert?’

KR: I don’t think I was.


RS: That was the night Marley brought Manley and Seaga together.


KR: No, I wasn’t there. I think I was on the read. But I mean I did hear about it. And I heard a lot about it when I got back to Jamaica. Good try!


RS: Can I ask you about Marley?


KR: Yeah.
RS: Did you ever meet Bob?


MR: I met Bob…


RS: Under what circumstances?


KR: Several times. Usually on the road. You know a quick hello and a quick joint. (Laughs)


RS: Did you see him play live ever?


KR: Yeah, I saw him in London. I believe the first time we went to London at the…


RS: Was it the Lyceum in 75 or earlier when he was with…


KR: Earlier, 72.


RS: With Bunny and Peter playing with him.


KR: Yeah, yeah.


RS: Oh my God, really!


KR: Just North of Regent(?) Street in London.


RS: It wasn’t the Speak Easy was it?


KR: No, it wasn’t the Speak Easy, it was another club. But yeah, I know it was still very Binghi, very Niyabinhi.


RS: I think that’s when they were opening with ‘Rastaman Chant’ with the big bass drum.


KR: Could well be yeah. That was the first time I saw him play.


RS: What are your memories of that night?


KR: I had just actually got to London. I had been living in Jamaica for like months and months. Like nine months or so. SO I just got toe London and felt like a total alien myself… (Laughter)… like an immigrant. And so I went to this oh, Bob Marley, Wailer. I mean I just felt like I hadn’t left Jamaica for a, you know a couple hours. And then back to the show of Regent Street. But it just tired in very nicely. I said boom, this guy… and at the same time ‘Catch A Fire’ was just coming out. So it was all starting to happen. And ‘The Harder They Come’ was happening and there was definitely a feeling of an explosion of some kind starting to happen within Jamaica. At least culturally.

RS: Yeah, that’s the album that changed my life. When I heard that, my whole life went on a different path from that day forward.


KR: Yeah, so our Chinese friend is right. Or is he Japanese?


RS: No, he’s Persian.


KR: Oh, He’s a Persian.


RS: Yeah. He was a Soufee…


KR: Soufee (Inaudible Portion).


RS: … master who played the Vena(?). That ancient one…


KR: I know it.


RS:… and he was…


KR: I tried once.


RS: … and it was said that he was the greatest exemplar on that instrument in the history of that instrument. And so he stopped playing. He said in order to achieve enlightenment you must give up that which you love most. And he never played it again. 
KR: Oh my goodness, he’s a hard man.


RS: But he lectured and wrote. (Sigh) I don’t know. I couldn’t do it. (Laughter) But that book, The Mysticism Of Sound and Music, it’s extraordinary.


KR: Maybe he just found a fantastic chick. (Laughter)


RS: Or guy maybe.


KR: Whatever, you know what I mean. How did he fill that enormous vacuum?


RS: He lectured and he wrote. He became a preacher and we have these…


KR: I’ve got to check him out, mon.


RS: Yeah, Shambala(?) Press. It’s still in print. It’s a magical book.



Part 16: Peter Tosh


RS: Who decided to sign Peter to Rolling Stone Records? Was it you or Mick?


KR: I think both of us. He has just done the split with The Wailers and we’d been working with him. Sly and Robbie. And at that same time we were still (Inaudible) Rolling Stones label, ‘oh let’s try and expand it a bit, you know rather than it just be just our records, let’s put out some other stuff on it. But you don’t get a lot of time to do that. Peter came out just at the right time, so to speak. We were working on the road together. We all knew each other. It seemed the natural thing to do. And then you Bush Doctor mon at Core Records.



RS: Ugh, it’s an amazing record. My new book that I wrote with Lee Jaffee(?) has just come out from Norton. It’s called ‘ One Love, Life With Bob Marley and The Wailer.’ And it’s got hundreds of Jaffee’s pictures from 73 to 76. You know Lee produced ‘Legalize It’ and took the cover picture of Peter in the ganja field. And I’d love to send you a copy of that.


KR: Oh man, please do.


RS: Should I do it through Jane?


KR: Yeah, please. Absolutely I mean this is H.Q.(?).


RS: And then the one I did before that, I’ve got to get to you, because it’s the catalog from my exhibition at the Queen Mary. And it’s of sixteen hundred illustration from Ska, right through the year 2000. The whole history of the music with…


KR: Oh man, research, research.


RS: Yeah and this was part of all the stuff that was going to go to Jamaica. And you know privately I wanted to ask you a little of your feelings, because you know that country so well. I mean this is a 30 year archive that I’ve assembled. And the people in Jamaica are all telling me not to do it. And I think it belongs to Jamaica. It’s the county’s history, which they’ve basically ignored and now realize they’ve got to catch up. And I’d love to see it there. And I have so many people telling me not to do it. What do you think?


KR: Why would you think they would do that?


RS: Because they don’t feel it would be safe. They think the country is on the brink of revolution.


KR: It always is.


RS: Well (Laughter) yeah. So what else is new, right? But they’re afraid the stuff with disappear slowly.


KR: Oh yeah, so they want it preserved somewhere safer than their own place?
RS: Yeah, but they don’t know where that would be.


KR: Then they’ve got to make up their minds and make a safe place. They’ve got to make sure it’s safe. It’s their stuff. How can you have a history stored in another country?


RS: Well that’s my point, you know. Because I’ve had offers from… (Overlapping Voices)… the Japanese and other people.

KR: You’ve got copies right?


RS: Of the important stuff. I mean there’s 20,000 hours of tapes. There’s 12,000 records. (Overlapping Voices) There’s about 10,000 posters.
KR: I said Jamaica. I say Jamaicans, ‘you know, make sure you’ve got somewhere safe to keep your history.’


RS: Well that’s the final part of the negotiation.


KR: And that’s really the meat of the matter.


RS: Yeah. I’d just hate to see it destroyed. My bottom line is that it’d be kept intact and make available to everybody who wants to use it. Because it’s their history.


KR: I mean what would anybody do with it without it being all together in one place. I mean only if you looted it. What’s the point. I mean I know there is the odd mad man with machete (Laughter) that you can never account for.


RS: Yeah mon!


KR: Oh look who’s coming through the market. OH no, it’s him again.


RS: So you think it belongs in Jamaica too?


KR: I think a country deserves to be (Inaudible Portion) and has the responsibility to be able to house it’s own history.


RS: There you go.


KR: And it they can’t, then you’ve given up.


RS: That’s how I feel to, I really do.


KR: I mean you have to put it at risk, but…


RS: It’s like a kid, you know … (Overlapping Voices)… at some point, you have t let it go.


KR: … Canada or something?


RS: No, no way. You never really get out of L.A. do you?


KR: Not very often. Usually just working. But I mean I like L.A. I use to live there, but I don’t get there a lot.


RS: Because I would love to show you the archive sometimes.


KR: I’d love to see it.


RS: There’s so much stuff in there.


KR: I didn’t even know that it existed (Inaudible).


RS: When I get back to the States… I’m in England for six weeks. I do a video show…


KR: I’ll be over in Europe in two weeks.


RS: Are you going to be in England?


KR: … England last.. Well I don’t know. I think we go straight to Germany first. My schedule, I don’t know. We can stay in touch. Jane (Inaudible Portion).


RS: Yeah, I’ll do it through Jane. There are several things I was to send you as soon as I get back.


KR: (Inaudible Portion) really interested, you know.



Part 17: Peter’s Death


RS: I Lecture all over the world on the life of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. And I show a couple hours…


KR: What do you say about Peter’s death?


RS: Well (sign) you know they never caught the other two guys did they? And they were reputed to have been off duty cops. One of whom was very tall.


KR: And the instigator was in jail at the time, right?


RS: Well, no Lepo(?) was there with him, you know the guy who brought them there. But he’s still in jail.


KR: I know there was somebody in jail that has him set up.


RS: I think so. I don’t (sighs) … (overlapping voices)… I don’t really know. I cant come to a conclusion.


KR: Nobody can, I know.


RS: I think Marlene pissed Lepo off so badly.


KR: (Inaudible Portion) Peter was pretty easy to piss people off when he wanted to.


RS: Well in conjunction with Marlene even more.


KR: That period, I had no connection with him though while he was with her. So I just saw thing accelerating into some…


RS: Way dark area.


KR. … inevitable war (Inaudible) of dark.


RS: Did that feeling have anything to do with his takeover of your house?


KR: No, but that’s when I saw the dark side of Pater, you know.


RS: How?


KR: And also how insecure he was. I got to Mobay(?) Airport and called up the house. Because Peter has been living… I’d let him stay there for like month, you know. ‘What are you doing there man?’ ‘I want to talk to Lena, the maid and my friend.’ ‘I got a machine gun man.’ I said, ‘well you’d better fucking learn how to use it man because in an hour and a half, I’m coming up there. I get there and the place is deserted dude, except for goat shit. So I kind of left Peter on that level.’


RS: Was he looting your house?


KR: I had let him stay there.


RS: No, no I mean when you had got there, was stuff missing?


KR: Well when I got there, it was trashed up…


RS: Trashed.


KR: Pretty much.


KR: Yeah, you know I mean do me a favor.


RS: That’s just disrespectful… (Overlapping Voices)… on top of it.


KR: (Inaudible Portion). That really gets my blood up.


RS: But you know the last four years of his life, he was never on stage again.


KR: No. I mean I knew he was going somewhere. Same feeling about Gregory Issacs around that time.


RS: Oh God.



Part 18: Marley Legacy


RS: What do you think Marley’s position is in the world in 2003? How do you think Marley is looked upon 20 years after his death?


KR: I think that in a way, Bob Marley is really taken on a stature that has nothing to do with just reggae or Jamaica. Because his song writing was so fine and sensitive and different that it takes it really out of just being reggae. I mean you can call it anything you like, it’s just great music. At the same time, while he was alive, he became reggae to most of the world. And with his death, reggae basically died. You know, a global scale. Not completely obviously.


RS: Well it turned into something very different.


KR: Yeah. In other words, what I guess I’m truing to say it that Bob became so big and so representative of reggae music that with his death, the decline set in. I was waiting for somebody to pick up the standard. You know like Tosh or Gregory or somebody else. But nobody quite managed to make that stature that Bob had. I mean and is a creation of his time you know.


RS: What do you think of article like Luciano or the late Garnett Silk?


KR: Garnett, he’s late?


RS: Well yeah, he died about 10 years ago in an explosion.


KR: (Laughs) An explosion, how weird. Ouch man! I didn’t know. I’ve got a couple of his albums, but I know nothing about Gernett except his music. I had no idea…


RS: But he is another one of those they were touting as the next Marley being a conscious artist at the time.


KR: I remember Jacob Miller too at the time, but then he…


RS: He died before Bob. That was a real shame.


KR: Put his hand through the steering wheel. He was a good friend of mine, Jacob Miller.


RS: Is there any contemporary reggae that you listen to Keith?


KR: I (Inaudible Portion) know if you can call it contemporary. To me, the unique touch of Jamaican music was that it was all hands on. And if you’re going to start to use synthesizers and all of these time saving and money saving devices, you actually dilute what it is you’ve got. I mean Jamaica has got some of the best rhythm section sin the world. If you’re going to do it with a typewriter, forget about it.


KR: And that brings us back to Wings With Angels. There’s a whole crew of people playing live off each other’s inspirations.


KR: Yeah, and I got a couple of them that have died since. And whether there’s any younger Niyabinghi players coming up in Steel Town, I don’t really know. But the Brethren is there. They have in quietly high in the jungle. (Laughs) in the bush man.

Part 19: The End…


RS: Well, I’ve stayed my half hour. I hope you don’t mind.


KR: I don’t mind. No, great chat man. And please send me the stuff.


RS: I will indeed. Now my other question before we go is.. this specifically done for your Web site… but I know some of our reader for The Beat Magazine would be fascinated by it. Would it be possible for me to use some of this in The Beat?


KR: As far as I’m concerned, yeah. (Overlapping Voices)…


RS: And plug the Web site with it.


KR: You talk to Jane about that.


RS: And tell her that it’s cool with you.


KR: Yeah. But from me, it’s cool.


RS: Oh, that’s great.


KR: Yeah, mon!


RS: And it will be about five weeks before I get home. But as soon as I get home, I’m going to send you a package of my books and some of The Beats. Do you know The Beat Magazine? Have you ever seen it over the years?


KR: I’ve seen it over the years off and on. But I’m not a subscribed. Why don’ you (Inaudible Portion).


RS: I will put you on the list, absolutely. Keith it’s been a joy to talk to you. Thank you for taking all this time.


KR: One love brother, one love.


RS: Irie. You too. Goodnight.


KR: Goodnight. 






 




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