Put It Down: An Interview with Welton Irie. Pt 2

[WI] Yeah. But, um, Glen Brown songs, I went to Germany last year, six weeks tour, and that’s the songs they knew.

Welton Irie – Black Man Get Up Tan Up Pon Foot

Sylford Walker & Welton Irie - Lamb's Bread International (Blood & Fire)[MV] It’s probably because of the Blood and Fire release.

[WI] Right, yeah! I went to Brazil, a month ago, and they knew that, y’see, because it has this roots feel. It has the Tubby’s mix and so it come to – what I notice, the people who love the roots music, they love that King Tubby’s kind of mixing, bass and mixing, and for some reason – it’s so funny that I say, damn, noone in Jamaica knows those songs, nobody, I can’t – noone. And all over Europe, Brazil and everyone knew the songs. And – this label, Dynamite label, I did Army Life

[MV] Army Life the LP.

[WI] Yeah, for those guys. And then the guy release some of the tracks from it, and those got popular in Europe as well. “Walk and Talk,” which I did. “Musician” on the Taxi label, and, um –

[MV] “Put It Down” is another one.

[WI] Right, “Put it Down.”

Welton Irie – Put it Down

[MV] There’s a double-tracked one – the double track is you doing –

[WI] Harmonizing. I’m the first deejay to do that. I did that in Army Life. If you listen to Army Life, you hear at least two to three different voices, after the – something, something just told me to harmonize it, and I just did it like that. No-one told me to, it just occurred to me, said to just harmonize it, and that’s it. But, the Glen Brown songs, they are the most popular.

[MV] Given how popular they are, do you think there’s a chance you’ll release some of the ones that weren’t on the – find a way to put out the Glen Brown productions that weren’t on that Blood and Fire CD.

Welton Irie - Lambsbread International (South East Music)[WI] No, I don’t have access to the songs, or, y’know, the tapes, trust me. And I’m telling you something, I don’t remember those lyrics. It was while I went to Germany, I have to listen to the songs, write them over, and study them in order to go on the show, because they were never released in Jamaica, and I’m in Jamaica for twenty-odd years. After I recorded it, I’m in Jamaica all this time, never heard it, until these guys from Germany say they want to take me on a tour. And of course, I’m a person who investigate, I said “What do they know in Germany?” and they told me, your Glen Brown album. So I had to get the CD, listen to it, write lyrics, study, done all a that, until eventually, it came back eventually. You know? And in Brazil those are the songs they love all the same. “Ghettoman Corner,” big! That’s the biggest song fe me.

[MV] Yeah, a big song and a big rhythm, right?

[WI] Yeah, called Slaving rhythm, right. All they all know Lloyd Parks, “Slaving.” And there’s a lot of other guys who came out on that riddim before me. I Roy’s on it, “Black Man Time,” Big Youth is on it as well, yeah and I know those riddim from in the 70’s. And, um, the Mr. Harry riddim, “Rolling Stone,” they love that one.

[MV] Yeah, that one’s great.

Welton Irie – Rolling Stone

[WI] Yeah, that riddim is wicked.

[MV] “Dirty Harry,” right.

[WI] Right!

[MV] The Jazzbo on that one is wicked, too.

[WI] Jazzbo, yeah! Leggo Beast, no call the sister them conkie, you know what’s going on!

[MV] “Dirty Harry,” too. [actually titled “Mr. Harry”]

[WI] Yeah. Those rhythm are immortal, for some reason they are standing the test of time. They always sound fresh whenever you hear them.

Welton Irie - Reprobate[MV] So, the Reprobate LP, that was for Channel One.

[WI] Channel One album, yeah.

[MV] So that was Hookim and Niney producing that?

[WI] Yeah.

[MV] Anything you want to say about recording that one? That’s another favorite of mine, actually.

[WI] Oh, Reprobate?

[MV] Yeah, it’s a solid LP, you know?

[WI] Yeah, now, they love it in San Diego, and I’m doing a show down there tomorrow, and Friday, and they say I got to do those songs, and I don’t remember those lyrics! I’m going to get it though and I’m going to have to listen to it. But “Reprobate,” “Out a Hand,” they told me that they love those down there, “Obeah Man,” “Chalice a No Something Fe You Ramp With,” yeah those are on the Reprobate album.

Welton Irie – Reprobate

[MV] “Mr. Irie.”

[WI] Right!

[MV] “Come Me Just A Come” – you did that one too for Linval Thompson too, I think.

Welton Irie - Houw You Keep A Dance (Oak Sound)

[WI] I’ve never heard those. I did songs for Dillinger, one song, I did some songs for Tappa Zukie, I did some songs for Linval which I’ve never heard them from I’ve recorded them.

Welton Irie – How You Keep A Dance (Oak Sound)

[MV] Really, because that song was released on a German reissue label! [Majestic Reggae]

[WI] I’ve never heard them.

[MV] It’s on the back of a Freddie – it’s the same riddim as a Freddie McGregor tune. [“Jah Help The People”]

[WI] OK. ‘Ca, actually, a lot of people don’t know y’know, I think Big Ship album was actually Linval’s album yunno.

[MV] Yeah, it was Linval’s production.

[WI] Right. And um, I did some song for Carlton Patterson on the Black and White label. About one, “Come Nurse.” Never got a cent from those tunes.

[MV] No?

[WI] [Laughs] Never, never, never. Haven’t seen it since! I did that in the – 70’s, late 70’s, I’ve never seen it since.

[MV] Ringo recorded a bunch for Carlton Patterson –

[WI] Right, right, “Push Lady Push.”

[MV] Did he get treated any better?

[WI] No. ‘Ca what happen eventually those guys migrate, went away with their tapes and stuff, and they never tried getting in touch with the deejays or anything. Y’know? But the beauty of it is those songs I’m not collecting royalties for, I’m giving shows, that, that’s the songs they want to hear, so I’m kind of getting paid back, y’know?

[MV] I see. Another big one is on Thrillseekers, “Wea You Fah.”

[WI] Oh, yeah yeah yeah, “Wea You Fah,” yeah, Barrington Levy’s also on that riddim. You didn’t know that? Yeah, Barrington Levy did, um, [sings] “Ah yah we deh, ah yah we deh, giving thanks and praise.” Well, um, the guys that put out that, one of them is Lone Ranger’s manager, Chester, he and his brother put out that Barrington Levy, and then they recorded me on it. Cause, um, Barnabus Collins riddim, they put out that as well, and that’s the riddim, that Barrington Levy got his first hit song on, [sings] “Collieieie . . .” ‘ca they gave Junjo a cut of the riddim, and Barrington Levy was on that riddim.

Welton Irie - Jailhouse Affair (Black Roots)[MV] OK. And then also, you did some recording for Sugar too, that “Jailhouse Affair,” right?

[WI] I did? I don’t remember, no I don’t remember.

Welton Irie – Jailhouse Affair (Black Roots)

[MV] It was a 12″ with you on one side and Captain Sinbad, “Captain Fe The Ship” on the other.

[WI] Eh? OK. I’ve never heard back that, don’t remember that one.

[MV] I’m trying to remember how the lyrics go . . .

[WI] Mmm?

[MV] [Sings badly] “Lord them back me down a jail, suh”, something like that.

[WI] Damn! I would have to hear that. Beca’ what happened, a lot of them went to England and release the songs and I’ve never heard them, never heard them.

[MV] So you also did some recording just with Sly and Robbie for their own label.

[WI] Yes, yes, on the Baltimore –

[MV] “Ballerina” –

[WI] Yeah, “Ballerina,” Sitting and Watching, and on the Baltimore, “Hotter Reggae Music.”

[MV] That’s a great rhythm.

[WI] Yeah. And I did rapping style, because, when Sugar Hill Gang did “Rapper’s Delight,” I was the first Jamaican deejay to capture onto their lyric. And I used to do it in the dance…

Welton’s rapping style live on Gemini

[WI]…And Sly heard, ‘ca, one thing in those days, the producers, they were in the dance, or they would get the tapes, from the various sound, and they would listen to the deejays. And for some reason I’m one of the few deejays Sly and Robbie choose to work with. Cause they really weren’t into deejays.

Welton Irie- Hotter Reggae Music (Taxi)[MV] They preferred singers.

[WI] Yeah, singers. But me, for some reason, they just like my style.

[MV] So did you record anything other than those two songs for them?

[WI] Yeah, but one wasn’t released. I did three. It was the Ballerina, Hotter Reggae Music, and if I remember right, I’m on one of Jimmy Riley’s riddim I think for dem.

Welton Irie – Hotter Reggae Music (Taxi)

[MV] “Love and Devotion,” or something else?

[WI] No, I think it was, um, [sings] “Everybody, loves somebody,” I don’t know if that was released, but those three.

[MV] And then you did some later recordings, too. Like you did “Cry fe the Ape” for Jammy’s, right?

[WI] For Jammy’s, yeah, on the Stagalag. Yeah.

Welton Irie – Cry Fe The Ape (Jammys)

[MV] What else later on in the decade did you record?

[WI] Oh, um, this guy, a label called Kangal, me and Yellowman were the first artists to go on it. Yellowman did “Blueberry Hill.” [sings] “I lost – found my train,” when Yellowman started singing, Kangal label. Tiger’s on that label with Don, his [sings] “Don donovon donovon.” And I’m on that label as well, about two songs. And um, [mumbles] – well I did some songs recently for the guy for this place, for Tom [Chasteen], they’re not released. Not released yet. I did it um, last year.

[MV] OK, I look forward to hearing them.

[WI] Yeah man, two songs, two wicked songs.

[MV] What rhythm?

[WI] Um, I think one is on the – think one is on the Heavenless riddim. Yeah.

Welton Irie - Sweetest Ever (Rohit)[MV] Oh, there was an LP I forgot to ask about. I actually don’t have this one, but it’s on the Rohit label? [LP title is Sweetest Ever]

[WI] Oh, yeah – damn! I did that in 1982 as well, and I don’t know what became of it. I saw the album, they drew my face on it. It wasn’t a picture, it was a drawing of my face. Yeah, Rohit album, right. On one track they wanted me to diss up Yellowman.

[MV] And, um – well, I’ve covered a lot of things . . . so out of your work, what are your favorite recordings that you’ve done?

Welton Irie – Army Life

[WI] Mm, yeah man. “Army Life,” obviously, that’s my number one song. “Army Life” good. The album is wicked too. The riddims are solid. Very – that’s my favorite album.

[MV] Very spare drum and bass.

[WI] Yeah, Sly and Robbie all the way. I just love the riddims. That’s my favorite album, but my biggest album is the Lambs Bread International, that’s the biggest. Anywhere I go, people know that one.

[MV] People want to hear that.

[WI] Yeah, definitely. But for me, the nicest part for me was deejaying in the dance. I’m just a dancehall DJ! That was where I got my fun from, trust me.

[MV] So what do you think of the Dub Club, in terms of recreating that old dancehall vibe?

[WI] Love what they’re doing, I love what they’re doing, trust me. Love what they’re doing.

[MV] Yeah, it’s great.

[WI] Yeah man, definitely.

Welton Irie @ the Dub Club, California, 2008.

[MV] So what are you up to right now? You said you’ve been touring in Europe, touring here?

[WI] Yeah, um, what I’ve mostly been doing is selecting. I’m wicked on that, no-one touch me on that. But old-school, I’m on my own, I used to select for Gemini, at one time, in the nineties, up to about 2001. Spinning for Gemini sound. Till I eventually left, went to – was playing a big set –

[MV] What did Archie do? Was he on the sound then?

[WI] No no no! Archie left from in the 80’s, and he hasn’t went back, he migrated.

[MV] Speaking of – we should talk about the Gemini England tour.

Welton Irie on Gemini, Brixton, UK. 1983.

[WI] Oh, that was good, man, 1983. Me, Johnny Ringo, Squiddly Ranking, Archie went. That was wicked. That was where I first met up with Tippa Irie, Papa Levi, and, um, Pato Banton, the rest a dem. We clashed, Gemini and Saxon, and that was the first time I’m hearing speed rapping.

[MV] Who won?

[WI] THEM with the speed rapping, man, is the wickedest thing I ever see come into the deejay! They are speaking so fast and I’m hearing everything they are saying, ‘ca they are clear. And you know, English guys and stuff? ‘Ca I was standing up, and the first time I hear, I said “Damn! how them doing that so fast?” It was wicked! That was the wickedest invention to deejaying I’ve ever heard, speed rapping with them guys. Yeah man, wicked. They tore the place up.

[MV] So did you guys bring that style back?

[WI] I took it to Jamaica, I’m the first man to go back to Jamaica with it. I recorded it fe Channel One, and they didn’t release it! Beca’ it sounded weird to them! And then after that Papa Levi came in “Mi God Mi King,” number one in Jamaica. If they had only put out mine first. Because, it sound strange to them but they cannot, um, determine what the people want to love, yunno, if something is new, the thing is in this business, when you come in with something new the people will grab it up. I mean, I did a lyrics called “Professional,” or “The General,” and them I’m speed rapping, wicked! They didn’t release it. And then Papa Levi and “Mi God Mi King” came, straight number one.

[MV] Other than these recordings for Tom, are you doing any other new recording?

[WI] No, not really, ’cause –

[MV] Mostly dubplates and things?

[WI] Yeah, dubplates.

[MV] Are those a pretty good source of income for you?

[WI] I don’t do quite often, but, y’know, it’s OK. Like when I was in Germany, I did dubplates till I was hoarse. Because, what they normally do there, whenever a dub is gonna cut, they contact all the other sound guys, and they all come and lined up. “Ghettoman Corner” was the most done, then “Wicked Have Fe Run,” everybody wanted that as well, and they wanted clash style, too, cause they do a lot of clashing in Germany, in Europe. Friendly clashes though, no war, but just clash, and they love that. But mainly selecting I’m doing.

[MV] What’s your sound called?

[WI] No, I just freelance. Just play as Welton Irie. Play as Welton Irie. And there’s enough for it, because not many people can play the old music like me. I play old soul, old R&B, disco, old calypso –

[MV] US R&B or the Jamaican R&B?

[WI] US, US man, in Jamaican parties they love everything. ‘Ca we grew up there –

[MV] So blues night kind of stuff?

[WI] No, like the 70’s disco music them, like the Tramps, Candi Staton, Tina Charles, Shalamar, Whispers, Spinners, you name it. Once it was a hit in America, they love it in Jamaica, from in the 70’s all the top soul songs, Temptations, Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, you name it. But you know, in an old hits party, we call it old hits, you got to play soul, disco, soca, reggae, ska, and everything. And nobody touch me on that.

[MV] So you live in Jamaica still, right?

[WI] Yeah.

[MV] Whereabouts, in Kingston?

[WI] Yeah, Kingston, Kingston. And it’s CDs I use, ‘ca it’s much easier to travel with. That’s what most of the people a play.

[MV] Don’t need a box boy?

[WI] No, no. ‘Ca to travel, you need so many records to travel with, it doesn’t make sense.

[MV] Then the plane leaves it, and you know . . .

[WI] Right, but you alone, a person, sending for you alone, you can’t carry so many records either. I just have two CD pouch, wicked!

[MV] Yeah, all the big sounds that come through the US now seem to do that, you see Stone Love play, they have the big binders of CDs.

[WI] Yeah, definitely, it’s easier. And more economical, you can just – when you have a sound and you have all four selectors, each one of them can be somewhere else playing, making some money for you that one night, so you know? It’s OK that way. It’s only Germany now they only use vinyls! They actually, most of the people, the young people who are getting into reggae, roots reggae, for some reason they’d rather play the vinyl than CDs, ’cause when I was in Brazil, they only play vinyl there, those that play roots music. And in San Diego, see it’s just a record there they’d rather use, you know what I mean? Japanese as well love to use –

[MV] Yeah they pay a lot of money for those originals.

[WI] Yeah they do, they do, but we Jamaicans who travel, who have to travel all about, we just use CDs. A lot of them we sit down with the records and burn from the record to the CD, in real time, so you know, a lot of time! ‘Ca you have to hook up the burner to a mixer, and you have a turntable, and you record it.

[MV] So what do you think of the modern deejays and the modern soundsystem scene? Anything there you like, that you don’t like? What do you think of the direction that the music has taken?

[WI] Well as you know, nothing stay the same, ’cause when I came in, there was the U Roy and so, and I came in a newer style, so it’s always evolving. So, what I do know is they’re making some damn good money, they are more businesslike, it’s not about the love of the music for most a these – artists. It’s about money. Can’t blame them ’cause they have seen guys like us been in it for so long and have nuttin’ fe show fe it. Them serious about them money. And as I said y’know, the thing is, I don’t want to say against what they’re doing, it’s the people who have to decide, and as long as the people them supporting, and buying the stuff and going to the shows – that’s it. It’s not like I’m going to say “Bwoy, I don’t like the lyrics they’re talking” and this, it’s not for me to say so, the public.

[MV] Especially when you have that It Feels Good album, you know?

[WI] Right. I know they preach a lot of violence, but all I’m saying is the people dem didn’t want to hear that stuff, they don’t have to go and buy the records, so, you know what I mean? That’s it. And also in the rap music everything, because when the guys started rapping in America, there weren’t no gun lyrics or gangsta, but everything just change, and I notice the younger generation they are more into those kinda lyrics, you know what I mean? And they’re just, supplying the market dem. That’s all they a dweet.

[MV] Actually, why don’t we talk for a bit about – because you were kind of one of the people at the forefront of the slackness coming in –

[WI] Yeah, me and Echo. Yeah. Yeah.

[MV] So do you want to talk about that – just started as jokes in the dance?

[WI] Just jokes, jokes. Yeah, a just fun, making a difference, because most of the deejays that time were cultural deejays. So the few who chat slackness they got a little edge sometimes. We would have more girls in the dance. The cultural deejays would be a lotta men. We, you know, all the girls there. We had the girls dem and plus, when I was on Gemini we played mixed music, ‘ca we would break, you would play some disco, some soul music, so a lotta girls were at the dance and when we took it, little culture, a little slackness, so everybody got a piece of, you know, what they like. So Gemini used to be RAM, seven nights a week. Ram, every night a the week.

Johnny Ringo & Welton Irie on Gemini Soundsystem in the UK. 1983.

[MV] So where did they play?

[WI] Mostly Kingston –

[MV] Was Skateland sort of their home base?

V/A - Gemini Live At Skateland (Dance Hall Stylee)[WI] In the later – no, no, because Gemini had his club. He had a club. Well, we play all over, all over man, all over. And in Kingston if there was a rub-a-dub sound, close by to Gemini, the rub-a-dub sound would flop. Beca’ it would mean that at that dance, when them hear say a pure woman up at Gemini, them gonna leave and come to Gemini. The rub-a-dub sounds were more popular in the countryside, where the dreadlocks are and them bun them ganja and ting. But in town, Gemini rule! Ruled it at that time, yeah man. And it sounded damn good, nothing sounded like Gemini. Clean, heavy, mic stage, he had the best mic stage at that time, so you know – and all the deejays when they were in the dance, wanted to come on. Sometimes me and Ringo in the dance and we can’t even get to deejay! Lee van Cliff would be there, Toyan, Louie Lepke, all the upcoming deejays, Yellowman used to come there and beg us mic, lotta singers used to come, Tristan Palmer, Michael Palmer – because Gemini mic stage man, it sounded clean and crystal-clear. It was fun, basically just fun. Yeah man, it was fun, trust me. So you know, basically that’s it.

[MV] Well, thanks a lot for sharing, and –

[WI] Yeah man, I hope you got what you wanted.

�2008 Michael C. Villet

Thanks and respect to Tom Chasteen and the Dub Club for the link and for bringing Welton to California.

Thanks also to Who Cork The Dance and soundtapes.co.uk for some of the soundtape samples.

Website design by Tim P and Michael Villet.

1 comment to Put It Down: An Interview with Welton Irie. Pt 2

  • fantasic interview, just came across this interview from clicking a few links on anther site, great job love the samples, great history, welton was never one of my fav djs, i was a big echo fan, fav tape back in the day was echo, brigg, nancy and the singers, which i still play, but i really enjoy the history, and never knew how much work he put in, it kind of links up with the small interview lone ranger did in the studio one dvd, when he talks about the he and some dj,s from east mash up a dance and he got dj for the year, was it ranger welton ringo and echo

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