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Interview: Max Romeo

Interview: Max Romeo

Interview: Max Romeo

By on - Photos by Christian Bordey - 1 comment

"I've been on the road for 46 years ... It only gets better. I think that's a great achievement"

Sampler

Max Romeo is a genuine roots reggae legend, who has achieved extensive international chart success over a 40 year period. He is credited with launching a sub-genre of reggae - with overtly suggestive lyrics - coinciding with a BBC ban on his 1969 hit Wet Dream. This was exacerbated by a ban from several venues on his first U.K. tour at that time. Having left home at 14 to live on the streets, Romeo proceeded to go from musical strength to strength, starting with Bunny Lee and Niney Holness, before moving to work with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Many assert that his best work was done with the latter, though an acrimonious split was followed by much experimentation in his remarkably volatile (but ultimately successful) life curve. This experimentation included a theatrical musical and liaisons with the Rolling Stones, Jah Shaka, Tappa Zukie and Mafia and Fluxy. More recently Romeo's musical inventory has been successfully sampled by a range of popular artists, including Prodigy (I Chase the Devil for their Top Ten hit Out of Space) and Kanye West\Jay-Z for their hit Lucifer. He also left his musical stamp on the popular video game ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

It is our good fortune that Romeo continues to make music and tour. After his performance at the ROTOTOM Sunsplash festival 2012 – where he rightly showcased the extensive talents of his sons Ronaldo and Romario - he kindly took time out to talk with United Reggae.

Max Romeo

Would you like to start by getting anything ‘off your chest’ Max?

Not really. I’m relaxed right now. My chest is clear!

Greatest achievement in music?

My greatest achievement in music is hard to define right now, because there have been so many ups and downs. But probably my greatest achievement is being able to tour. I’ve been on the road for 46 years and been maintaining it. It only gets better. I think that’s a great achievement.

After making a great album like 'War Inna Babylon' I'm still waiting all these years for the first royalty statement

Greatest disappointment in music?

(He laughs) Greatest disappointment, well after making a great album like ‘War Inna Babylon’ I’m still waiting all these years for the first royalty statement. That’s the greatest disappointment.

Favourite musician?

Whoa! That’s a hard one – so many great ones. I would say my bass player Dianne White. She’s a talented woman.

Favourite reggae artist?

Oh! So much, too much of them. I would say Beres Hammond.

What ways do you make money in the music business?

Touring is one of the main earners. And publishing. They are the two areas that I do best in.

Interests outside music?

Yes. I do farming. I’m a livestock farmer. I farm cows, goats and surprisingly, pigs! I do chickens sometimes too. And I do ground produce. I have a nice farm.

I'm a livestock farmer. I farm cows, goats and surprisingly, pigs!

You’ve been described as a ‘runaway’ or ‘street’ child. Tell us about that?

Ah, that’s in the past. That goes way back. Yes, I didn’t like the life that I was living with my parents. So I decided to take off on my own. I went to live on the streets of Kingston. I was living on those streets for about six years. Then I drifted into the music business and here I am today!

Tell us about your up and down relationship with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry?

There was never a ‘down’ (He laughs hale and hearty). Never a ‘down’, it’s always an ‘up’. I can remember no ‘downs’, but I can remember ‘ups’, especially at the time when we were producing the album ‘War Inna Babylon’. That was one of the highest points. But I knew ‘Scratch’ for years before that, before he even started producing for himself. I knew him from when he was a producer at Studio One. So we go way back.

Did you have trouble with the Vatican in the past?

(He laughs). It wasn’t really trouble with the Vatican. It’s just that I do a song called ‘Fire for the Vatican, Blood for the Pope Man Revelation Say’. And on my first trip to Rome I was being questioned by a lot of radio stations to define my meaning. I told them: Look, I’m quoting your own words, to sanctify you have to be washed by the blood and to be purified you have to go through the fire. And outside the walls of Rome I see too much suffering. That’s outside the walls of the Vatican - which in my estimation is the richest city in the world – I see people sleeping on cardboard on the bridges. That’s what inspired me to write a song like that. They [i.e. Vatican officialdom] need to be purified and sanctified, that’s the whole meaning of the whole thing. It’s not about torching Rome or killing the Pope, nah it’s nothing like that. There was no official response from the Vatican on the matter.

Favourite politician?

Aha! That’s a hard question, because my favourite politician is dead. That’s Michael Manley [deceased socialist Jamaican Prime Minister].

Least favourite politician?

Wow! I don’t wanna say, because if I say it will put me in trouble with the politicians in Jamaica.

In life, who has had the greatest influence on you?

My children, yes my children. Because they are the only ones I know in life outside of my wife.

Max Romeo

Greatest achievement in life?

Being able to provide for the family as a father should and being able to give the kids good schooling. Being proud to see my boys touring on the road with me and creating an impact. Eh, these things are great.

Greatest disappointment in life?

Wow! That I didn’t have a closer relationship with my father and mother, because they were living in a brainwashed world, and I saw the light from early and because of that we couldn’t get on. I had to split. That was a disappointment.

Are you happy?

Yes I am. Right now I’m the happiest person in the world, because all my bills are paid! (Followed by much laughter).

Right now I'm the happiest person in the world

Remaining ambitions in life?

Yes. To sit back in my rocking chair watching my boys performing on YouTube and knowing that they’re going to be paid for their work, so that I don’t have to worry about them.

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Read comments (1)


Posted by Julio Rasta Roots on 03.14.2013
maxxx respeito romeo, fya!!!

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