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Interview: Ernest Ranglin (Part 2)

Interview: Ernest Ranglin (Part 2)

Interview: Ernest Ranglin (Part 2)

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"Music is life! And that's all I can say about it!"

Sampler

Read part 1 of this interview

In part two of our interview with guitar legend Ernest Ranglin, Angus Taylor spoke with him about his more recent activities. Whether playing with Sly & Robbie, collaborating with band of the moment Dubtonic Kru or adding sleeve notes to the critically celebrated Skatroniks Jamaica album, in spite of what he sees as a deteriorating business, Mr Ranglin has been a busy man...

Ernest Ranglin

You've just played at the very well received show at the Blue Note in Tokyo with Monty Alexander and Sly & Robbie. How did this particular project come together?

I don't know if it was Blue Note who put it together because I just got the call. I think it was a gentleman from Blue Note. He had this great idea to put the group together and this was the first time we were all going to play together as a group. This is how it came along and I just accepted the offer. I'm glad everybody was pleased about it. Monty and Sly & Robbie did a great show and I'm just glad they made this all possible for me.

Are you going to be touring with that same ensemble in 2012?

Yes, I think so. Everything isn't quite put together properly as yet but I think it's going to be - I'm ready whenever they are!

You often use sheet music on stage, how big a role does it have in what you play and how much is improvised?

I make sure I have a theme and everybody has their part. Because that's what my work is, having been an arranger for years as well as an A&R man for a lot of these record companies. So I would make sure that I give them the main theme, and then give them their part so they would know exactly what they are doing and then leave them a space for solo work.

In 2009 you were working with Lynn Tait on the film Rocksteady - The Roots Of Reggae when his health deteriorated and you stepped in as bandleader.

Ernest RanglinYes, that was a rough time too considering he wasn't so well and didn't get a chance to do anything on it. But he gave me some of his arrangements and I made sure that we played it for him when we recorded it because these are really his works. There were a few little things of mine I did but I didn't really want to do much because I wanted everything to be his work. So I would say I was the bandleader not the arranger! (laughs) But I tried to make sure everything was done properly for him.

You endorsed 2010's Skatroniks album Skalsa #1 led by Bigga Morrison who was in Jazz Jamaica with your nephew Gary Crosby.

Well, Bigga came to me with it and played it for me. He asked me if I could do some sleevenotes and I did. It sounded very nice and l liked it. It's a nice album. I don't know about anyone else but I like it!

You've also been working with Dubtonic Kru - who many people seem to see as the saviours of reggae in Jamaica right now.

Oh that new group! Well I don't have much association with them so to speak but we collaborated on an album. The producer of that album [John Mckinley] is a very good friend of mine and I knew his father for many, many years. If you like that album I think we will have more things to do in the coming year.

There is currently a petition circling online to "Save Foundation Reggae Music". Do you think foundation reggae needs to be saved?

I don't think so because whatever I hear otherwise I don't think it makes any sense! Because if you notice the market for those other things is going down and down. But I don't like to criticize things so I just do what I have to do. I think reggae music is here to stay.

I think reggae music is here to stay

Who are you listening to right now?

I am not really listening to anyone at the moment. I have been up and down and in and out and I don't really hear them much. Whenever I am home I just stay home. I don't really go out much. On the radio I may hear some things but not all that much because I am busy doing other things. It's bad that I am not keeping up with the times so to speak but I guess I can be forgiven for that! I hope! (laughs)

Apart from your book what other album projects are you working on?

I keep composing music at all times which is why I am so taken up most of the time. Whenever an idea comes to my mind I try to put it down. Because you don't remember things after a while so you make sure you put it down on paper. So that's what I'm doing and I have enough for maybe two or three albums. I have the materials but the recording situation today, I don't know what is going on with it. I notice very few companies are putting out records so to speak so I will just have to watch what's going on.

One way that record companies have been trying to increase revenue today is through putting songs to advertisements. You yourself had your Below The Bassline cut of Surfin' used on a car advertisement in the UK.

Yes, I saw some revenue from that. The only way that would be good for the musicians would be if you could get a contract to use some of your music on a movie  or something like that. That is the only way because the recording business is really down. But I still compose my music and put them down because you can never tell when things might spin around. I'm just hoping for that moment.

The recording business is really down. But you can never tell when things might spin around

But you still play live. You must enjoy that a lot!

(Laughs) Well, music is life you know! And that's all I can say about it!

Ernest, Monty Alexander and Sly & Robbie will be touring the European festival circuit this summer.

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