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Interview: Alpheus (Part 2)

Interview: Alpheus (Part 2)

Interview: Alpheus (Part 2)

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"All reggae is reality music"

Read part 1 of this interview


The second part of Angus Taylor’s Interview with London born singer Alpheus, where they discuss his last album Everything For A Reason, relationships, and Barry Manilow.

How did the album come about?

I came to France a few years ago and met JP at Special Delivery who was just starting out. The first riddim was Clean Vibes, then it was Storm Alarm, I was doing songs all the time, and we were helping each other to learn and grow. So finally we said “ok we’ve done enough now – lets do an album” and got really serious about it the last few years, compile some riddims and used excellent musicians like Bim and Bost.

What are Bim & Bost like to work with?

Alpheus - Everything For A ReasonVery MUSIC! Like they don’t know anything else. You could ask them what happened on TV last night and they’d have no idea! All they know is we were in the studio, we’ve got this for you to listen to and so on. I stay in their house a lot and when you wake there’s a guitar on the floor in front of you – it’s all music. They’re very academic so you can explain something to them and they’ll know the exact note you’re going to sing. When you work in a team for a certain amount of time you start to understand eachother. You know how to lick a riddim, where to put a riff, when he’s going to want to do this. You start to become a family and understand each others feelings.

Can you play any instruments?

Noooo! I’ve been dreading that question! (LAUGHS). I’ve got to go and learn how to play something – my friend the singer Lukie D told me when he learned to play the guitar it helped him become an even better singer. It helps with chords, harmonies, where to go and so on.

When I heard you singing that song Sad Face, with the solo piano, I thought that was you playing!

(LAUGHS) Like Barry Manilow??? I guess that must come across to people! I wish it was, man, I wish it was.

The song 'Sad Face' starts with a very personal dedication. Was it inspired by real events?

Yes it was. When I was at school I knew this girl Nicola. I really believed this was my ultimate girl. She was in a relationship with a guy who was physically abusive and she would never leave him. One time I saw her she looked like she’d gone five rounds with Tyson and I said “you’ve GOT TO LEAVE HIM” but she wouldn’t. Every time I saw her she had a sad face. She ended up staying with him, had a family, eventually she ran away. I just couldn’t understand it, but that was her song. (PAUSES) Nicola…

Are a lot of your songs inspired by true events?

AlpheusAll of them. Either they’re based on my experiences or things that happened to someone close to me. I can’t sing things that are empty – just made up. That’s one of the things I learned at Studio 1, Mr Dodd could tell when you just wrote a song for the sake of it to go on the riddim, that wasn’t good enough. He used to call them plastic tunes. Since then I always take songs from true events and true feelings.

This is a major misconception about reggae isn’t it? That there are “reality” songs and “love “ songs? They’re ALL reality songs right?

It’s all reality music. And even people who know a lot about reggae have this misconception – that reggae is just about Truths and Rights. Yes it is but there are lots of genres, and even from the days of rocksteady you had lots of love tunes from people like Stranger Cole, on reggae, and Larry Marshall. It’s not just about how sad you can be, how poor you are, and if you are rasta or not.

There’s a bit of everything on Everything For A Reason, some sound clash, some political and cultural songs - but mostly love songs. Is that your specialist area?

Yes! It really is. I like to write those songs for the reasons I’ve just given but also because I like to speak for us guys. Like on the first track You’re Not, it’s about a lovely woman who I love going out with but I say “DAMN! You’re hard work!” And she says “no I’m not” and I say “yes you are – you think you’re easy to love but you’re not!” So I like to speak for us, and it’s not just about saying how sweet you are and nice you look, it’s about the everyday realities of relationships.

It helps if there’s some sweet music under the message to make the medicine go down though?

True. If you can cause a bit of controversy over some nice music then you’re there!

What’s next for Alpheus?

I’m going to continue with Special Delivery – that’s not gonna change – but also on this Spanish label A Lone. I’m working with a great producer Roberto sanchez – we just released some great singles with Glen Washington on the Family and Dirty Dozen riddims and we’re planning to do an album down the line. And of course, some good music from those great Jamaican producers – that’s always on the cards!

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