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Interview: Prince Fatty

Interview: Prince Fatty

Interview: Prince Fatty

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"Hollie Cook smashed Milk and Honey in two takes and we have been working on our vibes ever since"


Prince Fatty

The contradictory character of Prince Fatty

Prince Fatty is the highly praised UK producer and sound engineer responsible for wicked and clever albums from Hollie Cook, The Skints and Little Roy among others. His latest effort is Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler, an album described as a mix of hip hop fantasy and reggae reality. To United Reggae he talks about his inspirations, the album and the artists featured on it.

Mike Pelanconi, better known as Prince Fatty, is a renowned sound engineer and record producer. His artist alias is according to Wikipedia meant as a tongue-in-cheek reference to legendary Jamaican producer and sound engineer King Tubby, but he says it’s rather about his preference for fat girls when he was in school.

Regardless of his name, he has been a prominent and vital force on the reggae and dub scene in the UK for almost 15 years where he has worked with several reggae artists, including Gregory Isaacs and Little Roy. But he has also tried his hands on other genres as well working with rock and pop musicians such as Lily Allen and Graham Coxon from Blur.

Busy year

This year has been a busy one for Prince Fatty. He has put a dub version of Hollie Cook’s self-titled debut album, a western inspired ska album with Mutant Hifi and helmed production on ska punkers The Skints second album Part & Parcel.

Prince Fatty Versus The Drunken GamblerBut the latest addition to his productions is his own various artists album Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler, a set where he tears down and builds up classic reggae, pop and hip-hop tracks along with some original material. As with his previous productions, the album oozes 60’s and 70’s reggae, a sound Prince Fatty creates using vintage equipment and recording techniques.

“It’s inevitable that I get the old time feel as we record 100 per cent live and with real drums, piano, organ and guitars and so on. This is how reggae should sound to me. The engineering skills required are more advanced than normal rock recordings. My equipment is mostly 70’s also. It came from the BBC when they were throwing stuff out in the late 90’s, and I still use tape machines and I built a big studio especially modified with reggae, soul and afro beat in mind,” explains Prince Fatty.

Broad inspirations

When listening to the new album and his previous productions it’s apparent that Prince Fatty has broad inspirations. I mean, you can’t just be a reggae addict when doing a covers of the Andrew Sisters’ Bei Mir Bist du Schon, The Whisperers’ The Beat Goes On or hip-hop classics such as Gin & Juice and Got Your Money.

“Rebels influence me and sometimes even moods. Music is just a vehicle for the message or melody. I don’t like Jazz but I love Charles Mingus. I hate rock music, but I like Jimi Hendrix and early Black Sabbath, so I confuse and contradict myself with vinyl,” he explains, and continues:

“I take the DJ mentality to record production, but instead of sampling I re-play it how I want it. The musicians I use are the best and have the skills to convert anything into reggae, so it’s more of a question of direction and personal ambition. Is it for the hot tub or the club? With ice or without?”

Live performance is the backbone

He describes the new ten track album as a crude, but legal 30 minute sampler of what you get when you see him live sound system style.

“It’s basically a mix down of the specials I have been playing out for the last few years with a few new Hollie Cook and Horseman cuts thrown in to keep it fresh. The best cuts I don’t release, you have to catch us live for those,” he reveals.

The album includes some scorching versions of early reggae classics – Max Romeo’s rude and lewd Wet Dream and Dennis Alcapone’s tongue twister Babariba Skank.

“These are some of the popular cuts from the sound system and are some of my favorite classics. Think of it as a small part of my private dub plate collection exposed. When we play out it is to a mixed crowd, so I like to expose and remind people of the classics. For a purist reggae audience the selection changes and I can go deep into Channel One and Volcano territory,” he says.

Prince Fatty’s ideology

The artwork and title of the album suggest an interest in martial arts, and it turns out that it means a lot to Prince Fatty.

“Kung-fu is a great ideology, perhaps the best, and I hope to inspire some discipline and martial arts in the dance,” he explains.

Crucial connections

Over the years Prince Fatty has recorded a lot with Hollie Cook – daughter of former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook – and vintage styled deejay Horseman. These two artists are almost synonymous with Prince Fatty today.

He met Horseman at a studio session at Lion Studio in Brixton, London, and the connection was instant.

“From the first session I knew we were going to be a team. He talks the reggae talk and has the reggae walk,” he explains, and continues to explain how he met Hollie Cook:

“Hollie heard some of my work and a mutual friend put us in touch. I had been thinking for ages about the lovers rock vibes. We had made Milk and Honey and were waiting for the right voice to come along. Hollie smashed it in two takes and we have been working on our vibes ever since. We share similar music tastes and we all love early 80’s sound system tapes like Volcano and Metro Media. Hollie can dub the mixer and run a siren, so it’s a team vibe.”

Soul singers at disposal

Apart from these two relatively newcomers, he has also teamed up with Studio One veterans Winston Francis and Dennis Alcapone as well as George Dekker from The Pioneers and Little Roy, with whom he recorded one of last year’s best albums – the Nirvana cover album Battle for Seattle.

“I’m very lucky to have these great musicians and singers at my disposal, and I have to tell you straight up. Winston Francis and George Dekker are real singers, soul singers in the true sense of the word. It’s a real pleasure to record them. Winston is always at my studio writing and singing, and I’m preparing an album with him for next year,” he explains, and continues:

“George does most of the backing vocals on my productions and is also on Hollie Cook's songs. Dennis Alcapone, Big Youth and Horseman are my favorite MC's. Unique, versatile, original and above all know how to control a crowd. My job is made easy with them, when we work live I’m the selector and dub instigator, they control the microphone to the fullness.”

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