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Interview: Clive Hunt in Kingston (Part 3)

Interview: Clive Hunt in Kingston (Part 3)

Interview: Clive Hunt in Kingston (Part 3)

By on - Photos by Franck Blanquin - Comment

"I introduced the digital"


Read part 2 of this interview

In Part 3 of our exclusive interview with Clive Hunt, he describes his journey back to Jamaica, through drug rehabilitation to become the musical backbone of VP Records

Clive Hunt

I was just going to ask you about Wackies…

Well that was another whole episode that turned out very terrible. Because he still calls me now you know? Saying "Clive, Clive…" I spent from ’76 until ’86. I was at Bullwackie station for about three or four years and then I started going back and forth from Jamaica. Going to Florida and working with the Stones and Peter Tosh and so on. Then I was still doing Bullwackie because Bullwackie he was my base. I would eat there, sleep there, smoke the chalice there. We had bad men from Jamaica. And no one could mess with you. I grew up in that military thing so I was not afraid of any bad man.

I know that Bullwackie released all of those records and the only money I ever got from Bullwackie today is US$100. One day I took a taxi from Manhattan up there and I needed him to pay the taxi fare and I didn't have change. So I ran upstairs and said "Bullwackie give me a money". He said he only had $100 US and I just took it anyway because I never got any money from him. I went downstairs and pay the taxi and then when I went back he said "Keep it". That's the only money I have gotten.

He put out a movie with me. I am in the movie, all over the movie, even the people who bought the movie told me how much money and he never gave me a dollar. But it was no serious thing. You see, like me and Tyrone when you come and see us here, we are serious musicians because of experiences like that. I have decided to do things seriously nowadays.

But in those days I’d just do it because music was nothing. If you have a studio in London or wherever you're from I could come and I just work. I say "Tyrone! We’re up by…" And then he calls out Robbie Lynn and then everybody would work. I did that at Bullwackie. I am there and I'd call Robbie Shakespeare and Robbie Lynn and whoever came to New York would come to see me. Because remember, I am part of the session crew in Jamaica. So if anybody comes to New York they want to find me. I am a little rude boy running up and down doing things. I know where the weed is, I know where this or that is. I was in the street so Wackie used me to get a lot of things. But that was it - I don't want to talk about him more than that. (Laughs)

Did you do any work for Donovan Germain when you were in New York?

Germain never really worked in New York. Once or twice a year he would come to Jamaica to record a couple of songs. All covers. He had a little record shop and he would listen to R&B songs and say "Man, this would sound good in Jamaica in reggae". And he is always successful.

Him and Hawkeye. Him and Hawkeye are the same. Hawkeye in London, Harlesden, every time he picked a song in a shop and came to Jamaica to record it in reggae it would become a hit. It was always covers. I never really worked for him there. Germain never did any work in New York. He never really did the work in America. He worked in Jamaica.

Okay, tell me more about working with the Rolling Stones.

That came about when Peter Tosh got signed to them. They were doing an album, I think Mystic Man, the first album when they signed. And I was in New York, I was working with a big music instrument company - the biggest in that time in America. Sam Ash music. And all of them and all of them, Mikey Chung, Pitterson told me that all of them were coming were coming to do a Peter Tosh album and they were going to be in Bearsville, in Woodstock.

I drank and smoked like a rock 'n' roller

So they invited me up there and these are my guys, I wanted to do something around them, because in those days I drank and smoked like a rock 'n' roller. Bernard Touter Harvey was playing with the Stones at that time. The album was being recorded and I just helped out every now and then. I don't know if the Stones even knew me too much but they got to know me because people turn to me and said "Clive?" And I would come and help and they would change something or do something.

I was part of the whole team there because of Sly & Robbie and I met Ahmet Ertegun who was the big man. I can remember I recommended to Ertegun that any known reggae artist signed to any label in America is only going to work unless they have a Jamaican working. And he said "Who? You?" And I said "No" and I recommended Earl Chin. And he hired Earl Chin and he had an office at Atlantic Records from that day. And there was all of that and some crazy things went on and it was nice.

But the second album now, they invited me to be an arranger. And they asked me if I could come to Jamaica and I said “No”. So they came to New York and they laid the tracks there and I did my work there. It continued for all of the albums except the last one which Peter did on his own. But he was always calling me to play the horns but Peter was acting a little… He was into the Obeah thing. (Laughs) So I didn't get involved in the last one - No Nuclear.

Didn’t you also do some work with Dennis Brown again when you were in the States? How well did you know him?

I first met Dennis during the Derrick Harriott days because he lived up the road near Big Yard and Derrick had his shop one block over, two or three blocks away. Dennis and me got close because Dennis wanted to learn music. And I knew music. He wanted to learn the guitar and I had just learned a little about guitar. But because of my music knowledge I learned things faster than other people. Some people would show me a G and walk away and I would just work it out. So I showed Dennis and Horace Andy a few chords. I would play something that would come to me on the piano. He would play a chord "Clive! Clive! Come here! What this?" And I would say "A minor seventh".

I was doing an album with Dennis Brown before he died. I didn't finish it. I regretted that

So we became music friends and he was a bit younger than me. Just like Tyrone too. We lived and worked together. Musical friends from that time. If people called him, he call me and if people wanted me to do something I'd call him or go to his house. Whenever he would go on tour he would carry back a pair of shoes for me. And if we didn't carry something from me I go round to his house and he'd say "Go upstairs" and I would go upstairs and pick a pair of shoes or something. We were like brothers. That was it. It was just like that. We were musical friends and we just worked together. I did an album for him which kind of propelled him. The Foul Play album.

When he got signed to A&M?

Yeah, I did that... I wasn't doing it for him but Tyrone was still there on it.

Tyrone DownieTyrone: no man. They did all my parts over you know! The harmonica solo.

So the Foul Play album just came about from hanging around and making a demo and then Joe Gibbs called me and said some people were interested in Dennis Brown and he liked the type of material I was doing. I said "Okay". Dennis did it and I kind of finished up the album. That was it. I was doing an album with him before he died. In the last year. It was very bad. He was sick. I was busy. So I didn't finish it. I regretted that.

So when you went back to Jamaica in ’86 and the thing had gone all digital, I guess it didn't affect you because your skills were still required?

(Laughs) Let me tell you - I introduced the digital. Bubbler, you know Bubbler the keyboard player? He will tell you "The first drum machine I ever saw was the one that Clive Hunt gave me". Because I carried the first drum machine to Joe Gibbs studio and showed him. Because I used to work with Sam Ash music. Every instrument that every musician got in the world, the Stones, Earth Wind And Fire, everybody, Sam Ash music is the top music store.

I gave Sly the Syndrums

So I gave Sly the Syndrums. And taught him “This one can go ‘pop’ and this one can go ‘pow’!” When I gave them to Sly, Sly said "Bumba!" and made (makes classic Taxi Syndrum sound) It’s me who gave it him man! And I gave it to him for free - I didn't sell it to him. I gave him eight of them one time. And Sly went crazy! He tells all the musicians, when you go to his house and he shows all his special drum sets he'll say "Clive Hunt gave me this". Just like Tyrone, because just like Tyrone was into the electronics I was into the electronics…

That's right, because I interviewed SuperCat and he told me that Tyrone was the first man to bring in the digital thing to Jamaica…

Okay yeah! Yes Tyrone was the first man before me and things! Alright, I was telling musicians, when Tyrone came to Jamaica last month and contacted me the week before I was in the studio with the same musicians and I was telling them that Tyrone Downie is the first man, the first musician to have a studio at his house. And they looked on me and said "Studio? Why him fi have studio?". So when I saw him one week later I said "Tyrone I told them…" And everybody started to laugh.

And Tyrone said "Clive, it was a studio but it was cassette". Because Tyrone had two cassettes for recordings and one of them he'd record on this one for the stereo and then he’d overdubbed on that one and then he’d overdub on this one. And then he’d over dub everything again. So I said "This is this is multitrack you know?" (Laughs) I didn't even remember that! Yeah actually that is where the digital things started! So Tyrone was the guy who got me into that! And then I introduced it to a lot of people.

So when I came back to Jamaica… because I was sent back because I started to go crazy because I started wine, women and song and rock 'n' roll crap. Everything. I got sent back. But it didn't bother me because I was always a music man. I don't struggle in music. Let me tell you something to me music, especially reggae, is the easiest thing for me, I can live easily a good life until I die. I will never be hungry unless I want to be hungry.

I don't struggle in music. I can easily live a good life until I die

So it was nothing, when I came back and everybody did digital music. I decided, when I went to rehab to clean up myself, I decided to I didn't want to work at Mixing Lab or any of those studios. Steely and Clevie and everybody doing electronic. I wanted musicians. And there were not three drummers and there were not three bass players in Kingston! You had to go and find Dean Fraser and go to the north coast and get 809 band. Get all of these musicians. Get Birch, Fletcher and them to Kingston.

So I went to Tuff Gong because I used to work there when it was Federal and I saw Errol Brown sitting there not doing anything. So I said "Errol, I want to do some work but I don't want to drum machine - I want live instruments". And Errol told me that the studio was good and I got a couple of musicians and I went there and started the whole thing. And I decided I didn't want any deejays - only singers. I decided to just fly reggae. You know about the French reggae revolution? I did it all from Tuff Gong. I just did that - boom. So that's how come it didn't affect me at all. In fact, I got work. I got so much work.

Clive HuntWhen I left rehab I ended up producing, there was a song that was number one in reggae everywhere and I did it digitally. It was Putting Up Resistance by Beres Hammond. I played every instrument and I engineered. Because I did it when I was on coke and I didn't want anybody. Because I would smoke my coke. Right there so. So I'd say I wanted nobody else to be there. So I would just go into the studio with the artists and tell them "Rude boy, if you want to work with me this is what I do - you don't have to involve in this". So I was just in the studio and I recorded Putting Up Resistance.

When I was in rehab Putting Up Resistance was the biggest reggae song anywhere in the world. And then I think Beres or somebody did an interview I didn't tell anybody in rehab that it was mine. They knew my name was Clive Hunt anyway and there was an interview and they must have asked Beres "Who do that? It is so different". And he said "Oh, Clive Hunt" and the whole room looked around at me. And they asked him "Where is he?" I think the person knew I was in rehab but he didn't want to say on national TV. So when they turned off the TV and said "Are they talking about you?" I said "Yes".

So the day I left rehab, I started to work. But I decided I would not do anything more like that. Do you know what digital is to me? I want people to know: it is just another set of instruments. They are not the instrument. Unless you want those instruments or that instrument type for that song. As far as I'm concerned that is what it is. So it didn't stop me. At all. In fact, it made me eat more food. Because I would call the other musicians now. People who never had work, to come to do things. And then I did Bernard Lavilliers, Pierpoljak – all these things I just started to do in that time. That was in the digital period.

Let's talk a bit about what you've been doing recently. You've been doing lots of work for VP. You did the Etana album I Rise…

Well, recently, it is a dream. To be a creative person doing what I do is a utopia. I wish every musician that I grew up with… I mean Tyrone sees it and he is happy for me. He just comes to Jamaica and he’s with me every day. For the past two and a half years I produce so many people in the business - all names. From the youngest artist from Jahmiel to Chronixx to an old man. To Jimmy Cliff. I am doing everybody. And I feel like I am in reggae heaven! (Laughs) I just want to make some money because I don't worry about this or worry about that but I have to start to make some money now.

When I decide when I want to work I am ready for the whole year you know? I pay for the studio for the whole year. Over the past two years the studio is where I was. I say "How much for the year?" And I pay them right away and I just say "Clive Hunt place". Anywhere I am is Clive Hunt's place. I come round to Jimmy Cliff and he says "Love it so Clive" this is the dream he had for the place. He only had rehearsal of a few people and then they’re gone.

But it is also the most difficult time for me. It is the most fascinating and fulfilling time of my life as a creative person. It is beyond any dream I've ever had. But the other people in the business keep saying "Boy, it is only Clive alone getting the work".

VP records has been in business for 27 years. And for the past two years they have signed me as a producer to work for them. It’s non-exclusive. But whenever they call me I do it because we have a contract and I get money every month. VP has been in business for 27 years and for the past two years they asked me for work for them. Other people were working for them but they changed their business.

I practise music 14 hours a bumboclaat day

99.9% of producers, maybe 98% of producers, I don't know who else does it like me - maybe Handel Tucker, this is how all producers in Jamaica produce: They make 40 songs for a 10 song album. Did you know that? That's how all of them produce.

Let me tell you something. I have never in my 43 years of production as a producer, been asked to produce an album that has 12 songs and produced 13. Or 14. Never. All of those Pierpoljak multiplatinum album, tons of gold records and platinum records, I have never asked to produce one song over the amount of the album yet. Including Khaled. Abyssinians, every album I produce is the exact amount of songs. So I can call myself a producer.

But I still study music. I practise music 14 hours a bumboclaat day. I can't do all of the work and everybody around me I train, I teach. Let me give you a list of people who I bring into the studio. I brought Dean Fraser into the studio.

Tell me what happened there…

It is me who brought Dean Fraser. Dean Fraser played in a band and he sang and saxophone he'd blow and he'd sing "Girl you never know what you missed until I kissed you". And I said he wanted a band. The great Tommy McCook would play for me on the Culture album named International Herb. We did two albums with Culture - Cumbolo and International Herb. I had Tommy McCook, Don Drummond junior, Marquis.

These were big men. We went in the studio with Miss Pottinger who has a name as a producer. She never came in the studio one time you know? She had an office downtown. We were in the studio, me and Errol Brown, and when Tommy and them came in the studio Miss Pottinger said "Errol, don't make Tommy take over the session from Clive - Clive will arrange the session". Errol did set up the song because we did the rhythm track already. And the great Tommy McCook said "Young boy, we're going to school".

Tommy McCook said "Young boy, we're going to school"

So to give you an example, I remember the first song Tommy McCook worked on and the first phrase sounded like a cartoon show! When I was a little boy there was a cartoon show called Woody Woodpecker. The phrase sounded like that. (Sings Woody Woodpecker theme) So I took some time to walk out because I knew they were some big bad champion musicians. And I walked round to Errol Brown and I said "Errol, doesn't that sound like Woody Woodpecker?" Now I know Errol Brown from a little boy, he touched the button and said "Tommy, Tommy, Clive said that sounds like Woody Woodpecker!" Tommy called me one bundle of bad words and left the studio! So I mashed up Miss Pottinger session with Culture. So I had no hand man. Me alone. The man cussed and was gone. From when I was a little boy in Stony Hill I heard about that man.

So everybody used to tell me about the sax man named ‘youth sax’. A whole heap of them I’m telling you I bring in the business. I heard about him and I went to the Jonkanoo or something and I heard him sing. Fat youth singing. "Girl I never knew" and I did wait two or three or four songs until the sax started to play. The first time he starts to play I just walked up and touched him on his foot and I said "Rude boy". He said "Yes Clive", I said "You know me?" He said "Yes". I said "I want you to work with me tomorrow at Treasure Isle - Duke Reid’s studio". He said "Yeah man! I live round the corner".

That is how Dean Fraser came to the studio to work. And I had him with me and we worked every day. Because in those days when I worked in the studio it was just like now. Every single day. I work in the studio every single day. Sunday to Sunday to Sunday. But I have just decided that I'm not going to work nights for anybody anymore. If you guys weren’t here I would have gone by now.

Let me tell you something. I am the only man who has a studio, I don't take money from musicians. When a musician wants the work I give him studio time. Even though I pay for the studio. I pay for the studio and the electricity. When I leave I give musicians the time. I show musicians how they must live. And the man them they give me a hard time Rasta! They give me a hard time saying the people only give me the work. People give me the work because I need to work. Because I have to feed my 19 children. (Laughs) OK it’s not a playing thing! I have 19 children.

Clive Hunt

Is it true that you're working with Capleton on a new album?

Well I know that he was supposed to do an album for VP for a few years and we talked and talked and he didn't seem like he was ready but he seems to be ready now. So I did one thing with him before on that One Drop album, Motive, which is doing quite well and we're supposed to do an album but it is not really sanctioned by VP yet. But because I have time, he is ready now but I don't think the company is ready. So I just tell him like “Today I’m doing anything so if you come today we could've done something”. It's not really official.

What about the work you're doing here at Jimmy Cliff’s studio? What are you working on?

I do every work here. All the work I'm doing I do here. Remember I am on a contract with VP. They've already said four albums they want me to work on. One with Jamelody. A Rasta youth from Trinidad - he is bad.

I know him.

I am in the middle of a Yannis Odua album - my boy. He is coming back next month. I am doing most of the songs on Jimmy Cliff's new album. I am working on a new theme song for a show called Adult Swim. Cartoon Network. I will finish that next week for them. It is exciting times. I feel special and chosen and blessed to be doing these things. Plus there are people all over checking me but I'm still on a contract with VP so I have to complete the VP commitment. It is February and I haven't started one of VP’s projects yet. Is not my fault. I am waiting on them.

We are trying to wrap up this Dennis Brown tribute album. So tomorrow I'll be doing the last thing on the last song. Everything is finished and mixed except for this last song. And I'm just doing something on the Jah Cure’s album. There's a whole heap of things I am doing. That Jah Cure album which you don't see my name on - eight of the songs I did extensive work on. And that came about by me doing one song with him which I don't think I got credit for. The song named Find That Girl. I remember he called me.

I feel special and chosen and blessed to be doing these things

I like the horns mix of that track. Did you put the horns on that?

I did the track! Yeah man I did all of that. Let me tell you the story of that song. was in the country doing nothing because sometimes I just walk away from music. And a friend of mine he was raising animals and he encouraged me to do it. I said "I don't have any money" and he gave me one and said "Start".

So I was there taking care of my animals and then I got a call from a number I didn't know and it was Jah Cure and he said "Father Clive! I want you to come into the studio and make two tunes from me". I said "Yeah? Where?" He said Tuff Gong. I said "When?" "Today". I said "You have the songs?" He said "No I don't have the songs. Come and make the rhythms" and I said "Rude boy I don't make rhythms". So he said "Please father Clive come in".

So on the way into town taking the bus, wait for hours, public transport, night in the studio. When I reach the studio I was thinking about the job here and I start thinking about things in my head so I just laid the track. I laid the track and he was outside the whole time and then the guy who wrote the song, Poo Bear. Do you know Poo Bear? He got nominated for a Grammy for a Justin Bieber song that he wrote. He's got two or three Grammys other than Jah Cure that he got nominated from.

So we did the song and Poo Bear called me a couple of days later wanting me to listen to the chorus and seeing if I liked it. I said "Yes, good". Then I left and nobody called me. So three months passed and I called Jah Cure and I said "Wha gwaan? Everything good?" I said "What happened with the song?" He said "Good man, it finished and everything". So I said "Let me give you my details" he said "What do you mean your details?" I said "My details for my co-writer and producer credit". And the man said "Jah know - how you mean father Clive?" I said "How you mean - how I mean?" He said "I will tell you what, I won't bother to use it". I said "Hold on, hold on whether you use it or not you want my details because your great-grandson might decide to use it and my great-great-great grandson might want to have a little benefits!" I think I have 10%. But I don't still don't see my credit anywhere. I heard it’s nominated for a Grammy. But he still talking to me at least.

Some of them get the pie and run with it. They pass you and they wind up the car glass until when life goes right back down and then they come by. I have seen that many times you know? I see them outside the gate on the floor with no car or nothing. They want to beg a spliff and then we start talking again and maybe they come right up and then they gone again. I’ve seen it over and over. Many times. (Laughs)

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