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Interview: Ben Up and Barnabas talk Channel One (Part 3)

Interview: Ben Up and Barnabas talk Channel One (Part 3)

Interview: Ben Up and Barnabas talk Channel One (Part 3)

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"When Paulie died everything changed"


Read part 2 of this interview

In part 3 of our interview with Ben Up and Barnabas on Channel One, they talk about how major label interest, a family tragedy and the digital era brought the studio to an end…


Virgin Records came and signed a lot of artists that they found at Channel One. Do you remember what happened?

Barnabas: Well, the Diamonds were one of them. That was sometime in the late 70s right? Because even the Gladiators were signed to Virgin. I ended up touring with the Gladiators in 1980. They were signed to Virgin at that time.

Prince Tony did a deal with Virgin.

Barnabas: Yeah, Prince Tony their producer. Virgin came and signed up a lot of artists but I know the Diamonds were signed to them during that time. I think at that point the Diamonds and JoJo didn't have that kind of relation anymore. Like touring and all those kinds of things? I think that was the thing that JoJo should have really gone into back in that time.

Ben Up: That is when they did over some songs from their first LP. The first LP with Channel One that they did, and they went to Compass Point doing it. And it was one of the biggest failures. The album - backward it sounded. Because Judge shouldn’t have gone like he was bad. Judge was the problem. JoJo could have signed the Diamonds and they could not have done what they done. And JoJo just allowed them you know? When he got the deal, all the man had to do is just make Virgin come back to Channel One and do the album at Channel One. Or make JoJo even give them that album. That killed the Diamonds you know?

Barnabas: But they never wanted to come back Channel One.

Ben Up: They ran away to Compass Point - they ran away from the thing that put you on top and they could not get the sound. And that thing created one of the biggest problems for the Diamonds.

Barnabas: For a while Sly even carried Bunny Tom-Tom to Compass Point. They were trying to get that sound so they even took Bunny Tom-Tom to Compass Point.

Ben Up: So the Diamonds started to create a problem - because even when they went to England for the first time on tour there was some accident when someone had driven a car into a parking lot and licked up 20 limousines! That's all of the money!

Barnabas: That's how they broke up with Virgin.

Ben Up: They did not give Channel One the justice after what Channel One did for them. Copeland Forbes.

Barnabas: Oh yeah I forgot he was their management! He was the first manager.

Ben Up: He was the one that took them to Compass Point.

Barnabas: Yeah, when they started touring now!

He took them to England with Sly and Robbie to play the Reading Festival.

Barnabas: Yeah, Ben Up remembers. Because during that time I started touring with the Gladiators so a lot of that part of the business I didn't really know as much. I was still doing my engineering when I was at home but I got so busy with the Gladiators. I was touring with them in ’80.

Ben Up and BarnabasBarnabas - can you tell me a bit more about how you started drumming? 

Barnabas: By watching Sly. And Santa and Horsemouth, but mostly Sly.

What was the first tune you drummed on?

Barnabas: That was about 1974 or ’75. The first time I really remember playing on a recording it was for this selector called Dexter and this little singer. I don't remember the guy’s name. It was a close friend of Earl Zero.

What was the first hit you drummed on?

Barnabas: This Barbara Jones song for GG. Soul And Inspiration! That was my first drum hit.

And what was the biggest hit at Channel One that you played on?

Barnabas: I would say the biggest at Channel One would be this one for Sugar Minott. I would say that Tenor Saw song for Sugar Minott, Lots Of Sign. That was when I came back from touring with Sugar Minott from Japan. That was 1984. That was one of the first big, big hits. I played Roll Call also for George Phang but that was at Dynamic Sound. And I played Original Foreign Mind at Aquarius. Because I played at many different studios. But Channel One was the main studio.

Ben Up: Barnabas - who was the first drummer in Roots Radics before Style Rotterdam?

Barnabas: Fish Clarke and then me. That was when they used to be named Roots Rock Band. That was the name before Roots Radics. That is why Flabba and Bingy are the owners of the name. But Bingy passed away as you know. Souljie was the one that brought Style from camp. Because they were in the army together. And then when he came around I used to show him a little thing or two.

Souljie was the one that brought Style Scott

Ben Up: And then he'd sit down and watch Sly. (Laughs)

Barnabas: Yeah he was watching Sly. He used to sit there listening because he was never really there-there with Sly. And then when he started playing with Gregory Isaacs, Gregory wanted him to play exactly like Sly.

Ben Up: On some of Junjo songs he did play. In the same pattern as Channel One.

Barnabas: But then JoJo liked his style more than Sly’s after a while.

Ben Up: But then JoJo is one of the most… I don't even know the word… He's a madman!

Barnabas: JoJo was a man of experiments. That's what you really want to say! He likes to experiment. With a lot of things.

JoJo was a man of experiments

Barnabas: JoJo used to bring in Tommy McCook. Playing the flute.

Ben Up: Tommy is great. Some of the same Channel One tunes that Tommy McCook blew on that he did for Coxsone - when Tommy blew that you'd notice he would blow it the same way but he would just change the key. So you couldn't even say that it was the same thing he would blow. JoJo was no idiot. Remember how Ernie Ranglin and JoJo went off because there were certain tunes that he licked a Studio One or a Treasure Isle tune and Ernie Ranglin played that. He just brought back that man and played that.

Barnabas: It went back from the billiard days. Through the jukebox because JoJo was the king of billiard. So he used to hear this music in the jukebox. So that's how JoJo decided to play over some of those rhythms there. That's how we got the inspiration there.

I just want to call the names of a few artists who used to record at Channel One that people don't know enough about. For example Creole.

Ben Up: Wayne Chin and the mighty Creole.

Barnabas: They were some of the first bands that came to Channel One.

They did Beware Of Your Enemies which became that very famous Kunta Kinte dub which got licked over many times by people like Mad Professor in England.

Ben Up: It was a group man! Wayne Chin and the Creole. Wayne Chin was a Chinese youth who used to engineer at RJR and they had a relation with JoJo - that is how he brought in Creole. Do you know of a group named the Enforcer? Most people don't know them. Even Earth And Stone most people don't know. Most people don't even know Meditations.

Barnabas: Because the Meditations only did two tunes.

Ben Up: Remember Hell And Fire?

Barnabas: Do you remember those two brothers? Hell And Fire? They were during that Channel One era also with Earth And Stone.

So tell me a bit more about Earth And Stone.

Ben Up: Some Trench Town youths. 

Barnabas: They were from the country I think. Or one of them was from the country. But after a while one of then migrated.

Ben Up: I think they came with a different name but JoJo named them. They did have a funny name and JoJo told them “No”. He named them Earth and Stone.

Barnabas: I think he named Hell And Fire too. But Earth And Stone they didn't spend a long time at Channel One. They spent a few years and moved. I don't even remember if they did an LP for Channel One.

What about Freddie McKay? He did some things at Channel One.

Barnabas: Well he came with the Festival song I remember. Produced by us. 

Dance This Ya Festival. Sly played on that. 

Ben Up: In ’76 he won [the festival competition] with it.

Barnabas: He was at Channel One recording for other people.

He recorded a lot for Linval in the late 70s and early 80s. 

Ben Up: Because he came and quarrelled after the Festival song. Because it sold so much and became a big hit and he came back and cussed over some money thing about the thing.

Barnabas: There was some kind of financial issue with him and JoJo.

What about Leroy Smart?

Barnabas: Oh yes he used to record at Channel One .

Ben Up: One big song got away from Channel One. And that was Mother Liza. 

Barnabas: And that was produced by Bunny Lee?

No, it was Jimmy Radway.

Ben Up: Jimmy. One Foot Jimmy.

Barnabas: Oh yes! Because Leroy was a man who portrayed like a bad man you know?

Leroy Smart was a man who portrayed like a bad man

Ben Up: Because all of his big songs outside of Mother Liza - the biggest set of songs were for Channel One.

Ballistic Affair.

Barnabas: Remember how I said lots of artist used to just come by?

Ben Up: They’d come from Maxfield Avenue.

Barnabas: Channel One was the place now and they would just happen to get into business with JoJo in some kind of way. Because Leroy Smart he came with a big hit for JoJo -Ballistic Affair. But he didn't write that song.

Who wrote it?

Barnabas: Frankie Jones.

Tell me a bit about Frankie Jones.

Barnabas: Well Frankie Jones didn't do a whole lot of recording.

He did Pretty Woman on the Skylarking rhythm.

Ben Up: Frankie Jones was through Kenneth. Kenneth Hookim, JoJo's brother, he was the one who started to produce Frankie Jones. Because JoJo started to pull back to New York. When Paulie died he brought in Kenneth.

Barnabas: That was 1979.

JoJo set up his pressing plant in New York.

Barnabas: And the record shop. So he would make his music in Jamaica and sell it.

Ben Up: For around three years after Paulie died - in 1981-82.

What happened to Paulie?

Ben Up: Paulie was down at Greenwich Farm.

Barnabas: He was gambling one Friday night and they wanted to steal his gun.

Ben Up: He had his big super 38.

Barnabas: And they still didn't get it his gun either.

Ben Up: Even though they killed him they still couldn't get his gun.

Barnabas: He used to gamble down there by Greenwich Farm beach and they were trying to rob him. It was a robbery and he was shooting at them and they were shooting at him and he was hiding behind the drum and he got shot behind through the drum - that's how we got killed. And I can remember that night because the sound was playing in Duhaney Park. I just got to stop deejaying like about 2 o'clock in the morning and I saw this police car driving inside so I think they were coming to tell us is time to turn down a little. Because they never really locked off the sound back in those days. They would tell you to turn the volume down a little. And that is what he was coming to tell us. The Paulie just got shot and died. Because he was dead upon the spot.

Ben Up: He was dead on his knee.

Barnabas: On his knee. With his gun in front. And they didn't get his gun because he even shot one of them. His friend had to draw him away you could see the blood mark all the way up the beach. But it was really a robbery. They were trying to rob him. Because he would play dominoes and Ludi down on the beach. And draw chalice. Because he used to love that.

Ben Up: He did love that. And ganja pipe.

Barnabas: He had friends down there. Because JoJo and them - all their friends were mostly black people.

Ben Up: Those Chinese - nobody saw them as Chinese.

Those Chinese - nobody saw them as Chinese

Barnabas: They were the first black Chinese in Jamaica.

Ben Up: All their women were black women. Their pickney were born in Raphael Avenue, and all those places.

So was that the beginning of the end for Channel One when Paul died?

Ben Up: Well I know that was the end of Channel One. It was the end of Channel One. Business for JoJo and Ernest. Because even though JoJo was working and doing things, they never showed any more interest. The love, when Paulie died. The vibes. It cut the spirit. Most of the big tunes recorded already within that.

Barnabas: The sound just played the dates they had booked. They started taking the amplifiers.

Ben Up: They took those away to foreign too. So I wrote off Channel One and JoJo’s thing between 10 years. ’73 full launch to ’83.

Barnabas: Because Paulie died in ’79.

Ben Up: So after that his brother came in Kenneth.

Barnabas: ’77 was when Channel One peaked.

How did Junjo Lawes first come to Channel One? 

Barnabas: He was introduced by Linval Thompson.

Ben Up: But outside of that Barney, Junjo was one of Dillinger’s bodyguards.

Junjo was one of Dillinger's bodyguards

Barnabas: Ah! Because of Dillinger.

When he came and recorded Ragnampiza on a lick of Unchained. 

Barnabas: Yeah, I engineered all of those.

Ben Up: Dillinger used to have 20 men come with him and Junjo was one of them. That's how he ended up coming there. So he ended up starting to have a little money and put his thing together.

Barnabas: And as a rude boy he would go to the dance to listen to the music so that is how he became a producer. And a sound owner. Because he used to own Volcano also.

So by the early 80s the big hits coming out Channel One were mostly from people like Junjo - they weren’t Channel One productions.

Ben Up: They pulled back but what happened was they did have some hits - because when Kenneth came they had Frankie Paul Worries In The Dance. And then Frankie Paul went and sang back the same tunes he done at Channel One for Junjo. And it fell down.

Barnabas: Because Worries In The Dance was originally produced by Channel One. When Junjo started breaking out big he requested Frankie Paul to come and sing the song but he didn't want to sing it. He refused at first. And he never stopped trying.

Ben Up: Kenneth kicked off now because Frankie Paul used to live over at Kenneth's house in Independence City - he lived with the other brother.

Barnabas: When I came off the first tour with the Gladiators in 1980 that's when I got introduced to Frankie Paul. Because he was right there in front of the ice cream parlour. He used to be there every day.

Ben Up and Barnabas

How did Sly and Robbie start doing their own productions? 

Barnabas: That was in the early 80s. I think the first production they did was Soon Forward. Because I did a little engineering on that too - some of the mixing on it also.

Ben Up: And then the D Brown song also.

Barnabas: And then they started working with everyone. Dennis Brown was Sitting And Watching. But Soon Forward was the first one.

Ben Up: Then Black Uhuru came in with Michael Rose and Wailing Souls. Old Broom. 

Barnabas: And then you had Jimmy Riley. But when Sly and Robbie started doing their own productions it was because Sly wanted to play certain drums for certain producers and they would refuse. So he started deciding that he was going to play them for his productions. Certain drum styles. Like he would start playing the drums and then use the producer would say "I don't like that drum. Play me a different drum". So then he started playing different drums and then he started playing what he wasn’t playing for himself.

Sly and Robbie started doing their own productions because Sly wanted to play certain drums for certain producers and they would refuse

And you mentioned something about using the Syn Drums - tell me more.

Ben Up: That was Ernest. The first time he cleared it and set it up. When you could plug in the trap drum and the rest of the drums this one took a lot of technical thing because the first time Sly had a stage show at a big arena. It took him and Ernest nearly an hour to get that drum alone in the arena when Sly and Ernest balanced it to play. When they did finish the crowd got up and clapped but they were just balancing the drum.

Tell me about how Scientist came to work at Channel One.

Barnabas: When Scientist came to Channel One that was in the 80s, right? So I had to show him around. He was only used to voice and mix. So he never knew anything about recording the live music itself. So his first session was the Roots Radics because the Roots Radics were the studio band at that time. They were doing all the sessions. Every day. I had just finished work at about four or five in the morning. So I'm getting a little nap at home and Flabba called me to show Scientist how to balance the kick drum…

Ben Up: Because Barney just lived across the road.

Barnabas: So he learned from that. I was the one who showed him around. Because I told him about the live recording. And then after a while he started mixing most of the songs because JoJo started featuring him especially on those Yellowman productions. Those were the first songs. I think Mad Over Me was one of his first songs he mixed for Channel One. But I showed him around when he came to Channel One. I was happy to show him around too. Because we never had any grudge for nothing in the business.

Ben Up: That was the thing with Channel One. They were just open to teach everybody everything.

Barnabas: Everyone was welcome. Nobody held back from each other or nothing like that. If you needed some assistance you just asked, you just send and call and you got it. (Laughs)

Al Campbell has said he produced Linval’s productions at Channel One.

Barnabas: Oh that's true. Because Linval used to spend the money. Linval was like Executive Producer. But really Al Campbell was the one who monitored the sessions for him. Al Campbell was right about that. Because Al Campbell was working on his music for years. He loved how I mixed the music. We used to do a lot of work together. After a while he used to work also with U Brown and I was the engineer for those productions also. Al Campbell was one of the foundation.

I'd love to carry on but we have to go to another interview.

Barnabas: We could be talking to the whole day! (Laughs)

Finally why did Channel One close down?

Barnabas: From when they killed Paulie the interest stopped. Because their mother…

Ben Up: She passed away after Paulie died. Miss Carmen.

Barnabas: When Paulie died she fretted so much that she eventually died. Their mother wanted them to move and that's when they bought the new studio up at Kingshouse. They moved the studio to go to where Ernest is now.

Ben Up: Miss Carmen wanted them to move. Paulie was the backbone. When Paulie died everything changed man. Channel One closed down with everything in there. 

Barnabas: That was when I migrated to America in 1988. It was during that same time - a little after Channel One closedown.

Ben Up: It was a little after. Around ’92. But they left everything in there. And some little country boy started scrapping the studio. They broke into the studio and they stole the speakers. After the little boy came in and took out the speaker boxes JoJo just came and cleared out everything and carried it.

Barnabas: I think just the other day they came for the piano.

What about the digital thing? I saw an interview with Ernest where he said he didn't really like the digital - did that contribute?

Barnabas: No Ernest didn't like the digital. I think that's what made Ernest back out of the studio. Even when they built the other studio they didn't like the digital work. Not the digital recording but for the business part. They didn't really like that part. I think they felt like they didn't have enough control over their production with the digital. Because there was a similarity with Sonic Sound. Sonic Sound backed out also. They didn't really follow through with the digital age. 

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