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Interview: Triston Palma (Part 2)

Interview: Triston Palma (Part 2)

Interview: Triston Palma (Part 2)

By on - Photos by Johan Livens - Comment

"What the people want, I just deliver it"


Read part 1 of this interview

In part 2 of our exclusive interview with Triston Palma, he recalls how his local hits in Jamaica led to touring abroad, how he recorded a flurry of albums for various producers, and how his experiences led him to start producing for himself. He also talks about how his legacy is carried on by his children and shares a very special memory of singing with Dennis Brown.

Triston PalmaSo you carried on voicing for Jah Thomas…

And then he came again with a rhythm name Shank I Sheck (sings) “Come run from man to man don’t run around from when you are young“ Runaround Woman it was named.

When I sang that the third song for him he said “Triston we have done the whole of England. Rodigan played it and mashed up England. And the whole of Jamaica it mashed up too”. But at that time people were sending for me to do a show in England and in America but at the time you had Reggae Sunsplash so I was saying “Alright I’m going to do Reggae Sunsplash? No I’m going to go to foreign and do the show there”. After now I’m at my house and I see two big men come and say “Mr Palma you can’t do any more shows you have to do Reggae Sunsplash first. You and king Yellowman have to do Reggae Sunsplash or we going to ban you, you know? You have to do Reggae Sunsplash first”. So I said “Oh God”. In that time you had the big bad singer named Barrington Levy, Triston Palma and a few other men so Junjo brought Barrington, Thomas brought me to Reggae Sunsplash. We did what we had to do and then the next day me and Yellowman went to America and did a show in Madison Square Garden.

That was your first foreign show?

My first foreign show. After Madison Square Garden I went straight to England, Thomas was there, and did a show in the theatre that was about to be closed, it was the last show in the theatre by the name of Rainbow. No Yellowman - just me that time. Just me and some other artists - I don’t remember if it was Pato Banton or one of them in that time. So that it was just pure shows and then go home and come back to England again.

So you started to put out some LPs. There are a lot of LPs that came out in 1982. So which was the first LP you recorded?

Oh God! I can’t tell you! Alright, when I was a youth coming and singing I wasn’t looking at any money, I just wanted to sing. I just wanted to hear my name called and I would sing. That’s all. So I didn’t check how many tunes I did or what I just sang. I’d hear the rhythm say “Yes, I love it” and I would go and sing.

So Jah Thomas carried the Joker Smoker album to Greensleeves in England?

Yes, when he came back he said Greensleeves released it.

So did you get any money for that?

(Laughs) Long thing, long thing! Jah know!

But you also put out an LP with Linval Thompson.

Alright, Linval now was a brethren who lived down the road they called Crescent Road and eventually me and him became friends and started to drive up and down and thing. At the time he was producing with Junjo, him and Junjo were tight and the both of them would go on their thing. Me and him just became friends through the area and started to work on one or two tunes. I never even knew it was a whole album I did for Linval Thompson called Joker Lover.

I didn’t even know the Joker Lover album released in California because they sent for me for the first time to California and when they sent for me I was going there with Entertainment, Spliff Tail, all of those number ones that I sang. So when I reached there in the rehearsal and gave them the list, the band men started to look upon one another and they said “No man, no disrespect Mr P you can’t just sing those tunes. Those aren’t the tunes the people them want.” I said “Which tunes the people them want?” So he went for the album and when I saw the album I saw an album with a rose on it called Joker Lover.

I said “Brethren I don’t know those songs you know?” I didn’t know those songs! Do you know how long ago they did those songs and I didn’t know anything about them! And they said “Triston you have to try just lock up in the hotel room and try to rehearse one, even get two of them! If you sing two lines the crowd will sing the rest!” I said “Jesus Christ!” This is a stress and problem now my brethren because I don’t know the songs! It was two days before the show so I went back into the hotel and listened to the thing and I got about five of them good and I said “You know what? You have to work with those five. I cannot do any more and then the hit tunes we want”. And then the brother in said “Alright, we can work with that“. So I never really knew that all those albums did release but that again is another long story you know! I don’t even want to touch it!

Ossie Thomas was my brother

Tell me about how you started to do production yourself.

Through so much experience with these brethren. One thing I have to say - Ossie Thomas was my brother still. After going through so many things and things now I said “You know what? Time for me to build my thing”. This was when I was about 16 or 17.

Had you been through so much already? A lot of people were just starting their careers at that age.

Alright, I’ve been through so much from eight years old I came up. So I said “You know what? I’m going to do it”.

So did Ossie start producing before you? He brought you in?

No, we started producing at the same time. Also he was working with a woman by the name of Miss Pottinger. He was the man that was doing the road works. He knew how to sell the records for the record shops. So he just started a label Black Solidarity. Solidarity started with Triston Palma, Ossie Thomas and a next brethren named Philip Morgan. The name Ossie came up with it really and truly because I didn’t think about names. I was just thinking about singing! Ossie was the man who would think about those things.

I guess what I’m asking is how did you move from being in the booth singing to being outside the booth producing? How did you learn all those things?

Well I am a man who when I would go to the studio I would soak up everything around me. I’d watch everything. All the songs in the studio I was the one who would really sit down there and bleech. When some of the men would sleep like Ossie, I was the man who was up because I want I hear everything and see everything and learn as much as I could learn because I knew my aim and I knew one day what I was going to do. Because this is my life I have nothing else to do.

Triston Palma

You and Ossie were first producing Papa San and Professor Nuts?

Papa San, Professor Nuts, the whole of them. Well how it went was we had the rhythms and I think Papa San was my brethren from Spanish Town and Ossie’s too and he came to link us and we started to work with him. Ossie voiced Professor Nuts I think in London, he met him in London and voiced him and we just started to do a portion of productions until Ossie left and went to England. I sent Ossie to England and he didn’t come back so I started the one-on-one production.

And I saw a brethren, I can’t forget him, his name was Martin. Every time I would go to the studio I would always see Martin fixing the studio. I would see him in a whole heap of big studios. Me and him were brethren as an old boy and I said “Martin you know one day you’re going to build a studio for me?” And that dream must come true and I started to buy a 24 track and I started the little producing, producing, producing. Every time that I got a show here or there any time I did something or achieved a certain thing I just made sure I put down a little. So one day I just got up and bought a house, built a studio and named it Star Creation Music.

I named it Star Creation Music and I started the production with Beenie Man. Because actually me and Beenie Man were great brethren and we are still the best of friends. So I started to produce Beenie Man, Little Kirk, the first song I did with little pack was released on Black Solidarity. In that time I knew him as a youth so I did a little one tune with him and I started the production and Dennis Brown started to sing songs for my album, Gregory Isaacs started and a whole heap of man started to come in, like Josey Wales because I had the flavour and every time I put out the song for them things always happened. So from there I just built a studio in Pembroke Hall about five or six years ago.

In studio I would soak up everything around me

I noticed Linval put out another LP, Settle Down Girl in 1983… you did a combination album with Philip Fraser. That was on your label. And you did another combination album with Early B. Then you did another album with Al Campbell.

Yeah two albums were released. Yeah Philip Fraser that was on my label. Early B the doctor. That was Ossie Thomas to put that out. Al Campbell.

This was when you were doing your work at Tuff Gong. How did you start working at Tuff Gong. Was Scientist already there?

To tell you the truth it was me who brought Scientist to Tuff Gong. Me and Ossie carried Scientist to Tuff Gong. Because I was producing so many hits in those times with other people or myself. You had a brethren there who used to control the distribution. Prendergast. He rated me as a little youth and brought me in and said we were going to form a little thing we just produced enough tunes and he put them out on things. He’d say “Keep it clean no slackness” because it was the Tuff Gong thing. So we just did it me and Ossie and the crew.

Because it was we who took Scientist from Tubbys at and carried him to Tuff Gong because Tubbys board was a smaller board. Tuff Gong was the big board. So we as brethren wanted Scientist to know the big board. Just like how you have the engineer whose name is Tony Kelly. I took Tony Kelly to Tuff Gong and made him be an engineer. Him and his brother Dave Kelly.

And you told the story in your interview with Irish and Chin about how Tony Kelly wiped all the songs off the Early B album.

Yes! We did an album and he pressed red light and wiped off everything! (Laughs) I nearly went crazy! And yet still it was him that came in mixed the number one song on the same album and it’s a lucky thing that boy Flabba Holt and them didn’t want more money because I did pay them already but Flabba Holt and Steely were some good youths. One and two man came and said they come and do it back again. And I said “Tony no more red light! Don’t touch this button!” (Laughs)

It was me who brought Scientist to Tuff Gong

You also said in the same interview that you helped discover Fantan Mojah.

Help? I never got no help! I discovered Fantan Mojah. I went up by Kilimanjaro studio where Fantan Mojah was taking out some box some boxes off a truck. I heard him deejay and I said “Yo, that youth there” and the man said “An idiot that” and I said “But he has a sound man”. So I walked across and I saw him and I said “Yo wha gwaan” we talked and I said “You sound good youth you can come check me”.

But where I lived at that time Fantan lived down the road and I never really knew. So one morning he came and checked me early, so me and him did talk and thing. And then Nigel Burrell the engineer because Nigel used to work for me, he came to Anchor. So we fought with him to like get him to do a tune until he came to know it and then we started to do certain things. And then one day I left and went away and came back and he said “Boy Jah know he’s gone to some white youth who produced in Jamaica”.

But it was me who found his name because his name was Phantom and I said “What kind of name is Phantom? Cartoon thing you are deal with. I don’t like that name brethren”. So I went to Sonic Sound and saw a brother in by the name of Homer Harris and I said “Homer you know say I have an artist and he sounds culture but the name he’s given Phantom I don’t like it”. Homer said “Come and have a little juice and sit down“ and Homer wrote about seven names and I looked upon the names and I said “No turn around the name Mojah“ and he started to use the name Fantan Mojah.

I discovered Fantan Mojah

Tell me about the first time you got to meet Dennis Brown.

The first time I met Dennis Brown I really enjoyed that you know? We loved Sugar Minott, we loved Tony Tuff and everybody but we just wanted to know Dennis Brown. We just wanted to meet Dennis Brown and when I did finally meet him one time I did a show named White River Reggae Bash. It was in the 80s with Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, all of them on the show. So I was the little one who had about five or six number ones. But these men were giants. At the show I was there around backstage with my mother and my sister, standing up waiting for my time because the band would open it and then me because these people are giants. These people are veterans with hits after hits after hits.

When the show started I checked Marcia Griffiths and Ken Boothe and thought “When are they going to call me?” Then it reached the second to last person John Holt the man with 2000 Volts of Holt and when John Holt finished singing in the night the people were tired. So I looked at the MC lady who worked on the radio station and said “Triston Palma this me you pass me every minute when me a go sing? Can’t sing after Dennis Brown and John Holt, you mad?” All she said to me was “Jesus Christ oh my lord what are we going to do. I did not remember about you!” (Laughs) I started crying! Because I felt a way because my mother and my sister were there.

Then here comes a little brethren that’s came and saw me. I love him but in those times I didn’t know him. He said “Little Tris what happened to you? My name is Carl Dawkins what happened to you?” I said “Boy I meant to sing on the show you know”. “How you mean you have to sing on the show? You are going to sing on it”. I said “No they can’t call me if John Holt and everybody have been up there - what can I go up and do? Are you mad?” So the man said “Stand up there and don’t move”. Because there was like a meeting backstage with all of the artists saying “She should’ve called him longtime man“. So he just went to them and said “You should call Triston, you know he has the number one tune right now Entertainment - he is a little boy wonder“. He said “Come here” and carried me into the bathroom I’ll never forget it and he said “Hear me now, you’re going to sing. The people wait for you to go out there and do your tune and mash up the place”.

Triston PalmaNow it was a band named Derrick Barnett and when I rehearsed with Derrick Barnett would say “Youth those hit tunes there, the whole place ago mash up”. But because of John Holt and Dennis Brown and all those man there I was nervous. So Carl said “When I tell you to go out there, you go out there” and he went over to Derrick Barnett and said something to Derrick Barnett and Derrick Barnett laughed and said “When I tell him to come, come”. Because Derrick Barnett is a showman. Derrick Barnett started with the bassline neck and he said “Tell him I’m going to play three of his song intros and the fourth one call him on, he’s going to done the place”. Carl said “The first song you do is Spliff Tail” and he said “Alright”.

So the MC went out there and said “Sorry everyone, I forgot about him but he is a little boy wonder” one bag of talk she talked! “Triston Palma” Jesus God I heard the crowd lift. I started getting nervous but I walked out there and started singing and then there at Barnett said “Triston stop” and rewind and come again. When I did Entertainment and done the place and come off it was never good so I said “I’m not going back up there”. They called Dennis Brown now and Dennis Brown went up there and started back the Entertainment rhythm and said “Little Tris come up here, I have a number one tune on the rhythm you are the number one man there to play some more Entertainment and I’ll take it from there“. (Laughs) So me and Dennis Brown became close friends, started touring together, he started staying at my house, we just became good friends it was just a joy for me too. And from that time me and Carl Dawkins were close too.

You must have some good memories of Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott – who are no longer with us.

Some people used to say that I was Sugar’s son the way me and him used to move. Me and Sugar moved very close, did enough tours and when Sugar was sick, when he was dying it was me he called on the phone and said he wanted me to go and do two shows in California but I must carry Little John with me. So I asked where he was and he said he was in hospital up at UC. I called John and said “I will go up to UC because Sugar is up there” and John said he would come but by the time we reached out there the big man had just gone. Trust me, as a brethren every time I hear his name I just feel it because Sugar was my friend, my friend, my friend, my friend. Just like D Brown. D Brown was my brethren and that’s the next thing again, me and him went to the hospital, Bunny Lee can tell you - the next brethren that. I lost my good friend named Gregory Isaacs. Again we went on shows and I recorded him enough and all those things.

Me and Dennis Brown became close friends

Let’s talk about something a bit happier then, your Star Creation Production studio with your children and all the things you’ve been doing with them.

Well right now my son he is playing the keyboards and the drums. I even did an album named Covers For Lovers. Even at the age of 12 he is one of the main men who really inspired me to do it - him and my daughter.

So he’s like his dad, he started as a little boy…

Oh my God. The man plays drums, the man plays keyboards, and a wicked, wicked singer. I really wanted him to pass his exams, so he passed his exams and going to George’s now so I’m kind of glad for that. I can release one or two tunes with him and the world will be surprised, trust me, believe me.

And what about your daughter?

She’s a wicked, wicked back-up singer but they don’t really want to do that you know? They fill their heads with my business and one of them wants to go in the army. But one son -music, music, music. But I still have to make him do the book, book, book because after what I went through he has to pick up that part there. I want him to know everything.

What’s his name?

(Laughs) His name is Triston Palma! Triston Palma a.k.a. TP! And I have a next son they call him Triston but him and Beenie Man is like this you know? He is producing also him and Beenie Man. That’s a different son, he is the big one, him and Beenie Man run up and down and they are best friends. His name is Ricardo but they call Triston Palma.

You performed Reggae Jam in Germany in 2015 but there was a storm there - did that affect your performance?

No! I don’t run from a storm! I come to perform, not run from storm!

Yeah because you sing on the Storm rhythm.

Oh! It was soaking wet nobody could believe that I stood in that rain and sang. Because I’m not coming off until the performance finished!

How do you like staying in Europe? You’re staying in Belgium at the moment.

I like it you know. Because the response to Triston - you couldn’t ask for more. What the people want I just deliver it. I have the Asham band. Trust me it’s one of the baddest bands I’ve ever heard.

So what are you doing next?

I’m going to Jamaica for two days because I have a live album. When I reach back I’m going to finish up my live album. I have quite a few singles down there because my daughter called me and told me that she has some singles that she needs me to do. Because it’s really them that I’m working with now. They get the business and I just do the work. The live album was recorded in the Netherlands.

Some people used to say that I was Sugar Minott's son the way me and him used to move

You said in some interviews when you were youth you were shy.

Very bad.

You don’t seem so shy now.

No. I kind of grew out of it. I was very shy trust me. Now I still have it but not as bad as when I was a youth coming. Very shy. I’ve never done an interview for so long. I’ve never talked to anyone for so long. Normally five minutes, ten minutes, bye! (Laughs)

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