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Interview: Sam Gilly of House of Riddim (Part 2)

Interview: Sam Gilly of House of Riddim (Part 2)

Interview: Sam Gilly of House of Riddim (Part 2)

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"We had a brawl backstage. Everton Blender intervened with his backed fish"


Read part 1 of this interview.

In part two of our interview with House of Riddim’s Sam Gilly, he shares some anecdotes of tour and studio life. The author never had more fun during an interview.

House Of Riddim

Are there artists you especially love to work with?

Each artist has its own anecdotes. Actually it was fun with all of them. There are so many. Of course we had troubles every now and then, but… Especially if you know each other for a while, you're more on cordial terms. Of course, the Jamaicans who visit us think business, they don't come here on vacation. If you live here, you are automatically richer than they are in Jamaica. In reality that is not necessarily true, but it appears to be like that for them. It has always been fun. There are stories…

Tell us one of them!

Gosh... A story with Everton Blender and Frankie Paul: Around Christmas two or three years ago on a short tour in Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal. The show in Portugal was on the 21st of December with a dubious American agency, who had booked us together with the guys. From the outset, nothing worked. Everything was shit. The two were already in Portugal. For us, there were no tickets. We stood there in Vienna, no tickets. We got a call at five in the evening from Portugal, "Yes, we now have the tickets for you". I was like: "Yes you motherfucker, I live in the middle of nowhere, it takes me two hours to get to the airport." - "You manage that, you can do that." I called the band, now we got tickets, to the airport everyone. We arrived in Lisbon at around one a.m., but without the instruments. When changing the plane, the instruments went to Amsterdam instead or some place. The problem was - ever since, we put them elsewhere - our music sheets were in the instruments' flight cases. Somewhere. We were standing there in Lisbon. Blender, Frankie Paul were there as well. What do we do? Show. We lack our music sheets, but we'll make it. At four o'clock in the morning was our show - a wicked one! The next day, on the 22nd, we went to the airport - no tickets there for us. We had a show in Vienna on the 23rd. Actually on the 22nd, but we could reschedule it. No tickets.

We went to the airport - no tickets for us

This agency from America had sent two guys, two very shady ones. They were traveling with us and had no credit cards, nothing at all. Quite strange. "Hey, we have two artists here, they are your artists! You cannot just send Frankie Paul somewhere now, and Blender is also not the youngest and wants to be treated accordingly. We too, we are no culchies! Check it." - "Do you have a credit card?" We had a credit card. "Let us book the tickets." - "Are you crazy? We do not pay for your tickets! Organize your bullshit." Then they managed to buy two tickets. We said OK, buy them, but for Mr Paul and Mr Blender. "Yes, we do that." We went to the counter. The tickets were for our keyboard player and our bass player. They barely managed to board the plane. We returned to the hotel.

23rd of December. I called my little daughter from Lisbon. She asked me: "Are you in Vienna already?" - "No, still in Portugal..." And she started to cry, she was afraid that I wouldn't be at home on the 24th for Christmas. "We have no flights, I'm sorry, but we will get there." On the 23rd we drove to the airport, in the morning, because they said the plane would take off at around ten. We are there at the airport - no tickets for us. Again the whole shit. In the evening, we had a show in Vienna, Christmas was the next day, Frankie Paul was like: "Hey motherfuckers, I have 14 children, I fly home right after the show. Up yours." Blender was also totally pissed. So we were standing there at the airport. The two Americans went to obtain money, rob a bank, what do I know. It was really funny with Blender and Frankie Paul. They had one of these - you surely know those situations where you are extremely tired, everything goes wrong anyway and you're just doing stupid jokes. They were chatting up passers by - "Yo yo, I'm from the New York Times, blah blah blah..." Stuff like that. And then we had the tickets, paid for by our guitar player with his credit card. "We gotta fly now!" Went to the promoter and said: "You compensate us now for the tickets and our salary." The American booker responded - "What plane tickets?" Blender says: "Yo, these guys paid for our tickets." The booker: "Nope, not true." Well, we had a brawl backstage. Blender intervened with his backed fish… Oh man. But then, everything was good. We were paid for everything and we made the show.

Now that was a not so nice story. But Blender once spent a week with me in the village, in the hotel. Fantastic. Blender at that village's bar, discussing Jah with the local farmers. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. And the irony was that I had been living in that village for ten years. I walked with Blender from my home to the hotel - about one hundred meters. A car from an electrician's company passes by, driving slowly. The window goes down and the driver screams "Hey Blender, hey Blender". I looked at him - I had never seen him, and I had been living there for ten years. But he knew Blender, and Blender knew him.

Blender at the bar in an Austrian village, discussing Jah with local farmers

As often as you are on tour - don't you ask yourself sometimes why your wife doesn't run away?

She loves me. And I love her. Now we settled for a good arrangement: I have my job, she does hers, and she supports me very, very much, in the sense of trying to spend as much time together as possible. In return, I also support her. At the moment, she's building an animal sanctuary. My son starts to do as she does. He bought five goats a month ago. She tells me: "Yo dude, I supported you when you said you quitted your job. Now you support me please." She's right. Of course, it is not always easy, but since I can schedule my time to a certain extent, we can arrange that. Life is a compromise!

What are your next projects as a producer?

We have two selections readily in the pipeline. One of them, the Sensimillionaire Riddim - I don't know what's going on there, we've been waiting for weeks for the release. The second one, Global Riddim, will be released immediately afterwards [Both selections are available now]. Work just keeps piling up in our studio. There are so many things that have to be mixed, where instrumental tracks have to be added, things that have to be released and on and on and on. My brain hurts. [House of Riddim provides four riddims for Etana’s upcoming, third album]

House of Riddim stands for hand-crafted music. You're not too much into experimenting with computers?

We've programmed five dancehall riddims. But otherwise, we record everything live. Not always live, because time doesn't always permit it, but mostly live. True Jamaican style. And that makes sense. Catch the vibe. Editing is common practice today. You can still do that, but the basic vibe, even when edited, it's already there. We've recorded riddims for which I programmed the beat, sent it to the bassist - we live an hour away from each other -, told him to do this and that bassline. He forwarded it to our keyboard player. He added keys, melodies. He went to the guitar player, who added guitar lines and sent it back to me to add the final, live-recorded beat. We've done that a few times. I think it is common practice today. Everyone has his small studio at home, mine is just the big one. But if we have to do it like this, everyone can record at home. Worst case… that is not a bad case. It's coeval, I guess. Nevertheless, we do most things live in our studio. Recently I talked about that with Jah Mason, 'cause he told me he wanted to come visit us to produce. I answered him he shouldn't talk, rather come by and do it. "We do it as back in the days - all of us together in the recording booth, and we just play." Studio time is still precious in Jamaica. It's like the band and the singer enter the studio, alright, you got three minutes twenty for this tune, so go ahead… If it's shit, well, tough luck. Most of the time, it was good. I think that really distinguishes itself in effect from other productions, digitally programmed riddims. Those can be cool, too - Don Corleon's stuff is wicked, no need to argue about it. But those have a completely different feeling, completely different sound. I believe that music is evolving again in the direction of hand-crafted roots.

I believe that music is evolving again in the direction of hand-crafted roots

In Austria, you already won some music awards. Are you known there outside of reggae circles?

In Austria, we are rather unknown. We play five concerts in Austria per year. It's a small country. There is a reggae scene, yes, and some artists - IrieVibrations or Iriepathie. A very, very good singer of insane talent: Thai Stylee - cool guy. There's something there. Dances, too. For how long has this sound system culture been popular here now? Since a few years, each village has its own sound system. But there are hardly any concerts. We have two or three venues where we can go with artists. Wiesen Sunsplash - this festival is so fucked-up, no one attends it anymore. Each year they have Hans Söllner [A Bavarian reggae/folk legend of great fame in Southern Germany and Austria] and Alpha Blondy - for 25 years now. That's OK, they have their authority. But Hans Söllner is announced in huge letters on their poster, and down below, in fine print, Capleton and Sizzla. It used to be a very nice festival. Whatever. Austria - beautiful country, nice people, but we gotta starve there.

House Of Riddim

Some people think you're German, anyway.


Some colleagues in France and Jamaica...

Shit. Write that we're from Austria! Different ting dat.

With which artists would you like to work that haven't called you yet?

Whew... I am satisfied as it is. I was really stunned when I got a call from Stefan Schulmeister, who works with Gentleman: "We voiced a riddim of yours in Jamaica." Cool, nice! Another nice surprise, two years ago - another one of these cool things than only happen in the music business - I was in the studio at around seven, eight o'clock in the evening. I had just switched off the computers, because I wanted to go on vacation the next day with my wife and children. The phone rings (nasalizes) "Yo, am I talking to Sam Gilly?" - "Yes, who is there?" - "Here's Eißfeldt [Also known as Jan Delay, who is easily Germany's biggest hip hop and funk artist. He recorded one of the first reggae albums in German language and enjoys mainstream fame]." - "Yes, wha gwaan?" - "Yo, I got this cool tune, Johnny, but I want a reggae version of it." I say: "Yo dude, very cool that you're thinking of me, but I'm about to go on holiday. I just shut down everything." - "Shit, that ain't cool… So what do we do?" I say: "Phew - send me the shit." He sent me an MP3 file - you know Oh Johnny, this killer tune. I called him back and told him: "Alright, my proposal: I am away for two weeks. I send you a version in two hours to show you how it could work." I asked him to call his studio to ask them to send me the brass lines and his vocals. It was there ten minutes later.

Then I went to my wife and told her: "Hey, sorry, Jan Delay has just called, I need a bit of time." -"Nothing new. Do your thing, I pack the bags myself." I sat there until midnight. Because I was not sure of the result, I went to my wife and asked her to listen to that shit. - "Hey, that's cool! That grooves." I sent Jan the track. When I returned from vacation, he said: "Ey, this is cool, can you mix it." "Hey, I've programmed everything and played it on keyboards. Forget it, we're not gonna release it like that." He was actually happy with it. Thus I called the band, band came - recorded, mixed, sent. Those guys play in a different league. It's fun, but actually it doesn't make a difference if Herbert Grönemeyer [One of Germany's biggest mainstream pop stars] or whoever calls. Although Herbert Grönemeyer is one of my all time favorites. However, I would like to work with Neil Young. That would be really cool.

I would like to work with Neil Young

Have you ever played in Jamaica?

No, we haven't done that yet. We've never even been to Jamaica. I once wanted to go to Jamaica, but I just had a good friend visiting - Kenny Edgehill, a Jamaican producer who lives in England. We were sitting in the studio. That was before House of Riddim, in this period of transition. So I told him: "Ken, I pack my bags, fly to Jamaica and walk from studio to studio and tell them I'm a drummer." He asked me if I was totally crazy. "There are kids who kill you for little money. Now you come and bring no foreign exchange, but take money! Forget the shit." "OK, I leave it be." Maybe just a story from him.

So we have never played in Jamaica so far, but we would like to perform there and already have two tangible offers. One is by Ron Muschette - he's been saying that for two years, but he touches the subject again and again - and Fantan (Mojah) absolutely wants us to come to Jamaica. For some reason, he really loves us. He's such a kook, he performs with no other band in Europe. We've really had stress with him at some occasions. "Yo Fantan, you can play there and there, but we cannot, because we are already booked. Go there, it's a cool band!" - "No, I don't give a shit." Honors us of course. Fantan Mojah - when I heard Hungry, I thought hey, that's the real shit! And years later, we actually performed that tune with him. We are in regular contact with him. Maybe it'll work out at some point.

Some of your works is aired by Irie FM already from time to time?

Sometimes. This first Natty King single, Real Herbalist, got good air play, and also the B-side of it, Delilah by Edge Michael. Again and again. Now quite a lot of our riddims are circulating in Jamaica. Someone gave me a documentary film recently, where I thought I was totally crazy now. I directly called that brother. It was a French documentary, I think. With Stranger Cole vibing in the studio on two of our riddims. I took my phone to call Squidly, his son, the drummer, and told him: "Hey, I've just seen a documentary, and your dad sings on two riddims." "You gotta call my dad for that." I said: "Sure, but you're also in the video, you're sitting at the mixing board." - "Ah, OK." They don't bother themselves too much with copy rights.

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