Interview of U-Roy at the Dub Lights 3 Festival in Sète, France on Saturday 16th of June 2018 – Part 2 out of 2
When you were young and you started deejaying, had you ever thought that would ever become famous?
Oh my God! I would never ever think that, I could never ever. I could never sit here and tell you that: “yes, I knew from that time.” No! I never have no idea, not even just like the idea that one of these days I’m going to be here today at this time. Because, I’m in this business over 50 years now. Okay.
When I do my first two songs, I just tell myself “Oh, this is not going to go on more than two months or so.” You know, because at the time deejay music wasn’t something that people recognise in my country. So when I hear my two songs been playing on the radio, I been saying that is just a 2 month thing, it’s not going to go nowhere.
So, it’s the biggest surprise for me to see until this time, I have to be talking to young people you about this. It’s really honourable for me, trust me. It’s a joy in my heart every time I think about this. But I did not ever know. I used to tell myself when I was small that France, Germany, England, America, Africa, I’m not going to know these places because I don’t have no money to buy my ticket to take me to those places. I used to tell myself that there is no way that I’m going to know these places, I can only say I heard about these places but in terms of going to these places I will never reach there! Listen to me, I come to France, almost every year. So you see what I’m talking about now.
We never know what tomorrow is made of…
No, no, you never know. You just never ever know what tomorrow is going to be. When I come to France, and thousands of people. I’m on those festivals and stuff like that. You see thousands of people out there “U-Roy!” I would have to feel good in myself to see that something that I would never believe was ever going to happen for me.
You mostly toast on classic Reggae music, have you ever toasted on more recent cuts like Tarrus Riley’s music?
Yes, yes, I have done that also. Because I do a couple songs with Tarrus Riley for his album, and many other young people. Many other young people call me to do stuff. So, I have no problem doing recent songs, even with young people. I have no problem to do that because like I’ve said it’s my work. When it’s your work you just got to know what to do. So it’s not a problem for me to record a song with Tarrus Riley or Beres Hammond or nobody. Because the whole thing is timing. Timing with the music. Whatever the singer is singing, you just got to know where to come in. What’s part you come in that you don’t mix up with the singer. You don’t clash with him, whatever he’s doing. I can do that without problem.
Do you write the lyrics before recording the song or does it come to you naturally, do you freestyle?
Listen to me, in terms of writing, sometimes I might sit down and write something and by the time I get into the studio all these things be put in my back pocket. I don’t read nothing on no paper. I just go in front the microphone, open my mouth, and that’s it. The words just keep coming out.
So, look this night, Lee Perry call me on the stage. He’s just like “Hey!” It’s like a carpenter who builds a house. He knows what’s he’s going to be build before he starts building the house. You know exactly what you’re going to build. You want to build a nice house. So you know what you gonna have to get to build a nice house. It’s like that. It’s not hard. For me, it’s not hard. At first, in the beginning, it was hard. But, understand in my life there is nothing about my work that is hard for me. It’s never been hard for me by this time.
You’re naturally gifted
Thank you. It’s like that.
Do you record your songs in one take or multiple sessions?
Sometimes, you know, because when I just started recording in Jamaica, you have two tracks. In the studio, 2 tracks. The music is on one track, and your voice is on the other track. If you make a mistake, any part of the song where you make a mistake, you going to have to start back from the top. I have seen people in the studio for like a half a day, and they still don’t complete one song. You understand. And, I try my best never to make this happen for me. I just love, most of my songs that I do is wrapped one caught. One, just one single caught. The first time I go in front of the mic “Yeah, and rae, and whatever, whatever, and my song is finished.
Sometimes, yes, you don’t… At the time, you never have the type of technology that you can patch in these parts like for instance, you say something at the front the riddim, then you make a mistake, and then you patch back from where you make a mistake. You understand what I’m saying. It never be like that. If you make a mistake, whatever, the riddim is almost finished you’re going to have to go back from the top. Like I just tell you, it’s two track. Your voice is on one, the music is on one.
So, I learn from the time to be trying my best to be the most perfect in every way that I can do this, until this day. I learn that. I keep that. This is your work, you don’t make mistake because you think you can just make mistake. You don’t do that. You concentrate on what you’re doing, you do what you got to do.
Who is your favourite artist amongst the young generation right now?
In the young generation of artists, I love Busy Signal
He’s a very good lyricist…
Yes, I love Busy Signal. I love Capleton, Buju Banton, those people. Assassin, you know. I respect these artists, these young green artists. They’re young to me. Because I think they know what they are doing. Whenever it’s time for them to put their voice on a song, they know what they’re doing. That’s the best thing about it when you know what you’re doing, and what you’re going to do. You can’t beat that.
I’m just happy about the love of the young people like I’ve seen in this business. Those guys are not talking bad stuff about ladies, and stuff like that, calling them gal and… Yeah. For me, I respect them.
What would you advise to the young generation of artists
You know I can just say to them that, look here, just be yourself. Don’t make nobody tell you that you can’t reach from point A to point Z. Just be you. Whatever you have to do, whatever you like. Because, first thing: you have to like anything that you’re going to do, and you’re going to master it. You have to love it. If you don’t love it, you’re going nowhere. Nowhere at all. If you don’t love what you’re doing.
Many, many, many times I have problems, but it’s like you know that you’re killing yourself. I have to get this done. If I don’t get this done, how I’m going to survive, you know. I can just tell them this, just be themselves. Just what do what you know to got to do. Whatever you love, don’t let no one ever tell you or try to distract you from that, or give you bad encouragements. Many times, I see things that are going nowhere for me that I take the trouble going but later on, along the line, it is going to fall right back in my hand for I want it to go.
So I must tell them that, just be themselves. Just be conscious of what you do. In terms of saying things on the music, don’t call ladies “bitches”. Hey, I don’t want nobody call my mother bitch, I don’t want nobody call my sister or my daughter a bitch. So, I don’t like that part of the thing. When you going to call a lady a “bitch”. So maybe that is their thing, so they feel comfortable in doing that. But me, I don’t think of that. I don’t think that is anything comfortable at all. I don’t think that is anything real you should style ladies. Because I just tell you, I don’t want they style my daughter a bitch. I don’t want them to style my sister or my mum as no bitch.
Who’s your favourite sound system?
My favourite sound system? When I start playing sound systems, as a youth I used to play for a sound named Doctor Dickies in my era that I lived. Sir George Atomic. These are many favourite sound systems, because sound systems were my special, very special, love. I don’t know but that is where I am coming from, from the sound system era.
When I was much younger, when sound system is playing down the road, and my parents sent me to the shop, they’re going to wait a long time to see me come back with what they sent me to buy because I’m going to stop and listen. So I have many favourites, many love for many sounds. It’s music you know. So you will always love. At least, me, I will always love to listen to music, no matter what. That is my first love to hear a sound system play.
Then, when I start playing sound system, I been at the garden. It’s crowd a people around me. I been putting on the records, YEAH! People been jumping and dancing. I love these things. This is why I think the most high make I be this type of person that I am, you know.
Apart from Reggae and Dancehall, what other genre of music do you listen to?
You know, I listen to every type of music. Every type of music. It could be indian music, as long as there’s something in the music that I feel. Because music is feeling. You have to feel a song to love it. And true that I listen to Beyoncé, I listen to Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston. I listen to all of these people, I have these people’s music at my house because. Bobby Brown, New Editions, Temptations, Impressions. I listen to everybody. I listen to the Four Tops, I listen to the Madhatters, because they’ve been singing some songs that touch you.
As long as a music touch me, I can buy a CD just for listen to one song. If I love this one song, I can buy the CD, and I only listen to this one song, and I will play it over and over. I’m no partial when it come to listening to music because you learn as you go along from everything. Since that other people say you have to the young people because they’ve been saying things that probably didn’t know it as a big man. So you just have to listen to what they have to say. You can determine from that whether what they say is right or wrong. So, if you want to take on to what they say, it’s cool. If you don’t want to take on to it, you leave it alone.Interview of U-Roy - Sète, France, 06/16/2018