Interview with Glen Washington at Deux Pièces Cuisine in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France on Saturday 6th of April, 2019
Last Saturday, April 6th, 2019, Glen Washington perform for no less than 2 hours with The Ligerians and ten minutes at Deux Pièces Cuisine in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France. The Reggae artist who grew up in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica talked to us about the early days of his career as a drummer, as well as his experience with Coxsone.
How was the show tonight? How did you feel?
Me feel good. Real good vibe. Nice reception. People in Paris could sing. I enjoy that. When the people them can party, I like that.
During the 70’s, Glen Washington worked closely with Joseph Hill…
In the early days, as a matter of fact, is a mentor of mine. He was one of my mentor. The band that I was singing with, back then, the drummer was Joseph Hill. He was the drummer, and I was the lead singer. Then, Joseph Hill went, and formed a group called Culture. So he had to leave the band. And I ended up taking on as an apprentice drummer.
I ended up beating the drum, because we had a whole bunch of little gigs, and didn’t have a drummer like right away. So I had to fall right in there. I ended up playing and singing. It wasn’t easy at first but then I did play the drums and sing. And I was known, back then, as a singing drummer for over 20 years.
Back then, he didn’t record any material with Joseph Hill…
Back in the days, my first recording was a song called “Suzie.” But this was after I went different ways with Joseph Hill. They had a talent contest, and I ended up being the winner of that contest. Part of the prize was to have my song recorded.
Later on, I went to Joe Gibbs Records. Joseph Hill actually took me there, and I ended up recording a song called “Rockers Nuh Crackers.” It’s a big song back in the days. It was like recorded in 1973.
Even though Glen Washington stepped in the Reggae scene during the early 70’s, he only recorded first album in the late 90’s
Did you record anything that could have been released as an album before you recorded “Brother to Brother” in 1997?
Well I record quite a few, but they were just like pre-release. You probably could still find them if you go up to the internet, because nowadays, everything is on the internet. Song called “Stone Hearted Woman,” I was a young kid back then.
Some of the songs I don’t remember. Somebody bring them back to me, and I’m like “Wha?” I record a whole bunch of songs since then. The first, my biggest single was a song called “Don’t Take my Kindness for Weakness.” That one got me noticed.
In 1978, Glen Washington played drums on Culture’s bootlegged album “Africa Stand Alone”…
That was Culture’s first album. It was produced by a record company from out of New Jersey called April Records. “Africa Stands Alone,” songs like “Down in Jamaica,” “Dog Ago Nyam Dog,” “Iron Sharpen Iron,” I was the premiere drummer. I played on all those tracks.
Then, you see, Joseph and the record company had a falling out. So they ended up re-recording them. Sly & Robbie, Sly & The Revolutionnaries, re-recorded that. So they call that first one, that the one after, they call it “Harder Than The Rest.”
He also played drums for the Mighty Threes, a band formed by former members of Culture…
Oh you know about them! They were some other members of Culture, Mighty Threes, I have not heard anything again from that group. They did one album on Mighty Threes, with these songs like “All they do in the morning is to fuss and fight in the back yard” [singing]. “Sinking in the Mist,” them song. These were some great songs. I don’t know what happened, but the first time I heard that group, I thought “Okay, it’s a group that’s gonna go somewhere.” But I never heard them record any more songs.
H played drums for John Clarke on the album “Rootsy Reggae,” produced by Lloyd Barnes a.k.a. Wackies, as well…
How did you meet Lloyd Barnes?
In New York, in the Bronx. I used to live in the Detroit, Michigan, and then I start going up to Canada, up to Toronto. Because Detroit is like 4 hours North across the border, so. I start to going up to Canada, ‘cause, one day I was like searching. I came from California.
Oh! Let me tell me you! Before that, I was with a group named Happiness Unlimited in Ocho Rios, in Jamaica. Stevie Wonder came to visit. He came to vacation, and he heard us. Visiting for about two weeks, every night, he’d be on stage with us, and decide to take us back to America. That’s how I actually came living in America.
We were working on a project recording, and stuff. I don’t know what happened. Certain things didn’t fall through the right way, so I ended up in Detroit. And I start going to Canada.
One time, Leroy Sibbles of The Heptones, he came to Detroit, and he heard me playing drums, and said “What? You right here, and we need a drummer.” So, he invited me to Toronto. Then, I started visiting Toronto, and play drums for a bunch of different bands, til this guy name Shinehead, a recording artist named Shinehead, he wanted a drummer that could travel.
A friend of mine playing bass in the band decide to call me, get to ask me if I wanted to do that gig. So I moved back from Toronto, moved back into New York. That’s how I met Wackie. And that’s how I met Clement Dodd Coxsone. And that’s where my career really really started.
When I’m with Coxsone, I started recording for Studio One. Things just took off. After I recorded the album “Brother to Brother,” everybody start call me, they want me to sing this, they want me to sing that. I was like “Oh, okay. They like the style.”
Everybody start giving me a tape, “can you write a song on this?” ‘Cause I write 99% of what we sing. “Can you write a song on this?” Back then it was cassette. So gimme the cassette with the riddim. So I start get me a whole bunch of different riddims from people. That’s where it all started.
And I look back, and I try to keep music, try to make positive music that people can relate to. Ain’t nothing that’s not… that’s hmm… people can’t listen, that their children can’t listen to. I keep it clean. I love clean music ‘cause I know that good riddim and positive lyrics will last forever. Anytime you pick it up and play it, you will always enjoy it, and you don’t have to cover your kids’ ears when they’ll hear it. I keep it like that. Everybody do their own thing, but I keep it like that.
While he was in Canada, he worked with The Sattalites…
Yes! Oh you know about that group, Sattalites!
Well I tried to find their music, but I could not hear it.
It’s very rare on Google. Just try Google them, and you see some a them music, but it’s very rare. I worked with Sattalites. I worked with a group called the “Hit Squad” we were the band that used to back everybody.
First time Buju Banton came to Canada, I was a drummer. I played for Beres Hammond, and a whole bunch of different artists from back in the days. It was a lot of fun, until I left Toronto, and went to New York, I played for Sister Carol. I played for The Meditations, I played for a bunch of artists. Big Youth, Junior Reid, and then the final one was Gregory Isaacs with a band called Calabash.
We tour, go all over the world. That was my turning point where I decide to go solo. And everybody keep tell me “We hear the music, and we hear the singing but we can’t see who’s singing. You need to come out front.” I took that advice and decide to let somebody else play the drums and come out front.
You notice that I got to fill up the drum tonight. I still love playing drums, but I have to have a drummer play for me. This band that I play with tonight [The Ligerians] awesome. Yep, real good.
In Toronto, Canada, he met artists such as Johnny Osbourne…
Yeah, I met Johnny Osbourne in Toronto. Then Johnny Osbourne move to New York. He lives in Brooklyn right now. I left him there in Brooklyn, he keeps traveling all over the place ‘cause people tend to love the old school music. Even though we’re vintage, we still stay current, ‘cause I haven’t stopped recording.
Right now we have three albums on hold waiting to release. So I have to space them out. I had a whole bunch of recording but in the early days everybody got recording with me and I don’t what happened, they wouldn’t put them out until the Studio One album. Then a whole bunch of music did come out. All over the place it just a swamp. So I decide to space them now. One after the other, we do an album every year. The latest album that I have is with Love Injection, from outta London.
When we mention the name of Larry Silvera a.k.a Professor Bassie, who passed away last year, he reminds us that very few foundation artists are still alive
Yeah, I know. It’s quite a few of us good musician, and good people that perform are like dying. Oh my goodness! It’s a few of us left. We have to cherish every one of them. It’s a few. Everybody want to be a deejay nowadays. I tend to be partial to the original music, and keep it like that.
Glen Washington has always made positive music. He doesn’t support badness and slackness in music…
There’s a bunch of good ones, and there are some that I wouldn’t care to actually listen to because music has to make sense. It has to make sense. I’m not into the derogatories, and I’m not into violent music, like “Shoot him and do this him. I got the biggest gun.” That’s a bunch of rubbish, for real.
I hate to talk about people but if it’s the truth that I’m going to say I love positive music. I like music that uplift, and I wouldn’t say educate, I say “edutate” people, you know. Music that can make you feel better when you’re down and low, when you’re not feeling good. Yeah, that’s what I’m into.
In 1997, Glen Washington recorded his debut album “Brother to Brother” at Studio One with Coxsone, who doesn’t have a good reputation…
Yep, I had a pretty good relationship with him but you know what? I was innocent to a whole bunch of things because people used to say that Clement Dodd Coxsone is somebody who would knock you out if you talk to him a certain way. But back in them days I was like actually not into what they say about people. I like to prove myself.
So, the first time I met him, I said to him “I hear that you don’t pay people royalties.” His face made up real serious, and I said “But, no offense. I just tell you what I hear.” I said “I’m gonna get my own experience.” He starts smiling. We became friends from that time, you know.
Then we start beating up every evening because I lived in Brooklyn, and in the even I would drive over to his studio, and we put down some riddim, and create a song. Most of my songs was recorded on a Studio One riddim.
When I met him, I had a bunch of songs written on Studio One. So, I started recording them. As I sing for this riddim and that riddim, and he just “How you know about them riddim?” and I say “I grew up on that.” So, I ended up with a bunch of songs, and he came and said, like he call everybody Jackson. He said “Jackson, this a bunch of songs you got. You know we have to put out a album.”
So we start picking songs, and we put this album called “Brother to Brother.” We use that as a title from the song “Soul Power Riddim.” “Oh Lord, oh Lord, give me power” [singing]. I use that riddim and sing “Brother to Brother,” and then a whole bunch of other songs.
You know what? I was hoping I could hear that song tonight. We rehearsed that song, we didn’t play it, and I just remember.
“Girl, you’ve got me the right mood tonight
Now, holding steady and I’m doing alright,
I know we fuss, and sometimes we fight,
but I feel so lonely when you’re out of my sight,
Can’t you see” [singing]
That was one of my favorite ”Prisoner of Love,” back in Studio One days. We did rehearse that song. I guess they got tired.
The show lasted like 2 hours and 10 minutes
Really! Last night we did 2 hours and 30 minutes. People get them money’s worth. I’m like one of them two old band back in the days. You know that the hotter it gets, sweeter it sound, and that’s me. The warmer I get, the longer I sing, is the more I want to sing a little, better it feels. Long exercise, I like that.