Reggae vet hailing from Jamaïca, Winston McAnuff teamed up with the french band, The Bazbaz Orchestra, to produce « A Bang » one of the most remarkable record this year. A mix between reggae with hints of rock n’roll, blues, gospel, funk and a solid sense of groove to hold the whole thing together, the album is set to become a landmark recording for this legendary artist.
How did you met one another ?
Camille Bazbaz : It’s because of a girl. 6 or 7 years ago i went to see a reggae show with my girlfriend. I’m a reggae addict. Rock n’roll too. Anyway, i went to a little reggae gig at the new morning. Winston was playing. I saw thousand of shows in my life but i thought, this man must be my friend. And my girl disappeared during the night and she told me : « i went backstage to check ». I was very scared to leave a woman with some mad jamaican people. (Winston laughs).
Winston Mc Anuff : I told her to bring her boyfriend. She was looking so sad i told her to bring her boy. So she went looking for Bazbaz.
C : And so i met Winston. Because I had a crush on the show and my girl going missing. And we met, we chatted and we slowly but surely made music together. But we had to understand one another before. We quickly get to the point where we decided that Winston didn’t really need me to play reggae music. He’s jamaican. It was more fun to do something different. We did a first album called « A Drop ». That was our thing in the beginning trying to do something not too stereotyped.
Winston this is your third album made in France. Do you like France and why ?
W. : It just happened that France was always in my life tradition. I met some french people during the eighties. I played in Bordeaux with my reggae band in the eighties. There was an association called Chadobee. We came here and did some shows over the years. I didn’t came back until a long time. And i was staying in England trying to see what could happen there on a musical level. And nothing was happening. So i was baby sitting one day and i was asked if i would come back here to play a show. So France is good for me and my music. And i accept it and working a lot with respect.
Music wise this album has a lot of music styles, rock n’roll, reggae a little bit of funk. You’re more than just a reggae singer ?
W. : Yes i’d say so because we were brought out that way in terms of music played on Jamaican radio stations. Reggae music wasn’t played on the radio big time on the early years because reggae producers didn’t have the money to pay radio stations’s payrolls. So we used to hear a lot of foreign music. All the foreign singers ! Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Rod Steward, Neil Diamond and so forth. Edith Piaf also !
C. : It’s one of the strengh of Jamaica !
W : Us Jamaicans were exposed to a wide range of music.
C. : Most of musicians from Jamaica have the same spirit. They are not obssessed by reggae music. Music is music that’s all. It’s not a church.
Camille, you said that Winston was always saying that the sky was the limit, why ?
C. : Sky is the limit. It’s true.
W. : We were working without understanding. There is no force that can stop us from seeing the heights we were seeing. The secret behind achieving a song, producing a certain quality song is we are not faking. We know exactly how to do what we were doing.
Who is Mr White Shirt ?
C. : Nice question ! I love that question (laughs) !
W. : Mr White Shirt could be anyone. It’s not a white man or a black man. He’s just a man who is going out to the way.
C. : He’s the man who thinks that life is just a clean sheet. Life is not clean. Be careful about the people around you when you act. If you go into some places in Africa or even in Paris, like Barbès. Don’t act. Open your eyes and look at the place you’re into. Don’t act provocative, stupid. That’s about money, a bourgeois thing. Don’t take people for fools. For me that’s what that meant but i did not write the song so…
W. : We went to the studio to work. And Bazbaz asked me : « Winston, what are we going to do today ? ». So since i had a blank i was opened to anything. I had nothing in my head. And there was this guy here, Elbaz, he’s Bazbaz assistant and he was wearing a white shirt. And i started to sing : « Hey Mr White Shirt » (laughs). And the song just came, just like that. Pure inspiration, right here, right now.
And what about « Toys are us » ?
W. : I always want to work on songs that are already promoted in the sense that people know about the title. I was thinking about « Toys r us » and i found it ambiguous. It’s a name of a store but it could also mean toys are us. I started working on the song. It’s just like « ABC ». Everybody already know the alphabet whether it’s english or french, it’s common knowledge. Titles likes these are easier for french people to understand.
Angela Davis. She’s a struggling icon. How did she inspired you ?
W. : I wrote the Malcolm X song. And i got the idea to wrote that song about Angela the same day i got the idea about the Malcolm X song. That was in 1974.
C. : Angela and Malcolm X should be a couple.
W. : But i couldn’t go further with that song. I only had the chorus. And then one day, the same guy Elbaz, Mr White Shirt, found a rhythm. Suddenly i started to go more and more into the song. After more than 20 years. That was something that should come from inspiration i shouldn’t have to think about writing. If you start to think then it’s wrong. It just came.
C. : It’s very interesting to hear Winston talking because i feel the same way. I actually lived the same situation. A lot of times. It’s classic about musicians. That’s what make us brothers. Music is the same for everyone : French, Chinese, Jamaicans. There is always this level of honesty. A songwriter will always be a songwriter. This will never change. It was like that 100 years ago and it will be like that 100 years from now. Writing a song is not a work. It’s a flash, a vibration. You’re making music 24/7. When you sleep you’re making music. You never stop being a musician. It’s like that. The funny thing about Winston is i’m listenning him and i feel like i’m listenning myself. It’s disturbing. Music is magic !
« Jacob’s Ladder ». You started as a gospel singer in church. Are you inspired by the Bible ?
W. : Yes i do. I do got a lot of inspiration from the Bible. This Jacob’s Ladder song is a vision i had while i was awake. One morning i was in my younger brother’s house. I wait in a room. And suddenly i saw myself as high as the sky. No lyrics. I made the lyrics from what happened. Like a crystal purse was standing synchronised with my body. So i’m with the stars and the sky standing inside me. I was there. And the voice said to me : « Do you know i can do this ? ». And i got a shock.
C. : You mean you were dead or what ?
W. : No i’m alive. But in a outer body. Separate from myself. I saw one part of me as high as the sky. When i’m talking, my voice isn’t here. Me ears are not here. And the voice said « Do you know i can do this ? » and i got shocks on different parts of my body. And i was like shit, when will i be back home. And i started to scream. And i couldn’t hear myself. I wasn’t inside my body. Suddenly i came back normal. My brother heard me. So he was rushing to the room. What’s going on ? He thought there was some robbers inside the house and i was being attacked. He said that the voice wasn’t a normal voice. And for four hours i didn’t have the strenght in my body to say a word. After four hours i started telling him. And for three or four years i started to tell people about it. I wanted to know if others had the same experience. Nobody understood until one day in Amsterdam. I met a woman i told her about the story that happened. And she said wait a minute, and went pick up a Bible. And she read to me the story about Jacob. She told me i was Jacob. That is how i came to understand the vision. And that’s how my song was born. It’s a life big story. I named my son after this vision.
C. : « Jacob’s ladder » is a great song. We are very proud of this one because it’s really the hard rock one. We love it. We love to surprise people. For me this song was born the first time i went to Jamaica with Winston. We arrived in a place and the first inspiration for a song i had at this moment was this one. Writing a song is like a game, like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. And it could be a very long one. I’m very happy to hear Winston’s vision about this song.
What’s your best memory after all these years playing music ?
C. : The next show.
W. : My best memory is a show with Bazbaz. We had noni. It’s a fruit from Tahiti. Everything is good in it, the juice, the leaf, it’s like a doctor for everything. It’s very good for your health. And a guy told me i know what is your secret is for playing so well you’re taking mushroom’s juice. And i said no, it’s the noni. He couldn’t believe it.