KRucial Reggae interview, by Kyle Russell with Everton Blender (1/21/12)
KR: So before we get to any of my questions, can you tell me what's currently on your mind, what you're working on?|
EB: The new album: "Higher Heights Revolution," which came out November .
KR: What can you tell me about the songs on it?
EB: It have some powerful tracks, messages like: when things don't go your way, the Almighty is standing there; and when you're wrong you're wrong.
KR: Any shows coming up?
EB: We have a tour in March and April over on the West Coast, something in New York, and also Saint Louis.
KR:: Can you tell me how you got into music first?
EB: I was singing from 1980-81, in Harry J Recording Studio.
KR: Yes, but before that?
EB: From I was 6 years old, I sang at a private school, we used to sing school songs, inspired by music teacher...songs like "Better Get Ready" ("...to do rock steady" - Alton Ellis), and Dennis Brown: "What about the half that never been told."
KR: I can see how that would be inspiring, I can't imagine songs like that being taught to school children here, that teacher we probably unusual, even in Jamaica, to encourage you to sing then-popular songs!
KR: How old were you in those days?
EB: Well, I really started singing when I was 20-21 years old, some of my first singles were "Ba Ba Black Sheep," "Want a Jumbo Jet," "Where is Love."
KR: How'd you first get together with the producers of those songs?
EB: We'd walk from studio to studio - anywhere the musicians hang out - I met Joe Gibbs, Horsemouth, Dean Fraser, Nambo...
KR: How did things develop in the 90's?
EB: People start recognize me from around '91, with songs like "Create a Sound," "Family Man," "Broken Hearted Melody...[he sings it to me, to see if I recognize it], it was on the Answer riddim. I did mostly singles, then I released my first album: "Lift Up Your Head" in '93/94.
KR: Tell me about the industry and how the songs took off?
EB: There were derogative songs - like now, too - but we part of a cultural movement: me, Tony Rebel, Garnet Silk. Not everyone love the bling bling. Work is hard and people can't listen to songs that can't help you hold up your head, songs that can last in value. We sing about positive vibration instead of destruction. I feel so good to play the cultural part. It's rough, cause a lot of the young people nowadays like to listen to the bling bling, but righteousness must reveal.
KR: Your music bridged the gap, between Roots & Culture and Dancehall?
EB: Yes, I get that compliment a lot, about that. We pray to the Almighty foremost, it's him who take us through. Without the almighty, we would be nothing...he put us out in the limelight
KR: Would you say that things peaked around the year 2000?
EB: Things were going great guns from 2000-2007. We still holding it. A lot of the new generation don't know Everton Blender, but there's a lot of young people contacting me, they love the music. When they see me, they want to take pictures with me.
KR: How do you get yourself out there?
EB: It's the people I know: Facebook, emails, the youths them checking me.
KR: You are one of the few Artists who started their own production house(s), even though you did singles for other producers...did you get a fight for that?
EB: Well, it seems like sometimes the producers get more play. I don't know what the problem is...the system is such that you have to pay to get it to play. If you don't have that money they won't play you.
KR: What do you think the effect of that is, overall?
EB: Well the children getting used to only what they hear on the radio. The more you hear a song - all the time, even if it not saying anything - you end up starting to sing that song too.
KR: How can you fight that, counter it?
EB: Promotion is the key to all things, if you're not getting the promotion, it's harder for you.
KR: Are your songs getting some play in Jamaica?
EB: Yes, Ubaru and Hold On doing good in Jamaica. We steady but sure. The Almighty is always there - it might look like it taking a long time - but he'll come through.
KR: Have you given any thought to retiring?
EB: I'm not thinking of retiring - no, not for now - I don't get what I need yet.
KR: And what is that?
EB: I need to get more people, a lot of people I don't get to yet. I want to do a song in Spanish, but I don't reach that goal yet. I have to give thanks for what Jah brings to us. My daughters & son coming up good.
KR: Are they carrying on the music tradition?
EB: Yes - for example, I have a Aisha Blender - she have a nice voice, she's on the computer (making music). It's hard nowadays, the system stay away and if you follow the system, you end up going the wrong way. I try to show them the right.
KR: What do you think about the new age of digital recording?
EB: The computer helpful, cause it used to be you had call a man (to play a track)...now you just send it on the computer and you can work on songs even from another country.
KR: Do you still love the analog, though?
EB: People might say analog was slow, but we love the analog same way.
KR: How about the way music is being sold, or made available online nowadays?
EB: The digital also mashing things up in a way, cause you can't sell as much. There's no more 45's, it's all CD. Sometimes it have me worried, because when I put out the album - the photo copy (the cover) and sell it off without my knowing - and the original album not selling like it should.
KR: Do you think there's any way to avoid that?
EB: They need to set it so it can't be copied, then you have a fair chance. People still find a way to copy just through playback - it's how the pirates make their money - and it's damaging the business.
KR: You did release your productions through Hearbeat Records, what happened to them?
EB: Long time I don't talk to those guys - Chris Wilson, Joshua Blood - let me know if you come across them.
KR: Well I think Heartbeat closed, I know Rounder (which the label was connected to) moved...I saw them tear down the building right to the ground...it's all condos now.
KR: Do you have a label or promotion company you're working with?
EB: Not right now. There was a company I was talking with, but they wanted too much to distribute one album. Me spend the money and they want all the rights!? They come in and want to control everything. Now maybe if they came in and said: here's X-amount up front, but if it make more than that we can share," them maybe that makes sense. But people not working together.
KR: What do you think about what's happening in JA?
EB: We have a new government, hopefully it will work out. The people need Everton Blender, they need the cultural - people get tired of the bling bling - more cultural events...5 years I don't hold my birthday bash. We might put it on this year. Depends on the power of the Most High. Jamaica's always nice - a little rough and tough - we know better things is going to come.
KR: You were just there, what was going on?
EB: We had a death in the family, I had to go to the burial.
KR: Sorry to hear that.
KR: It seems like you spend a lot of time in Florida, why do you have a base up here?
EB: Well you know how it stay in Jamaica - I love it (of course) - but sometimes, it's a little easier to move around here...you can drive to Jacksonville or New York to do a show more easily.
[We discussed venues and the performance landscape, which has been totally transformed in the past 10 years. Between DJ events replacing live music shows, and newer bands coming in for cheaper and cheaper, it's hard to get proper compensation for performing. Plus, promoters don't want to work together, they'll hold competing shows on the same night.]
EB: We have to work with the real people - most of these people are not real - they're mashing up the t'ing. There are nuff young artists coming up, and they don't have a chance. It's politics. If they know Kyle is a good man, they go around and try to hurt his show. Even me, when I ask for the right money to pay my band, promoters tell me it's too much, that they have a band. When you go play, the band don't know the songs. When you have a band like your band [Dub Station], me know say you know my songs and you gonna play them good. If the music don't sound right, it's hard to give a good show.
[We talk about how the veterans have to hold it up, set and example, and educate the youth about how it should be done...and grab back the spotlight]
EB: Unity is strength, and if we don't unite, we not gonna go anywhere. We have to do it. It's hard. But we won't give up the fight!
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