Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Beres Hammond interview

Having been a staple artist on the Reggae and Dancehall scene for almost 3 decades, Beres Hammond is regarded as the greatest practicing artist in reggae music. He has written and performed countless hits which to this day are essential to any and every family party and revival session. Whether it be, ‘Putting Up Resistance’, deciphering what ‘One Dance Can Do’ or teaming up with Dancehall legend Buju Banton to ask the DJ ‘Pull It Up’, each song crafted to make you ‘Rockaway’.

Lead by the current hit Feel Good, which is flying high in reggae charts across the world, his hot new album Moment In Time sees the return of his unique, soothing, throwback soulful vocals. Christmas is coming; this is the perfect stocking filler for every mother!

Marvin Sparks spoke to the legend regarding new album, new talent and what makes him Feel Good.

Marvin Sparks: Tell us how the single Feel Good came about.
Beres Hammond:
When I do an album project, I usually have a couple of producers like Fatis, Donovan Germaine and people like those I work closely with. This time Donovan Germaine managed to get in one of his songs before the project closed, so this is how this one came about, ‘Feel Good’.

Marvin Sparks: What influenced you to write song?
Beres Hammond:
Too much things have been happening down here in Jamaica - and not just Jamaica, the whole world. People tend to lose the value on life, y’know? We concentrate so much on the negatives which happening around, some things that shouldn’t be going on - like murder rates rising and those sorts of things. So to me, not getting into the mood that people are supposed to be in, like forgetting to have fun. A little song like this is a light song to remind you that, ‘Hey, I’m still alive!’ Regardless of what’s happening around, one still has to take time out with you and your personal people to have some fun; not about waking up to another problem. It’s all about having fun.

Marvin Sparks: Apart from music and being with that special lady, what makes you feel good?
Beres Hammond:
That I’m alive and that I’m in good health; one can’t pay for that What I’m doing is, I’m trying to invite other people to tap into that mood. Feeling good for me is going into the studio and coming out with another song. That is a blessing.

Marvin Sparks: Once again, this song is currently in the top 5 of our Dancehall and Reggae charts, what is your secret to staying relevant?
Beres Hammond:
I don’t know; maybe because I live the life of the common people, the life and the love, y‘know. I always try not to isolate from the normal everyday people because that’s where you get the inspiration. You meet people from diverse lives and everybody has got a story - and when you listen to the stories, as long as you listen to them, you will always have a story.

Marvin Sparks: It could be argued that the 90’s was your best decade. What are your thoughts on that?
Beres Hammond:
I try not to think about it because every year that passes is another year. You can’t relive the moment that you had last night, so I put my concentration into tomorrow, take it as it comes. Don’t worry too much about spilt milk - and people out there are always going to be comparing, but if it’s writing a song, I try to give it as much energy as I gave it before. You can’t get up everyday and write the same song.

Marvin Sparks: Do you feel there is a lot of pressure to maintain previous success?
Beres Hammond:
To maintain it? I never think about it. I never, ever think about it. It depends on how one measures success and what it means to one. To me success is being able to access what you want to access, no matter how small it is, to be able to live with people and lived civilised. Have a little fun whenever you can have fun and just being able to afford the things that you want to have in life; that to me is success. Now, if I put out a song, it doesn’t necessarily have to go to number one, but it makes a statement. Someone out there in the world can identify with that song and as long as that song makes a difference to one person, my mission is accomplished.


Marvin Sparks: And that can be related to feeling good.
Beres Hammond:
[laughs] Yes, Sir Marvin.

Marvin Sparks: Here we are with your new album ‘Moment In Time’. Excuse me for asking, but what album number are you at now?
Beres Hammond:
Let me see because sometimes I get a bit mixed up. You have some people who just create albums for themselves and out in the streets with them.

Marvin Sparks: Alright, so how many have you actually recorded?
Beres Hammond:
That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I think it may be either the 24th or the 25th that I am aware of. I’m not sure if that is the correct number but it is somewhere around that. I’ve stopped counting know.

Marvin Sparks: One song that I picked out is ‘Picking Up The Pieces’, explain the inspiration behind that?
Beres Hammond
: It was as a result of the turmoil that this world finds itself in. Everywhere you look in the world there is a war going on - and to me, war has no winner because if one guy dies on the other side, people are going to feel it over the same effects as the other person who is going to say you are the victor. Everybody loses in war. I am thinking that if there is a song that can be listened to one of the perpetrators of war. Too much fear is going on; fear and then recession. I hope that this song might be heard by some of the right people.

Marvin Sparks: Not many know but you gave Jah Cure his first big break.
Beres Hammond:
Well he came through my Harmony House label - as a matter of fact I came to England with him in about 1999 and took him through Europe. I heard this talent and knew that this was something different and something good, but I couldn’t figure out why people weren’t dealing with him on the level that I thought he deserved. Harmony House just took him up and we started there, until where he is at now.

Marvin Sparks: What do you think of the current crop of artists coming through?
Beres Hammond
: Beautiful voices man. Beautiful, talent you know. But what I would like to ask of them is to just watch your utterances sometimes, be very careful, because sometimes your utterances can come back to haunt you sometime. Just be careful. Also, remember that there is a new generation always in the making. One should ask themselves ‘Is this what I want to leave for the younger generation?’ Is this what they would like to leave as their legacy? Music is such a powerful force that you can’t take it to simple, y’know? It’s a serious force, so I am always hoping and always asking the youth‘s. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing because it’s beautiful but just check if you will be comfortable later on in life with what you just sang. Dancehall and Reggae, mi love it!


Marvin Sparks: Is there anyone on the Reggae side that you would recommend?
Beres Hammond:
Nuff, nuff, nuff new youth’s, man. A good 90% of the ones that I have been hearing for the past 2 years, beautiful.

Marvin Sparks: Any names in particular?
Beres Hammond:
If I start, I’m not going to be able to stop. It’s a beautiful crop we’ve got going on here. I expect greatness from most of who I’m hearing from.

Marvin Sparks: One of your great collaborators, Buju Banton worked together on a few Reggae classics.
Beres Hammond:
Yeah, we still do.

Marvin Sparks: Is there anyone you feel you could make hits with from Dancehall?
Beres Hammond:
Erm... When I do combinations, it’s not something we go out and seek, it usually just happens - like some impromptu kind of vibes. It is not a case where you call someone or you select to do a song with someone. Sometimes you work in the studio and someone will pop by and you say ‘You know that person would fit in to do this part of the song.’ It wasn’t really a situation where you hunt this person or you would love to [make a song] with this person, no. It’s more, ’My yout’, come and do this part.’

Marvin Sparks: So if I pressed you for just one name, could be the last person you heard, who would you say?
Beres Hammond:
Right at this moment, as you ask me? I would have to say no. But what I’m sure about is, if any one of them was to pass through, I’d be too willing. But for me to pinpoint one name then nah. I may have it in the back of my head but because you are asking me now, I’d probably need some time to think about it [laughs]

Marvin Sparks: I respect that. You pay homage to the motherland on ‘Talking Africa’, have you performed there yet?
Beres Hammond:
Yes, I performed there last year. Was it last year or the year before? I’m not even sure. We went to The Gambia and we were looking to go back this year but it never materialised. But I’m looking forward to doing a bit more in Africa. It’s in arrangement so I’m looking forward to that.

Marvin Sparks: What was the reception like for you over there?
Beres Hammond:
It’s crazy! That’s one way to describe it. Really, really crazy. To be honest with you, I knew that Africans loved Reggae music, but when I arrived there, I never expected that welcome [laughs]. That is the kind of reception that I think they have great adoration for; that’s the impression I got.

We are trying to make it apart of our yearly itinerary, to pop into these countries. It’s needed, it’s needed.

Marvin Sparks: When can we expect to see you over in the UK?
Beres Hammond:
Well, Jah willing, we are hoping to make it over in the New Year; hopefully some time around Valentine’s period, and I’m hoping that everything will work out well so that I can make a few little appearances. It’s been a little while.

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