Horace Andy: digging your roots

The reggae legend talks before taking on Dubai's Deep Crates Cartel

Ahead of his Dubai gig with the Deep Crates Cartel, Peter Feely speaks with the reggae legend and Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy to find out about his life and career.

When Horace’s raspy voice resonates over the phone, it’s a gregarious, witty and philosophising blend of anecdotes and experiences. A Jamaican music legend, he has the sort of pedigree which could excuse arrogance but he’s open, comfortable and most importantly, totally enthusiastic about new music and fresh ideas. At the age of 62, he shows no sign of slowing down or retreating into obscurity. His reputation as a musician was cemented by his appearance on Bristol-based trip-hop group Massive Attack’s seminal Blue Lines album in 1991. This relationship with the band continues to blossom and he discusses their latest project – the tour Massive Attack Vs Adam Curtis, where the British film-maker Curtis has produced politicised celluloid to accompany the performance. A fascinating idea, it’s easy to understand his excitement as he praises the concept: ‘It’s brilliant – you don’t go and dance as they have the film and they put the music to it. It’s going to New York. If you drop a pin you can hear the pin drop. It’s political – it’s real, real heavy’.

He is admirably humble when I ask him about how his initial decision to work with the undiscovered band materialised, explaining ‘it was just by good fate’. Arguably, the most remarkable aspect of Horace’s relationship with the Bristol outfit is its longevity. When I ask him about this he’s refreshingly candid, revealing that the band’s leader 3D is ‘a very revolutionary person. There are certain things he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like ill treatment of poorer people. He believes in equal rights and justice for everyone and that’s why we get along so well. When they went to the awards in Milan [MTV Europe awards] he wouldn’t take the award from The Duchess of York.’

Horace was born Horace Hinds but in a typically eventful manner his name was changed: ‘It was my Dad – he said ‘you there – what’s your name?’. So he put his finger on his temple and said ‘why aren’t you Horace Andy like all the other pop artists? Like Bob Andy’.

Horace was around for the Jamaican dancehall music scene’s conception; he saw Bob Marley’s mainstream success and witnessed Shabba Rank’s revival of the dancehall genre. He doesn’t, however, take credit for the idea, revealing that ‘Dancehall as they call it now is [from] the media. Even before me – people like Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe – they were the real dancehall people. John Holt – all of them people – we used to call the music dancehall. It was the media changed it and started calling it ragga, roots and dancehall – it’s all in the same family. But it’s Sly [Sly and Robbie] he changed the beat. It’s the drum – tap, tap, tap – Sly did it.’ Horace has fond, if slightly mischievous memories of Marley, recollecting ‘Yeah man, he was a very humble man but everyone has their little sides.’

His enthusiasm isn’t naive, however, and he is still opinionated and single minded when it comes to music, discussing his differences with Massive Attack: ‘I don’t like sampling. Because sampling is someone’s direction, someone’s song – I like my own song. Massive [Attack] – they’re trip hop. They will take someone’s sound, play around with it and add something to it. People who do these things, they think they are the creators. They didn’t originate it.’ This leads to an enquiry about his work on The Easy Star All-Stars’ reggae cover of Radiohead’s OK Computer album, Radiodread. Horace acknowledges the point, reflecting: ‘I just lay down the vocal and they take it and they do what they want to do. I liked everything, it’s no problem – you’ve got your audiences and young kids – it doesn’t really matter. When I ask what the original Radiohead made of the project, he simply quips that ‘they love it!’

I ask him about Rastafarianism and the commercial manipulation of its culture, citing the rapper Snoop Dogg’s recent adoption of the lifestyle, changing his name to Snoop Lion. Horace is convinced however that in Snoop’s case the change was genuine: ‘He came to Jamaica. He came along to our studio – I wasn’t there. He came into our neighbourhood. If Snoop did go uptown, where the politicians are and all those kinds of people, everyone would still have something to say. Snoop came in the ghetto and there isn’t a problem. He realised that a dog is a dog – he uses his mouth and cleans himself. [Now] he’s a lion in a jungle. He come amongst all of my friends. Snoop came to Jamaica and his eyes got opened. He was a bad man – he loved guns and things and he came amongst loving people. He’s real, man. He went amongst the
real people.’

I ask him what we should expect when he appears with Deep Crates at Casa Latina later in the month and he is characteristically upbeat, bragging that ‘it’s gonna be brilliant. I’m going to try and mix it. It’ll be mostly old school.’ I ask him if this will involve him singing any Massive Attack numbers? He’s affirmative: ‘Yes I will.’ Respect the rasta man.’
Horace Andy meets Deep Crates Cartel. Dhs75 advance, Dhs85 door. Fri Sept 6. 10pm-3am, Casa Latina, Ibis Al Barsha, Barsha. www.timeouttickets.com

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