Survival Reggae Club and a likkle history of my involvement with the Reggae scene in Melbourne, Australia.
Prior to leaving England in 1988 I was lucky enough to have been brought up on Reggae music. I started playing pots and pans with chopsticks around age 3 receiving my first drum kit around about 4 or 5 years old. My parents had an extensive music collection both on cassette and vinyl, music was played constantly in my house. I would grab my fathers Walkman and jam out to various tapes but was lost in what I was supposed to be playing so I decided to grab some of the tapes that I loved hearing which included artists like U-Roy, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Matumbi, Creation Rebel, Roots Radics, Yellowman, Bob Marley, I-Roy, Dillinger, Gregory Isaacs, Frankie Paul, Macka B, Aswad, Scientist, King Tubby and so many more. I fell in love with reggae music because all the instruments created space in the music, none of the instruments were fighting each other and the bass was heavy!!! One day I was jamming out and my father came in and just looked at me, I thought I had done something wrong (like taking his Walkman & tapes) so I stopped and to my surprise he said “Wow, you can play reggae!” This led to many jams with my father before coming to Australia. Within a few months of arriving in Melbourne my father managed to track down a band called Lion led by Rastaman Jah Banny. My father went along to an open jam session with the band at the Barleycorn Hotel in Collingwood, I sneakily waited up all night for my father to return from that jam session and got busted when he came into the house, he asked me “Why are you not asleep?” I replied “I want to know what happened?” He said “Go to sleep, I am taking you next weekend” how was I supposed to sleep after that. 🙂 🙂 🙂
That week took forever to pass but eventually the weekend came, I was so excited because I had come from a very multicultural England with reggae music blasting everywhere and I started to feel very homesick because none of what I grew up with in England existed in Australia (I was missing the big Caribbean festivals with reggae bands, steel drum bands, huge sound systems and top notch food) We got to the venue and I was very pleased to finally see a Rastaman. My father introduced me to an extremely tall friendly giant called Tony the bassman, who is still to this day the greatest Reggae bass player this side of the planet. The band fired up and I sat there and watched while dying to get on the drums, during a break my father was getting refreshments and I over heard that the band members were going to ask him to join the band so I did what every good son should do and told him first. Banny’s son performed songs with the band which led to opportunity for my father to mention I was a drummer, JACKPOT!! MY TURN!!! Lets just say we were both hired 🙂 🙂 🙂
Within a few months of doing my guest set with the band I was asked to take over full time and finally I felt at home in Australia. Outstanding effort for an 11 year old boy. I ended up playing with Lion for approximately 6-7 years constantly at the Survival Reggae Club (Sydenham Hotel, Richmond) and played so many more gigs and venues in Melbourne its not funny. Unfortunately Banny suffered a cricket accident which put him out of action for a very long time but as Banny says “The music must go on!” My father, Tony and myself formed another reggae band called Jericho’s Horns, we were lucky enough to get a hold of 3 horn players and a keyboard player and after a few jam sessions we were back at it again but playing as an instrumental dub reggae band. Eventually we managed to get a singer and with a few changes we formed a new band called Bubble Up which was the first band in Australia to play live Dancehall reggae music. My father asked a very well known Stick Mareebo aka Lincoln Irie to come and check out the band which led to him joining the band immediately. So, once again the reggae music kept going and going. Bubble Up ended up being an 11 piece band playing both original music and covers by artists such as Sweetie Irie, Shabba Ranks, Maxi Priest, Gregory Isaacs, JC Lodge and Bob Marley, during this time I was loving having Stick Mareebo in my band so much that I secretly learnt how to chat the mic in my bedroom.
After relocating to a new town my father and I formed another reggae band called Pulse Radics (the name was created to show respect to both Steel Pulse and Roots Radics) and due to the area we were living in and the big lack of culture we had no choice but to set this band up as a cover band to educate the people about reggae music. During this time I met my sidekick and big brother Ramblah and we started to chat the mic over riddims at my house which led to us going out and hijacking venues all over Melbourne. This also led to the birth of Chantdown sound and I quickly became the go to man for chatting the mic at many more reggae gigs. I ended up doing almost 15 years of chatting the mic and have supported many big international reggae acts and even managed to impress Bunny Rugs which led to a guest appearance with Third World and also a performance with Mad Professor. Unfortunately I came across racism (its not easy being black with white skin but someone’s gotta do it!!) jealousy, low to NO pay, lack of respect and constantly being put down for giving it a go (I never understood why so many white aussie rappers would jump in my face and say “You should be singing in aussie language you photocopier” maybe you should ask me about me first!!) During my decision to step out of the scene the show ponies jumped in and the scene has changed a lot. The upside to the story is that I continued to further my skills in Audio by joining SAE-Melbourne and I am very happy that my bredda (from the start of the Melbourne reggae days) Rueben Campbell aka RuCL aka King Ru decided to join at the same time. Over the years I have had the pleasure of playing with many great musicians and enjoyed performing right round Australia and also performing at many of the major festivals.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my little story and hope you have pressed play on the podcast!! Xtra special thanks to my podcast team and the interviewees Rohan Dixon, Bronwyn Wallace and Peter Laverack. Big love and maximum Raspect to Banny Wallace & family, Rueben Campbell, Jigzie Campbell, Stick Mareebo and my bossman bredda Ramblah.
Livicated to my breddrin Kliffy aka Ras Souljah. R.I.P
(Blessed in Zion mi Lion)