Home / Arts & Entertainment / Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson: “I’m a Nine-Star General Now” (The Interview)
Duckie Simpson and keyboardist/producer King Hopeton perform in Solana Beach, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson: “I’m a Nine-Star General Now” (The Interview)

Q: Even though you’re [understandably] pleased to be nominated [again for “As the World Turns”], when I interviewed you in 2016, you very candidly told me that the Grammy Awards and the whole ceremony, and that industry, doesn’t respect reggae music.
Duckie Simpson: No, they don’t. I only went to the Grammys because I was pressured to go. And my executive producer [Mike Gener] is a young guy from California. And this is his first venture into reggae. And you know, he was kinda excited. So you know, I wanted to go with him. And some of the other producers wanted to go, some of my friends wanted to go, I [know] a lot of people there, you know. So I had to go.

Duckie Simpson performs in Solana Beach, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Q: What could the Grammys do to make the awards fairer and more meaningful for reggae artists and fans?
Duckie Simpson: That Grammy I won [in 1985 for the album “Anthem”], I was the first person who went on the rostrum. After that everybody who won the Grammy for reggae got it backstage. So that was the first disrespect. So the year before last when Morgan Heritage won the Grammy, they gave it to him upfront, so they changed that aspect of it. But the people dem who vote for the Grammys, they don’t really know about reggae. They don’t have a clue.

Q: The people who are on the committee?
Duckie Simpson: Yeah, they don’t have a clue.

Q: [Turning to] the new album “As the World Turns,” I saw when I was reading about the album that this album was in the works for [a] long [time].
Duckie Simpson: It’s a remake of an album. I [made] the album six years ago. I lost the file. I lost everything.

Q: What I read about it was that the file was corrupted. Was it corrupted or lost?
Duckie Simpson: When you say “corrupted,” what do you mean?

Q: That’s what I wanted to ask you –
Duckie Simpson: The file got mislaid. And some of the mixes I was not pleased with. So I scrapped the album. And I completely redid the album. Up in L-town. You ever heard of L-Town? Up in northern California?

Q: That’s where King Hopeton has his studio, the Double Lion?
Duckie Simpson: (Laughing) You know King Hopeton?

Q: For sure.
Duckie Simpson: (Laughing) King Hopeton is one of the producers. And King Hopeton played a lot of the stuff and recorded and everything.

Q: It’s a very, very tight production.
Duckie Simpson: Yeah.

Q: And I was thinking one of the reasons why it might be such a tight production [in part] is because you had to do it over. Sometimes when you have to do something over –
Duckie Simpson:  It was easy because I had to do it over. I knew the songs, we knew the arrangements, yeah everything was easier.

Q: Now I know you recorded the album both in California and Jamaica [using] strictly analog equipment. Is that true?
Duckie Simpson: Not strictly. On the drums, we used drum machines but we did overdub with analog drums, with real drums. The basics [were] done with drum machines. Then we overdubbed real live drums, you know? And everything else was analog.

Black Uhuru guitarist Frank Stepanek performs in Solana Beach, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Q: There’s a lot of debate in the industry about the difference between analog and digital [recording equipment]. Is there a difference in terms of recording reggae music? Does it matter?
Duckie Simpson: Well I use both, but it doesn’t matter to me. The chemistry is within the lyrics. That’s where the strength is. So if you analog or drum machine, it depends on what you’re singing.

Q: In addition to top-notch sound quality, this album is really an excellent addition to Black Uhuru’s legendary discography. Although it’s very fresh sounding, it maintains and is consistent with a lot of the elements that have made Black Uhuru one of the most famous reggae bands –
Duckie Simpson: I know.

Q: The way I would describe the album is: It’s classic roots reggae with a modern edge; militant, meaningful, and spiritual.
Duckie Simpson: You don’t have to say no more. You classify it the right way. Because it’s old school with a modern edge; yeah, you’re right. Those two Bob Marley songs . . . that Bob Marley song I covered –

Q: Stand Alone?
Duckie Simpson: Yes.

Q: And then African Herbsman? I mean, Jamaica Herbsman –
Duckie Simpson:  You know that’s not Bob Marley? That’s Richie Havens.

Continued on Page Three–>>

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