Aston ' Family Man' Barret, Bandmitglied der Wailers, im Interview mit Duggy Bones, März 1999

Bones: Where and when were you born?
Famaly Man: Kingston Jamaica, I was born in the year 1946, right after WWII.

Bones: What was the first music you remember hearing as a child?
Famaly Man: In Jamaica we had a lot of different kinds of music in the early years. Different forms of native sounds, which is calypso, and American music for sure, rhythm and blues, soul and South American, merengue. Jamaica was influenced by the blues, they played it for a while and it turned into the ska. That was the early part of music in Jamaica, ska and then it goes to rocksteady, then the reggae.

Bones: What made you start playing bass?
Famaly Man: Me, I’m a great lover of music, my dad is a great harmonica player and his father too was a master of many different instruments.

Bones: So it’s in the blood?
Famaly Man: Yes, my brother was the drummer Carlton Barrett. I started out doing welding, electrical welding and bike mechanic, blacksmith, and some engineering. I didn’t go to any school for them, I just took up welding as apprentice, and soon I end up being a professional. Just like the music, I am self-taught.

Bones: I read that you made your first bass. What was that like?
Famaly Man: I was doing welding at Chin’s welding works, they had a woodwork shop at the back. I like drawing too, I am a little artist. I would get myself a piece of five-eighths plywood, and I draw the body and I get a two-by-four and I draw the neck and at lunch time I ask one of the guys to cut it out for me on the bandsaw and I put one string on it in the center and it was a curtain rod. [we both laugh] I stretched it, and when I pick it, it go ping, ping, ping like a guitar, and when I rest it in the back room on the board floor it go BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! [laughter]

Bones: That’s great, a one-string bass. Did you play with other musicians with that bass?
Famaly Man: Just me and my brother. He’d get himself some empty paint tins of different sizes, he’d get different drum sounds. He found a little cymbal somewhere in the street. He nail it up on a little piece of board and it work as his after-beat hi-hat and his crash at the same time. That’s where we start tightening up that dub on the drum and bass. As time goes by, I got a real bass to borrow from a member of the Gaylads group.

Bones: Did you ever play out with Carly before the Hippy Boys?
Famaly Man: When we first played out we were the Hippy Boys, but it was a singer friend of mine on the east, Max Romeo. He was more professional in the area, but we always hung out together, smoke together and ting like that. He told me he got a job at a club called the Baby Grand in Crossroad, Kingston, so they ask him to get himself a little band. He say he always hears us practicing and him say it’d be much better for us to form our own band instead of him to go an look a band. The band wasAlvin Lewis, we call him Reggie, Glenn Adams, we call him Capo, and Carlton, we call him Oney, he keep the riddim on the one drop like Bob say, "feel it on the one drop." Later, when we decided to work together as the backing band for Lee Perry, he was known as The Upsetter, so we took on the name The Upsetters.

Bones: Why was he called "the Upsetter?"
Famaly Man: I think he gave himself that name. He was a singer from the old Studio One stabel, Coxsone. A lot of the artist sprung from there, Bob, Alton Ellis, Errol Dunkley, Marcia Griffiths… When Lee start getting into the production and promotion thing himself, everyone trying to get the best musicians they can, and we were the young musicians coming up among the professionals. They used to call us "two-chord musicians" so we say, "Yes, we are two-chords musicians but what two chords, with what tempo and what riff?" That can not be written in music. We put those two chords in a certain mood and time and style which blow their mind.

Bones: Most reggae bass lines today are somewhat repetitive. You seem to have a much more melodic approach to playing the bass.
Famaly Man: I listen to some great music in my early years, a mixture of music was on Jamaican radio. By listening to the favorite players-- Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Spence, Jackie Jackson-- and I grab off their style and then I’d improvise. In those days we always structure the music dem with more arrangements. I also love singing but I’m not really a singer professionally, so when I am playing I pretend that I am singing baritone. The bass so, I make a line, fill in the gaps to make the singer flow more, give the drummer that space to drop, feel it on the one drop. The drummer is the heartbeat and the drummer is the backbone.

Bones: When was the first time you heard the word "reggae?" Who coined the term?
Famaly Man: The reggae came with our style of playing, we are really responsible for it. They used to have some wild talk they call streggae, and out of the streggae came the reggae. At first there was just a small handful of people who used the word. In the early years we call ourselves the Reggae Boys, long before the soccer team. We did a song on the Joe Gibbs label called Mama Look Back and we put out two songs as the Reggae Boys. As time goes by a great soccer team from Jamaica took that name, and some people claim they create it but it’s not true.

Bones: I read somewhere that Toots Hibbert coined the phrase… any truth to that?
Famaly Man: Maybe yes, he play a great part as a veteran in the business, he was there before the Wailers too. I used to listen to him, the first track I hear was Six and Seven Books. The first Wailers I hear was Simmer Down. All that time I was a welder and bike mechanic, went a party and heard the Wailers.

Bones: So when you joined the Wailers was it a big thrilll for you since they were already on the radio?
Famaly Man: The first time I hear that group do that music called Simmer Down we were on the western side of Kingston, on Olympic Way. We were drinking white rum and milk, and my friend say, "Come inside here and listen to this new group on the jukebox." When we punch in it was Simmer Down. Believe you me, no other music played ’til we were ready to leave that place, pure simmer down, simmer down, simmer down, until I feel like I was a part of the group at that time. I didn’t play the music yet, but when I meditate on it deep down, I say, "I like what these guys sound." I listen for their future recordings and when I begin to get involved with the music, Reggie from the Hippy Boys got the message from Bob that he need me for a session. I say, "But I don’t know Bob, how Bob know me?" Him say, "Him heard you playin’ on a music Watch This Sound. He pick me up early one morning and carry me to one of them place downtown where Bob, Peter, and Bunny hang out. I see them there talking and rappin’ and lickin’ dem chalice. Them say soon come back. So I just get myself a likkle spliff and they go off on a long rap. After a while they come back and Bob said to Reggie, "What happpen, didn’t I ask you to do a favor for me? Didn’t I ask you to get a man for me?" Him say, "I bring a man who come here a long time." "So where the man is?" "Same man there." Bob come up to me and say, "This youth here? He name Familyman?" Him say yeah. He couldn’t believe a youth playin’ those bass lines what he hear. We been together ever since. Straight until his pass. First session we went and do one called Black Progress and the next one an old Junior Walker song Gotta Hold On To the Feeling. It’s on one of the box sets. I heard the other day that they were trying to use the voice track and put these computer hip hop sound around it, trying to make another hit out of it.

Bones: Do you think Bob would appreciate them making his music more commercial?
Famaly Man: We wouldn’t do that, we would take it to higher levels. Sometimes we do a track 3 different times depending on the feel at the time. Keep up with the modern sound for sure.

Bones: Now that you have put out your solo album, do you tour as Aston Barret or just as The Wailers?
Famaly Man: Mostly as The Wailers. I’m still doing producing and getting more into the production fields. I just did an album for a guy in Sweden and also a guy in Fiji called Exodus. I also worked with the late great John Denver, the track we did called The World’s Game, from the album. It’s about time. He sing he want to be in the world’s game and make it better than it ever was before. There was a part of the line when he was singing "you and me" like 8 times. I say, "Why you say so many lines ‘you and me?’ Why don’t you say ‘I and I?’" He says, "What mean ‘I and I?’" I say it’s the same as "you and me." So he cut it in two and did half you and me, and half I and I. The I-Threes were doing backing vocals. The only people from his own band was the horn section. He said to us, "You know, I got my own band but this track sound so much like you guys, I feel you were the best people to play it." We made a deal and went to Miami to do the track, it was good. It was reggae but reggae and country are very close, they both tell it like it is. I have even played on gospel albums too, even the first for Bob’s mother Cedella Booker, she did a gospel record at Tuff Gong studio.

Bones: Do you mind talking about your brother and father and the circumstances about their deaths?
Famaly Man: So far my brother is deceased right now, so is my dad, mom, and my first given son too. They all gone home, to the happy hunting ground, but the music lives on, the legend lives on.

Bones: Why’d they kill Carly? Did they ever catch the guy?
Famaly Man: There was some dispute, his wife and some people try to imitate these operas they see on TV. They get greedy and become a rebel without a cause. His wife meet up with a bad ship who meditate evil like she do. They both organised this, like the song Murder She Wrote. There was a sentence and they get some kinda appeal and dissapear. I had to go to the police station and become a detective myself ’cause they couldn’t find out what was going on. They didn’t know how to deal with these things. Most of the cop all they know to do is shoot, they don’t know to investigate. I went there one morning at ten o’clock and didn’t leave that station ’til three-thirty the following morning. When I left there she was in jail, the guy that planned it with her was in jail, the car that they rented was in jail, is only the hitman wasn’t there yet. I went in his neighborhood with a cop, maybe we could dust him out, but I wasn’t really meditating on it so much, I was meditating on the master mind behind the whole thing. He was just a fool to take that offer. This one, his days are numbered. I heard that someone went for him later. He gave my brother two and he got sixteen. Live by the sword, die by it.

Bones: And your father was killed about 2 months after that?
Famaly Man: Earlier, he was missing from the home and he get beaten up physically, his eyes were bad, he was kidnapped in some way, I don’t know what the reason was for it. There was a book Catch A Fire said that he was kidnapped and ransom was presented to Rita and she ignored it.

Bones: Did that create a rift between you and Rita?
Famaly Man: No, but it’s still in my mind. Nobody talks about it but it’s in the book. She has a lot of dough now and we are the ones who promote the BMW catalog year-in and year-out, non-stop. Not even the family of Bob does that; the kids don’t promote it, she does not promote it. The Wailers band does all that. In the lifetime between Bob and myself and my brother we have written like ten tracks and have been credited for five and they are still uptight about publishing cash and back royalties after fifteen years now. They try to make some phony settlement, but settlement for what, and we never even seen that cash. They said they paid us already but when we ask to see the back checks and they refuse to come up with that but we don’t give up the chase.

Bones: The word on the street is that Rita screwed everyone out of the cash including the children. Famaly Man: Yes, the few what are getting are the "beneficials." I wanna know if me and my brother are not beneficials too. When we started out there was no money no where. Bob didn’t even have a bicycle. When Bob know me I had three cars for myself and I stopped what I was doing, The Hippy Boys, Lee Scratch Perry and The Upsetter movements, also the Youths Professional movements, and we decide to do the thing with Bob, Bunny & Peter together, The Wailers, through we were giving praise to the Almighty, God works, Rasta works, human rights ting, and we sing and play music like "get up stand up for your rights" and "how good and pleasant it would be to see the unification of everyone and not one of I and I seeds shall sit on the sidewalk and beg bread." It seems like they forgot these words of wisdom. Through the cash, they got blindfolded. In Jamaica they would say "they get rich and switch." They don’t have to prove anything to us but to God almighty. They are out of control and they need to teach their kids. It is written that if the parents suck the sour grape the children’s teeth will gnash. If they do us bad they have to watch out for the judgment of their kids. Maybe they feel good now through they handle a lot of dough and big house and cars and bank accounts, and take over all the studio works and plant what we all sweat together and put forth there. They make it look like if you take them to court they draw it out over thirty years. That has to be stopped, the court got to know about this, that these people tryin’ to cover up tracks of things that are not proper, so they make things last over and over. So you wonder why crime can’t stop.

Bones: Is this all in the Jamaican courts?
Famaly Man: It’s worldwide, Europe, USA and Jamaica. Things are kinda limited in Jamaica right now, but we are coming around. Give thanks to the technology, world-wide web and internet, so they can’t hide anymore, everything coming out in the light. When you travel the world becomes small. You can’t hide. They try to stash cash away in tax-free places but everywhere they go we have people who know every move they make. Even in the hotel they stay, we have someone come in and serve them breakfast. But we are not the hit type, so it’s time for them to come around before they fall on their own swords. They try to make us look like we are the bad guy, but we didn’t stole anything, we didn’t forge anything, we are not claiming what is not ours. There is enough cash for everybody, cash for the wife, cash for the kids, so why they blocking over? They are bad and they can’t walk free like me. They have to walk looking over their shoulder with a bodyguard. They also say in Jamaica, "Who’s gonna bodyguard the bodyguard?" It won’t be long now.

Bones: Are you still involved with Tuff Gong?
Famaly Man: As time goes by they were changing managmenent and they brought in a new guy what took all my credits away. Some guy they call Jim Terret. That guy, you should watch him, the way he works. We used to have separate accounts for the studio, the record shop, the pressing plant. What that guy do is he pull all the accounts together into one. The next thing you hear is that he’s missing and a lot of cash is gone with him too. I used to watch him in Jamaica. One day I see him in the gas station and I am buying gas and this guy is signing for it. Something is wrong, I am one of the official director of Tuff Gong. They worked it around now like I don’t even exist. Through the love of money, they want to grab it. I still have my Tuff Gong ID in my briefcase. I still go by 56 Hope Road if I got a session, through I and Bob used to live there. I used to live around back, and where I used to live they pull it down to the ground like it never exist. They’re bad. It’s a wicked situation, they try to erase us off the map. The fans need to know that, they think everything is cool with that, that we are all living like one happy family and it’s not true. We need the whole world to know that these people need to stop and do the propper thing cause the world is looking forward to that unification. The last thing I hear them do, the culture has gone to Mickey Mouse now. Even the kids don’t even know what has happened. Bob’s kids are having their own kids now and I wonder what they gonna teach dem kids.

Bones: Yeah, you listen to a Ziggy record today and there’s no message there, nothing concrete, its all bubble gum.
Famaly Man: They are not following their father’s footseps: roots, culture and reality. They are trying to do other things like hip-hop and they don’t even know what direction they are going in. They don’t have no culture, they look like roots Rasta but they are in no way praising Jah or the orthodox. They are disguised in Church, some of them fancy clothes and cars and making some big offers in the Church but that’s not it. But the Church it run already, big business out there, so me rather be on the wild side than the "right" side. They can’t walk like me freely and go places by themselves, they gotta think they gonna get mugged, they can’t find a steady place so they keep running. They running from reality. As he said, "You musta done something wrong, why you running away, why you cant find a place where you belong?" What about the people who started it, who made it possible? The youth now, none of them have to work; what they are trying to do they can’t do in no cash, the cash is already set and there already through the work of I and I. We are looking forward to seeing what they are trying to do with kinda take our voice, the backing, the horn section, the percussion, of what we do many years ago and try to put some other tune around it, and think that they could make it happen double time of what we did. You can fool some people some time, but they can’t fool all the people all the time. They don’t know that I am the main bandleader, Bob Marley musical producer. Yeah, they trying to take our credits, y’know like they could do that and they could do better. It’s not true. It’s an inborn concept. You can’t imitate it. You can’t ingrab Bob’s spirit in another belly. Bob is rotting in himself right now. Until Bob show himself to them, they wouldn’t realize. He’s mad.

Bones: Do you still follow Rasta?
Famaly Man: Yes, just like everyone should be doing too, just keep under spiritual guidance everytime, give thanks and praise to the Almighty, there is only one Creator, but with many different names. It’s also written that each one should get pay according to their works.



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