Ok, so...

Introducing the debut ep "...and you are?" by Frieda's Boss

Track 1 Before you walk away

Cathartic, like awesome, is a word that is overused these days but having said that, I did expunge latent feelings of guilt and morbid, "sliding doors" curiosity while penning the lyrics to "Before walk away". Curiosity, because I wanted to play out the scenario that may well have taken place had I stayed on the path I was headed down as a youth with ambitions to "run tings" coupled with a typical boyhood penchant for guns and old testament justice. Guilt because I carried around with me a measure of regret that I hadn't done more for my brother once legitimately established in accepted social circles, whatever that was at the time.

A semi autobiographical, cautionary tale is how I would describe "Before you walk away". Scenarios based on situations in which I found myself within spitting distance were sharpened and lent colour and license in order to complete the didactic extrapolations. It's a tragedy with biblical undertones drawn from the last letter my own father wrote to me which closed: remember son, As you sow, so also shall you reap. From there a chorus was born and with it verses chronicling the wide path to destruction, grief and a coronial footnote.

The musical genesis of this track spans almost 2 decades, a love of South African township rhythms and a musical stubbornness that surely must have infuriated Dman and Maximus (bassist and drummer respectively), members of the Frieda's Boss rhythm section.

As a younger man, I became enamoured with the seamless melodic sojourns of the fretless bass. Remembering a bass line I had written that deliberately spanned a range of 10 notes to show off the uniqueness of the fretless, I set about grafting it into the fabric of the chorus as we arrived at the relative major. Add tasty harmonious chants from Vstylee to the urgent, staccato main line and a polar opposite of the darker, minor key narrative of the verse had found its muse.

Someone told me that it is essential to establish the mood or tone of the song without delay and we tried to do this by having Dman mimic an arrhythmic heartbeat on the bass. Falling in line are the kick and guitar sounds with the hope being that the listener would experience a feeling of foreboding as one would when vision of a small, peaceful village is juxtaposed against a mismatched musical backdrop featuring minor chords and disjointed syncopation.

This track was certainly the most challenging from a vocal standpoint, both performance and arrangement-wise. Sad to say, that the chorus challenged my upper range and Vstylee and I spent hours working through phrasing and long minutes glaring at the piano. Years earlier I had played with a draft of this song and a good friend listened to it and simply said, "you've got a good voice and it sounds great when you put your self into it. This just sounds too ...bleccch, (vanilla)". That hurt, but it was true. Hard to swallow, Now it felt like I had bitten of more than I could chew to raas!

"Before you walk away": a confession to and an admonition from my father!

 

Track 2 No Such Dub

Track 3 No Such Thing

I was taught about racial stereotypes from an early age.

My mother and I moved to England while the (in)famous "Love thy neighbour" aired on primetime television, a show in which blacks were openly referred to as sambos and nig-nogs etc. For these and other reasons we eventually moved to Western Australia where, for the next few years and beyond, I was the only West Indian anyone in my district had ever encountered. I was watched closely so that stereotypes, myths and theories could beconfirmed or exploded.

Fast forward to the 90s and I found myself playing keyboards in a reggae band and it was in this environment that, in many minds, the idea of a typical Jamaican crystalised: yardees on the scene had long dreadlocks, smoked ganja, said "yah man", smoked, sang, smoked and that was it. The assumption was that Jamaicans were all the spitting image of the Wailers. Interestingly, when I told people that I was Jamaican, they would fix me with a quizzical stare broken by phrases such as, "you don't have long dreadlocks", "why don't you smoke pot?" and "Oh, say something Jamaican, like yuh mon". No doubt, some of these descriptions accurately portray some of the Jamaican people some of the time but I thinks that's as far as it goes.

I felt compelled to let people know that there was "no such thing as a typical Jamaican, they only exist on the screen".

"No Such Thing" is another song that started from a bass line, this time born from some rhythmic doodling among the lower octaves of the family piano based on the blues scale. I had just purchased an old PS390 Yamaha keyboard from a ramshackle hockshop in Perth which recorded 8 tracks per song: the ideal instrument for overlaying drum rhythms with bass and a variety of skanks.

I trialled this song with a number of bands but when Frieda's Boss bass player Dman got the solo nod, he took his time and rendered a spacious, exploration of bass clef psychadelia and brought it home with a killer rundown. Bo! Not to be left out of the fun, Maximus and Franco on drums and guitar respectively jumped aboard the crescendo-train to crazytown.

DUB-UB-ub-ub-ub-ub.

Great fun working on this track. As with most dub tracks, the thought was that No Such Thing could be taken to another level but there would have to be some demolition. Leaving the chorus melody, chords and lyrics untouched it was time to rearrange the bass line, mess with the rhythm and vocals.

On "No Such Thing", Vstylee supported the melody with her trademark, sweet-enough-to-eat harmonies. On the dub plate Vstylee put her best foot forward and led us down the musical rabbit hole. Stanwah, the itinerant trumpet player blasted out the signature musical call to arms and from then on the often-used, step-down bass line (JacobMiller's "Baby I Love So" is a great example of what seems to be a standard practice among Bass warriors of the fret) anchors a carnival of drop-outs, delayed skanks, reverbed organ shuffles all caught in rhythmic peak hour traffic with Tamlin T. Kirk at the controls… kind of!

In hindsight, we should have included the frighteningly convoluted dubextravaganza that Tamlin originally mixed after almost two uninterrupted days at the controls, nourished with off-milk and cookies… We call it "NoSuch Dub: the Captain Ahab ver-SHUN". A trusted friend in K-dub emergedfrom the listening room sweating profusely, while musical muse Cabans hesitated at the prospect of listening to it with the lights off. Maybe a separate release at a later DAAATE!!!

 

Track 4 Easy to Say

I love this song more for a guide to looking at my song writing process than for anything else. This is the first song that I recorded in its entirety on the voice recorder of my mobile phone. I listen back to it and hear a very tentative whisper laid over what would eventually be the main horn riff. A couple of weeks later, track four, "Easy to Say".

This track frustrates me immensely as well because it's the closest I have ever come to creating a song by numbers. First the beat, then horns, then some very "stream of conscious" lyric writing on the choice between corporate life versus a life lived on my own terms. There were no second thoughts about refining the lyrics or tune, just a one take wonder so to speak. Risky. Even as Frieda's Boss started running through it at rehearsal, it felt underdone. Enter Dman, Cisco and Stanwah on bass, giant jazzy guitar and trumpets: problem solved. Bouncy staccato bass clef notes launched sporadic bursts of horn harmony with a persistent call and response guitar riff. Bo! Add Vstylee with yet more harmonies and by the time we hit the studio it seemed as if we may have gotten away with something.

Easy to say, not easy to do!

The Baby Train