Up To The Time

Multi-tasking Prince Malachi is working at double speed

"I'm always working you know. We're always in the studio doing one thing or another. Never really get no break. If I'm not working for myself I'm producing for another artist or working as an artist for another producer."

I had casually asked Prince Malachi what he liked to do when he wasn't working, half expecting him to divulge a love of Kung-Fu films or football. His answer shouldn't have surprised me. We are talking in a sweltering hot photographers studio in West London on the same Sunday as the World Cup final. Everything about Malachi illustrates his desire to get things done. His black Mercedes pulled up outside at exactly the appointed time, he happily jogged up the six flights of stairs and then proceded to laugh and joke whilst he was both photographed and interviewed at the same time. He somehow provided every pose, profile and posture for the photographer without once letting the conversation falter or losing his train of thought.

 

We began by discussing his time at the legendary Xterminator camp in Jamaica.

"It was a very good experience. When I first went to Xterminator everybody was there: Luciano, Mikey General, Louie Culture, Sizzla; Cocoa Tea and Beres Hammond were on the fringes. I would spend most of my time in Jamaica, come back to England for maybe a month and then go back."

Like many people, I heard that Malachi had been drafted in as the singer to replace the departing Luciano.

"That was said in certain circles, I don't know where it came from. It was just that I went into Xterminator shortly before Luciano left. In Jamaica my profile has always been different because when I was there I was the public face of the camp. I was doing studio work, producing and TV interviews. They know me not just as an artist but as someone who used to do the day to day runnings at Xterminator. They see me as a singer/producer/engineer."

One thing he hasn't been able to entirely escape are the comparisons with Luciano. There's nothing defensive about Prince Malachi, like every question I asked he dealt with it head on and with a smile.

"Up to now there has always been comparisons. There is something in the tone and a lot of the songs I sing, people think its Luciano. Recently I've been trying to keep away from it because I don't think its doing me any justice. Its been a long time I've had this Luciano thing and I'm just one of many. There's Bushman, Steve Machete, Natty King, a whole heap of them. That is my natural voice, but I can do other things as well so I'll do that and I won't get stigmatised."

I had also always associated Malachi with Turbulence and assumed that they were young artists emerging from Xterminator at the same time. Again, this is somewhat wide of the mark.

"Turbulence came to Fatis when I was already there and Fatis asked me if I could help this likkle youth and do some songs with him. It was just like that, a new youth come bout inna the camp. I ended up doing three songs with him and Fatis released the three of them. I think those were the first of Turbulence's releases."

 

More comparisons are unavoidable. The rapid upward trajectory that Turbulence has followed is in stark contrast to Prince Malachi's more bumpy progress. So What happened?

Things started well enough. Malachi returned to England prepared to upgrade his own studio from a mere pre-production set up, into a base camp modeled on the top Jamaican studios he'd been working in. He also recorded a superb album in London's premier recording house, Stingray. He was then hit with a personal and professional disaster. He was given a three and a half year prison sentence of which he ended up serving eighteen months.

"Its just a likkle thing that happened with me and babylon. I was provoked, I had to defend myself. It could have been much worse, but they checked up on me and found that I'm not a person like that. But they had to keep me for a little while because that's their laws. It was a self defence issue but somebody get hurt at the end of the day so that's it. But I wouldn't want it no other way because I'm still not going to let anybody tek mi life so easy or harm me. It was an experience that I wouldn't want to go through again, but maybe I will, who knows? You never know what you have to go through in life. Nobody no come as a lamb to the slaughter and Jesus gone long time. Its just the world we live in right now and there's bigger problems than my eighteen months."

 

This enforced sabbatical,at a time when he should have been promoting his excellent 'Runaway Slave' album, has made him more focused than ever. He described a typical day.

"I'll get up maybe nine thirty, have a cup of coffee, make some calls, turn on the studio and that's it. That's a normal day for me. You find that you forgot about lunch, you forgot about dinner, its now three o'clock the next morning and the sun is coming up."

He certainly has been busy. Three albums worth of material has been recorded for his own Mount Arafat label, several albums with new UK artists and numerous potential singles with more familiar voices such as Fred Locks and Colour Red. He also produced the 'H.I.M' rhythm for Swiss label Reggae Fever and another which will be out before too long. He's worked with a variety of other producers, and albums with Blakamix and Stingray will be released soon. For such an established artist he's quickly built some very fruitful relationships with less well known producers.

"Of course there's always the financial part we have to take care of. But I would rather work with a smaller label and he give me what he can, rather than work with a bigger label and he's trying to rob me. Some big labels have the resources, but they still try not to pay you. I will always work with the small producer; they put more into it and can't afford to make a mistake. But it can take a long time for the music to be released."

Some of the smaller labels that he's recorded for, such as Shanti-ites, Roots Hi-Tek and Vibes House are regarded as part of the UK Dub scene. I wondered if he felt there was any distinction between them and the yard style studios he works with.

"There is a deep distinction. I like both, but reggae music is outside the mainstream already and now UK Dub is like another department within it, even less mainstream. It's the sound culture that makes some of the music not very pleasing. Some of the people are making the dub music strictly to shake. There's no essence of melody, it's not enjoyable music, it's just to show you 'what our sound can do'. But within it there are good people like Russ (Disciples) and Word Sound & Power who make good UK Dub. I do like some of it and I like the University Of Dub vibes. I like the all nation vibes, it brings a different balance in the place."

 

Prince Malachi has the valuable ability to move between Jamaica and the UK, and to be perfectly attuned to the different reggae styles. However it's the Jamaican way of working that he sees as his greatest asset.

"You know seh how in Jamaica tings move at a different speed? If you can't move at that speed and deliver to that level in the time that's allocated, then you're not in the premier division. Everybody always knew I was born in England, but because of the way I deal with the ting, they see me as a Jamaican artist. When you're seen as a UK artist you're not really in the premier division yet. Like Luton Town y'know."

He has a chuckle at the poor fortune of his home town football team and explains,

" It's just the speed. Everybody is capable of doing it, it's just getting your head round it.You have to be up to the time. It really is a state of mind. Many artists have to go back to Jamaica to get the real vibes, but you don't have to be in Jamaica to create the real vibes. From you know it, you can reproduce it anywhere on the globe. It's not really about the place where you live, it's about the chant that you're chanting."

 

Photos taken and questions answered with a minimum of fuss and a sunny disposition, Malachi gives an insight to his state of mind at this stage in his career.

" I was away for a while and I feel like I got a lot of catching up to do. It was a waste of time. Right now I just have to be moving at double speed."

With which he says his goodbyes and sets off, checking messages on two mobile phones as he goes.

 

July 2006

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Prince Malachi photographed by www.rainbowconsulting.co.uk