Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Interview with Duane Stephenson Part Two

In part two of our interview with Duane Stephenson he talks about his talents outside of music, the football club he supports, and what it was like working with the legendary Mutabaruka.

R.R.- Rescue Me with Gramps- In the video it seemed liked you were having a really good time. True?

D.S.- Definitely! From beginning to end- from the first stage of recording to the end of the video- trus me, it was a great time. That’s what the song was basically about. Many times, as a reggae artist, we take ourselves a little bit too seriously. Sometimes you have to have a softer side to the music and a fun side and I was trying to create that fun side but still manage for it to be a great song. That balance is kind of hard to find but I accept these challenges. That’s what I try and like to excel at. I try to really make a difference in whatever direction I choose to go in. Sometimes you have to just let your hair down, roll up your sleeve, roll up ya pantsuit and just get in the water and have some fun.

R.R.- Who in the reggae world would you like to work with?

D.S.- I would have loved to have worked with Lucky Dube before he passed. There’s Alpha Blondy and I am definitely looking for the next project to do some work with Gentleman, and some of the upcoming artists. I’d like to do a track that I hope would draw the attention of U-2 because of what they represent, see if I can do some work with them. It’s a long shot but as I said, musically I don’t give myself boundaries.

R.R.- With the message you put forth and U-2’s message, your paths might cross sooner rather than later.

D.S.- Even in the heights of their career, and not that their career has fallen off any, the undertone of their music has always been about humanity and the human cause. I guess it’s because of their upbringing in Ireland and how complicated Ireland’s been in terms of its ongoing religious and civil war, classes, race. In the Caribbean and as Africans, it’s there but in terms facing trials and tribulations it’s not left to color or creed. It’s just a people thing and once you can get to that point you realize so much more that you’re not alone.

R.R.- Where were you born and was it a Christian household or Rasta?

D.S.- I was born in Kingston. I’ve always been in August Town. That’s all I know.
My father, there was almost an alliance. He’s always been into Rasta culture. Two of his brothers were actually Rastafarians back in the day when it was almost outlawed to be that way. My mother is Christian. Most Jamaicans are Christian rooted. The thing about Jamaicans is that we always look out in other directions. In terms of religion, Jamaicans are optimistic.

R.R.- Do you possess any talents besides music, writing, and singing?

D.S.- Well, I love to play tennis. I don’t play so much anymore but I used to actually coach kids. It’s a family sport somewhat. My family played tennis so I played tennis. By trade, I am a refrigeration technician. If I had continued, by now I would be an engineer but I got to technician and I decided to change fields. It’s a great field. The time that I was there I really enjoyed it.

R.R.- Are you a football fan?

D.S.- Yeah mon and I remember that you are a Tottenham fan! They're actually playing very good now. They beat Inter straight into the ground. It was a good match. Tottenham has a history so I don’t know why people are surprised right now. It’s Chelsea and Manchester spending all the money in the business but there are other great teams out there.

R.R.- You’re an Arsenal supporter, right?

D.S.- Yeah mon and simply because Arsenal deals with the most youth in international football, not just in England but anywhere in the world. It’s always Arsenal and Lyon. They have the best youths coming through their ranks.

R.R.- What music are you listening to?

D.S.- I’m a great fan of country and western, from Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift. I listen to it all. Taylor Swift is a great singer, it may sound strange that I listen to her music but I do. I’ve been listening to a lot of alternative too. I listen to a little rock, some James Brown, some Coldplay and the Rolling Stones. Angie is one of my favorite songs of all time. I go as far as Rap. I listen to mostly the old rap music, Tupac, Biggie and those guys, Public Enemy because they had so much more to say. How much are we going to listen to pretty boys, rims and cars, and girls? C’mon man, it gets boring after the first ten songs. After the first ten songs that you’ve done put words in the song now! (Laughs)

R.R.-What was it like working with Mutabaruka?

D.S.- He was so much fun to work with. You have to be quick with him. In the middle of a laugh, he’ll ask you a serious question. He is what he is. He is that powerful voice that you hear. He’s educated, powerful, and very smart. So when you’re around him- even though you laugh- you still have to keep your guard up, you have to be at the top of your game. It was great working with him! The little time we spent together, I learned so much.

R.R.- Thanks so much for taking the time!

D.S.- Thanks for having me mon! Anytime. Take care.

For a certainty, Duane Stephenson is a gentleman. In the short time that we spoke with him it was evident
that he loves life, music, and people, as if his music weren't evidence enough. It's always a pleasure to chat with someone, even if it is just for a moment, because you get a sense of what the person is all about. What Duane Stephenson is all about is simple.... he's just like everyone else. He's concerned about the condition of the world so he voices that concern the best way he knows how: through music. He realizes that you can't take life or yourself, for that matter, too seriously. "Sometimes you have to just let your hair down, roll up your sleeve, roll up ya pantsuit and just get in the water and have some fun." That was, and is, a very telling quote. Truly words to live by! Duane Stephenson also understands that he doesn't know everything. Reflecting on what he said about Dean Fraser, Gregory Isaacs, and Mutabaruka you can clearly see that he is as much, if not more so, a student than he is a teacher, ready and willing to learn on every occasion.

That in itself tells you something about his character and personality- he is a humble man. His talent is tremendous, yet he remains grounded, displaying an eagerness to grow and learn from others.
Look for great things from Duane Stephenson. U-2's next project? Duet with Taylor Swift? Writing a song for Jimmy Cliff? None of these would be a surprise. Why? To quote Duane himself: " Musically, I don't give myself boundaries."