In conversation with the UK Mc and drummer Horseman
Already a drummer for some time, Winston Williams, aka Horseman, made his MC debut back in 1985, on the Rusty International label. The UK’s premier reggae drummer, Horseman, has worked with producers such as Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood, Scientist, Jah Shaka, and Prince Fatty, to name a few. His vocals and riddims appear on countless records over 30 years of studio and stage experience.
Music runs in his veins, as his father operated a sound system and his mother, singer Miss Girlie, recorded with the legendary singer Laurel Aitken in the 50s and 60s. Horseman released only one solo album in 2014, Dawn of the Dead, produced by Prince Fatty at Studio Dub in Thailand. His album is like a one-man show, where Horseman does the vocals, plays drums and percussions, and piano. His 14 years of the ongoing collaboration with Prince Fatty has created riddims for amazing records by artists like Hollie Cook, The Skints, Mutant Hi-Fi, Little Roy, The Last Poets, Shniece Mcmenamin and Monkey Man.
The interview with Winston Williams was a master class in social consciousness.
| What were your first steps in music?
My first tune was called My name is Daddy Horseman, for Rusty International Records. It is a double AA side. My second tune, The Horse Move, was my number one for four weeks in the British reggae charts. And my third tune, Chicken Flap, meant the beginning of the beautiful friendship with the one and only Ricky Ranking, who is featured on the song.
The song Kunta Kinte, by Mad Professor, was one of the first drumming recordings I have done, back in 1981. I don’t know why he reworked it in 2005 with a drum machine.
But yeah, my musical journey feels like it has been alright. I got some stings in the past when people after the show never paid me. But I stood my ground, and I was adamant, they had my service, now it’s time to pay for it. Worldwide my advice is "Respect the musicians".
| Which were the MCs who inspired you in that time?
Early B is one of my favorites. My aim is to send a powerful message, just like him. The fact that he passed away was a blow to the MC circuit. That brings on a good chat, because people tell me "Go on and deejay!". DJ stands for disc jockey, but I don't spin turntables. My craft is to MC, as an artist, after drumming. People nowadays are trying to mix them, and they create confusion in the industry. I have to clarify that on my side. Horseman is an MC, and so was Early B, Yellowman, and Ninjaman. I played drums first, and took the mic after, but some people get it confused and consider it the other way around. Drums come first!
| Your debut album, Dawn Of The Dread, came in 2014. How do you feel it today?
I am very happy with the Dawn Of The Dread project. The tune Ghetto, about our sufferation as Black People living on the far edge of town, is still so very true. That happens on purpose, people like politicians want that to happen. Another one of the songs on the album is Computer, where I talk about our computer age today, but I also put a little humor in there. I love throwing in different flavors, like the song Reality Time. It is time for musicians to present our reality on their albums. I have two versions of it, the one on the album and another one with more MC lyrics.
It's wonderful that I could do an album and come to think about it, some people doubted me. When they heard the album, they all went "Yes Horsey! Yes, man! You represent the UK." I actually had to go to Sriracha, Thailand, to do that album with Prince Fatty at Jahdub Studio. The owner is a guy called Ga-Pi. It was a very nice experience with the studio being just by the sea. As a matter of fact, Prince Fatty has now the studio in the same building.
Of course, I wanted to do an album before 2014, the idea was constantly there, but somehow, I had to meet the proper producer. It is a matter of chance. I had the fortune to meet Mike Pelanconi aka Prince Fatty. My good friend Reedy, who lives in Thailand, had also an important role. Together with them, we created the Dawn Of The Dread concept. I have very good collaborations on it too: Tippa Irie on The Yout, Earl 16 on Sweet Reggae Music, and Winston Reedy on Ghetto.
Technically, I played the drum patterns from scratch and I also played keyboards, my favorite keyboard bass on the album. Ga-Pi was also a good engineer on the riddim tracks. It wasn't an easy process. For me, it is a tuff album. The way it was arranged and working on some of the lyrics was hard. I didn't want to jump on a bandwagon, like the rest of the guys out there. I wanted a proper UK digital album. Just like in Jamaica.
It was a four-star album in most musical magazines, and the reviews were very good. As a drummer, it meant something that people appreciated my MC skills too. We released it on Mr. Bongo, but in the last few years Prince Fatty has decided not to work with them anymore, it's just a shame their thing didn't go right. Since the eighties, I started two labels that I could have used, but that was our choice than in 2014. But now, there is the Prince Fatty label. We've been making great tunes ever since! And plus, we smoked some nice Thai weed while making it. Hahaha, lots of sunshine, it couldn't go wrong!
Horsemane and Prince Fatty
| How did you start working with Prince Fatty?
First things first, the name Prince Fatty, people imagine a big sized, meaty guy, and in reality, you get a slim Italian man. His weight is in the sound and concept. He has the proper foundation, and this is why he is fat sound-wise. This is why we work so bloody well good together. We read our minds and complete our sentences, we meet halfway and put it down.
I first met Prince Fatty when I was doing a session for a group called the Americs. We went to the studio to check it out. I am setting up my kit, and it sounded rich, fat, and nice. Roni Lion was on bass, Jazzbo and Bubblers on keys. We recorded five songs, and then we took a break. When I heard the recordings, I said wow - analog sound base, it sounded excellent. Three years later, we had another session, and again the sound was extra good. So, it is 14 years now since we are working together. His latest album, In The Viper's Shadow, is out, and he is working on the next one. And this one is about evil dictators. Wait to see the artwork cover!
But I have to big him up every time. Prince Fatty is very passionate about studio equipment. When he was sixteen, he used to do editing for TV adverts, and he learned the craft. I was listening to a tune by Gaudi, and I just realized: "Oh! That's me! That's my brother Drumtom, who lives in Wales. Then that's me again!". I have to talk with him and ask how many drum tracks I've done with him so far.
Recently, me and Prince Fatty have just finished a new album: Prince Fatty presents Shniece in a Disco Deception. We launched the lyrics video for Take Me As I Am, and it has good radio airplay on BBC: Rodigan and Craig Charles. I look at it like this: it is where it is supposed to be. Sometimes your local pirate station doesn’t show support, you must forward the tune to the people who appreciate it. I always say "Music is life, it has to go on! Even in lockdown!".
| What other producers have you worked with?
I like working with all producers and I love it that everyone has a different style: Mad Professor, Scientist, Prince Fatty or Adrian Sherwood. I am easy to work with as a drummer, sometimes I come up with the advice: Put the drum bass up a little bit, take down the snare! And, boom! Leave it right there! You can mix it!. And it works. When I hear it back on a CD or vinyl, it comes out just right with enough weight. I've heard too many tunes on the radio with the drums too light. You want to turn up the volume when they come on. Hey, all producers out there, music is supposed to sound warm. You don't have subs, but reggae music needs that, the drum and the bassline must pound. If you want a natural sound with treble, mid-range, and bass, set up your sound. That is the key element! You got to have more than two different kinds of tops, two kinds of mid-range, and then the same with the bass. It must sound nice!
When I work with Prince Fatty, for example, we insist on a four-string bass. No five! The songs sound beautiful in dub and reggae with a four-string. Robbie Shakespeare, Flabba Holt, Ashton Family Man Barrett from the Wailers, they all use four strings.
My collaborations with producers like Mad Professor and Adrian Sherwood in the studio are also hard-rocking live sessions. With Scientist, I did a six-day full live tour. Rory Taylor from Liverpool's Positive Vibration festival hooked us up. Man, that festival is good and irie. Rory is a good booking agent, big up!
[Left] Horseman poster by Thomas Sumner / [Right] Scientist & Horseman by Ellen G
| What are your upcoming projects?
I have two websites going on now: Drumdrops Volume 1 to 5, and Horseman Drums. You can find there 68 brand new, full length drum performances, ranging from 65-142 bpm, recorded by Prince Fatty at the Ironworks (Brighton), and at the Fish Market (London). The recordings are made to the highest standards, using professional vintage analog equipment. All performances laid out in classic reggae style with an intro, fills, and variations. The drum multi-tracks include separate kick, snare, hat, toms, overheads, percussion, and a spring reverb for authentic style. The drum kits used include vintage Sonor, Ludwig, and a 1970’s Rodgers Big-R, tuned with precision by me.
Musically, my latest tune is Do It Again with Natty Campbell, on the Reggae Roast album. It is inspired by the Longshot Kick The Bucket riddim by The Pioneers. That riddim is very unpredictable. And yeah, the Shniece collaboration, Take Me As I Am.
| How was the COVID lockdown for you? Did you enjoy the time for making music?
Worldwide, we should not forget the foundation, we as people have to enjoy life and rejoice. Music helps people, I am not talking about gangsta criminals and sex lyrics, that is not helping, not educating. Keep reggae clean, keep all music clean.
I am taking it easy, not fretting that I can't go outside. I was chilling from the first day. I took the time out for music. The last vocal I did was a version of KRS-One.
So, make way for the upcoming artists and keep the music alive! I can see it now in 2021, everywhere we will have thousands of people at live shows, they will rejoice that this pandemic is over. Every house will have a sound system playing music outside. I am not a big fan of streaming, I have my tunes on all the platforms, but I love live music. Come 2021, and we will all see a musical uplifting.
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