|Alpheus, a singer with a sweet, R&B-influenced voice, first drew the reggae fan's attention when Heartbeat Records released the various artists collection "Studio One Dancehall Selection ~ 14 Current Hits" in 1998, which featured two of his earliest recordings done for the late Coxsone Dodd. In the following year his Studio One debut album "Quality Time", again released by Heartbeat Records, was received with critical acclaim and gave Alpheus major exposure. For quite a few years not much was heard from Alpheus, but after having released some real fine 7" singles over the past two years or so, he's now back on track with a brand new 17 track album for Special Delivery Music entitled "Everything For A Reason".|
Q: First off, where and when were you born?
A: I was born in the late late sixties in London, England.
Q: Is music in your family bloodline?
A: Hmmmn? Yes, I think music is in my family bloodline. There are some names that could be involved, but I don't want to say who they are until I have them confirmed.
Q: What kind of music were you buying or listening to when you were in your teens?
A: Let me see, good question... My first record I bought, I think, was "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire, from Woolworths in Cricklewood London when I was 12 or 13 years old. That's where I used to buy nufff of my music, all kind of tunes... Soul groups and music like Lynx, Kool & The Gang... all kinda Soul, then to Reggae... classic Lovers rock... Donna Rhoden, Keith Douglas... to Dennis Brown, Studio One, sooo many styles of music I bought.
Q: Can you recall some of the tunes that made a serious impression in those days?
A: I would say that Earth, Wind & Fire albums made an impression on me and John Holt's "1000 Volts" albums and Marcia Griffiths' album with the tunes "Truly" and "Lonesome Feeling". My mother was always playing these two albums, so they kind of imprinted in my brain, yu know.
Q: Who were your early influences?
A: Sam Cooke definitely, Don Carlos, Michael Gordon, Dennis Brown, Thriller U. Then in later years artists like Chad Brock, Frankie Paul, too many to mention.
Q: Your artist name Alpheus, what's the story behind that name?
A: Yeah man... great question, it's a pleasure to answer this one. Hmmmn... Well my father's name is Alpheus, and he was like my best friend as well as an excellent father, and when he died it was a catastrophe for me at the time. So I figured... hey I am a singer now, I will call myself his name, in tribute love and respeck.
Q: How did you get into singing?
A: My good bredren, Godfather, in Miami has a Soundsystem (Don One Musical Showcase). I went to visit him in 1996 and he asked me to do some jingles, true he knows I used to DJ (MC) when I was young, so I started singing by accident really, tuning my voice for the session. Tony Brevette of The Melodians was also in the studio at the time. He heard me and said "Hey, you sound good mon." He offered to take me to Studio One in New York, which was 30 minutes from where I was living and that was basically how my singing career started, from the day I shook hands with Clement Dodd... 1997.
Q: In the late 1980s you became active in the London reggae scene, often singing with local Soundsystems like Trenchtone Rockers and Kenyatta. Can you tell us something more about those days?
A: Yeah, those days were great because at the time the in thing was to be a DJ, MC, or toaster as we called it then. At that time all of England was inspired by Saxon Sound, my favourite Soundsystem, I think they played a major part to many of us involved in Reggae music in England at that time. Many aspiring artists and I used to chat da mic on Sounds like Kenyatta, Trenchtone Rockers and Aces. I really loved those days... Soundsystem is in my blood, yu know what I mean.
Q: Then you migrated to the United States. Had it something to do with your musical ambition?
A: No absolutely not! I had no desire at all to be a singer or artist when I migrated to the States. I was very fortunate to kinda stumble on this musical journey.
Q: How did your recording career start?
A: Well, when Tony Brevette introduced me to Clement Dodd, within the first hour they put me in the studio at Studio One. I then had to sing for the first time a song called "Why You Gotta Leave Me" on the 'Ting-A-Ling' riddim, and then "I Wish You Were Mine" on the 'Desperate Lover" riddim, both released a year or so after on Heartbeat Records' "Studio One Dancehall Selection". Then after that I just basically learnt to harmonise and write/structure songs.
Q: Can you recall your first meeting with the legendary mr. Dodd?
A: Yes... I walked into his store on Fulton Street NYC for the meeting with Tony Brevette. Tony was late, so as I entered Mr. Dodd was standing behind his counter, simple and cool. I never knew he was at that point, he just ask simply "Hello, what can I do for you?" I ask for Tony B., Mr. Dodd just asked me politely to wait and that was it... great vibe, because as I said I never knew who he was yet.
Q: Could you immediately start recording your own tunes?
A: Only for the audition which was the song "Why You Gotta Leave Me", but after that day I never heard that tune for a year, and didn't really start recording my own tunes until 6 months or so after that first one. It was almost like being schooled before I could actually record.
Q: How was working with sir Coxsone?
A: Working with Mr. Dodd... Wow!!! Hmmmn... Well, after a while it was like working with a good close member of your family, he made you feel very comfortable. He would get to know you, your character, your likes, dislikes, etc., etc. I think this enabled him to know if you would be suitable for certain riddims. It was spiritual for the most part, and it was nice because you trusted everything he said musically. His ear was real good.
Q: What role did he play in the production of your debut album "Quality Time"? Did he select all the riddims?
A: He selected a couple of the riddims and sat in on most of the sessions. His office was right beside the studio so he could hear what was going on in the studio. If he heard something he liked, he would come and sit in, and put some input. The riddims I selected I did not necessarily get because he would almost want to make sure the song topic and melody and your personality and character fit the riddim. He always had the last word.
Q: What happened after the release of your first full length album in 1999? You went on tour?
A: Yes, I went on tour with Everton Blender and Richie Spice in the USA. A great experience. This again was like another part of a course, because I had to learn to perform and create stage presence. I was helped a lot by Everton Blender. We had good times then, the three of us.
Q: In 1998 you signed a recording contract with Coxsone Dodd, which ended in 2002. Why wasn't there a next album for Studio One released in these years?
A: Very good question... Hmmmn? I wish there was. The way Studio One worked on each project was even more maticulous and not as rapid as the early days. There was many projects in the pipe line, albums from other great artists. Also that had to be completed. So my first album, "Quality Time", was done and I was on the road etc., we just never got around to doing another album.
Q: It's commonly known that Dodd hasn't released a notable amount of tunes he recorded with some of his artists? Did that also happen to you?
A: Yes, definitely. There are tunes unreleased of mine there at Studio One. I guess it was just Mr. Dodd's way.
Q: A lot of your songs focus on lovers themes, but now and then you also deliver tunes that deal with the problems of our world. Why?
A: Yes... I like to write and sing songs that are relative to all the world, universal tunes, relationship issues, love and turmoil, which is part of everyday life. Also conscious and uplifting tunes that people can also relate to. We have to go thru so many things on a daily basis, good and bad, struggles and joys, and as an artist I think it's important for me to sing about these things to the massive.
Q: After your contract with Studio One ended, you started recording for other labels. Early 2003 there was the song "Can't Deal With This" for Sugar Minott's 'Black Roots' imprint. What led to recording this tune?
A: OK, yes... hmmmn? I was fortunate to sing for the great Black Roots label, as you correctly say, a tune called "Can't Deal With This". I sang the tune in... errr... 2002. I saw Sugar backstage at a Glen Washington concert in London and he asked me to come and record a tune, so I went to the studios in London and recorded the tune, but he never released it.
Q: The riddim for this tune is a relick of 'Stranger In Love', a John Holt classic for Studio One. Was it chosen on purpose because of your previous works for Dodd or was it just a coincidence?
A: Actually yes, it was just a coincidence.
Q: Over the past few years the majority of your output has been produced by French duo Bost & Bim for Special Delivery Music. How did you get associated with them?
A: I met JP of Special Delivery through a man called Antoine Busquet who was working for Heartbeat Records, and really I am sooo happy I did because I then met the talented Bost & Bim.
Q: How is working with them? How is their approach, musically speaking?
A: Another good question... Hmmmn??? Working with Bost & Bim is so good because they have a very musical inner ear. They hear everything, they are very creative and usually have a ridim already in progress. And then they play it to you and so on, and sometimes I may have an idea and they instantly understand and create. What you hear, that's not easy. The chemistry, musically, between all of us (Special Delivery and Bost & Bim) was real good and that's what makes good music, also because we became good friends. They get used to you and then I think that is what makes it easier for us all to relate musically to.
Q: You recorded a few singles for Special Delivery on riddims such as "Clean Vibes", "Storm Alarm", "Dis Ya Time" and "Visions". What do you rate as the best riddim?
A: Wow... another good question... OK.. Hard to answer this one, you see, these riddims all have their own identity and styles are different. They are all good in their own right.
Q: What made that you chose these riddims to voice a tune?
A: Again I think because there is such a good communication between us. It wasn't a matter of choosing the riddims, the riddims just worked automatically. I made the choice to remake 'Dis Ya Time' because I knew Bost & Bim could do a great work, and they sure did.
Q: Earlier this year you recorded "Keep The Faith" for the 'A-Lone' label from Spain. Can you tell us something about this great song?
A: Yeesss this song yah wicked fa-real. I wrote this song because on the day I received this riddim from Roberto Sanchez I was having a bad day, yu know, just one of those days when nothing went good for you, and I was inspired by this great rocksteady riddim ('Family' riddim) to write this song. I knew all the massive could relate to a song like this. Everyday vibes, yu know!
Q: Why isn't it included on your recently released second album "Everything For A Reason"?
A: This tune is for the album I have done for 'A-Lone' label!!!!!
Q: Didn't know you have another album in the pipe line.
A: Well I have another album with 'A-Lone' label too come, when I don't know, but certainly not for right now. Roberto Sanchez would be the best to ask about that, but the 'A-Lone' produced album is DIFFERENT, more rocksteady and concious roots style, yu know!!! HEY, I'VE BEEN REAL FORTUNATE MEETING THREE TALENTED ENTITYS IN THIS MY FIRST 10 YEARS IN THE BIZNIZZ... first the great Studio One, then Special Delivery, and now 'A-Lone' label, each of which having an album of Alpheus for the massive to fulljoy...
Q: Which tracks on "Everything For A Reason" are your personal favourites and why?
A: Ok, right... That's hard because all the songs have a favourite vibe in there for me. If I have to choose I'd say "Sad Face", because it's a song about the first girl I think I ever loved, yu know! We were teenagers, and she was caught up in a physical abusive relationship with a terrible man, and she would only come and see me when she had just been beaten and hurt by him. I really wanted her, but it never really happened... I always remember her. Also "Groovy Kind Of Love", a classic song. I really like the way I sang on that track. "Rude Yute" is also a tune I consider as one of my best, lyrically. I really felt that one!! Hmmmn... Yes! And "Mother Dearest", because of the obvious.
Q: Finally, what can we expect from Alpheus in the near future?
A: Well... definitely some shows, hopefully all over the world, more songs, more albums, and certainly more positivity.
Q: Thanks for granting us this interview.
A: Thank you very much for a very mentally stimulating professional interview bredren. You always have been my favourite reggae website as you know. Thanks for all your support over the years. Love and respect.
Interview by Teacher & Mr. T|
(Please do not reproduce without permission)