Like his childhood friend Johnny Clarke, Linval Thompson has meant a whole lot for the development in Jamaican roots music and the dancehall style alike, perhaps even more than what he gets credit for these days. Linval also set out to produce independently from an early stage, creating the Strong Like Sampson and Thompson Sound imprints for his own efforts and music by the happening and upcomings acts of the time such as Mystic Eyes, Big Joe, U Brown and Barrington Levy to name a few. In fact, his role as producer got so successful that he - alongside his old friend Henry 'Junjo' Lawes (since deceased) - dominated the Jamaican dancehall scene for several years, utilizing the once so mighty Roots Radics sound for his sparse and heavy productions fondly remembered from those times. A Thompson production was looked upon as pure quality from start to finish, and now some twenty-three years after these glorious days in the producer seat, he can easily pick from a highly regarded catalog of eighties music which will continue to be in demand for reissues in many years to come. I hooked up with him while visiting Paris in May, 2004. Thanks to Mr Thompson for his time, Romain and Nicolas (Makasound), Robert Schoenfeld, Tim P, Donovan Phillips, Michael de Koningh, and Steve Barrow.

Q: You're born in Kingston, Linval?

A: Yeah. Born in Kingston, yeah.

Q: Where in the city?

A: Well, it was Kingston 13, yunno. Then I really left off for New York in the early seventies.

Q: What year was this?

A: Well, it was about '71. Yeah. '71, for maybe about a year and a half.

Q: What was the reason for that move again?

A: Well, my parents was living in America and they really say I have to really come and join them, y'know. Ca' I was a young boy, so you don't know. You haffe do what the parents say, you know dem way deh? It was nutten I could do to help that.

Q: Why did they move to America, they had relatives already staying there?

A: Well, my parents lookin' a better life, y'know. That was the first thing I think, yunno, that time I don't really understand, y'know what I mean, what's going on with them. But I figured that now, they was lookin' a better life. So I did have to really go along after.

Q: So in Jamaica you grew up with your grandparents then, or your aunt, for a period of time?

A: No, no grandparents. My father used to live there, I live with my father. But my mother leave before us, and then we go after.

Q: Right, just a couple of years after.

A: Well, she was there a good lickle time still, but maybe about four or five years after we follow she. So I just go for maybe a year or so, a year or two.

Q: Where specifically in Kingston was this area you grew up, like Denham Town or thereabouts?

A: No, I think that is Waltham area, Waltham Park area, Kingston 13. The Waltham Park area. Yeah. We go to Maxfield Park school and we go to Melrose and then we go to Kingsway High School.

Linval Thompson
Q: You hooked up with any of the schoolmates who became known in the music later on?

A: Yeah, yeah. Yeah man, we have Jacob Miller used to go to same school with me, me and him used to up and down, like. Like lunchtime, come up a lunch, go back to school. And Johnny Clarke live in the same area, Chinna Smith go to the same school, Maxfield Park. Yeah. And we have some lickle more artists there, like Douglas Boothe.

Q: Oh yes.

A: Yeah, yeah. It's longtime, but him kinda out of the business, but he was around too that time.

Q: Do you know what happened to Douglas?

A: Yeah! I see him sometime last year, I think he live in Canada. I see him. We was talking, ca' him is my good friend. I think it's Toronto, him come and go in Jamaica sometime.

Q: OK. So how did you get acquainted in New York?

A: Well, I tell you the truth, my focus was on music. I did have that vibes, a strong vibe that I want to do some music. You know, I was searchin' for that. Searchin' fe that, everywhere I go I was searchin' fe that. So that was my focus, y'know.

Q: Your family sang in church?

A: No, I tell you the truth, they wasn't really musical. None a dem. I think I is the one who get the blessing with music.

Q: What stuff did you play at home?

A: Play at home? Well, we used to play pans at night, dem way deh. All dem lickle tile deh (chuckles). You know? Tried to create some musical t'ing. Tried to make stageshows, sing outside, y'know what I mean? Go all bout and sing, and people come around and say yes, yes, yes! Yeah man, anywhere the music is, we go there and sing and create a vibes, I don't talk the record yet. Yeah man, just like that.


Q: So did you link with anybody as far as music goes while in New York, to enter it seriously?

A: Well, in New York, me and Horace Andy used to...

Q: It was in Queens, wasn't it?

A: It was in Queens, yeah. Me and Horace Andy used to link up...

Q: Who? Horace?

A: Me and Horace Andy, yeah.

Q: Oh, so he was in New York during that time?

A: Yes man, he was living there also, man. Yeah man, we link up and I formed a band and he used to come and we put on some shows and t'ing.

Q: What was the band?

A: That was my band.

Q: Called what?

A: Yes, it was my band. I used to get equipment from all over, them used equipment, yunno. And me and Horace Andy we formed, have a band and keep doing shows. Never forgot that, we was pickin' about that last week too, me and Horace.

Q: You recall the name of this band?

A: (Chuckles) No. No, I never really think we... I don't think we had a name really, for the band.

Q: You gigged at small house parties and all that?

A: Yeah, we doing that once or twice. I think we tried to plan some shows for ourselves.


Linval Thompson

Q: What was the next step for you in New York, this is when you met this guy E.W Martin?

A: Well Martin, yeah. He used to be a good friend, y'know. When he see I, I done my first song. He did hold a record store. So I did have to take my song to him to sell in the store. So when he see that he was kinda interested to go in the business, y'know, so he start to invest in one of the songs them.

Q: He wasn't involved in production before this?

A: No, he never produce nutten before that, he just used to buy and sell record. He wasn't producin' nutten before that.

Q: Was that the song you did with Bunny Rugs (of Third World fame)?

A: No, Bunny Rugs, he did in a band, the band what we used he used to sing with that band, Buccaneers.

Q: What was the link between you and Bunny over there?

A: Well, you have a guy named... ahh, him sound like... oh gosh, I can't remember his name! He sound like... him have a sound like John Holt. I think Mick Jagger did sing one of his song over, and I think he lose that case. I forget his name though, man.

Q: Patrick Alley?

A: Patrick Alley! Patrick Alley, he is the one I linked with first in America, and he introduce me how to go to the studio and get the band organised and all a that. He's the one, Patrick Alley. Right. How you know 'bout this, man?

Q: (Laughs) A bell rang. I've heard about that case.

A: He's the one, he is the one in music as a young artist in America that time. Yeah, he's the one. And from there I find him, and I'm glad to find him, beca' I want to also sing and record, y'know what I mean. So I have my lickle money, and he say yes, take me to the band, would rent the studio, and take me where I could get my label put together and all a that. And that's the way everything start, just like that.

Q: How was reggae in New York at that time? It wasn't as strong as you could expect with all the Caribbean people already living there?

A: Well (chuckles)... it was weak, y'know. Weak, weak. Bad, yunno. It was small, very, very small. But you know, when we see anybody in reggae, we glad. We glad, yunno. Yes, when we see a record shop, we glad!


Q: You recall any prominent names on the New York scene at this time, like Brad (Osbourne) from the Clocktower label?

A: Brad! Brad was... bwoy, he was the one that I think help reggae in America, trust me! Ca' Brad is the one that I used to go to, and he loved the record, he loved the reggae. He tried, man. He put out the money and do everything, mek sure it press and everything, yunno. And he love my style. Yeah man! He is the one I think who maybe do something for me in America, Brad.

Q: You had one LP on his Clocktower label, 'Six Babylon' in 1977.

A: No, that was my album and I take it to him, and he kinda restructure it with some different tracks. Maybe we voice back a couple more, like two or three more tracks in America.

Q: He did the basic remix.

A: Yes, and we also voice it too, over there too. Changed the voice, everything. His style, y'know. He always have a style, yunno. So I think that's what he do. And he tried to get it out in America, and then I always head for England after.

Q: Before that now, what became of this tune with Bunny Rugs, which was like a duet, or him on backing vocals only.

A: No, we never did a song together, yunno. We never did a song, but we meet in America, through the band, and we did have to use that band to make my record. And that's the time I meet him, he wasn't singer or nutten, but... like how you know him now as a singer, he wasn't nutten like a name singer, just like a new man and trying to mek somet'ing happen.

Linval Thompson
Q: What was the label for that tune ('No Other Woman')?

A: What? Oh, my song? Oh yeah, I make up a label named 'Elsa'.

Q: 'Elsa'?

A: Yeah.

Q: You still have that recording?

A: No.

Q: Would like to hear that one, one day.

A: Yeah well, I think, I dunno, I have a copy some place that I put down there. Yeah, I think so.

Q: Then you went like back and forth between Jamaica and New York.

A: Yes, back and forth, back and forth. Right.

Q: What made you stay in Jamaica eventually? It was before you hooked up with Lee Perry or Bunny (Lee), or you had met one of them up in New York?

A: Well, it's like...

Q: What I've heard is that Johnny Clarke encouraged you to try and stay for a longer period and approach the happening producers at the time.

A: Well, I think all of that too. But you know, the music was happening in Jamaica, so I think it's better I want fe be like a popular singer, I think if I stay in Jamaica that is also helping, y'know what I mean? So I think that's the vibes, it's better I start to base in Jamaica, so I can try to make some more songs. Producer can see you, and (get) interested that time really, y'know.

Q: Was Phil Pratt the first producer you started to record for in Jamaica? How did it all happen when you went there?

A: Well, what happen, I think I take back one of my song that I make in New York, and I think like guys hear the song, and they liked that style as a new artist coming up. That time you never have many new artists really in Jamaica, y'know what I mean. So when they hear a new sound, everybody get interested. So I think when they hear that new sound, they get excited. So they want to know me and they want to record me. So I think they have a guy named Stamma...

Q: Stamma?

A: Him, Stamma (Hobson). Stamma, I think he is the first one record me, ca' he did have a song. Dennis Brown did have a song, was going on big in Jamaica that time named 'Westbound Train', and Stamma hear my style, and Stamma have a riddim track what he say him want me to sing on. I sing on the track, and that track kinda get popular around town in Orange Street area. So what he was trying to do was like a competition with Dennis Brown, you understan' me? Yeah. And then Phil Pratt come in, and we start that day and we do a song, and it start from there. Then Lee Perry start and we all start there. Then Bunny Lee start and everything get big. You know what I mean? You have a new star come up now.

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