"This album is produced by one of Jamaica's youngest producers on the musical reggae scene today. A young man who undoubtedly has the ambition to produce some of the best style of reggae in the near future. As you may know his name is Leonard Chin better known by many others only as Santic. This I must say is this young man's first album. We must also agree with him for giving the album the title 'Harder Shade Of Black'." (Original liner Notes: 'Harder Shade Of Black')
I was always a humble youth... just a youth who did his own thing. My first recording in Jamaica I sung it, I wrote it but... I'm really very nervous and, because I love it, I want to be there. Deep inside I'm very nervous. You might not believe me, but I know that I am and I don't really like being up front too much... even though I think it's nice if you're doing something and you achieve something. When I let go the singing and became a producer people don't really have to know me or see me... it's just what people hear. Let them think "Who is this person?" That's what I always used to think in those times and my part was just putting out tunes.

When I came in the business men like Bunny Lee and them were much older people than me, that's what I thought, he was a bigger man in the business. I was just a youth getting in there. It's not really about everybody liking you but, with most of them, I was alright... they'd let me feel like I belonged. Maybe, as a youth, I was likeable. At the time I was the youngest producer coming out of Jamaica after Gussie Clarke. The other day Bunny was saying to me "Santic you're a legend, you know!" and I said "Come on Bunny! What are you talking about?" He said "Within that short space of time you were producing records in Jamaica you produced more hits than most of us! And you never had no big company like Dynamics behind you to help you either. One youth man making hit after hit! 'Pablo In Dub', 'Children Of Israel', 'Lovers Mood', 'Problems' 'Late Hour' with I Roy, 'I'm A Free Man' with Freddie McKay..."

Before even 'Pablo In Dub' I was recording a deejay named Jah Mojo. The first track I did with him was a tune named 'Nitty Gritty' and Bongo Herman was playing the drums. After that one I did a next tune with him named 'Yankee Conkee' and then I made this rhythm that I later used for 'Pablo In Dub', 'Children Of Israel' and 'Down Santic Way'. Jah Mojo did a thing on it called 'Jacamma Rock' and it sold about a thousand and fifty copies. The rhythm was good... Aston 'Family Man' Barrett played the bass on it and his brother Carlton played the drums and there was a guy named 'Snapping' who played the piano... (Theophilus Beckford was named 'Snapping' after his massive early sixties r&b into ska breakthrough record 'Easy Snapping' released on Worldisc in Jamaica and Blue Beat in England.)

Like I said when I went in the studio how old was I? Sixteen? So I was just working with those guys, but I didn't know their history... as the years went by I got to understand more and, being in the business, I learnt more and more. A lot of people my age in Jamaica wouldn't know those things so that's how I get to know. Anyway, he played the piano. The organ player was Ossie Hibbert. I did a mix for the Jah Mojo record and everybody loved the rhythm. One time Leroy Sibbles and some other people were standing up in Randy's and Leroy said "This rhythm a bad! It's like the bass carry the melody by itself" and then I decided to do a next mix of it.


Eventually... things just happen sometimes when they're supposed to happen. I went up to Randy's and mixed the tune... and for some reason Pablo just walked into the studio that evening and said "That rhythm there sound good!" So I said "Blow a thing on it now then, man!" I was into Pablo from 'Java' and was always asking him to do a tune for me and he used to smile and say I couldn't afford to pay him and all those things there. He said "You'll have to ask my manager Paul" and his manager said "Alright... do you have any weed?" My brethren, Carl Prehay, was there and he said "Yeah man... we have the boom!" And we bought a few Red Stripe beers, took the next two hours in the studio, set up the tape and he just blew through the tune a couple of times. The next one was a take and I said "This is 'Pablo In Dub'".

After 'Pablo In Dub' got on the Top Five it went to Number One for a week and then dropped back to Number Two and I asked Horace Andy if he could sing a tune on it for me. He loved the rhythm from time too... the Pablo version was so popular! Horace just came in the studio… it was a Friday morning. The day before I'd got Leroy Sibbles to put in the rhythm guitar because 'Pablo In Dub' never had a rhythm guitar in it. So it was Leroy Sibbles who actually chopped the rhythm guitar in it and then, the following day, I got Horace to sing on the rhythm. We played the rhythm track and Horace ad libbed and said "Errol!' Rewind back the tape there" and he sang 'Children of Israel...' and went through it once, wrote some more lyrics, went through it again and half way through he said "Now run the tape Errol. And take it too!" We did 'Children Of Israel' and 'Problems' both at the same time. We didn't spend two hours to do all that! The lyrics were written and voiced at that moment. There and then.


Leonard 'Santic' Chin & Errol T.

Santic All Stars.

Looking back now I'm thinking, in the eighties and nineties, people would spend these relentless hours voicing, dropping in, voicing, dropping in. And nobody's happy! Doing that you have no soul! You're just like a mechanical thing. When you hear sweet things and think it can be sweeter... but it's sweet enough already! You become over technical and everybody wants to be greater than they really can be. It doesn't really happen like that. You can only be the best you can be...

The melody of 'Children Of Israel' was based around 'Sleepy Ludy' by Lynn Taitt & The Jets, a steel pan rocksteady record produced by Joe Gibbs in 1968. There were no copyright problems but Leonard nearly ran into trouble with Augustus Pablo's Santic release that he had entitled 'Harder Shade Of Black'. It was a version to The Soul Vendors' 'Darker Shade Of Black' an instrumental variation of Lennon & McCartney's 'Norwegian Wood' ('This Bird Has Flown') from The Beatles' 1965 'Rubber Soul' album. The tune had been versioned at Brentford Road three years later and credited to 'Scorcher' when released on the Studio One label but it was not Brian Epstein who came looking for Leonard...


After 'Harder Shade Of Black' Mr Dodd come look for me! He wanted to thump me in the head because I'd done over his tune so I had to hold off out of Randy's for a few days! I didn't know it was a Beatles tune then because his name was on the label as the writer! It was Leroy Sibbles that played the bass on it (Leroy had also played bass on the Soul Vendors cut) and 'Peace In The Valley' and the Gregory Isaacs 'I'll Be Around' with 'Tin Leg', Lloyd Adams, on drums. But after all that when I saw Mr Dodd he was alright. I think he was surprised to see me being so young: "That youth doesn't carry on like the rest of them rude boys! So just 'low him…"

At those times there were very few people making instrumentals. It was always vocals or deejays but for me, even Pablo, people would just put Pablo blowing but I loved the clavinet sound. The sound had a little coarseness but it had a little sweetness about it at the same time. That's how 'Peace In The Valley', 'Columbo', 'Hap Ki Do', 'One Thousand Swords' the version of the Gregory Isaacs tune, the 'Darker Shade Of Black' version or whatsoever came about. 'Cause to me whether Pablo was blowing or playing the clavinet he just had that in his bones: if he liked it he'd play on it but he's not going to play on any rhythm he doesn't like. To me it was always new things.

Rhythm without vocals is a different feeling… that's how 'Up Wareika Hill' came about….just like 'Pablo In Dub'. It was instant and 'Lovers Mood' was the same thing. I named all those tunes. Me and Pablo were talking and he'd just played some tunes in Randy's and I said "What's that one named?" and then said "Yeah man! This tune is named 'Up Wareika Hill'" and I named the tune! It was just that sound and what was going on up Wareika Hill. A bad boy kind of tune but sweet within overall... like a militant tune. The feeling that I got from it and the environment... just like the other tunes I named from watching movies like 'One Thousand Swords' and 'Columbo'. When the name comes you know it's the right name for it.


Augustus Pablo at home. (Photo: Brian Jahn)

But I made a lot of mistakes as well. I've lost certain things because I didn't know anything about mechanical rights and those things. That wasn't part of what we were doing. I didn't think "I need to do this because later on something might happen". You never thought money might be there later on... that many years from now these tunes would still be circulating. So mainly in those times I never was a business man! I just wanted to be in the studio making music; everything else was pressing, getting artists their money at a certain time but my head wasn't really in that... I felt I shouldn't be doing this. It's not really what I'm in it for. I needed to be in it for that as well but I paid the price. You know what I mean?

When I first came to London (10th February 1974) I had a jacket with short sleeves and a jumper... bell foot pants… I thought I was criss! I didn't feel the cold so much at first. I was told it was cold but maybe it's the shock of it! I wasn't thinking of it. I spent three months here. London was strange but it was nice... I was staying with Bert from Ital Records. I'd met Bert in Jamaica. At the time he'd asked me for some tunes to release in England... he used to have a sound named Sir Nation that played at a place called St Andrews Hall and the first night I came, it was a Sunday, we all went to The Swan in Stockwell. I think Lord David was playing there.

When you went to a club or a dance to me it was quite peaceful. You'd go to a club, wherever the venue was, and it would be packed and maybe you would brush against someone and say 'Sorry!' and that was it. God help you if it had happened at home in Kingston! So to me it was really peaceful... me and my girl could be walking on the street maybe three or four o'clock in the morning. The only thing that crossed my mind was I used to hear them talking about these Teddy Boys... but they had well faded out by then. It was a nice place to be apart from the cold. By then I'd started to realise that it was cold! And I thought to myself I would like to live somewhere like this.

London was more forward as well because music that was recorded back home... some of them were reaching here long before they were released in Kingston. I put together the 'Harder Shade Of Black' album in London from the singles and put it out with Bert... I never knew I was going to release an album! The lady on the cover is my first wife. She's the mother of three of my kids. I actually took the photograph myself. It's Downs Park in East London…


(Leonard then returned to Jamaica to do more recording and to promote Santic Records from his office in downtown Kingston.)

At the time I had a little office upstairs on the corner of Beeston Street... you have King Street then Chancery Lane. Keith Hudson had an office up there, Wailers had their Tuff Gong Record Shop and Bill Hutchinson had an office. On Wednesdays all of us would meet up after the movies, Gussie Clarke, Pablo, Jacob Miller and we'd go wherever the best movie was playing whether it was Regal or Carib Theatre. The Kung Fu movies were strong at the time.

In Jamaica if I was using four men. Drums, bass, rhythm and keyboards and one hundred and twenty dollars could have given you three good rhythms with the best musicians! It was ten dollars a track... ten dollars for each man. At the time even making the rhythms would be good enough 'cause when you had the rhythms then you could look for artists to put some lyrics on things. Most of the artists were around and if I had the finances... Winston Rodney, the Burning Spear, actually came and checked me but I said "I have to go to England again" and when I came back... There were quite a few people I would have liked to work with and there were people I had the chance to work with. So I could have worked with Winston Rodney… and Dennis Brown. Dennis said he'd do a tune for me "One Of These Days" but we never got round to it.

I didn't know anything about abroad but one day I'd be out of Jamaica and shown somewhere else and then you'll learn things somewhere. That's the way it goes. But when you're not foreseeing... we can always look back on things but we can't change the past.

Sources : Interviews with Leonard 'Santic' Chin, London, UK that took place on 29th December 2004, 29th October 2009 and 16th November 2009
Used by kind permission of Noel Hawke/Pressure Sounds