"He's going to be a singer..." said one of the nurses at his birth, since he was the loudest of all children.

In the past eight months Berlin-based German reggae dancehall artist Speaker Davis, formerly known as Junior Banton, has released quite a few noteworthy self-produced tunes on his own Speaker Movement imprint, but also on labels such as SWS and Urban Tree Music. Although he's been active for quite some time and thus isn't exactly a newcomer, these releases show that he's one of the rising home-grown stars on the German reggae and dancehall scene. Time to link up with this much promising artist and introduce him to the reggae massive worldwide.


Q: You were born and grown in Solingen, Germany, but your roots are in the Balkan. Can you tell us something about that?

A: Yes, my parents are both Serbs who used to live in Croatia. They immigrated to Germany in the sixties. While working in Germany we would spend the summer in Croatia building a house and home for the future. This is what many people did at that time until the war. So I grew up in that old Yugoslavia system, never knowing about the separation that exists today. Neither did I know that religion plays such an important role. Luckily my parents did never preach me any nationalism or false pride concerning my roots. It was the war making me realize that there are different flags.

Q: The city where you grew up isn't exactly a place where reggae music is part of everyday life. How did you actually get in touch with reggae music?

A: Through many ways. First time I got in touch with Reggae music was 1988 in Yugoslavia. That was that UB40 tape, never knowing it was Reggae. Second time was about 1992 in Germany from an African schoolmate. She made me a tape with Bob Marley music. At that time I was also listening to bands like Bad Brains and Sublime, who also did Reggae songs. In 1997 I started working for a photographer, who also is a big music lover and DJ. He was the one who had about 30-40 maybe more copies of David Rodigan shows from BFBS on tape that we used to listen to at work. The music Rodigan played really made me interested in what is going on in Jamaica. Shortly after I attended my first Rodigan dance and it was clear to me that I found my home and I would never ever again enter a usual disco.

Q: When and how did you actually get involved in making music yourself? And was it reggae from the very first beginning?

A: Well, I started playing guitar in 1991. That was through a social worker in our area. He is a very good Blues guitarist. So the first thing I learned was the Blues. He organized a rehearsal room for us to play and jam. I fell in love with that rehearsal room situation instantly because we could play music loud. Then I pulled in some friends to learn instruments as well and we had our first band. I also played bass for some time. The music we played was Punk, Emo and some Straight Edge stuff cause that is what we listened to at that time. 1997 was the end with bands and I got myself a 4-Track tape, a drum machine and some instruments. At that time I got into recording and experimenting with music. In 1998 I met with an old friend who has become a Hip Hop DJ at that time. We teamed up and started our own Sound later. I am thankful for all these musical experiences, because it helped me a lot in the understanding of music itself.


Speaker Davis

Q: You were also involved in a Soundsystem called Jaspora Sound. Can you tell us some more about your Soundsystem days?

A: We started playing officially in 2000. Don Raggamore used to select and I was on the Mic as Junior Banton. Those days were great. I am very thankful for this experience too. It was really my school in so many ways. By 2003/2004 we used to play regularly at the U-Club in Wuppertal and area. Later at our own regular in Solingen. Actually we did also a dance with David Rodigan, which was a great honour to us. Our parties really went well and people still recall those days.

Q: When did you start writing your own songs?

A: That was around 2003.

Q: Can you recall the title of the first tune you wrote?

A: Yes, the first song I wrote was "Wrapped Inna Magic".

Q: What artists would you credit as main influences, musically speaking?

A: Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Dennis Brown.

Q: On the internet you'll find a few ep's and an album ("Wrapped Inna Magic", "Hands & Heart", "Monzly Riddims", and "My Sound Dubplates vol. 1") listed under your previous moniker, Junior Banton. What can you tell us about these efforts?

A: When I started as MC for Jaspora Sound my intention was never to become a singer. So Junior Banton was my MC name. Maybe I would have chosen another name if it was for an artist. Since I was not thinking about an artist career, I just did what I did, followed the music and kept the name Junior Banton. Mids of 2006 Jaspora Sound split up and I put the focus on singing. Most of Junior Banton recordings happened to be in Leipzig and Berlin from around 2006 on. All this music is straight from the heart and belly and without any attempt to become big or hype. I also never had a producer or a teacher except the music itself. So I had to learn about recording and everything else as well. Most of the vocal recordings I did on my own. All in all I tried to express my first ideas and share it with the world. Also I did not have a clue about selling my music or any other means of business. That is why I have put out most of the music for free.

Q: In 2006 you moved to Leipzig. Why?

A: Since my Sound had split up and I had a girlfriend in Leipzig I felt like it was time to move over and give it a try. I also got in contact with Upliftment Intl from Leipzig same time which made it more interesting to me, cause I was willing to work with them and they had interest too. So I decided to leave Solingen.


Speaker Davis

Speaker Davis

Q: There you teamed with Upliftment Intl and, at that time one of the leading German producers, Pionear from Germaican Records. How was working with them?

A: All in all it was a great and productive time and I am thankful for that. It was much fun working with them.

Q: Did you record any tunes for Upliftment Intl and/or Pionear?

A: For Upliftment I did the combination "Daggadang" with Mandingo Warrior on the "Question Riddim", which was released in January 2011 via Germaica Digital, but it was recorded in Berlin at HotBoxRecords Studio. I did a lot of dubs and recordings with Flo from Upliftment, but no recordings with Pionear.

Q: Then you relocated again. This time to Berlin. What did that bring you as an artist?

A: Well... it brought some more fans, experience, knowledge, links, music, touring, recognition and some friends. Berlin made me definitely grow in many ways. I am also very thankful to Ganjaman and the rest of Berlin who have welcomed me. As talking of big commercial success or breakthrough there was none of it yet. Now and then I do a collaboration with other producers, but basically I have to keep pushing things on my own like everybody else does. That is one of many reasons why I started with Speaker Movement.

Q: You worked with Ganjaman, who is quite active in Berlin's reggae scene. How important was he for the further development of your musical career? What did you learn from him?

A: He was important as everybody else who helped me along the way. But he has helped me a lot and in many ways, not only musically but also personally. The most important thing he has taught me, besides some mixing and mastering tips, is that we all are one. Individual, which means we cannot be divided.


Speaker Davis

Q: As Junior Banton you had slowly but steadily established your name, at least at a national level. Why did you decide to continue your career under a new moniker, Speaker Davis?

A: First of all the name Junior Banton was not original enough to me anymore even though people liked it much and like I said it was my MC name from soundsystem days. I also wanted a break from all those experiences I had with Junior Banton. Even though there were a lot of highs there were also some disappointments. Still it is all good, because that was necessary and made me grow. The main reason is because I wanted a new start and a new name whereby taking things to another level.

Q: When you have to compare Junior Banton with Speaker Davis, what would you say is the main difference?

A: It is the faith in oneself.

Q: Since you started calling yourself Speaker Davis you have released some 10 singles, some of them are lovers tunes while others like "Dem Never", "Live As One", and "Live The Life" are conscious tunes. Do you think that conscious lyrics can exert an influence on society?

A: I know that it does, same way as the "lyrics" of popular music and advertisement have a massive and subconscious effect on our society. Since the word is so powerful, conscious lyrics and especially Reggae (Rebel) music are kept away from the masses because that would cause a drastic change in how we are living, how we think and treat each other. Reality is that kids are exposed to gaga, sex, party and violent lyrics and indeed it is much easier to party than to reflect on life. The thing is that to some people certain Artists are not only Artists but Idols and more. So they will listen to what they say and put it in their life never knowing that many times these artists have not even written a single word. As in everyday life words can determine your destiny. Someone said "Watch your thoughts because they will become your words. Watch your words because they will become your feelings..." So if the word can save one life then the mission is accomplished. I am not saying that everything is irie when you do conscious lyrics. That is more the case for party lyrics. Conscious lyrics are there for a message, betterment and reflection. What if Bob Marley never did sing "One Love" or "Exodus"? Sadly, most of times conscious lyrics reach only those people who already have a link to it. If your surroundings do not give you this link then it is hard to link up. I will give you one example for the power of the word. When they sold Bob Marley's Album "Survival" in Africa, the government has ordered to censorship and cut the song "Africa Unite" with a razor so it was impossible for the people to play and listen to the message. It was because the government was afraid of the effect this song and words would have on the people.


Q: You've also recorded two combination tunes with little known Jamaican artist Scorcha. How did you link up with him?

A: Jah has his own plans. The song "Love" was supposed to be done with another artist, but it all did not work out. So one day after I had cancelled the combination, Scorcha has linked me on myspace. I did not know him before, but liked his style and music and felt like I should ask him if he is willing to collaborate and luckily he was. Since then we have become good friends. Still I have not managed to visit him and his Prince Valley Guesthouse in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. But this will happen one day for sure. So then after a while we both felt like we could do another song together which happened to be "What A Heat". If Jah is willing I would even do a whole combination album with him one day.

Q: Gentleman is a prime example of a German artist who has done many collaborations with Jamaican artists. Who would be on your wishlist if you were offered the opportunity to collaborate with Jamaican artists?

A: There are many artists I would collaborate with. I think important is if there is a certain chemistry between the people who work together in order to get the best results. If I had to name some artist it would be the Marley's, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Shabba Ranks, Pinchers, Beres Hammond, Tarrus Riley, Jah Cure, Jah 9, Lady Saw, Ce'Cile, Kris Kelli and still many more.

Q: Your singles have whet the appetite for a full length album. When can we expect that to hit the streets?

A: That is in the future. No dates yet.

Q: Other plans for the near future?

A: Yes many, but Jah has its own too. Blessed Love.
Interview by Teacher & Mr. T
(Please do not reproduce without permission)