Babylon by Rolls

Gael Doyen recently took the time to transcribe and translate an interview that Bob conduted with Rock & Folk Magazine whilst he was in Paris, France 1978 promoting the Babylon By Bus LP. The interview was carried out at the Hilton Hotel by Hervé Muller.

Hervé: Don't you think the fact that you have spent a lot of time away from Jamaica has changed your music?

Bob: We are the ones who play it. It's not Jamaica that plays music for us (he bursts out laughing)

Hervé: But you play for very different audiences, like the Paris one.

Bob: Yes but all these people want the music from Jamaica. Even in Paris we can't change the music we play. Do you see what I mean?

Hervé: What about the presence of Junior (Marvin, the Wailers' guitar player)? Didn't it stengthen the group?

Bob: Yes, Junior strengthened the group, Junior is easy...

Hervé: Do you mean as a man or as a musician?

Bob: Both. He is cool. We understand each other.

Hervé: Do you think the Wailers line-up won't change anymore?

Bob: Maybe that it will stay the same, maybe that it will change... I think any change will be additional.

Hervé: Horns?

Bob: (He suddenly laughs and gets excited) yeah mon! that's it!

Hervé: Would you like to have a horns rhythm section again, like in the days of ska?

Bob: Yeah! Yeah mon! That would be great. Like in the days of ska. At the time being, and since quite a long time, we have concentrated on the rhythm. But now that everyone feels they are at the place in the rhythm, we could use horns again... yeah.

Hervé: The way your records are produced is rather different from most of the Jamaican production. You have never really been into dub in particular.

Bob: Me? No, I have never really liked this dub stuff you know. Dub is something else. We couldn't follow the dub way because we prefer a music that is like a message, you know. But dub is nice. I only start enjoying it now.

Hervé: Why are you recording again old songs like Kaya?

Bob: Mhh, Kaya, that's a nice tune... the night we wrote it, Kaya, we were in a remote part of the countryside. It was raining during the night and we were in a very small house and... we didn't have herb. That's why we sang "gotta have kaya now for the rain is falling..." ("Kaya" is one of the many names jamaicans use for marijuana.)

Hervé: When was it?

Bob: Around ... 1970. Yes, 1970.

Hervé: You have also recut much older songs, that date way back from the ska days such as One Love. How does it feel to do a rendition of a tune you wrote 10 or 15 years ago?

Bob: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. it's a matter of vibrations. I couldn't even know for One Love. Musically, I had never felt it as good.

Hervé: What about the lyrics?

Bob: It's as if I understood them better now than the first time. The first time is raw inspiration. The second time is comprehension... songs evolve. I don't know how or why. There are songs I don't really understand until I see the reactions they lead to in the street. Someone else finds out their meaning, and I understand it in turn.

Hervé: Do you consider the Wailers as now being Bob Marley's band, or will the other members contribute in a more active way?

Bob: Everybody is writing songs. Junior is writing an album. Tyrone (Downie, the organ player) too...

Hervé: Yes, but would they compose for the Wailers?

Bob: Yes, if they want to. Everyone has to be free.

Hervé: But the band's line-up is different from the time when Bunny and Peter were part of the Wailers, isn't it?

Bob: Yeah mon, you can stay all your life in the same place you know. Even trees grow (laughter)

Hervé: Do you think you could work with them again one day?

Bob: Sure man, at any time...

Hervé: Have you seen Peter (Tosh) since the problems he has experienced in Jamaica (he was arrested and beaten by the police)?

Bob: Yes, it's allright, cool.

Hervé: What do you think when things like that happen?

Bob: What happened to Peter? I think it's nothing but ignorance... ignorance on the police side.

Hervé: You live again in Jamaica now, but you have been away for a long time (after the shooting by the end of 1976)...

Bob: Yes...

Hervé: For too long?

Bob: No, just the right time.

Hervé: The last time we met, you were about to go to Africa for the first time. Did you finally go there?

Bob: No, not yet. But this time I will go (laughter)! No, this time it's true... I want to go to Nigeria, to Ghana, and one or two other places.

Hervé: Here is again an old question do you really think european audiences understand all the rasta stuff?

Bob: I don't know if they understand, but they have pretty good reactions you know (he is laughing like a kid). That's a reality, not a joke or a dream. It may seem strange, but it's not as strange as a religion because rasta is a reality. It's difficult for people who have undergone and accepted brainwashing to understand what I and I, the rastas, say. We are going beyond what we have taught you (...) To be rasta is to live a life in which you are always happy. But rasta know the whole world will fight them...

Hervé: The last time we met, you told me that if reggae singers now sing rasta songs, that's because everybody loves rastas.

Bob: Yes, but not EVERYbody. As far as I am concerned, the more people talk about it, the better it is... people know there is a lot of fights in the world, but they can't explain why. Everybody fights, but at the same time nobody wants to ackowledge any explanation. There is something bad in it, psychologically. If we fight, we should be able to explain why. Otherwise... (he has a little smile that concludes his speech)

Hervé: Do you think people who like your songs understand all of this in them?

Bob: Many people can appreciate what we are trying to say. I never give up believing in the people, because that's all we have you know... when I was born, I have been taught the same thing that everybody, until I found by myself that there was something else. It happens at a different time for each one of us.

Hervé: Do you think jamaican musicians who have been raised in London, like Steel Pulse, have a different approach of reggae?

Bob: They try... because reggae, out of any analysis or interview, is a feeling. And anybody has that feeling you know, that timing... that's reggae a very special feeling and timing. All reggae musicians have it. It's something very deep. When we (the Wailers) started to record songs like Duppy Conqueror, we did it in a clean and professional way. The feeling is there, but is professional. It couldn't be accepted on the worldwide record market without becoming professional. One or two of us had to do it so that the world could appreciate it, do you see what I mean?

Hervé: Do you mean reggae musicians have become more professional?

Bob: Yes, they didn't have the choice.

Hervé: But didn't they lose something in that process?

Bob: I don't see what they have lost in it (laughter). But I can see what they have won!