*For the complete Interview, please refer to Muzik Tree's Website: muziktree.co.uk/misc-and-memorabilia
Herman Chin Loy Interview
*Numerous Interviews - May 2023 to August 2023, by Rich Lowe
Transcribed by Ray Hurford of Muzik Tree
(Coded with “HCL” for Herman Chin Loy’s commentary, “RL” for Rich Lowe questions)
Beth Kingston and Balford Henry were the first two writers to explore Herman Chin Loy’s contribution to Jamaican music. Herman ran Aquarius Records at Constant Spring Road, Kingston 10, at Half Way Tree, close to JBC Radio Station studios, KGs records, and Skateland. He would place speaker boxes out front of his shop and blast the latest music for people traveling up and down the street.
Herman Chin Loy started the record shop and later brought his older brother Lloyd into the business. Lloyd equipped the upstairs space as a recording studio, which became the first 24-track studio in Jamaica. Aquarius Recording Studio became one of the top and most sought-after studios on the Island and Aquarius Records was the place to visit to track down the best music.
(RL) That is what made Channel One so popular, the thick bottom end.
(HCL) Right, so guess what happened. I went to Channel One and then Randy’s, and I did what I did. While the [Aquarius] studio was being built and I realized that the studio didn’t have any bottom end. I was more interested in doing American music than reggae. So, I went to Paul Khouri at Federal and said give me one of those tape like you get from Phili in America at MFSB [Sigma Sounds Studio band in Philadelphia. The “Mother, Father, Sister, Brother” band]. Paul Khouri obtained a two-track mixed down tape for me from Sigma Sounds Studio. Byron Lee would get his two-track tape from America to listen to the sound mixed down. Once I got one of the two-tracks from the Khouri’s, I listened in the Aquarius Studio to measure the studio from that sound and know what is missing. I knew I could easily find out what is missing and what I can boost after I play back those two-track finished mixes. Actually, when I cutting the dub album at Federal, Paul Khouri said this is damn foolishness, but I was payin’ him, so he did it. Later on, he made his own dub album. But the first dub album was mine, and the next album that came from Coxson. Studio One. It came after me, and then you have Scratch [Lee Perry].
(RL) “Aquarius Dub” (Blank “Aquarius” label, Herman Chin Loy producer, 1973) was recorded at Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio?
(HCL) The tracks were recorded by the players at Dynamic Sounds and the album was mastered and cut at Federal Records [the album was mastered and the stampers cut at Federal]. I got it recorded and mixed simultaneously at Dynamic Sounds. I mixed it in about half an hour – a little bit more. I did one song in London, but I don’t remember the song’s name. I recorded it with that Indian guy - Junior Lincoln of Bamboo Records. Dynamic had the top studio – which was bigger, and the bottom studio. The top studio had engineers Carlton Lee and Karl Pitterson. That day, we recorded interchangeably between studios, and most of the recording was done at the bottom studio.
Bunny Lee was in the studio with Slim Smith. He was a great singer, that guy could really sing. Damn! This guy can sing! There was a great argument over The Harder They Come movie, and Bob Andy was fighting with Bunny Lee – beat him up. Bob Andy punch Bunny Lee to the fence outside. I witnessed that. A whole heap ah things happen in a short time.
With dub, I was in the shop, and people keep asking for this type of music. I say I’m going to put it on an album. I’m going to present it like a dub album. It not gonna have any paper [record label] on it, and it gonna look just like a dub [the record would appear as exclusive dub or dubplate – as was being played and traded by dance hall sound systems]. With the paper on it, I can make more than one. I was told you cannot make more than one without the paper. So, I have a much-limited amount. I carry it to Randy’s, and they say, “Gimme two.” I sell all of those albums at my record shop! That’s when I began to ply my wares. That’s where I did most of my business with my recordings. Other shops were not interested in selling my stuff, and I could sell my stuff at Aquarius cuz I know what the people wanted. When people come in my store, they’re happy. I was makin’ money comin’ outa my ears, but I didn’t buy shit! That’s what I’m telling you, I had access to the money, but I was not a drinker, a womanizer, or one of these people who spend money. So, I didn’t need money. I didn’t buy no house, no cars, I give the money to my brother for our business.
(RL) Were you thinking the money was going into the mutual business, and your brother was going to provide care for the entire family?
(HCL) I really thought so.
(RL) When people asked for the music that sounded like that, how did they describe it?
(HCL) Bass and Drum.
(RL) What would they say when they asked you for the music type?
(HCL) You have any dub album? You have any dub?
(RL) Did they mean a dub that a sound system would play?
(HCL) Exactly. Sounds like an exclusive. Expensive. Because it was exclusive and expensive!
Much later on, I produced an album called “Nostalgia,” which is old American music. It was all the old tunes – that people wanted. I made a couple of dub albums. I would buy a cut from One Foot Jimmy [Ivan Jimmy Radway].
(RL) When you recorded “Aquarius Dub,” it was intended to be strictly an instrumental record?
(HCL) Yes, yes, yes.
(RL) And who did you seek out to play the music?
(HCL) You had Val Douglas, Mikey Chung, Mikey Boo, and maybe Wire [Earl Lindo] and “Organ D” [Tyrone Downie] from Wailers, a good musician. I wanted to produce something of more value in terms of music. Not necessarily reggae. I just wanted to do something different musically.
(RL) It sounds like you are talking about the Now Generation Band.
(HCL) It was Now Generation, like I said: Mikey [Chung], Geoffrey [Chung], Mikey Boo [Richards] the drummer, Earl Wire Lindo, and Val Douglas. You are correct
(RL) In talking about “Aquarius One” dub, one of the songs was recorded in England?
And all other tracks were done with Now Gen?
(HCL) I think “Aquarius One” was done with Family Man on bass. I would have to go and listen to the album again and be more truthful to you.
(RL) It’s a long time, a very long time ago. Who was the engineer at Dynamic when you made the album?
(HCL) You had Carlton Lee and Karl Pitterson.
(RL) Did they understand what kind of sound you were trying to get?
(HCL) I said I want a cut without the voice.
(RL) What the impact of that album?
(HCL) The impact was real quick, and it gave me the confidence that what I was doing was right.
U Roy would get one, all the big sound system would be playing it. And then Lee Perry would say that Black Art Man was the first dub album. Which is foolishness. I know Perry as a crazy dude. I know he was interested in Obeah. In Jamaica, we are very superstitious. If you get a cold sweat, it must be a duppy.
(RL) What made you release “Aquarius Dub 2”?
(HCL) Because of “Aquarius Dub.”
(RL) It was that popular?
(HCL) Yes because it made me some money. And I was following the money.
(RL) Having made that money and the popularity was there, were your instructions different at the studio? Did you go back to Dynamics and Federal Studio?
(HCL) With everything that was going on at the time, I did not get to finish the things in proper order, I don’t remember the details.
(RL) Did you ever release other dub albums – that were blank. Other music that you would circulate?
(HCL) There was one that not fully recognized as such because of this transition with my brother. They were not finished.
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