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Sound quality separates Stone Love from the pack

Mel Cooke, Star Writer

Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell (centre) of sound system Stone Love Movements listens to Lloydie (right), owner of Libra Love system and club while Super Claude attends to the 'wheels of steel' at a show in Houston, Texas. - Contributed

This is the fourth in a six-part interview with Stone Love's Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell. The sound system celebrated its 36th anniversary at the Mas Camp, Oxford Road, on Saturday night.

In the last instalment, he spoke about linking up with Rory and Cancer, making the selecting trio which became hugely popular as Stone Love's fame exploded in the late 1980s. He spoke about a number of other Stone Love selectors, past and present, including Disco Burch, Chico, Kriss Kross, Oracabessa, Swam King, Billy Slaughter, Malcolm X, Diamond, his son D Pow, Fire Ras, Gary and Geefus.

STAR: Sound quality now. Was sound quality one of the things you focused on from day one? How did you get the set to sound so clean, better then everybody else?

Wee Pow: Basically, sound quality was one of the things that helped maintain that level of dominance. Not everybody was being exposed to a superior quality in those days. If you followed like the old-time sound systems, they never used to play like tweeters. They never stressed tweeters, that sizzling sound. Say like King Tubbys, who I used to listen to a whole lot. A Sir George the Atomic. They used to put that steel horn up in a tree. That's what carry the treble, the voices, and the bass box would be on the ground. So what you were hearing was 'che, che' (he points up) and 'dup, dup' (he points down). In modern time now you a get 'tsst, tsst, tst, pap, pap. There was a guy live in my yard also, with a very expensive component set and he used to stress on that sizzling sound. Sanatone was a next sound now, used to play a high level of tweeter sound. It was something new and it really create an impact on me. So I used to take the steel horn, take off the funnel, have the driver and make a little box for it and put it in the box itself.

S: So everything come from one box.

WP: Right. From day one I stress on that sizzling sound. You could always run around me with your bass. Not the top. I realise the clarity of the music that's where it's at and my technician, Denton Henry, was a master at that also. There are times I might not up there 100 per cent, but it cause through experimentation, searching for sound. Things get modernise, everybody realise what you have, buy the same equipment.

S: So you lose your individuality.

WP: Yeah. What is happening with sound now is that the whole level of sound has increased significantly, more powerful than before, but we (as a dancehall industry generally) have lost the quality. Like night and day. It's just like in the studio, you used to have four track, then eight, 16, till you have digital. Just one wire run and you have everything.

S: Unlimited tracks.

WP: Yeah. When we listen back - and we balance ourselves at this delicate point to know a no age a ketch up pon we - the modern music, we know when a thing sound good from when it nuh sound good. I learn the craft of being a sound engineer to a level and I run a whole heap of experimentation to really catch back that old sound, which almost impossible.

S: At which point Stone Love reach the level now you could play more than one session same night. We used to hear Stone Love down thereso, Stone Love up thereso same night.

WP: Well, Stone Love reach a point now where we could do, physically, five jig same time.

S: Yeah? Early 90s orÉ

WP: Now. After the first system we never really hesitate, as something new come to grab it and try with it, but we never throw way what we had before. So we always have that now to make a second system and a third system. The demand was so great that we really had to do that, to avoid people getting at us with all sort of names, like 'yu no memba whe yu a come from'. So we want to suit as much people as possible.

S: So at what point you reach that stage?

WP: the whole blossom period was about 1983. We were playing alongside a younger set for Stone Love, that was Klassique, who really did a lot for Stone Love. They get popular before us and we play alongside them with all the respect (he emphasises the 'respect'). I think that carry us a lot, having that great respect for people who really set it. And even when we rose to become more popular than Klassique, we still maintain that level of respect up to today.

S: Same thing with Gemini and Metromedia. Because I remember the days when the poster was Gemi, Metro and Stone Love.

WP: Before that it used to be Stone Love, Metro, Black Prince. We celebrating 36, Black Prince supposed to be like 39. He used to play in my yard, so I remember him from those days.

S: So who come up with like the lights on the sound? I remember like the flashing lights. And the movie theme intro.

WP: Everything that happen into dancehall happen from Stone Love. I remember when we just started going to England, it was some huge hall. Places that Jack Ruby and Gemi and them man pass through already. When we go there and electrifying the place it would be like you at a football match and people have these foghorn (he imitates the sound). Making noise! And they would blow the whistle. I always see things and think how can I really change it or do it my way. Getting one of those horns wasn't the easiest thing either. Is like a secret. The day I get my hand on one and carry it into the studio and sample itÉ (it became one of Stone Love's signature 'vibes' sounds). Even like swinging an effect from one side of the sound to another, nuff sound cannot really do that because they don't play in stereo. Most sounds play mono, tie in left and right together so it get stronger. The lights now, is the same England thing again. The guy who do the bookings for Stone Love in England, he would take us around to some clubs. Some really unique clubs that I don't see anywhere else, up to today. We see all these lights. When we realise we have the formatting of the music like a club vibe in the dancehall, we want to create this ambience.

S: So you put the lights on top of the box.

WP: Yeah. I mention it to my closest sound friend at the time but he didn't want to be like a copycat. Then a lot of people follow down the line. Everything really happen surrounding Stone Love, with the changes and everything.

Next installment: the cassette business and clashing.

Stone Love selector Geefus (left) and Ms Kitty having a good time onstage at Stone Love's 36th anniversary celebration at the Mas Camp, Oxford Road, New Kingston, on Saturday, December 13, 2006. - Nathaniel Stewart


December 15, 2008

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