UK-singer Alpheus recently dropped his third album From Creation to wide critical acclaim. Reggaemani got a chance to talk to him about his love for ska, rock steady and legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.
Alpheus grew up listening to ska and rock steady music
I had never heard of Neil “Alpheus” Martin until I read about his third and latest album From Creation, produced by Spanish talent Roberto Sánchez. A bit strange since he has recorded for legendary producer Coxsone Dodd as well as French label Special Delivery.
From Creation is milestone in Alpheus’ career. He has given up on one drop riddims. Now his music will be all about ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. At least that is what he told online magazine United Reggae some months ago.
“I think I made a few people upset when I mentioned that”, laughs Alpheus on the phone from Roberto Sánchez studio in Santander, Spain, and continues:
“There is a new kind of reggae now. The new one drop. I mean there are good songs, but I prefer ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. It makes me feel good. And it stands the test of time. It doesn’t sound old or new. It’s just great music.”
Love for ska and rock steady
Alpheus met Roberto through Sergio from Heartical Sound in France. He set up a show in the Basque country and introduced him to Roberto and his band.
“Roberto and his group were going to back me at the concert and we had a good connection right there”, says Alpheus.
This was in 2006 and the first song they recorded was the groovy From Creation. Roberto wasn’t really into ska and rock steady at the time. He concentrated on roots from the late 70’s. Channel One style.
Alpheus on the other hand grew up on ska and rock steady. His mum used to play that kind of music and he says that he can easily find a melody to a ska and rock steady beat.
Worked with Coxsone Dodd
But From Creation is Alpheus’ third album. His first album Quality Time, put out in 1999, was a broader effort that included several reggae genres.
Alpheus says that he learned a lot from Quality Time and working with its producer Coxsone Dodd.
“It was better than fantastic to work with Coxsone Dodd. I was going through some sad times when I met him and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me musically”, he explains and continues:
“He showed me how to use my voice, arranging backing vocals, hooks and explaining stories.”
They met in New York through former Melodians singer Tony Brevett, who Alpheus had met in Florida.
“I lived in Brooklyn for some years and the Studio One studio was only about 30 minutes from home. I was there to learn and to write”, says Alpheus and continues:
“There is a different vibe in the U.S. In New York you have to do it in one take. You have to be prepared. It is much like Jamaica. In London it’s more laid back and not as much vibe as in the U.S. And in Europe everyone is happy to be in the studio with you. It’s exciting.”
From the foundation
And it seems that Roberto and Alpheus had an exciting time recording From Creation. It is recorded with an undeniable love for 60’s ska and rock steady and is based on both fresh and original riddims as well as relicks of some masterpieces from the 60’s.
You would expect riddims from Coxsone Dodd. Somewhat more surprising is that riddims from Phil Pratt get the Sánchez/Alpheus treatment.
“I am not much of a connoisseur and I didn’t know much of Phil Pratt’s music. It was minor key and I didn’t know of it. But it felt good and people told me that it was a big riddim [Dirty Dozen]. It’s nearly my favourite. It was lovely to write and lovely to sing to.”
On his previous albums love and relationships have been obvious themes. From Creation is more about upliftment and based on many different subjects.
“Love is a subject that concerns everyone. It’s everyday life. Love is relationships and something that everyone can relate to”, Alpheus explains and continues:
“The new album is broader and only four out of the 16 tunes are about love. Inside Out for example is about a person and that it’s the inside that sets the character.”
A FEW FAST ONES TO ALPHEUS
Don’t have one
Really don’t know
Your Love – Larry Marshall
Your Love riddim