Interview with Junior Natural - Militant Album with Sly & Robbie
10/31/2017 by Munchy
Your brand new album together with Sly and Robbie is entitled Militant. Congrats on the production! Why did you choose to name it that way?
Thank you very much. I think it‘s because of the feeling you get from the music on the album because there is no song that is actually saying ‚militant‘, even though we have the song Soldiers, which is the first song on the album. But I think ‚militant‘ is just a good way to explain what kind of feeling I get from the music, so we chose to name it Militant. The album is not militant in the sense of war. It’s musically militant and it’s spiritually militant. That’s the militancy in the album.
How did you first meet Sly and Robbie and how did you get to work with them?
I have been working here in Sweden for two years to travel to Jamaica to get the real Jamaican vibes, the authentic feel. So I went there with a bredrin and linked with my friend Bertie Grant. He has been working in the music industry for a long time, since around the 70s and together we went to the Anchor studio in Kingston to pick up some promotion CDs that we had printed. When we arrived at Anchor Bertie met up with Robbie, who is an old friend of his and they started to vibe. At that time Sly and Robbie were recording with a Swedish group, which is from the same town as me, from Uppsala. So it was kind of a crazy meeting: Bertie met Robbie, that he hasn‘t seen for around 15 years, and we met up in the studio in Kingston. It was so much people and the vibes were just right. So Bertie told Robbie Shakespeare that I was a singer from Sweden and he told me to sing something straight up, right at the parking lot. I sang one chorus and one verse and Robbie just said: ‚Stop, you don‘t need to sing no more. We can do this album. Can you come Thursday and record twelve songs?‘ So everything just happened very fast and I am so thankful, because I was at the right place at the right moment.
How was the production process like working with Sly and Robbie?
It was magic to me because these people have been inspiring the people that have been inspiring me. In that sense it‘s magic to me. One thing I noticed is how fast they work. It was like ‚Sing the tune‘ and when I started to sing acapella they started to find the riddim around my song. After about three, four minutes we had the song and recorded it straight away in one take and if something went wrong with my vocals we just picked it up from there. So everything was recorded very fast. I think that is a very cool thing, because when you work at home you have all the time. You record and put things on top of things. Bertie told me that this was how they used to record in Jamaica back in the days. I think that is pretty cool!
When and inspired by what did you write your lyrics?
Some of the lyrics I wrote on a wide period of time. I have been writing songs ever since I was a kid and some of the songs on the album are actually old songs that I wrote many years ago and some songs are more new. I get inspiration from everything. It sounds like a cliché to say that but everything inspires me: what I see, what I hear, but first and foremost it’s Jah who is inspiring me, of course. It is also social matters and what I am learning. I am still only 22 years old and every day I learn a lot, that is again inspiration to me.
You said you sang the lyrics and then the band, Sly and Robbie played the riddim to it. How much say did you have in the musical works, arrangement, melodies, instrumentation etc?
As I said, everything was so fast and everything just clicked. I didn’t have so much to say. Of course, I came with some input on some riddims like ‘maybe we could do this or could do that’ but most of the songs just fell into place. When I was singing the tune and they started to play it the music was created right there mostly by Sly, Robbie and also Ronnie Lyn on keyboard.
Were you ever nervous working with veterans like Sly and Robbie but also Robbie Lyn, Dalton Browne and Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith?
Of course, I was nervous. At one point when they told me that we were going to record an album I was overwhelmed, I thought I can’t record twelve songs in one day! I was very nervous, but as soon as we entered the studio it felt so natural and the vibe was so relaxed. That is one thing I also noticed about Sly and Robbie, how relaxed and down to earth they are. They are like musical Gods to me, anything they say or do is just vibes to me and so it went very well.
So you actually did all of the recordings in one day?
It was supposed to be like that, but we actually did it in two nights.
That is still very fast though.
Yes, and I think that is one thing that makes this album very special. We captured two days in one record.
With your roots as a drummer, did you learn something special from Sly or did you observe him in particular?
Yes, I love to play drums and started out as a drummer. Some of the tracks are made with drum machine and some with live drums. For the songs with the live drums I was very excited just to watch Sly play. Of course, I have learned a lot by his style of playing drums for so long, so the possibility to see it that close is just wicked, especially how he does the rolls and fill ins. I just love that, so I picked that up.
Do you still play drums a lot?
Sometimes. For my EP Everlasting that I released a couple of years ago I played drums on most of the tracks. I tried to keep it up but right now I focus more on the singing and I feel comfortable with that. As long as it’s music I’m happy.
Recordings were done in Jamaica at Anchor studio with Delroy ‘Fatta’ Pottinger at the controls. How was working with him? He is a veteran himself – did he also assist with his experience?
You could really notice how synchronized Fatta and Sly and Robbie were. I learned a lot from only being present. Fatta was very fast with the computer and recording, changing channels, changing tracks. It was wicked to see. Fatta as well has been working on big projects and like I said, these are the people that inspire the people that inspire me, so I’m so blessed.
Steven Stanley mixed Militant. Were you part of the entire process in Jamaica or were you back in Sweden? Did you follow up or how did you react when you first heard the final product?
When I was heading back to Sweden they were mixing it, but Bertie, my friend and Jamaican manager, was always present in the mixing process and he sent me files and video clips when they were working. I wasn’t there physically but I was there in spirit. Like with everything else on the album I was just amazed and happy to get the final mixes because it sounded so wicked. I really didn’t have much to say but ‘Boom! Wicked!’.
The sound is a lot like the vibes of Black Uhuru, Ini Kamoze back in the days. Was that a goal? Did you or Sly and Robbie want it to sound like that or did it just happen?
Actually I don’t know if Sly and Robbie had the vision to create that sound but that’s the sound that I love the most. I didn’t say it particularly but I think it just naturally happened that way because this is the style I really love, the old Ini Kamoze style. Maybe it was intentionally but I am not sure to be honest.
What were the most important lessons you learned during the production of the album?
That is a hard question, because I learned so much. One thing I learned is that it doesn’t have to be that hard. It sounds strange when you’re talking about Sly and Robbie in that sense but they make it look so easy from playing the instruments to even creating the riddims. I think the most important thing I learned was to not give up and just follow my heart, let the music flow because the music is IT.
What will follow the release of the album? Can we expect more videos besides Soldiers, maybe a tour with Sly and Robbie?
Right now we are pushing the video for Soldiers and we have another video for a track from the album called Close To You. That will be released soon. Hopefully, hopefully, I’m not sure yet but hopefully and that would be a next big dream come true to me, that would be to be able to tour with Sly and Robbie. Nothing is 100 % set yet but it’s in the planning so hopefully yes. And we are talking maybe a next album together as well.
Wow, so we might have a lot of great things to look forward to. All the best and thank you for the interview!
Thank you, too!