Pressure Busspipe Interview - Tales from Heights Of Greatness
09/09/2021 by Gardy Stein
With a steady flow of high-quality releases, the name Pressure Busspipe has become a staple in contemporary Reggae music. Born and raised in St. Thomas, THE creative hotspot of the Virgin Islands next to St. Croix, this artist honed his craft over the years and can now be seen to be in his prime.
Heights Of Greatness, studio album number eight, has just been released, and the global response is amazing so far. With a well-balanced choice of love songs, spiritual anthems and tracks that treat serious political topics, Pressure, in collaboration with a host of producers, has managed to create something magical that will find favor with a wide range of listeners.
To learn about the stories behind some of the songs and hear his point of view on current global topics, Reggaeville has linked up with Pressure Busspipe for an in-depth interview. Read on to understand his mission and motivation behind his artistry in general and Heights Of Greatness in particular:
Greetings Pressure! What have you been up to since the release of your album Heights Of Greatness, how is everything going so far?
Everything is really going well, you know, I'm grateful for the release and I've been getting a lot of great responses so far. I'm really looking forward to hitting the road soon and seeing the world again!
How is the situation in the Virgin Islands at the moment in terms of contact restrictions and curfew and such?
In the Virgin Islands, there is still some Covid-related restrictions, the bars close down early and stuff like that, but for the most part it's opening up again. There are no concerts as yet, but we still have small events going on.
You recently posted a picture with the hashtag PMP Gardens, saying "Where it all began…" What is PMP Gardens and what started there?
PMP Gardens is where I was born and raised, in St. Thomas. It's one of the underprivileged communities, it was actually the first housing project for the underprivileged in the VI. My mum was born there, her mother was one of the first tenants there, so we have a long history of living in this community, and parts of my family still live there. I don't live in the VI, I live in America, but when I come home to visit, it is definitely my home.
Is it there that you picked up music as well?
Yes, that's where I've been getting all my input. That was where I lived, I've been learning to play music in that same community, walking to school each morning, coming back with my instruments in my hand… That community has my full story!
Often it's communities like these where a lot of talents come from. Could you compare PMP Gardens to places like Trenchtown in Jamaica, where a lot extremely intelligent and creative people come from?
Yeah man, definitely! Out of my community and the sister community we have artists like myself, also Rock City, who is an international HipHop and RnB song writer and artist. And then, from my community again, we have basketball players that have really done well, and politicians that came from there, so my community is one that is very popular because it has produced a lot of greatness.
Which bring us to your album which is called Heights Of Greatness. Do you feel you are at the height of your career, is that the reason why you called it thus?
I actually feel like I'm in my prime. But I would not say that I'm on the heights of my career because I'm still alive, still working, and there is so much more to attain musically, by inspiring people. I do feel like I'm at a point in my life where I have done a lot and I'm really seeing things clear musically, I'm able to do a lot better than before. I'm a lot more comfortable with recording, and I'm not so hard on myself with writing. I've been through a lot, I've grown a lot in the music, so it's definitely Heights Of Greatness for me.
Can you tell us who was the core team behind the whole process of creating this album?
Busspipe Records, this is an independent album. But I've collaborated with a lot of producers, big up to Frenchy from Maximum Sound, big up to Don Corleon, Dean Pond from Rimshot Productions, Masai aka The Legion Music, Young Boy Music, big up to Delly Ranx from Pure Music Productions, big up to Sugar Roy, big up Kabaka Pyramid, big up Cuss Cuss dem from outta France… I've collaborated quite a few on this album, versus other albums where I've collaborated with artists. This time I've collaborated with producers.
Was this a conscious decision or did you just have so many riddims to choose from?
That's basically it, I had so much unreleased material and they really kind of complemented each other, so I felt like 'Why not?'. I've never really released an album compiling different productions, it's usually one or two producers on an album, but for the first time I felt like I needed to work with more producers and have them involved on the album, to give the fans a wider reach and show the versatility as well.
The title track Heights Of Greatness was produced by Zion I Kings, a family of producers you worked with before. Could you tell us about the message of the song?
The message of the song is definitely paying homage to Haile Selassie. I'm a Rastaman, just always magnifying his name and glorifying him still in the works. In this album, there's a lot more love songs, some culture songs, and usually I always pay homage to Haile Selassie, so this is one song I felt I couldn't leave off of the journey. It's definitely one of my favorite songs also, because it carries a deep feeling, it takes me… just the riddim, without me even singing on the track, just the riddim itself really takes me in a deep meditation.
Another big artist on the album is Kabaka Pyramid. He's not only featuring on the song No Man Is An Island, he also produced All Said And Done. Did you invite him on the production chair?
Me and Kabaka have a great musical relationship, you know what I mean, so we've been working together for a couple of years now. I was on his last album and he was on my last album as well, but he had reached out to me with a track early last year, at the heights of the pandemic, and there was really no other artist who voiced the riddim as yet, I think he said I was the first to voice it. When I heard the riddim, because of all what was going on and what black people were facing, I felt like something needed to be said to kind of uplift people in this time and let them know that when all this is said and done, we will overcome. And that was really the roots of the message.
Working on a new album and working with a producer from the Virgin Islands called Masai, I decided to invite Kabaka on a track, so we started the track from scratch, without any chorus, any lyrics, it was just the riddim, and we facetimed just like how me and you are talking right now. He was in his studio and I was in my studio and we just did it like that, he would mute his phone while I was recording, I would mute mine, so it was just that, it was a special way of working. I never really made music like that, especially with another artist, that's just to show you the love of our musical relationship. The kind of respect I have for him, I definitely felt like I needed to have him on my album again, a second time.
Great, thank you. You said already that you felt you have to address certain things going on in the world. Another track which does that is Blaze, which almost sounds like a Black Lives Matter anthem, but it's so much more… could you tell us about the motivation behind this one?
It's just being fed up! It's more than just the people that I mention in the song, it's an ongoing thing for over 400 years, and it's been coming to light in that time. I felt like the only way to really get the people's attention was to actually mention names of people who are popular in the news, who passed, who have been murdered by police, through the brutality. It came from a place of just being tired and wondering 'What are we gonna do now? This is what they are doing to us, and they did it to him for nothing, they did it to her for nothing, they did it to him again for nothing, so what are we going to do?' Just me now as a Rastaman, carrying a certain fire, we say "Blaze, fire in a wicked man place!"
Do you feel that some things are about to change now? Like, whereas in the past a lot of these crimes have gone unpunished, now with the example of George Floyd, his killer has really been sentenced to prison. Do you think things finally change?
I believe that there will be a change in time, but a change has to come with us making a stand and for us to keep up the fight throughout the generations until the change has come! It's not going to happen overnight. I do believe that if it wasn't for video cameras and stuff like that, a lot of these crimes would go unnoticed, as still a lot of them do. It's good to know that we were able to capture a lot of this on video so that the world could see, see racism face to face, see police brutality face to face, you know. As hurtful and painful as it might be to watch this, the world needed to see this, because a lot of people were being naïve, thinking that slavery is abolished and racism is a thing of the past while it's not. It's very alive and active! Blaze is a song that definitely felt like it needed to be heard in a time like this.
What would be your advice for people who are sympathetic to the #BLM movement, not necessarily Black people but others around the world, Europeans, Americans, Russians, Asians… How can they further the cause, step in to help abolish the racism still around?
I mean, let's start by just love. Show love to one another, do unto someone as you want done unto yourself, it starts that way. We understand that everybody is struggling, not just Black people, but I believe that Black people go through the most injustice in this world, we are at the bottom of the barrel in the food chain. So, it's like we always have to remain fighting, we are never gonna stop fighting, it's something that you will see for years and years to come. Even though there is a lot of people in the Black community who are prospering and making big waves for themselves, and there are Europeans and Asian people who are going through their own struggles, it's like we are all pieces of the puzzle, you know, we all have something that would make this world a better place. We just have to use that and share with one another, love one another, and don't judge others by the color of their skin. But, like Bob Marley said and Haile Selassie said, until then it will be war!
Yes, thank you. Also, the track Know More talks about that people should educate themselves, as I understand it. Do you see education and information as a way out, a way to improve the current situation?
Yeah man! Know More is talking about that we want to know more, and I felt like during the pandemic, a lot of people were knowing more, a lot of information was being revealed to the people, whether conspiracy or factual knowledge. People were more in-tuned to search, a lot of people are now researching on their own, during this time a lot of books were read, to stand up for their own rights and human rights and stuff. The world needed to hear a song like this, Know More, to show like 'Yeah, we want to know, we don't want no more of this, but we want to know more of that.'
Yes, it's a great word play also! Some songs on the album have a whole lot of history behind, like It's Been A Long Time. We have Lots Of Signs on this riddim, we have Police on it… why have you included this on the album, does this riddim have a special meaning to you?
Yes, actually! It's my bredrin Sugar Roy who re-produced this track. He sent it to me, and I was touched at once. I grew up on riddims like these, I feel like I wanna do a whole album with just foundation riddims…
… songs that we are familiar with. It's gonna be fresh, old school studio vibes. When he sent me this, it was like 'Yeah, this was right in the pocket with what I have in mind to accomplish!' I was never planning for it to be on the album, but it just worked out that way, and it definitely is one of my favorite riddims. We all know the great Tenor Saw, Lots Of Signs, and when I heard the riddim, it was like that song been playing in my mind over and over. I had to step out of the whole musical arena and be like 'Ok, what are you gonna do, Pressure, what will you say?' It's like that sometimes.
It's one of my favorites on the album as well, because I love the original so much. Another track that's extremely popular, maybe THE most popular, is Everything I Need. I hear it being played a lot all over! When did you create this, was it one of the first songs for the album?
No, it wasn't, it was actually one of the last songs! (laughs) I must say it's like... just the music, sometimes the music speaks to me in a way that makes me respond, and then also the message is a reminder to myself. Just going through life and having desires and wanting to acquire this and wanting to attain that and possess this… looking around, realizing 'Listen, I have attained a lot, I have possessed a lot and earned a lot, I have so many things that I've wanted so bad, and when I get it it's like I use it a couple of times and then I don't use it no more…' Especially clothing and little accessories and stuff, it's like you put all your time and energy into wanting to acquire something, and when you get it you're still not satisfied, you want more… So, it was a reminder to myself, saying 'Listen, I have everything I need, I really shouldn't want for anything!'. It's human nature, we reach a certain pinnacle in life and we set a goal, and when we reach it, we set another one. For some people it's material things, and it's just a reminder to myself because I can be a little materialistic, regardless of how spiritual I can be sometimes and in meditation circles, you know.
Material things, it's just your wants, it's never really a need. Sometimes it's good to boost up your spirit, to boost up your ego and reward yourself and make yourself feel like 'I've done a lot, I can treat myself to something.' So it's just that, a reminder to myself and others that we don't have to pardon ourselves out there. A lot of people don't have what you have and they are happy with their life, the lower you go down the food chain, you find people have less money but more happiness with the little that they have! It's what you put your mind to and what you find happiness in. It's just that… everything I need.
I read somewhere that a video is in the making for this one?
Actually, I had to take a break from the music video to do this interview, so we are on set now.
Oh ok! Which other songs do you plan to put out on video?
I have already shot Know More, that should be out soon. I'm looking forward to shoot another Lovers Rock song, but I'm going with the flow. What I usually do is I go off the feedback by the fans. And knowing that Everything I Need is really making waves right now, that's why I'm in the process of shooting that video. I'm just going with the punches, but I plan to shoot at least six more videos for this album.
Great, something to look forward to. Another great song and one of the only other features is Searching, featuring Malica. Can you introduce her?
Malica is an artist from Jamaica, an American-born Jamaican. She is actually my artist, she is signed to the Busspipe Records label, the first lady of Busspipe Records. An amazing artist, we worked on this song along with her brother Atiba, who actually wrote the song. I just basically gave it my touches, she gave it her touches, we were just having fun. It's a bomb! I love this song.
It is! On your Instagram live stream, when you introduced your album, Malica talked about the law of attraction, she said that you attract love, you attract job opportunities and friends from what you send out. Is this something incorporated in the song?
Yes, it's all part of that as well! It just happens to define spiritual connections with real people, people who have the same mindset as you, who are on the same page as you. If you fall, they are willing to pick you up, and if they fall, you are willing to pick them up. Malica is definitely one of them sisters that I adore as a real true sister, and her energies are always where I need them to be. It's a blessing for Jah to really put all of this in front of me, for us to just be great and work for the mission, you know, so yeah, Searching definitely pays homage to our connection and the energy we put in.
The last track on the album is Africa Love, which is also a beautiful instrumental. It talks about the yearning for the motherland - have you ever been there?
I have been there one time, in Ethiopia. That's where I did the video for Lion Is A Lion. That was a trip I made on my own, I was off duty and there weren't many shows. One of my friends, his mother was living in Ethiopia, so I went there on vacation, a little trip to learn about the culture and stuff. It was more a personal movement, so I was able to see things firsthand and learn a lot from the local people there as well. I'm really looking forward to traveling to Africa for the 2022 season! I'm looking forward to perform for the first time and getting to see all the fans that I've been building over the years.
Which countries would you want to go first?
All of them! All of them that support Pressure Busspipe, of course. South Africa, Ghana, Gambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Malawi, Somalia, Senegal… all over! It's a lot out there, a lot of places that been showing a lot of love to Pressure Busspipe, and it's been too long, so I'm definitely looking forward to touching the African soil and seeing those sunburnt faces.
On the cover you have a script in Amharic, what does it say?
It says Heights Of Greatness in Amharic.
Oh, that's great! There are 15 songs on the album in total, too many to talk about each in detail… is there one that we haven't covered yet and that you want to talk about?
Let's talk about Missing You.
Ok, who produced it?
This one was produced by Don Corleon, who produced my biggest single Love And Affection. We joined forces with Don Corleon, he brought this single to me and it was a bomb, so I felt it has to be on the album as well. It's a beautiful tune, totally out of the box, out of the norm that you will usually hear from Pressure, but it's definitely soulful and carries an energy that I really like. I've been getting some great responses from this song as well!
The album was mastered by Dean Pond, who is a longtime companion of yours. But he also produced one of the tracks, right?
Yes, definitely, his song is Compatible. This song is actually quite a few years old. For a couple of years, Dean was talking about releasing it for Valentines, but we never got round to it. The good thing about it is that the song was never released and never heard, so searching for songs, I was like 'Am I missing somebody?' and then I though I have to be reaching out to Dean. While we were trying to find a perfect riddim for the album, what would complement the album, Dean was like 'Yow what happened to the song we did three years ago, what do you think about that?' He played it and immediately I was like 'Yes! This is definitely gonna fit!', so we just used Compatible for the album.
If I'm working with a producer on an album, I would usually spend 2-3 weeks of just recording all the songs and making sure that we have enough, and then narrow it down to whatever number of tracks we want to release. This time it was easier because I had so much songs already recorded, it was like 'Alright, let me just compile this!' The hardest part was picking songs. I left off some songs, that was very sentimental to me. Everybody else was like 'Pressure, you can't give them aaaaall the tunes, you have to hold on to some for more projects.' The album has 15 songs, but we it was a choice out of 34 songs recorded. These are songs that could possibly make another album whenever I feel like! The good thing for me is that I love to record, I love to make music, so I'm always ready, I always have music ready to push out.
What are the next steps now, do you have the chance to really do some live shows in the next weeks?
I have some dates here and there, I have another concert coming up in one week in Atlanta, Georgia, but right now I'm doing promotions and getting the music to all the DJs. I'm doing a lot of interviews, so we are just strong on the promotion of the album.
Hopefully we will be able to see you on festival stages again soon, we are longing to see Pressure Busspipe live!
How you mean? (laughs) I can't wait, we're ready!
Thank you so much for your time and input, and all the best for your Heights Of Greatness.
Much love to you, Reggaeville, for all the support. Big up the whole team from Pressure Busspipe!