Interview with Skarra Mucci
05/28/2014 by Gardy Stein
Perseverance, hard work and an unfaltering good humour: life hasn't been served on a silver platter to Calvin C. Davis aka Skarra Mucci, but with the above mentioned principles he managed to come a long way. An end not being in sight, the artist seems ready to reach for the stars, his new album shooting like a rocket to international recognition. Reggaeville spoke to this impressive personality, who allowed for unusual deep insights into his past, present and future:
Greater Than Great is the talk of the town. How long did it take you from having the first idea to finish your fifth album?
I had it in mind already when I finished the last album. I wanted to do a double album, but my consultants said I should do one strong album with different sides of Skarra Mucci on it, so I decided to get back home and re-listen 90 of the songs I had in mind. I already had like 32 songs ready, thinking this would be my double album, but now I had to take some out... To be honest, I started from around August last year. It could have been a little earlier, but with all the discussion and planning and so on… I had to contact a lot of people, make sure that everything was ok, because I normally do all that myself. Everything took a little while, but most of the songs were released already, so I just had to do a new mix and new master for the album. Plus, I had to find some unreleased stuff that fits with the hits (laughs). It didn't take a long time really. It took more time in thought than in action. The album actually came out to be like a "Best Of" single album of all the singles and big hits like Life Is So Rich, My Sound and so on… all these big songs so that people can just put it in, press play and fulljoy. You see, I have fun with what I do. And I want the people also to have a smile on their face when they listen to it.
Which of the songs are completely new?
Let me look again... Completely new is song number 3, Come Fi Tek Over, and song number 15 is also very new. And then number 2 is a brand new mix different from the single. Boxing was out like three months ago and Forward Ina Di Dance also, they all came out in January. When I released the Red song, the video with me and Teacha Dee, every producer just dropped their song on the hype I created, so for me they are still new also because they didn't get the exposure that was necessarily needed. Dancehall Energy is a little new too, like a month old. But there are a lot of old songs on it too. Like I said, I was thinking about how the album runs down the line when you press play, how the album connects from song to song. I could have put more brand new stuff on it, but I thought this is the perfect album.
It is! You said you are involved with the promotion yourself?
Always! On the last album, I did all the promotion on my own. Not alone... I contacted people like Irie Nation, Reggae.fr, Reggae Vibes Magazine and so on. Soundquake asked me to take over the distribution and I agreed, but they were kind of slow... That's why this time I decided to work with my brother Inity from Undisputed Records, because he is like me, you know. We are like twins! And the album is gonna be great. The reactions we have now on the first day show that the promotion we are doing really works. And we are not major, you know, we are independent!
We did a lot of promotion in France this time; we didn't do that last time. They were the best market, them and Italy and Mexico, so we decided to concentrate more on these areas.
Why do you think you are more popular there than in other places?
I don't know - I should be popular everywhere! But in Germany people are more into what's coming out of Jamaica, and for them I'm just some local asshole.
Why would you think that?
I don't know, that's the way Germany is! I've been here 24 years. When I came here I could only play Bob Marley, and I did a lot of work to bring Dancehall to a high level. And now, because I'm doing Raggamuffin and not Euro Pop or Island Pop, I don't get that much support here. But I think as soon as the album is buzzing, they will jump on the train too.
Well, the 90s Raggamuffin Music is the one I started listening to… I really really love that era, and when I listened to your album, I was like "Yes, thank you, finally!"
(laughs) That's the thing, you know. I'm trying to stick to the old style and everybody is telling me "Yeah, but you should do a little bit new stuff and a little more mainstream." I do this kind of stuff, but this is not my main priority. I do a little Dub Step, I do a little Trip Hop, I do a little Euro Pop… but my passion is the Raggamuffin.
How do you expect Jamaica to react?
Well, I hope they will react! To be honest, Jamaican people know me from online… they support me, they follow me, but I realize that I'm not really getting much play in Jamaica. While I was there, I didn't hear one track nowhere, except in my car (laughs). But what I realize, even while I was in Saarbrücken last Saturday in a mainstream club I heard them play a remix of me on the Boumaye and I was very proud because it was the first time I heard it in public.
But for this album, I'm gonna try to go to Jamaica as soon as I have some space within this year and I will start a new promotion. I will print the album even new and try to get into the Jamaican market.
When was the last time you were there?
Do you go back regularly, do you still have ties with family and friends?
I'll put it to you like this. I've been away from Jamaica for a long time. And even though I've been making music I couldn't afford to go home. You know, I was always trying, but couldn't make it, tickets were too expensive… I left Jamaica in 1992 and since 1998 I wasn't there again. So it was taking a long time, until 2012, that I could go back to Jamaica. Financially I couldn't do it, but my brother from another mother and my selector and partner in crime, that's Sebastian from DeeBuzz, they said "We're not going to Jamaica without you!".
The other thing about it is because I didn't grow up with my parents. I've been alone ever since I was nine years old, I did everything on my own, and so I had no obligations to really go back. I never had ties with family… I'm a street boy, so nobody is calling me and nobody is looking for me to call them. So I had a little bit more freedom. I wanted to go home though, because you know I love Jamaica, I grew up there and my first time out of Jamaica was 1992 when I was coming to Germany… The first place I saw after I left Jamaica besides the Florida tourist transit was Stuttgart! And since then I've been here, and 1998 was the last time I was back before 2012, but since 2012 I go every year. I was only missing the sunshine and the beaches, and when it's very hot that you have a cool fresh breeze. But now that I was there I'm homesick. I miss the food, I miss the fruits, everything… in fact, I wanna go back right now!
I bet. You talked a lot about recording with labels and producers. When you prepare songs, do you also work with musicians, do you have a band?
Of course! I have my own band, it's even the label doing the album! Rawkaz Clan, that's the name of my band. We produced the Love Train. I mean, we are not the producers of the riddim, it's a riddim from Dreadsquad, but I am the label at the moment, I produce the songs... The thing is, most of the people don't book me with my band. I don't really wanna do soundsystem shows, but then again I have to feed the children. Because of that, because we didn't have enough live concerts, I had to like transfer the band into a label. And now we also have a studio, so we are doing some productions like in the old days where you record the whole band live in the studio. We will start with that about July. And we will be doing a Rawkaz Clan Album. To be honest, I don't think I will be doing much Skarra Mucci albums anymore - I will be more going into the Rawkaz Clan. I have three projects that I will finish up with and after that I will transfer the whole thing into the band.
How many people are in the band?
At the moment we are six, plus background vocals and dancers. It varies each time, but 80% of the shows I do alone as front man, with four people on the instruments: drum, bass, guitar, keyboard. At the moment, for the promotion of this album, I'm selling the soundsystem shows for the same price as the band. I'm trying to reach that point where it doesn't matter if you book me or the band.
That sounds reasonable. Is there a tour planned?
We have a tour planned by our booking agent from Spain, Rock. We also work with Pionear from Germaican Records. So I think they'll link up to get me the Greater Than Great Tour. We want to do a world tour really for the album. So I hope it's gonna work out.
I'm holding my thumbs pressed… How did you link up with Perfect?
He is a very special person, one in a million. To be honest, me and Perfect have been working not together but for the same producer, Weedy G., for a while and we were always somehow on the same selection. And it came about that Irie Ites from France sent me a riddim a while ago, along with the money for it. So I did a song, a complete song, but somehow the studio I have used, their quality was not the best. I think they didn’t understand what I wanted to do. So, I sent it back anyway and they cut it in pieces and had Perfect do the next part. I was not there, but I’m very sure he did it because it was me, because we have a long term communication. But last time we were together in the studio we did this new piece, Get So High and a couple of other songs, so there are some other works of me and Perfect that was really done together coming out.
So we can look forward to some new releases!
Of course, we have... the truth is there is a lot of songs coming out right now. No Bush Weed, a next track called Empress Reggae, so many things... a sampler too from Weedy G. where I also have a song on it with Jesse James... a lot of stuff! Until July we will almost have another 30 tracks! And I'm also bringing out an EP with Soulforce.
I also have an album coming out, I think around early next year... it’s a Foundation Album, just for a small hint: there’ll be features of Sugar Minott, Dennis Brown, Mighty Diamonds, Echo Minott - all classics! It’s a concept album, all song will be recorded at Irie Ites and produced by Irie Ites and Rawkaz Clan. And I’m also doing a Dancehall-Album coming in December, featuring Beenie Man, Mr. Perfect again, Teacha Dee, Admiral Tibbett… so there’s a lot of work in progress!
Wow. It’s worth following you to stay updated!
You said that before being able to make money out of your music, there were a few years where you had to get by. So what did you do for a living then?
To be honest, I did a lot. In the first years it was easier. I was playing with a band from Switzerland called Ganglords and my first band in Germany, Dread Colours, we did a lot of concerts. But in around '96, '97 things were getting a little tougher and I started to do DJing, playing Reggae and others. Crossover, Hiphop and things like this. So I was doing acts.
But did you ever do anything else beside music?
Of course! I'm a machine building engineer, I worked for Mercedes in Mannheim and many others, and I only did this to invest the money in the music. I did a lot of things. I'm a welder, I love more the welding parts. I worked in the subway before, to be honest I left Mercedes because I was tired of doing the same thing every day, working in the same position, hammering, welding, next… So I worked in the Subway just for a difference. It was less money, but it was a little more to do with people, it was like public relation (laughs).
And did they know they were working with a star?
Not really. A couple of people recognized me and after I stopped working there people recognized me later and said: "Oh I remember you! You were the happiest person I ever saw working there. It was like everything you did you were really into it with a big smile while the others were more stressed…". I didn't even recognize that myself. But somehow I'm always remembered. And I have to say the people in the world they really love me. A lot of people talk shit, but they don't know me so they can say whatever. And there are a couple of people, Jamaicans that is, they go around telling people, especially girls, that they are Skarra Mucci because they want to get something.
Talking about your name, how did you take on Skarra Mucci?
Well, I didn't take it. My name is Calvin Davis, so when I was younger I used to call myself Likkle D. So when I… I don't remember how old I was, but I was around Mr. Tristan Palmer, Philip Fraser and so on, and they were laughing at me, saying "What will you be called when you grow up? Big D?" And then Tristan Palmer said my name should be Skarra Mooch. And I was like "No man, me no name no Skarra Mooch!" But they were saying it’s a good name and they never stopped calling me so, even though I was fighting against the name. Then one day I met a guy from Italy called Lucio and he asked me my name and I said Skarra Mooch. and he said "Oh, Skarra Mucci!" and I said "Yes, that’s my name!" [author's note: it's impossible to deliver this anecdote properly in writing. If you happen to have an Italian at hand, let him pronounce the name to you, and then compare it to the English realization!].
Anyway, I found a way to spell it that has a meaning to me: the first three letters is the SKA music that I grew up with, the first R is for the Reggae, the RA is the Raggamuffin I am, the Ragga. Then you have Mucci, the MU is the first two letters of music, and then my first name is Calvin, the second one is Carlton so these two Cs represent my first names and I is I'n'I who I am, you know, the individual me. But the name was really given to me in Delamare by Tristan Palmer.
Cool story! You mentioned I'n'I as having a meaning for you as well. What do you say about the Rastafarian way of life? What’s your philosophy?
I follow the guidelines of Rastafari as my protection. For example, I don't eat everything, because even though you are free, you are also free to be a dog if you want. The freedom is a freedom of decision, the freedom of thoughts, the freedom to do whatever you want. I believe that the Rastafarians are living a clean life if they are really Rastas, because there are a lot of fakers. Meat is not really made for man. Because, you know, you are what you eat! And with meat and all these things, it will take a while to get that out of the system. So I really believe that Rastafari is a true doctrine and one of the only philosophies that will last on this planet - everybody else is somehow lost. As a conscious person, you have to first know who you are. What’s your purpose? Why am I here, to do what? So, when you find out these things, you don't really need much. It's said: God helps those who help themselves, so you are responsible for yourself. You just have to give thanks for life. And give thanks for the things you have. And only focus on the things you need. The things you don't need, you don't think or talk about, you don't get involved, you don't even waste energy because it shouldn't concern you! Music for instance, it's needed. You know, music is a love thing for me. I see it as a love spreading media to get people together and have a lot of unity!
What a wonderful closing. Is there anything else you want to say?
Well, what I really want to say is: I’m very thankful for all the people from Reggaeville to Reggae Vibes Magazine, everyone in the world who is supporting, promoting, sharing, listening to me. Don’t forget, the Raggamuffin loves you! And this album was really created for the people who supported all the songs on the album to make them big. And I will try to make a video for every song on the album. The next one coming is the one for My Sound. Check it out, it's a surprise. You will see Skarra Mucci in 2044!
Now you made me curious. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us!