TALISMAN INTERVIEW 27/03/17
Q ….How did you choose the title of the album ‘Don’t Play With Fyah’?
Dennison – One never starts something like an album with the title.
The title comes when the album is finished, and the tracks are placed in numerical order.
This helps to balance the overall feel of the album, and at the same time conveying a story, and giving the listener an insight into the writer’s mind.
I am sure that recording musicians are always surprised when an album is finished, how the tracks mesh and the chosen title is fitting, whether the title is taken from the track list or otherwise.
Q ….Talisman mean ‘an inscribed ring/ stone, thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck’. Why did you choose this name for the band?
Dehvan …The band was originally called ‘Revelation Rockers’ and our debut performance was under that name, and we used the name for several months as we gigged around our home town and neighbouring cities and towns. However after we bagged our first gig in the capital, London at the prestigious ‘100 Club’ in Oxford Street, just before we were due to open the show we had a visit from a person who identified himself as the manager of a London based band called ‘Revelation’ they operated under the ‘Lovers Rock’ genre.
He strongly suggested that as they were a London band and had a bigger following and status that we should change our name to avoid any confusion and if we didn’t there would be problems. At first we resisted and stood our ground, however after doing the show and returning home, at the next rehearsal meeting we discussed the matter and decided we had enough to tackle with launching and raising the profile of the band, that we could do without the hassle, additionally it was early enough in bands’ career that it wouldn’t cause any lasting damage so we set about looking for another name.
We took the name ‘Talisman’ after seeing it on the back of one of the keyboards that we were using at the time and after a short reasoning about what it meant we decided that we would adopt the name for protection from negative energies and to woo and charm our audiences as we needed all the help we could get, after all we were playing ‘Reggae’ music which didn’t enjoy the status that it has today in terms of air time and acceptance in the mainstream of music, even though much of its style and danceability is stolen/borrowed by mainstream bands and music.
Q…What do you love about Reggae & Dub and who are your influences.
Dehvan – Reggae is rebellion, it is stylish without being stylistic. Reggae is soul music, without being ‘Soul’ music, it is one of the very few music forms that has social commentary and revolution at its foundation, it is the people’s music, and it follows the Afrikan tradition of using music for change in the community and government and to spread news.
Dub takes you into another realm, no other genre except maybe jazz, breaks the music down to the extent dub does and makes another completely new form that stands on its own; it allows creativity to flow with the new form and reveals the foundation of the music like no other genre does. The introduction of reverb and delay, echo chambers also give the genre a distinction that no other music has.
Influentially the Wailers, Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Sly & Robbie, Roots Radics, Third World, Coxsone Dodd, Lee Scratch Perry. All these musicians and bands had something which was prominent whether it was music style, singing style or writing.
Dennison – I have an affinity with Reggae music, because it is in sync with my beating heart, and for me, since everything is of the heart, I am mighty glad Reggae music came into being.
Coming from the hearts and minds of poor people, Reggae brings a depth and feel, that not just anyone can chip two chords, beat a drum, and call it Reggae.
Everybody should know by now, there is no other music like Reggae. Its themes and messages are right up my street. Dub was given life by the sound systems. Massive speaker boxes that accentuated the bass line that would reverberate your body when standing close to the speaker.
Dub takes me on a blind folded tour of the music, with a spattering of vocals, and added effects and reverb….Yeah man! I love the music.
Q…Is there a Roots Reggae scene in Bristol
Dehvan …There used to be back in the day, the city was alive with young reggae bands, Restriction, Troopers, Black Roots and of course Talisman, there was also a wealth of solo singers like Dallas, Joshua Moses, Bunny Marrett to name a few. There were also sound systems Loko, Tarzan, Imperial.
As is the way with groups many didn’t stand the test of time, disillusionment set in bringing up families took priority and many fell by the wayside, even the two front runners ‘Talisman’ and ‘Black Roots’ had a significant spells of inactivity, but life is cyclical and all things come back around if you can wait for your time again. It’s Talisman’s time again.
Q…Up until 2014 you had put out 3 albums in 30 yrs can you shed some light on the writing process and how you decide when a Talisman album is ready for release.
Dehvan…Talisman’s reputation was built on our live performances, which are legendary. We were young ‘musicians’, we just wanted to play, so we would write a song, make it playable for public performance then we would take it on the road. That’s where the real song would come out, spontaneous improvisations would embellish the skeleton of a song that we had and after a period of time we would find the song settling down. It was at this point that the song would be deemed ready for recording, you see back in those days a broke young band could not afford to write in the studio we had to go in with everything prepared and all the members knowing what lines they were going to play. Of course there was also room for the ‘studio vibe’ to contribute to the sound and maybe a last minute line. In addition to that we were naive as to what the music industry was built on, we learned to our cost, that it wasn’t all about playing / live work if you wanted longevity or to attract label investment you needed a catalogue that meant recorded albums.
Q…What was it like working with Denis Bovell.
Dennison – Dennis Bovell is a humble lion. He shows his passion for the music by mixing with his body. It’s not just turning knobs and pushing sliders. He becomes animated, and with that comes a sense of humour….it was a pleasure working with Dennis….respect.
Dehvan – Dennis Bovell is a unique individual, completely down to earth. In my opinion the fact that he has gone through the system of band membership he had an understanding of how to give the band enough artistic integrity without compromising his own creativity. He insisted that we sit in on the mix and he would consult us on aspects of the mix, ask us for comments and make us part of the process. We shared many jokes and reasoning’s but he was always working, at the end of the break he would go back to exactly where he stopped and remembered the sound and the instrument he was working on. I would work with him again.
Q…Your sound remains rooted in reggae but the technology has moved on, how does it differs recording an album now compared to the 80s
Dehvan…With the advent of computer technology, music programs and home recording increasing in quality it has given us the opportunity to spend time with the music, the pre-production that used to take place via our live performances can now be done via the home studio as there are no time constraints. We still prefer the live sound of the band in the studio but financing an album in that way is still out of our reach so sometimes we have to make a decision to go digital.
Q…Relijan is an infectious first single, what inspired you to write it and what do you hope your audience will get from it.
Dehvan…Well with a song of that nature, there are many shaping factors, growing up and the experience of life, the expanding of consciousness through literature and reasoning with Rastafari elders and peers you begin to grow and realise that there is more to the world than what the system indoctrinated you with. You don’t have to look very hard or very far to see that the Relijan system in its present form is not working for the masses of the people, and elevating them to a higher consciousness it’s not re-uniting them with their divine selves.
Relijan is not concerned with equal rights and justice it’s more about mass mind control, money and power. Talisman have a saying ‘we don’t just want to entertain we also want to edutain’ so if after listening to our songs either via a live performance or on Cd and they are moved to thought or to investigate further then they might be rewarded with a perspective that previously they hadn’t encountered.
Q…Can you talk us through a few tracks on the album and the meaning behind them.
Dennison – My songs are the experiences of an immigrant coming to the UK at an early age, listening to Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae from the mid sixties, played by Jamaican musicians that helped me some years later to develop the ability to put my thoughts and emotions into words and music, and ultimately not accepting or wanting to be part of a system that wreaks injustices and enslaves people.
Dehvan – ‘She Look Like Reggae’ this song is all about how looks can be deceptive, during the time when Talisman was taking a hiatus I man spent a few weeks in Tel Aviv with a brethren who owned a Nite club, he invited me over to be part of a performance at his club to celebrate Bob Marley’s’
birthday, so we went out one night to hand out flyers and generally promote the show. We entered this club which was having a reggae night, the Dj was dropping some heavy sounds Sizzla, Capleton, Bushman, etc at which point I spotted a female connecting with the music, she was decked out in red gold & green and sporting natty dread she stood out so I said to my brethren make sure she gets a flyer she would be good at our show.
So after the club when everyone was making their way out we were at the exit handing out the flyers as she was approaching I said make sure she gets a flyer my brethren handed her the flyer saying reggae nite at the ‘Club Rasta’, she refused the flyer, he tried again but the same response. We were surprised he said but she look like reggae I said yes but she wasn’t roots rock and the song was born, it’s one of my favourites on the album.
Dehvan – ‘Talkin Revolution’ is a commentary on the fact that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies, we can say we want things to change, yet we do the very thing that militates against that change. We talk revolution while walking hand in hand with Babylon; revolution is simply a change, so even when it comes to personal self development we still stick with the old mindset of Relijan and colonial culture so we talk revolution while walking hand in hand with Babylon. We see how the western school system mis – educates our children, yet we continue to entrust their education to it, we see how the politician and politics work, yet we still vote them into power.
There’s enough in the world to feed the world, nature is abundant and lavish, the things that we say make life come into play we are the likeness of Jah, we say One Love (that’s talking revolution) yet we fight against our brother and our sister not wanting to see them rise (that’s walking hand in hand with Babylon)
Interview with Talisman: