Interview: Solo Banton

October 6, 2011

The man they call Solo Banton was born and raised in West London and attended Christopher Wren school in Shepherds Bush a few years behind the athlete Linford Christie and the footballer Dennis Wise. Failing to see the relevance of studying obscure facts about Henry VIII, the young Solo gravitated towards systematic subjects such as computer studies, physics and maths. In addition he discovered sound system through his elder brother and at the age of 12 he selected at his sister’s party when the designated sound didn’t show, spinning dancehall and lovers rock as well as Rick James and Bob James’ Theme from Taxi. Inspired by the child deejays of the early 80s he then began taking the mic – calling himself Professor Brown – first staying up to guest on his brother’s sound King Shamma and then in his late teens building his own basic rig with his mates. By 15 he was also getting paid to play in his uncle’s steel band. At 19 he became a soul selector on Majestic Sound and had started learning how to produce at a nearby studio run by a man named Jazzbo. Yet it would be two decades before Solo dropped his debut album ‘Walk Like Rasta’, produced by Kris Kemist from Reading where Solo currently resides alongside friends and scene-makers Deadly Hunta and Mikey Murka. Now he has a new EP out – Music Addict – with another longtime collaborator German “laptop reggae” label Jahtari. Angus Taylor met Solo in Reading to discuss his music and fill in some of the gaps.

Solo Banton

In your song Stronger you talk about being influenced by a particular Rastaman. Tell me a bit about that.

We all went to church rigorously every Sunday. It always seemed to me to be a half truth. It made a lot of sense to me and I believed in it but there was always something missing. I used to see Rastas walking down the road and they just intrigued me for some reason. I met this guy, in Shepherd’s Bush. I knew of a lot of Rastas at the time but I didn’t really speak to them. I ended up speaking to this guy, to this day I do not know his name but he just called me over “Hey bwoy” and he just asked me what I was doing (we were in the youth club) and I said that I was just playing some table tennis and stuff like that. We just started talking and I asked about Rasta. He asked me if I went to church and I said “Yeah, I go to church every Sunday”.  He said “How do you feel about church?” and I said to him how I felt and he started to explain some things to me. He just said to me “What they’re teaching you is the right thing but they’re just missing out a few facts. When you’re big enough you should read some books” and he gave me a list of a few books to read.

What did your parents think about this?

Hahahaha! My dad always said to me from a very young age “If I ever see you with them dreadlocks on your head, I will cut them off!” He wouldn’t even allow my hair to get plait. I remember one time my sister plaited my hair, my hair was long in an afro sort of thing and my sister said “Let me see if I can plait it”. My dad came in and she’d only done one side and he flipped! I got lash, she got lash. In all honesty I think everybody in the house got lashed apart from my mum, but my mum and my dad had a fierce argument. Once I locksed up my mum never had a problem. All my sisters have dreadlocks now as well, I mean they’re not Rasta, they’re Christian but they all have their hair in locks. It was always like that with my dad but once I got to the age where I could do it… He had no choice. Just to wind him up I’ll buy him a red, gold and green scarf at Christmas! Just to get my own back, you know? (laughs).

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