Interview Angus Taylor
Photography Sanna Charles
Earl Lowe, a.k.a. Little Roy, is lauded by reggae aficionados for a career that began in childhood in the mid ’60s and hit its stride in the ’70s with a string of timeless compositions, on his own Tafari Syndicate label, which have been versioned through the dancehall era and beyond. He’s an icon for maintaining his autonomy and refusing to compromise or be pushed around in what can be a cruel industry, even if it cost him valuable advancement. But he’s also an icon to a younger generation of fans after doing some re-versioning himself: for Lily Allen producer Mike Pelanconi a.k.a. Prince Fatty’s unexpectedly explosive album of Nirvana covers, Battle For Seattle (Ark Recordings, 2011). It’s a remarkable new chapter for an artist who, despite a special place in true heads’ hearts, had not reaped the rewards his talent deserved. Yet Little Roy, who never wanted to be a singer until fate intervened, still takes the local bus with ’SUP from the tube station to his London home. Inside, his family can be heard singing along to reggae on the radio, particularly joyously when one of Roy’s own songs is played. He is fairly tight-lipped about the Nirvana project, having parted ways with Prince Fatty since its completion, but has just headlined a successful show sans-Fatty at the Scala in Kings Cross. Things are looking positive for the diminutive dreadlocked man who speaks in the same grainy broken tones that made him an unlikely match for the melodies of Kurt Cobain.
You didn’t really want to be singer when you were a little boy, did you?
Back then I wanted to be a pilot. Because I would say I was a bright youth and very forward in my schoolwork. I didn’t want to be a singer – that wasn’t my intention at all.