By Larrick Ebanks
TOO MUCH PRESURE
When you find out that your ‘badass’ friend, Carlene Graham, a singer in her own right, is the daughter of Errol Ross, the music producer responsible for the production of an album that helped shape a generation, and, incidentally, was a soundtrack to my teens, you have to ask just one question, can I interview your dad?
The album in question is “Too Much Pressure” by The Selector, an album that fuses traditional ska with elements of punk and new wave music and was first released in 1980. The album reached number five in the British charts on the back of their top ten hit single, “On My Radio” which was released in 1979, followed by two top 20 hits: “Three Minute Hero” and “Missing Words”. I remember when I first purchased this album, I quite literally wore the vinyl out, and I’m still the proud owner of that original copy.
The iconic black and white two-tone album label with a cool white guy, suited and booted, was a great way to defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain; by marrying the origins of ska music, a music style originally born in Jamaica, with British culture. Although ska, rocksteady and reggae had hit the British charts in the mid-’60’s and early ’70s with the likes of Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop”, Desmond Decker’s “Israelites”, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, this resurgence of ska music at the end of the ’70s and early’s ’80s was just as dynamic, if not more powerful than the first time around. I would highly recommend you check out; “The Story Of Two-Tone” and other similar videos on YouTube.
Other than producing music, Errol is a singer and bass player and released his first soulful, funky album ‘Take It Easy On Yourself’ on Ariola Records in 1979. Constantly performing live with various band projects around Europe, I wanted to know more about the man behind the controls so I asked him to be my Q&A guest for this edition.
Q&A With Errol Ross
- How did you get involved with music?
I started my musical career as a bass player with local bands in Coventry. In those days, most of the young black guys were into music, dancing and girls. The serious musicians saw music as a way to express their feelings about society, education and the lack of opportunities that were unavailable to us.
As a community, music was very important to us, it was our Social Media….we met, we danced and shared stories and news with other members of the community. The Jamaican parties and dance was something we all looked forward to and would travel to London, Birmingham or Manchester for a good party. During these times, I dreamed of being a top bass player and travelling around the world.
- What music was played in your household as a child?
As a child, it was mainly ska and reggae played in our house. We would listen to the music of Prince Buster, Toots and The Maytals, Derick Morgan, The Pioneers and U Roy coming out of Jamaica and Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin coming out of the states. We listened to Reggae artists like Lee Perry, Bob Marley and the Wailers and Peter Tosh, to name but a few.
- What artists inspired you during your childhood?
I was really inspired by bands like Earth Wind & Fire, Gapp Band, Frankie Beverley & Maze, as well as artists like Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Tom Brown, and Quincy Jones for his musical productions and all the great artists that he has worked with.
- As you now reside in Spain, what is the one thing you miss most about living in the UK?
I have lived in London for many years and have experienced many things, some good, others not so good. I love the music culture, the great diversity of music on offer and the fact that you can visit so many pubs and music venues where you can find all types of music and nationalities, people and cultures. This mixture of music and people creates a vibrant society which allows you to find your own levels. If you want to hang out with the brothers or buy some soul food, you can do it easily in London. In this part of Spain where I live, musical culture is more limited or does not exist.
- How would you best describe yourself?
I am an easy-going person, a thinking man, with a deep-rooted passion for music. I can be very social and outgoing and I equally enjoy my moments of meditation, tranquillity and reflection. I enjoy family time. I like to search for the opportunity in each of life’s moments. I am a creative soul, whose mind is always open to the next challenge or adventure! I love playing my original Fender Precision Bass and singing at parties and private functions. I love to share positive energy through live music and connect with people of all ages.
- What is the greatest thing about producing a successful album?
There are many things that come together to create a great, successful experience. I mean, one minute you are a band of musicians and singers, creating music that you love in a rehearsal room or recording studio, the next thing your music is being played on the radio, you are invited to attend interviews, promotion videos and tour. Suddenly those industry doors which were closed begin to open for you. You start building a fan club of people who love your music and want to find out who you are. Waiting to know your chart position each week was also exciting. Personally achieving Silver and Gold disc awards from the music industry for over 100,000 record sales was a high point for me and a dream come true.
- What is your favourite part about this line of work and your least?
My favourite part of music production is the creative process. People hear a 3-minute record, but they have no idea about the process and work involved in making it. Taking a band into a recording studio to record a single or an album can get very involved. On one hand, you have the artist, who is sometimes the songwriter. From their perspective, it is all about creative freedom and artistic expression. Record companies are interested in budgets and records that will become smash hits. The producer is in the middle and have to get the best performances from the musicians, the artists and deliver the finished master to the record company on time, this is not an easy position to be in.
I have experienced band members fighting and disagreeing about everything in the studio, artistic freedom and creative expressions that explodes the set recording budgets. This can waste a lot of valuable studio time and create bad vibes in the studio. If the producer doesn’t achieve the expected miracle recordings, then musicians, artists and record companies will blame the producer.
- How do you view the music industry today?
The music industry today has changed a lot from my time, but so has life! A positive thing I see today, is 100% artistic freedom. The “cutting out of the middle man”, so to speak.
Independent artists have easily-accessible platforms and tools to create, perform, produce, mix, copyright and release their music worldwide, all from the comfort of their own homes.
This is a great thing!
- Tea or coffee?
I am a coffee drinker who likes to start my day with a good coffee. I also enjoy herbal teas during the day.
- What is your favourite food?
You mean I have to choose just one food or dish?!
Well, as a man who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, I will never shy away from a nicely prepared Jamaican dish from time to time! I particularly enjoy fish. My fruits and veg are a key factor in my daily intake – I love juicing & boosting my energy that way. I also love a good red wine and I enjoy the range of good tapas here in Almería!
- What’s your favourite dessert?
Apple crumble & custard!
- What is your alcoholic beverage of choice?
I enjoy a good red wine during the day and a rum at night.
- What artists are you currently listening to?
One thing I think is fair to say, is that music goes round & round! Old school styles influence today’s music, samples and feels as well as artists reinventing themselves all the time.
Pharell Williams, Sia, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have stood out particularly over the last few years. I admire their innovation!
- What is one of your favourite films?
Cool Runnings – 1988 Winter Olympics Jamaica sent an unexpected team to compete in the bobsleigh event.
- What is one of your favourite songs?
This has to be “One Love” by Bob Marley
- Which artist would you most like to collaborate with, dead or alive?
I would like to collaborate with Carlene Graham. I think that she is a true professional, has a great voice and exceptional performance energy. We share a love for the same type of music and production quality.
- What is the best song you’ve ever released and why?
I can’t really say which was the best song that I’ve ever released because I approached all of them with the same care, love and energy. Some have moments and melodies resonate a little longer than others but music lovers of the world get to choose!
- What emoji do you use the most?
- What’s the last thing you google searched?
Tracks by Transmission, my band from 1985
- What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Believe. Believe in you. Believe in your purpose. Believe in your ability. Believe in your musicality. Dream big. Stay true. And… LOVE.
Never listen to the many critics around you, stay focused and never give up on your dreams!!