Words by Jesse Serwer, Photos by Martei Korley—
The word “wizard” tends to conjure images of old, bearded Gandalf types casting spells in Middle Earth or some other fantasy land. The Wizard we’re about to introduce you to, though, is the beautiful daughter of Beres Hammond, and, as far as we know, Jamaica’s only working female music producer. Just a few years removed from her first production credit, for the title track on her father’s A Moment in Time album, she’s already got a sound of her own (think Timbaland meets dancehall) and a growing resume that includes the entirety of Mr. Lexx’s upcoming Lexxicon album, and her cousin Courtney John’s latest effort, The Courtney John Experiment. She’s also produced remixes for Nelly Furtado. Our Martei Korley visited The Wizard at her sonic lair—her father’s Harmony House Studio—for her first ever photo shoot, after which I spoke with her about her unusual name, her unique position in the Jamaican music world, and life with Beres.
LargeUp: Tell us how you got started producing and making beats…
The Wizard: I started actually making beats when I was 10. I don’t know, it’s just something that’s in me. At five, I used to hear songs on the radio and I’d sing and count the melodies. I found out I actually had a knack for music, it’s something fun to get into and I’ve been doing it ever since.
LU: Your father is Beres Hammond. How did him being an artist get you started in music?
The Wizard: Oh man. Just he had a home recording studio so to sit and just watch him in his element was very inspiring. He led us like yup, that is definitely what I want to do. No lawyer, no doctor, that’s exactly where I want to go.
LU: How long have you been working on being a producer?
The Wizard: I think since I was 15, I actually started recording and doing it more professionally with other artists and stuff like that.
LU: Who was the first artist you worked with producing?
The Wizard: My first recording was with a couple of rappers by the name of Andre and Reasons. Professionally, Mr. Hammond was my first recording. I did one for him that was called “A Moment in Time” that was on his last album. It was actually the name of the album.
The Wizard strikes a pose at Harmony House Studio
LU: So do you have a big family?
The Wizard: Yeah man, huge.I have a couple of musicians from the family as well: Courtney John, Lenn Hammond, my brother DJ Inferno. Chris Smith, he’s a part of the family. So it’s just a big family of musicians. Uncle is a singer. It’s very musical.
LU: What are some of the things that your father taught you, coming in as a professional into the music industry?The Wizard: He’s not really hands on because he wants to see us just grow and do things on our own merit but one thing he did teach me, he said this music industry takes a lot of patience. Once you hone that skill, you’re good, everything else will just fall into place. So I think that’s the biggest advice that I’ve taken from him.
LU: Do you think you’ll continue to work with him on producing on his upcoming albums?
The Wizard: Yeah, I’m actually thinking of doing like a dubstep project with him. I think that would be cool and pretty trippy and would be a wicked vibe.
LU: Yeah that would be pretty cool. Tell me about some of the other influences in your sound, and how it developed. It’s not pure dancehall or reggae, it’s definitely electro and pop oriented.
The Wizard: I’m just a lover of music. Growing up in Jamaica and being exposed to media from MTV, BET, the different media that we are exposed to. That’s how I started getting in to different genres, hip-hop, pop, electro but in anything that I do I try to always fuse our culture with it so it brings it back home in a sense. So that is how I do what I do. Before MTV and cable, I was actually introduced to other genres through my parents. Mums always playing ’60s R&B—Sam cooke, Stevie Wonder. I was actually introduced to hip-hop thru dad. Believe it or not when he was signed to Elektra, he had a Leaders of the New School album in his collection…stuck out like a sore thumb..used to thief and listen to it.
LU: You’ve done some remixes for artists that are outside of reggae and dancehall. How do you create something that is your sound but also captures the dancehall vibe?
The Wizard: Well, let’s see. If I’m working with say a hip hop artist, I just lay the basic foundation, the basic groove of what we would associate with hip hop and after I allow them to do what they’re doing, that’s where I start tweaking to make it more of our thing like how we probably hit a snare or tweak our kicks, stuff that will make it more indigenous to us. That’s how I actually start to incorporate our type of… flavor into what I’m doing.