LargeUp Interview: Talking Dubplates + Dancehall with Johnny Osbourne

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Johnny Osbourne

LU: You were unable to travel for many years. Why was that? And now that you can, what are your plans to make up for that lost time?

JO: Well, guess what. I couldn’t travel for a while because I was inna New York and was missing some papers, and the process wasn’t going right so you haffi just wait til you’re time come again. It took a lot of time. Now that process is complete. I can’t make up for the lost time but what I’m gonna do is take up back the musical whip and start writing music again.

LU: Diplo got the tape of your song “Mr. Marshall”  from Jammys for Major Lazer’s “Jah No Partial,” and remixed it over some dubstep. How did you hear about the song and what was your initial reaction?

JO: Diplo came to New York and my agent Neil Robertson was telling me that they are remixing the song and they are coming to New York and they wanted me to be a special guest at Terminal 5 on the West Side. I spoke to Diplo on the phone and they wanted me to see the reaction of the people when they play the song. They were going to introduce it. [They said] we’ll put you as a special guest. They introduced me and introduced the song and I saw the people’s reaction. It was pandemonium. They didn’t take anything away from me, or from my song. They kept my song [as] my song, and add what they have and put them together. What I say is I get the old school mixed with the new school and make it a one big school, and that’s still mi rule.

And then they invited me to London. For the Red Bull Soundclash last November. And when I [sang] “Oh, Mr. Marshall!” a capella…[it was a] problem!

LU: What is your impression of a group like Major Lazer who are putting reggae into a new context with this new hybrid thing they’re doing. To see those kids that wouldn’t normally come to a reggae thing but will because of this hybrid. How does this new thing affect you?

JO: Whatever they are doing, it’s a nice bridge [that is] bridging the gap. I see young kids in Europe listening to my music and going crazy, and I’m wondering if these young kids even know mi name. When you say Johnny Osbourne and ask them they’d say “Wha?” So I think it’s a good thing at my age, [for] young kid[s] to hear Johnny Osbourne, who generally don’t have any way of knowing about me.

LU: How many dubplates would you estimate you have recorded?

JO: That is one thing I could never tell you, you can’t even figure that out.

LU: Tens of thousands? Every sound has a Johnny Osbourne dub.

JO: Every sound who is really a sound, should have even one.

Johnny Nightfall

LU: Has anyone ever confused you with Ozzy Osbourne? His name is really John.

JO: My real name is not John. I used to like Johnny Mathis and Johnny Ace. And then, when I was recording in the early days, in case my song didn’t sound good, I didn’t want to use my real name. [So they] don’t know it’s me.

LU: What is your next project as far as a Johnny Osbourne release?

JO: Right now, I’m working on some jungle. I’m doing some dubstep riddims, I’m doing some drum and bass. When I go out into the world I see people are listening to all kind of reggae. Not just one genre, all kind. The plan for right now is to make an album of new music.

LU: Who are some of the producers or people involved with that?

JO: Can’t say that right away because there’s a few people I want to work with. I want to talk to them first. I don’t want to call somebody’s name and say they’re going to be on it and I haven’t spoken to them yet. I was talking with Dean Fraser. Dean is one of the people.

JO: Right now, Freddie McGregor is my bredrin and the Truths and Rights album, me and Freddie McGregor did a lot of work together. And the Bobby Babylon album, me and Freddie worked pon them two albums. Me and Freddie do a lot of things together. That would be one of the people.

LU: What’s the one thing you’d like to be remembered for?

JO: More to remember mi originality and good lyrics and good melody. I don’t like too much copying.

LU: What would you say has been your most memorable performance?

JO: To me right now, that Garance Reggae Festival in 2012, Rototom 2012.  The crowd was with it, them love it. And I enjoyed it also.

Johnny Osbourne