Now Things: An Interview with Liam Bailey


LU: Let’s talk about your background some more. You’re the son of a British mother and a Jamaican father. By the way, have you been to Jamaica?

LB: Yeah, I’ve been to Jamaica and had the privilege of being there as an artist as well, a musician playing with the Marleys and Spragga Benz. But most of our immediate family that is Jamaican lives in Derby, in the Midlands in England. A lot of Jamaicans came and moved to the Midlands or South London. In true fashion, my granddad was a hard-working man. So when he got here, being given an opportunity to come to England, he came and he was a hard worker. And that carries on to my dad as well, cause he’s exactly the same.

LU: What Jamaican music did you listen to when you were growing up?

LB: Well, this is the joke thing. I used to think there was two types of what I understood to be reggae music [laughs]. My dad’s reggae music I didn’t like. He would be listening to it in the car. And now I know what I was listening to: very hard bashment, ’80s dancehall. It was a pirate radio station. They just play the tune, talk all the way through it, pull it back, talk all the way though it. I didn’t like it. But now and again, there’d be like a lovers rock tune that would come on and I liked that. And when I was at family barbeques or get togethers, the women would have the say-so. We’d be listening to Gregory Isaacs and John Holt and Dennis Brown. And that is the reggae that I liked. My dad was listening to… it wasn’t Eek A Mouse or anyone like that. It was too hard. Eek A Mouse has a melody for it. So my earliest enjoyment of reggae came from my mom’s side of things, with Gregory Isaacs, Aswad from South London.

LU: What about Jamaican food? Any particular favorite dishes?

LB: I love Jamaican cuisine. That’s a given. Jamaican cuisine, the way I was brought up on it, the spice wasn’t too much. The way my grandma did it, the gravy and everything was blessed. I moved to Nottingham and I’d meet people of other cultures eating Jamaican food sweating ’cause they’re pouring hot sauce on it to prove their blackness and how Jamaican they are. That was quite funny to me. At the same time, I joined in sometimes because I do love hot sauce. The best food I ever had was about four or five years ago at a beach in Jamaica—I can’t remember the name. I was there with Jazmine Sullivan. We had just played this benefit gig for Spragga Benz’s son, who had been shot by the police. The next day, we went to this beach and I had the true, fresh fish experience: straight from the sea and completely looked after. It was amazing. I find I never have any fish option when I go to Jamaican spots now cause it’s not as good. When you’ve had it that good, you can’t go back.

LU: Back to music: How did you link with Salaam Remi?

LB: He produced a track for me. I think it was through my management or the label at the time, I’m not sure. This was about 2007. He introduced Amy Winehouse to my music.