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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Maxi Priest

By: Saeed Saeed

Maxi Priest discusses with Mediasearch’s Saeed Saeed his latest release ‘Refused’, the chart resurgence of reggae music and his two decade long career that included record company squabbles and a string of big hits.

You have always been a consistent touring artist, but on the album front you have been a little bit quiet. How is that side of things going?

On the recording side of things I have really done much because I really lost the vibe with a lot of these major record companies. It’s the same old same old ‘sign here. Make what you we think you should be making. Comprise with what it is you do. You know, do a promotional tour and a video’…Its just the same old and I got fed up with all that after twenty odd years with it.

But you did recently release something new. The album ‘Refused’, is only available on your website and on the Raggamuffin tour. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came together?

This is only for the internet and the tours. Because I have an album coming out with an independent label. I put this album together because this tour I am doing with UB40 and the other guys. We have been searching for all this stuff to put on the next album and after a lot of reasoning we decided to start again fresh. But then I realised that we should utilise this stuff here we got sitting down. So we put this booklet together and this CD that has all these songs that we didn’t use in previous albums and to me…I must say it is one of the best albums!

Reggae and the dancehall scene have been experiencing resurgence amongst younger people. Do you see this effect in your concert audiences?

It is twofold here: Younger audiences coming to the shows, yes! But I think a lot of the younger kids now are doing a lot of research and are going back to a lot of the older types of reggae. A lot of the new music now is getting caught in major record company situations and is running with the hype for the minute. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good thing. It’s a market and it should be catered for. Sean Paul is doing a great job in the pop world with his dancehall thing.

Have things like Myspace and internet downloading helped kids in researching the older reggae bands?

Most definitely. All of these things are part of technology. You either run with it or be left behind. Myspace is a great thing and what people are doing now is using it and also going back to the old reggae with the internet.

During the mid nineties you were releasing a string of big hits with big budget clips. Those clips always carried a great party vibe and showing you having a great time. How was life during those busy times?

They were great days, but at the same time you are working with a major record company where people impose a certain kind of marketing format on the artist. I don’t think they ever understood where I came from. Even now they don’t understand where reggae is coming from. I always felt that whenever they tried to work with me we came across marketing problems because many marketing people don’t understand the culture of what they are marketing! A lot of us have suffered for the opening of people like Sean Paul and the younger cats that are in the business today.

Isn’t that part of being a pioneer?

Yes, and let’s not forget there are people before me too. Someone has got to pave the way. For me, I am not chasing the charts now. I am just doing great work and doing what I love to do.

You have being doing this for over twenty years now and many careers have begun and faded during that time. Now that you have been around for so long, do you ever start thinking about your legacy?

I tend to keep going forward but I do keep getting reminded from people all the time! I appreciate it and I just want to maintain it. If the people don’t support the thing I will leave anyway. I will do some building work or start a business. I come from a large hardworking family. I am a carpenter by trade and we still do building work. But this is something that I love and it’s a flame that burns within me and whenever it lights up I just have to move along with it.

RAGGAMUFFIN TOUR DATES:
February 5 - HORDERN PAVILION, SYDNEY
February 6 - ENMORE THEATRE, SYDNEY
February 9 - WACA GROUND, PERTH
February 12 - VODAFONE ARENA, MELBOURNE
February 15 - THE RIVERSTAGE, BRISBANE
February 16 - WYNDHAM ESTATE, HUNTER VALLEY, NSW
February 17 - RED DEVIL PARK, BYRON BAY, NSW