Swob interviews Horace Andy

April 15th, 2011

In a career spanning across four decades, Jamaican icon Horace Andy and his unique voice have carved out a distinguished place in reggae history. Born in Kingston in 1951, Andy released a string of classic albums in the seventies and eighties and was affiliated with heavyweight labels Trojan and Studio One. After re-locating to the UK he hooked up with trip-hop originators Massive Attack that re-ignited his career in the eyes of a whole new generation. I caught up with Andy over the phone from “warm, hot Jamaica” ahead of his next solo tour of Australia.

Horace Andy was last on these shores almost a year ago with Massive Attack on their hugely successful Heligoland tour that took in six dates right around the country.  While he clearly loves performing with those guys, he’s clearly most in his element doing his own shows. “When I’m with Massive Attack its for Massive Attack. When I’m on my own that’s for Horace Andy,” he says in his thick Jamaican accent with the sound of children playing in the background. “I’m doing my own thing. I’m taking care of my own career.”

Being a part of projects like Massive Attack and the Easy Star All-Stars (whose Radiohead tribute Radiodread featured Andy) have exposed his talents and soulful voice to a whole new generation of fans. He is obviously delighted by being able to cross generations and still remain relevant. “Yeah definitely,” he says. “I’ve seen them in the crowd, you know. It’s really good to know that I’m teaching a nineteen-year-old and that they’re listening to me whether it’s on my own or with Massive Attack. Massive got me to that kind of crowd, as well as the Internet.”

While a great deal of fans will always identify him with Massive Attack, the Horace Andy story runs much deeper than that. Andy’s very first recording took place in 1967 when he was just sixteen. A few years later he decided to audition at one of Jamaica’s most famous recording studios and label – the institution that is Studio One. Already home to the Skatalites, Toots & the Maytals, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and a young Bob Marley, Andy was surprisingly unsuccessful on his first audition as a duo with Frank Melody. “When I first went to Studio One I couldn’t sing,” he explains. “I could sing, yes, but I couldn’t sing. I had to start all over again.” A few days later he auditioned again (this time on his own) and label head Clement “Coxsone” Dodd gave him a recording deal but insisted he change his surname from Hinds to Andy to avoid confusion with his cousin who had a similar singing style. The first single Andy cut at Studio One was “Got To Be Sure” and after a string of singles he finally got to release is debut album Skylarking in 1972. He has gone on to release well in excess of thirty albums including last year’s Serious Times but he is clear about which of his records is his favourite. “Skylarking is the one,” he says. “It’s the one I listen to most. That’s the LP.”

Having been in the game for so long and having already cemented his claim to genuine legendary status in the reggae world, there is no sign that Horace Andy is slowing down anytime soon. Still touring the world and releasing music to adoring fans, one wonders what is the power or allure of reggae music that has captivated him for so long. His answer his simple: “It’s the message. Its message music – strictly consciousness – and that’s what its all about. Rastafari. True roots music.”


– Brad Swob

(Originally published in 3D World)

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