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20 Questions: Ghetto Priest

Arsenal football hooligan, ex-con, Rastafarian and roots reggae artist Ghetto Priest releases his new record ‘Every man for Every man‘ through Ramrock Records this September 8th.

Already known to many as the front-man of Asian Dub Foundation and vocalist on their track ‘Fortress Europe’, Ghetto Priest has been entertaining audiences over the past three decades.

“With a raw energy and spirit he pushes at the boundaries of roots music; his style strongly maintaining the essence of his Jamaican heritage.” Produced by On-U Sound supremo Adrian Sherwood, ‘Every Man For Every Man’, is released 8th September.

A long-time member of the On-U Sound family, Ghetto Priest was a former rudeboy and Arsenal football hooligan who was incarcerated briefly after stepping on to the wrong side of the tracks. Turning to Rastafarianism, he began writing lyrics, and he honed his vocal skills and artistic persona around the sound system culture of the early 80s, before becoming part of Sherwood’s African Head Charge collective and started MC-ing on the producer’s live/DJ sets. Check out his latest track ‘Every Man For Every Man’ here:

Where are you and what’s the weather like?

I am in Planet Thanet. The weather is wet – it’s raining but it’s a blessing and we give thanks.

What’s your favourite record in the charts?

Well, to be honest, I really don’t get the time to listen to mainstream music as I’m on the road all the time. However, my musical taste is a broad spectrum and I do get to see and hear a lot of acts when I’m out performing. So that’s how I get to hear new stuff.

What are your favourite films?

Gangs of New York, Boys in the Hood, Do the right thing, Warriors, Westside Story. Let’s go back and move forward – for the Warriors, it was about the peace treaty and the shooting and getting back to their hood. I did associate with these films – it was during my ‘initiation’ days in North London. Make of that what you will.

What is your favourite book?

STOLEN LEGACY by G M James. It was a book that came to me after leaving school where I was taught a lot of ‘Western’ history. I began to realise from reading the work of this historian come traveller that, for instance, Greek philosophy is stolen legacy from Egypt. The book opened my eyes to the wider picture of things.

What are your favourite TV programmes?

I don’t have a TV but I’ve got Netflix. I’m into action movies – all the super hero stuff – I used to have a great collection of Marvel comics. There was a film of ‘Dare Devil’ with Ben Afflick which never did any justice to the original concept of the story. But after watching the Netflix series, they are on the right path – Dare Devil is dark and they’ve captured that. Really on point.

What was the first record you bought and where did you buy it from?

‘Dusty Roads’ LP by John Holt. I bought it on my 16th birthday with Green Shield Stamps at Woolworths in Stoke Newington.

What is your least favourite record that you have made, and why?

The truth is that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with great masters and gods of music and their instruments and craft – musicians, producers – everything I’ve done has been fantastic. So, as of yet, there is none.

Do you believe in God?

Apparently, the word ‘God’ comes from the Germans/Vikings – that side of town – Odin, Thor – all that lot. Do I believe in God? Am I a believer? I have a way of life, a system, I’m a die-hard groupie of Haile Selassie – yes!

Which football team do you support?

At the time when I did support football – soccer – it was the Gooners, Arsenal, North Bank. However, after leaving that alone I went into American Football and my favourite team was Washington Redskins but they’re not doing too well so it’s the Seattle Seahawks.

Do you have any pets?

Not now but I used to have a cat called Tibby who used to follow me to school and wait for me to come home. My mum took me to Jamaica when I was a youth and when I came back, Tibby had met an untimely end – so, no more pets after that.

Who would you want to play you in the film of your life?

If it could be me, I would’ve done it – I would have loved to – but then I suppose I would have been old then, wouldn’t I? Who’s the guy – Straight Outta Compton – Ice Cube – Ice Cube’s son played him and did it very well. So it would be good if one of my sons or grandsons could do it.

Vinyl, CD, Download or stream?

Without a doubt, because I come from that scene – vinyl. There’s nothing like it – it’s the warmth – you can’t beat it. However, we need to get the music to the masses and sometimes, the masses are quite lazy and they’re not into buying vinyl – they just want it NOW! So they go for downloads. But for me, vinyl first and the rest after.

When was the last time you cried?

When my dad died – it wasn’t melancholy or like ‘Dad’s gone’. It was like he’d passed into me – his strength had transferred to me – the tears were cleansing and healing.

What’s the best cover version you have ever heard?

Trevor Walters version of Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck on you”. The beautiful vocals by the hugely talented Mr Walters pay respect to the original but also puts another spin on it. Purity of delivery – just a pleasure to listen to Trevor’s version.

What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened at one of your own gigs?

Nothing comes to mind! You’re too much in the zone to notice a lot of things going on and when it’s a massive crowd, things go unnoticed when you’re performing.

Have you ever been starstruck?

I think if I’d met Nat King Cole or Sam Cooke, it might be a different answer but the answer is ‘no’. I respect and admire all types of people and their achievements but I’m not overwhelmed by them.

What is your culinary speciality?

Ital .Rasta Vibes. Fresh ingredients so you know what you’re eating. My wife Jen is a wonderful cook and she does a lot of traditional dishes. Always eat healthily – sometimes it’s hard to do especially when you’re on the road but remember – your body is your temple and your engine so treat it with respect.

The Royal Family: should they stay or should they go?

WHO?? Next question.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you like to be?

WOULDA –COULDA –SHOULDA…. I AM WHAT I AM! IT IS WHAT IT IS! There are so many paths that I have already taken but where I am now is where I am meant to be. I like where I am.

What were you like at school?

You’d have to ask someone who knew me. It was a long time ago.

If you could change one law, what would it be?

THE LAW THAT HOLDS ONE RACE SUPERIOR, THE OTHER INFERIOR. All people – men and women are created equal – I wouldn’t change that law – I would make sure that it is upheld more vigorously. Every man for every man and every woman for every woman….that is the message.

Which decade would you have most liked to have lived in?

I give thanks for life! The here and now – every day is a blessing.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.