You mentioned Good Times at the beginning. You are, perhaps, best known for that. How would you describe it?
Well, Good Times is a good time sound system. It’s my sound system brand name. I mean, it’s a brand name now, but back in the day, in the late 70s, early 80s, it was a physical thing. My brother Joey and I literally built it ourselves – and crafted it into what it has become. In 1980, we started playing at Notting Hill Carnival. That was what we aspired to, and we thought we could contribute something positive. But it was a baptism of fire when we got there. They were still dark days. Racism was rife. Panic on the street, as they said. I thought maybe we could make a difference here. Because I’m surrounded by reggae, roots. Africanism; it’s traditional. But there’s no funk, there’s no disco here.
How were you received when you first arrived?
Well, I was a fresh greenhorn, for sure. We had bottles of piss thrown at us and sometimes threatened with knives. So, that’s nothing new. But I was young and naive. And carefree. So, I was unafraid and held my ground. I put my flag in the ground. “This is where Good Times is.”
You were born in Notting Hill. Was Carnival an essential part of your growing up?
Not really, when I was young. My parents first went there in the 60s. And it was a real cultural thing for them, coming from the West Indies. For me, being born in England, I didn’t relate to Carnival early on. Then, as a teenager in the early to mid-70s, I started to go again. That was a very difficult time to be black in London – especially a black youth. By then, I was highly politicised, very left-wing in my politics. So, I was informed about what the state and the establishment were trying to do. This is when police stop and search was legalised. And some of them abused that power. Not all of them, but those who did had carte blanche to pull up a black kid on the street. But there was always going to come a point where, as a community, we were gonna say enough is enough. So, when I was around 17 or 18, I was a frontline soldier, standing up for what is right. For my generation, that was really important. Don Letts, the DJ and producer, was another.
So, do you think, in some way, the music and the DJing had some sort of political agenda?
My music definitely did. At the time, my mates were ex-mods and soul boys. And a lot of my mates were first-generation punks, not the catwalk punks that came a few years later. And they were politically switched on, part of the Rock Against Racism movement. My wife, Jane, was on the march from Trafalgar Square to Victoria Park in 1978. She and her mates came up from Southampton with their banners. Of course, the Clash played in the park in east London that day.