A while ago, I had the honour to interview one of the greatest Sounds of all time. Everybody who’s interested in soundsystem culture surely heard about this legendary sound and their incredible dubplatebox, which defeated many sounds from the late eighties till the mid nineties.
Since this year, the original Mastermind behind the sound and his Crew start to put the sound back on the road, with a team that is spread all over North America and the Caribbean, planning to tour the US and Europe in 2010.
Sadly the Owner of the talked about Sound, Wycliffe Johnson, also known as Steely, the legendary Producer of uncountable Reggae & Dancehall Hits and one part of the Producer Duo named Steely & Clevie passed away a couple of weeks ago, even before him was able to manage the Comeback Tour of his well known
So Ladies and Gents, please keep your focus on the following Interview with the ‘Hawks Road Manager Palmer.
First of all, please introduce yourself, and the rest of the team to my readers.
You are talking to the Road Manager Palmer. I am a professional money manager and entrepreneur, who has worked on wall street to various private equity positions throughout the years. I have always been around Silverhawk as a fan and helper since 1989, from dubplate sessions to helping market the sound then to a different class of clientele.
The team includes, past selector Richard “Richie Poo” Reid, Luciana Maneri (Steely’s Manager) and Cleveland “Clevie” Browne.
Richie Poo will be the sole selector and MC for the Sound. The team is located in different parts right now, Richard in North Carolina, Lucianna in New York, Clevie in Jamaica and I am in Charlotte, North Carolina also.
Can you please sum up the very first start of Silverhawk for me? How come the producer Steelie turn into the Soundsystem Owner? Also Silverhawk been known as one of the first sounds which prefers voicing and playing dubplates over live Deejays in the dance, how does this happen?
Long story how it actually started, but in short, it start out with Steely taking pre released records to August town to play on a little system in the community for the residences to hear it first.
Silverhawk was born out of this initiative of testing the reception of the music to be released. The August town community was Steelys testing grounds.
It fully manifested itself when Steely and Clevie decided to leave Jammys and form their own label in 1988. Steelys main aim for Silverhawk was to be a promotional outlet for their music and therefore the reason behind the more record/dubplate nature of the sound system in an era when most sounds had DJs.
Because of that, Silverhawk was rated very high for the sounds incredible Dubplate Collection. Can you tell me about it?
One of the best time for us was when Steely started to cut a host of exclusive Dubs from Reggae giants such as Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, Alton Ellis, Ini Kamoze, Delroy Wilson, Culture, Gregory Isaacs, Puddy Roots, Max Romeo, U-Roy, Super Cat and much more. No other system was playing these artists like we did and it brought us a different flair and fan base because of the exclusivity of these dubs. All of these dubs were done as if they were being produced for an album, so they were harmonized, done on updated riddim cuts by Steely & Clevie and most of them we had on 2-4 different cuts. Our Bunny Wailers are perfect example of this, where we have multiple cuts of all his dubs.
One artist we are very known for on dubplate is Billy Ocean. And before you ask: Yes it is Billy Ocean.
Can you tell me about the most memorable moments in the Sounds career?
To Silverhawk fans some of the most memorable moments were:
The Killamanjaro clash, our yearly longside appearances with Stone love, our head to head battles with Super Dee and Innercity through the years and to the later part the clashes between Jamrock and against African Star.
Two of my personal favorites were against Heatwave and Supersaint in 1990.
Why did Silverhawk stop to play in the Mid-Nineties?
The Hawk stopped playing because it was interfering with the production work of Studio 2000.
Do you still use the physical Soundsystem or just travel as a “DJ-Team”?
We still have the physical sound in Barbican at Fatta Colins (the owner of Colin Fat Records) house, but as you are aware we haven’t physically used the sound system itself in over 14 yrs.
Was it Steelys Plan to launch Silverhawk again, or is it something you brought up after his tragically death?
Yes, Steely wanted to get the sound back on the road and this was the team he put in place. Obviously Clevie has taken over Steelys place, as he wanted to see Steelys wish come true.
Is Clevie really involved into the daily soundsystem things, like dubcutting and travelling etc, or is he just the man behind, spending money on this project?
Clevie personality is not one for the sound system lifestyle, he is very reserved and more of a family man, unlike Steely who liked to be out. He will be doing some of the more relevant dubplates himself on our request. We talk to him like twice a week but we are the wheel behind the sound.
Do you think that Silverhawk can made an impact on the nowadays Dancehall/Clash Scene?
Cause the Selectors today playing a Sound totally different then you guys use to.
Our aim is to bring back some of the past and mix it with the new- The new way has been a total let down for our music and it is proven with the lack of sales of our music. The base of the music is the sound system and without good selectors playing quality music we will only lead the music down the current path.
We intend to make a drastic change in how a sound plays and you will get that when we are introduced.
Are you also back into the dubcutting thing, like nowadays hype artists, or do you just stick to what you already got?
We are cutting new stuff, there is no way to get around that. We also have music people have never heard before and we are excited about some of the ideas we have on hand.
What are the Plans for Silverhawk now?
We’re planning on doing a Tribute to Steely Tour in 2010.
It was Steelys idea to bring back Silverhawk and to break the monotony of the present soundsystems out there and play with a different flair.
Is Silverhawk up for clashing also, or are just jugglings on the plan?
We will clash, but that is not our priority.
Do you already got some confirmed upcoming dates where the patrons can see Silverhawk?
We are having a V.I.P. Press Release party January 14 in NYC. It will be invitation only to the press, artists, promoters and a few selected fans with special artist guests that will be announced.
We are also planning to broadcast the event live with a radio station in the NYC area and possibly more.
Thanks for the Answers Palmer, and good luck with the relaunch of the Hawk.
And, as a little appetizer, here is a 80min. Dubplate Mix of Silverhawk juggling strictly Shabba & Ninjaman Dubplates:
Steely & Clevie 2006@Redbull Music Academy