The Mystic Radics story, episode2: “It made me realize that I could use cricket to tackle wider social issues”

mysticThe Mystic Radics in the early 1980s: L to R. Vincent Roswell, Desmond Carter, Franco Scalisi, Tony Moody, Marvin Augustus
—Photo courtesy T. Moody.

So that first song came out, and it was already on your label, Water Mount. The name always intrigued me.
Oh, yes! It was where my wife was born—Water Mount, St. Catherine, Jamaica. So I named the label off her. And I drew the logo myself as well.

I love it.
[laughter] I think it’s terrible.

Well, it’s very… I’d say it’s very genuine.
Yes, it was like that. Because I couldn’t afford to do things, I just do it myself.

How many copies did you originally press of Night Work?
Two hundred. That was at what I could afford to do. And I did try to promote it in some of the clubs because I sang in some of the clubs, like The Podium, or another one in Catford. I remember singing there once and Nitty Gritty was on the bill. It was a big dance, Frontline sound system was playing. I got to sing Night Work right before Nitty Gritty got on the microphone. But I only did it because I wanted to find a way of getting the funds for the cricket. So, that’s what I did.

You kind of managed to make some money off it?
No, because the way the music business works, I realized I didn’t have the kind of money to stay with it. I didn’t have the kind of money to stay. Because the way how they deal with music is not for the music. They deal with it for something else. It’s not just for the music. It’s like they feel everything has to be marketed in a particular way, and music is sometimes is very personal. And that personal feelings or that personal attitude that you bring to it, sometimes it’s not commercial enough. If you are going to say certain things that you, you know, that you feel strong about, some people would say, Oh, it’s too militant, or too political. They kind of want to manufacture the spirit of music and manufacture the spirit of people and that’s where the creativity is lost.

So then from this first 12 inch, what was the next one? Was it Pusherman?
Pusherman, yes. In the youth club, I remember one of them, his brother was taking drugs in a bad way. Because it was so bad he was prepared at the time to allow his girlfriend to go with the pusher man in order for him to feed his habit. And his brother was telling me, in the rehearsal room he was telling me and he was crying. And he asked me, “What can we do? What can I do?” And the only thing that came to me was for me to write a song. Because then it wasn’t the pusher who they were blaming, it was the users. They were penalizing the users. So I realized that really it’s not the users, it’s the pushers who is creating that problem. So I then wrote about the Pusherman. And it played on Miss P’s show on Radio One. I was at work and Desmond called me and said, “Tony have you got a radio nearby?” And I said yes. So I went to the personnel and I heard about few bars of the song. But then I hear them discussing the contents, the words. And then few days after I saw in the paper that they were dealing with the pushers rather than the users.

Wicked DJ cut on the Pusherman riddim, followed by the original vocal – both found on master tape, unmastered.

Do yout think that was it because of the song?
I don’t know if that’s what they got it from, but I know that’s what happened.

Do youu remember roughly what year Pusherman came out ?
Not really. I didn’t document my role in music, because I’ve always felt that music wasn’t… even though I love it, it wasn’t like the most important for me. Cricket was.

How did you get this deep into the sport?
When I came to England, I started playing football but one of the coaches from Surrey came to the school and that was like the first couple of months while I was at school. He took us to Crystal Palace, where we played cricket, and realized that I was a better cricketer than footballer. So the first few months while I was in England I played for the school team. By playing cricket, I realized that the social side of things was different from football, different from music. It is a different concept, a different mentality, a different attitude. I realized that the depth of thought that you need to play cricket was different from the instinctive nature of football. I also realized that in music the concept links with cricket.

Links in what way?
In terms of the emotion. Because it’s not instant, it’s not a sprint, it’s like a marathon. And because it’s like a marathon, it gives you more time to think, to be creative, and so on. So the creative juice within cricket, because the mental side and the physical side and the emotional side, all that is evident. So when you bring all that together, the creative juices increase.

Did you play cricket in Jamaica already?
Yes, but not so much the traditional cricket. We’d play the catchy shubby form of it. Everyone could be involved in playing this type of game because it’s for the young, old and anyone. So that’s what I grow up with. So when I came, I start playing traditional cricket. I was 17 when I played my first match here. But then it was a match between the community team playing against the police. So I realized that you could use cricket to tackle wider social issues So that got me going, because that concept was really good – to watch the team, mainly West Indian players playing against the police.

Was it a friendly game?
Yes, it was, and they were using it to bridge the gap in a social way. So it was very good and I really loved the idea, because then the police was very aggressive. They were very aggressive and quite a number of people died in custody and all that type of stuff. So the idea of using cricket to bridge the gap, I thought was a good one, so ever since then I grasped it and I continue doing it.

So you were very deep into cricket already, and then came Nation Wide…

Final episode of the Tony Moody interview coming up next week – hold tight!


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