The man is full of surprises. A hard-working musician since the early 1960s, Dennis Alcapone still dreams about going to far away places in the interview you are about to read. To all the promoters especially in Mexico, Canada and Africa: “Don’t miss out on the world’s first singjay.”
RSS: Dennis, when and how did you enter the music business?
Dennis Alcapone: It was in 1961, 1962. Just playing music at my friends or relatives’ parties, on their gramophones.
RSS: How did you make it into a studio from there? Did you just knock on doors?
Dennis Alcapone: Keith Hudson came looking for me and asked me to come to the studio. I started out on the soundsystems. That’s how he heard about me.
RSS: Your own soundsystem?
Dennis Alcapone: Yes, El Paso, my own sound.
RSS: Who were your inspirations?
Dennis Alcapone: U Roy, Sir Lord Comic and PrincePampadu.
RSS: Were you involved in clashes with other soundsystems at the time?
Dennis Alcapone: From time to time we would clash with other sounds, like one big clash with Ruddy’s Supreme from Spanish Town. But we won that clash!
RSS: Was that only about the music or was there any real violence?
Dennis Alcapone: Only music, no violence.
RSS: Looking back, where do you see your place in Jamaica’s musical history?
Dennis Alcapone: Right up there with all the other Jamaican entertainers. My influence is there for everybody to see because I was the first sing-jay DJ. Many others have followed that trend.
RSS: What do you think about contemporary Reggae?
Dennis Alcapone: Reggae music is alive and kicking, the most played music in the world today.
RSS: Any favourites?
Dennis Alcapone: Beres Hammond is my all time favourite singer.
RSS: You have voiced over so many tracks, what are your favourite tunes?
RSS: You played at the Reggae Jamdown in Dortmund recently, sharing the stage with Lee Perry, U Brown, Macka B and other legendary artists. Do you see each other regularly?
Dennis Alcapone: Not really. Mostly when we are on tour.
RSS: Back in the 1970s, you worked with Lee Perry as a producer a lot. How does he compare to other producers you have worked with?
Dennis Alcapone: Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone were in a class of their own. Lee Perry was Sir Coxsone’s student. He was very good back in the days.
RSS: You were very successful in the mid-seventies. Why did you emigrate to England in 1974?
Dennis Alcapone: Well, I came here on tour, met my wife and the rest is history.
RSS: How was it to move to England as a Jamaican? Did you feel welcome or did people show hostility or even racism?
Dennis Alcapone: As an entertainer it was not too bad for me but I’ve come across some of it in my time.
RSS: Do you want to share an example?
Dennis Alcapone: There wasn’t anything specific. Just walking on the street you got the looks and the remarks of people everyday.
RSS: (How) has this changed in the nearly 40 years since then? To what extent do you feel British, English or Jamaican nowadays?
Dennis Alcapone: I am Jamaican first and foremost. England has changed a lot over the years. When I came to this country, most black men you saw were West Indian and you would know a lot of them. In the later years, it was mostly Indians who came here. Right now it’s a new breed of people from Eastern Europe. But that’s life. The world keeps on turning. The racist people are everywhere. In every walk of life, you buck up on idiots.
RSS: On to something more positive. You still perform regularly. What about new recordings?
Dennis Alcapone: Yes, I’m still doing my thing on the road, entertaining people. I am also working on my new album, Now and Then. And I am finishing an album for Mad Professor that I started a while back.
RSS: So no release date yet?
Dennis Alcapone: No, still got a few more tracks to do for Mad Professor, so I could not give you a release date, but hopefully by the middle of the year. There is a single out from the album, called Mandingo Warrior, however.
RSS: What about Now and Then? When will that be out?
Dennis Alcapone: I am waiting for the company, Universal, to sort out their reggae sector. But I have another single out with a new artist called K-OSS. That’s called Funny Feeling. There’s more in the pipeline. Watch this space!
RSS: You featured on the Prince Fatty albums. How did you get involved with him? Do you like his style of producing?
Dennis Alcapone: I got involved through Little Roy. Prince Fatty’s thing is different from what I used to. He is doing his own thing.
RSS: When record companies re-release your old material, like with last year’s Yeah Yeah Yeah/Mash Up The Dance (on Kingston Sounds/Indigo), do you actually get royalties? Do they even ask you?
Dennis Alcapone: Bunny Lee did that deal. I got something from him but I need to sort out royalties with the company.
RSS: Of all the bands you have performed with, who was the most enjoyable to work with?
Dennis Alcapone: Oh, there are so many. Lloyd Parks and the We The People Band, Ruff Cut from England, Rude Rich & The High Notes from Holland. The Hand Cart Band and No More Babylon from France.
RSS: Are there any remaining ambitions you still have?
Dennis Alcapone: Yes, there are still places that I would love to go to and perform for the people.
RSS: Like what?
Dennis Alcapone: Mexico, Africa, Canada. I’ve never been to those places.
RSS: Well, hopefully somebody over there will read this. Is there any message you want to share with readers?
Dennis Alcapone: This is to all music lovers over the world: Keep on supporting the music and stay blessed!
RSS: Thanks very much, Dennis. It was a pleasure and an honour to talk to you.
Dennis Alcapone: Thanks and same to you.
A German version of this interview can be found in Rockingsteady E-Zine, issue 15.
Essential listening: Dennis Alcapone – Forever Version (1971)