Norman, I don't have to ask you how Twinkle Brothers met, because you are actually brothers, but was it clear from the very start that you were going to be in a band together?
Norman Grant: "(laughs) When you grow up with your brother and you sleep in the same bed, you are just around each other a lot and it's easy to start sharing the same vibes. From the beginning I was always the lead singer and composer and my brother did the harmonies. Yeah, it was always there. I remember when I was about eight years old and he was ten, because he's two years older than me, we sang together at school festivals and things like that and from the age of twelve we started playing at festivals."
One of the first things you played at was the so called Pop & Mento festival. What kind of music did you guys play in those days?
Norman Grant: "Back then it was mainly ska. At first we listened to a lot of American music like boogie and so on, but when we started to create our own music it was ska."
Which artists did you listen to?
Norman Grant: "A bit of everything really; The Temptations, The Miracles, The Drifters, all those kind of groups and a lot of Curtis Mayfield also. We listened closely to the harmonies in those bands and tried to copy that sound because we were self-taught you know."
When exactly did you start using the Twinkle Brothers name?
Norman Grant: "That was really from the very early beginning, even before we entered that first Pop & Mento festival in '62. We were rehearsing one day when a Rasta elder by the name of So-Me-Say heard us play and told us he was going to give us a name. He came up with the name Twinkle Brothers. I guess that because it was already nightfall, he got inspired by the stars in the sky. We've held that name ever since. I remember that at one stage another guy wanted to change our name into Positive Reaction, but we didn't go for that."
In those early days, when you were still recording in Jamaica, you worked with a number of top producers. Is there anyone who you remember more fondly than the others?
Norman Grant: "Out of all of them, Bunny Lee got the most out of us. We did about 14 tracks with him; tunes like 'Miss Labba Labba' and 'It's Not Who You Know'. But we recorded for Dynamics and Federal as well. We did songs for Lee Perry, Phil Pratt and so on, but we started to do our own thing from early on."
Talking about that, you guys are an example of artists doing it all independently. You record and produce yourselves and other artists on your own Twinkle label, but how is that these days because everybody knows the recording business is not what it used to be.
Norman Grant: "Nothing is easy of course, but for me it's not really the sales figures that will determine whether I produce a record or not. When I make some money from an album that has been released I will reinvest that money in the next one and because we have our own studio we can keep the production costs pretty low. You also have to know the business, know what you are going to do before you actually do it. That will save you a lot of time. The big recording companies won't even consider putting out a song if they are not sure it will sell; we will put it out regardless. Some of the songs I sing on stage today date back thirty years and the people still love them and they are still selling."
That's reggae music!
Norman Grant: "Yeah exactly, so all I have to do is stay strong. I have a lot of songs that I've only been playing for about ten years or less and in time they will also mature."
You just mentioned you got your band name from a Rasta elder, so that indicates you were influenced by Rastafari from an early age...
Norman Grant: "Yeah, because the Rastafarians were there you know, living their lives independently, doing their thing. They thought us to know right from wrong. The Rastaman has been saying things like: "Make love not war!" from ever since you know."
Many a time I hear stories of artists who came into conflict with their parents after they started to manifest as a Rastafarian. Does that sound familiar?
Norman Grant: "Oh yes, that's why we wrote songs like 'Since I Threw The Comb Away'. After a while most of them come around though. They love you still you know. The thing is, that whatever you believe in, be it Buddha or Jesus, as long as you try to live and do good it's the same thing."
What prompted you to leave Jamaica and come to the United Kingdom?
Norman Grant: "Well you just grow up and you realise there's a big world out there and you can basically live anywhere you want and England was a place that was into reggae music from ever since. As a musician sometimes you have to go where the music takes you. I just followed the music."
For the longest time now, you've been working together with Dub Judah. When did that relationship start?
Norman Grant: "(Thinks) That must have been in 1991. We did some production work together. I worked with a lot of people over the years, but what musicians are concerned I try to work with professionals and people who know our style of music, because our style of music is a bit different from other reggae music."
You're absolutely right there. When a Twinkle Brothers record is playing you will immediately recognise the sound. So what is the secret?
Norman Grant: "(laughs) Well, I can't really give away our secret you know! Anyone who makes something will have his own secret. It's up to you to go out there and find out what it is! Part of it is that I play a lot of the music myself. I play the drums, so that way I know were a song is going. Adding chords you can decide if it is going to be a love song or a conscious tune or whatever. Everybody works differently though and with today's computer technology nearly everybody can make music. I still try to keep it natural though."
To end the interview, I would like to give you some names and you can just respond by explaining what they mean to you. Let's start with your home country: Jamaica?
Norman Grant: "Jamaica is and will always be my home and it's a place I look forward going back to, to recharge my battery. I make sure I go home regularly."
Your base of residence then: London?
Norman Grant: "London is like a head office for the world. People have always wanted to know what's going on in London, so as an artist, if you can make it in London, you can make it anywhere in the world."
Just a last one then: music?
Norman Grant: "Reggae music for the world. Music can and will teach the world. In a song you only have three minutes to tell your story, so from the moment the needle hits the record the song has to say something. That again is part of the science within the business. A politician can never do what a musician can do, so I'm glad I'm doing what I do!"
Thanks for these words of wisdom!
Norman Grant: "Give thanks and keep doing the good works!"