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The revered Jamaican producer on overcoming drug addiction and working with some of the best artists in the business


CLIVE HUNT can easily be described as reggae royalty. With a career that spans over 40 years, the acclaimed Jamaican music producer has worked with reggae, rock and soul music heavyweights, including Peter Tosh, Grace Jones, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones and many other great artists.

Since teaming up with iconic reggae label VP Records, Hunt has been exploring the contemporary reggae sound by working with new artists to maintain and preserve the genre.

A multi-instrumentalist – he plays the trumpet, bass guitar, keyboards and saxophone – arranger, composer and producer, Hunt lived in New York in the late 70s and developed his skills working with fellow reggae talents Joe Gibbs and Lloyd Barnes. However, his American residency came to an end in 1987, after he developed a cocaine addiction and was deported for drug-related offences.

Eventually, the producer bounced back and re-established himself as a force to be reckoned with, teaming up with artists such as Jimmy Cliff, Beres Hammond, Garnett Silk and more recently Etana and Jah Cure.

Clive Hunt

Clive Hunt

His most recent offering was the compilation album, The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems 2015. Solely produced by Hunt, the album featured a host of talents, including Luciano, Richie Spice, Capleton and Ikaya.

Here, the producer talks to Life & Style about reggae, riddims and rehabilitation.

You boast several titles – musician, producer, composer and arranger. Is there one you enjoy the most?
I’m first of all a musician. I used to spend 14 hours a day playing and I tell people that my secret as a producer is that I’m an arranger. I use my skills as an arranger and it gives me a little edge, so I would say I’m an arranger/producer.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?
Creatively there have been so many things for me, because I have been doing music my whole life. Back in Jamaica, I became helpful to the reggae people of the day by working with the best reggae DJs of the time. Since then I have done so many things. I am really proud of my work with Peter Tosh, and arranging with The Rolling Stones and Jah Cure; being the only signed producer on VP Records; and working with Jimmy Cliff.

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What do you think of the current state of reggae music?
I really do like the current state of reggae right now and I believe that just like how other countries preserve their music, all reggae music should also be preserved. I take great pride in what the young people are doing right now and I take greater pride that even with my 40 years of working in the studio, I’m still working with the young artists.

You have worked with musicians from a variety of genres. Have you found a difference in work ethic between reggae and non-reggae artists?
Yes. There is quite a difference, not so much creatively but in their [reggae artist’s] personal approach to work. Maybe because of our upbringing or the social fibre of Jamaica, once the artists start getting a certain amount of attention they become different people – like little monsters. They don’t turn up on time, they argue back and they don’t do the things that are expected from them.

But I feel for them because they get sling-shot into this world of excitement, cars and pretty girls and they feel like they are the centre of the universe and don’t know how to act.

I have worked with major artists and they are very professional and they listen to the producer. Reggae artists want to control the situation and I hope that changes so people won’t start giving up on them.

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

Who are a few of the artists you have enjoyed working with the most and why?
I find that as I get older the artists who are more professional are the ones I relish the most. Geoffrey Chung, he was the first person I learned from in terms of producing. There have been a few people that have stayed in my mind like Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh. I mention them daily to the kids I work with.

It’s well known that you battled with addiction to cocaine in the past. How difficult was it for you to get clean and what advice would you give to young musicians who might be tempted to dabble in drugs?
That’s something very dear to my heart. I got involved in drugs because people around me were doing it. I was rubbing shoulders with the biggest people in the industry and one day one of my friends showed it to me and for 11 years, I went from the highest high to the lowest low.

But because of my skills and professionalism, I was still able to work. Also, thanks to my mother and a friend, I went to rehab and I have been clean since February 1991. I would say to young musicians who are thinking about trying it – don’t do it! I have been living a clean life and I hope this serves as an example to the young people out there.

Second week in the No.1 position

Second week in the No.1 position

The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems 2015 is out now on iTunes

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