JB, Teacher, Capital Letters really started out as The Alphabets.
Junior 'JB' Brown (bass): "We named ourselves The Alphabets but quickly discovered there was a band with the same name back in Manchester, so we decided to change it to Capital Letters which didn't seem to be all that big of a leap! (laughs)"
Danny 'Teacher' McKenzie (guitar, vocals): "In the early days we mainly played covers, but we realized that wouldn't get us too far, so when we changed the band name, we also started focusing on writing our own material."
Capital Letters hails from Wolverhampton in the Midlands. Did that city already have some kind of reggae scene when you guys started out back in the nineteen seventies?
Danny 'Teacher' McKenzie: "Not in Wolverhampton as such, but you had a vibrant reggae scene in the UK in those days and with Capital Letters we mostly played the university and college circuit back then."
Capital Letters was also the first band to be signed by the now legendary Greensleeves Records label.
Junior 'JB' Brown: "Funnily enough, Greensleeves wasn't our first choice! When we had finished recording a number of the songs for what would become the 'Headline News' album we started going from record company to record company and Greensleeves was actually the last one on our list. You have to realize they had only just started out back then and weren't as well-known as they are today. We met the two Chris's (Cracknell & Sedgwick, red.), they liked what they heard and the rest is history!"
Is it fair to say legendary BBC Radio 1 deejay John Peel helped kick-start your career?
Junior 'JB' Brown: "John Peel called Capital Letters his favorite UK reggae band and for a while he would play one of our songs each time we went on air. We also recorded some of our songs as a part of the John Peel Sessions at one stage, but that set has never been released in album form yet."
The 'Headline News' album was a success, 'Smoking My Ganja' became a worldwide hit, so why after all that still call it quits in 1985?
Danny 'Teacher' McKenzie: "It's nice to be popular and get recognition, but at the end of the day we have to put food in our mouths and that just wasn't happening."
Does that mean you all returned to jobs outside of the music business?
Junior 'JB' Brown: "We played music as full-time musicians for about four or five years, but we just weren't making enough money to keep it up so we all returned to various other jobs."
Danny 'Teacher' McKenzie: "Our percussionist became a lorry driver, the keyboard player found the church and started his own business, the lead guitarist worked as an electrical engineer for a while and I make a living as a plasterer."
Unfortunately, the music business hasn't taken a turn for the better over the last few decades, on the contrary even. Do you guys approach your music career differently this second time around?
Junior 'JB' Brown: "We were actually taken somewhat by surprise that the people behind Reggae Archive Records actually showed an interest in releasing material we'd recorded so many years ago. Of course we're all too happy to promote the album and we're far removed from the days we were trying to make a living from playing music; we're just doing it because we love playing music. We never really stopped writing tunes though, even after the band had officially split up and when Reggae Archive Records came to find us, it seemed the ideal moment to put the band back together and finally release those songs, most of which date from 1985, on an album."
The work of Reggae Archive Records has inspired a whole number of British reggae bands - Black Roots, Talisman, Black Symbol - to get things started again. Can we talk about a revival of those nineteen eighties UK reggae bands yet?
Junior 'JB' Brown: "Well, we definitely hope so! (laughs) We're getting good reviews on the 'Reality' album and I think the guys behind Bristol Archive Records and Reggae Archive Records are doing a very good job."
The guys behind Reggae Archive Records also run the Sugar Shack Records label that specializes in releasing new material from reformed bands like yourselves. Do you guys have any plans to head back into the studio and record some new material?
Junior 'JB' Brown: "In all honesty, there's a lesser known Capital Letters album called 'Planet Earth' (VP Records, 2011, red.) which was only released as a digital download, so instead of immediately going into the studio, we'd like to get that released in physical form first."
How much of a role has the philosophy of Rastafari played in the music of Capital Letters?
Junior 'JB' Brown: "Rastafarianism was important in a way that it bonded the different band members together, so even if it's not reflected that much in the songs we put out, it was definitely important!"