Sly, when did you first started thinking of becoming a musician?
Lowell 'Sly' Dunbar:
"Well, that was when I was still at school. I think a pivotal point was when I saw The Skatalites play. I had always admired their drummer, Lloyd Knibb, and to this day, I still believe he's one off the best drummers in the world. It was just a case of wanting to emulate your idol I guess."

Robbie, was the bass your first instrument of choice?
Robert 'Robbie' Shakespeare:
"Well if you're talking real instruments then yes, but you know how it goes, when I was still in school I didn't have the money to buy an instrument, so I would just tap along with the rhythm on anything I could lay my hands on from my school desk to a knife and fork at home."

Sly, it's one thing to want something, but another to get it, so how did you go about realising your dream?
Sly Dunbar:
"I just told my mother I didn't want to go to school anymore and wanted to become a musician. Fortunately for me, she didn't make a great fuss about it. Lloyd Parks, who was already working at Studio 1 in those days, used to come by my house a lot. He always brought his guitar, because we had this big tape recorder he wanted to use and we just started jamming, he on his guitar and me just banging on the table top. That's how I really got familiar with keeping tempo and rhythm for the first time."

Because you were a big fan of Sly & The Family Stone, people started calling you Sly as well. When did that start?
Sly Dunbar:
"That started when I was in a band called The Volcanoes. As you say, in those days I used to listen to a lot of Sly & The Family Stone and it wasn't too long before the manager of the band picked up on that and started calling me Sly. In the beginning it was just to tease me, but after a while it became a habit in the band and certain people that had never met me before only knew me by that name, so by the time I joined Skin, Flesh & Bones (Band formed by bass player Lloyd Parks that featured many of the players who would go to form The Revolutionaries: Sly Dunbar, Radcliffe 'Dougie' Bryan on guitar and Ansel Collins on keyboards. Keyboardists Tarzan Nelson and Bobby Kalphat were also frequent contributors.
Skin Flesh & Bones did much of its work for producers Prince Tony Robinson and Clive Chin, red.) I decided to go by that name permanently."

One of the first hits you were involved in was a track called 'Double Barrel' by Dave & Ansell Collins...
Sly Dunbar:
"That was actually the second one; the first one was a track called 'Night Doctor'. I was never credited for that one, though. I think I must have been only around fifteen years old at the time and I guess Ansel Collins, who produced the track, made some kind of deal with The Upsetter (Lee 'Scratch' perry, red.) cause it was released on his label. The next track I did with Ansel was 'Double Barrel' as you just mentioned and that of course went on to become a huge hit."

You already mentioned Lloyd Knibb, but in developing your own drum style you were also heavily influenced by the so-called Philly Sound from the US.
Sly Dunbar:
"Well, Lloyd Knibb was my first influence because he was already there from before there even was a Philly Sound. He created a drumming style which is now known as the flying cymbal and which was also used in the Philly Sound. I also used to listen to a lot of Al Jackson Jr. from Booker T. & MG's. I liked the Philly Sound, because it was r&b music and it had a certain groove."

Robbie, where you're concerned, we only have to mention one name: Aston 'Family Man' Barrett.
Robbie Shakespeare:
"Yeah, what usually happened is that Aston would play a song and then he would tell me to follow him. It wasn't on the bass yet, though, because at first we used only acoustic guitars."

Tell  us how you guys first got together.
Sly Dunbar:
"I used to play in a club called Tit For Tat and Robbie used to play at a club called Evil People, which was a couple of doors down in the same street, so whenever I got a break I would go over and see him play and he would come and check me out."
Robbie Shakespeare: "The keyboard player I was working with at that time (Bernard 'Touter' Harvey from Inner Circle, red.) told me to go over to the Tit For Tat Club to check out this wicked new drummer there. I had never heard of Sly before, but when I heard him play he sounded real bad, so I decided to call him to do some sessions together and we've really been together ever since."
Sly Dunbar: "Now there's a place in downtown Kingston that's known as Idler's Rest; it's right where Randy's Record Store used to be and all musicians used to meet there to talk about the work that was available. Robbie told Bunny Lee about me and so they organised a session. I think it was John Holt singing a song called 'I Forgot To Say I Love You', a track originally done by the Chi-Lites (as 'I Forgot To Say I Love You Till I'm Gone', red.). After that we worked together on a Jimmy Cliff album called 'Follow My Mind' (Reprise, 1976, red.), but the big break came when Robbie asked me to join him to play with Peter Tosh. That's when we really started to work together as a tight unit."

You guys eventually recorded five albums with Peter. How do you remember him?
Sly Dunbar:
"Peter was cool, you know; he was a great person and it was always fun to be around him. It was through playing with him that Robbie and I first started to get some international exposure. Back then the Channel One sound was all the rave and people wanted to come and check Peter out, in part because he used to be part of The Wailers, but also because they wanted to check out this new sound."

At one stage a French singer called Serge Gainsbourg arrived in Jamaica, wanting to record an album with you guys.
Sly Dunbar: "Right, one day we got a phone call saying: "There's this French singer wanting to do an album. I think he's called Serge Gainsbourg or something..." Now I recognised the name, because I remembered it from the tune 'Je T'aime Moi Non Plus', but I was still surprised this guy now wanted to do a reggae album. Eventually Chris Blackwell introduced us and the whole recording process for the album ('Aux Armes Etcetera', red.) only took us about a week. Serge didn't wanted any overdubs to be added, so we just added his vocals and some backings by The I Threes (Originally Bob Marley & The Wailers vocalists, The I Threes were composed of Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, red)."

You were also part of the Compass Point All Stars for a while, based in Nassau on the Bahamas.
Sly Dunbar:
"Yeah, at that time we were still working with Black Uhuru, but Chris (Blackwell, red.) told us he wanted us to work with this girl named Grace (Jones, red.). We had no idea who she was, though. Chris had done some disco-flavoured productions with her, but they hadn't been all that successful, so he wanted us to try some other stuff with her. We would fly up to Nassau, stay there for up to a month or six weeks, record the tracks we needed to record and fly back to Jamaica. Apart from the stuff we did with Grace, we also recorded an album with Joe Cocker ('Sheffield Steel', Island Records, 1982, red.) and even recorded a couple of songs with James Brown."

You just mentioned Black Uhuru there. How important would you say have Sly & Robbie been in the creation of the Black Uhuru sound?
Sly Dunbar:
"I think we've played quite an important part in the creation of that sound. We were touring with Peter (Tosh, red.), opening for the Rolling Stones. Doing this big stadium tour made us reflect on the future of reggae music. At that time I was listening to a lot of Rolling Stones, Journey, Santana. By the time we hooked up with Michael Rose in Jamaica we had decided to approach the music from a different angle; we really wanted to give reggae that same sound we heard these rock bands play, so we could also take it to the big stadiums and still deliver a cracking sound. This gave Black Uhuru a freshness and an edge other reggae bands at that time didn't have. At first, Chris Blackwell only wanted it to be a studio project, but we insisted and in 1984 - we were working on an album with Bob Dylan at the time ('Infidels', CBS, 1983, red.) - Bob came into the studio and told us we had just won the first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Recording. Unfortunately, there was some internal strife in the band and Black Uhuru started to fall apart soon after winning the award."

What prompted you to form your own TAXI label?
Sly Dunbar:
"Well, we were really looking at our future as musicians. We were playing a lot of sessions in those days and that's not a very secure career, because a producer can choose which musicians he wants to work with. Also we wanted to own some of the material we worked on."

What is true about that fabulous number of 200000 tunes you guys supposedly recorded?
Sly Dunbar:
"(laughs) I guess by now it's probably already more than 200000, because we're still recording new tunes every day! On a lot of those tunes we just played as session musicians, so you weren't really credited for all of them."

Sly, over the years you've both played the synth drums and the acoustic ones. Do you have a preference?
Sly Dunbar:
"I've always preferred the acoustic drums, but when I started using the synth drums I was just trying to bring something fresh to the music. I first used them when we were recording Black Uhuru's Grammy winning 'Anthem' album. I would advise all beginning drummers to start out with an acoustic set, though, because that's still the real deal!"

What would you like the people to remember you for?
Sly Dunbar:
"I would like them to remember some of the wicked riddims we produced, because in the end it's all about the music, no? I don't care so much what they think about me, whether they think I'm a great drummer or just ok or even bad, as long as they appreciate the music."
Robbie Shakespeare: "I would like the people to remember all the times we fucked up as well! I'm not really all that good, you know, but we've worked with so many well-known artists everybody now thinks: "Well, he must be good then!" Above all else, they should remember the music, though; that should be our lasting legacy!"

Over the years you've also done a lot of projects outside the scope of reggae music. Is there a difference between these projects and the reggae ones or is it all just music?
Robbie Shakespeare:
"Before anything else, we're musicians. Personally, I'll give anything a try, whatever the style might be. I've never really considered myself to be just a reggae musician. I've always wanted to branch out and try other things. We've played with a lot of top musicians over the years, but I'm still trying to be a good bass player, and who knows maybe I'll reach the level I would like to reach one day! (laughs)"
Sly Dunbar: "It's all music, but Jamaica is but a small country and I've always liked the fact that reggae is able to exceed the boundaries of that little island. People like The Skatalites, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley have laid the foundations and now it's up to us to keep that fire burning. I love a lot of different kinds of music, but my heart has to be with reggae, because that's what we breathe and eat in Jamaica every day!"