Norman, Ralston, apparently before there was ever talk of Twinkle Brothers, you guys were already in a band called The Cardinals.
Norman Grant: "That was in the early days, back in the early nineteen sixties. We used to play the hotel circuit, performing whatever they wanted us to play, whether it was calypso, soul or rhythm and blues. Apart from The Cardinals, we also played with Schubert & The Miracles and Llans Thelwell & The Celestials; you had a whole host of these bands back in the day. We're from the north coast of Jamaica, a tourist area with lots of hotels, so joining that circuit seemed like a logical stepping stone towards a music career of our own."
Ralston Grant: "Commonly we were still already known as Twinkle Brothers though, even in those days!"

Being Rastafarians, these days you guys proudly wear your dreadlocks, but I'm guessing if you wanted to play these hotels, back then that wasn't the case yet?
Norman Grant: "(laughs) No man, we were still clean-shaven baldheads in those days, performing in nice suits; well-groomed as we say in Jamaica! Back in those days only rich people could afford to spend their holiday in Jamaica, so it was all very fancy. Our own career really took off when we started entering ourselves in talent contests; these contests started on a parish level - Jamaica is divided into fourteen parishes - and if you won you moved up and up all the way to the national finals. If you won, you got a small cash prize; it wasn't much though."

You already released some singles under the Twinkle Brothers name in the nineteen sixties, but it would take until 1975 for your first album ('Rasta Pon Top', Grounation, red.) to see the light.
Norman Grant: "What happened is we are country boys from the north of Jamaica and all the music business was and still is done in Kingston. We were still at school at the time and would only have the time to go to Kingston and audition during the holidays, but that wasn't necessarily the best time to do that as not all producers were turning out new stuff all the time; sometimes you had to wait for weeks or months until you could audition for them. It was all about being at the right place at the right time. We were always there waiting and waiting, but our time never seemed to come! (laughs)"
Ralston Grant: "Entering and winning all of these competitions did earn us a live reputation though and I think I can say it taught us to be entertainers more than just singers."
Norman Grant: "Entertaining a crowd is a skill on its own; you have to know when and where in a song you can get the crowd to join in and so forth."

Twinkle Brothers were also among a group of artists and bands, who, in the middle of the nineteen seventies were signed by Virgin Records. How do you look back on the deal you got back then?
Norman Grant: "To be honest, I got offered three different deals in the UK at that time and from all of them what Virgin offered was the best one. More importantly, signing with Virgin took us into a market we might not have been able to get into by ourselves. It was the time punk was getting quite popular, so Virgin used to put us on these Various Artists compilation between a bunch of punk bands; that brought Twinkle Brothers to people who otherwise might never have listened to our music! Even these days we still receive royalties from these songs, so I can't complain about Virgin."

By starting your own label and turning your music into a do-it-yourself business, one could argue that, in a way, you guys foresaw what was going to happen in the music business.
Ralston Grant: "Being from the country and seeing how a lot of these producers in the city treated us, turned us away from that whole business."
Norman Grant: "You have to remember we were used to perform the hotel circuit where everything was very luxurious and nice. Compared to that going to Kingston to record for these producers was pure sufferation! We couldn't take all that roughness, so when we found out how much it cost to voice and press a record, we decided we could do that ourselves. The music business is a control thing and unfortunately it's often a third party that runs away with the profits instead of the artists or even the producer. A lot of these early producers signed away the rights to their productions for a couple of thousand dollars! I would encourage any artist to be self-sufficient and independent as much as possible."

Once every so often you still record for a producer, like the 'Culture Defender' album you did for Gussy P in 2011.
Norman Grant: "You won't see us doing that very regularly, but I consider Gussie P to be a true brethren. Gussie often worked with us as a sound engineer when we're playing live, so we consider him to be part of the family. We pretty much have the same vibe going on with Jah Shaka and Barry Isaac, who we also recorded for in the past. They're all guys turning out music we like, so we don't mind putting our voices over it. I think Shaka must still have about two albums worth of tracks from us; he hasn't released that material yet, but plays it as exclusives on his dances. That's also what we consider to be an "exclusive"; you will never hear Twinkle Brothers doing a dubplate bigging up this or that sound. We much prefer to offer them an exclusive track that only they will be able to play."

You just mentioned a couple of people that are close to Twinkle Brothers there, so we can't forget to mention Dub Judah. He's been playing the bass for you guys for many years now. How exactly did that relationship start?
Norman Grant: "We started working with Dub Judah from about 1990. Before that, Black Steel played the bass for us. Steel was with us from around 1986, but when he left us in the lurch one day, choosing to do backing vocals for Dennis Brown rather than play bass for us, we decided to look for another bass player and that's when we called on Dub Judah. One of the first things we did together was travel to Poland where we recorded 'Higher Heights', an album we did together with a Polish folk band called Trebunie-Tutki."

How did that whole Polish connection get started?
Norman Grant: "It all started when a Polish radio deejay came to London and invited us to come to Poland. He told us our music was very popular in Poland and we definitely had to come. There was no money to pay us, because the Polish zloty was virtually worthless at the time, but he tempted us by informing us that we could rent studio time for next to nothing. We went there and we recorded four albums in one session! In total we recorded about eight albums in Poland, some of which still haven't been released. The money they paid us still made us zloty millionaires, so we tried to spend as much as we could, bringing home bags full of leather coats and what have you even to musical instruments like trumpets and trombones. The rest of the money we put in the bank, only to realize that exchanged to pounds it amounted to next to nothing! (laughs) Over there we were also introduced to Trebunie-Tutki and we ended up recording the 'Higher Heights' album together (followed by a second one, 'Songs Of Glory/Pieśni Chwały', released in 2008, red.). That concept took a while to catch on though, but these days those albums are very popular as are the shows we do together."

You guys being two brothers, did Rastafari find you at exactly the same time?
Ralston Grant: "In truth, I started dreading up before Norman. We grew up among Rastafarians though, so for us it was never a strange far removed thing."
Norman Grant: "It was the Rastafarians who taught us about self-reliance! As youths we kept watching how they lived and listening to what they had to say, until eventually we realized that what they were going on about was the truth. Rastafarianism is all about living clean, both physically and mentally, and doing the right thing and we give thanks to those Rastafarians who were there to show us the way. As Twinkle Brothers say: "It's only Rasta!""