World-A-Reggae talks ‘Branches and Leaves’ with Roberto Sanchez of A-Lone Ark
Simply put, Roberto Sanchez is the best producer in the game right now. If you doubt that, just pick up any one of his recent productions, albums like Earl Zero’s And God Said To Man Showcase, Alpheus’ From Creation, or his newest showcase album with Milton Henry titled Branches and Leaves Showcase, and you will doubt it no more. You can read my review of Branches and Leaves Showcase HERE.
Sanchez took time out of his busy recording and touring schedule to speak with us about the new album.
So why did you choose to work with Milton Henry on this project?
“I love working with artists like Milton Henry. He is an artist I always wanted to work with because of the feelings he transmit (musically and lyrically). On top of that I ´m a fan of all Wackies productions, so it´s big honor to present this album. “
How did you guys link up?
“It was through Seb Carayol (photographer/journalist Natty Dread FR) that I could link Milton.”
Talk a little bit about the showcase album. I love showcase albums. Many of the great reggae records from the late 1970s and early 1980s were released as showcase albums. Unfortunately, there are not many producers putting out showcase albums anymore. You seem to like the style.
“I SIMPLY LOVE SHOWCASE ALBUMS!! For me it´s the best format as you can really develop/work on each riddim by including the vocal and the dub cuts. It gives the listener the most complete and wide taste of the music. As a roots reggae/dub lover I really enjoy a dub cut after the vocal, so I try to keep that for my albums/productions.”
The heaviness and consistency of the riddims on this album is most impressive. Each track is harder than the previous. I kept anticipating a point halfway through the album where you would let up and go with a lighter sound, but you kept the pedal to the metal all the way through. Do you use all live instruments to get this heavy, authentic, classic rootsy sound?
“Yes, I always use live instruments for my productions. I record with great musicians I´ve been working with for years (Iñigo Elexpuru, Dubby Ambassah´, Gorka Fernández, Saioa Jorrín, Jaime C. Montes,…) and also I´m a musician playing different instruments in most of the tracks I produce.
I also think that part of the sound rawness of this album came through the analog format I used to record it. All riddims were recorded in my old 4 tracks cassette/tape recorder (it´s a long time I did not use one, maybe since mid/late 90´s, but I thought it was a good format, maybe the best, for Milton album, as the aim was to get a lo-fi raw sound but as warm as we could). Also the mix is 100% analog.”
The tracks were voiced at Bullwackies new studio in NYC. Talk about the influence Lloyd Barnes has had on your work as a producer.
“I would say that Lloyd´s productions and all Wackies house musicians and singers works were a great influence for me (and not only for this album). I´m a Wackies fan since I started listening reggae music as a teenager. I love the fact that he and rest of musicians (like Clive Hunt) created a raw lo-fi sound but with a really inspiring result, with lot of feeling, message… for me there are three names to mention when you speak about lo-fi sound and hi grade music/message: Lee Perry and his Black Ark studio (JA), Lloyd Barne´s Bullwackies studio (NY) and Jerry Brown´s Summer Sound studio (CAN). All of them are a big influence in what I´m doing today.”
It seems to me that Milton is more of a “chanter” on this album rather than the singer he was in his early years. Was this intentional or was it a surprise to you when you received his vocal tracks?
“Before building the riddims I tried to go back to his latest works and live shows on the net, so I knew how his voice is sounding today, and to be honest I really liked it. The big surprise was to discover that even though his voice has changed he has the same ability to express deep feelings through his voice and lyrics. You can still hear the same “soul”, like back in the days.”
I must ask. There is a tune called “Hold My Hands” toward the end of the album. This tune sounds like a throwback to that Wackies “lovers soul” sound and vibe. Was this a way to pay tribute to that signature Wackies sound or did the song just turn out that way?
“Hold My Hands” (Mother riddim) is a tribute to that Wackie´s lovers sound, I´m glad you noticed that as that was exactly the idea.
Roberto, many thanks for this inspired album. Truly a blessing to hear this reggae sound again.
“Thanks again for your questions and for your great works spreading reggae music. Please let me know if you need any other answer for new questions, and don´t hesitate to link me back whenever you need some info about my productions.”
By Michael Watson