No bull$hit!! That is what Stone Love have been giving dancehall fans for over three decades. Founded by, and still operated by, Winston ‘Wee Pow’ Powell, Stone Love is regarded by the music fraternity as one of the most successful and consistent sound systems of all time with landmark achievements and accolades littered throughout the history of Jamaican music. Impressively, Stone Love is no less relevant today as they continue to be one of the innovators in the sound system game. BACKAYARD was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with Wee Pow as we inquiry about his inspirations and aspirations for his sound. Well, Stone Love?
When did you start Stone Love?
Stone Love started I would say… way back. About 1972 inna da region deh as a component set. Those days were the days when a sound system was normally amplifiers weh yuh use to transmit sound to speaker boxes. For those who don’t know what an amplifier is, they were built locally by audio technicians, electrical engineers what have you. Yuh have tube amplifiers, valves what they call it, where the wattage is lower than what yuh have now on a set. We started on a component set until moving to building our own amplifiers to our specifications.
All of this was because of interest in music?
It was an inborn concept; di love for the music was there from day one. In di early days my father was a promoter who put on events around holiday time. Being around sound system from the early days gave me that motivation to own one for myself.
Was the name of the sound always Stone Love?
No, there were a few others before di name Stone Love but since Stone Love, that’s it.
When you started the sound where was your base?
Most of my playing was done in this area, yuh know. I grew up in this area Eastwood Park Gardens, 34 Molynes Road to be exact. Right in front of Tarrant Baptist Church, that is where everything started. I bought my first component set from a technician that lived there. I started playing outside of my community long long after. Outside of my community is what I call country and I never really like go country go play. My likeness of di music at di time was more of di soul music, whereas country man nuh love soul. Is jus that now things get globalised so now country man a hear everything, yuh can go there and play Celine Dion and all dem ting deh …(Everybody Laughs)… First time country man nuh waan hear nuh Ray Charles unless a man a punch that inna jukebox. So mi never used to like play a country so it was many years after we started to go a country like Glengoffe, which was a special place we used to go regular and Guava Ridge near to Mavis Bank. Which was me alone playing at that time, I mean used to have one or two likkle yute used to come round and help out still but me was the main name selector.
When did you start to bring on other selectors on the roster?
That has to be around 12 years after around ’83 or ’84 dem region deh. Which Rory was di first one. He used to play on a next sound, which me and that sound di have an engagement couple weeks before and him jus like my sound and left di other one and come pon my sound.
I know that in that era sound systems used to have certain DJs aligned them. Which artistes were aligned to your sound?
Di sound dem that used to have used to have DJs aligned to their sounds were di sound dem that was classified as a ‘rub a dub’ sound. Which I was a ‘soul’ sound, not to seh I didn’t try a likkle of the ‘rub a dub’ ting which didn’t work out at di time. While I was at it, Eric Scorcher who do ‘Roach Inna Di Corner’, was my DJ at di time.
When personally do you feel that the break happened for your sound?
The real break happened after I trained Rory to know our yard music because he didn’t really know our Jamaican music that well. He was more like the ‘punk’ man so even though I was a souls man I still did know my roots. I collect across the board nutten nuh miss me. After a while Rory jus get good, wid him training, yuh nuh… (Everybody Laughs)… Things jus start happening. We move into the remote area of Kingston like Jones Town we move from uptown where we used to play like house party to downtown where we play at bars in di ghetto. The real buss happened round in 1987 when we start to play inna Cross Roads in front of the State Theater on a Thursday. Because Jones Town is close to Cross Roads and we were playing at Admiral Pen Lane which is almost in Jones Town at Torrington Bridge on a Monday. On a Wednesday we used to alternate playing wid Classique at that time Rae Town was in its full glory. Whenever Classique couldn’t come down to Torrington Bridge for some reason or another then we would fit in. That is how the promoters from Cross Roads know of us then dem bring we to Cross Roads. People were trying to bring a club vibe to the street but yuh had more ‘rub a dub’ sound than soul set. That would be more of a mixture of music that is how Stone Love get the name juggling sound. That name come from di junglists, the two turntable ting into dancehall now and everybody excited bout that, juggling ting get to di people dem. The whole format of di music change, people all lef’ from Negril come a Stone Love and go back home and work inna di morning. What was happening too, we start doing alot of specials, dubplates. It is not like now weh man a call supp’im a special true him name call pon it, but special dem day deh when a artiste gi you a special him nuh gi a next man, a you alone hol’ that. When wi cutting special or dubplate, let mi give yuh this example. Lets say a Stereo One wid Lieutenant Stitchie dem have dem own a crowd so di main pulla of di crowd would be Lieutenant himself. Mi cut a portion a special wid Lieutenant and when people come a Stone Love dem think she Stitchie in deh live and direct. So forth wid di rest a sound dem like Admiral Bailey who di have di bredrin sound called Roots Melody who did have Clement Irie as well, Metromedia who di have Peter Metro, Arrows would have Chicken Chest you name dem. So we jus go to all the ‘rub a dub’ sounds and tek dem main DJs and cut special so wi did have all a dem inna one place now. It was then that Lieutenant Stitchie get sign to Atlantic Records, di man come a Jamaica and see a big crowd a Cross Roads and waan know wah a gwaan. At the end of di day it was a Lieutenant Stitchie special a tear down di place that was how him get fi him break too.
When did you start to take that success overseas?
When we buss out now was di same yard connection. Man lef’ Jamaica gone a foreign and jus start mek di request for di sound. In those days yuh have sounds like Jack Ruby, King Jammys, Tubbys when dem go a foreign dem haffi carry dem whole system and di last sound that do that was Classique and him carry half fi him system. Wah really happen, is that I observe wah gwaan is that most of di man dem don’t come back wid di sound and every man is important. Even di man who lift up di box is important to di sound so when dem run off when yuh come back yuh ting change. Me have my own dem weh never come back so I decide seh well I nah go tour wid my system because when I come back I waan see everybody. First place we went was Canada likkle after (Hurricane) Gilbert, we never carry nutten yuh nuh. But when we go up deh we feel it, nutten good never up deh, in terms of equipment. So di next time when we go back wi carry our two turntable, Technics 200 di king for all turntable and probably still now. So next time we did carry dem and we did overweight wid dem too so we did haffi mek di console outta board, is not like now weh yuh ting weh yuh can go jus slip it in and carry it. That was di only ting wi carry a foreign was two turntables.
So how successful was the nineties for Stone Love?
Everything jus start to happen and get big that if we were so dominant before we get fi go a foreign it mek it worse now since we a go a foreign dem caan hol’ wi. Wi a see everything up deh, wi have everything a wi disposal. When we come back a Jamaica everything new and bigger because let’s say music producers like Gussie Clarke down at Musicworks or King Jammys. Their songs used to release a foreign before it release a Jamaica sometime it not even release inna Jamaica is not like now when a song mek today you hear pon di radio di next day. Yuh haffi have a link a foreign to get dem song deh so now we a play music inna Jamaica weh nobody else a play. So di radio station man haffi come a Stone Love and listen wah a gwaan and try fi get that music.
What you say is different about owning a sound today as opposed to earlier in your career?
The only thing I like about the new innovations in music is di weight. Yuh can have a million songs holding on a thumbdrive when first time yuh have to travel wid a big record box weh all two man caan lift up. That is di only ting I like cause di business mash up. Yuh hardly can come up wid anything unique or different from anybody else. Yeah, everything jus normalized yuh haffi jus smart fi stay abreast a tings. Everything reveal to babe and suckling now. What keep mi going is that dominance we had from before in which we nah go stop work still but everybody right a now deh pon di same level.
What has been the most memorable moment for you owning this sound?
There is alot of tings weh me remember, yuh nuh. But mostly I am a creative person and most of di ting dem on di sound system I do it myself. That would a give me di edge over most man, is nice when you setup your system and go out deh and a next man caan even come CLOSE to how you sound. That is a joyful feeling, sound quality we always try to be di best at that.