The beginnings of the musical adventure
Donovan Germain was born on March 7, 1952 in Kingston, Jamaica.
He relocated to New York in 1970 to study accounting. He graduated from New York Community College, taking a job at a Wall Street stock brokerage firm as a junior accountant while simultaneously running a Brooklyn reggae record shop he had purchased named Keith's Records. In 1975, Germain began distributing records for several jamaican producers including Gussie Clarke, Lloyd Campbell or Sonia Pottinger.
The firsts productions
In 1978, Donovan Germain made his first tentative forays into production with the help of Lloyd Campbell under Spiderman label with Joy White’s "Love Is A Message" and Ronnie Davis "Equality & Justice".
He founded his first label Revolutionnary Sounds the same year, working regularly in the Channel One and Tuff Gong studios where he produced most notably The Tamlins (they gave him his 1st hit "Don't Break Your Promise" in 1979), the Cultural Roots (“Mr Boss Man” in 1980, a true label anthem), the Mighty Diamonds, the female singers Joy White and Audrey Hall and The Revolutionaries. He developed two subsidiary labels in parallel - Rub-a-Dub and Reggae - in the early 80's in order to distribute some of his productions in the USA and United Kingdom.
His 2nd label Germain Records started in 1985 and enabled him to become brilliantly familiar with the lovers rock digital productions amongst others with Audrey Hall “One Dance Can Do" in 1985 and Freddie McGregor "Just Want to Be Lonely" in 1987.
Germain spent much of the 80s travelling between Jamaica, USA and England for his productions. He progressively gave up roots productions and turned to digital riddims.
Beginnings of Penthouse Records
Germain moved back to Kingston to open his own Penthouse studio on the top floor of a building on Slipe Road in 1988 (hence the name Penthouse). He produced his first big hit on Penthouse Records "Chaka On The Move" by Chaka Demus in 1989, the 1st of many.
Germain delevops an international music approach, characterised particularly by a faultless sound quality, which gives him a wider distribution of his productions. This approach enabled some local beginner artists like Wayne Wonder, Buju Banton, Tony Rebel, Cutty Ranks, Sanchez, Thriller U and Mad Cobra to get an international recognition and to experienced artists like Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths or Nana McLean to be back in the limelight.
A recognizable sophisticated sound
Penthouse Records ruled over the dancehall during the 90s and the 2000s thanks to a recognizable sophisticated sound. Penthouse became renowned all over the world for the quality of its productions and equipments. Many labels used Penthouse studio to record their artists.
Talented and creative riddims makers like brothers Dave and Tony Kelly, Andre "Rookie" Tyrell or Steven "Lenky" Marsden took benefit from their passage in Penthouse's studio to acquire experience and a recognition enabling them to create their own labels. Other engineers like Michael "Coolie" Cooper, Steven Stanley, Andrew Thomas or Gary Jackson also participated to elaborate this sophisticated sound.
Germain carried on with his distributor’s business activities first of all of his own productions then of those of other labels. He created 3 subsidiary labels of Penthouse Records - Riddim International, Suite 56 then www.germainmusic.com - to distribute some of his productions.
The quality of its productions quickly enabled him to achieve an impressive number of hit singles and to become one of the most important labels of the modern era.
Riddims and artists which made a mark in reggae history
Like the others jamaican producers, Germain updated classic riddims.
He realized, in particular, brilliant relicks of Studio One riddims : “A Love I Can Feel”, “Always Together”, “Answer/Never Let Go”, “College Rock”, “Darker Shade Of Black”, “Feeling Soul”, “Freedom Blue / MPLA”, “General”, “Heavy Rock”, “Land Of Love”, “Lecturer”, “Love Me Always”, “Movie Star", “Nanny Goat”, “Pure Sorrow”, “Swing Easy”, “Things & Time”, “Things Come Up To Bump”, “You'll Never Know”.
He also “recut” some Bob Marley riddims : “Forever Loving Jah”, “Heathen”, “Soul Rebel”, “Thank You Lord”, “Time Will Tell”.
However he did not content himseff with modernising classic riddims. He produced original riddims like “Dickie” (1992), “Falling In Love”(1992), “If Loving Was A Crime” (1993), “Champion” (1994), “Cannabis Vibes” (1997), “Warriors Don't Cry” (1997), “Love Dem Bad” (1997), “Up Close & Personnal” (1997), “Extortioners” (2000) or “Automatic” (2008).
The label is also well know thanks to great combinations between artists like Wayne Wonder & Buju Banton (“Massa God World A Run”, “Bonafide Love”…), Beres Hammond & Buju Banton (“ Who Say”, “Pull It Up”…) or Marcia Griffiths & Cutty Ranks ( “Really Together”, “Half Idiot”…).
As a sign of recognition and confidence, Germain has built long term relationships with a lot of famous artists like Buju Banton (he was his manager during 18 years) Beres Hammond, Tony Rebel, Marcia Griffiths, Sanchez, Richie Stephens, Thriller U Jack Radics with whom he stills records and this from the Penthouse beginnings.
Present and future
Germain opened his new high tech studio on Ballater Avenue in 2006. He works nowadays with a team of upcoming artists such as Romain Virgo (2007 Digicel Rising Stars winner), Torch, Shuga (2009 Digicel Rising Stars winner), Exco Levi (multiple award-winning Reggae Recording of the year in Canada) or Dalton Harris (youngest Digicel Rising Stars winner in 2010).
Audio Interviews :
StarLife DanceHall part 1 & part 2 & part 3 [March 2014]
The Morning Link [february 2014]
Bassline Online Radio [january 2014]
Jah Works Radio [january 2014]
Rico Vibes / Tanya Mullings Show [august 2013]
Ras Bingi [october 2012]
MadVibez [march 2012]
Video Interviews :
IrieJam 360 [november 2018]
Irie FM [september 2018]
Danny Pepperseed / WorldAReggae [february 2014]
OnstageTv part 1 & part 2 [September 2013]
Irish & Chin part 1 & part 2 [february 2011]
30 Years Of Penthouse [June 2018 - Festiville]
Five Questions with Donovan Germain [February 2018 - The Gleaner]
25 Years Penthouse Records [February 2014 - Reggaeville]
Penthouse Records celebrating 25 years [October 2013 - The Gleaner]
25 years in the Penthouse [February 2013 - Jamaica Observer]
Germain chides artistes, producers for mediocrity [February 2013 - Jamaica Observer]
Germain to 'save music' [January 2012 - Jamaica Observer]
Interview [July 2010 - Reggae Vibes]
Penthouse artists team :
More than 280 artists since 25 years
Check the list