Interview with ...
Carol "Bowie" McLaughlin

Donovan Germain has always known how to choose the best jamaicans musicians for his productions.
The keyboardist Carol "Bowie" McLaughlin is one of them. He played with many veteran reggae artists like Gregory Isaacs, The Gladiators, Jimmy Cliff, Luciano, Sanchez and Toots & The Maytals, to name a few.
He is a member of the new usual band of Penthouse studios.

(December 2009 -

Please introduce yourself to those reggae fans who don't know you as yet. Where do you come from ? How did you start your musical career ?
My name is Carol Bowie McLaughlin. I was born in Trench Town Kingston. I started my music career at the tender age of 5 when I started learning to play piano. I was first taught by my Grandmother, then later by a music teacher right there in trench town named Mrs Inez Green. I left her afterwards and got a scholarship to the Jamaica School of Music where I pursued a course in afro american studies and jazz. While I was there I got another scholarship to continue for another year then another scholarship to complete my course.

Were you influenced by other jamaican and foreign keyboardists ?
My musical mentors were Jackie Mittoo, the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock.

Who found the nickname of Carol "Bowie" McLaughlin ?
The name Bowie was made by a friend in Ocho Rios named Nicky O.J. He called me that because of my bowed legs.

You play differents keyboard instruments : acoustic and electric piano, synthesizer... Have you a preference for one of them ?
My real choice is the acoustic piano. It was what I started to play when I was young and you can feel more emotions when playing it.

You have been in the reggae industry for a long time. What is your opinion about the evolution of the jamaican music during these years ?
Reggae music has evolved beautifully over the years and has taken on different genres as it goes on. Dancehall has found its way into the mix and has brought a new era of Jamaica's music to the world stage. Not withstanding, real authentic reggae still lives on.

What differences do you observe between studio work and stage work ?
Playing on stage and playing in the studios have their different approach. You create in the studios but replicate on the stage.

Which one do you prefer ?
I prefer the studios like most musicians. It brings out the best of your creativeness than trying to play back something you hear when you perform live.

You have been working for Donovan Germain's Penthouse label for some time. How and when did you get connected ?
I met Donovan Germain through Dean Fraser who introduced us when we were working on a Buju Banton single, "Love sponge". I met him there and we have been linking up ever since.

You recorded for many labels. What is Donovan Germain's singularity comparing to other producers ?
Donovan knows what he wants. He might know how to sing it or play it, but when he explains it to you, you understand exactly what he wants. He has the hit capability and he knows how to choose the right people for the type of songs he wants to create. Some producers do not really know what they want so we don't know what to do.

You are a member of the usual studio band of Penthouse along with Trevor McKenzie on bass, Kirk Bennett on drums and Mitchum "Khan" Chin on guitar. Have you already played with them before ?
These are musicians that I have worked with both on and off the stage. They are professional musicians and are very talented. Each musician has his own unique style and he brings it out when we record in the studios.

You have played on the Automatic riddim and the Feel Good riddim. Do you remember the other riddims you have played for Penthouse ?
Well so far it's just those two rhythms that I can remember right now. But they are other projects that we worked with before, like Bushman and Sanchez to name a few.

Do you plan to become a solo musician like Ernest Ranglin or Dean Fraser who record solo albums ?
I am definitively working on it . As a matter of fact I am working in my own studio at home on some projects for my album. Soon to be finished.

Tell us about your label Rusty Car Productions.
The name Rusty Car came from when I was driving my old Honda. It had some rust on it but was still working. A friend of mine (we call him Duke, a keyboard player) saw me driving my car and said : "is that music coming from that rusty car ?". I think I was playing some music in the car when he asked the question. So I decided to call my label Rusty Car Productions. I've recorded two artists on my label : Flashane and Thrill Out. They are new artists and Flashane will be working on Sting in Jamaica this year. He is a good DJ.

As a conclusion, what are you planning for your future works ?
My hope for the future is to make my label a universal one, sign with many big artists and also help many young and up coming artists to get their break.