Interview with ... Mafia & Fluxy

The London Heywood brothers, Leroy "Mafia" & Dave "Fluxy" stood out as one of the most in-demand rhythm sections in reggae music. They surfaced on the UK scene in the early 80s and have subsequently worked with all the biggest artists and producers in reggae music all around the world. Since their meeting with Donovan Germain almost 30 years ago, they played a large part of the riddims which made the glory of Penthouse Records.

November 2017 -
Thanks to Jeremy (Canal93) for his precious collaboration

You grew up in Tottenham. How did you get into music and who came up with your nicknames ?
Our family used to play music every week, there was always music in our house. It was in the late 60s. When we were 5, 6 years old, we began to play records on the radiogram.
Mafia : My mum bought me a guitar, I used to play alongside the records. People who came around ask me to play the guitar then said "Youíre bad", so I'd say "Oh, bad, Mafia". Hence the nickname Mafia.
Fluxy : In rehearsal I was to count the band and I did a roll which caused the band to laugh. I asked what was that funny and a band member said that my roll sounded fluxy and my name stucks from then.

Who influenced you, musically speaking ?
Mafia : We grew up listening to Wizard Hi Fi, the sound system of our uncle who used to play Burning Spear, Bob Marley, Skatalites, Ken Boothe, artists from Atlantic RecordsÖ I learnt to play guitar when I was 15 during the summer holidays. I played in a school group, when a friend who played drums left the group, we asked Fluxy to replace him.
Fluxy : I didnít have a drum kit, so I made up a home made drum, plug in the microphone into the amplifier for the bass drum, the snare drum was a speaker box and the hi-hat was a bicycle lamp. No one taught us to play, we listened to reggae live sessions from Jamaica and played alongside.

You formed a school group named the Instigators in the mid 70s, didnít you ?
We started learning instruments in 1977 then we formed the band Instigators in 1978. We liked the sound of the Aggrovators so my elder brother chose the name Instigators. My elder brother was a guitarist, he recruited school musicians to found a band with the female singer Toyin Adekale. We sent a demo to Fatman, sound system owner, who became our manager then we began to record in studios. We did our first recording "Letís make love" in 1980. Then, we decided to have a male singer, Courtney Bartley. We backed a lot of artists from Jamaica Johnny Osbourne, Don Carlos, Jah Lloyd, Mike Brooks, Freddie Mc KayÖ Hortense Ellis and Pablo Gad were the first artists we backed.

When did you turn to digital music ?
Letís go back to 1987. We were live muscians but the music changed at the time so we had to survive, to go with the time. There wasnít live music no more.
Fluxy : We carried on doing live music but people told us we need to buy a drum machine and we got to get a keyboard because we were getting no work.
Mafia : I bought a keyboard spent a lot of time to develop my own bass sound and also my own piano sound and Fluxy bought his drum machine.
Fluxy : Yes, I bought at the time the same machine as Clevie, a DX, I was very happy. I was thinking Yes I have the sound now. It was a good challenge. I was a youth as well, a youth with the time, we were in the dancehall fever. So we said "Now, itís time to Jamaica".

How did you make the link working in Jamaica?
We went to Jamaica the same year to back Maxi Priest at the Sunsplash then we did some recordings on Sugar Minotís studio. We went back again in 1988. We bought a house for our mother there and we stayed 6 months. During that time, Bunny Lee took us to studio and introduced us to people.

Is it during this period that you met Donovan Germain ?
Yes, the singer Sugar Black took us to Penthouse studio. It was our first big challenge. Germain said "Ok, try these English youths". The studio was massive, a lot of people into a big studio. Wayne Wonder was the artist, he started singing, Fluxy started paddding on the drum pattern, I start find the chords and when weíve seen the Jamaicans people start nodding we said we really had them. So was born his song "All This Time" on the Workie Workie riddim. Germain said "Ok, next session when can we meet again ?".

Was it easy to be accepted as you were not jamaican ?
A lot of jamaicans producers said they didnít want English musicians but when we had this hit for Germain on the Workie Workie riddim, everybody said "Who are these English youths who did the Workie Workie riddim ?". The same persons who said they didnít want English musicians. We kicked down the gate, we kicked down the barriers. Jamaicans now say "Itís not just Jamaicans that can play reggae".

Did Donovan Germain ask you to create a particular riddim or did you propose him directly your personal creations ?
We and Germain kind of worked together, he said "It is too fast" or "Mafia do you think you should be in a higher key ?". We worked together with a really good relationship on working riddims.

You recorded for Penthouse with talented engineers like Dave Kelly, Tony Kelly, Andre "Rookie" Tyrell, Steven Stanley... Can you tell us on their way of working ?
They were very creative, they used to add things as well when theyíre mixing. Especially Steven Stanley, he put his own sound, then we said "Oh, we played that ? Very good !"

What is Donovan Germain's singularity comparing to other producers ?
Germain has a quality control over his stuff. If you make a mistake, he will hear it and tell you come back and do it again. A lot of producers donít worry about that. Heís got good quality control. It was a good vibes. Very relaxing. We didnít have any problem working for Germain, he could say what he want, leave the studio then come back find his work done.

Among all the riddims you played for Penthouse, which ones are your favorites ?
Tempo riddim with Garnet Silk and Buju Banton "Complaint", Far East riddim with Buju Banton "Murderer", Run Down The World riddim with Wayne Wonder "Hold On", Tonight riddim with Beres Hammond "My Wish".

After a pause in your collaboration with Germain, you are credited on 2 of his latest riddims: Miss Wire Waist riddim (2009) and Nuh Trouble We riddim (2014). You played these riddims in the new Penthouse studio ? What is your opinion about it ?
We played also Romain Virgoís "Times Tough" released in 2008. Very different studio but it works. The sound is different but, back in the days, we could identify a sound of a studio but Jamaica sound has not identity anymore. The sound is all computerized now, it is digital. We went in Jamaica early this year and we recorded 12 riddims for Germain.

You have been in the reggae industry for more than 4 decades. What is your opinion about the evolution of the reggae music during these years ? How has your way of playing reggae evolved through the years ?
Weíve been fortunate to have been there listening from Ska to the Rocksteady era to the Reggae era to the Dancehall, the Digital. We have all those years in us. So weíre open for change and can move at the times. Weíre always looking for new sounds for our instruments and everything.

Do you see differences between studio work and stage work, which one do you prefer ?
Itís funny because when we are on tour, you could be like dying to be in a studio and when youíre doing studio, youíre dying to do a tour. We like them both.

Could you describe the way you build a riddim ?
It depends on if itís a session with a singer whoís gonna voice the track and he has his song. At Penthouse, when Wayne Wonder started singing, I searched for the chords and Fluxy started to top on the drum pattern. We build it up. Then I played the bass, did a little overdubs. We leave it to a certain way that if they wanted to add on horns, Dean Fraser could come.

According to you, what is the specificity of your rhythm section in comparison to other rhythm sections like Sly & Robbie or the late Steely & Clevie ?
People could describe it better than us (laughs). Obviously the influence is of Steely & Clevie, the Barrel Brothers, even Lloyd Brevett and Lloyd Knibb from the Skatalites.

How many tunes would you estimate you have worked on ?
Easily four fingers (4000). We canít remember all the songs. We travelled the world and people say "Come and record a riddim". Itís hard to remember. So much people call us for session and we can do sessions sometimes we donít hear nothing off the session. And there are so many songs that didnít come out yet. I canít remember which ones we did, when they come out thatís how it is. When we go to Jamaica we play 12 tracks for Germain, and then 12 for Jammyís and it goes on like that.

You also worked for non reggae artists ?
Yes, in the early 90s, we got some management called Jackie Davidson in Brixton. She had strong power. We went to Jamaica and our manager called and said Janet Jackson want you to come to New York tomorrow. They flew us 1st class from Jamaica to remix a tune, to want it reggae in a tune. We did R Kelly, Sting, Aaliyah, Soul II Soul, Gypsy Kings, Boy George...

Who is your favourite artist to record with of all time ?
Definitely Beres Hammond and Buju Banton. Garnet Silk also, it was good to work with him.

Is there an artist with whom you would like to work ?
Iíd like to tour with Bunny Wailer. We never worked with him. Come in Bunny, come in (laughs) !! We enjoyed touring with Ernest Ranglin. He took us to place like Tunisia, Australia, New Zealand.... He comes with sheet music. Ernest Ranglin and Jackie Mittoo taught us a lot.

What difference do you see between Jamaican and English productions ?
Yes. When we first started work in Jamaica, anytime we went to a studio it was always open studio, it was packed. The vibes were there. In England, the studio was closed, locked in. You donít get no outside input. In Jamaica, itís a complete different vibes, also the Jamaican producers were older than the ones in England. They were strict, like in school and you donít wanna make no mistakes, you have to be on point, itís like a challenge. To me thatís the big difference with the productions in Jamaica compared to England.

What projects should we look out for in the future ?
Weíve just released for our label an album with Sanchez, a Christmas album is coming with Maxi Priest, Carol Thompson, George Nooks, Calton CoffieÖ In 2018, nuff more tunes, Luciano, Sanchez, Maxi Priest and many more. And touring as well.

A message for Penthouse fans ?
Yes, keep the music alive ! Thatís what the youths need to know. Itís good to play an instrument. At the moment, a lot of people including us are not happy with the sound coming out of Jamaica, sounding with no substance, making riddims on laptops, weíre not happy with that. When we go to Jamaica, people say "Yeah we gonna get some good riddims now". A lot of artists like Bennie Man or Ninja Man say that in their interviews. They wanna bring the dancehall vibes like in the 90s.


Bandulo riddim (1996)
Cat Paw riddim (1993)
Chase Vampire riddim (1991)
Far East riddim (1993)
Gunman riddim (1991)
Head To Toe riddim (1992)
Heathen riddim (1996)
Heavy Rock riddim (1993)
Love Is A Message riddim (1998)
Mind Behind the Wind riddim (1993)
Miss Wire Waist riddim (2009)
Nuh Trouble We riddim (2014)
Run Down The World riddim (1990)
Some Like It Hot riddim (2004)
Storm riddim (1991)
Tell Me What's Wrong riddim (1993)
Tempo riddim (1994)
Things Come Up To Bump riddim (1995)
Tonight riddim (1993)
Trodding riddim (1996)
Workie Workie / Mud Up riddim (1990)
You'll Never Know riddim (2003)

listen to some riddims: