Interview with ...
Robbie Lyn


Robbie Lyn is probably one of the most famous reggae keyboardist with Ansel Collins, Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson and Earl "Wire" Lindo. He has been part of the the musical adventure of Penthouse Records since the beginnings of the label, bringing his talent and his experiment. Interview with a legend of reggae music who has been prolific over the last 3 decades.

(January 2009 - penthouserecords.free.fr)

Your mother was also a pianist, I guess it can explain why you play this instrument. Did you learn to play piano with her ?
I did not actually learn from my mother but she guided me when I started to take the piano more seriously. She did however arrange for me to do classes with Lennie Hibbert a great musician and teacher, she played in his band for a while. I am mostly self taught learning to play along with records or from the radio.

Were you influenced by other jamaican keyboardists but also by foreign ones ?
My first and biggest influence was Booker T. Jones (Booker T. & The M.G's), then on the Jamaican scene it was Jackie Mittoo who influenced my style on both piano and organ.

Who found the nickname of Robbie "Tights" Lyn ?
The nickname "Tights" came from Geoffrey Chung, it really did not have anything to do with music and the name never really stuck but the name appeared on a few albums. It happened I think one day when I was recording with Now Generation Band and on a lunch break we were just joking around when Geoff called me "Tights". The only person to this day who still calls me by that name is Dermott Hussey (journalist, music historian and radio broadcaster).

You play differents keyboard instruments : acoustic and electric piano, synthesizer, clavinet, organ... Have you a preference for one of them ?
In my early days of playing I went mostly for the organ and piano because those were the available instruments but I really enjoyed the Fender Rhodes electric piano when that came around. Synthesizers came and changed everything and with the variety of sounds and versatility I would have to say today that my preference would be a good weighted keys synthesizer (without actually naming any particular brand).

You have been in the reggae industry since more than three decades. What is your opinion about the evolution of the jamaican music during these years ?
The Jamaican music of course evolved big time over the years but a lot of the music still remains the same. Dancehall has come in many different forms and I do like some of it, some I don't really care for. I don't really pay much attention to lyrics but unfortunately a lot of it is forgettable, whatever my personal views are I do know that all forms of Jamaican music have impacted all over the world.

You worked with large artists and groups such as Dennis Brown, Israel Vibration, Gregory Isaacs, The Gladiators, The Mighty Diamonds, Black Uhuru, Third World, Ken Boothe, Peter Tosh... What is your best memory among all these collaborations ?
I really do not dwell a lot on the past but I do have some memories which I don't mind sharing. My first studio recording was with Ken Boothe "Without Love". The first recording I played on to go number one on the Jamaican chart was with The Gladiators "Hello Carol". Peter Tosh was the artist who opened me up to the world, having recorded and toured with him for many years. I in more recent times toured with Third World which kind of re-introduced to the touring circuit and before there have been some great studio collaborations inclusive of Germain's production of ''Just Don't Want To Be Lonely'' with Freddie McGregor.

Your talent allowed you to make shows all over the world. What did these journeys and these meetings bring you ?
I was really appreciative of going to places I would not otherwise been able to go had I not been a musician and also appreciating Jamaica more by having gone to other countries. Too I could see the impact of Jamaican music on so many places around the world.

You work very often with Sly & Robbie. Have you a special feeling with them ?
My association with Sly & Robbie goes way back to the glory days of Channel One until now, so there has always been a special feeling for them also because we are good friends.

Do you remember when and how you met Donovan Germain ?
I don't have a vivid memory of how I met Germain, but I am almost sure that it was through Gussie Clarke who I think introduced Germain to the recording business, so I guess Gussie arranged to get the musicians for Germain.

Besides being a keyboard player, you are also a composer and arranger. Do you remember songs or riddims produced by Germain on which one you occupy these functions ?
It has been many years on and off working with Germain, but the most significant have been works with Marcia Griffiths ("Marcia" & "Indomitable"), "One Dance" rhythm with Audrey Hall, of course "Just don't want to be lonely", "Swing easy" rhythm, works with Maxi Priest, Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown, Buju, Wayne Wonder, Cutty Ranks, of late the "Stop your fighting" rhythm and more lately unreleased works with Etana and others.

What do you think of the new Penthouse studio equipments ?
I know that Penthouse Studio is well outfitted with the latest state of the art equipment which makes it among the best in Jamaica.

You have a Myspace. What is your personal use of internet ?
I have been on MySpace for almost 2 years now which is a very important tool in marketing & music relations and has opened avenues and re-establishig contacts with many players in the industry and others.

Tell us about your instrumental album “Making Notes” released in early 2007. How was born this project, how were chosen the musicians ?
My album "Making Notes" was a project I sort of undertook by myself, composing, arranging and song selections, with a lot of help from many musicians, mainly Glen Browne & Sly Dunbar who encouraged me to go into the studio and start recording although I did not have a recording deal. I wanted to use many musicians to get certain textures in the songs without over-using the synthesizer. I used different guitarists and horn players and I have to thank also Dean Fraser who did some great work. I did the album mainly because I was asked by quite people (musicians, producers, radio people) why I didn't do an album, also quite a few musicians of late started various projects whether productions or instrumentals. So I thaught it was long overdue to put something for myself on the market.

To conclude, what are your plans ?
Right now I do not have any plans to do another album,but hopefully soon I can start on another.