Sunday, January 27, 2019

Duncan Campbell interview, Planet magazine, 1989

Photo of BFM reggae DJ Duncan Campbell, 1989. Photo by Haru Sameshima/Planet magazine

photo by Haru Sameshima, interview by Planet.

Duncan Campbell is an expert. His appearance may lead you to imagine many things, probably none of which bear the slightest relation to what he actually does. But don't be fooled. This man has the gen! He has spent some twenty years listening to and reading about reggae music. 

Sunday evenings at five pm on BFM, Duncan's authoritative voice welcomes listeners to Sound System, and the skanking begins! Playing from his personal collection of over three thousand records, Duncan powers out the newest and brightest reggae, 

In response to the current predilection for the reggae sound, Planet went to find out what Duncan Campbell has to say.

Planet: How did you become interested in reggae music?

Duncan Campbell: My interest started around 1967-68. The first reggae record I ever owned was The Israelites [by Desmond Dekker], which was a big hit here. At that point I was just beginning to get serious about music, and being about 14, my music tastes went everywhere. Until what time Bob Marley released his Natty Dread album in 1975, a sort of watershed year for reggae as far as the world market was concerned. 

Reggae crossed over to white audiences and suddenly the rock audience started to listen to reggae, and I began collecting seriously. BFM, then an AM station, asked me if I would do a fortnightly show. By 1981, after 2 years the show was popular enough to move up to a weekly slot. I class the show as my expensive hobby.

Planet: What is going on in the reggae scene here at the moment?

DC: It's booming. Each year gets better, this is the best year we've had yet. We've got at least two dance venues that are playing reggae now. The 12 Tribes of Israel Band are in the process of finishing their first album, and it's going to be a monster album, they should get international release without a problem. 

The Auckland Twelve Tribes house is gaining an international reputation which has done a lot for the music locally, and also gives the impetus for the international artists to come. There's a chance Black Uhuru will be touring here soon, and the rumour that Ziggy Marley could be here in January. It's very hard to get them across to NZ but I think they would do far better here than in Australia, which is a bit of a redneck place musically.

Planet: Do you see space in Auckland for a radio station playing reggae, hip hop, black music?

DC: There's definitely space for something of that ilk. There's still a vast cultural underworld in Auckland that is not catered for nearly enough. With the deregulation of broadcasting, the way is open for anyone who is able to get the money together to do something like that. It's a financial undertaking that few are prepared to risk in the current economic climate. BFM works on a shoestring budget and is very much a labour of love. 

I have enormous admiration for the people who do it, the hours they put in to keep that station going is quite staggering. it requires a commitment not many are prepared to give. The returns can be intangible. Alright, you can get a certain amount of audience feedback, but beyond that it's very much what you derive in terms of individual satisfaction and putting out something like that, and that's mostly aesthetic and certainly not financial. 

The promotion game is fraught with difficulties as well. Several promoters have taken a bath in recent years, and are less willing to take the risks to bring out lesser known artists. I was amazed to hear a band like Dinosaur Jr played here, the fact that Tackhead made it here was astonishing considering how far it is to come. The sheer cost factor! But you know, there are people who are prepared to take a punt on it. People here have to give up their support and order for these people to keep coming.

Planet: Often it is the pirate radio stations in London that introduce new music. Could you see that happening here?

DC Well, Auckland, per head of population, has more radio stations in anywhere I can think of, although there is still potential for expansion. The policy of the government is basically, if you want to do it, you should be frequencies available. You set it up, you take the risks. Keep listening, keep supporting, try to broaden your horizons a little. 

Auckland as a broad minded community. There are a lot of people who are working very hard to try and show the public that there is a wealth of talent and listening pleasure available beyond the mainstream media program. We should be asserting our identity more as a city, Auckland does have a specific character to it which is unique. There are a lot of interesting ideas out there, we don't need to copy from overseas, there are certainly a lot of mistakes we can avoid.

Planet: Who would be your favourite live performers?

DC: Burning Spear! I've seen them twice. Bob Marley was a major event for reggae in this country. Everyone who was there will never forget it. It was the birth of reggae here for a lot of people. I Jahman Levi Is one of the most compelling stage performers. Ini Kamoze, for sheer sex appeal on stage, he's like The Beatles all over again, people screaming ‘Ini you're beautiful’. Sly and Robbie’s stage show is certainly one of the best you can come across.

Planet Who do you see assuming the mantle of Bob Marley?

DC: I don't think we'll ever see anyone with such great stature as Bob Marley again. Ziggy Marley has the potential but always will carry the burden of being the star’s son. Bunny Wailer would be my pick, he's got charisma. The sole surviving original Wailer, and he’s still producing music of a calibre that simply crosses all barriers. His last album was just phenomenal. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end!

Duncan Campbell profiled at Audioculture by Murray Cammick

Duncan Campbell passed away after a brief illness on Tuesday, 3rd July 2018. He was 64. RIP.

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