For our final Crate Diggers NYC interview, we get the riddims started with dub and reggae specialists Jammyland. We talked with owner Ira Heaps about hanging out with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, his three must-have records, why disco doesn’t always mean what you think and the killer late-70’s hip hop collection he’s bringing with him to the Crate Diggers NYC Record Fair on Saturday, July 27.
How did Jammyland start?
We opened our doors on May Day 1993 in NYC’s East Village neighborhood and kept it real for 20 years until we were forced out due to excessive rent. Jammyland’s team was Malcolm Allen, who came out of the RAS Records camp in DC; Ras Kush, a predominant DJ in the NYC area and myself.
What are some of your favorite memories from that time?
One of the best moments was first meeting Walter Becker. Steely Dan’s manager contacted me and asked if I would recommend some records to Walter. He came to the shop and had a little heir of importance to him. As he stood aloofly, trying to not engage with some excited young musicians who were shopping, the door bursts open and in walks Billy Gibbons.
The one and only Reverend Willy G?
Billy had been coming to Jammyland for some time at that point. He immediately approached me and we started to trade animated stories of living in Jamaica, hanging out with Bob Marley and our most embarrassing moments on stage. It was one of the most amazing moments for me because not only did take old WB down a notch, he put me on the front line leading the show! Later that evening, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, and Billy was still wearing the same suit. Walter and I remained in contact until his passing in 2017.
A sharp-dressed man indeed. What happened after the shop closed?
I started to sell records on Discogs. I listed a random 12″ and it sold for $50 instantly to a guy in Holland who was so happy he thanked me personally!
Keeping the Billy Gibbons theme going, what’s hot (sauce) on your Discogs page right now?
This unknown vocal duo came to Wackie’s studio in 1983 and recorded this unsung masterpiece. Their unique vocal style and multinational background, along with Wackie’s master mixing skills, produced incredible dark dubby tracks.
This album is called “Showcase Style” in Jamaica, which means it has the vocal track followed by the Dub mix. Wackie’s in this case, as opposed to cutting-and-splicing the vocal and Dub together, rather had the band record the track twice as long and utilized the latter portion for the Dub mix. This created a seamless track without having timing issued trying to piece 2 tracks together.
An essential from the Lee Perry camp. Many, including Lee Perry, said The Congos couldn’t sing however they created this Roots Reggae masterpiece. Hidden for many years, this record was resurrected by the UK reissue label Blood and Fire in the mid-nineties. It is now available in its original form along with extended mixes – extended mixes incorporating the song and Dubs, not the style of music popularized in the ’70’s! Throw off your shoes, light the chalice (Jamaican water pipe) and press play!
What can we expect to find at your table during the fair?
I just bought a guy’s collection, he was a young man living in the South Bronx when the whole Hip-Hop movement was happening in the late-70’s. He was DJing and around the studio when everyone was just a kid from The Bronx. His collection is full of hand-drawn graffiti on the jackets. Really interesting to see what these guys were spinning when it was forming.
Some hand-picked titles from my friend Ric’s closed store in White Plains too as well as a full complement of Reggae and DUB.