Luciano (b. Jepther McClymont) was born in Manchester parish, JA, one of nine children. Growing up face-to-face with poverty, suffering and struggle, Luciano once sang, “My life’s been filled with thistles and thorns from the day that I was born.” His father, who taught him the guitar, moved on when Luciano was 11 years old, and his mother worked as a maid to support the children. After singing with church and school choirs and apprenticing with sound systems, Luciano recorded his first song in 1992, moved from the country to the city, and saw his life change at a rapid pace. After working with Freddie McGregor and Herman Chin-Loy, Luciano paired up with Phillip ‘Fatis’ Burrell, head of Xterminator Records. This partnership resulted in Where There Is Life, Messenger and Sweep Over My Soul. However, the days with Fatis are over-Paul Banks and Copeland Forbes are currently managing Luciano, but the quality of the music remains a constant. Luciano and his brethren believe that if a melody can’t stand on its own a cappella, it won’t sound good dub-style, club remixed, or with a band.
On March 7, 1999, I met with Luciano and Mikey General in Santa Cruz, CA, following their amazing show at Maritime Hall in San Francisco.
Just as he commands an audience in an auditorium, his presence in person was tremendous. Dressed in army fatigues with colorful, heavy strands of beads around his neck, he looked like he just stepped off the cover of his latest album, Sweep Over My Soul.
Mikey General (b. Michael Taylor)-a wonderful singer and musician in his own right and a close friend of Luciano-joined us for the interview. Watching the two of them bounce ideas off of one another was priceless. They treated each other as if they were blood-related, with high regard and respect. They spoke of their experiences growing up in Jamaica and in England. Both of them felt that they never chose music; music chose them: “Music is a gift from God and I knew at an early age that it was my calling,” Luciano said.
I asked them about the presence of Bob Marley in their lives. Luciano had performed “War” and “Crazy Baldheads” at Maritime Hall, so I knew there was a connection. They spoke of the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley as a prophet: “One mustn’t think of Bob Marley as being dead. His spirit is constantly surrounding us, and we must keep his spirit alive within us as he brings forth great inspiration.”
Laura Gardner: Where do you get your inspiration for writing songs?
Luciano: There are craftsmen, people who work in industries, people who offer services and we have to give thanks to every one of them. So, I say, it is the people who have impacted my life along my way who have helped me to write my songs. I write songs about people: how they treat me, how they deal with me. If my people out there can see the honesty, the sincerity and the innocence in I’n’I words and melodies, they definitely can move towards a higher calling, because we try in our own humble little way to help mankind see life more spiritually.
Right now there are many false prophets out there, not calling any names, but people out there, we know them! They are not saying anything to elevate the youth.
Mikey General: It’s about spreading love. There are many false concepts but we see ourselves as messengers of the truth because our foundation is the Bible, despite the translations that it may have had. Because of that foundation, we see that our goal is to bring out a world unity through this message.
LG: Sweep Over My Soul happens to be my favorite Luciano album. You’ve matured so much since Where There Is Life and Messenger. What has changed in your life to make the music more evolved?
Luciano: The music and the songs that I sing are an expression of my soul. Even the negative things or derogatory things that people say are an expression of their own soul. As I grow more to know myself and be connected to the One Spirit of life-Yahweh, Yehovia, I am that I am, Jah Rastafari-I find I have better things to say, I have more things to say and more universal things to say. I have grown spiritually and so my lyrics and my lyrical content have grown also. I can only give Thanks to the Almighty for that… I continue to sing with a trueness of heart and to think for deeper purity to unravel the power that is within me. I know, as Jesus Christ says, “If we only have faith as small as a mustard seed, then we can move mountains.” And I’m trying to move a couple mountains out of my life! You know? [laughs]
My greatest weapon and tool are my words and my deeds. I live right, and I try to sing songs and practice what I sing. I try my best. I’m not saying that I am perfect, but we’re all striving for that perfection, you know.
To hear you say, Sister Laura, that this one is a special album gives me a good vibe, because some people have been saying Where There Is Life is heavier stuff and they’re yet to see me come up with an album to match that. I don’t want them to view the music on that level. They have to also see the growth in I’n’I.
LG: Indeed. I want to ask about the most moving song on the album, “When Will I Be Home?” How did you get the idea for that?
Luciano: My song “One Way Ticket” tells of my plans to go back to Africa. I go forward to Africa. What happened was when I’n’I visited the Motherland I saw certain vibes, and I realized that the whole world is under a mental strain, from Africa right back to America. I realize that there’s a material, vanity and racial struggle going on right now, so I realize that my work isn’t fully completed yet out here in the Western Hemisphere ’cause I have to tie up these lost souls.
Even doing my works now I still contemplate upon my journey towards the Motherland. My mindfulness and mission will end up and wind up in Africa. I definitely know that, so what I’m doing now is just tying up and then forward onto the Motherland! Blessed love!
LG: Your music addresses many social issues: uplifting the downtrodden, repatriation, educating the youth. What do you think the world has to go through to abolish racism?
Luciano: I love that question. I say, right now we see that the earth is going through a purging. It’s just like a sickness. I see the whole earth as a being, with I’n’I as beings manifested within the one being of Christ or God within. Some of us have been misguided, mis-educated and caused to be living within an illusion. Those who have discovered the truth must try to do as much good as possible. Teach and explain to people because if this situation has been caused by something we’ve been doing wrong, all we need to do is do the right things.
I’n’I see what one song can do to a world. I see what Brother Bob Marley’s song “Redemption Song” has done to mankind. If mankind could have that on the lips. If I’n’I, as a black man, realize that I’n’I have redemption, but I’n’I haven’t looked within my own soul and found that I have been living an illusion, then this is not good for them! Big Brother Vanity and His Fanciness, and big high-heeled boots, big watches and glasses—not good for them! [laughs] It’s not good!
LG: What about you, Mikey General? What’s going to happen in the world about racism?
MG: Well, I think that His Majesty as I’n’I example has set the tone and the pattern for us. As Bob Marley sings in his song, “Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is totally abolished and destroyed, I’n’I say there be war.” Why do we say that now? If every man could live that philosophy… If every man could see one another as a living spirit, as a breath within the same air, sharing the same blood, eating the same food and minerals to keep strong, then that would bring about a unity proving that each of us is one. We’re all the same really, in essence.
Luciano: Very good point. It’s one breath. If you and I are sitting in a room, as a white or a black, and I take a breath, it’s one breath. You open the door, it’s one sunlight you look into. I know that whatever has gone wrong is within the mind of man… I see a oneness when I approach my people with a universal consciousness. When I see my audience dance and I see beautiful white people and I see beautiful black people, I say, “They’re all my people!” And I feel good to know that the music is that unifying force and the essence to which the connection can be made, reconciliation of mankind back into God’s consciousness. It’s when people find themselves within the truth, knowing that there is one God, one Aim, and one Destiny, then they start to live within the oneness which will bring about the Kingdom upon earth.
MG: Jesus Christ had a great following, doing the works. He showed them the possibility of themselves. The work that he do, we can also do. The possibility of Him is our possibility. I’n’I sincerely believe that. To know that he came as a man, trod as a man, live as a man and do everything and go through every pain that a man went through just to elevate I’n’I and I’n’I consciousness, is very inspiring.
Luciano: You have to admit that there is a higher consciousness. We know this because if we can resort to our own mind and thinking to get solutions to our everyday problems, then it tells me that there is something within I’n’I like a reservoir. And this reservoir is where I get my melodies!
When I read Ephesians 3, it tells about a power in the inner man… It says, “Those who are willing to do exceedingly abundantly shall receive the blessing.” That was handed down to Jesus Christ. Now I realize that what Jesus had come to tell them is that they must reconnect themselves to the spirit. How? It’s by breathing properly. That is the most essential part. When you eat right and you drink properly, along with deep inner breathing, you think accordingly in terms of positive thinking. I call the breathing “conscious breath”…
There is a spirit moving in I’n’I. And this is what you hear sometimes when I pour my spirit into songs; I’m crying sometimes in the studio and weeping, but I still present the words so you can feel it in the energy.
When you come to I’n’I performance, you come and see Luciano or Jepther or the Messenger just as I am. Not adding on, not putting on, I’m not twanging unnecessarily! Sometimes I speak the natural English because I want to get the message across to my brothers, but I don’t like the twanging thing ’cause I’m a real hardcore patois boy! [laughs]
Laura Gardner: What do you like best about being on the road, touring, often for months on end?
Luciano: For me, it’s definitely the people. I see some nice scenery that elevates the spiritual growth of I’n’I and I give thanks for the wonderful creation of God. But within God’s creation I realize that He has created a reflection of his own self. And when I see people who come out, who share their love, I realize that in the end, it pays to see people coming out to hear what you have to say, to dance to the rhythm and move to the timing.
Some people carry gifts, as for myself I carry my own soul as my gift and whatever small tokens I can bring forward. You do good and good come… whatever love you have found you share it in the world. It’s like a bank. You put that money in and it grows with interest and it, in turn, brings forward tenfolds of happiness and blessings. Rastafari!
Mikey General: True, Brother Luci… When we see that people accept the message that we have to offer, it’s so good for our souls … On tour, we sometimes have more time to meditate and to pray. It gives us more strength. As Brother Luci said, the essence of the tour is the people.
LG: Let’s talk about collaborations. Luciano, you have worked with many other musicians: Cocoa Tea, Lady G, Louie Culture, Baaba Maal, Beenie Man, Sizzla, Jungle Brothers… Mikey General, have you worked with many other people as well?
MG: I had collaborations with Luciano, Sizzla, Shadowman, and a lot of other DJs. We believe in sharing the work. We’re not the only messengers out there. If we can “combinate”—combine and come together—deliver that same message with an extra force and energy, then we agree to do that. We like to stick with people who are on the same wavelength as I’n’I… It’s about glorifying Jah; it’s not about any self-praise or any self-glorification.
LG: That was my next question. How do you decide who to work with and who not to?
Luciano: I definitely see in I-self as a messenger of the Almighty Jah and going out there in the world to preach and teach the people. I don’t see why I should carry in my pocket anything that will cause a damage to my salesmanship or my presentation. For example, you have a good salesman working for “Hardware & Lumber,” you expect that when he goes out, he carries things belonging only to “Hardware & Lumber.” This is why I say, if you’re going out with God’s message and word, I don’t see how we should allow it to be tampered with… As messengers of the gospel, we cannot afford to support any form of recklessness or profanity amongst ourselves. We really have to encourage brothers who are really dealing with the upliftment and the growth of the people.
MG: Yeah, we cannot be working with people who have a different message from I’n’I. We deal with color variation with people, but they have to be of like mind, because we see the importance of the message.
LG: What is the future for Luciano and for Mikey General? What can we expect next?
Luciano: More action, more love, and more righteousness. Every one of us has a duty upon earth, whether you like it or not… While we are allotted this privileged time upon creation, let us do something good with our lives and not become reckless souls upon earth. Jah bless and protect.
MG: The future holds for I’n’I great things, ’cause we see ourselves continuing this great work. Brother Luci’s a soulmate of I’n’I and we have devoted our lives to this. So, sometimes we might go to a show and we might not see the amount of people, but it’s not about that. It’s about delivering the message. If one soul is saved then we have found worth.
Luciano: Even if it’s only two people in the audience, we’re going to rock the house. Our duty is to carry love to the people and to carry some action with it, because we don’t believe in lackiness. We love the people. I love to go wake them up because them just sitting like some blues busters. [laughs] We have to let them know that it is by singing and giving a wonderful shout out to the Almighty Jah that we really have found redemption for I’n’I soul. If we can inspire them a certain way to just rock and loose up the spirit within them, they can make a better world.
MG: Yeah, because our growth is their growth and their growth is our growth. That’s what the future holds for us: continuing our growth through righteousness.
Luciano: The future lies in God’s hands. Once we do what we can do best, then we just have to approach whatever we must to the best of I’n’I ability and remember, I’n’I utmost is for His Highness…
So I keep searching. I discover a little thing and I tell the people, “People, the deep breathing is GOOD! Trust me.” Because there was one time when I couldn’t find hit songs, I couldn’t find melodies. [Enormous inhale] And by rising the early morning time, cut-out the slumber and the sleep, I realized that my life has been better. I get a little friskier. I get a little more energetic, a little more inspiration. I find myself living better. I have better thoughts, good melodies, good words. Jah has given I’n’I eloquence, speech and a high level of decorum. I know that God is blessing I’n’I with each breath I take. [Enormous exhale…]
LG: Brothers, you are truly blessed. I look forward to all the music that lies ahead.
Luciano: Thank you very much for taking the time out to reason with I’n’I. Continue to do the good works and make the Almighty light keep shining in thee.
MG: All right! I’m saying peace. My brothers and sisters in the Bay Area, blessed love. Give thanks and praises for the moment.
Special thanks to Paul Banks, Tracy at Maritime Hall, and Corinne for making this interview possible