Last Updated on March 5, 2023
Originally published in Beat Motel issue 8
Pama International have been raising eyebrows all over the shop firstly due to the fact they sound remarkably like they’ve been playing since the 1950s (in a good way) and also because they were the first band to sign to legenary label TROJAN in many a long year. Here’s what ‘band leader’ Sean had to say;
-Hey Sean, can you tell us a little bit about how Pama International came about? Is it a project band or a full time band, was it’s birth connected with the birth of your label?
I formed Pama Intl back in 2000-2001. I’d been in a lot of bands previously with a lot of egos, a lot of habits. I had got to tour the world and signed major deals with Sony and A&M Records, but I’d also got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying music, because of the people around me and the business/labels I was having to deal with. Although i was making a great living out of it, I actually hated it. So, I walked away from what I was doing and started writing my own material….what was to become Pama Intl. I started working with people I respected….nice people…good friends old and new. It was always my intention with Pama Intl to be surround by good players and good vibes. No egos. No habits. No breadheads.
Pama Intl is very much full time thing for me. There’s a bit of a collective vibe to the band. I’ll work the albums with the other two main members Finny (singer) and Lynval (guitar/vocals). The other players we bring in as we need. Last year we had three different bass players; Horace (Specials), Ernie Mckone (Galliano/Paul Weller) and Kirk (Lee Perry), but it kept things interesting. All good players but all very different styles. We can draw on all sorts of people to come and play with us. So far we’ve had members from The Specials, Madness, Lee Perry’s band, Galliano, Style Council, Pop Will Eat Itself, Steel Pulse, Bentley Rhythm Ace….but always have the main stay of Finny and I and now Lynval as well.
I started Jamdown Records before Pama Intl, but the label did end up as a vehicle to release Pama Intl releases. As Pama started getting busier I had less time to release other bands. Jamdown finished a couple of years ago now. I’d had enough of running a label. Somehow I’ve been drawn back in and have just set up Rockers Revolt to release Pama Intl and just signed The Slackers for their next album.
– Signing the Slackers is something of a coup, bearing in mind how huge they are were there any odd demands that had to be met before they would sign?
Yeah, I’m pleased about signing The Slackers and I hope they are as huge as you think they are! I could do with a big hit on the label. It’s funny I knew their old singer Q-maxx years ago. He used to come to see Special Beat play whenever we were in NYC and we’d have a few drinks. One day he said he was starting a new band called The Slackers and gave me their first demo tape. Still got it somewhere.
Very rough and more 2 Tone based but I remember there being a good tune or two. That must of been in about 91 or 92.
They didn’t have any funny demands. We’ve come up with a good mutual agreement. I see both sides of the picture, being in a band and running a label, so I know what works for everyone. I’m really looking forward to releasing and working their album. It’s great! It’ll be out on 3rd December in time for their UK tour.
– So are you now a full time regaee star or do you still have to clock in somewhere? If so how understanding are they about tours and the like?
Full time reggae star eh? I have to clock in with the wife and kids. That’s it. I’ve always run my own businesses to survive. Be it labels, promoting, booking agency, performing… My wife and kids are darlings and understand music is my life, but we don’t tour that much and I make sure I get the balance right between work and living. I’ve toured for years all over the world, and don’t really enjoy it anymore. Most of the time it’s needless. With Pama Intl we pick and choose the gigs we do and try and get to the most people possible, with the least number of shows. When you’ve toured USA for 13 weeks the fun kind of goes out of it.
Looks like we’ll be going out on two tours next year…one in February’08 as part of a Moon Ska World Revue (they’re rereleasing our first two albums) and another one in March, but I can’t say to much about that one at the moment. The Moon one will be about 10 dates straight, which is something Pama Intl never do. We do weekends and the odd midweek show usually. I know I’ll love doing the shows but I’ll hate being away from the family.