of revolution! That’s how Steel Pulse, one of the world’s premier reggae acts, sums up their
contribution to humanity thus far. At least, that’s what the banner suggests on their
Most of this interview with David "Dread"
took place on St. Croix in 1986. We spoke again during the Steel Pulse "Victims" tour in
1991. Join Us.
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revolution was merely 8 years old when I first met lead vocalist (and song writer) David “Dread”
Hinds. The group was in the U.S. Virgin Islands,
touring in support of “Babylon the Bandit,” their 6th
album. In an interview following the concert, David
“Dread” discussed the vision of Steel Pulse, and the difficult circumstances that gave birth to
some of his songs.
foremost reggae band, Steel Pulse rose from the slums of Birmingham, England in 1978 with a
distinctive blend of earthy reggae rhythms, R&B melodies, rock, soul and tight vocal harmonies.
Black heroes from Marcus Garvey to Steve Biko were exalted in song.
And the band’s unwavering commitment to African liberation causes earned them a following
at home and abroad.
still in the streets looking for freedom, justice, liberty and equality,” Hinds would remind
audiences at concerts. “We’ve never been a band
who’s out there to make a quick buck,” he explained in a second interview that was granted in
really try to follow the mode that was initially started in reggae music, and that is to make people
aware of what’s happening around them, and to bring black people’s problems to the forefront.
So when you say Steel Pulse, you’re really talking about a concept.
And that concept is to chant down Babylon.”
Babylon is that nebulous world of deceit and despair that Hinds wants no part of.
“Chemicals in the food to control population/ Intentions to build a plastic nation/ Cloning
cats to have dogs/ Human beings breeding hogs/ On the moon in search of aliens,” sang an
impassioned Hinds in the unforgettable classic “Wild Goose Chase.”
Hinds (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) and Swelyn Brown (keyboards) are the only two remaining
members of the original band. The current line-up now
includes: Sidney Mills (keyboards), Alvin Ewen (bass), Clifford Pusey (lead guitar), Conrad Kelly
(drums and percussion), and back-up singers Donna Sterling and Sylvia Tella.
immediately thinks of Hinds when one thinks of Steel Pulse: the breezy vocals, the dark sunglasses,
the pulsating anger, the magnetism and the regal crown of dreads,
And no matter how many times Hinds insists that the band
doesn’t revolve around personalities, who could imagine Steel Pulse without him.
of Jamaican immigrants, Hinds, like most of the founders of Steel Pulse, was born and raised in
England. His father was a welder, and his mother worked
in a factory. Along with five siblings, Hinds was
reared in the rough neighborhood of Handsworth, Birmingham.
were always subjected to police harassment and unemployment,” recalls Hinds.
“The usual thing that happens to minorities across the globe when you’re living in a
country that doesn’t have your best interest at heart.”
people choose the Rastafarian path, but Hinds insists he was “born Rasta,” but didn’t realize
it until he was about 19 years old. That was when Rasta
elders pointed out to Hinds that his lyrics were steeped in Rasta philosophy.
At 22, he began sprouting dreds. One chunk took the
shape of his derby hat and climbed upward for years before it finally toppled over.
with Marcus Garvey, Hinds reveres Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia whom many
Rastafarians believe is God, or Jah. And Hinds devoutly reads his Bible. “Chanting my psalms and things,” he says.
several interviews, Hinds emerges as a man with unshakable convictions.
But he’s not rigid by any stretch of the imagination. “At
the end of the day, all religions come down to one truth, and if you can’t deal with that, you
can’t deal with anything.” And his advice to budding musicians,
could very well apply to the rest of us: “Be committed to your originality, and be determined and
dedicated to your originality.”
at the request of former President Bill Clinton, Steel Pulse breezed into the White House to perform
at the inaugural festivities. I last saw Hinds and his
“liberation posse” at The Fillmore in San Francisco. The set began with a short instrumental
melody. Then the man who will never forgive science for side-stepping nature and tampering with
clones, summoned his voice and his fury, and chanted down a heedless Babylon all over again.