Sunday, March 3, 2024

Beat maker


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IT IS NEARING FOUR in the afternoon as Randy Eastmond sits in the control room of his studio at Quantum Productions to begin an evening session.

With a notebook to jot down points to his left, keyboards to his right and the rhythms of 2017 soca blaring from the speakers, Randy adjusts the buttons on the USB monitor control.

Almost oblivious, but not rudely so, to the fact that there is a guest in his Vauxhall, Christ Church studio, the producer is more enthralled by preparations for the evening.

He admitted he felt at home in the studio.

The year was 1994 and Randy was then a second form student at Combermere School when he heard the sounds of the Barbados Cadet Corps band on display. In a matter of seconds, he knew he wanted to join. So he fearlessly journeyed to the cadet office.

Combermere was then considered a “music school”, and he was encouraged when the officer in charge gave him a saxophone and sent him home to practise.

At first, young Randy learned by rote but then as he got more serious, he bought books, did research and received guidance from members of the band until just shy of six-months training, he was allowed to become a member. Eastmond remained with the band for a number of years, and in due course learnt to play a plethora of instruments, including the clarinet, trombone, tuba and trumpet.

During this time, however, he and a group of students led by Ryan Butcher and including Simon Alleyne, Dwayne Dottin, David Linton, Dwayne Durant, Lawrence Lorenzo Gittens, Brian Lashley and Randy Dixon formed an a cappella group called Rest Assured. The group became very popular, winning several awards at National Independence Festival of Cultural Arts (NIFCA) and making appearances at various events.

Moving on from high school, the band members separated and went on to careers in other fields. Randy chose to go to the University of the West Indies to study management.

However, in an interview with WEEKEND BUZZ he recalled that he somehow couldn’t shake his affection for music. So much so that around 1999, it led him to fellow cadets David Haynes, Robert Watson and Shawn Gittens who were developing the concept of a band which they eventually titled Electrik. In the summer of 2001, the band was officially formed and the rest is history.

Electrik went on to be one of the most dynamic and refreshing bands of the 2000s, pushing lesser known artistes, such as Keisha Christian, Michael Mikey Mercer and Omar Marzville McQuilkin to the fore and giving many young aspiring musicians a platform.

In its time, Electrik was mostly known for its thrust of original music and Randy explained it was this that was instrumental on his journey to becoming  a producer.

“While in Electrik we started to look at original material to brand ourselves more and put a product on the market for people to buy into, and we were introduced to Pernell Farley who was the first to record our original music. We had a song called On The Road and going around Pernell and his studio I just started to get this love for the equipment, for all the buttons and the lights.”

Admittedly, Randy didn’t have a clue about how the process worked but according to him, “something about it was telling me this is my calling. Something here seems like home.

“Then we met Chris Allman from Slam City. He at the time was working on Keisha’s song Love Zone, and that sealed the deal for me. Being in the studio for long hours, long nights. Meeting the writer of the song, Mr Dale, that really triggered it for me and I said this is what I want to do.

“I don’t even recognise the time. It is a labour of love. I love creating and I love the process. So being in Slam City really fuelled that fire for me and then I met Anthony Lowhar . . . and that sealed it even more and I knew I was destined to be in this arena. Because my personality is one that is very reserved, I don’t see myself going out there and trying to be out front. I like to be in the background and I found a comfort zone where I can be expressive without having to be seen all the time.”

Notwithstanding the fact that by the time Randy left Electrik around 2006 to 2007, he had produced one major hit in the form of Marzville’s My Boo that featured Hawkeye and which placed fifth in the Party Monarch competition, Randy still wanted to improve his musical skill set even more.

He recognised that if he truly wanted to be taken seriously for his musicianship, he would have to enhance his skills and he did so through the Barbados Community College’s music programme.

He was now 25 years old, and while music was his first love, the bills had to be paid. Randy got a full-time job as a costing clerk.

“At that time  . . . . I had commitments, bills. I had already started the studio, you wanted to buy equipment and the reality was you needed an income.”

The little he was making from music could only stretch so far.

“Starting a studio didn’t mean that as soon as it opened everyone would be coming to me to pay me to produce a song, I now had to establish my name. Luckily we had My Boo as one of our first hits but that wasn’t enough for people to say they coming to me because I am ‘the man’. There was Slam City, MonstaPiece and all the big studios, so everybody was going to them. I wished I could have done [BCC] full-time but life sometimes takes over and you got to be real with yourself,” he said.

During the time at BCC, Randy changed jobs and became a senior accounting clerk at a financial institution, while simultaneously improving his then home studio.

“. . .  In terms of asking for assistance and asking for guidance, young people came to me for help. Recording people from the area, recording people I know, children that believed they had some level of talent. I got a chance to practise on people who were also developing. The vision was mostly the development of young people, artiste development and that is what stood out most for me and what gave me the most value – helping young people.”

In 2008 the opportunity arose for him to teach music full-time at Parkinson Memorial Secondary, and Eastmond had no doubts about resigning from his day job. The same year he started at Parkinson, the producer attended a conference in Canada. This conference was somewhat of a cultural incubator for young people who are marginalised and gave them an avenue to pursue the arts.

Upon returning home, along with vocalist and vocal trainer Kevin Sluggy Dan Watson, they developed a similar initiative called Youth In The Spotlight Development Programme and Charitable Trust. Which basically provides an opportunity for young people to get their work featured.

Out of that came other projects such as Bajan Green Reggae Roadshow and saw the blossoming of young talent such as Amber Orano as well as Project X The Band.

In addition to the studio, Quantum Productions also specialises in event and artiste management but Randy prefers to be called a facilitator of the process.

His studio has been rebuilt and expanded in Vauxhall. And this year, Mr Quantum, as Randy is also known, is reaping rewards, firstly with Rhea featuring Coopa Dan’s Bare Trouble on the Ting A Ling Riddim announced as semi-finalists in the 2017 Yella Bashment Soca competition, and fairly popular productions like: Storm’s Admiring, Statement’s Have You Evah; the infectious Cayn Done by Mr Quantum himself and Tony Rebel Bailey, Looking Fuh Trouble by OB, Waistline Tek Ova by Scribz, Khiomal’s Part Ah Me, Harpa’s Soca Feeling, De Encounter by Khrys and Toyah along with Bad Influence and Keep Jammin’ by Jahm-R.

“As a teacher it gives me the most intrinsic value when you meet someone at one point and you walk them through the process and they are learning that if they walk to here you don’t fall short.

“I think it is going to help to develop the Barbados landscape. As I tell people, we are right now writing the history of Barbados, writing the history of Barbadian music. So I want to be a part of that process. I don’t need to be out there in front and keeping a lot of noise saying this is what I’m doing but just to know that I have helped someone means a lot to me,” Randy said as he smiled. (SDB Media)


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