Sanchez is one of those year-to-year singers who’s too often forgotten. So consistently stellar are his crystalline vocals, so unwavering is his standard of excellence, that we sometimes take him for granted. In such cases the best thing to do is walk away for a few years and make them miss you. After all, the man has been singing his heart out since the late ’80s, investing improbable pop songs with so much drama and passion that you forget all about the originals. Then he drops an album like the all-original 1995 masterpiece Praise Him, and the reggae world goes into a frenzy. But apart from being sampled all over the “Dipset Anthem,” mainstream success has eluded this supremely gifted vocalist. Not that he’s hurting in the least.
Sanchez’s popularity among diehard reggae fans is so unshakeable that he will never have to chase after the trappings of stardom. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long for me to land this interview. I’ve been trying for 15 years—give or take. There have been some near misses, but this past Christmas Eve, I finally heard the words I’ve been longing for all this time: You’re on with Sanchez…
BOOMSHOTS: Give thanks.
Hey what’s up, Rob?
Nuff respect my singer. Long time I’ve been waiting for this conversation.
Always a first time, Boss. And it’s a pleasure too, for real, cause it’s been time enough.
Your new album is called Now & Forever, and the title is so well-chosen because it seems like your voice has been singing forever. How is this album special to you apart from all the others you’ve made?
Because it’s long awaited—one. And two—most of the songs are original, from the heart.
Yes, it sounds like you really took your time putting this one together.
Yeah, of course. And to be honest, I could have done this album with so many different producers. But I definitely chose Penthouse. Why? Because I’ve been there before and I know what they can do. I know they’re people of class. They’re just not gonna put anything out without it sounding the best. Or if it wasn’t Penthouse it would be Dean Fraser. Because I really wanted to come back to the good authentic sound. Yeah man, I never wanted to mix it up too tough with the dancehall ting cause—I’m not saying anything is wrong with the dancehall, but anyway I wanna keep my ting up on the ultimate where anybody could listen to it. Yes. Yes.
Was your first one for Penthouse “One In A Million”? That’s one of my favorites.
Yes—laughs—yeah, for real. Or that one with me and Wayne Wonder. That one too.
You and Wayne together? What song is that? I need to go search for that one.
Yeah man. I’m gonna get it—for real—and I’m gonna send it to you. Yeah man. Oh yes, I remember now. “When there’s no getting over the rainbow.” [sings] “When there’s no getting over that rainbow / And the smallest of dreams won’t come true / I can take…” You memba that one?
Wow Sanchez. My phone never sounded so good!
[laughs] Nuff love man.
But tell me about song #1 on the album—“Won’t Surrender”—you have a Tiger Woods moment in there. Was that record already in the works when the whole controversy popped off with Tiger?
Um, to be honest, when I heard the thing with Tiger I said to myself, Okay, well maybe now I could write something pertaining to that. Tiger has always been my favorite. Just like Serena and Venus, always my favorite so… I just said to myself okay well maybe I can put something together around that. And I didn’t really know anything. Just all the things that I’ve heard, It just motivated me to do another song. Y’understand? But I should say, they took to it more than I was really anticipating. Cause I hear that it’s really getting big because of that.
Yeah I saw the video on YouTube with all the Tiger Woods footage…Do you think people are beating up on him too much? I mean, he’s not the only one who does this kind of stuff.
Right, but if you notice in the song, I’m like giving him strength, cause I’m saying in the song, “I won’t give up, I won’t give in.” And maybe I’m saying things which can’t say, but I’m saying for him.
That’s one great thing about music—you can really speak your mind without apology. Do most of your songs come from real-life situations?
I prefer to try to do it around something that’s real. Something that’s happening or something that is about to happen. Or sup’m that hasn’t happened in how long. We pressure people’s memory to think of a good something to say. Yeah.
When people first heard your voice you were known for interpreting songs by other artists.
“Here I Am” and “Lady In Red” and all of these great records... How do you choose which songs to cover? I notice you don’t just sing reggae songs. You’ll take a pop song, or something that we don’t associate with reggae, and you’ll bring it right back home to Jamaica.
Okay… Right, but if you notice, that song that I’m doing across to… us people, is a song that we know and play very well. So it’s only fair to put a reggae rhythm around it and call It our own. Y’understand? Cause even a song like “Lonelieness,” a simple song like “Loneliness” that’s an original done by Jermaine. A lot of people never even know that song was done by Jermaine Jackson yunno—they think I did it. For real and then people start asking me—I started doing interviews and they say, “Where you get that song?” And I say, “I didn’t write that song. That song was done by Michael’s brother.” And they say, Which one ah dem? And I say Jermaine. And they say, I can’t believe it! It’s like history. For real. Cause of we, we make people know them tune.
Original: Jermaine Jackson “Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone”
Unforgettable: Sanchez “Loneliness”
It’s the same with “Here I Am” you know. I never really checked it out, was that Air Supply who did that one?
One day I heard them singing their version for the first time and I said—Wait, that’s the Sanchez song!
And right now that’s one of my biggest tune today. “Here I am.”
Yeah you usually walk onstage with that one.
If I got out, and I sing “Here I Am” and I don’t get that pandemonious response… For real. The respons is always pandemonious, so—trust me. I know the songs that really make a dent, or create that impact. So I try to go in the same feel and try to select songs that people already know and love that has already been in household. I try to bring these songs alive, but in the reggae feel.
Original: Air Supply “Here I Am”
Unforgettable: Sanchez “Here I Am”
And you use the word—you “select” songs.
Yeah man, you have to select them. You have to go out and select them. I mean you have to. You can’t just get up and sing any song as you go to the studio and a producer say “sing this.” You have to think, you have to think about your career, where you’re coming from, what people know you to be. Yeah, so you have to keep the trend, or maybe what—you’re slipping up? Or changing. You’re changing. Changing nuttin’. For real. The only change, is getting better at it.
Of course, yes sir.
Now when you say “Select,” you have that on your resume too from your years as a sound man to know what song…
Yeah cause remember I used to select sound systems—Rambo Mango.
Where was that sound playing?
That used to be situated, and It’s still situated in sixty—60—Whitehall Avenue.
Whitehall Avenue. Okay.
Yes, man—straight, man. And I used to select that sound, and like when I play the right side, I would flip over the record, and I would sing on the riddim. And trust me, people could never believe it. And some people were coming to me and saying, So Sanchez, to be honest, I know you love the selecting thing, but what you think about singing? Cause I think you do that better. And I would vex Cause I love music and I’m still going around and takin’ dance and selecting and doing my likkle thing. And when it comes down to that time I would sing two song and I would get the same response. And I mean, I just decided to pursue a career.
And then we get songs with you and the Whitehall crew.
Then you get songs like “Sometimes I Wonder…” You member that one? “That look in your eyes…” [laughs]
I do remember it well. And you and Flourgon—“Love Me Gal Bad.”
Yeah mon, for real. Yes man.
That record is like a bomb drop in the dance—still, to this day.
Yeah mon. And I can tell you, that song with me and Flourgon, dubplates… Dubplate-wise, that’s the song I’ve done the most.
Everybody wants that special in their box.
Believe me. You will have ten Japanese coming, flying from Japan or wherever. Osaka, wherever. And they come to Jamaica and they say okay, they wanna find Sanchez. Remember it’s ten different sounds—they’re parring together. And believe you me, all ten ah them come, and you know which they want?
The first thing, “Love Me Lover Bad” with me and Flourgon.
So Flourgon is eating good off that too.
Yeah and we keep it like that. Don’t think I’m gonna, like, where I’m at now I can’t get to Flourgon so I’m gonna get another DJ to DJ his part. I’m not going to do it. I could never feel justified at the end of the day. Cause no one can do that song better than the original person. You’d be only taking away from him. So I try to… You know, if somebody should call me and say I want that song with you and Flourgon. I say, “Okay I’m gonna call Flourgon and line it up, so call me back or I’ll get back to you.” Yeah and him drive in from Kingston and come link me—and we get it done.
Was that a routine that you did in the dancehall before you put it on wax?
Yeah that one we used to do it and… You see? You know the ting yunno. [laughing] You know the ting yunno! Just as I’m telling you I used to select and flip over the riddim? Flourgon would be right there and this song now, we’d do it, like a likkle thing we have together, I would sing and Flourgon would come in and DJ. But we start realizing that it’s to grasping onto the dancehall and people start loving it. People would actually asking for it. So I was like Flourgon, mek we do this—let’s record this! Because like, this week, and I would say like, within a month it was the biggest thing. And that song stayed 18 weeks on the chart, number one spot.
Wow. Which riddim did you use when you did it live?
You know—we would always wait for that riddim yunno. That’s why we actually did that riddim. Because that riddim… I think Terror Fabulous or somebody was on that riddim too. So we would flip over the flip side, and that riddim is good and everything and nice and everything and bouncy. So we would wait for that riddim and whenever that riddim comes around, we would—you know—kjust make eye contact with each other, cause we know, you know, that’s the riddim. [laughing] Yeah, for real. And it was all about our career. Try to pursue a career at that time. And try to go out there. Make people recognize that we are artists. Yeah.
So that record made you start fly out to America and stuff like that, right?
Yeah, of course, definitely.
That was starting from when, like the late 80s?
Yeah mon, 88, 89 coming up.
So right now we’re going into 2010, what do you observe about the whole reggae dancehall industry and how it’s moving? Is the music in a stronger place?
Of course it’s moving, it’s moving splendid. It’s just that we have one and two likkle unscrupulous people who think they can come and say anything and whatever they feel. And that hurts me. Because I have my kids and I can’t have fully control over them, like 24/7. So I mean, sometime they’re gonna hear things that they’re not supposed to. And I can’t be there for them, so I’m just caught up over the whole situation. I mean, we can say things and just keep it clean, man.
I never heard you cuss bad word on record, on stage, in dance, on dubplate, cassette tape, never…
That would only take away from your career man. Right now, you must have a handful of people who don’t like a bone in you. And you gwine have a next handful who’s just calling you name. But I don’t want it like that. I want you to grasp me with both hands. For real, I love to feel that hug.
And you get it every time.
For real. So I’m used to it, so when you check it out: That’s what I’m used to. And that’s what I want. That’s what I work for. That’s what I crave for. It’s not like people who hail you because him hear him friend hail me and say “yeah man,” and you can see it in him that he’s not with me. I don’t like that. I like when you hail me, you even go as far as say “yeah man, my favorite singer.” You know? That makes my day, cause I know I’m doing something, cause I know that I’m the favorite. I know that. I don’t need no eyeglass to see that or people tell me that. For real, I know that. So I live according and I act according.
Keep It Locked for Unforgettable: Reasoning With Sanchez, Part 2