A Chat With Clive Bradley - Master Arranger, Composer, Producer - Up-Close!

An exclusive 2000 interview with the late great steelpan music arranger Clive Bradley

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

With the spirit of a gypsy and the discipline of an Olympic sprinter, Clive Bradley has created some of the most beautiful music this side of heaven. Always thoughtful, Bradley approaches his craft in a meticulous yet carefree manner. It is not unusual for him to spend hours voicing a single chord, while at other times, he seems to go on instinct. His knowledge of harmony, form, rhythm and counterpoint is legendary. However, it’s his sense of “bacchanal” that makes Bradley special. The uncanny ability to be both sophisticated and vulgar sets him apart from the rest. Whether you’re a professional musician, a Brooklyn teen or an elder from Laventille, Bradley speaks your language.

Bradley has enriched the lives of everyone who has ever heard his music. From his Panorama winning arrangements of “Rebecca”, “Pan In Harmony”, and “High Mas” to “Pan In Danger”, “Party Tonight” and “Sailing” (the ones that got away) to those little gems: “Sugar For Pan”, “Calypso Coup” and “Panama”, Bradley has created a body of work that will live on. Colorful? Yes, he is. Restless? That too, but a musical genius for sure!” ...Garvin Blake
When Steel Talks Exclusive icon

Over the course of approximately a little over two decades, members of WST (When Steel Talks) interacted closely with the late Clive Bradley in various capacities - i.e., musicians, players, engineers and journalists. The following is one of a series of WST interviews with Clive Bradley that gives further and deeper insight into the man, his life and his music. 

In this exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - musician, writer, composer and arranger Clive Bradley shares some personal philosophies, experiences, thoughts on the pan, music and the human condition. The year is 2000, and the young, then-defending [1999] champions, Pantonic Steel Orchestra, one of the bands Bradley is arranging for, has placed second in the recently-concluded prestigious New York Panorama competition.  Of course for those who already know the history - Pantonic with Bradley at the musical helm would go on to win four panorama championships in the next five years to become one of the most musically acclaimed and respected steel orchestras of this era. Incidentally, a few of Bradley’s answers belie the fact that Bradley may have been one of the most competitive spirits to ever walk the planet. Furthermore, he loved wining.

WST - “This is Pan In New York and the series is called “When Steel Talks.” Today we have the opportunity to talk to arranger extraordinaire - Mr. CLIVE BRADLEY- one of the movers and shakers behind the Pan scene here in New York. Welcome! We hear the Pans- we hear the results- give us your perspective as an arranger.”

Clive Bradley - Panist, Composer, Arranger and Musician Extraordinaire
Clive Bradley

Clive Bradley - “First of all, thank you for having me here. If you give me some direct questions, I will give you direct answers.”

WST - “Let’s talk about Clive Bradley the man. What are some of your achievements to date?”

Clive Bradley - “Oh yes people have said there are many. As far as Trinidad, many people regard Panorama as the Super Bowl.’ I won in Trinidad six times and in New York six times.”

WST - “I believe that you are also the most successful arranger on the New York scene?”

Clive Bradley - “I might be the most experienced arranger. I think I won with Metro six times... I really can’t remember. I don’t keep track of those things.”

WST - “Metro Steel?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes, Metro Steel, but bands have broken off. You have a Pantonic, Linden’s band, a Umoja. Right now I am with Pantonic’s band.”

WST - “Off-shoots?”

Clive Bradley - “I  think I am the most experienced about- ‘200’ years old.”

WST - “By your wealth of experience...”

Clive Bradley - “First time is 1968 Despers [Trinidad] with a band of about six to eight people. I was fascinated by what could be done with drums. I was not into Pan at this time; I was into guitar, keyboards....”

WST - “Heard you also have some combo experience? But we’re going to get back to that...”

Clive Bradley - “Oh yes. It served about ten years. Served in very good stead. It helped me to make music different from other arrangers who do not have that experience. When I am thinking the thing out, I do not hear Pan. I hear so-called conventional instruments. I look at what the sax, trombone, piano, trumpet is doing, and then I transfer it to Pan. There is no Pan before Pan. I take the knowledge I gleaned from working with keyboards and guitars and transfer it to Pan.”

WST - “So in 1968 you worked with Despers [Trinidad]?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. When I got up Laventille Hill, I had to learn all over. First of all the size of the band; I saw about 300 Pans, and that was only one band. So I had to learn all over again. You see - not because you could arrange for a brass band, one could arrange for a steel band. It is an entirely different kettle of fish. The technique is different. A lot of people because they arrange for a brass band they say I am going to arrange for a steelband. Oh no! It does not work so at all. Steelband is a different kettle of fish. Okay, a trumpet is a trumpet is a trumpet. A trombone is a trombone is a trombone. A piano is a piano... Okay you can do a piece of music here with this band, same instruments. You go to another band it sounds completely different. Every Pan has its own fingerprint, and combinations of these different fingerprints give you the total. You find more or less if you have a certain style, format, the style will be congruent as to what comes out of it.”

WST - “You arranged for three different bands. Metro which came sixth - Pantonic second - and Tasso - what was that like?”

Clive Bradley - “I’ve had that experience in Trinidad, but I will never go through that again.”

WST - “Why not?”

Clive Bradley - “It’s too demanding and not all administrators and leaders have the same ideas. I told one of the bands, Tony from Metro, that I would give him a hand. But Pantonic is the band I came to work with. Bands are different. Tony’s knowledge and attitude is different from other bands. The locale of the bands... all these things.”


Clive Bradley at left, with Len Church, right
Clive Bradley at left, with Len Church

WST - “So you find there is conflicts of sorts?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes it is. There really is a conflict. The conflict itself doesn’t affect me doing the job. It is the condition under which I have to do the job. The other little band -Tasso - that wasn’t the band. I have never seen more than twenty-two people in that Panyard yet.”

WST - “But still you took what you had... and you worked with them.”

Clive Bradley - “Yes, and I told the guy I really did not want to do this- please. I have too much on my plate. But he said you could write music down and send it down. I don’t work that way.”

WST - “What about the people’s opinion in general? You said you have already worked for more than one band [at a time] in Trinidad. There are people who think that’s a conflict of interest?”

Clive Bradley - “It is a conflict of interest.”

WST - “How do you feel personally- arranging one piece for different bands. Do you feel that you could be as creative with all the bands you work with in that situation?”

Clive Bradley - “I have done that. It’s sort of challenging. I’ve done the same tune - two different bands - and they both came out very good. As a matter of fact, the band that paid me less money got the better job. Then again it is the atmosphere. At least that is how I work. There is no musical mode, nothing clinical or clinically to what I do. I come to the yard with the inspiration and with the knowledge that I have in me. I take it from there. But if the band, the leader, the players, how they treat me, what state of mind they put me in.”

WST - “So therefore you don’t have any... [it’s] not a problem. Therefore I was saying when you get to the yard - you don’t have any preconceived notions. When you come to the yard you also have the arrangement done - so it’s also representative of the people you working with?”

Clive Bradley - “That’s it. The music resembles the people.”

WST - “So you don’t have much of a problem relating your vision to the players.”

Clive Bradley - “That’s it.”

WST - “Also makes your life a little bit easier.”

Clive Bradley - “So much easier. The greatest thing for me is to have done a piece of music and see the expression on people’s faces when they’re playing it. For example Linden, if the music is good, I know by looking at Linden’s face. Or Curtis, Despers’ captain. I see their faces and I know the music is good. To a lesser extent, there are people who come around listening and they have contributed a lot to the mood, the format. Once a pregnant lady told me, she said, ‘Brad that piece of music is so nice, why don’t you repeat it?’ I had not planned to repeat that particular part that was in Rebecca. I did repeat it, and it did contribute a lot to the whole arrangement. So you don’t have to be a musician to contribute to what’s there. So I look at people’s faces. I look at the body language. For example, you come to the Panyard to listen to what I am doing. It is a work in progress. You are talking to your friend. If I can take your interest away from your friend and have you listen to the band.”

WST - “You have accomplished...”

Clive Bradley - “If you stopped talking to your friend and listen to the band, I’ve accomplished what it is I am doing. If you start tapping your feet or better yet start dancing, I did it. This is how I do it.”

WST - “Your situation is unique. You have arranged for the original Metro Steel which split into Despers USA and Metro Steel. Then Pantonic came out from Metro.  It is going to be a loaded question - which is your favorite band to work with?”

Clive Bradley - “Right now Pantonics is the best band I’ve worked with. It is because of the age range of the people. I am a schoolteacher, and I have done a lot of psychology. I’ve studied industrial psychology. It is better to work with people in that age range, preteen and teen. I like to work with teenagers because when you get to those dinosaurs (excuse the expression); you tend to have problems. They are set in their ways.

  Pantonic Steel Orchestra with Bradley - 1999 - ‘In My House’

I kinda move with the times. I am 63 years old. I don’t want to say in my day so and so; this is my day. I don’t like to use that expression at all. When you arrange for kids and you see Nicky and Brian and them guys bouncing with the music, you feel good because you relating to people at that age. I have seen arrangers walk in the yard and they’re like dictators, everybody serious. I can’t work like that. I want to have fun doing it. I like to have fun.

I’ve done the same tune for Tokyo and Valley Harps. Tokyo paid me a whole lot of money. But Valley Harps piece came out sounding sweeter. It wasn’t for money. There was a certain part of Valley Harps tune that moved me and took me out of character. That is what music is supposed to do. Every time that part came, I had to walk out the yard. It was spiritual. I still can’t understand it. Whereas, Tokyo version was like, dah dah dah dah - (army-like). I guess it is the atmosphere, because when you’re working with Tokyo, you have the whole Carib conglomeration looking over your shoulder. You also have the John John conglomeration looking on. It becomes a job. It isn’t fun at all.”

WST - “Question. What was the average age of the people in Valley Harps?”

Clive Bradley - “Twenty, twenty-one.”

WST - “You know why I am asking that?  You mention working with the younger people and the reception you got.”

Clive Bradley - “Petit Valley is country compared to Tokyo. And country people are more affable than city people are. City people brains are too occupied with just getting by.”

WST - “That’s why they (city people) need the music to take them through. Sometimes you have to pull and tug them there.”

Clive Bradley - “They tugging too much with the rent that’s coming up or the gas bill... the ‘hot wheels’ for the car. Country people are happy with what is closer to their hearts. City people are happy with what other people are happy with.”

WST - “Speaking of being happy! Were you happy with the placement of Pantonic?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes! Yes! I was happy, I did not complain, not once. I never do complain.”

  Pantonic Steel Orchestra on stage - Panorama 2000

WST - “Do you think they could have done better?”

Clive Bradley - “They could have done better as far as exterior influences. Like judges for example, but judges seem to come more and more invisible as far as I am concern. I am not in a competition. I don’t feel competition. Ask Linden, he doesn’t feel that way either. Linden is sort of coming out of me.”

WST - “Even though you don’t feel competition - what- in all your years and experience as an arranger - is your opinion of the overall results of Panorama in New York this year?”

Clive Bradley - “Again, I am not ashamed to say that I do not even know the results. I only know that the band[s] I worked with - Pantonics came second, and Tasso.”


Clive Bradley - “CASYM came first, and that’s all I really know.”

WST - “Did you have the opportunity to hear CASYM?”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t think so.”

WST - “Okay. So you’re not sure.”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t listen.”

WST - “It’s in character with what you said before. It makes sense.”

Clive Bradley - “I come, I do my work, look for something nice to eat, nice girls to look at and talk to, see friends I haven’t seen in awhile. This is known... I get out of there. This is not my business.”

WST - “Okay you mentioned Valley Harps and that obviously is work that has really touched you. What work have you done in New York you thought is your best arrangement?”

Clive Bradley - “That’s a difficult question. But Dingolay... I always have to smile when I say that... I met Shadow in Trinidad, in Curepe in Trinidad. Me and Shadow close. He said, ‘Brad I’ve got a tune for you.’ But it was so close to Panorama in Trinidad that I did not think too much about it. So just before I come to New York to work with Metro, at the time that time they were out at Woodruff. Tony call me or I call Tony - don’t remember- he said ‘What tune you would be doing?’ I say well, I not so sure. Then one day I am in Trinidad and I hear this tune on the radio, and I call my brother and I said, ‘What is that on the radio?’ He said it was Dingolay by Shadow. I said wow! So I call Tony and I say the tune is Dingolay. So Tony start to laugh. So I asked, why? He says, ‘That is the tune we really want to do.’ So I came and oh man... I think Dingolay... there is no doubt about it. Dingolay is just the nicest thing I’ve done in a long time.” [click to hear Dingolay performed by Metro Steel Orchestra before Panorama 1992 as arranged by Clive Bradley]

WST - “And you were pleased with the results.”

Clive Bradley - “Oh I don’t even care about the results.”

WST - “No. When I say the results I did not mean the competition results. You were pleased with what the band put forward?”

Clive Bradley - “Oh yes! From the yard, when the band reached half the tune, I was happy already. And then things happen... and while doing this a little kid give me some ideas, Jamal; he is about nine, ten.”

WST - “So the influence of youth, no wonder you can’t help but stay with the youth.”

Clive Bradley - “No I can’t. Must stay with the kids.”

WST - “Because without them you won’t grow.”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. What Edison and they were just kids nine, ten, eleven- single numbers. There was an idea I had to put into the tune, and when I did it this little guy came up to me. He says, ‘Mr. Bradley, why don’t you do so so so so?’ I say, ‘You want us to try it?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ So I stopped the band and I said, ‘Guys, Jamal is suggesting that we try so so so,’ and they laugh. We did try it and Sis - when that thing hit the ears!”

WST - “I could imagine how Jamal felt?”

Clive Bradley - “I am getting goose bumps right now. He could tell you... I am getting embarrass just thinking about it. I am planning to use that kid’s idea. I have never done it since. He ain’t no kid now; he is big like a truck.”

WST - “How old is he now? You said he was about nine at the time.”

Clive Bradley - “About seventeen, eighteen.”

WST - “That was a number of years?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. But this was a little kid. I can’t remember what his parents’ name... a little kid.”

WST - “How do you feel about players who perform in more than one band, especially at competition time?”

Clive Bradley - “That I have different feelings about. There is a thing called conflict of interest. But then remember people play in bands for different reasons, whether they are kids or adults. A kid might play in a band to leave home, or to get away from home, or to meet his friends, who are playing in the same  band, or to meet people, or to come to where I am or because he lives close to where a band is. You know there are different reasons. But the most important reason of all is, if a kid knows he has the ability to learn four or five tunes. I don’t see any reason why you should stop him. He has to find a reason, and the reason is this. If he is not capable of executing all the pieces of music equally well, then it is not fair to whoever band he is playing with. If I know I have a kid playing in four or five bands, I will not tell him anything. I will just see how he is doing in my band. Once you could cut it in my band it’s all right. But anytime you absent from practice, you can’t execute, you don’t have the dynamics, I say excuse me. Thank you very much for coming. Go somewhere else.”

WST - “I suppose the same goes for adults as well?”

Clive Bradley - “Same goes for adults. Well, the adults, they have a different attitude. Of course you know the dinosaurs in them. But this is what is happening. You will be surprised to know the problems you get in bands with adults.”

WST - “You must have seen a lot in steelbands having been around both in Trinidad and in New York. You’ve seen altercation; you’ve seen disagreement... How do you feel and what do you know if anything - about the altercation once the results of this year’s Panorama were announced?”

Clive Bradley - “Well I did not see anything. Most of what I know is hearsay. I heard some band throw a chair on stage. I heard last year some arranger... I don’t even want to hear those things.”

WST - “You just stay exactly where your focus is - the music.”

Clive Bradley - “Do it! Done! Come off. I take the people tuxedo off; put the band-shirt on- I’m gone. I just don’t like to deal... in the first place the ends doesn’t justify the means. If you’re working for one hundred thousand, two hundred thousand dollars, I don’t mind you getting a lash through. What is the first prize?”

WST - “It’s not worth it.”

Clive Bradley - “It isn’t worth it. You could buy two boxes of plantain chips with that money.”

WST - “I think it is more the fact that they can wave their flag high and say “We won!””

Clive Bradley - “Give me a flag. I’ll wave it. What’s this we won. What did you win? I was on Parkside [Avenue in Brooklyn] there and many nights they weren’t sure if they would practice, the cops all around.”

WST - “What do you think about the problem there? (i.e. Parkside Avenue where about four steelbands were rehearsing nightly in very close proximity of each other).”

Clive Bradley - “That is a stupid thing.”

WST - “It seems like it is a cultural thing. It seems to be a problem with Pan having a stable base. Bands are being moved and you don’t even hear about it.”

Clive Bradley - “I think the problem is one of administration. The powers that be don’t care too much for Pan.”

WST - “And who are the powers that be?”

Clive Bradley - “Well there are different powers first of all the mayor, who of sorts... I am not an American; I don’t live here permanently.”

WST - “Okay- you make sure you say that.”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t care to live here permanently. I live in the world permanently. This is what I am concerned about. Lots of people leave their homes and their country and come here and think this is a bed of roses. To me it is not that. It is not that at all.”

WST - “What’s true?”

Clive Bradley - “I can’t be a hypocrite about that. This is a good country to try and step up a little bit. But you might be stepping on something soft.”

WST - “What do you think about the steelband situation.”

Clive Bradley - “Well there are some people call the senators and the government, who should look and see there are some people here who call themselves West Indians and we should look and see what they need. The politician needs their votes. If there was one million votes from steelband people, you want to bet they would have better conditions?”

WST - “That’s the bottom line.”

Clive Bradley - “That is the bottom line- is vote. You get somebody there so they could get some more  money, so they could buy a boat in Long Island and a house in the Poconos and stuff, that’s the whole thing. You can’t be hypocrite about that. You think anybody coming out and say, ‘Oh these people look very ambitious, lets help them beat their drums and stuff.’  ‘No! No! No! They are not going to do that.’”

WST - “I don’t mean the Pan problem with the location. I mean the organizations. Being in it for a number of years arranging for different bands. As an arranger you must have felt that there are things that impacted negatively on the portrayal of the bands.”

Clive Bradley - “Of course everything is wrong, there is nothing good about it.”

WST - “What are some of your concerns? How do you think it could be addressed? Is there any...”

Clive Bradley - “There must be some kind of course. There must be some sort of group concerned directly, a sort of Pan USA organization. I am not saying to follow the same lead as Pan Trinbago. Okay, I wouldn’t say that. Some Pan USA organization that says ‘Hey there is a thing call Pan here’.”

WST - “But we do have an organization.”

Clive Bradley - “You know what I mean.”

WST - “Not the types you are concerned about I take it?”

Clive Bradley - “I remember one time this guy came in with piece of paper half written on and a pencil. He knocked the Pan and say I want to talk to the guys. I say ‘Who are you?’ I know him but whose agency.”

WST - “On your turf?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. What you come in here doing? He says, ‘I have a band pass...’ I say ‘Excuse me, you are disrupting the work, and you should leave. ‘I have no time with that.’”

WST - “So there should be proper representation.”

Clive Bradley - “Proper representation under a legal umbrella or...”

WST - “People who are administratively capable and not just Pan players getting together with a voice crying in the wilderness. The sound system also appears to be...”

Clive Bradley - “Ooh! Don’t talk about that!”

WST - “Problematic.”

Clive Bradley - “Don’t even mention that!”

WST - “We have to because we don’t want to see it again or hear it again next year.”

Clive Bradley - “As I walked to the place (Panorama venue) I went up to the stage. A band is on stage playing. I spoke to Brian. I say, ‘Where’s the sound?’ I could not believe it was the band on stage playing. So I went up to the sound person. I said, ‘What’s wrong, where is the sound?’ He said... A band is playing! A band is playing! A band is on stage performing. He said, ‘I know the sound is wrong, we are going to fix it just now’. All this while the band is playing.”

WST - “While the band is being judged.”

Clive Bradley - “There is no sound check?”

WST - “That is something again that needs to be addressed.”

Clive Bradley - “Again, if you have proper administration... I would not be part of an administration that would allow 12 bands to go on stage without a proper sound check. I would put aside some set of money a week or two before. You get the stage designed in such a way so everybody knows where the Pans will be. The guys who do the sound will set the microphones up. You test the sound. The guys who are in the bands say ‘Yes’ that is the sound I want to get. So when you come on the night of the show, you cannot complain about anything, because all the signals are there. You know exactly where the band set up. But the thing is chaos on that night.”

EDITORIAL NOTE: |Since this interview in 2000, the USSA (United States Steelband Association) successfully staged the 2001 New York Panorama at a new venue - and with a much-improved sound system engineered by Basement Recordings.]

WST - “But it shows disrespect for Pan - because I do believe when the brass bands come up here they all have their sound check.”

Clive Bradley - “Well... (laugh) - don’t you believe it.”

WST - “They don’t?”

Clive Bradley - “No! No! They don’t have sound check.”

WST - “Some of them at least have the opportunity but the thing is the Pan.”

Clive Bradley - “This gives you an indication of the place that Pan has been relegated to.”

WST - “Exactly. It is like you come on stage. You fix your drums. You do your do. But you don’t really need professional treatment when in fact it is a particular instrument.”

Clive Bradley - “Well, ironically the place where this steelband thing is supposed to have originated, they suffering from the same thing.  The guy (Pan Trinbago) hire some guys to put up microphones and they come. I have seen with my own eyes; one night a band is performing on stage, and one of the assistant sound people or a microphone placement person - cause he had access to microphones who seem to have some other band in mind as his favorite band, hold up a microphone. There is this bunting hanging on the fringes of the roof of the stands. You know when the wind blows (makes a rustling sound with mouth) and he hold up a microphone to the bunting to add to the sound. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that.”

WST - “Umm!”

Clive Bradley - “I’ve seen that! You understand? I’ve seen that. Nobody told me that. There are very few people around who actually knew what was going on. I am standing at the edge of the stage and watching this guy holding up the microphone recording the sound of the bunting. I have seen that.”

WST - “I know you have also seen and worked with many bands. You know their legacies. You know the strong points of the bands and the band members. Okay players come and go but you know the core discipline that’s there - once some of the members remain to transfer what they know and play - to those who are coming into the band. Basically every band has some sort of potential, so you can see maybe - like we know what we can expect on average from each band. With that in mind - CASYM is a band that up to now has been relatively obscure competition wise. Meaning they have not really been seen as a force to reckon with. Yet.”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t look at them like that. I look at CASYM like the nucleus of something that’s going to be fabulous.”

WST - “But as far as placement in New York’s Panorama goes -”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t even bother. I don’t think about that.”

WST - “Okay so therefore you weren’t surprised at all?”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t know what my feelings were. I was disappointed for the kids, but once I get paid, I know this might sound a little callus, but what’s the sense - you know. The judging is never accepted by everyone. People come to me for opinion; ‘Well what do you think.’ I am not a judge. I am an arranger.”

WST - “So on the eve of Panorama you know that you had done your best.”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. This is it.”

WST - “And as far as you were concerned this was it.”

Clive Bradley - “I had heard CASYM once before. I had heard about them. But once I was in Pantonic’s Panyard and they played there. I heard them and said to myself ‘They have a good band’. That’s what I was saying.”

WST - “So you knew the potential was there?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. I wasn’t even thinking about potential as far as Panorama was concerned. I was thinking of them as a performing band.”

WST - “Regardless of how they placed?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. Regardless of where they placed. I knew they were a good band. If they had come last it wouldn’t matter to me. I knew they were a good band. This is how I am.”

WST - “Do you have or could you call the three top bands in New York? Personal choice.”

Clive Bradley - “Here? I don’t know the top bands in New York. I don’t know. I am lost in this thing. Desperadoes supposed to be there. I don’t know if they’re good.”

WST - “You only know what they produce for you when you work with them.”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. I know about Pantonics cause I work with them. I worked with them last year and I know what they are capable of doing, and I know them personally. I know Nicky. I know them guys real good in there. It has some - there is a little Jamaican girl playing tenor bass. Man I wouldn’t want - If everybody had the capability, the attitude of her or the little guy who play tenor Pan. A little Rasta guy. Just look at him. This is what I look at. You could hear a hundred people playing in the museum and you would think there is a hundred people playing! (smile) No.”

WST - “Do you arrange any other type of music for Pan other than soca?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes! Oh yes! I haven’t done it recently, because most of the time you’re employed you get Panorama jobs. But I have done a lot of different types of music- small combo, big bands - I’ve done about six or seven albums. There is not much work in that capacity because everybody wants a Panorama tune, which is stupid.”

WST - “What is Clive Bradley the arranger doing in the off season - or is there an off season at all?”

Clive Bradley - “No! Not really, this is not really an off season, because I was supposed to have gone to Philadelphia and do some work. The guys try to use me as a -- but there is no off season. I don’t want there to be an off season. I could always find stuff to do. All I do I might be doing it for free. But I like to keep”

WST - “It has been a lull and just to keep the rhythm. Who is the best musician you’ve worked with?”

Clive Bradley - “You need to define best musician, is it knowledgeable?”

WST - “A combination of knowledge and skill.”

Clive Bradley - “Okay. It’s very difficult for me to finalize. I know the guys out there who are very, very good, and guys who have good potential. In Trinidad I was fortunate to have grown up in my teens with musicians who were very accomplished: Roger Boyce, Sonny Denham, Cedric Monsano, Colin Dennis and Rudy Glasgow. These were guys who knew what they were doing.”

WST - “The old school.”

Clive Bradley - “The old school- Felix Roach, Ralph Davies, Gordon Collins, Chick Springer- these guys knew what they were doing. They read music. We used to have jazz sessions. It is through these guys I’ve learned all that I learn by hanging out with them. I haven’t had too much experience in New York because this is a different scene here. But I have noticed some good guys here especially on the recording level. Hitherto, most of the recording of calypsonians like Kitchener was done here in New York, because facilities weren’t available in Trinidad. So having come here, I would need a horn line of five or six guys and it would be mostly American guys. And in this country you either do it good or not at all. So I’ve had an opportunity to work with real, real - Steve Gadd; men like - the best drummers in the world - trumpet players, saxophone players, trombone players. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some real, real good guys. Accomplished persons who, after a session, would come and ask me, ‘Where I studied music?’ And I did not study music anywhere. I studied music here (pointing to head and chest).”

WST - “Relatively unknown to a lot of people is that you are a producer par excellence. You know your way around a production studio. You could hold your own with the best. Of course that may have come out in the interview earlier because you touched on the basics in the studio. Why are you not producing?”

Clive Bradley - “In the first place I am not comfortable with most of the situations I’m placed in to produce. In Trinidad it’s a sort of clannish thing. Besides, there is recently a proliferation of smaller studios and hey! They don’t need me. Once a guy knows how to operate the basics, he just get a and the type of music they doing now. Nobody is thinking about too much harmony and too much nothing. The guy sings a couple of lines and the horn pa pa pap, ta ta tat, da da da da da dat that’s it. There is no intricacy. There is no depth in what’s going on anymore.”

WST - “That’s been long gone unfortunately. The good old fashion brass competition we had a lot of work that went into it so.”

Clive Bradley - “Oh yes! You don’t need to know music to be a musician.”

WST - “You just need to know a few runs change it.”

Clive Bradley - “A few runs and a few licks and you good to go. Cats play wrong chords, no harmony, horns not in tune. Well, now they get away from that because they have keyboards and they have horns in them and they always in tune.”

WST - “So basically you will also be disillusioned if you had to go into a production studio and deal with some of the stuff.”

Clive Bradley - “No. They would do what I say or don’t do forget it.”

WST - “That sounds like the disciplinarian [in you] and also you have been a teacher of mathematics and, physics people don’t know about this tell us a little bit about this.”

Clive Bradley - “Ex-Diego Martin Boys R.C., Fatima [College] - I always liked science, and I was always fascinated with sound and music. Early in my life I discovered the connection between numbers and sound and I’ve been living with that ever since you know. I have a lot of experience in the studio with cheap - not really cheap - archaic equipment. So I had to make do with what I had and sort of improvise all the time.”

WST - “You had to know”

Clive Bradley - “So when the new equipment came now, it was easy because I had known where the platform was. So this new equipment is easy to operate, just press the button, the book says this, just hit the switch and that’s it.”

WST - “Do you miss those days?”

Clive Bradley - “I miss the teaching part of that. But I keep in touch. If you go home to my place you see the book open and is mathematics on the bed, that I do. The two things I read everyday - newspaper and the books on mathematics.”

WST - “You’re on the pulse”

Clive Bradley - “I keep...”

WST - “So it’s not only music- basically it’s anything that’s happening in the world?”

Clive Bradley - “I don’t have any wife. I am divorced. My mom passed away a couple of months ago, and my father died years and years ago. My kids are all grown.”

WST - “Do they share your penchant for science?”

Clive Bradley - “Not really. I can’t remember. They are all different parts of the world. One had an inkling he wanted to fly a plane, but his vision is bad, so that he couldn’t do. I don’t know what they’re doing now. You see I believe in presenting the pie, different taste, and see which one you want.”

WST - “Different taste what are your personal preferences in music? You said jazz-”

Clive Bradley - “I like jazz.”

WST - “Is there Gospel?”

Clive Bradley - “I like Gospel.”

WST - “Any Latin? What are the influences personally?”

Clive Bradley - “I actually have a job now writing steelband music for the church. I enjoy doing stuff like that. I like jazz because it makes you think. You got to know what you’re doing to follow some of that stuff. I’ve been listening to some stuff that the radios play- and then you don’t get to hear the sound. The music is so understandable.”

WST - “Then it’s no longer challenging.”

Clive Bradley - “It’s no longer challenging- you know where it’s going. I hate things like that. I don’t like to know where I am going.”

WST - “Then it’s no longer challenging.”

Clive Bradley - “It’s no longer challenging- you know where it’s going. I hate things like that. I don’t like to know where I am going.”

WST - “Do you still find time to get into combo work?”

Clive Bradley - “I try to do that, but in Trinidad? Forget it.”

WST - “When is the last time you had an opportunity to play music for Clive Bradley in a combo? Intimate setting, what you like.”

Clive Bradley - “It’s a long, long time.”

WST - “Are you hoping to do that at some time?”

Clive Bradley - “Oh yes! I wish I could get a group now. I play guitar still; not as good as I used to, the old fingers getting stiff. This one (pointing to pinky on the left hand) gives trouble. The keyboard, I am still a little better on the keyboard cause I could always block with this finger. I play a little drum, which I don’t like, it gets me tired. But there isn’t any opportunity in Trinidad to play what I want to play. You see the people who you have to play with, the older guys I used to enjoy, have dropped out. They did not have enough courage to wait and see if there is a second chance or to continue doing what they were doing. It have some good people put down their instruments, you know Trombone”

WST - “Therefore it’s one thing to maintain that kind of interaction, that level”

Clive Bradley - “Yes - Oxley - good trombone player. ‘Where is your trombone?’ He gave it away. He had a piano; he came one day knocking on my door. I was living out in Queens. ‘Who is this?’ He says, ‘It’s me.’ ‘What is that?’ He says, ‘I brought you the piano’. So he gave me the piano and I already had a piano. You know? How you doing that? I saw Kenny - God rests his soul- he died now. ‘Kenny where is you drums?’ ‘It under the bed.’  ‘Kenny! How could you?’”

WST - “There was no outlet. What were these guys doing? Were they in music still? Or were they”

Clive Bradley - “No! One was a super in a building.”

WST - “You see that’s why you were able to maintain this well because you remained in music. That’s your connection. They lost that part.”

Clive Bradley - “I cannot live without playing. I cannot survive. I have a guitar at the foot of my bed, right there, sitting there.”

WST - “And you pick it up from time to time.”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. In the middle of the night. I used to sleep with the keyboard on my right, I am here (in the middle), my wife is here (on the left) my keyboard is here (on the right).”

WST - “Competition. Where do you see yourself in the next few years?”

Clive Bradley - “Right now I am in the middle of a draft on a book on arranging Pan music, ‘cause there is no such literature.”

WST - “So you are looking at a documentation of your “200” years or so of your wealth of knowledge?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes! Yes! I am going to do that. Then I’ve been trying- people have been trying to scribe my autobiography- a biography. I don’t know if I have time to do the auto, cause I don’t have time to do that. But then most people who come to you to do stuff like that, I don’t trust them.”

WST - “So you’re not exactly sure- if you know from experience - that it will be an accurate portrayal?”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. I have done stuff.”

WST - “You have a healthy sense of caution.”

Clive Bradley - “Yes. Because I have suffered from talking to reporters and then they put in their papers what they want. To me it must be if you really want spectacular, I could make it spectacular. I could be.”

WST - “But then that’s not really the case. That’s not the true history.”

Clive Bradley - “That’s not the true history. I could go on television and I mean some of it is true. I could tell you things, true things about me and other people, and that’s where the problem is. I don’t care so much about me. I am sixty-something. The Bible says three scores and ten. I will be seventy. So if I got six more years, I could do anything I want to because I am old. So then what will that do? That will do nothing. I will like to say things about me that will help people either to not do the wrong things that I did, or to do the right things that I did.”

WST - “What kind of advice do you have to give to the young people who are coming up and want to arrange music?”

Clive Bradley - “Take it from the bottom and don’t skip. There is no shortcut to greatness. There is no shortcut to greatness. You have to learn from the first dot. You have to learn what a dot means over a note. And there are people who are playing music over twenty-five years, put a dot over a note and they don’t know what that does. Or, a little arrow over a note and they don’t know what that is for. You have to learn it from the beginning. You take shortcuts you have short learning. You’ve got to know all the rules, all the rungs of the ladder. So if you have to come back down, you know where the rungs are.”

WST - “And you are a living testimony to that. And that’s why you are here today. Mr. Clive Bradley- Arranger Extraordinaire! Thank you for being with us on ‘When Steel Talks - Pan In New York.’”

Clive Bradley - “Thank you very much. Bye! Bye!”

WST - “....Thank you for being here.”

Listen to Metro Steel Orchestra performing - 1992 -  ‘Dingolay’ as arranged by Clive Bradley
Listen to Metro Steel Orchestra performing - 1990 -  ‘Tell me Why’ as arranged by Clive Bradley
Listen to Pantonic Steel Orchestra performing - 2001 -  ‘Stranger’ as arranged by Clive Bradley 
Listen to Pantonic Steel Orchestra performing - 2002 -  ‘Ben Lion’ as arranged by Clive Bradley 

click for more on Clive Bradley

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