Joseph Hoo Kim
|Joseph Hoo Kim|
Shortly after the Jamaican government banned gaming machines in the early 1970s, Joe Joe Hookim and his brother Ernest, abandoned their jobs as machine operators, and jumped into the music business. By 1973, the Hookims had opened their own studio, Channel One, with Joe Joe as its hands-on producer. For the next two years Channel One would change the course of music and leave a legacy that has had ramifications beyond the realms of reggae and is today still proving its effects. Working alongside the Hookims was I-Roy who did a lot of the work. Because of the collaboration of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare at its studio, from 1974 to 1976 Channel One rocked...or reggaed! Having played at many of the same sessions or clubs, Dunbar and Shakespeare knew one another. Dunbar, whose partner Ranchie McLean, were members of a live band "Skin, Flesh and Bones" (SFB). SFB performed at the popular Kingston's Tit for Tat Club, playing not only "well-behaved reggae", as opposed to the lyrical themes of roots reggae, but plenty of US soul and disco. Robbie, on the other hand, was with Bunny Lee's The Aggrovators as their number one choice bass player. After successfully uniting Sly and Robbie; Hookim made SFB be the group to become the stamina of what would be the Revolutionaries. Just as with any other episode in the history of Jamaican music, the number of players involved, significantly small by comparison, never diminished the musical output. Sly liked experimenting with the beat and at Channel One Joe Joe allowed him the freedom to do so. Sly wanted more than to simply play catchup to Bunny "Striker" Lee's flying cymbal. So leaving his partner McLean behind, Sly began incorporating the studio's sound by initiating a clapping snare drum beat under certain bass notes, then moving flying cymbals on by doubling rim shots. It was obvious the music resembled US disco, which Sly would have been entirely familiar with from his nightclub cover days, but balanced with the bass and keyboards it was without a doubt Jamaican roots sound. And the bass player that helped make it happen, was the one Sly was being gradually teamed up with Robbie Shakespeare. Ironically, too, the music that for so long took a backseat to the singers, now took the lead. Channel One's brief tenure as the top Kingston roots setup, was the only unparalleled standard set by the opposition in the second half of the decade that led to the Hookim brothers getting bummed...an unassuming re-emerging producer by the name of Lee "Scratch" Perry, quieting working away at his own studio.
Born into a Chinese Jamaican family, Joseph Hoo Kim was the oldest of four brothers (to Ernest, Paul and Kenneth), who during the 1960s were involved in the jukebox and slot machine industry. In 1970, after the Jamaican government declared the gambling games illegal, Joseph and Ernest decided to turn to the music business and launched a sound-system named Channel One. In 1972, impressed by the rootsy style of producer Bunny Lee, Joseph decided to set up the Channel One Studios on Maxfield Avenue (West Kingston). Working on a four-track machine, Syd Bucknor became Lee's first sound engineer. One year later he was replaced by Joseph's brother Ernest. By this time they also had their own pressing plant and label-printing workshop. To gain experience, Hoo Kim decided to give every volunteer producer a free try.
Though they produced some strong records (Don't Give Up the Fight by Stranger & Gladdy—their first production, I Dig You, Baby by Alton Ellis, and Leroy Smart's Blackman), they did not meet with success until the mid-1970s. Beginning with his house band, The Revolutionaries, created in 1975 and featuring Sly and Robbie, rhythmic variations brought about by a harder beat led to the roots-heavy sound soon to be called "rockers".
Their biggest commercial success, "Right Time", by The Mighty Diamonds, was released in 1975, and included in 1976's Hoo Kim produced Right Time. However, many other big names came to record in the studio: Leroy Smart, Delroy Wilson, Black Uhuru, Horace Andy, John Holt, Junior Byles, The Wailing Souls, and Dillinger, were a few of them. Among the many labels they created were Well Charge, Channel One, and Hitbound. Greensleeves, Island and Virgin Records have all distributed their productions at one time or another.
Hoo Kim was the first producer to introduce the re-use of old Studio One rhythms for new productions. Though a very controversial practice in the beginning, it eventually became widespread. In 1976, he brought out the first mix combining versions sung and DJed on the same single with Truly by The Jays and Ranking Trevor, a standard for the dancehall culture in the 80s. This record was also the first Jamaican 12-inch single.
Entering a depression after his brother Paul was shot to death during a robbery in 1977, Joseph Hoo Kim's productions became less numerous. At this time, he left Jamaica to escape the violence on the island and established himself professionally in New York. Then in 1979, he renovated his Jamaican studio and began returning there every month to supervise new productions. With Ernest, he opened a subsidiary studio in New York in the early 1980s where many DJs recorded. Among them were Barrington Levy and Barry Brown. In the early 1980s, he launched the "Showdown series" with "clash" albums where each face of an LP was dedicated to one of two dueling DJs. When the dancehall entered the digital era, he withdrew from the Jamaican music business, shut down both studios and settled in New York permanently.
He currently operates a pressing plant in Brooklyn.
- Various Artists - 1983 - General For All General: Dance Hall Style - Hitbound
- Various Artists - 1984 - Hypocrite Inna Dance Hall Style - Hitbound
- Various Artists - 1984 - Sly & Robbie Presents The Unmetered Taxi - Channel One
- Various Artists - Special Request To All Bad Boys - Hitbound
- Various Artists - Special Request To All Lovers Boys & Girls - Hitbound
- Various Artists - 1976-1979 - Hit Bound: The Revolutionary Sound Of Channel One - Heartbeat Records (1989)
- Various Artists - 1974-1978 - Channel One Well Charged - Pressure Sounds (1997)
- Various Artists - When The Dances Were Changing (Hitbound Selection) - Pressure Sounds (1998)
- Various Artists - Channel One Story (Reggae Anthology)I Shot The Deputy - VP Records (2004)
- Larkin, Colin (ed.) (1998). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae. Virgin. ISBN 0-7535-0242-9.
- Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004 for the 3rd edition). The Rough Guide to Reggae. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-329-4.
- Katz, David (2003). Solid Foundation - An Oral history of Reggae. Bloomsburry, UK. ISBN 1-58234-143-5.