When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

Legendary steel pan player Michael Olivier tells us about his music industry experiences in our new interview.

With our state of the art recording facilities on site here at ICMP, it’s unsurprising that we often usher many major musicians and performers of all kinds through the doors. 

Back in July Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy passed through to get some last minute practice in ahead of the start of his tour, then earlier this month singer and producer on the up Big Chrisvisited to record with steel pan pioneer Michael Olivier.

Michael, aka Bubbles, has enjoyed a career spanning three decades , arriving in London in the seventies and directing the 20th Century Steel Band. He’s perhaps best known for his tune 'Heaven and Hell is On Earth', a track sampled by the likes of the Jungle Brothers, Black Eyed Peas, Lauryn Hill and even Jennifer Lopez.

It ended up earning him awards from the likes of the British Music Industry (BMI) and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for his contribution to the music industry in the 2000s and he’s continued to enjoy some success, working as a much in demand session musician, songwriter and tutor. We were lucky enough to sit on the session and then quiz Michael on his experiences…

How did you begin your musical career?

It was in the Carribean as a boy, when I was aged eight or nine. I was born in Trinidad and started to play the steel pan there.

What drew you to the instrument?

The steel pan was for the poorer class of people. If you could afford the piano or guitar it was different but the steel pan was far cheaper. That meant it was everywhere, all over the villages. A lot of my family were more or less the pioneers of the instrument. So it’s in the blood, and that’s all I saw when I was growing up. None of us could afford anything more conventional.

What was your big break musically?

It was with the Pan Am North Stars. They were the only steel pan band who used to tour and leave the country, to take little trips and that. I had encounters at festivals, performing and playing from about the age of 14. I started travelling abroad from that point and playing to more and more people, getting my music out there

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