Copyright: Lorenzo Valmontone

The year is 1994 and everyone knows the name of East End crooner with Jamaican roots: Wayne Paul. Signed to London hip-hop label, Sound of Money Records, managed by Jeremy Tuson (known as Tuse); his notorious debut single, Take the Train (who Wayne wrote with Tuson), thanks to Trevor Nelson; received airplay on Radio 1. His co-signees included Blak Twang and Roots Manuva. He was also introduced to Shy FX and Jazzie B (co-founder of Soul II Soul). The world was at his feet. Wayne appeared to have everything. Then suddenly, he would enter the darkest and most depressing period of his life; his addiction to class A drugs and alcohol reached a new level. Take the Train, would be his only release during the 1990’s. The sound of Money Records would cease to exist. This bright star full of potential had burned out all too prematurely. In and out of clinics, often immobile with bouts of depression; Wayne was forgotten and there was no hope of a comeback.

So how did Wayne comeback and recover from this? “I am recovering!” insisted Wayne. “I have been (recovering) for over 16 years straight now without relapsing. Addicts don’t “recover”; they just don’t relapse”. Wayne told me, it took until 2001 to learn to love himself and to allow those around him to help him. Within four months of turning this corner, he was approached by Lee Johnson; an acquaintance of his former manager. This led to a reunion with Jeremy Tuson; who quickly remembered why he initially signed Wayne, after hearing him sing in 1993 at Playwrights (now The Morgans Arms), an East End pub in Morgan Street, Bow. Wayne would now record tracks alongside Chali 2na from Jurassic 5 on Dub Come Save Me, the remix album of Roots Manuva’s second studio album, Run Come Save Me, for Big Dada records (founded by hip-hop journalist Will Ashon).

Further opportunities presented themselves to Wayne. In 2003, he would provide vocals on Wayne “Lotek” Bennett’s (who co-produced Run Come Save Me) self-titled album of his project, Lotek Hi-Fi. Wayne would also feature on Big Dada’s compilation album, released in 2007; celebrating ten years since the label’s creation. In the same year, Wayne also released his second solo single on Indignous Records, Guns Them Down. This long-awaited follow-up to his 1994 debut, Take the Train, was composed by reggae musician, Delroy Pinnock. Wayne co-wrote the lyrics with him. The following year, Wayne would collaborate with The Quemists and Wiley, to release, Dem Na Like Me, via Ninja Tune.

“Recovering” has made Wayne a busy man. With his devoted wife Leigh by his side, Wayne has become a foster carer. He is also a gym instructor, working with people with addiction and mental health problems. “I was given a chance. I need to give others a chance. The world would be a better place if everybody did this”. In 2013 he released his long-awaited debut album, Between the Lines, on Absinthe Music & Mental Groove Records. Between the Lines, features collaborations with a variety of musicians, including Grime artist, God’s Gift. In 2015, a documentary about his life, written and directed by Lorenzo Valmontone and Steven Blatter, Jumping the Shadows, would be screened internationally; earning critical acclaim. So many things were put under the spotlight for Wayne: being one of seven children, his severe stutter (that only departs when he is behind a microphone), his difficult childhood of being bullied at school and “being beaten by the belt”.

Wayne offered me an analysis of the person he was before he started “recovering”, and the person he is aspiring to be. Before 2001, Wayne “did not take life seriously”. He described himself as an “adult hoodlum”. He did not know how to, or the importance of being able to ask for help. He would “just smoke, drink and mess around, and indulge in drugs in people’s houses”. He wanted fame for all the wrong reasons: to take revenge on his school bullies, and to get people to like him. “Life is amazing without these things (drugs and alcohol). I don’t see myself as a joke or a total fool anymore. You don’t love yourself when you are on drink and drugs. In the past I didn’t want to wake up. I used to ask myself why I am here. Not everyone can recover. I knew people who are no longer here because they OD’d and for various other reasons. I was not the person I wanted to be. I was brought up with manners. I am a deep believer in please and thank you and respect for both elders and Youngers.”

Wayne’s most recent collaboration (which began in 2016) with SUMO is tremendously interesting. SUMO is two Swiss brothers, Alex and Fred Sumi whose careers began, not in music; but as BMX freestyle pioneers in Europe (champions of both France and Switzerland). I asked Wayne how his collaborations and projects come to pass. “It’s all in the hands of the universe. Fate brings things together. What is meant to be, will be?”

So where does Wayne fit in with SUMO? How has Wayne helped SUMO continue telling their musical story? How has he helped SUMO build on their success of having already shared the stage with artists such as Faithless? Alongside DJ Spika (Lee Williams), Wayne’s “musical and spiritual guru, always by (his) side”, Wayne has co-written lyrics for some of the songs off SUMO’s sixth album, Galactika, with him; taking SUMO’s musical debut as a soul-funk-electro project; to focusing on reggae tunes with deep bass waves. SUMO embarked on an international tour earlier this year. Wayne also performed with DJ Spika at the 2017 1 Love Community Pop Up festival in London in August. On 28th September, Wayne with DJ Spika and SUMO, release their new single, not on Galactika, You are my light.

With a new responsible and constructive outlook on life; I asked Wayne: Where does the inspiration for writing new material come from? He paused for several moments. His face became taut and serious. “Apart from my family; music is my life. I can’t just jam for the sake of jamming. I need to write to inspire. I can only write down what is inside my head if it is worthy of being heard and it can be put out there. I can’t write to relax; it’s a serious hobby”. However, Wayne relaxed and responded with good humour when I asked him who his musical inspirations were. “Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Elton john, Suzie Quarto, errrm, all the all-time legends, pop music, TOTP, Slade at Christmas. Even down to Alvin Stardust. What? I’m British man. It was what I grew up with.”

The future is looking very bright for Wayne Paul. He showed great excitement that with DJ Spika and The Sumi brothers as SUMO; a new track, You look good to me, as a working title, is currently being recorded with a 2018 release date.

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