Island Man

Chris Blackwell moves into the digi-web-world-global-video age

For now, Blackwell is backing a more nostalgic project featuring Ernest Ranglin, a famed Jamaican bass player and member of the Skatalites who is widely credited with inventing ska. Ranglin played on the earliest Island records back in the 1960s, and he arranged "My Boy Lollipop," performed by Millie, which was Island's first big hit. A DVD project with seminal South African big band the African Jazz Pioneers will be released at the end of the year.

Blackwell describes such musically driven projects as complicated to produce and a reason Palm Pictures is "not doing bad creatively but still having a hard time financially. If you're doing the kind of projects that we're doing, there's a long line from when you're putting money out to when you're getting it back." But the long-toothed producer seems confident that such multimedia, cross-cultural projects are the right thing to do now.

"We're seeing huge changes [in the music industry], more than ever before," he stresses. "But still, there are people who are songwriters and singers who can connect with an audience, and the audience will want to maybe own their music and definitely see them perform. I think the emphasis in the future will be more on personal performance again and on the song in terms of the business and less on the recording.

Pirate or Palm-pilot pioneer? Chris Blackwell lives large
Pirate or Palm-pilot pioneer? Chris Blackwell lives large

"There still needs to be the people who translate," Blackwell adds, fiddling with his camera. "People like myself, who can perhaps hear something and have it reach a wider audience."

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