Tim Armstrong on Jimmy Cliff’s New Album

Tim Armstrong on Jimmy Cliff’s New Album

Reggae giant Jimmy Cliff released his first full-length album in eight years on Tuesday. For the ska/reggae effort Rebirth, the 64-year-old Cliff partnered with producer and Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. 


Forming an instant connection covering the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton,” it was clear the Armstrong-Cliff partnership would be something special.

Fender News caught up with our signature artist to find out what it was like to collaborate with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

FN: How did this collaboration with Jimmy Cliff come about?

TA: Jimmy has been an influence on my songwriting and the bands I have been involved with, from Op Ivy to Rancid, as well as my own solo record. I had a friend who said he would introduce me to Jimmy to produce a song for him. The idea at first was to do a song, and that turned into doing an EP and the album, together with the Engine Room.

FN: Can you share the story about your first session when you were playing “The Guns of Brixton” on acoustic and Jimmy got on drums? What was that like to jam with one of your musical inspirations, and did you feel an instant chemistry?

TA: Our bass player J brought a Nayabhingi drum into the studio on the first day. Jimmy saw the drum, and immediately grabbed it and started playing. The whole band started to play the chords to “Brixton” along with Jimmy’s drumming, and that jam with Jimmy and the Engine Room became the intro and template for the song.

FN: What’s been the highlight of working together?

TA: Jimmy inspired all of us to play well. His performance and energy made us raise the intensity and level of our playing. Seeing and hearing Jimmy perform live in the studio and watching him do his thing was a highlight. He has great ideas, writes terrific songs and sings with incredible passion and feel.

FN: What is your favorite track on Rebirth?

Armstrong and Cliff in the studio.

TA:  It’s not easy to pick a favorite. I do love this song called “Children’s Bread,” and it was the first song that we all played live together in the studio. That became our mode from then out, until we finished recording the record.

FN: What was the reasoning behind recording everything on vintage gear, and how has that impacted the sound of the album?

TA:  We just love that sound style of reggae and how the records were made from the late-60s, early-70s, Studio One, for example. We love all those musicians and producers from that time. Everyone in the Engine Room is well-schooled in that sound and era.


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