It's not exactly like "Stinky" or "Fatso," but reggae/rap artist Carl Aiken, who perhaps shares barbers with Sinead O'Connor, has an alias he would rather do without, or so he says. So is he Carl or Shinehead? His record company, Elektra, says he prefers the latter. But more on that later.
Shinehead was born in London and raised in Jamaica but has lived in New York City since 1976. So his eclectic set of influences is understandable.
His third album, "The Real Rock," is doing well, and the new single is a cover of the Sly & the Family Stone biggie, "Family Affair." Also memorable are two other covers given the reggae treatment: "Till I Kissed You" by the Everly Brothers and "Love and Marriage" by Sammy Cahn, which is now the theme song for "Married, With Children." Even better are Shinehead's own tunes such as "Dance Down the Road" and the title tune.
It's basic reggae rock, and sometimes, but not always, Shinehead raps. And he's the Mister Rogers of rappers. He doesn't knock any of the usual suspects--not women, not the cops, not anybody, really. Shinehead believes in old-fashioned virtues. He loves God, he's down on dope, and about as mad as he gets is on "Cigarette Breath," when he expounds on the nonsense of nicotine. Otherwise, Shinehead is about as uplifting as a Horatio Alger story.
"Potential" and "Strive" are typical be-all-you-can-be, nose-to-the-grindstone, shoulder-to-the-wheel-tunes. But let's let Shinehead tell it as he did in a recent phone interview from his New York City home:
How's the tour going?
It's going great. My band and I will be doing many Southland dates in addition to the Ventura show. The album is also doing well.
Where did you get the name Shinehead?
When I was younger and growing up, the bigger kids gave the smaller kids nicknames. I didn't like it, but we all got nicknames. I guess I just made the best of a bad situation.
Why reggae and rap?
It's just the way I grew up. It just came natural to me since I've always been exposed to all kinds of music.
There are some great cover tunes on "The Real Rock." Do you perform other covers?
No, just the three on the album. Those are just songs I grew up with and have always been fond of.
Your music is thematically very positive and uplifting. Can music change the world?
I think music can change things, but only gradually. Can music make things better? Oh, yes.
How did you get started in the music biz?
Well, I was in college at the New York Institute of Technology and I just had to make a decision. Did I want to go to work for some big company, work there 20 years, get a gold watch and retire or take my chances with music? I was bitten by the music bug.
How would you describe Shinehead music?
Actually, see, I don't describe it. People try to put me in a category. I just open my mouth and try to make a joyful noise.
What do you think about the recent Milli Vanilli revelations?
I'd say, "Oops." I certainly wouldn't want to be associated with anything like that.
Who do you prefer to play with, reggae or rap bands?
I have my own band to do my own stuff. The other bands don't matter much to me either way. I can play with either type, or both.
What's the best and worst thing about being a musician?
The best thing about music is being onstage and feeling the genuine support of my fans. The worst thing is that networking scene--you know, those schmoozing parties.
Who are some of the current bands you like?
LL Cool J. James Brown. The Jackson 5. Bob Marley. Brigadier Jerry. M.C. Hammer. 2 Live Crew. Yellowman. Lots of others.
What's next for Shinehead?
I'm going to keep doing the same thing I'm doing now. I'm going to do this until I'm dead.
Rock 'n' roll can be confusing. For example, the following acts canceled at the Ventura Theatre: Third World, Iggy Pop, Yngwie Malmsteen and Christopher Cross. All were slated for the first week in December. Bands usually cancel (or are canceled) because of low ticket sales. It seems as if Malmsteen and Pop would've been sure sellouts. The facts: Third World apparently needs a calendar since they are touring on the East Coast. No one knows why Pop canceled. Malmsteen canceled his entire tour, and Cross is sick.
Last week I had a case of rock critic's dyslexia when I erroneously listed Mama Roo (who opened for John Mayall at the Ventura Theatre last Saturday) as a disco queen. Sorry. Mama Roo's obviously got the blues. But I was listening to Betty Boo (she is a disco queen) while reading about the Goo Goo Dolls and thinking about Too Much Joy, Mick Fleetwood's Zoo and the Hoodoo Gurus. It can happen.