Wade "Big Trini" Austin was born into pan. The nephew of NLCB Fonclaire's manager and captain Milton "Wire" Austin, he learnt to play at the age of three and by 11 was a section leader in the band. But while he considered pan his life, Austin was encouraged to regard it only as a hobby and find a more secure skill from which to make a living. In 1994, at the age of 20, he migrated to England and, disregarding the advice of his relatives, including his uncle, dedicated his entire career to the instrument. "I was fortunate. I got into teaching, which wasn't hard for me 'cause I was accustomed teaching pan. From a young age, I was a section leader. I was in charge of the tenor bass section at 11. At 13, I went on to the four-pan section and when we went into schools, I was always one of the main people in the pot to put that together," he said, via Skype, from his home in Waltham Abbey.
"My wife's dad, Raymond Joseph, who passed away before I migrated, was a school pan musician and when I came up here and I was trying to get myself sorted, I was told to teach pan in schools. So I went into that field and did that for eight years, working for various councils." Austin is very passionate about teaching pan to young people and it's that passion that has inspired his latest album, Pan in Motion, Pop/R&B/Rock Volume 1. On the album, Austin shows the versatility and melodic possibilities of the pan as he covers well-known pop, R&B and rock songs, such as Maxwell's Lost Without You, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication, NeYo's Miss Independent and Michael Jackson's Earth Song.
"I've been here for more than 15 years and the pan scene is starting to dwindle; pan is still considered a very traditional instrument. It's still about Yellow Bird and Island in the Sun and you could do that if you want to play the corporate scene but on the school side, youngsters not getting involved. "I am trying to get them back, I want them to understand the traditional concepts but also understand that it could be the standard instrument for a soloist. I am trying to get them to see it doesn't have to be in an ensemble, it could stand alone," he said. Though hard pressed to pick a favourite track, Austin singled out Californication as one he liked.
"I love Californication because of the texture of the whole rock edge and the soulful tone of the pan. It's my eldest son's favourite song," said Austin, who is a father of three sons and one girl.
The album only took Austin two months to complete. It was really simple, he said, because he lives music 24/7 and has the ability to produce his own work. Austin, who has his own production company, called Luv, broadened his skill by learning the more technical aspects of music production and has done work for hip hop and R&B artistes, as well as produced Electro dance numbers such as Planet Earth, under the Dewa label. In 1999, Austin produced his first pan album, called Far From Home. He plans to release a Pan in Motion Vol 2 in the summer.
Reflecting on his decision to pursue his career in pan, Austin urged others who are passionate about the instrument to follow their dreams. "I really want people to understand that if you believe in anything and your heart is in it, you can earn a decent living, a fantastic living, off of the steel pan. One thing I learnt through my own journeys in life is that you are only limited by your thoughts. Find your vision, find your goals," he advised, praising his uncle and Professor Ken Philmore for their influence in his life.
Pan in Motion Vol 1 will be launched in March on iTunes and Amazon.com. For more information, go to www.reverbnation.com/wadeaustin.