As they kicked off their tour across Australia and New Zealand we caught up via Skype with Logan Bell from Katchafire to talk about the band, their new album and when we can expect to see them in New York again.
KH: Me a go first man, I used to do work for my father. I used to do plumbing. I worked with these dudes and they used to call me “Thugy”. “Thugy get me this, Thugy get that for me” and then after a while them call me “Young SoulJah”. Then Derrick said, "use the stage name Young SoulJah". Me say you know what, me ah think bout that, so when I thought about it, it sounded nice. Khadan aka Young SoulJah. That’s how I found my nickname, but Khadan is my actual name.
KO: As for me now I will let you be the judge, you tell me what you think about this, (Koolage Freestyles 32 bars). So just by spitting these bars, people start to say “hey you know what, you are not just Koolage you got to put da lyricist on it”. But the name Koolage comes from my personality, I’m a cool person, but yet humble. Even though I’m lethal with the bars you would never know.
Because I will just sit there and let you run your mouth, but when it's game time you know we don't play.
RN: Khadan, you say that you were inspired to do music by your uncle, tell me about that?
KH: You know say, my uncle used to be a singer. A good singer at that, but he stopped. Now he's into acting. He used to go to the studio a lot and I would see him coming in late. He also makes beats, I really approve of them. He makes riddims and stuff, so some of the songs I do, i'll get the beats from him. I saw him doing it a lot, and he really likes his craft, and I really loved his music. So me say “you know what, I wanna do what my uncle does.” So I just followed in my uncle foot steps.
RN: Lets talk about some of the Khadan tracks. There is a good range of topics, with “Next Steps Ina Life” is a song about growing up and responsibility. You have “We are not Alone “is about carrying on as a youth and then party songs like “Turn up”. Tell me about how you write such a spectrum of music?
KH: You know say, personally at the age I am, because I am young, I’m just versatile. It's reality. When you go outside, and when you go
around certain people you have to see wah gwan in the real world. Most of the time I'm not home, I go out pon di road, because wah..Me is a youth from the streets, you understand. So when me outside I observe everything and soak it in. For explain me a read a new book, and me no know that word yet, me still soak it in. One time me learn a new word, and put it ina one song.
KO: The reason why you don’t really see any music on the internet from Koolage Da Lyrist is because I tend to stay off the internet a lot. I
don't want unwanted attraction. I have crazy music, like a whole library full of music. People hit me up with all different type of offers, and I don’t know where to go. Right now I’m just trying to focus on the statement. That’s why you don’t find anything on me when you search, but I have so much music. They tell me to drop music all the time.
KO: It's kinda hard to describe my style. I just let the people describe it for me. But I know when you hear it, your gonna tell me you have never heard nothing like that before.
KH: Young SoulJah, I mean, me no cocky, I just let the people hear my music, and let them give me their honest opinion. They'll say “do it over” or “Khadan I really like this one”. Sometimes people are just surprised, because they didn't except something that good. Most of the songs I did, I wrote myself, sometimes I might get help from my bredren.
RN: What reggae is playing in your ipod?
KH: I listen to a lot of Mavado, Vybz Kartel, Super Cat, and Spragga Benz. Also a lot of Buju Banton, Bounty Killer and Masicka. Oh, and we can’t forget Sizzla Kalonji, that’s what me wake up to, that and Buju.
KO: I am just going to name you five because this could take all day bro. The first I’m going to go with is Nas. I have to listen to Nas,
as I wake up, Nas in my ears. After that I go straight to Chronixx, then Busy Signal, Mavado and Vybz Kartel. If I have a little longer
schedule in the day I'll play, Popcaan and Masicka, that’s about it, But Busy Signal is my idol, but I don’t listen to him early in the
morning, when I get up, you have to warm up to that.
You can find Khadan live next Tuesday, June 28th. At Blackthorn 51 for The Official Power Is Industry. You can also follow him on Instagram @Khadan_ and on Facebook @Khadan Sinclair.
RN: Reggae In NYC
GR: The Green
RN: Reggae In NYC was able to see you last week in Westbury, Long Island with Rebelution, Stick Figure and J. Boog in the round, tell us a little bit about that show?
GR: Westbury, that was a bunch of us that were playing a venue, that was different. I think it really showed with the energy and the performance. We all had a blast. I think if you were at that show it was definitely a special experience. That venue is crazy.
RN: What was it like as a performer to play “in the round”?
GR: It was different. We have never played anywhere like that. It was kind of nerve racking at first, we weren’t used to spinning around. But it was sick, the vibes were good, the crowd was good and I actually want to do that again soon. It was badass.
RN: Tell us about the show at Knitting Factory, it’s going to be an all acoustic set?
GR: It’s coming in doing a little acoustic set. Going to be just taking it down with our acoustic guitars. We like to do that because it allows us to showcase the vocals, the harmonies and lyrics. It’s not too crazy more mellow. It should be another Westbury type show, but on the acoustic side.
RN: Any chance we get a guest appearance at the Knitting Factory?
GR: There’s a chance, yeah, there’s a chance. You never know who is going to be in the house. There is always a chance that someone pops up and we jam together. Kanikapila, backyard jam style.
GR: They are doing great. We have a bunch of new songs. We are trying to put out an album and we keep working with more people on new songs. We just put out a couple singles. The album is actually ready. ‘Roots’ is a super sick production with my boy Christian (Mochizuki) out there in Honolulu, then ‘Mama Roots’ with J. Boog. Both are exciting tracks and just a little glimpse into the future with some of the music that we have. We just can’t wait to put it out.
GR: They approached us with that opportunity and we jumped all over it because it’s Dennis Brown. They let us do probably his dopest track as well. That’s what we think. We were like “yep, we’ll do that”. They sent us the track we worked on it a little and sent it back and it was done. It was pretty quick.
GR: Yes, we are almost done. What we are doing is just getting a lot more technical with stuff and sampling different engineers and sound guys to get different perspectives on the songs. We are also writing a lot more. It’s just crazy. In the last six months we have got some new management and there have been a lot of changes in the organization so it’s finally at a place where we are all hands on deck. We are all ready to rock. Things have just been moving and changing and getting better. Hopefully we will wrap up by August and then come out soon after.
RN: We heard DJ Graves is helping supporting the project?
GR: DJ Graves, my boy Christian (Mochizuki). Eric (Rachmany) from Rebelution is on a track. We are working with Jr. Bleneder and a couple other cats. We are trying to spread the reggae like you guys are out here, you know what I mean? We haven’t put anything out in two years so we have put a lot into it. We want to give the people what they are asking for.
RN: I know in the band you all sing and you all write, so what is that process like when you are putting together a new album?
GR: Well, we all have different strengths and different qualities that we bring to the table. Some of us are producers, writers or a combo of both. It happens a lot of ways. If someone has an idea, they bring it in and we will take it to the next level. If we have a melody idea we will send it to somebody and get a riddim track on it. It happens a lot of different ways. We have a lot of friends and a lot of support. It’s pretty easy for us to create. It allows us to bring what we have to the forefront and let it shine.
GR: Well I’m not sure if you are familiar with Hawaiian culture, but we have a what’s called a Kumulipo, our creation story, basically our bible. Until the 1800’s it was only passed down through song and dance, there was no written or log of it. It was handed down through stories or song and dance. We thought it was right to bring back that style of performing arts, though it only got called performing arts recently. Hawaiians grew up telling their kids the history of the lands through hula and singing. We just wanted to bring that out. Kumulipo take 5 hours to recite. It’s 16 verses of creation starting with water and coral all the way to volcanoes and all that. It’s pretty crazy, Google Kumulipo, you will trip out.
GR: Hawaii ’13 is a reference to Hawaii ’78. It’s another way of us expressing the tradition and the culture and what we are trying to do. Moving forward with the land. We all could do better in our daily lives with the environment and everything. Hawaiians have a lot going for them when it comes to the ecosystem and taking care of the things that feed you, warm you and clothe you. It’s all about the next generation, providing for them and that’s the bigger picture of Hawaii ’13.
RN: What do you think the past leaders of Hawaii would think about you taking this music to the world?
GR: I think they would be proud. You know we are natural voyagers. The Hawaiians have been traveling the oceans for thousands of years. There are Hawaiian artifacts in Africa dating back to 1300 & 1400. We have been everywhere. We know it because it is passed down through stories. They would be proud because we are voyaging in the most current crazy way you can. We have a show in a different city, seven days a week talking about this. Sharing out passion and our culture through reggae music. It has been a massive vehicle for us.
RN: Every time I see you on tour you shout out the opening act and you end your show with a group bow. What’s that about for you?
GR: At the end of the day it’s about family. That’s what we are and that’s why we are where we are at. Because everybody on stage, everybody in our crew, everyone on the bus, the openers, we are all here together looking after each other. We have to keep each other safe. It’s a crazy world. Plus touring you always end up in these gnarly cities and you gotta be careful. For us to be able to actually make it to the stage, perform and have a good time, you can’t overlook the simple things of life and the blessings. That’s where that comes from.
RN: We have seen you play in NYC before and you have an incredible fan base out here, tell us a little bit about that?
GR: Every year, every time we come, it has been better and better. It’s a crazy trip for us because New York is such a big place and such a gnarly like concept to Hawaiians. Not too many people from Hawaii get to come out here. Hawaiian Airlines just stated flying here direct and it’s just kind of a distant fantasy. For us to have shows here that do really well, it's a crazy feeling. We read about this place and we see it on TV and we hear so much about it. But to actually be here and experience the vibe, the people and the way the city works, it’s amazing. Just what New York is, just such a beast of a city and we get to have a piece of it. I tell my family about it and stuff like that. My nieces, nephews and cousins, they will never really get it until they come. It’s special to us. There are locals out here, Hawaiian people and feeling them out here is another trip. Connecting with my hometown so far away is just a blessing, especially when we are all homesick.
RN: It seems like we are at a place where we can stop calling this West Coast or Hawaiian reggae and just call it great music because you travel the world.
GR: That’s what we like to say. We like to say world reggae. It’s not about any type of spot. Of course we pay most respect to the Jamaicans because that is where we feel reggae exploded from, but you can’t just call it Jamaican. Who really know where it actually originated from. Music just keeps evolving from the first person who banged rocks on a wall. You got to stop segregating stuff and putting walls up, we got to break them down. You are right, it’s just one, it’s just music.
RN: Anything else you want your New York fans to know?
GR: We want our New York fans to know that we love them. We look forward to seeing them every time we come through and this time is no different. Knitting Factory, Brooklyn. We love Brooklyn. We want to see you. We want to see you come out so we can share the new music with you guys. We want to give you that vibe that you have been looking for. That you have been missing out on.
RN: What reggae is playing in your ipod?
GR: What reggae am I listening to right now? Last night in the car we were listening to Aswad a song called ‘Tradition’, some of that UK reggae.
RN: Reggae In NYC
MOV: The Movement
RN: In 2014 you released Beneath The Palms, a surprise acoustic album as a free gift to your fans. Tell me about that, why a free album?
MOV: We were having a little lull in the stuff that we had released and we had gone and done these Sugar Shack Sessions in Florida. It’s just like this cool little studio, really low key and they have this outside area where they set up cameras and some mics and stuff. We did like four songs out there. Just one take vibe kind of things. We got some good feedback on that and were like, these acoustic recordings of our songs are actually going kind of well, they are not that bad, and we ended up going back out to Compound Studios, which is our base out there in San Diego and doing a couple hours and recorded maybe eight or nine more songs. Just one take, like that, and ended up putting it together. It was super cheap for us, relatively free and we didn’t make any actual physical copies or anything like that. It was a really easy way to put a digital record together and we got some artwork made for it. We said we don’t really want to charge for this, there is no reason. Let’s just put it out there and see if the fans like it. It was kind of a little low key, not really produced, acoustic record and I think all-in-all turned out pretty decent. The fans really appreciated that.
RN: How did you come up with the sticker project, to make a giant print out of your upcoming album and then divide that amongst the fans?
MOV: That was a promo for our latest record Golden. We just brainstormed on what a good and different way was to promote the record and to make the fans feel a little more involved. We basically blew up the (cover) artwork into a giant print. Then we numbered each little one. I think there were 800-900 pieces per print, we did two prints. We cut them all up, our management team did a great job they did it all in-house at our managers house.
I didn’t think it was that great of an idea at first. Like who really cares? The idea was as you had a certain number you could go to our site and plug it in as a puzzle piece and people could start to decipher what the cover of the new record looked liked. I don’t think it got to where people were actually doing that, but I think the concept was understood and appreciated by everyone. It actually went over better than I thought and the fans really appreciated having it. It was just a different idea when it comes to releasing and made them feel like a part of it.
MOV: It is. We got involved with Rootfire right after we released Side By Side in 2013 and we were really directionless. We had a line-up change. I quit the band for a while then I came back into the band and the other singer left. It was a really tumultuous time in the bands career. We went out and did this record, really independently, with no guidance, no marketing campaign, no producer. We were lost. A bunch of fucking retards out there trying to put a record out and the record is what it is. We were sitting around, we just got rid of management and we don’t have anything, what can we do to get back on track?
I think our bassist Jay called up Seth (Herman) out of the blue. We had some mutual friends and had heard that they were managing The Green at the time as well as John Brown’s Body and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. I talked to Curtis Bergesen, who does all the digital stuff for the artists on Rootfire, a few weeks earlier and he said “there was no way that Rootfire could take on another band at that time and blah blah blah.” But Rootfire kind of accepted us. There were I think, words of caution from other people not to, because we were pretty crazy at the time. We were really focused on partying and not really focused on music and our careers. It was really such a blessing that they accepted working with us. They took us to a really different level in terms of being focused and put us on the right path in terms of getting a new booking agency and things like that.
We started working with Seth, Reid (Foster) & Curtis and before too long it came down to putting out this record Golden and what label we wanted to release it under. We got a few offers from different labels and one in particular that I had always wanted to work with and ended up kind of seeing the model of how. When we started looking at percentages and numbers, it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. It does in some respect and it doesn’t in other respects. The industry standard these days needs to be looked at differently because its not the same industry. I had talked to Seth before about the capabilities that Rootfire had as a management company. Their reach, dedication and passion for reggae music and the reggae culture in general, American reggae culture, and what their capabilities were when it came to say putting together a marketing campaign for a record and being able to promote it properly. It turned out that the work ethic and dedication and the reach that Seth and Rootfire had compared to, if not surpassed the other labels that were interested. They hadn’t been around for as long, seeing as it wasn’t around when we were talking about it, but I said “let’s try to do this in-house. I don't see why we need to get a third party involved in releasing this record. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m not exactly sure what a record label is going to do for us that you cant do.” Seth kind of had this epiphany to start a cooperative and let our record be a first record under the label. It just makes sense. Like I said they have the capability and it’s mutually beneficial to the artist and the label, in the sense that their only offering micro loans to bands that they manage.
What happens is; we are given the opportunity to make a really quality record, one that we wouldn’t make without a micro loan from them. They get 100% of the money they gave us, they get it all back and hopefully it blows up the band in a way that the management company receives higher commission in the future. The band does better, the management company does better and the label grows in terms of recognition. A way to bring the name and gain acceptance in the culture and it really just mutually grows every aspect of everybody. To me it just made sense and at that point I wasn’t really concentrating on what they could do for us. It was these guys are my family, my friends. They have done so much for us and I wouldn't want to work for everybody else. At that point it was like “it’s on let’s do it.” They did a great job. The marketing campaign and the promotion, getting out to radio stations and everything we needed and really kind of blowing up the record in a way that I thought it should be. This is the first one and they are starting to do some other bands under the cooperative in the future and hopefully getting better and better.
"It was these guys are my family, my friends. They have done so much for us and I wouldn't want to work for everybody else."
MOV: Normally, I am super sick the record we do immediately when we release it. I can’t stand to listen to it anymore. This one I think lasted longer than most. I am just getting to where it is a little played in my ears. I’m really proud of it. I think that as a band we are a different band than we used to be. I know I am a different person. Like I said before we used to be really focused on the wrong things when it comes to drugs, alcohol and girls. Being really dumb when it came to our career and I think a lot of the choices that we made. The music that we played, our performances at shows, really showed where we were as a band in the past . This record was different. We came into the studio and went to Louisa, Virginia, to this farmhouse in the middle of the woods and stayed there for ten days. We were just really sober and focused on the record. Eating healthy and chilling out there in the peace, quiet and calm.
We had a great producer out there Danny Kalb, who did the last The Green record and has worked with Giant Panda. He’s doing a Hirie record. He’s worked with Beck and just a great dude, great producer, great engineer. We were so lucky to have him. We had Matt Goodwin out there as well from JBB (John Brown’s Body), Giant Panda and Easy Star All-Stars doing keys and horns and really putting together a lot of solid ideas for us. I went out there and I thought I don’t have any songs. I’m not really sure what we are going to do. Seth kind of heard maybe a demo or two that we had done and forced us to go out there. I really didn’t want to and I didn’t think I had any songs that were worthy of actually trying to record. We ended up going out there with a few scratch ideas and the more we were out there the more I was like “oh yeah, I think I got this other one.” It just really came together pretty naturally and now I think the big difference was our level of focus. Also having Matt and Danny there was pretty well…the level of professionalism was just raised. The last record we had done was Side By Side and it was just the three of us dicking around in the studio and not really caring at all what was happening.
I remember on Side By Side we had Mark Boyce from G-Love come out and cut keys for a day. I think I stayed in a different room all day drinking. Didn’t come out of the room, didn’t even care what the keys sounded like on my record. I remember I came out at the end of the night and said bye to him or something. Didn’t listen to the keys, I’m sure its good lets move on. That was just really indicative of where our mindset was at the time or at least where mine was. It was such a difference now to really be involved and care about every little minute detail of the record. To be involved in these little particular chord changes and stuff. Sitting up late night with Matt and Danny going over it, “oh this might sound cool if we do this” and “let me tweak this”. At the end of the day, just the level of professionalism, the care and expertise that went into it the little decisions in the songs really put the record over the top. Having Danny produce and engineer it, we came out polished and just better. That’s my opinion of course but that’s how I feel and I think the content of the songs is a lot better too, considering where my mindset is nowadays compared to where it used to be. I’ve got more to really talk about and a different way of thinking. I think all-in-all the fans can see the difference in the production and the content and I think that is what is making it more special then our last record.
"I think that as a band we are a different band than we used to be. I know I am a different person."
MOV: It was kind of weird how things went down. When we were on tour with Tribal Seeds and Leilani that was really organic. We actually cut the vocals for ‘On Top’ in the back of the tour bus and we ended up keeping those vocals on the actual record. We didn’t think we were going to do, even including my vocals, which I didn't want to do, but it turned out ok. That was the story with Leilani. I mean I knew I really wanted to have her on a track for something in the future, we made this little demo and she sang on that. She said, “what is it about?” and I didn’t really know I just said, “write something about being a badass or something” and it turned into a pretty cool hook. We are so lucky to have her on the record, one of my favorites for sure.
I am really stoked to have all these people on the record. It just sucks playing it live. You don’t think about that. What are you supposed to do when you play the song? I try to sing Leilani’s part. I haven’t even tried ‘Golden’ yet, because I don’t know how we are going to work that, but we’ll figure it out, whatever. I’m just stoked that it went down the way it did.
MOV: Well it’s funny, before we actually did the record I was listening to what was popular in American Reggae today. Not to say that I’m bashing it or anything, but a lot of it sounded like you can listen to a record all the way through and it’s one song. From song to song, it’s like the same song. You almost have to look down and see if the track changed. “Is this the same song?” It’s weird because I think there is a lot to be said about that. Fans like that and it is relatable and mainstream. A lot of people can get behind it because it is what they are used to. “Ok, well I liked this one song, make a hundred more like it,” you know, “and we’re going to like it.” I really wanted to approach the record that way. I wanted to make a poppy, really simple, poppy record. That was kind of nothing to really look at and see if fans would bite more and see if it was more relatable. Not try to have anything really too scary on there, too different, just something that people could relax to, listen to and go “yeah I know this stuff, this is what I like and I get it”. I really wanted to do that and I don’t know what happened.
We came out of the studio and I know in everyone’s hearts we don’t want to make a record like that. It was almost physically impossible to make a record like that. The songs that I think I had ideas for already, I had some scribbling in notebooks and recordings on my phone and stuff, they weren’t like that. I had had some instrumentals that Gary had sent me that were just these rhythms that you could find on the internet that I had written some demos to, just scratch ideas and they weren’t really poppy and the content wasn’t poppy. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Then the more like Danny started fucking around with the songs, it was like “yeah, this is not going to happen”.
All-in-all I think we get more respect for having a record that's not the same all the way though and switches up styles. I don’t think we have ever put out a record that has had musicians, other friends of mine who are musicians in bands tell me that they like and respect. That's something that I always felt that we lacked and wanted and I didn't know that it would happen with this record. I’ve had a lot of bands that we tour with and friends that are in the scene and its been really nice to hear them say that they respect the record. I think that they are really talking about that aspect of it. That it is different and not just the same stuff that is being pushed theses days. Hopefully we can use that format to gain mainstream success too, because I know its possible. I’m hoping that we put something together right and we will see where it goes. The tour has been going pretty good so far.
MOV: That was an idea that we had for a while. I think we were calling it ‘Pen Through’, that is what we were always calling the song. It was different before, we had written this little demo of it. We had all these different artists that we were touring with spit a verse for it. It was really in development for a while. I didn’t really know what it meant, I had this hook to it and I had written a lot of the lyrics already for the verses. It really didn’t mean much. A lot of times I will write stuff more like a poem or imagery, just thoughts and feelings as they come up and don't really know what you are talking about as you are writing it. Then later on it starts to make sense. You read it almost in third person, “oh wow, I know what this guy is talking about now, oh wait, that was me who wrote that”. This is kind of one of those songs. Its weird, I don’t think that the actual lyrics of the verses reflect as much as I would like to reflect what I am talking about, because like as I said they were written a little bit earlier. I would have liked to gone back now that I am thinking in retrospect and written some different lyrics for the verses. But I think that everyone knows what I am talking about.
I didn’t want to use the word Babylon as well. I know its used a lot in reggae music, that’s one reason why I didn't want to use the word, because it is so played. There is always hesitance; I haven’t said that on any record. It’s also I am sure that it has different connotations, different meanings, different ideas as to how it should be used. If it's a biblical reference and things of that nature. I didn't want to use it the wrong way and have people be like “this white boy shouldn’t be saying Babylon in a song or whatever”. It came to me and I could only release it when I was clear headed enough to know what the fuck I was talking about. What it is to me is just all the bullshit that was going on in my life and being able to really overcome all that stuff through creativity. Though self-expression, through writing music. Basically its saying writing and being in this band is what gets me through. It cuts through all the negativity and crap in my life. Hopefully it encourages people to use these different art forms, self-expression and freedom of being able to do what you want to do to. Crush the opposition which is Babylon and negativity, you know jobs you like, blah, blah, blah I could go on forever, but I think people get the point of what I am saying. I did not think at all that it would be one of the favorite tracks and its turned out to be one of the favorites. I’m happy about that.
MOV: I’m listening to John Brown’s Body and The Expanders. It’s so cool because they are really good friends of ours. It turns out that all the music I listen to nowadays, they are my friends. It’s really strange to be in that position and really lucky. It just turns out that they put out some really killer music. Yeah lately its like everywhere I go I have The Expanders playing on my phone on spotify. It’s my everyday music. No matter what I am doing it’s just better if I have The Expanders on. When I am trying to get ready for a show or more of an amped up mood, I have been listening to John Brown’s Body. It just never gets old to me, everything they do is just magical. I think of all the bands right now, those are definitely the two that I have been bumping the hardest.
"So we just did three versions of every song. An acoustic, than regular and a remix, dub version of every song."
ROC: Oh fantastic. A four-band bill, you know running really smoothly and the crowds have been fantastic. Yeah it's been amazing. Everyone has got their fans there and everyone’s fans are intertwining liking everyone’s music and it's going really well. Great thing is everybody is coming out early. Sometimes when you're the support act on a tour everybody doesn't come out early, even if they want to come and see you, they’re used to a certain time. We make an effort to post times out and then people are just coming out. People are coming to see us, our fans are coming out early, Tunnel Vision’s fans are coming out and PassaFire is, you know crushing it. It's a really good package, we are having a blast.
RN: Livin’ Free is due out in a few weeks, what can we expect from this new triple album?
ROC: Yeah, less than 3 weeks. So much, so much music on it. It's kind of crazy. It was a crazy undertaking. It’s been too long since we put out an album. We put out a couple of live albums, so we figured now doing our first studio in a long time, let's really try something that’s really exciting not just “oh people out an album”. So we just did three versions of every song. An acoustic, than regular and a remix, dub version of every song. It was a lot. I thought it was going to be a lot easier. I thought it was going to be crazy. In my mind in the studio I was thinking, okay, you know there's different tricks that you can use to not re-record. I wasn't thinking we wouldn’t have to re-record too much stuff it would just be doing additional mixes right?
RN: Just turn down the vocals and you have your dub track?
ROC: Right or take the drums out or something using the acoustic version, but there were just all sorts of crazy problems. Then our engineer had a dope idea that some of this wasn't working right, we tried to track the acoustic guitar to make the acoustic version. So let’s scrap that idea, so for like half the acoustic versions we used just use one microphone like old school folk bluegrass style and I had to sit, get the chair and we moved the chair around in the room and mixed it based upon where I was in the room and it was a really cool experience and just like one take, no fixing the errors.
RN: Many bands will do a single acoustic track or a few dub mixed, but you put it all on one album. What made you decide to do that?
ROC: I mean we conceptualized it a really long time ago like when we first started recording this album like seven or eight years ago and then ran out of loot because we were funding ourselves and we did a pledge music campaign. Fans came to bat for us and then really once they contributed the pressure was on to like deliver because you can't let them down. They’re your backers, they believe in you. They purchased something they haven't heard or seen, in faith, so you got to deliver.
The backing but also the pressure to really deliver. We had a lot of opportunities to bring our band’s music into situations where we wouldn't be able to normally fit in. On five Slightly Stoopid openings, they wanted something low production so they didn't have another band setting up in front of them. They are our friends, so they were like “roll out with your acoustic, do that”, so I'd play the band songs and turn them (the fans) on and they would come see our band afterward. People started to get turned onto us through the acoustic vibes. We thought it would be cool to bring that into studio. Introduce them to the band too, because they had only seen that and then there is our fans that love all these songs the way that they are and get to hear different vibes and stuff. We're getting a lot of good reactions on some of them, the dub remixes.
Some of them are crazy, one of them we had one guy remix and he changed the key of the song. It was this major song and it turned into a minor key and it's like unrecognizable. It’s still the same structure. I thought he took the drums out and used his own drums. Then I heard one drum fill and I was like that's our drum fill. He sound replaced everything and turned it into a midi track, every single drum. It was pretty crazy. The key changed from a major song. It's kind of a sad song or like a Marley song when he used happy chords, with a sad song. It's just a cool trick to do that you change into a minor key. Then you force some heavy base thumping, dubstep stuff on there during the verses in the choruses that are like four on the floor, it's crazy, like a club track. It's cool.
ROC: Really cool. It's pretty amazing you know. We realize people want to be involved. Sometimes it makes people afraid to ask even though in certain situations when people want to be involved, they want to help. They want to be part of something. We want them to and it creates this thing and it’s really nice.
RN: A great connection with the fans.
ROC: Yeah totally. It's definitely super strengthened the bond between us and the fans, it’s awesome.
RN: The new album, Livin’ Free features a ton of guest performances including Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), Marshall “Ras MG” Goodman (Sublime, Long Beach Dub Allstars), Billy Kottage (Reel Big Fish) and Grammy-nominated Pato Banton & Mighty Mystic, how were those collaborations?
ROC: It was amazing. It was just a slow progression. Wasn't really planned out. A lot of this album was just slowly being made and then when we get the pledge thing, it just kind of blossomed where we got some bigger production things where like Ras MG got involved. Our good friend John Philips from Silverback Management hooked us up with Ras MG and Yetti Beats they really transformed songs to a different kind of level that was just really awesome. It was nice. They helped produce a couple of tracks that kind of brought it somewhere where it's almost was were we would liked it to have been, but they helped us really fulfill the goal. Without explaining what the vision is they like were able to hear where the track should go. Being mostly self-produced most of our life, it was really cool to have that experience.
RN: You had all these great partnerships, who would you like to be doing a partnership with on your next album, if you had your pick?
ROC: Damn, it’s endless. Damian Marley would do it first. We get Damian Marley to do a verse and then get somebody from The Dead. The same thing with Melvin Steels. We were big “dead folks” too and some of that scene some of the reggae scene and I love the idea that we had that combination with the album. If we do that again I think it would be pretty cool, so say like let's go big and say Phil Lesh and Damian Marley. You know like as an idea, how funny, but in reality, those were two big influences. There's some big producers I'd love to work with that are so far out of our reach like Diplo or Major Lazer.
RN: We see you reppin’ the slogan “Live Free or Die” ( New Hampshire State Motto) did that inspired the title of this new album?
ROC: 100%. Yeah, I mean we used to be told to say that we were from Boston. We did it for a little bit. For a couple years, we were nominated for Boston Music Award. So we were told by our publicist to say we were from Boston and our booking agent would say we're from Boston. It kind of just like everyone reps where they're from you know? The Cali scene is so strong here. People are so strong with their states like the Colorado scene, the Cali scene and you don't hear anything from New Hampshire. We figured that’s where we are from, that’s who we are. I live on hundreds of acres of land in the middle of the woods. It's a great slogan and it's a great state. It's just real, it's who we are.
"I support doing positive things rather than just complaining about it."
ROC: In a longer set we are actually able to open up. These are package bills, with short sets so we try to still do some of that in there and you'll get some of it. We hybrid the reggae and improv. After these shows it's been really funny because we play 30 minutes sets where we're trying to show our versatility but there's no real jamming. There's a couple of instrumental sections. There's one instrumental song but a lot of the comments that we get from the people "you guys jam so fucking hard man". We say thanks but at the same time it's like we weren't really jamming. There's no question that it's in us because even when we thought we weren't jamming he said "you jam man". We would jump in with our track “Oh Lord” and then we jump into the song “Punk RoC”, which is how it sounds, punk and ska. I think that maybe that one sounds a little jammy because it's instrumental. There's a bunch of solos and stuff, but it’s still that kind of surf/punk, reggae/rock vibe.
RN: When it comes to social and environmental activism you walk the walk, what are some of the organization you have worked with and why do you feel that is so important?
ROC: Yeah, it's something that I admired growing up. Rage Against the Machine and Peter Tosh, people talking about shit that is not right in the music but then it's cool to actually do it in real life too. This is the 5th year of throwing a festival called Uplift Music Festival in New Hampshire. 100% of the profits that come in go to a different charity and different non-profit so it's the biggest thing that we do.
For the album we donated 5% of all our pledges after we hit our goal to Students For Sensible Drug Policy. They are looking to create better laws surrounding non-violent drug offenses, to create sensitive drug policies. Three strikes is getting poor people, minorities or people that can't afford lawyers tricked into the system and stuck forever. They are actually not a danger to society which I think is a really big problem that I really disagree with. Both the prison industrial complex along with the military industrial complex. I support doing positive things rather than just complaining about it.
The festivals are more localized where we pick a local non-profit in like our region. This past year we gave our profits to cancer patients being treated at the local hospital that needed it and couldn't afford it. It didn't go to the hospital, but it went to actual people who needed the help to pay for their chemo and couldn't afford it. We raised about $10,000 bucks to give to them.
There’s always a way to donate or get in touch with how you can be involved. It's local but sometimes you start there. You got to help where you are to make a bigger effect. It's cool because every year is something different. We've always picked something different. This year is cancer patients, the year before was a community center that just helped people with many different things. They even had a free wood pile for people. With winter in New Hampshire for people who can't afford heating they can go there to get free wood. There's so many other things like an organic farm that helps teach kids how to farm organically. They teach the importance of it and then they put plots in the schools and the kids grow it themselves. They eat the food and they see it from beginning to end. It's been a lot of things that have been really fun the last 5 years. It really creates a nice community vibe.
RN: What reggae is playing in your ipod?
ROC: What was the last thing I listened to on my phone? I haven't been listening to a ton of stuff because I've been fighting a bug on tour. The shows have been awesome though like it's been complete silence.
Leading up to the shows a lot of the bands we're playing with, just to get accustomed to it. I did make a “Blackout Tour 2016” playlist on Spotify, so people could like hear it. We've been so immersed in the east coast jam band scene, where a lot of the west coast guys are more into the reggae thing. As for me I’ve been diving more into the reggae/rock scene then I had before. Bands like Tribal Seeds, Stick Figure, all those guys.
We’ve had an awesome opportunity where it's getting pretty amazing. We started off being influenced by the west coast style, Long Beach, Sublime, all that stuff and then people from that scene recognizing you and working with you. We had Josh Kaufman, Sublime’s original photographer fly out. He wants to do our new band photos and he turned me onto like a bunch of stuff that influenced Sublime. From the Long Beach area bands like Falling Idols and Jelly Of The Month Club are the stuff that I've been listening to. It's kind of local stuff. Basically Brad saw those guys playing and was like “that's what I want to be like.”
I'm looking at my recently added. What I have here is Wolfpack, I don't know if you listen to those guys at all. Wolfpack is an amazing funk band, instrumental but really cool, really corky. I have to listen to what my daughter wants most of the time. She's three and a half so it's Dora the Explorer, she's obsessed with this band Walk Off The Earth.
RN: She hasn't gone into sublime yet?
ROC: No she likes the Grateful Dead, she likes Walk Off The Earth, Bob Marley and Roots of Creation. But we're not her favorite band anymore. We were her favorite band, but now it's Walk Off The Earth. We're #2 now.
Easy Star All-Stars
Koolage Da Lyricist
Roots Of Creation
Tomorrows Bad Seeds