Easy Star All-Stars Interview

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Easy Star All-Stars are the geniuses behind Radiodread, Dub Side of the Moon and now Easy Stars Lonely Heart’s Dub Band. Michael sat down in the Waiting Room for a chat about their latest album and upcoming tour of the UK supported by John Brown’s Body. Check it.

The Waiting Room- Your latest album saw you cover The Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. Why did you choose this particular Beatles album to cover?

Michael- There are several reasons.  One is that so far we have focused on adapting concept albums, and Sgt. Pepper’s is considered by many to be the “mother of all concept albums”.  So we knew that we would have to tackle it at some point.  Also, one of the keys to making these albums is to start with great source material, and Sgt. Pepper’s is a great and interesting album filled with well-written songs.  Also, while the Beatles have been covered so many times, even in reggae, Sgt. Pepper’s has a lot of songs that have not been covered so much, so we felt that it was new ground.  And finally, we wanted this album to be a departure from our last two, which were primarily darker, minor-key affairs.  Sgt. Pepper’s is largely more upbeat and major-key, more of a pop album, so we thought that it would be a good challenge to adapt the Easy Star sound to something like that.

After your first two albums had you cover Radiohead and Pink Floyd, do you have any plans to release an album of originals?

We have already released an EP of originals called Until That Day written by various band members, and we hope to follow that up with another EP and eventually a full album. Until That Day actually just had a limited edition physical release in the UK this past week, after being available only on digital. So check it out.

Which classic rock album do you see yourself covering next?

Sorry, I can’t tell you that.  We like to keep our plans secret until right before we release a project. But needless to say, we’re running through a huge list to come up with the right choice.

How does the Easy Star All-Star crew approach the live shows considering that you have a lot of guest artists on your albums?

Will some of them be appearing on tour with you?

We have several great vocalists in the touring band, so covering the vocals is not difficult.  Also, some of the singers in the touring band, such as Kirsty Rock and Menny More, also sang on the albums. As for whether anyone might join us, you never know. We didn’t have plans for it in the spring, then it turned out Ranking Roger was in the house one night in Birmingham, so he came on stage. We’ll see if anything like that comes up again. But even without the guests, it’s an amazing live show.

Your upcoming tour in October see’s you brining John Brown’s Body with you, what can you tell the UK public about this band and how did you come to choose them to open for you?

JBB is at the forefront of the progressive reggae scene in the U.S.  We (Easy Star Records) have put out their last three releases, and we believe that now is the time to introduce them to an international audience.  We’ve toured with them before in the U.S., and the two bands are like family, so it makes perfect sense to bring them to the U.K. where we’ve already had great success. We think the UK will really go for them – they’ve got sick drum and bass at the forefront of their sound, with a three piece horn section. It’s an awesome sound. And I should mention that their album, AMPLIFY, which was a #1 reggae album in the States, has just come out in the UK, so people should look for it.

How do you see the current state of reggae music? Is there a resurgence of roots reggae?

I think that there’s a lot of great reggae music being made all over the world, but as with many styles of music, a lot of artists are not bringing much new to the table – they are just emulating what they like to listen to.  On the other hand, I am pleased that roots reggae with a full live band is making a resurgence in terms of what is coming out of Jamaica these days.

Bit of a fun question now, what are the top 5 most played artists on your Ipod or CDs on rotation in the tour bus?

My top five are:

The Black Seeds – Solid Ground (amazing reggae/rocksteady/funk from  New Zealand, we just released this in North America)

-Tommy T – The Prester John Sessions (Ethiopian music mixed with reggae and jazz from Gogol Bordello’s bassist, also coming out soon on Easy Star)

-Aswad – Live and Direct (my favorite live reggae album of all time)

-Funk’n’Stein – The Band (serious 70’s funk with great songs)

-The Isley Brothers – Harvest for the World (timeless r&b from one of my favorite groups)

Easy Star All-Stars are on tour this October. Check back for a review of their London show.

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