Easy Star All-Stars Interview
Described as the mother of all concept albums The Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is not an album for the faint hearted to cover but the Easy Star All Stars are not a band to let that put them off.
Easy Stars are the creative force behind Dub Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) and Radiodread (Radiohead’s OK Computer).
What Easy Stars co-founders Michael Goldwasser, Eric Smith and Len Oppenheimer achieve in tackling three classic rock albums can be described as genre-defining, while bringing together a who’s who of reggae artists under the Easy Star All Stars banner.
Band leader Goldwasser sat down in the Waiting Room for a chat about the band’s latest offering, their upcoming UK tour and plans for the future.
The choice of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s is a departure from the previous two albums which were primarily darker, minor-key affairs, while the Easy Stars take on The Beatles is largely more upbeat and major-key, more of a pop album, admits Goldwasser.
“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.” said Goldwasser.
While Goldwasser was happy to admit The Beatles have been extensively covered many times, Sgt. Pepper’s still has a lot of songs which have not been sampled quite as much.
“We thought it would a good challenge to adapt the Easy Stars sound to something like that.”
A consistent theme in Easy Stars work is the use of guest artists which while leading to great albums, can however make it difficult to co-ordinate so that all of them can appear on stage at any one time.
Goldwasser, however, did not see it as a issue, he said: “We have several great vocalists in the touring band, so covering the vocals is not difficult.
“Some of the singers in the touring band, such as Kristy Rock and Menny More, also sing on the albums.”
While it can said Easy Stars are best known for their unique take on other artists work it would be erroneous to omit their album of originals ,Until The Day,when discussing them and Goldwasser says they have plans for another in the pipeline.
As if recording and touring was enough for the Easy Stars family they also run their own record label, aptly named Easy Star Records.
They have signed some of the freshest and funkiest bands around including John Brown’s Body who will accompany Easy Stars on their October UK tour.
“We (Easy Star Records) have put out their last three releases, and we believe now is the time to introduce them to an international audience.” said Goldwasser.
Easy Star Records clearly believe JBB to be at the forefront of the progressive reggae scene in the US and hope their success is repeated here.
Commenting on the current state of reggae music Goldwasser was less optimistic, he said: “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.”
However Goldwasser was pleased to see root reggae with a full band making a resurgence.
The native of New York is a connoisseur of all types of music as is evident by the current music spinning on his decks.
The Black Seeds, Solid Ground– reggae/rock-steady/funk from NZ.
Tommy T, The Prester John Sessions– Ethiopian music mixed with reggae and jazz from Gogol Bordello’s bassist.
Asward, Live and Direct, Goldwasser favourite live reggae album.
Funk ‘n’ Stein, The Band– some serious 70’s funk.
The Isley Brothers, Harvest for the World- timeless r&b.
With each new album a carefully guarded secret, speculation will no doubt start once again right until the East Stars unleash their next offering on an expectant fan base.