Posted: April 13th, 2009
"In Jamaica we have good weed..."
Interview by Trasha | Photo by Richards
I linked up with Rootz Underground, the roots, rock, reggae sensation from Jamaica, at the Long Beach Ragamuffin Festival. They were opening up for legends like Capleton, Beenie Man, Sly and Robbie, and Gregory Isaacs. Right before they were about to hit the stage, I sparked up a big phat joint of Cali purple and handed it to Stevie, the lead singer. Next thing—boom—that was that. I got dragged off by huge gorillas in security uniforms to a backstage area, and they threatened to throw me out. A few days later I arrived at the Hollywood cottage off Sunset Boulevard where the band were cold lamping, cooking Ital food, writing new material, macking on hot chicks, blazing Cali weed… All that good stuff that bands do. Give it up for Rootz Underground, pioneers of the alternative Jamaican music scene. Check ’em further at www.rootzunderground.com.
Wagwaan Jeff, what’s your deal in the band?
I play chop guitar.
Let’s talk about the new album.
It’s titled Movement and it’s available internationally. It’s the first album from Rootz Underground available world wide. It represents the last three to four years of the band’s life.
You been together that long?
Seven to eight years, actually.
What took so long to make this first album?
First, it has taken time to get our sound together. You have to choose your inspiration and your instruments.
Who’s your main inspiration?
The culture and people of Jamaica, the most high of high, Selassie I. Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru, the Cure, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Led Zep, Jazzanova, and Kruder & Dorfmeister.
Here’s Charles. What’s your deal in the group?
You’re releasing the album on your own label, Riverstone records? How did that come about?
We come from a growing alternative music scene in Kingston, Jamaica. There are many different acts within that scene that are out of the box. One day we intend to expose artists within that scene. It’s a movement, and we are the Rootz Underground movement.
Lets talk about that scene.
Eight years ago, when we started, there was no scene. There was only big reggae events like Sunfest and Sting, but no alternative bar scene. Now there are more places to play and more bands. Now we have dingy little bars where people can go and watch new bands.
Colin, introduce yourself.
I play bass.
What are your inspirations?
Bob Marley’s bassist, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Stuart Zender, Flea, and Marcus Miller.
How are Jamaicans receiving you?
In Jamaica the most loved music is dancehall, so people have forgotten about roots, rock, reggae, but folks are giving us love for bringing it back. Jamaican audience is tough, it’s a cultural thing. You have to be gangster, cool, deadly, be a badman. In California, people get into it ’cause they feel it and rock out. The energy is great; love it out here. This is our vibe.
And you, Sir, are?
Stevie, I am the frontman and vocalist.
Let’s talk about ganja. Jamaican or Cali?
It’s only my second time in Cali, and I’ve had the privilege of smoking some very good herb. The weed is on par with any Jamaican weed. It’s very good. In Jamaica we have good weed but we need more growing and farming expertise, primarily seeds.
Who inspires you musically?
Jah Ras Tafari Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Israel Vibration, Midnite, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, the Doors, Bob Marley, and Led Zeppelin.
You’re outspoken and political in your songs.
I don’t like to say political because they, politicians, are blood sucking parasites. I say “socially conscious.” We talk of songs of revolution, love, and redemption. Like our song “Farming,” it’s about planting soul food music and about being aware of what you plant and grow. We plant soul food music.
Leon on drums, what’s up? Who was your inspiration to be a drummer?
Drums are my calling. Sly Dunbar is my main influence, Devon Richardson, Carlton Barrett, Carter Buford.
Chef, introduce yourself and tell us about this bomb Jamaican food you just cooked.
I’m Neil, band manager, and yes, bomb Jamaican chef. What we’re eating is called Ital stew. It’s all about veggies, tofu, no meat or salt. Ital is Rasta food.
Download Rootz Underground songs or albums from the iTunes store here or check their myspace for upcoming shows.
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