Interview with Toots Hibbert (Toots and the Maytals)
Brian Kracyla, Jacob Little and Monty Wiradilaga (Moe Train’s Tracks)
Hey, what’s going on reggae fans worldwide, you’re listening to a special reggae royalty edition of Moe Train’s Tracks. In this very special show, the Tracks has the honor to bring you one of the most memorable voices and performers in all of music, Mr. Toots Hibbert from Toots and the Maytals.
We had the opportunity to interview the man with the golden pipes about being a part of the establishing scene of reggae, coining the term reggae, being great in an amazing scene, finding his voice, and tons of other topics. Toots was definitely one of the most endearing and genuine musicians that we have interviewed over the years. Toots and the Maytals just released their latest album, Flip and Twist, and we’re sure that it will further his legacy as one of the top reggae artists of all time.
So Moe Train’s Tracks is honored to bring to you, this very special interview with the legendary Toots from Toots and the Maytals.
Moe: Absolutely amazing set today. Were you really having as much fun as it looked like you were having?
Toots: Yeah, a lot of fun. The people are so nice that when you sing for them you have to have some fun.
M: Feeding of the energy…
T: Yes, that heart energy.
T: Everyone just liked it. It’s a nice day!
M: Your voice is one of the most recognizable and classic sounds in all music, where do you draw all of your positive energy from to bring it into the music?
T: Well, my music is from good spirits, good spirit from the church, and from the people that come to my show with a good understanding to learn the ways of reggae music. That’s part of my energy too.
M: Your community of musicians, back in the day in Jamaica, included the most legendary performers of all time.
T: Yeah, mon!
M: Skatalites… The Wailers… How was the community of musicians back in the day when you coined the term “reggae”?
T: It’s a good fellowship in music from that time until this time. When I coined the word reggae it was just like now but people lived different. It took a little time for people to know about my music and they are really into my music now. So, it’s a good t’ing, the times have been changing and music has been better for Toots and the Maytals. When I coined the word reggae, when I sang the song Do The Reggae, the music was already playing in Jamaica all over but nobody called it reggae. People were searching for the name reggae but couldn’t find it. People used to call the beat in Jamaica “blue beat” and “boogie beat” and those are the things that spread from America to Jamaica. Boogie beat, blue beat, and “ska”, it’s like a slip. My two friends, Jerry and Raleigh, we sat down one morning and the word came up. We used to use a word in Jamaica called “streggae”, when the girl was looking so good you call her streggae, if she dressed raggity, you know. So, maybe the word comes from that, but I was the one who said let’s Do The Reggae! R-E-G-G-A-E. Reggae was spelled a lot of different ways in those days, but this is what it’s spelled like now. R-E-G-G-A-E.
M: Did the community feel that there was something huge happening? Because your music is universally recognized across all genres.
T: Yeah, that’s why I have 31 number one records in Jamaica. In those days, as it came out, people enjoyed it and knew that it was good. I have a couple of number ones, 31 number ones in Jamaica, and on vinyl in those days.
M: What was it like recording in Studio One?
T: It was strange. But, I started from Studio One. I was a good t’ing.
M: The whole process, working with Coxsone, was it just…
T: It was great, the process was good. Sing for very many, no good for many maybe, choose the songs.
M: I heard that you have some members of your family in the band.
T: My daughter and my son, my son play the bass and my daughter back up for me.
T: I’m never proud of myself. I know it’s good, but it’s not good to be proud, because the Lord says that you should not be proud. You just know that it is good and give t’anks.
M: Your music has been covered by some of the most recognizable names in all of music, like the Clash, the Specials, and Sublime. What’s your take on their covers of your music?
T: Well, I think it’s good, it’s a good t’ing to do. If a song is good, you can cover it. You can put your own line, your own style on it, and it’s still good. A lot of people cover my songs, I never really say which one is the best. I know I appreciate it, and they appreciate it also.
M: 54-46 is an amazing track…
T: I don’t even want to talk about that prison business. I’m tired of talking about that crap… It was a number one song though!
M: Well, some of your tracks… When they think of you… They think of certain tracks…
T: When I just came in, when I was like fifteen or sixteen… Those things happened when I was getting my first tour abroad, to go to UK. So I hardly talk about those t’ings again. It was a frame-up. When I didn’t get to go to UK, they sent a different group in my name, which never worked out for them. It was a thing that was planned. I just sang a song about it and it went number one.
M: You have the Toots Foundation…
T: Well, we planned this foundation for helping the youths, not only in Jamaica but wherever help is needed. My foundation is going to be bringing a lot of assistance. We founded it a few years ago and it’s been doing well. We did foundation things for the children in Jamaica, for the hospitals, for the blind, for the cancer society. We gave to the schools, we gave to the old age homes. We gave to the school in Clarendon, where I was born. The foundation is going good and I hope that we can give a helping hand whenever I do my show, which charges one dollar extra to go towards the foundation.
M: What does it mean to you to be able to give back to Jamaica, to give back to your country?
T: It’s been good, that’s why I do it. I couldn’t do it by myself, not without the people in America and all over the world.
M: We are also doing a special on the passing of Michael. How has Michael Jackson affected you musically? Or do you have any stories dealing with Michael Jackson?
T: No, his music never affected me. His music refreshed me. He was a cool guy, I liked him. I loved him too. It’s a pity that what happened happened, but it’s like you knew something was going to happen too. I figure he’ll always be innocent for me. He will always be missed by Toots and the Maytals.
M: With your music, with so many albums, so many number ones… When you are looking at your career as a whole, how do you think it lays in the history of music?
T: It’s history. My music is history. It’s antique… and it’s unique… and it’s good. It’s fattening. It’ll make you strong.
M: (Laughing) That’s the best quote I’ve heard all weekend!
T: It’s full of love and happiness.
M: How much longer are you going to be doing it?
T: Well, I’ve got no limit. We have to live good to one another, whether you’re black or you’re white. Show love to one another. Show respect. Learn to say good morning again, and good evening, good afternoon, good night, hey how are you doing, hello. Just be good, be nice, be Rastafari. That’s the way God would love we to do. His name is Rastafari and I’m just a son of God. I look at myself as an angel and a son of God.
M: So you’re looking to further the message…
T: My songs will always be a message of spirituality and happiness. My words have to be positive, if the words are negative than its not real reggae. They have to be positive, that’s the fulfillment of reggae music.
M: So, you just draw from the energy, from that positive energy, and put it through your music to your listeners.
T: Yeah, because it’s for real. Music is for real, for Toots and the Maytals, it’s for real. And love is for real. It’s not just “one love”. True love and real love is for real, there’s more than one love.
T: Yeah. I love to do this, I love to do that. So many love, you know. What’s love is real… So make it reveal… Whenever you feel… It make you feel good! Wake up in the night and rejoice that you’re gonna live to see another day. There’s no limit in my career. I do it as I can. You will always hear about Toots and the Maytals.
M: What’s your responsibility to all your listeners, to the world, through your music?
T: My responsibility to the world and for everywhere is that I’m truly responsible to the people and my music is to be positive, as it used to be and as it is right now. You have to be positive, that’s my responsibility, to make music positive for the world and for God to give us more blessings. He gave me the talent. (Singing) And I sing everything I talk! Hey-aay! (speaking again) I have to give thanks for giving me that kind of voice. I can sing it without music, I can sing it with music. It’s a revelation, a message of salvation.
M: Getting your start, how did you really come to find your own voice?
T: I give praise, I grew up in the church with my parents. Over the radio, I listened to Ray Charles, I listened to every artist, and I listened to every artist in Jamaica also. I founded my voice, and I have to learn it more, and I have to do things with my voice like (making sounds with throat). It’s a thing you have to do, like practicing a guitar. (making yodeling sounds) It’s thing that’s coming for the church, from the Lord God Rastafari, and I have it.
M: Absolutely. When did you know that ‘this is my voice’?
T: Well, I haven’t got one special voice, I have a lot of voices. I can make it turn to sing any kind of way. I know that I can sing, and people call me great, but I don’t think I’m great. I just want to be simple, and make people think I’m great.
M: (Laughing) Gems… I’m loving it! Is there anything else that you want to do in your career that you haven’t done yet?
T: Yes, there are a lot of things I want to do that I haven’t done yet. I wanna make a straight-up R&B record, well it will have some reggae in it, but mostly R&B flavor. I’m doing that. I want to be able to extend my foundation’s reach. I want to do things in Africa where a lot of black, and white people, is also, cuz there are a lot of white people born in Africa also. They’re African, so it’s not a black t’ing. If people need help, you help them when you can. My plan is to spread out my foundation and see what people think of it, and they can donate things for my foundation, and I could help. From American to Jamaica, and from America straight to Africa, all over the world, I want to do something for some people who need help, each and everywhere, north, west, east, and south. That’s my plan and my good thought and my wish.
M: That’s excellent. Thank you very much for being with us. It’s an honor and we appreciate it!
T: Yeah, mon.
How could we possibly describe this interview, but to say that were truly honored to be able to sit down with Ziggy Marley at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. It’s not often that one gets to sit down with one of their musical and life inspirations, but fortunately it happened in Manchester, Tennessee…
Ziggy Marley Interview on Moe Train’s Tracks
Ziggy Marley, Brian Kracyla and Monty Wiradilaga
Moe – We’re sitting backstage in Ziggy Marley’s tour bus. Ziggy, thank you very much for being on the podcast.
Ziggy – Good brah!
Moe – So how are you feeling about Bonnaroo? Are you feeling the love?
Ziggy – Ya mon. Bonnaroo, you know, is good.. is good feh see so much people together and just enjoying music and love. You know.. It’s great. It’s a great environment.
Moe – Absolutely. I’ve been speaking to many people about who they’re most looking forward to seeing at Bonnaroo.. And I’ll tell ya, about every single person that I had spoken to was very, very excited about your set…
Ziggy – Yeah?
Moe – And they were all out there.
Ziggy – Yeah mon.
Moe – “Love Is My Religion”.. I keep hearing you say, “love is all we need.” How does that shape your life?
Ziggy – Well that, I mean, what it is, is a gradual realization of the true concept of spirituality or the true concept of God. You know, because from when I was a young child coming up, we were about God, you know, we went through Christianity. We were still lookin’ for the truth. How do I identify myself in terms of that aspect, in terms of this religious aspect, spiritual aspect… What is it really? What do I call it? Am I a Christian? Am I a Rasta? What am I? And what is the direction that I should be goin’? So after a while, it just gradually come to me that love is really… Love is the answer. Love is the answer to everything that I was questioning.
Moe – You were looking for the truth, and love is the truth.
Ziggy – Yeah. So the truth for me doesn’t lie within the rituals of religion or the traditions of religion. Love is the truth, ya know? So, that is what I came to realize a few years ago, and just to put it in a terms that people can understand is “Love Is My Religion,” ya know?
Moe – It feels to me that you’ve written an anthem for a generation with “Love Is My Religion.” It feels that in this day and age, there’s not enough love, and what you’re telling everyone is… everyone does need love. Do you feel that your message is being received well?
Ziggy – Yes, I think so. Everywhere I go, it’s been received well and I believe that.. the good thing about love is that love don’t have any enemies. So even if, I mean, even if people are there who are Christians, Muslims, or whatever… You still can say that, ’cause it’s love. You know… You really can’t fight love. Like, you can’t have anything against love.
Moe – It’s true.
Ziggy – You know what I mean? I think it’s been received well and it’s hard work still to get the message out there ’cause I have to be on the road. My music and what I do is not something where I can sit down and depend on upon a TV or the radio or the media generally, to promote what I’m doing. What I’m doing, I have to get out there and do the footwork… The soldierwork. And that’s what we’re doin’ right now. That’s the only way I can get that message out properly, ya know?
Moe – Some musicians deal more with political aspects. I feel as though you deal more with the person… The social aspects. The human condition, I would say.
Ziggy – Yeah, well I’ve done political stuff, ya know. There was a point where I kinda understood… ‘All right, well, ya know what? The solution is not in politics or even social things. The solution is within the individual…’ To find love, that is the solution to the world’s problems. It is not democracy, it is not communism, nor capitalism… It is not religion, it is not charity, it is for human beings to find love within themselves. This is the solution for everything. Everything else is secondary. If you have democracy without love, it ain’t gonna work. If you have communism wit… Nuttin’ gonna work without love! Nuttin! So let’s find love first, and then we’ll find everything else!
Moe – Speaking of love… We were in the pit area during your performance. I was just taking a look around and you could see a huge smile on everyone’s face.
Ziggy – (Smiles and laughs)
Moe – A huge smile! It was great. It was almost as if you were putting your hands in the air over your head to channel the power of everyone in the crowd.
Ziggy – Yeah.
Moe – Is that how you feel?
Ziggy – Yeah, well that I mean.
Moe – Are you just feeling the music?
Ziggy – Yeah, yeah weh… You know, we’re transmittin’ vibrations, ya know. We’re communicatin’ with more that words and more than music. We’re communicatin’ with vibrations. So that is a form… that is a way of communication from me. So, ya know, puttin’ up my hands is very symbolic of just trying to soak up and tryin’ to give back healing power, ya know?
Moe – The people in the crowd were definitely soaking up your power as well.
Ziggy – Ya mon.
Moe – When you went solo…when you recorded “Dragonfly.” How was it getting away from playing with your family for so long with The Melody Makers? How was that transition?
Ziggy – Well ya know, I mean, feh me it wasn’t.. it was not a difficult thing. I do what I have to do. I do wherever life is taking me… I go without any resistance. So I’m just going with the flow. So the flow took me there and I didn’t fight it. I didn’t think about it, I didn’t judge it, I didn’t do anything, I just went with it.
Moe – So it felt natural.
Ziggy – Yeah. So I just flow with it. But I think one of the main things why that flow is like that, is because we are a family anyway. Yeah, so for me, it wasn’t like a breaking up of anything. You know because we are family.
Moe – Family’s family.
Ziggy – Yeah, that exists up to now, so we still have that togetherness, ya know?
Moe – In “Dragonfly,” you sort of changed your style a little bit. I felt.. It seems like you went a little jazzy, acoustic rock style, or bluesy?
Ziggy – Yeah well… Whatever it was, it was. I didn’t.. I never put any names, I didn’t try to do anything. I didn’t try to go jazzy bluesy, I just played what was coming out at the time. That’s what we do as artists. We just give what we have at the time. I don’t try to shape my music in any particular way. I try to just make it be natural. And so I think that “Dragonfly” was a very musically adventurous record, which is the way I am. I’m very adventurous. And so, you know, as I said, we’ll go with the flow and that’s what was happening with me at the time. For me, as an artist/musician, we try to lead the people. That means… What I do is not try to do what people want, because I’m an artist.
Moe – Exactly.
Ziggy – I have to do what my heart tells me. I have to lead them to me. I can’t follow them to where they are, I have to bring them to where I am.
Moe – You wanna be true to yourself like you say in your song!
Ziggy – Yeah! That is where we are. We have to bring the people to where WE are… and that’s just how it is, ya know?
Moe – Staying true to yourself, like in your music… Is it hard when people are judging what you’re doing?
Ziggy – It’s not hard for me. I wish people would get the message of the music. Ya know, mainly it’s critics who have opinions, it’s not people. Ya know, people enjoy whatever! ‘Hey! I enjoy..’
Moe – Yeah! Exactly!
Ziggy – It’s those who think they have that authority of criticism. But it doesn’t bother me, because feh me… I kinda am strong and believe and believe in what I am doing. I’m not here halfway. I’m here full way.
Moe – That’s good.
Ziggy – I believe in what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing have a purpose. So, there’s no detractors or negative energy that could make me even double think what I’m doing or think twice about what I’m doing ’cause I know what I’m doing, ya know?
Moe – Speaking of critics, I saw on your website that you said about family members… About how people tend to say that ‘Oh, Ziggy’s better than the other brothers.’ How does the family deal with that?
Ziggy – We don’t deal with it. There’s nothing to deal with.
Moe – You just flow?
Ziggy – Yeah. There’s nothing to deal with. That doesn’t effect us in any way shape or form. My bruddahs know me, my sistahs know me, we know each other… That’s it!
Moe – How would you describe your brothers?
Ziggy – Steve, who is the next eldest to me in terms of the male in the family… We call him “Raggamuffin,”
Moe – (Laughs)
Ziggy – Ya know, ’cause he has a rougher side… a little more bit more rougher… Yeh.. Damian, he’s the youngest one of us now. Steve mentored him into comin’ up into what’s been happenin’ now. And so he’s a young one. Still growin’, you know, still growin’, still young, still growin’, still finding who he is and stuff like that, so we still have to give him some time feh become who he is, ya know? We have Julian, Ky-Mani… Everybody is humble, everyone is working what they feel… and everyone is supportive of everyone else, you know I mean?
Moe – Well, you have an actor in your family, right?
Ziggy – Hmm?
Moe – Ky-Mani is an actor, correct?
Ziggy – Ky-Mani, yeah, did some acting in…
Moe – Shottas…
Ziggy – Shottas…Right. Yeah, he’s into acting and he’s making a new record right now coming out. So we’re looking forward to that.
Moe – Well since he’s an actor… I heard that you write screenplays.
Ziggy – (Smiles) I’m trying to! I’m trying to divert energy, ya know? I’m trying to put energy into other places where I feel creative energy.
Moe – So what are you writing about? What are your subjects?
Ziggy – (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) I’m sorry to embarrass you! Oh, come on!
Ziggy – You’ll see! Everyone will see!
Moe – (Laughs)
Ziggy – No matter what we’re doing… in terms of that screenplay thing, I’m tryin’ to be entertaining but I’m tryin’ to always have a message in what we do.
Moe – So there’s nothing in particular that you’re…
Ziggy – (Smiles) I don’t wanna say right now, ya know? Yuh haffa wait… Yuh haffa wait!
Moe – (Laughs) That’s fair enough! Do you have any other hobbies or diversions that most people don’t know about… That you’d talk about at least.
Ziggy – I like watchin’ movies, I play video games… Sports…
Moe – Guitar Hero?
Ziggy – (Smiles) I wanna get that one!
Moe – (Laughs)
Ziggy – I haven’t gotten that one yet, but I saw somebody playin it. I haffa get that one!
Moe – It’s fun! They have a huge screen over here (at Bonnaroo). It’s about 50 feet square.
Ziggy – Oh yeah?? I haffa get it! It looked fun! But I heard they’re coming out with a whole band!?
Moe – They are!
Ziggy – Yeah? It’s gonna be interesting! (Laughs)
Moe – You see people playing it all the time!
Ziggy – (Laughs)
Moe – Just to have that diversion, does it help you deal with everyday touring? ‘Cause you’re on the road all the time, right?
Ziggy – Yeah, for a couple years we been touring, spreading “Love Is My Religion.” But yeah… I like taking my head somewhere else after a while.
Moe – You’re going home after today?
Ziggy – Yeah, we head home for a couple days, then we head out to Europe.
Moe – I bet you’re just gonna go home and just do nothing, aren’t ya? (Laughs.)
Ziggy – (Laughs) That’s exactly it. That’s my favorite thing to do!
Moe – Yeah, I bet! I’m sure you have friends that you go home and they want you to go out… What do you say, “No.. Leave me alone!” or what? (Laughs)
Ziggy – No..no.. Really, I don’t… I don’t have a lot of friends, ya know? I’m a family man. I have my kids and wife and ya know, my bruddahs, but I’m not…
Moe – How many kids do you have?
Ziggy – Me have five.
Moe – Five…
Ziggy – I’m not someone that goes out a lot. I’m not into that. I’m into just relaxing.
Moe – A family person… Right.
Ziggy – Yeah… I’m into that.
Moe – Well you’re on the road all the time, I can definitely see that. You had an exclusive deal with Walmart for a year, right?
Ziggy – It was Target.
Moe – Oh, I’m sorry… Target! And it wasn’t the best experience? How’d it go?
Ziggy – No, it was all right. I mean, again, I told you that I love adventure. I’m an adventurer in what we do. So how this came about was… Well, we wanted to do an independent record now. I wanted to own my music, ya know? So, I didn’t want to go into any contract with any record label. Target came up and they said they would put it out in Target exclusive for a year. Ya know, it was a good business decision. And it was an experiment..
Moe – You were the first in the industry to do that weren’t you?
Ziggy – Yeah, yeah… I think… Something like that!
Moe – That’s a benchmark!
Ziggy – Yeah! It was a revolutionary concept, which I think there is going to be more in the future because of how the record business is going now. Record companies are going a bit down, and artists are begining to be more independent. But anyway, I mean, it was allright. I wish that they had put more into it, in terms of promoting it.
Moe – They didn’t do too much about it?
Ziggy – (Smiles) No, it is a big corporation, so I know how it… I’m not big. I’m just like a little small, you know (Laughs) in the corporation..
Moe – Oh come on! (Laughs)
Ziggy – I wish they had done more to promote it. But because it was only for a year, I was OK with it, ’cause I know after that, I could get it out on a more mass market thing. So, we’re looking forward for it being available to everyone in all of the main stores, but you can get it online anywhere anyway, so that’s cool.
Moe – I contacted someone from TuffGong and they said that I could use “Love Is My Religion” on my podcast.
Ziggy – Yeah.
Moe – And I also saw that you put, ah… What’s that song was it… On the podcast network? You just put another…
Ziggy – Which one? I’m not sure which one it was…
Moe – Ahh…
Ziggy – (Sings) Make some music… Into the groove…
Moe – It might be that one… I can’t remember!
Ziggy – I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Moe – But anyway! I’m sorry… With that, you’re opening yourself up and giving yourself out to the people.
Ziggy – Yeah.
Moe – How do you feel the reception from that? Do you think that more people will start embracing that? More musicians will start doing that?
Ziggy – You mean like…
Moe – Promotion-wise… ‘Cause it’s good for promotion for you!
Ziggy – Yeah, I mean. You know, gradually as we get more into the future of the music industry, I think that… artists will be more open to the new technology to get the music across. For me, you know.. for me, it’s about getting the message across, so that is the greatest thing for me if I can get what I’m saying across to people. That is what I’m interested in doing, and because of that, I’m very open to ideas, because I know that what I’m sayin’ needs to be given to the people… So I’m very open to whichever avenue I can get that to the people, ya know? So, I’m really open to anything that’s happening that will get the message.
Moe – I read that you said that you think that music will be free in the future?
Ziggy – Yeah, I wanted something like that to happen… Yeah! Why not? I don’t see why not… (Smiles) I’ve been trying to do that for a few years, but the business people, ‘No! No! You don’t…’
Moe – Yeah, yeah! I know! Well hey… maybe some day!
Ziggy – Yeah… The music free or the concert free… Somethin’… Somethin’… Somethin’ haffe… somethin’ haffe give! (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) Something have to give!
King B – (Laughs)
Ziggy – Yeah! (Laughs)
Moe – One last question… If you have one message to give, I think your message would be love…
Ziggy – That’s it.
Moe – But what’s your message?
Ziggy – It’s love! It’s love!
Moe – Yeah, definitely.
Ziggy – It’s very simple…
Moe – Well thank you very much for the interview.
Ziggy – Ya mon, thanks…
Moe – It’s been an honor. And thank you for you and your family…
Ziggy – Ya mon!
Moe – So are YOU gonna fly home? I know your hobby is flying…
Ziggy – Yeah!! (Laughs)
Moe – Take a hold of the controls, huh?! (Laughs)
Ziggy – (Laughs) I wish! I wish! I wish! (Laughs)
Moe – Hey Ziggy… Thank you very, very much, I appreciate it.
Ziggy – All right… Ya mon! Respect! Thanks…
- New comic book: Ziggy Marley’s Marijuanaman (boingboing.net)
- ‘This Train’ – Ziggy Marley, with Willie Nelson, Mickey Raphael (stillisstillmoving.com)
- Ziggy Marley becomes a dad for the 5th time (muzicmagazine.wordpress.com)
You know how the song goes… “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.” And for the tens of thousands of people that were there during The Wailers’ set at Lollapalooza, they certainly were feeling no pain at all. It’s not too often that someone gets to sit down with one of the most influential and legendary bands of all time, but at Lollapalooza, Moe Train’s Tracks had the honor and privilege to sit down with Aston “Family Man” Barrett… The original bassist and “architect” of Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Elan Attias, Monty “Moe” Wiradilaga
“Family Man” (FM) – Yeah man, it’s a great pleasure to be here again in Chicago, you know… Partake with the Chicago blues!
Moe – Do you feel a certain responsibility of being a member, in my personal opinion, of the most famous band… the most influential band of all time?
FM – Ya mon, we come together from the late 60′s ya know… as singers and players of instruments and our duty is to spread the message… four corner of the Earth. And thy will must be done by all means, no matter the crisis.
Moe – I’ve heard that you feel that you’re destined to be continuing on the legacy of Bob Marley and the Wailers.
FM – Well yes! My legacy is also to keep the music going because I am on the road officially from 1969 until 2007…
Moe – Wow.
FM – Nonstop…
Moe – Nonstop… How does it feel?
FM – It’s good! Ya know… to be doing it before Bob, with Bob and after Bob! Ya my man!
Moe – You were the band director during the time with Bob, and still now, correct?
FM – Yes. Before Bob, with Bob and after Bob! (Laughs)
Moe – (Same Time) … with Bob and after… (Laughs) Right! What were your duties of being band director? Did you write a lot of the songs? Were you doing the lyrics?
FM – Well between Bob, my brother and I, we wrote like… eleven tracks. And we registered six out of that. And I put the band together, not only as the band leader, but the musical producer and arranger, bass player, and I play many other instruments too on all the catalogs. I play rhythm guitar, lead pluck guitar, keyboards and percussions.
Moe – You joined with the Upsetters, correct? Your brother and yourself were together, and you were recruited to play with Bob?
FM – Yeah… The first band was called… I mean, the first name was the Ippy Boys! And from the Ippy Boys, to the Upsetters… and also Youths Professionals, that’s what become Wailers International.
Moe – Well you were working with Lee Perry, correct?
FM – Yes.
Moe – His nickname was “The Upsetter,” correct?
FM – Yes… He’s “The Upsetter,” and we are “The Upsetters!” (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) How was the team? Was it a great team working together?
FM – Yes! And that was the state where we started out with Bob, Bunny and Peter…
Moe – Right.
FM – And the first track we doing was “My Cup Is Runneth Over.”
Moe – One of my favorites…
FM – Yeah, my man…
Moe – When you joined Peter, Bunny and Bob… How was it getting acclimated to that new scene?
FM – I know it’s kind of “joining,” but what we really do, we come together as singers and players of instruments, ya know? And to carry on Jah Jah, the Almighty Message, and create the reggae music… and I am the Architect of Reggae, and they know that reggae music is the heartbeat of the people. It’s the universal language what carry that every message of roots, culture, and reality… (Laughs)
Moe – Well speaking of the message, you say that “Riddim is the Message,” correct? And the heartbeat…
FM – The drum is the heartbeat, and the bass is the backbone… Yeah…
Moe – Your basslines are some of the most recognizable basslines in all of music. How do you take the spirit and passion of reggae, and put it into your basslines and into your music?
FM – It’s simple, because I love singin’, but I didn’t practice!
Moe – (Laughs)
FM – So when I play the bass, I sing baritone… So I give that melodic lines…
Moe – Yes you do… Yes you do!
FM – (Laughs)
Moe – I think it’s a culmination, you say, of everyone working together… and your basslines do hold it together and just really gives it a great overall feeling of the music…
FM – So true my man… So true!
Moe – When you were with Bob Marley and the Wailers… Reggae music was primarily in Jamaica, but you brought it together as a global consciousness of reggae music…
FM – Yeah… In Jamaica, the first music… you know… constructed was called ska. And it go from ska to rocksteady, and I and I bring it to be reggae! (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) How was the influence of ska in your music?
FM – Well the reggae music is consists of all different cultures of music. It got funk, it got soul, rhythm and blues… and of course some of the Chicago blues here…
Moe – Right.
FM – And it’s very jazzy…
Moe – When Al Anderson joined the band, didn’t he bring a blues influence to The Wailers?
FM – Also… from 1974.
Moe – Yes… What are your thoughts of Bob Marley being a prophet?
FM – Yes, we all are prophets of lyrics and we are musicians of the… we call… the archangels. (Laughs) Yes….
Moe – (Laughs) There’s so many different messages with The Wailers… Love, unity… What do you feel the main message of Bob Marley and the Wailers… What do feel that it has been?
FM – It’s to keep all nations… especially the young people… in line, so they don’t walk on the wild side. (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) You don’t think they walk on the wild side? (Laughs)
FM – (Laughs) To keep it in a straight line… Positive!
Moe – When I spoke with Ziggy Marley… I spoke with him at Bonnaroo… We were talking about how he feels he was on a quest for the truth, and he felt that it wasn’t through religion, through politics, but he feels that “love is the truth.” What have you found to be the truth in your life and in your music?
FM – Well, we know there’s lots of errors globally, you know… near and far… over abroad… That’s why we choose to do the positive thing, and make songs like “Rastaman Vibration… is positive…” And we always talk about what is taking place on Earth… you know… a lifetime… and you know… politics, the global issues.. (Laughs) Things like that….
Moe – What’s your favorite song out of your whole Bob Marley and the Wailers catalog? What song means the most to you?
FM – I’ll tell ya man… there are so many! But I’ll give you the first one… “We will be… forever…”
FM and Moe – (In Unison) “Loving Jah.”
FM – (Laughs)
Moe – Beautiful! Your life is following… Preaching… The word of Jah.
FM – Yes, the gospel… Musically.
Moe – This year is the year 2000 of the Rastafarian calendar isn’t it? Didn’t they say that this year is supposed to be the return of The Almighty?
FM – Oh yeah… The year 2007 here… We officially just reached the year 2000, you know, the west side, the colonies are like 7 years ahead… Like daylight savings time, ya know?! (Laughs)
Moe – Right, but with reaching the year 2007, didn’t they say The Almighty was supposed to be returning in the year 2000 in the Rastafarian calendar?
FM – Yes, they all have got 7 years to prepare. God Rasta’s in the heart, you know, of the true Rastaman for sure. And we have a lot of other thing taking part, like the good, the band and the indifferences. (Laughs) Yeah…
Moe – (Laughs) Everyone knows the serious and social influences that your band has on the world.
FM – Yes.
Moe – But it couldn’t have been all serious. What are some funny moments that you remember from your days on the road with Bob Marley and the Wailers?
FM – Well it’s good to hear people talk all over the world! We changed their lives. They thank us for bringing the message. They even named their kids after us and things like that! (Laughs) Ya know?
Moe – (Laughs) Yeah.
FM – And young people who could not come to the show when Bob was alive, they were underage… They are comin’ today. And even young people who were born after the passing of Bob, take on to the message and the music just the same.
Moe – The message is still the same. From back in the 70′s, back in the 60′s, to 2007, the message is still the same.
FM – Just the same. The reggae music… It’s for all age and all times. It’s for past, present and future. And it’s like the moon… As we say, “The older the moon, the brighter it shines!”
Moe – (Laughs)
FM – Yeah my man!
Moe – It’s still shining today. Out of any band, without a doubt, your band has heard by more than anyone in the whole festival here at Lollapalooza… Everyone knows your music. And I guarantee during your set that you’re going to hear tens of thousands of people singing along with your music.
FM – Yeah mon. Give thanks and praise to the most high… Ah God… Jah Rastafari!
Moe – Is there any particular moment that you remember of your personal time with Bob Marley that really stands out most in your mind out of any other moment?
FM – I’ll tell you one. When we were in Italy, playing for about 265 thousand people… and before we were interviewed by journalists, and I recall, they say to me, “What you guys think of the revolutionaries? Are you guys not-a-scared?”
Moe – (Laughs)
FM – I said, “No! We not-a-scared!” They say, “Why?” I say, “ALL the revolutionaries are our fans!” (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) That’s right! One of the moments that I remember the most out of Bob Marley and the Wailers, is the One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica.
FM – Yes!
Moe – When you brought together the two opposing leaders…
FM – Position and Oppositions… Yeah.
Moe – No matter if it was a very true sentiment between the two, they did come together with Bob standing in the middle, both hands almost with a triangle, with Bob in the middle.
FM – Yes.
Moe – Which was a very symbolic… Very, very symbolic moment.
FM – Yeah my man. I were there standing on the stage, playin’, and …
Elan – For today, it would be like if you took Michael Moore and George Bush, but even worse, with Michael Manley and Edward Seaga was like two “Dons of Jamaica” at that time.
FM – Yes.
Elan – There were shootings and killings. But if you took George Bush, our president, and you took Michael Moore… Someone who, you know, two that hate one another, and put them together like that.
Moe – You have to know the true power in your music, but when you bring it together in front of a nation that was divided at the time… So much political unrest at that time… How did that personally feel to you, standing on the stage?
FM – It was a good feeling of knowing that we are trying to get the people to come together… Bring them all together to know that “how good and and how pleasant it would be to see the unification of everyone. Ya know? (Laughs)
Moe – Ah… These lyrics you’re bringing to me are hitting right here.
(FM and Moe both put fists over their hearts)
FM – Yes!
Moe – It’s a beautiful feeling. What was your favorite song that you had written?
FM – Different from “We Will Be Forever Loving Jah?”
Moe – Right. But different from that.
FM – We love songs like “Exodus…”
Moe – “Movement of Jah people…”
FM – “Movement of Jah people!” And “Get up and stand up… and fight for your right.” And “Who the Cap Fit…”
Moe – “Let them wear it.”
FM – Which is “man to man.. you know, sure that your best friend could be your worst enemy or your worst enemy could be…”
FM and Moe – (In unison) “Your best friend.”
FM – You know? So you have to keep praying to The Almighty for health and strength, wisdom, knowledge and overstanding… Not understanding… OVERstanding! When you understand, you end up as a believer, and belief kills and it cures, but the greatest thing is to know. So when you know, then you overstand! (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs)
FM – You have a lot of saying that sort of twist words around that bring words to your message, right?
Elan – Mind tricks!
FM – Yeah! I give you parables, and then I interpret it! (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) Are there any common misconceptions about Bob Marley and the Wailers that you hear all the time, and… “Oh, that’s not right!”
FM – Well what we do is bring in the prophet from the old age, and what is to be fulfilled in fulfillments in this time! (Laughs)
Elan – We’re actually working on a new album right now, that is like the Santana “Supernatural” album, that concept. We’re working on a new album that will bring in all these new contemporary artists… All these different names, like all across the board, from all different genres.
FM – Yes!
Elan – To do new songs, new material, with the whole original band, even with his brother Carlie. We have him on drums… Old two inch tapes we transferred to WAV files… Pro Tools files.
Moe – Wow!
Elan – And all these artists are going to give their own vibe and play their own music. Not play their own music, but their own instruments and sing and add to it. And we’ve had every artist that we’ve approached, they all have been super inspired by The Wailers, and obviously their music… And “Family Man,” “The Architect” of all of it. Really. The musical director and the architect of all of Bob Marley and the Wailers stuff, and reggae music. It even goes further than reggae music, it goes into hip-hop and everything that we hear today, ’cause that sound of the bass, that thickness that you hear in the clubs today, is from this man right here. So, look out for it next year, hopefully, God willing, next year this summer. It’s in the infant stages right now. I’ve approached a lot of friends of mine, who are musicians, so every single one of them has said, “Yes! Whatever you want to do!”
Moe – “Family Man,” if you could pick anyone for this album… Anyone! Who would it be?
FM – Well of course, I’d pick some of the name brands, the popular people, what everyone is listening to. Especially the young people, for sure.
Elan – The foundation is going to be a reggae album. The roots will be the foundation, but they’re gonna bring their own elements to it. A lot of them are playing here. It’s gonna be across the board… A world thing.
Moe – That’s some incredible news. How are you feeling about doing this sort of concept of album?
FM – Yeah man! It feels good! As the man could tell you, it was our hope for many years, and the time has come for it.
Elan – Since “Supernatural” came out, I always had this idea, ya know?
Moe – Basically, you got it from “Supernatural.”
Elan – Yeah, when Carlos did that album, I was like, ‘Man, this is what we need to do… The Wailers need to do… Comin’ out with a album with new material, but collaborating with all these other artists.
FM – Collaborate first and then after that one… Then we give you a full Wailers album after that.
Moe – When you do this album, you have to have a huge concert about this…
Elan – Oh yeah… Yeah!
Moe – You know that it would absolutely fill this whole park.
Elan – Maybe a TV special or something.
FM – Yes, we’re gonna make sure we set it up just like when Michael was in his swing. I heard that there there’s a 45 released in Jamaica with Michael Jackson. But we were workin on a song… Reggae! It’s called… “My World!”
Elan – Really? Wow. I didn’t even know that.
Moe – So, we have one minute left. I just want to say… My favorite song of all time is “One Love,” because “One Love” means more to me than any other song on so many different levels.
FM – Yeah mon! “One Love” is tellin’ ya about Jah Love… You know? The Almighty Love. Universal love! Not like I love you and you love me… Global love!
Moe – But I’ve never heard it played live! Why?
Elan – You’re gonna hear it tonight!
FM – I was just gonna say, if you played “One Love” tonight, I would be forever indebted to you, because I have never heard it…
Elan – (Laughs)
Moe – Honestly, I have never heard it, and I’m gonna be right up front singing along every single word. “Family Man,” thank you very, very much for your time. Much honor and much love to you and the rest of the family.
FM – Yeah, The Wailers! Yeah man… And The Wailers say, “Greetings to all the people of Chicago… and America… and the globe!”
Some people prefer studio recordings. Some prefer live albums. Should music be enjoyed as “studio perfect” artifacts or “the way music should be heard” in the live form? Either way, it’s a debate which will never be settled. As for The Train? Well, I enjoy a bit of everything. I’m partial to studio recordings, though there are some rare live album gems which very accurately convey the feeling of a concert performance.
These three albums are a few standouts which are on heavy rotation in my sizable music selection:
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Live!
It’s no secret that Bob Marley is my favorite and most quintessential artist of all time, and what better soundtrack to the summer/festivals than the smooth skanking of Bob Marley & The Wailers… Inspired yet “feel good” to the utmost, Live! is aural bliss.
For those lucky enough to see Daft Punk perform during 2007 (we saw them in Vegas and Chicago!), you know just how memorable Daft Punk’s live sets are. Not only do the robots perform amazing dance music, but the sensory overload of the pyramid leaves you breathless. Every time I crank up this album, I’m brought right back to the enormously undulating crowds of Vegoose (RIP) and Lollapalooza. One word: Amazing.
Manu Chao – Radio Bemba Sound System
Manu Chao is a performer that spans genres. Punk, ska, reggae, salsa, and any other latin music style that you can imagine are worked into Manu’s manic live sets. Contagiously positive energy emits from the stage during every Manu Chao performance, and Radio Bemba Sound System is one of the finest examples of live embodiment on an album.
Got any favorite live albums? Share em with us!
- Manu Chao Baïonarena [Album] (hangout.altsounds.com)
- Daft Punk’s Fragile From Tron Legacy Leaks (beatcrave.com)
- Santana Supernatural Gets A Make-Over (undercover.com.au)
- 5 reviews of 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection (Remastered) (Marley, Bob & Wailers) (rateitall.com)