Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Whats Going On Tonight :Easy Star All Stars.... plus Interview!!!

We were fortunate enough to have grabbed a quick interview with the indie-Reggae power house: Easy Star All Stars. The masterminds that created Easy Star are Michael Goldwasser, Ticklah, Eric Smith and Lem Oppenheimer. These four were the team behind the album Dub Side of the Moon (2003), which was a complete reggae re-vision of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. That record has sold 90,000 copies to date, making it one of the most successful reggae albums of the 21stcentury. After Dub Side Of the Moon, Easy Star tackled the monumental OK Computer with the album Radiodread. More recently, the band decided to challenge themselves by recreating The Beatles' own Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band with their new masterpiece: Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band.

Here is the brief interview I grabbed with Micheal:

Happiness Is A Warm Gun (HWG): What inspired you guys to create Easy Star All Star?
Micheal Goldwasser of Easy Star All Stars (Easy Star) :The original Easy Star All-Stars were the studio musicians that we (Easy Star Records) used to record the tracks for our first album, Easy Star Volume One.  I gathered the musicians that I thought would be best to play with me for each session.  Then we started performing live shows around NYC, doing our own shows and backing up visiting singers from Jamaica.  After releasing Dub Side of the Moon, there was a great demand for the band to tour, but most of the musicians from the recording could not tour at that time, so I put together a new version of the band to hit the road.  Some of the members of the current touring outfit have been with the band ever since.

HWG: When growing up what one album(s) had a significant impact on you?

Easy Star: That's tough - I was so in love with music and I listened all of the time, so there were many albums that had a major impact on me.  If I keep it to reggae, then the most influential albums for me were Catch A Fire by the Wailers, Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse, and You've Got the Power by Third World.  They taught me that the best reggae, just like any other style of music, is based on great songs and arrangements. 

HWG: Why have you focused solely on reggae/dub versions of hit albums? And how do you decide what album to tackle next?
Easy Star :We started Easy Star Records as a reggae label.  While we love all kinds of music, the four founders of the company really came together over our love of reggae.  While our releases span a wide variety of styles and influences, they are all connected by reggae in some way.  So since we had established ourselves in this genre, it made sense to keep building on this foundation.  We know how to adapt albums to reggae and how to market them.

Our decisions on what album to tackle next are pretty complicated.  We want to start from source material that is great in itself, and where all of the songs are pretty strong.  We also want to try different things each time, and not just keep making the same basic album over and over again, both for our fans sake and our own.  We also don't want to take on something that is too obscure because we want it to reach as many people as possible.

HWG: Was the success of Dub Side of the Moon surprising?
Easy Star: We knew that when we had finished the album that it was very good, but yes, it is a bit surprising to have sold so many copies and reached the hearts of so many people.  Everywhere we go, we meet people who love the album, which is why we've been able to tour the world.

HWG: What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Easy Star: Making the albums is a huge challenge for me as the producer, and I spend about a year and a half working on them to make them as interesting as possible.  The touring band has a different challenge in terms of keeping the music fresh every night, even after performing certain songs hundreds of times.  But that's what we do!

HWG: On Easy Star All Star's new album," Easy Stars Lonely Hearts Dub Band", you decide to tackle the enormously successful Beatles album. Which song was the hardest to cover? I would imagine that "A Day In The Life" took a great deal of production work in addition to re-working it into a reggae tune.

Easy Star :"A Day In the Life" probably was the most difficult since it is so iconic.  Once I stopped fighting the original arrangement and decided to incorporate the orchestral parts into the reggae version, it all clicked for me though.

HWG: Can we expect you guys to cover another iconic album in the future...say Micheal Jackson's "Thriller"? Or Queen's "A Night At The Opera"?
Easy Star: We will definitely be continuing the series, but you'll have to wait to find out what it's going to be.

HWG: Aw, Well what do you guys do in between recording and preforming?
Easy Star: There is no in between!  We're pretty busy with both. 

HWG: What are your favorite songs to preform?
Easy Star: That's also tough - my favorites often change.  In general, it has been great to perform the Beatles songs because we get so much of the audience singing along.  I think that my current favorite though is "Exit Music For A Film" from Radiodread - I just really love the song, both the recorded version and live version, so even if it is not the most popular song with the biggest reaction, it usually feels really good to me.

If you want a little preview of what the new album sounds like have a listen:
Buy Easy Star All Stars

ALSO!!!!!!!  The Easy Star All Stars are playing tonight April 6th at the Greene Street Club w/ opening guest The Hypnotic Conquest.  Info below!

Greene Street Club
113 North Greene Street
Greensboro , North Carolina
(336) 273-4111
$13/$15 At Door
w/ The Hypnotic Conquest
Doors open at 9

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