Since 1967 The Wailers
have stood as a pillar in the world of music. They seem to have the rare gift of adapting, and surviving through, not only the death of their front man, but the change of generations. Today the only remaining original member of the Wailers, Aston Family Man Barrett
, stands as the backbone of the band. Perpetually supporting this entity that seems to spiral on eternally, leaving it's mark on hundreds of thousands of people through space and time.
While the line up has been a revolving door
of musicians, the message of peace, love, harmony and tranquility still remains the same. While their albums were revolutionary, there is something absolutely magical about seeing this group of musicians live, that leaves a mark on you forever. The feel of forty thousand plus people together, feeling the same vibe, the same love, believing the same message, singing to the tunes that have touched them in so many different ways, is simply one of the mot profound things that can be experienced by a human being.
Today, 41 years after their conception the Wailers
continue to move forward, and have plans now to produce another album, featuring some of the biggest names in music today, that is due out next year. We had the opportunity to talk with Elan Atias
, the band's lead singer about his and the bands plans for the near future.
UG: The band is working on a new album right?
Yeah were still in production, it's all new material. Were bringing in a lot of different artists from a lot of different genres from hip-hop to rock, everything. Were still making the music hopefully, with some time it will come out. I don't know when and I can't mention who.
What label are you guys with these days?
Were our own label. I was just with interscope and universal but I left them and got all my masters from my album that came out in 2006. I started one line records, and fam's (Aston Family Man Barrett) has dreadline records. Were doing a joint venture on these 3 new albums. We have three different ideas. The albums are still in production stages. There's no release time, I can't confirm artists.
What kind of things can we expect on the new album?
It' going to be that traditional sound, that foundation sound, but then there's going to all the different influences brought by the artists, it's not going to be the classics, it's made up of all new music, all new lyrics, all new everything. So you have the artists coming in and adding their own vibe; play guitar, write lyrics or melody, and we provide the music. So that's what were doing. Something else big that were doing right now is this thing called Iwenthungry.org. Were working with the UN and the world food program to start an organization trying to acquire artists like ourselves; actors and comedians to give up their riders. A rider is money set aside as part of production to buy us all kinds of bullshit; food, whatever. It can be from 200 to 2,000 dollars. What were doing is were saying, we'll go hungry today, give them our rider, cause most of it goes to the trash anyways. And how much can we put on our bus? So we say take this money that's allocated for the band and give it to the world food program. The world food program gives the highest percentage of their profits and proceeds to the people to get them fed. We lose about 25,000 people a day to starvation. Every six seconds a child dies from starvation. So in this interview you can count how many have died; ten or twenty minutes, that's a lot of kids. 15,00 of the 25,000 are kids. And it only costs 25 cents to feed them a lunch. So we sell bracelets at the shows for about two dollars, so you feed 8 kids. So were urging people to go to Iwenthungry.org
and the world food program and just give whatever they can. This is really the most important and dear thing to us right now. When this music came out, with Bob (Marley) back in the heyday, there was a lot of bad things happening in the world, there were a lot of atrocities, war, everything. You look now what's going on in the world it's like heightened doubled, ten fold. The music is more relevant right now then it was even then. We need it more now. That's why we got with the UN's world food program. You know the environment is important to us, war is important to us, all of these other issues are important to us, but you can't deny life when people are dying the way their dying, of hunger. We waste, here in America, 50,000 tons of food per day. Isn't that crazy. And we all eat like pigs. We believe that food is a human right. We have enough food here in America to feed the world. If we heal the environment or we fix the environment, what good is that without life? Without people to live in it? We need to get this message in the media. We need to use our voices, our letters, our scriptures, to influence people. We have that podium, we need to use it for the best, and use it always.
So many people don't any more.
|"We're still making the music, hopefully with some time it will come out."|
They do it for the money, people will write any story just because it's popular and they want people to buy the magazines that's how all of US weekly's all those magazines got started.
You see that so much as well in modern songwriting, so much of it is just so self-centered
Singles driven, self centered, no message. One of the lyrics in one of my songs, it's called check yourself, it says; I've got a voice but what is it worth if it fills the world with empty words? Words that hate and criticize are words that open no one's eyes. And that's true. We have that podium, we have that stage, we have that message to get across. That's what the Wailers are all about. We've had a revolving door of musicians, Bob, Bunny, Peter, Carly, Al, there's been so many wailers. But it's not about the musicians, it's about the message and the music. It's the right people. That's all it is. That's the truth.
So many people in the music scene today, lacks passion, people will just stand on a stage and sing whatever, they have no attachment.
I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing if it didn't matter to me. Those lyrics and the message, if I didn't believe, like as I either wrote the songs myself or I didn't believe in what I'm saying I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing right now. I was inspired by the Wailers. I said this is what I want to do, I want to get that message across, I want to write my songs like that. The best compliments I used to get, People used to come up to me and say, when you doing new material, when you doing new songs? I would say you didn't hear those four new songs tonight? I used to never announce the new songs, I would just go and sing them. So they go, no we didn't know, we thought that was an unreleased wailers song, or an old song we didn't know. I'd say man, thank you so much. That was a huge compliment to me. Because that's exactly what I set out to do.
Because the Wailers music is so iconic everybody expects something from the music, there must be a real tricky balance between not pandering and still releasing stuff that will still be acceptable to the modern music scene.
You have to think cleverly. You have to have the issues and in some way intrigue the people. In today's day, in the computer world, everybody has very short attention spans. Everything has to be immediate gratification. The majority of the younger generation wants everything right now, they think they deserve everything right now. They don't know about working for stuff. There's no such thing as work hard for something, wait, patience is a virtue all that kind of stuff, is out the door. Because their just used to hitting enter and there's your information right there. If I have questions I can go straight to my iphone and google tt and there' your answers right there. People want instant gratification. That's the world that I didn't grow up in, but saw the change in.
Do you feel you have to work around that in writing songs?
|"In today's day, in the computer world, everybody has very short attention spans."|
No, you just stick to the old. I grew up right around then. When I was growing up the first computers were coming out. I'm not blaming it on computers, computers are a big thing because it made the world a lot smaller. Back in the day my influences only came because my parents came from crazy places. Like all around the world. So I had middle eastern music, African music, and most kids my age who didn't have that background, wouldn't have heard that. All they would have heard is country, or whatever was on the radio or what their parents were playing for them. I was hearing what was on the radio, and what my parents were playing, but what my parents were playing was not the same as everybody else. So you see the change with computers is that you get the type of a button. You can search itunes and you can get any music you want, you can champion music from anyone and anywhere around the world. The influences are at your fingertips. There's definitely a plus and a minus. The minus being the style and writing, how to develop music. I believe that this is really a Renaissance time for musicians, and artists. We don't need to rely on the record labels as much as we use to. We have more power. Most people these days are looking for these new acts on myspace and what, and shit builds like that. Right now we can record, for three or four grand we can make the best record right now, just on my bus. I have my computer I have my pro-tools, I have a mic. I can play, strum, do whatever and make it sound just like I did in the 200 thousand dollar studios. We tried both and ended up going with the vocals I did in a regular room. So go figure. The distribution is gone, you can just put it on the internet, and the record stores are going out of business anyways. All that's left from them to do is the marketing. The future of the labels are going to be PR companies, I can hire them, give them a percentage, and do the rest of it myself.
A lot of people talk of music as a connection to something higher than themselves, something spiritual, mystical. Others call it a real-time expression of music theory, how do you see either of those fitting into your, or the bands music?
It's more mystical, and spiritual to us, and the band. But it depends on the music really. A lot of the music today, they don't use their voices, they don't use their platform, like we were talking about earlier, so then you could see that as a real-time expression of theory, but all the music is all interconnected.
The Wailers have stood as a landmark in the world of reggae. The band has been together for a long time, do you still think that there's room for improvement?
Always room for improvement right? The band's pretty tight. Family Man is the backbone. He's been here since '67 in the beginning. With the upsetters, the hippie boys, he was Lee Scratch Perry's house band. Him and Bob and Carly, his late brother, they were the core, the trinity of this Wailers Band. Wire, Tyrone, Peter, Bunny, and Al, they have all come and gone. But those three have been always in the band. So it's a revolving door, but it's the message and the music that lives forever. That's why every generation grasps and takes hold of it, and is inspired by it, and find's themselves in it. That's why this band and the music will go on forever.
Interview by Nicholas Cole-Klaes