- Mon, 2010-08-02 15:06
When you think of reggae, you think of Bob Marley. The genre’s biggest star, he is famous throughout the world. For the past two decades his sons have been following in his footsteps, not least Julian Marley, who has released three albums of adventurous modern reggae and toured the globe with his band, The Uprising. He’s currently on tour in the UK, and will be appearing at the One Love festival, taking place on the weekend of August 6th-8th.
I Like Music spoke with Julian about his Jamaican heritage, his father’s impact on him, the state of English reggae, and working with his equally musical brothers.
"I Like Music because…without music life would be very dull. It’s one of the best gifts from God, and it’s here to keep you calm. Any time you’re feeling down it’ll bring you up!” Julian Marley
ILM: What do you look forward to the most about playing live?
Julian Marley: When I play music I have such a feeling of joy. It’s an overwhelming feeling every time we play. It’s fun; we love to play!
ILM: Tell us about your band The Uprising? Who’s in it and how did you come together?
Julian: I’ve been working with The Uprising since it was formed in 1992, when I put it together as a teenager. In the band we have Owen ‘Dready’ Reid, who’s been there since the start and plays bass, Noel Davey, the creator of slinking riddims on the keyboard, who’s also been there since the start. We also have Luke Andrews, who plays lead guitar and played on the Awake album. Everyone that’s with us now worked on the last album that we have called Awake. Then we have Craig Taylor on drums and Conrad Scarlett on keyboards. It’s a nice band!
ILM: You’ve toured the world and played many shows. Which have been some of the most memorable?
Julian: Every experience is a great experience. You play so many shows that you kind of remember, but don’t remember them all. But you just know that everywhere you go you get love. Music is a universal thing that breaks all barriers. It breaks race and it breaks class. It breaks all barriers down. Everywhere you go, the people might not speak English, but they’re moving their head in the same time as you like a nation. Ethiopia was a great performance, we played there at the millennium at the Africa Unite concert.
ILM: You’re headlining the One Love Festival towards the end of your tour, on the 48th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. What are your experiences of Jamaica as a country and as a part of your heritage?
Julian: My experiences of Jamaica are great experiences. My experiences are of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Dennis Brown. Those are experiences that live within me. In this day and age I have no time for negativity. We only have time for speaking of positive things, and even if we go amongst people who find themselves in certain situations we try and put forward words of wisdom or a helping hand. Right now the state of things in Jamaica is not the best, but we still have a lot of heritage that can easily be saved. If we deny the roots, like all these great reggae legends that came before and have sold platinum… All these things are guidelines that Jamaica can go by. We would say you don’t go back, but you go forward to the roots. It’s what’s needed.
ILM: Your father has obviously had an immense impact on the world with his music, what impact has his music had on you? Can you remember the first time you heard it?
Julian: No, I can’t remember! I just know that I know them songs when I hear them. For me, it is deeper even than what you know or have ever seen. It’s in the blood and in the spirit. You might not know it, but when you hear it you can understand it because it’s your father’s music. Growing up around such a spiritual man, I didn’t get to spend that much physical time with him that I can really remember, but the guidelines and the teaching were there. Even though he isn’t here right now the music and the interviews and all these things are enough to feed the world with positive energy. He was a great humanitarian.
ILM: Has his humanitarian work been hugely influential for you?
Julian: That is the biggest part, yeah. It’s like Michael Jackson. When he sings those songs it’s across the globe. It takes a certain kind of heart, a certain kind of pureness. At the end of the day, music is God’s gift, and we have the opportunity to say something good or say something bad. When you speak of good things and love, once you’ve created that love it cannot die. I think that’s what my father came out with. He didn’t come out with self-glory. It was love; glory for the people and glory for God. Deep.
ILM: How do you try to develop the genre of reggae, keeping those roots but pushing it out to new audiences?
Julian: We don’t have any limitation on the mind or the music. Every other genre of music has its roots. In reggae music today that root has been altered. There are people doing reggae now that are building hip hop beats, which is not going to help reggae music. You need to create reggae music that keeps reggae music alive. My father was a unique singer, so I try to be unique myself. I don’t have any boundaries. I still love listening to Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder. That music lives on. Wherever you go in Europe there is a lot of seventies music still playing. We travelled Brazil and the young guys are playing the roots music. You go to America and bands are playing ska and old-school reggae music and 15-20,000 people are turning up to these concerts. So I’m saying “hey, something is going on here!” It’s bigger than you really know, much larger than what’s being promoted. You just got to keep it going, keep it alive. It can’t be turned off by nothing else. It’s as great as any other music.
ILM: It’s much bigger than a lot of people perceive it to be, perhaps partly because of the fact that it really comes to life when it’s played live...
Julian: Yes, and if you can do that on the recording and put that feeling onto the record then you make that connection. Some producers now are making the records and leaving out the drummers and the bass players, and only bring them in to play live shows. I have a band and I don’t leave my band. I need them to create the music with.
ILM: How would you describe your process of writing songs?
Julian: I sit down with a guitar and I like to be in a quiet and peaceful setting. From there inspiration comes, whether from something you experienced in the day, or from the news or whatever it is. Sometimes it just comes differently. I might be behind the keyboard just playing and a little idea will come to me. I like to start with the instrument. That’s what gets you going. After a few chords your mind starts to find its way. In the studio I like to rehearse before I go in. I get the band together for about two weeks and we rehearse a few songs, then go in and record them. By the time we reach the studio we have an idea of what’s going on.
ILM: You co-produced your album Awake with your brothers Stephen and Damien. What was that like, what did you learn from each other?
Julian: Well, what we know is what we learned as kids. We unified, cos unity is power. The more you work together, the more unity, the more ideas and good decisions you should be able to make. One mind can make a bad decision, and you don’t have a second mind to say “that’s not the best decision!” It’s great working together!
ILM: You were raised in the UK, what influence has that had on your music?
Julian: In England you hear a lot more reggae than you might hear in Jamaica. In Jamaica you might hear live reggae, but a lot of the records that were cut in the sixties and seventies were not even released in Jamaica. They were sent to England, so here you get all the roots. You hear millions of sounds you’ve never heard before. Last couple of years I’ve been checking out my father’s drummer, Carlton Barrett. I’ve been collecting all sorts of songs he’s done, and I thought I had all of it, but I’m still finding more! It just goes to show that music in England is never ending. It’s an underground thing, but it’s bubbling hot underground! England has given me a lot of good experiences in music, growing up listening to the Police, early reggae and ska. And there are so many other genres of music here as well.
ILM: Is there a difference in the mindset and approach of English reggae artists compared to Jamaican reggae artists?
Julian: Sometimes. It can have a different sound. It’s good to experience different reggae. It’s good to experience Jamaica to get some roots in your system. The whole mindset is of a professional business. Reggae needs to be put together more professionally. It’s a business, and the business needs to be promoted, not just for one night. You might go to a show, see an artist then go home and never hear of that artist again. There’s no promotion, nothing. England has this way of just taking the money and putting it in your pocket. It’s not good for the music. It’s not even good for the promoter. Give him a couple of years and there’ll be no work at all. Right now the mindset is that you can’t hustle the business. We’re reaching out to the artists and companies. You get one hour of reggae music a day on a certain radio station and that’s it. One hour for the week! That’s not enough for reggae music. We want it for all the weekend!
ILM: What would your advice be for young musicians who want to make a career for themselves?
Julian: Don’t just play your instrument; practice! If not every day, then every other day. Musicians of our father’s generation were much better than nowadays. Now you have the computer you can play one riff once, press copy and it just plays over. For five hours if you want it to! In those days you had to play it! The singers of the seventies went into the studio and sang it one time. Three minutes straight. Nowadays you can do all kinds of stuff with the vocal. That really breaks down the whole stamina of the music. Everyone needs to nurture the music properly, and get back to the roots. No-one wants to hear about ‘shoot up the place, rob your brother and don’t care about your sister’. People don’t want them kinds of things.
ILM: What are your future plans?
Julian: To keep the people conscious and awake. To keep making music that’s going to make the spirit dance and the mind advance. My duty is to make people enjoy themselves in a conscious and spiritual way.