Today’s Feature – March 24-25: The Wailers

March 24, 2008 at 10:11 pm (Today's Feature)

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Needless to say, the crew at PensEyeView.com were a touch nervous before their backstage interview with the legendary Wailers at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore, MD – the groups background after all includes work with the one and only Bob Marley, over 250 million albums sold with the iconic superstar, collaborations with insane acts such as Sting, the Fugees, Stevie Wonder and Carlos Santana as well as the reputation as the “greatest living exponents of Jamaica’s reggae tradition.” Clearly, this was not going to be any ordinary interview.

Today’s Wailers includes Elan Atias on lead vocals, Al Anderson on Lead Guitar and the only remaining original member, Aston “Family Man” Barrett on Bass. Elan sat down with us for an extended period of time, to talk about the music of a group that originally formed in 1969 when Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh recruited the Barrett brothers – bassist Aston and drummer Carlie – a line-up that pioneered roots rock reggae.

Elan and Aston truly fuel the sound of the current Wailers, “Family Man represents tried and trusted roots authenticity,” while Elan “injects fresh excitement into a show that continues to attract enthusiastic audiences from around the world.” As a matter of fact, Elan, who was first discovered by Al Anderson in 1997, has successfully taken on the daunting task of working his own songs into the current Wailers set list, as well as working with Barret to produce a whole new Wailer’s album that will include some of the biggest names in the music industry today (Trust me, we asked for some hints, but the lid remains tightly sealed on the project).

The entire show and chance to meet the group was an experience we here at PEV won’t soon forget. The band continues to tirelessly tour for their millions of fans around the world, so a show is never too far off. Be sure to attend one soon and prepare for some remarkable music when the new record hits the airwaves. Learn a whole lot more in the XXQ’s.

Pen’sEyeView.com (PEV): First off it’s an honor to get to see you guys here in Baltimore. How do you like the city? Have you been here before?

Elan Atias (EA): Yeah, it’s great. We’ve played here a couple times. A lot of outdoor festivals, right in the street. Not too long ago, just last year.

PEV: Is there another city that you guys really love playing? Something that really stands out.

EA: A lot of cities in South America… Brazil! Europe, too. Same way. Crowds, I mean, I’m not saying that the crowds don’t go crazy here, it’s just a different type of way of enjoying our show. They just go nuts.

PEV: Is it a little more reserved here?

EA: Yeah, more reserved here. Some people just like, enjoy the music , some people like to stand and watch and some people just like to get into it . Over there everybody’s into it. Everybody’s like just like going crazy, jumping and singing every word.

PEV: So life on the road, you guys are in the middle of a tour right now?

EA: Yeah

PEV: What’s the best parts and the worst parts?

EA: The best is the music and we get to do what we love!The worst part is the lack of rest. That would be the only thing. Sometimes its really easy: there is a show and then a day off then another show. But when it’s consecutive, like 5, 6 shows in a row, it can get rough. You know it’s alright, though. We used to do worse, like 1-2 years ago, when I first started. It’d be a show every night.

PEV: The Wailers have played with big names, just equally as big names, Sting, Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews, George Crane and Parliament…is there any artist out there that you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?

EA: Well, the one thing is that we would love to announce is that we’re working on a new album, that’s basically on the same concept as the Carlos Santana “Supernatural” album. All the original Wailers, even Aston’s brother, Carlie, who died in the early 70s. We have old, unreleased, 2 inch tracks that we transferred to wave files, you know, digitized. So we made all these new tracks. All new songs. All new tracks. And we brought in all these great contemporary artists from all different genres to record new songs, who have been inspired by the band and they’re going to add their own element and writing their own songs and their own instruments but it’s not going to take away the integrity of the foundation that’s the sound of the Wailers. So, yeah. It’s very exciting right now that we’ve got a bunch of artists. I can’t name any names, because none of them are confirmed, but, we’ve already got like 4 artists done. There’s going to be 12 songs. Each side’s like 22 artists from everywhere. From all different genres. Pop, hip-hop, rock. No reggae. We’re the reggae artists, so, it’s all those type of artists. They do the same thing as the Supernatural album. The Santana album.

PEV: This is the first one in 15 years? The first new album?

EA: Yeah, first one in a long time. Especially that the whole band, even Carlie, even Aston’s brother, with the drums. ‘Cause it sounds like it’s from the 70s. It’s great. We recorded live. We just digitized it from 2 inch tape. They’re all unreleased, so yeah, pretty sick.

PEV: What was it like for you when you first started with the Wailers? How did that feel?

EA: It was amazing, man. It was indescribable. ­­­I couldn’t put words to it. I got to do what I love. I’m playing with a band that I grew up loving and the music that inspired me. You know, I never sang with a band before. It was the first band I’ve ever sung with. We didn’t have a sound check or rehearsal the first 8 shows, and I was 19 or 20 years old, so going in to this the way it was. That was back in the end of ’96, middle of ’99 I was with the band. Almost like when someone goes to college for 4 years. That’s when my college years were. I didn’t go, so I had the best professors and my university was the world and we toured 3-1/2 years all around the world, 3 times over. Everywhere. I learned a lot and I had the best professors teaching me the way. Telling all the stories on what not to do and what to do. Carlos Santana, Dave Crosby, all these guys I met along the way. Just giving me their tutelage and mentoring me to do the right things. I’m pretty blessed, I give thanks every day. I’m very fortunate.

PEV: You grew up listening to the Wailers and Bob Marley. Are you still surprised to see the impact that the Wailers have on their audience?

EA: No, I can understand it. Especially new generations all the time. I just got back with the band in last June. I was not with the band, on and off, since the middle of ’99. So I basically had 7-1/2 years off, and don’t get me wrong, there’s 18-50 year olds in all the shows, but there’s kids, the majority of the kids are college kids, and you see them and the music just goes on forever. The message goes on forever because of the way the lyrics are deep and easy to understand. Even when people are all around the world and in different countries who don’t understand or don‘t speak English. They feel the vibes. They understand. They get it because it comes across and everybody grabs what they need. Each person helped me find myself. And I just think that that’s why it’s gone forever. That’s why it’s not surprising to me because this music is for life. It’s the heartbeat, like Fam [Aston “Family Man” Barrett] says all the time. It’s heartbeat of the people.

PEV: What is one word you would use to describe the Wailers?

EA: It’s timeless, definitely it’s timeless. And, you see, people ask me all the time, “What’s your favorite Marley songs?” That is the number one question. “What’s your favorite Wailer song?” And I say “I don’t have a favorite.” Every week there’s a different favorite. I’ll have 2 different favorites at one time! I go through the whole catalog. All the songs are my favorite. Because it’s what I’m going through at that moment in my life, how it effects me, in my mind, how I relate that way. And it’s the same with people, and it’s even that way with the new kids who champion it and discover it and come to the shows, and then you have all the older fans, and it goes up in age, all the way to 50s, 60s. Same age as the band.

PEV: You play a lot of the hits, but what does it feel like when you get to do some of your own material?

EA: It’s great, even 10 years we put in my own material and it’s really satisfying because people just come up to us at the end of the show, “When are you guys coming out with a new album? When are you guys coming out with new material?” And I say “You didn’t hear those 3 new songs tonight.” “No, we thought those were unreleased Wailers songs or some Bob Marley song we didn’t know.” I’m like ”Thank you so much” because that’s a huge compliment. I would say that’s exactly what I set out to do when I first did that music and the same with the music of Al Anderson [who just walked into the room]. It’s pretty cool. Al’s the one that got me into the band

Al Anderson (AA): Yeah, I sure did.

EA: I met him at a club, through a friend of mine, and he came and played on my demo album that we worked on and Junior had left the band and Al was like, “You ready?” I was like,”Uhhhh. I don’t know.” But I just said “Yeah” and I just went on, kept on going.

PEV: That’s how some of the best things start. Just like that.

EA: I think everything’s foreseen. Things happen for a reason.

PEV: Is there any up and coming band or artist that you guys would like to call attention to?

EA: Yeah, Trevor Hall’s been opening for us this part of this tour. He’s a great guy. Great guy.

AA: Yea, he’s a cool cat. You know, so many people get into the music business for other reasons, but he seems to be in it for the music. He’s been a cool cat. I’ve been meaning to get up on stage and play with him… I think I’m gonna do that tomorrow in Norfolk.

EA: Yeah. Him and Chris [Steele, Trevor Hall’s percussionist]. That last night they jammed with us was at The Pony in New Jersey. No, it was 2 nights ago. PEV: Any others?

EA: I love the B Side Players. I love Black Cowboy. I’m not in love with Mickey Avalon’s music, but he is a friend of mine I grew up with, so I have to promote him [laughs], and Dirt Nasty and all those cats. The Dyslexic Speed Readers. I grew up those guys. Like, we went to school in 6th grade, 7th grade, in LA. Who else do I love? I love Cheb Khaled. He’s older, but he’s a singer from Algeria. He’s like the Elvis of the rest of the world. Of the Arab world. This guy, I did a tour with him and I did a song with him and Santana. Well, me and Santana did this song and then he did a maverick version of it and we did a tour and I’ve never seen….. it was like the Beatles. Old grown men, crying and trying to jump onstage and like mess with the security so they can get pictures and kiss him. Grown men. Women calling, “S’il vous plait.” It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it before. And the guy has just the most amazing voice. He’s got this song called Aisha in French. Unbelievable. Unbelievable singer. There’s so many. So many. I love a lot of new artists. A lot of great artists in the world. Those are just a few I can think of.

PEV: How do you stay so active on stage? You’re jumping and moving the entire show!

EA: O man, you see that’s my workout. That’s how I stay slim, you know. I just get into it – it’s a pretty good workout.

PEV: So, what is next for The Wailers?

EA: Just tour and promote the new album!

For more information on The Wailers, check out www.Wailers.com

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1 Comment

  1. Holger Mc Intosh said,

    Yes very nice Interview. I’m total with it with the new Album The Wailers wanna bring out.O.K. I myself does work together with Aston”Familyman”Barrett since 1993.That Time I went to Kingston Jamaica the first time to record the first Tracks/Audition with him. 2004 we started to produce 24 Tracks which are done now. Two Tracks are featurering Michael Jackson in a Remix: “You Rock My World” as Roots and “Bad” as Dancehallreggae. Also I feat. the Raplegends “Ice-T” and “Grandmaster Melle Mel” and “Africa Islam”(Ice-T’s Prod.) out of Reggae I feat. the Stars: “Capleton aka King Shango”,”Sizzla” and “Luciano” I also feat. two upcomming Artists from Jamaica and “Gleem” an upcomming Artist from the UK. “Familyman” plays Bass on all 24 Tracks and on “Gideon Dance” feat.”Luciano” also all Keyboards and Drumprogramming. Six of that Tracks incl. “Gideon Dance” you can hear on http://www.myspace.com/rasmartinberlin One Love Jah Rastafari Peace Mo Fiah Ras Martin

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