On the 31st of August the old and the new school of the Italian reggae movement met in Milano to celebrate 25 years of Vitowar's own Reggae Radio Station, on air every Sunday since 1988.
Headliner of the show was the Africa Unite band, probably the most important one from Italy with more than 30 years in the business. Before they took the stage the audience got to opportunity to hear the sound of the Mellow Mood band.
Born in 2005, Mellow Mood is by far the most promising reggae band from Italy with two albums already released and an enormous amount of gigs all over Europe.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jules I, the bass player of the band, just after their show.
First of all, thanks for your time and congratulations for the show.
I remember buying your first album, Move!, at Rototom Sunsplash in 2009, when not many people knew you and you were just starting to make a name for yourselves. Four years after you are constantly on tour and not only in Italy but all over Europe, what happened in these years?
Well, I'd say that we have worked a lot, we put up a good team with our producer Paolo Baldini and our label, Tempesta International, which gave us a good promotion, we had a good booking, a bit of luck which is always needed…and in the end we are still asking ourselves what happened!
Only four years ago we were playing only in places close to home, the tour of this year brought us in 17 different countries in Europe, so it means that we took the right decisions.
This was the tour to promote your second album, Well Well Well. Compared to your first album, Move!, there was a big difference in the sound. Was it something you looked for or it was the natural evolvement of the music?
Move! was a great picture of a very young band, and it was totally genuine, listening to it brought us a lot of good memories. We have remastered it and it will be out again soon. Well Well Well was an album we made three years after and it has inside all the music we have listened and played in that period touring a lot.
I think the next one will have the same level of growth and evolution in it.
You've just recently released a single called Dig Dig Dig, is it a sort of anticipation for the new album?
Yeah we are working on the third album which hopefully will be out next spring, we are very happy about the ideas and the music we already have, and since we will not be touring a lot in the next months we'll take our time to work and finish it.
How is it to work with Paolo Baldini (producer and bass player of the Africa Unite band ed.)?
Well, today while we were coming here we were listening to the Beatles, and I would say that in the end Paolo is our George Martin. Since the beginning he is the one that helped us building our sound with a musical taste which is unique in Italy and envied abroad. He is also a great friend so it's even better to work with him, we are a family and decisions are always taken all together.
This tour brought you again at Rototom Sunsplash, is Sunsplash a special event?
Yes of course since it's the biggest festival in Europe. It's like for a rock band playing at Glastonbury. It's a great place to play but also to listen, we spent there the few days of holiday we had this year 'cause we go at Rototom also to study and learn from the big names.
You also played in places which normally are not immediately related with Jamaican music, like Poland or Slovakia. How was the experience of playing over there?
It was a great surprise for us. We were astonished when we got there and saw these huge festivals with 15.000 people and a very dedicated, interested and experienced crowd. And they have amazing lineups that we miss in Italy: we played at the Uprising Reggae Festival in Slovakia a few days ago and that night on the lineup there were Busy Signal, Dub Inc. and Israel Vibration, and that was only one night in one of the stages of the festival!
What about the London experience? You played in Brixton, the European reggae capital, and I'm sure the audience is totally different from the Italian one and the European one in general.
That was an amazing experience. You're right, the crowd is very different because over there they are more used to sound systems shows, the sound system culture is much stronger than in the rest of Europe, and so there is a different approach to live music. It's totally a different world but they welcomed us greatly and the people enjoyed the show so we'll probably go to back to the UK soon.
You are a band, and in reggae music nowadays bands are not as common as singers or deejays. Do you think you have a different kind of approach to the music?
On the planning side there are no big differences, 'cause if you go to a show of Gyptian or of any other singer they generally tour with a band so it's more or less the same. But being a band gave us the opportunity to attract the interest of a broader public than only the reggae people. As a proof of that, our label, Tempesta International, has a completely different roster of artists. And it's good to see that our music is appreciated by people who generally don't listen reggae too much, and I think that's because the impact of a band can work really well on a broader public. It's surely a different approach.
I've seen you have published a few combinations, with Italian artists like Kg Man but also with a new voice of Jamaica like Damas. How do these combinations born?
I think that combinations and featuring can be of two different kinds: you can do it with bigger artists to gain visibility, like we did with Africa Unite in the past and that was so important for our growth, or you can do it with artists at your same level. And that's because this scene it's done together, or it doesn't have much sense. For this reason in Well Well Well we have a featuring with MoyMoy, a female rapper from London, who is our alike in England; than we've done a combination with Damas who is a young talented Jamaican, and we like to work with Kg Man 'cause he's a brother and that's so.
We are also working on an Ep which will be called Mellow Mood meets Jamaica and that will have featuring of many new young voices from Jamaica, like Damas and many others from the Jah Ova Evil Movement. We are going to give them our riddims and they will sing over them.
Nice, do you follow closely the reggae that comes from Jamaica?
Yes we look a lot at what happens in Jamaica. We know it's different from the European reggae scene, we like it a lot and we'll probably go there next year. We haven't done any show in Jamaica yet so it's time for us to go there and see how it is.
Do you like the new artists that are coming out, like Protoje, Chronixx, and the whole Reggae Revival movement?
Yes of course we like them, we like this new young generation of artists, Iba Mahar and Kabaka Pyramid as well. They all have great tunes, and most of all they have a good way of dealing with the music. And it is good that we help them coming to Europe and shine over here, and hopefully they'll do the same for us in Jamaica.
But I have to say that we listen to everything, from dancehall to dub. In the van when we go to a show the music goes from Konshens to Aba Shanti, so our influences are very broad and that's because all the faces of this music are nice and interesting. And we also give great attention to black music in general, we listen to lots of Hip Hop and Rap and there's some of it in our tunes.
All right, thanks again for your time, final question. If you have to suggest to someone who has never listened reggae something to start and something that is needed to know, what would you say?
Obviously I'm gonna pick Bob Marley first. He did amazing things and will always be the king of this music, and we are all his children. It's difficult to select some names, before coming to this concert I was listening Gregory Isaacs with the Roots Radics, but there are several legends that are needed to be listen to.
I love all the productions made by Henry "Junjo" Lawes, the early dancehall of the 80s, the works of Lee Perry in his golden years, I like Mad Professor a lot. Producers are so important in this music you know? Blackwell was great, and all the bands and artists that recorded with Island Records created wonderful tunes, same is for the ones which recorded for Black Ark, Ariwa, Niney "The Observer", Greensleeves.
Yes in the end I'd say that more than suggesting an artist I would suggest to check the records of a label.
Watch Mellow Mood:
Mellow Mood ft Damas- Free Marijuana: http://jamaicansmusic.com/videos/watch/4925
Live at One Love 2012: http://jamaicansmusic.com/videos/watch/4926