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Interview: Matisyahu

Interview: Matisyahu

Interview: Matisyahu

By on - Photos by Mark Squires - 3 comments

"My life is still centered on God"

Sampler

Matisyahu

Matisyahu aims to always move forward

Matisyahu is the rebellious Jewish teenager who embraced his roots and became a Chassidic reggae and dancehall superstar with his debut album Shake Off the Dust… Arise. On his fourth studio set Spark Seeker he has taken a new direction. United Reggae had a chat with him about hair, his new album and why his new sound isn’t necessarily for the future.

U.S. reggae and dancehall singer and singjay Matisyahu emerged on the scene in 2004 rocking a thick beard, black suit and broad-brimmed hat. He sung about his religious beliefs and eventually received Grammy nominations, gold records and a huge audience, particularly in his homeland.

I reach Matisyahu on the phone from London where is set to perform at Scala the same evening and I can hear his crew doing a sound check. This is his tenth show on a three week European tour taking him to countries such as Poland, Germany and France.

“It’s been nice. It’s been three years since I toured Europe and it’s a lot of fun,” explains Matisyahu.

His latest album 'Spark Seeker' was released in the U.S last year, and in March 2013 it found its way to the European market.

Shaved off his beard

On 'Spark Seeker' Matisyahu has taken a new direction, a direction towards pop, hip-hop, electronic dance music and futuristic beats. Gone are the reggae riddims. A big change. But an even bigger change is Matisyahu’s new look. He has shaved off his beard and hair and sports a new, more youthful, look.

“It was time for a change. I had the beard had for a reason and I had a reason for growing it. I was exploring my identity and it was important and meaningful. But in recent years it became more of a rule,” he explains, and continues:

“It was a big decision and it was a big part of my identity religiously. I needed integrity to do it since it was sacred to me at some point, but I have to move forward in my life,” he says, and adds:

“But my life is still centered on God.”

Matisyahu also explains that people respond to his change with mixed feelings.

“But at the end of the day, my fans are fans of my music, not fans of my beard.”

A blend of contemporary and traditional

MatisyahuWhen listening to 'Spark Seeker' I get a feeling that it couldn’t have happened with the old Matisyahu. With 'Spark Seeker' he shows a new side of himself, both personally and musically. And producer Kool Kojak, who has previously worked with multi-million selling artists such as Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj, is partly responsible for the new musical direction.

“I started writing with different people and one of them was Kool Kojak, who I wrote Sunshine with. We really hit it off and before long we had half of the record. Then we went to Israel and recorded over there. It became a blend of sounds – traditional, organic, fresh and modern with digital drums. It’s a blend of two worlds,” he explains, and continues:

“But at the end of the day, I’m just trying to write pop songs. Meaningful music with depths and layers. Writing good songs with hooks and melodies.”

Spark Seeker not necessarily the future

'Spark Seeker' is about searching and seeking. The continuous strive to always move forward.

“Moving forward and change, whether musically or personally, is important. When I make music I try not to write the same song again and again,” he says, and continues:

“Every record I’ve made has had different influences, influences from certain artists and I continuously listening to music. It’s fun and this time I listened to a lot of current music.”

Matisyahu explains that he with Spark Seeker had no particular ambitions. He just did want he felt worked out at the moment.

“I don’t just want to make reggae. My past records were more reggae with pop and now it’s more pop and hip-hop with reggae,” he says, and adds:

“But this is not necessarily the future. I’m moving on and my next album will probably have a strong element of reggae. My sound will continue to evolve with rock, electronic music and recording with the Dub Trio, probably the best reggae band in the world.”

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Read comments (3)


Posted by cuzy bro on 04.18.2013
Natty don't want to hear no folism up on the reggae riddim...

Posted by EL DubTor on 04.19.2013
This Guy is a Clown... His music isn't that good at all, well maybe for White Anglo's who don't know anything bout Roots and Culture.....

Why is this Guy even in UNITED REGGAE? He has like one song that ypu can actually call "Reggae".

Respect African CULTURE...and the Children of Israel music..

Posted by straight jungle on 04.26.2014
Matis is a true artist who can sing pure reggae or more pop with hip hop and reggae overtones. He's not just one thing just multi dimensional with deep lyrics. respect

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