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Interview: Groundation

Interview: Groundation

Interview: Groundation

By on - Photos by Franck Blanquin - 1 comment

"Through education comes knowledge and through knowledge comes change"



Knowledge is the key for Groundation’s Harrison Stafford

Groundation is one of most successful reggae bands coming from the U.S., and their progressive style influenced by funk and jazz has a huge following in their home state of California and in Europe. 'Building an Ark' is the band’s latest set, and United Reggae got the opportunity to chat with front man Harrison Stafford about the album and the importance of education.

Groundation was formed 14 years ago by singer/guitarist/lyricist Harrison Stafford, keyboard player Marcus Urani and bass man Ryan Newman. The outfit began their journey on the campus of Sonoma State University of Jazz.

Since the band’s inception they’ve toured 30 countries on four continents, released seven studio albums independently and collaborated with veteran reggae artists such as Pablo Moses, Don Carlos, Ijahman Levi, The Congos and Apple Gabriel, formerly of Israel Vibration.

But that’s not all. The founding members joined forces with Jamaican drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace and Grammy nominee Will Bernard in 2008 to form the side project 'Rockamovya'. Last year Harrison Stafford also released the solo album 'Madness' under the name Professor.

'Building an Ark' is the band’s latest album, released on the small French label Soulbeats in Europe and through reggae giant VP in the U.S. And in March Groundation visited France to promote the album.

“It’s hard work, but I feel strongly about the music, and we get a very positive response,” explains Harrison Stafford over the phone.

Trial and error

Harrison and his fellow band members started to work on the album in 2011 and recorded it in November and December. He explains he has learnt a lot over the past 14 years, and that 'Building an Ark' tells a story through the music, through the solos and through the arrangements.

“It involves everything from intros, outros, big moments, instrumentation and layering,” he says, and explains how the recording process works:

“Learning from trying.”

That sums up Groundation’s sound very well. Their albums usually feel created through jamming and using the creative impulses in the studio. And according to Harrison 'Building an Ark' was recorded then and there. The recipe for success is knowledge.

“Know your instrument and understand the instrument” he says, and continues explaining the process of a solo:

“It expresses the moment. It has a beginning and end, and a conclusion.”

Bringing people together

GroundationHarrison speaks and argues like an academic. He is verbal and gives thorough answers. When I ask about the title of the new album he reasons for several minutes about bringing people together and learning from different cultures. He wants to create and find a place where good people can reside.

“No ganja songs, no party songs. It’s about concerns and mindfulness,” he explains, and continues:

“Bring everybody into the ark and bringing people together. We build this ark together.”

But bringing people together, bringing different cultures together is easier said than done in a world where tensions between several countries have increased in the past months.

“There are so many ways of seeing the world,” he explains, and continues:

“Democracies and republics, Muslims and Jews. There’s a great division. But I can tell you the concerns and hopes that people are experiencing. There is a unity in the world.”

Knowledge is the key

Harrison wants to create a unity between people of different religion, color and nationality. He aims to put an end to division. His solution? Knowledge.

“Through education comes unity and knowledge of different cultures can create unity,” he says, and explains:

“You need to be able to tell the right from wrong. Through education comes knowledge and through knowledge comes change. Knowledge is the key. Greater education needs to happen.”

Surprise and challenge

With 'Building an Ark' Groundation wanted to do something they haven’t done before.

“We wanted to surprise ourselves and challenge ourselves. You want to be creative and recognize when you repeat yourself.”

To be able to do it they spent a lot of time with their instruments. And for Harrison himself it seems so easy when he describes it.

“I always feel inspired, I sing, I create music.”

Only the beginning

'Building an Ark' is in the same vein as their previous six albums. It’s an eclectic melting pot of roots reggae, jazz, funk, salsa and soul spiced with pop melodies and intricate arrangements. And through VP Records’ huge distribution capacities it can reach new audiences and target groups.

Whether VP will be able to bring 'Building an Ark' to the Billboard list and on rotation on commercial radio stations remains to be seen. The competition is fierce to say the least.

But according to Harrison Stafford Groundation will continue to go against the grain in a world where a four minute song seems never ending and where everything needs to be easily digested. Harrison puts it eloquently.

“14 years is only the beginning.”


Reproduction without permission of United Reggae and Franck Blanquin is prohibited.

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Read comments (1)

Posted by Sky on 06.17.2012
Great album for real... Groundation rules as ever....

Comments actually desactivated due to too much spams

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