ReggaeChapter.com caught up with record producer Michael Goldwasser, the musical mastermind behind legendary reggae tribute act EASY STAR ALL-STARS, for a chat about the group’s upcoming Thrillah tour, his Anglophile tendencies and what keeps him going forward.
Over the years Goldwasser has been responsible for the concept, production, arranging and sourcing of musicians for all four EASY STARS albums.
Next week the band kicks off a long tour of the UK, which will feature a selection of tracks from the King of Pop tribute, plus other live favourites.
Here’s what happened when we spoke to the New York City producer…
Your previous albums have been mostly interpretations of rock albums; Michael Jackson was very much a pop artist. What made you want to record and tour Thriller?
Well, the first criteria for us is that the source material be made up of great songs that stand out from each other and that could make an interesting reggae album, and Thriller definitely meets those marks. But the turn from rock to R&B was a conscious decision. We wanted to keep things interesting by changing course a bit, and we also thought that it made a lot of sense since American R&B has been a big influence on Jamaican music from even before the advent of reggae. There would really be no reggae as we know it without that influence - so Thrillah is not just a tribute to MJ, it's a tribute to R&B as a genre.
The band came up with a very novel ‘Guess which album?’ competition in the run-up to the album launch - who came up with the idea and how did it go for you?
We came up with the idea since so many people had been asking us what the next album would be and making guesses on their own. We figured that it could be a fun way to engage the fans and build excitement for the release. It went really well. The funny thing is that some fans took it way too seriously and were very upset when their choices were knocked off.
Which of the other albums on the list came a close second or third? What appealed to you most about those artists?
I really can't say because we might do one of those albums in the future and do another reveal contest. We wouldn't want to blow the surprise.
Which musicians will be in the band’s live line-up on your UK tour?
Bristol band LAID BLAK is the main support act on your UK tour, as well as a few dates with THE SKINTS. How excited are you about hitting the road with them?
It's going to be great. I've long been a musical Anglophile and we always dig what we find in terms of the local scenes in the UK. I'd love to produce for some artists on your side of the pond.
Can we expect to see another original full-length album following on from First Light?
I hope so....the talent is there, and I know that we could whip up another batch of great original songs, but a lot of it depends on whether we can sell that kind of project. Sad but true!
Who or what encourages you most to keep going forward?
Seeing the joy that our music brings to people is very inspirational for us.
EASY STAR ALL-STARS will be in the UK on 1-18 November, the dates are: