Interview: Ziggy Marley
Reggae superstar Ziggy Marley is set to play his upcoming debut Irish shows at the Sea Sessions in Bundoran (June 26th), and Vicar Street, Dublin (June 27th) to coincide with the release of his new album Wild and Free. Aside from being a multi-platinum, Grammy-award winning musician and artist, Ziggy is also reggae music royalty by virtue of being the eldest son of the Bob and Rita Marley.
I spoke with Ziggy recently, finding him in a relaxed mood as he talked openly about music, politics and marijuana, and how ‘love’ is the message.
Are you feeling excited about your upcoming tour of Europe?
Yeah, very excited! We’re coming to Ireland for the first time. I’ve never been and I’m looking forward to it.
What can the fans in Ireland expect from a Ziggy Marley show?
The fans can really expect things that they don’t know — because they don’t know me – I’ve never been there. I think them should come with no expectations really, just come with an open mind. Expect an experience that you’ve never experienced before because I’ve never been there before! [laughs heartily].
Would you agree that your latest album ‘Wild and Free’ is your most political collection of songs to date?
Some of the songs are about political things but generally speaking it’s a very personal record for me. I put my heart and soul into what I’m saying. The words I’m saying really mean something to me.
You’ve said before that ‘music is one of the most powerful tools in society’: do you feel musicians have a duty to create music that is more than simply entertainment?
If that is their calling. You can’t expect everyone to be that. There are certain musicians who have that, and there are certain musicians who are gonna entertain you, and give you fireworks and video screens. Then you have certain musicians who are going to get into your mind and into your spirit, and cause change. We need both of them: we need the clowns and we need the acrobats, it’s all necessary.
What was the motivation for writing the song ‘Get Out of Town’?
It was a song that was motivated by some times in my life, the first time I left Jamaica for an extended period of time. It was a certain environment I didn’t wish to be around because if you’re in a certain environment you have to kinda adapt to it and live in it, and I didn’t want to. I’m not a violent person, and at the time there was some things around that I didn’t want to be around, and my music couldn’t flourish if my mind is on something else all the time. It also relates to me being in America where I’m in a city and there’s corruption and pollution, and I had to get out of town!
It sounds as though you spent a lot of time on the instrumentation and overall sound on each track on ‘Wild and Free’: can you describe the process of recording the album?
I have a studio and I went in by myself and started writing the songs and creating the beats and creating the parts. And then, once I’d finished that I met with Dan Was — who produced the album — and we sat down and listened to it, and decided this is the type of song I want on the record. We then got the musicians together for two days and let them hear what I had done, then they copied that and put their own thing on it. After that we went into the studio and spent about five days actually recording and overdubbing on those songs. After that I took it back to my studios and added some instruments – where I could really listen to it – and spent some with time it, changing stuff and trying things. After that we gave it to Bob Clearmountain and we mixed it, and that was it.
How important is spontaneity for you when recording and playing live?
Well that’s when you feel alive, y’know what I mean. It’s like when I play live shows, even though we’re sometimes playing the same songs, it’s really never the same because I’m always doing things different because I don’t like to do the same thing over and over and over again – I get bored! Spontaneity in an artist’s life — that’s when you’re alive when you’re being spontaneous. Otherwise, it’s just monotonous, and I don’t like that. I like creativity!
Do you have a musical philosophy Ziggy, and if so what would it be?
Well, my musical philosophy has progressed over the years as I’ve learned more and more about music. If there was one y’know, it would be to make music with spirit, and music that can translate to a live audience: that’s where it comes alive; I make music for life.
Who are your five greatest musical influences?
Well, obviously my father (Bob Marley) is the most important, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Dennis Brown, and Fela Kuti.
Were you encouraged to play music from a young age coming from such a musical family?
There was encouragement though not forcibly. It was just regular because I was around music all the time so it just came naturally.
You’ve played with some of the finest musicians in the world: who would you like to work with next?
There are a lot of great musicians out there, and I like working with great musicians.
[I suggest working with African musicians such as Tinariwen perhaps)
Yes, oh, I would love to do that. I’ve been trying. I love African music, I love it. That might be the idea for the next record.
Have you some words of advice to young people who would like to emulate your success as a musician?
Well you need discipline and you need patience. If the success that you’re looking for comes too easy then it’s not as enjoyable as if it comes hard. If it comes too easy, you take things for granted, so work hard and don’t look for the easy way. Believe in what you’re doing, and believe in your music, y’know? Believe in what you are doing if you are going to do it.
What do you feel makes Jamaican music so popular with people all around the world?
Music is such a universal language within itself, even though it’s coming from a different part of the world. The language of music is part of our DNA, it’s a part of the human species make-up, and I think Jamaican music -- the vibration of it -- has an effect, and a connection to people all over the world. Whatever that vibration is in that music is what attracts all of us to it. I don’t know what it is…. [I suggest to Ziggy that it could be the ‘Rasta Man Vibration’] .… that’s what it is! That’s what it is; you got it [laughter] that’s what it is!
Where do you find inspiration to keep creative?
I think I’m motivated by something that is not physical in the music… you have to believe, have patience and faith. If I couldn’t write a song, I wouldn’t be doing this.
Can you tell me about the idea behind the ‘Marijuanaman’ comic?
The idea was to get into another medium, to get into another way of communicating with people, and so we created the comic book with the idea of educating people about cannabis, the plant. To shed some light on the benefits it could have for us, if we use it wisely. It could have a big environmental impact as well, as it gives us another natural resource that we can make products from. It is a resource we should utilize, and it has legitimate medicinal purposes also.
The world should let this plant be free.
Do you have a final message for everyone?
Love is my message – love! Love one another.
Ziggy plays the Sea Sessions festival in Bundoran, Donegal (26th June) , and Vicar Street, Dublin (June 27th). Ziggy’s fourth solo album Wild and Free will also be released on June 14th on Tuff Gong Worldwide.