1-Tell me a bit about yourself, who are you, what have you been doing these last years, what is your involvement with the hardcore and hip-hop scene and what motivates/motivated you through these years...?
I’m someone many people won’t be able to understand. I definitely don’t fit into any molds and I’m comfortable with that. It’s not intentional and it’s not a gimmick. To put it simply, I am what I am. The first time I put Xes on my hands and called myself straight edge was in 1987, I think at a 7 Seconds show in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was vegetarian the next year and within another year I was vegan. I’ve remained this way ever since without backsliding once. I think it's because I’ve always been well grounded and have done my best to maintain balance in my life. A lot of people involved in the hardcore scene are confused by my being a Rastafarian and claiming straight edge at the same time. My spiritual needs have always been met without ganja so I never use it. I grew up a hardcore kid and hip-hop has always had an audience from that scene. I’ve written rhymes for years with hopes of someday becoming more involved in the hip-hop community. In 2006 I made my first hip-hop demo and after 20 years of playing guitar, I took a break from being in hardcore bands. This was necessary for me to pursue hip-hop seriously. Another demo came in 2007 and was much improved over the first. 2008 brought my first official cd release, "Man in Black." Two other compilations will feature my songs as well in 2008. As an artist I’m driven to make music. As a person passionate about my ideas, I’m motivated to use music as a vehicle to express what I want to say to the world. I was created to make music, that’s what I must do. It’s the nature I was given and I think patience is the key to my longevity in the scene as well as bein driven by love for what we do as a community.
2-tell us about your rastafari faith, first contacts, what attracted you to it, how does that reflects in the way you live your life.what is your interpretation of Haile Sellasie life? Who was he in your opinion? a prophet, a wise man, living god, a mere politician? and why do you think so?
Being Rasta is as crucial to who I am as anything else I could ever tell you. The height of my spirituality is grounded in the life of Ethiopian King His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. Rastas refer to this faith as a culture, not a religion. Ultimately, it is a bible based belief with Haile Selassie as the divine king prophesized throughout the books. Marcus Garvey is the prophet and His Majesty is JAH (Jehovah,) the living God. Selassie’s birth name was Tafari Makonnen and at the age of 14 he was given the title of Ras which means prince. I honestly don’t remember my first exposure to the Rasta culture, but when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old a family member went to Jamaica for vacation. I asked for and received a Bob Marley cassette as a souvenir. By that time I was already into bands like Misfits, Black Flag, Vandals, and Suicidal Tendencies. At that age my political and spiritual ideas were not developed but I definitely understood the connection between music and lifestyle. Over the next couple years, the social and spiritual ideas of both reggae and punk rock influenced me greatly. I wasn’t raised with any strong religious beliefs so my sense of spirit was able to grow freely. In my late teens and early twenties I lived in South Florida where I was exposed to more Caribbean culture than I could have ever been in the Midwest (Indiana.) It wasn’t until moving to Southern California in February of 1994 that reggae music’s influence took hold and I found myself holding H.I.M. Haile Selassie as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Selassie I is the descendant of King David who restored the throne of David in Ethiopia the new Jerusalem. Anyone who seeks information about His Majesty, even without a spiritual interest will find that he was a wise man, honest politician, and the greatest example of righteousness.
3-So From a spiritual perspective you dont hold the idea that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) was the last prophet sent in the Abrahaamic line of sucession? What's your opinion on Islam and how do you see the way it got some acceptance within the hardcore scene?
Rasta and Islam share roots with the Prophet Abraham just as Christianity and Judaism. Rastas see Marcus Garvey as a prophet in the same way Muslims see Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.). As a Rasta I don't deny Islam, I'm only concerned and focused with Rastafari. Islam is for Muslims and Haile Selassie is for Rastas. In the next life I believe we all meet as brothers and sisters. When Haile Selassie became the first Monarch in history to write a national constitution that even royalty had to adhere to, religious freedom in Ethiopia was law. As a follower of Selassie I follow his teachings. I was never surprised at the acceptance of Islam in the hardcore scene. The very nature of the hardcore scene is rebellious. Many people will never lose the sense of spirit that lives inside them and will always seek ways to stay connected to that. Mix these rebellious tendancies with spirituality and you'll find hardcore kids attracted to religious paths that go against popular opinion. I found truth in the Rastafarian path, others found Islam. It's all very beautiful.
4-You seem to integrate amazingly well what to others looks like a crucial clash, how do you fuse your rastafarian beliefs with your straightedge/drug free stance? Do you agree with Mutabaruka and the idea that rastafarianism has nothing to do with somking ganja?
First impressions are everything and seeing me or hearing my music for the first time can leave people confused. If someone's only exposure to Rasta is what they've seen in pop media then they will be all too familiar with images of Bob Marley smoking ganja and not much else. The reality is that ganja smoking is a staple of Jamaican culture despite being illegal. I've been to Jamaica and Rastas are pretty much second class citizens and it appears that almost everyone smokes ganja, Rasta or not. Rastas defintely use ganja freely and openly, especially in ceremonies, but it's not mandatory. When I visited the island in 2002 I was surrounded by bredren and sistren who offered me large amounts of ganja as gifts without a single person reacting oddly to my not smoking. Hardcore and hip-hop kids sometimes don't understand, but are always open to me explaining what it means to be Rasta. There's no rule or regulation requiring Rastas to smoke. It's as simple as that. I'm a huge Mautabaruka fan. His being a well known figure in the Rasta commuunity and outspoken about his abstinence from ganja has always been inspiring and reaffirming to me. I think my ability to integrate the two seemingly different lifestyles is due to neither of them being a gimmick. When you interact with me or hear my music you're hearing me just be me. I don't try and sell you one idea and live another. I am what I am and my music is a reflection of that. For me it all feels natural and I'm comfortable with who I am. For me it all blends effortlessly.
5-what steps do you take in your daily life to overcome the "babylon within" all and each of us?
Life is a gift and I give thanks for mine everyday. I recognize Babylon when I see it, and it's everywhere. Babylon is this system of competition and confusion. It keeps people competing to survive by offering 10 people enough food to feed only 8. Babylon makes the best education the most expensive and the worst medical care the cheapest. But there is beauty everywhere as well. I spent many years of my life seeing only the evil in the world. As time passed many friends came and went like their vegan, straight edge, and spiritual paths went through a revolving door. Some even went to prison for the way we lived, some are there now, and more will be imprisoned in the future before our struggles cease. Today I focus on me and my role in the world. I see the beauty as well as the disgusting. I hope that people will enjoy my music and be influenced by it. I hope people who may only interact with me for a moment out in the "real" world will take away something positive from me. Ethiopians say "May God give you something from me." We must be positive influences on everyone around us. Especially children. Kind words and gestures can be significant for them. For those of us who see and know Babylon, it's up to us to lead by example as we walk through it. I surround myself with positive thinking people and that keeps me happy. I enjoy Kung Fu, cooking, gardening, and astronomy as hobbies. These things all keep me grounded. Everyone of us has a part to play, Once everyone realizes theirs, life takes on real meaning. Never lose faith.
6-Tell me about 1 book that really changed you and 1 band that had the same effect. explain me why?
The one book I find myself recommending to others the most is called "The Sign and the Seal" by Graham Hancock. It had a profound influence on me, solidifying my faith in the old testament and Ethiopia's role in both our history and future. The author is an archeologist and the book is the story of his quest for of the Ark of the Covenant, said to house the 10 Commandments and be an earthly home for God, "so he may dwell among us." Ethiopian tradition teaches the ark was removed from Jerusalem and eventually found a home in Ethiopia where it remains to this day. "The Sign and the Seal" is well written and his approach is scientific and unbiased. He spends a great deal of time examining evidence for the other traditions of the ark's location, but in the end he clearly believes the Ethiopian explanation is the most likely. The answer about the most influential band for me is much tougher. Anyone not familiar with reggae music outside of Bob Marley should check out the reggae group Culture who released their first record in 1976. The lead vocalist, Joseph Hill, is like a guru to me. He is no longer alive but Culture's music is how he reaches me. The combination of political and spiritual messages in their songs bring me closer to Rastafari every time I hear them. Culture is what I usually listen to when I work in my garden behind my apartment in Long Beach.
7-Is there any future through technology? How do you see it? Does Primitivism or a way of life closer to nature makes any seense to you? Do we need to get rid of every tricknology or can we accept a compromise?
Technology is a force that can't be stopped. It allows us to do positive things like this interview and make music. But we must use technology it with good intentions and for good deeds. We can’t stop it, but we can shape it and direct it. To "compromise" implies we take the good with the bad, like using drugs that make us feel good but ruin our health and kill us. What is a compromise if the result is still death and destruction? This is not acceptable. Companies of big business research and develop technology as a means of financial gain. New technology makes the older obsolete, keeping us spending money and remaining in debt to new and expensive ways to entertaining ourselves and kill others. Technology is an aspect of business that doesn't fit the traditional model of supply and demand. Unfortunately we reward companies who offer us products not necessary for our survival with whatever money they ask. We seek and indulge in products before there is even a demand for them. If as much money was spent on educating people in how to be healthy as the money spent on drugs to treat diseases, pharmaceutical companies wouldn't exist in the way they do now. The profit is in the treatment, not the prevention. This is technology used for evil. I think living "closer" to nature is the future and therefore not primitive at all. One day at a time the changes we need for healthy living are taking place. All around us cities are starting to use "greener" engineering. There is a growing diversity in the people who use "natural" household products and support vegetarian restaurants as the collective conscience is made more aware. Alternative fuel cars are very popular now. Average people with no special interest in being "environmental" are seeing the bigger picture. I salute anyone striving for a more primitive lifestyle, but I see the world making a positive shift towards sustainability. Haile Selassie teaches us to have faith in the victory of good over evil.
8-Tell me about your goals in terms of your hip-hop project, what has been the acceptance until now, what plans do you have, any proposals for releases? speak briefly about your lyrics...
The hip hop I’m doing has really taken off. It’s the first musical project of mine where I’m making all my own decisions. However I'm not doing this all by myself. I’ve surrounded myself with a great friends I can turn to for help and advice. I’m very fortunate. I consider myself a solo artist, but I’m definitely not alone. A lot of teamwork goes into this. Since I come from the hardcore community, my first demos mostly went there. Hardcore kids are the best so I guess you could say I was accepted pretty well. My goals have always been to improve my music, develop my style, and be respected as a hip-hop artist. It’s been a long road of trial and error and to look back at my first songs, even before my first demo, I can see how far I’ve come. I'm excited to now see how far I can take it. I’ve got 2 songs each on 2 comps expected to be released soon. As I got closer to finishing my self released ep, I got more attention from labels and distros from around the world asking to work with me. It’s very flattering and I’m grateful. My lyrics are as genuine as they can be. Whatever you hear in any one of my songs is exactly what I wanted you to know about me and how I feel. Every rapper boasts they keep it real. I’m no different and I’m serious about my music. You will hear the spiritual element that keeps me balanced with my humanity. You’ll hear about sobriety that keeps me rational and my compassionate nature in my references to veganism. I think people will find my songs to be uplifting without lacking aggressive tone rap is known for.
9-Palestine seems nowadays a huge issue in a land claimed Holy by many, what is your opinion on this subject? Do you believe in the possibility of a resolution for that chaos?
For every question there is an answer and for every conflict a resolution. I don’t believe we will see peace in this generation. Perhaps when everyone who loves war has destroyed themselves and each other there will be peaceful people who survived the chaos to rebuild. Maybe our children’s children will find peace. There is room on this planet for us all. Once we see all land as holy and life itself as sacred , everyone can find the place they fit in. Our philosophies and moral guidelines of peace and love are only words if we don’t apply them to our own lives when it’s the difficult thing to do. If we put “respect your neighbor” into practice, religion and nationalism will cease to be divisive.
10-in your website you support the lakhota nation self-determination. tell us a bit about that struggle please.
In December of 2007, leaders of the Lakota Nation withdrew from citizenship and treaties with the United States. It's really spectacular and inspiring. In September of 2007 the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that the Bush regime opposed , and citing the Vienna Convention, the Lakota have made a move for freedom similar to that of the colonial Declaration of Independence from England. What is now considered Lakota country by us who recognize it includes parts of the states Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Visit www. lakotafreedom. com for updated information.
11-Any last words, comments...?
The Lakota have a saying, "Mitakuye Oyasin" which means "For all my people." I learned this phrase and saw it put into practice on a reservation in Arizona in 2006. I'd like to see the whole world learn the lesson that lives in these words.