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Matisyahu Ready To Make Up For Lost Time

By Gary Graff
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

A three-year gap between albums isn’t such a long time anymore. But Matisyahu feels a need to make up for lost time.

So the Hassidic reggae and rock artist, who’s currently in the midst of a nearly nine-week fall tour, is putting out a four-track EP, “Shattered,” on Tuesday in advance of his third studio album, “Light,” which is due out in early 2009.

“I wanted to tour this fall and give fans some new music to listen to,” says Matisyahu, 29, who was born Matthew Paul Miller in West Chester, Pa. and began his transition to Orthodox Judaism as a teenager. “The (album) wasn’t finished until just around now. We had wanted to put it out a littler earlier, but ... I just basically took my time with it.

“So we decided to split it up and put the EP out first. This way at least people have something to listen to until the record comes out.”

They’ll be able to listen to “Light,” too, if they go to Matisyahu’s shows and hang around afterwards. He plans to play the album over the P.A. and come out to greet fans afterwards and talk about the new material while they listen.

“Whoever hangs around and wants

to stay that long will be able to hear the record and meet myself and the guys in the band,” says Matisyahu, whose last two releases, 2005’s “Live at Stubb’s” and 2006’s “Youth,” both went gold, while the latter was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. His 2007 EP, “No Place to Be,” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Reggae charts.

“The idea is to get people who are really fans, who are really into the music and looking forward to hearing it ... a chance to hear what we’re doing.”

And that, Matisyahu promises, is something a bit different than “Light” and “Shattered” predecessors. He confirms that the musitions (Jamaica, New York, Los Angeles and Virginia) with a wide array of collaborators that includes overall producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Sugar Ray, the Strokes, the Bangles) along with the Fishbone rhythm section Phillip “Fish” Fisher and Norwood Fisher, Ooah from the Los Angeles band Glitch cally eclectic approach of the EP is

indicative of the entire album, the result of working in different loca- Mob, the Jamaiccan team of Sly & Robbie and hot newcomer Stephen McGregor, the son of the reggae great Freddie McGregor.

“On this record I just sort of got together the people I respect the most,” Matisyahu explains, “not necessarily the biggest names in music but just the people I respect, no matter who they are, and just said ‘Let’s make some songs together’...and not be concerned with ‘Is it reggae music? Is it hardcore enough? Is it this or that?’ but just focus on the integrity of the music.”

And thanks to four years of “heavy voice training” and Kahne’s encouragement, Matisyahu himself sounds a bit different, stretching his vocals beyond “that sort of reggae twang” he’d used before.

“I sing a lot more than I have on other records,” notes Matisyahu. “I allow myself dynamically to get softer, not just come with this high-energy, very rhythmic kind of reggae rapping stuff. I really tried a lot of new and different things and allowed myself to get beyond my limitations, I suppose.”

The road will be Matisyahu’s home for the foreseeable future. His current tour will keep him out until mid-December. And he’ll be back out in the new year, even before “Light” comes out, with plans to hit North America and Europe and, he hopes, many other parts of the world.

“I was pretty much in the studio all year and I’m itching to get out on the road again,” says the married father of two young boys. “I bought myself an RV for the family, basically knowing I’m gonna be spending a good eight months in America, on the road this years, so I can bring them along with me.

“It’s just going to be a lot of shows, a lot of touring. But I love it.”


Five mandatory Matisyahu tracks ...

“Chop ’em Down” (2004)

“Warrior” (2004)

“King Without a Crown” (live, 2005)

“Youth” (2006)

“Jerusalem (Out of the Darkness Comes Light)” (2006)

And one wild card ...

“Watching the Wheels” (“Amnesty International: Make Some Noise” compilation, 2007)

Matisyahu, Flobots and Lies Unknown perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 23) at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $35 and $25. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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