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Interview:
Matisyahu at Saint Andrews, 5 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Thirteen years is Judaism’s age of bar mitzvah and becoming an adult.

But Matisyahu’s recording career, which began in 2004 with “Shake Off The Dust...Arise,” has been in a continuing state of growth and evolution.

A genre-blending rapper, singer and songwriter, Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller) has spent his albums exploring a variety of musical directions and spiritual and philosophical ideas. He’s dropped the traditional Hasidic garb he wore earlier in his career but still digs deep a challenges listeners with broad ideas drawn from both his life and from scripture.

The father of three’s latest album, “Undercurrent,” came out during May and debuted in the Billboard Top 20. But Matisyahu’s continuing quest in both music and thought insures that there will certainly be more where that came from...

• Matisyahu, 38, and his current band, which includes longtime collaborators from the Dub Trio, approached “Undercurrent” differently than any of its five predecessors. “This particular (album) we made kind of in a reverse order from how a typical record is made. I had a vision for the sound first, before any songs were written. “Only after the entire record (of instrumentals) was finished did I star thinking about the vocals. I listened for about a day or two and put myself in a room, and then over the course of four or five days I wrote all the vocals and melodies over (the songs) and recorded them at the same time. That really is the reverse process from what you’d normally do.”

• Mostly, Matisyahu adds, he wanted to capture the flavor of the band playing as it did on stage. “It was all based around the live feel, the way a live song happens and the way we move through these different genres and styles,” he explains. “The level of musicianship on stage before I even step onto it is four guys who can have a real conversation. So the idea was to keep this kind of energy from the live thing there so we didn’t go overboard with the (song) forms and locking things in too hard but let them to be open and flow and happen very naturally. It’s not about reading a script or not about things we know will get the biggest rise out of the crowd.”

• Doing the album that way, however, presents a different kind of challenge when turning the songs around to play them for an audience. “That’s a whole new challenge,” Matisyahu affirms. “What were open sections when we wrote them have now been recorded on a record, so when we go to play these songs live we have to unlearn even the open sections so we can improvise and build on them again and not to be tied to how we did them on the record. We all still come with the same mission, but we don’t want to just play them as they are on (the album).”

• Matisyahu is confident another musical project will surface in the probably near future, although he’s not yet sure what process he’ll use for it. “I’m ready to start thinking about what I want to write about,” he says, “but I’m not ready to write yet. I’m too in my life now to reflect where I’m at and then see where that takes the music.” Some prose writing, in fact, may come before that.

• Matisyahu has also been working on some prose writing, although that’s a work in progress right now. “I actually have a book that’s sitting there, but it’s mainly a bio piece, and I really wasn’t happy with the writing,” Matisyahu reveals. “I wanted to write a book that was mainly about more of the philosophical idea behind what I do, so I have to try to rewrite what I have and try to incorporate (philosophy) into it more. We’ll see what happens.”



If You Go:

• Matisyahu and Common Kings

• Tuesday, Dec. 12. Doors open at 7 p.m.

• Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit.

• Tickets are $27.50 in advance, $33 day of show.

• Call 313-961-6358 or visit saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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