Monday, June 06, 2011

Ziggi Recado Interview

Recently we had the chance to chat with Holland/St. Eustatius reggae star Ziggi Recado. He spoke at length about his latest, self -titled album. With this record he will be officially introduced to America, though many reggae fans already know him very well considering the success of his two previous albums 'So Much Reasons', and 'In Transit'. What is truly remarkable is the fact that Ziggi Recado really never had any intention of becoming a reggae artist. It just sort of happened....

RR- Ziggi, thanks for taking the time.

ZR- No problem man. Thanks to you! This is my first day doing American press so I appreciate everybody who was interested.

RR- What is it about roots reggae that appeals so much to Europe?

ZR- I guess Europe is definitely a place that’s always been a roots music place. They have a ton of reggae festivals all throughout Europe and it’s usually really about the reggae. You don’t even have that much dancehall artists who come up and get on these festivals. They’ve been promoting that for a long time, so, indeed there is a vibe on the European scene. Germany has a lot of big reggae festivals…at least four a year. Holland, it’s kinda weird..you might get the impression that Holland too, it’s big, there’s a lot happening because you have a lot of artists coming up who are doing some music from here but the reality is in Holland there are some festivals every year. Nothing standard. People organize something and bring some artists…besides that you have the usual occasion of reggae artists that will come through on tour and maybe some local guys might do support acts for that kinda stuff, but beyond that there’s not much of a huge scene really for people to build on.

RR- How popular is your music in Holland?

ZR- Well, in Holland it’s pretty popular. I’m not the biggest pop star in Holland but if you talk about reggae music then people automatically associate me with that. I started to get some attention in Holland, even in mainstream media, from my first album when I won a few awards. Basically since then up til now I am the only dancehall slash reggae artist who gets a little bit of attention in those circles. In that sense, yeah, in Holland I am the reggae artist and quite a few people know me.

RR- You grew up in St. Eustatius. How old were you when you moved to Holland?

ZR- I was 18.

RR- Was it Holland and the reggae scene there that took you from St. Eustatius? What’s the vibe like in St. Eustatius?

ZR- Actually they didn’t have anything to do with each other. At that time I was a basketball player and a student. When I left to come to Holland….basically my island is a Dutch colony… so every year when youths in my island and all the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean finish… I guess within America what you guys call high school… when you finish that level of schooling and you want to go on to college then you need to leave the island and most people come to Holland. That was why I ended up coming to Holland in the first place. Initially I came as a student. When I was up here, that is when friends of mine from the Caribbean kinda talked me into writing lyrics and making some music. It was never my intention to even be an artist when I came to Holland.

RR- That’s really surprising. So you weren’t necessarily into reggae growing up?

ZR- I was into reggae, that’s for sure. I grew up on a Caribbean island, very small community. The population of my island is about 3000 people. It’s almost like a little village…everybody know you. It was real Caribbean…you hear soca music everyday, calypso, and reggae and dancehall..real Caribbean stuff. That’s basically all that I heard. As I got older I start to hear more American stuff too, hip hop, r&b start get into the mix too as I got into my teenage years.

RR- In listening to the new album you seem to be experimenting with a little r&b, some different sounds?

ZR- Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, when I was doing this cd I jus try to do whatever I felt sounded right or whatever I felt sounded good. I was trying to not make myself do only ‘one drop’ riddims especially since this is my third album. My last album ‘In Transit’ was mainly reggae tunes…one drop beats straight through so I wanted to do something different. With this album I tried to stick with my reggae core- I don’t think I could ever change that anyway because I’m from the Caribbean, I’ll always have my accent. I can’t really change who I am.- but what music that I have on it, indeed, I mixed with hip hop, with soul, with rock…whatever vibe I was feelin man I went ahead and did it. As long as it feel right, it was okay.

RR- You really never need to leave your Caribbean culture behind, whatever the genre of music, because I think it fits almost anywhere if you ask me.

ZR- Me too, me too. I could understand when people hear my new cd…I could understand if I get some critics or some hardcore reggae people who feel like this is not ‘one drop’ enough for me or it doesn’t sound enough like traditional reggae. I could live with hearing that argument. I could understand that. But, from a musician’s point of view, I’m happy with the result. I think I get to mix it but still keep it very much reggae. I think there’s a reggae vibe throughout the whole album no matter what kind of musical influence is on there.

RR- Agreed. The reggae foundation is there through every track even if it’s only through you chatting.

ZR- Exactly and I think that’s good. That way you get to reach even more people and get even more people in to reggae, even if it’s to get them in to the traditional sounding ‘one drop’.

RR- Did you produce a lot of this album personally?

ZR- Yeah, I did… For the first time.

RR- How did that feel?

ZR- That felt wonderful, man. I did it because I wanted to have all of these different influences. When I was about to start recording it- through the years I built contacts with all kind of producers in the reggae industry so it would be no problem for me to get one drop sounding riddims, traditional sounding stuff- but for what I wanted to do I don’t know anybody who was really mixing up stuff too much so I went in there and I did it myself. I have a wicked band so any idea I have I could have them play my ideas out for me. That worked like a charm because they’ve played with me for awhile now so they really could feel what I was doing. It was really all natural…more natural than anything.

RR- It shows in the diversity on the record. I didn’t even realized that you produced most of it until yesterday.

ZR- Yeah mon, yeah mon. I really proud of that! A lot a people don’t even recognize that so no one asks me anything about my producing. It’s actually something I would like to do. I’d like to produce foreign artists…help some people with some studio vibes. I think I could do dat.

RR- Do you play any instruments?

ZR- Yeah, I play guitar an I play a little bit a bass because I can play guitar. I play a little bit of piano. ..Basically just enough to produce with. If it really going to be musical than I need to get my keys straight. I can lay down my entire idea an just have dem come in an lay it down properly.

RR- Did you play anything on the album or did you have the band do that?

ZR- I had the band do that. I didn’t feel like I was ready for that step. It was already cool for me that I was producing it, but for me to actually play the instruments on dere…I didn’t feel comfortable doing dat yet.

RR- What’s your process for writing a song?

ZR- With album I did the music first. I actually produced a bunch of beats beforehand and then I went into the studio with a bunch of beats ready to go. I stayed in the studio for a month and a half really without leaving…basically lived in the studio. Everyday I would put on the music, find the beat that spoke to me dat day, and start to work. My process is really… I would call it ‘hands on’. I usually start with my hooks first…I would think of a hook, then I’d record the hook cause I recorded everything too on this album… Record the hook, see what I sound like, put on the backing vocals an everything and if I felt my hook was cool I’d write verse one…record verse one. If I think it’s proper I just keep on going until the tune is complete. Tune complete?...next beat. I was like a machine, mon! Fe real, fe real! (laughs) When you get in a studio for a month and a half, like the first couple a days was like, you know, you need to get into the flow. I think after a week I was spitting out songs like it’s nothing.

RR- No writers block?

ZR- No, no. I think it was such an experience for me because this is the first time that I did everything , basically myself. Like I said, I produced the beats first myself, then I went into the studio by myself to record myself. I would have friends come through now and then just to give me some vibes. It was an exciting process, mon. My baby boy was just born. I had a kid for about a month old an I lef’ him behind to go do dis. It was really like a mission, mon. I was focused.

RR- Is that your first child?

ZR- My second. A girl and a boy. My first is a girl an she’s nearly five now an my little boy…he’s nine months now.

RR- Do they influence you at all, as far as how you write?

ZR- ‘My Everything’ is all about dem. That is a track on the album that’s basically dedicated to my girl and my boy. It’s all about dem…me speaking about how I feel about my kids. The other thing they do for me, mainly, is they just help me focus. When I was in the studio working I would be thinking I have somebody to work for, I have two little humans who I have to make this happen for. That’s the ultimate motivation. When you know you have these little ones looking up to you… you need to do what you got to do. They definitely help me focus.

RR- Which studio did you use? Was this at your own personal studio?

ZR- Kind of…I had some of my equipment that I took to my guitarists’ studio. He has a studio built in his home. I recorded it on my equipment but in his studio.

RR- Talk about the difference between this record and ‘In Transit’ and ‘So Much Reasons’.

ZR- If I start from the beginning, what you’re hearing on the ‘So Much Reasons’ album is more or less, a collection of the first songs I ever made. That was really me just starting to do music. I was never really expecting anything, and singles took off here, and one thing led to the next and an album was coming and we basically went and looked at everything I had recorded up to dat point and put together a compilation of what we thought was best. So that was really me…some of the first songs I ever wrote. On the ‘In Transit’ album, two years after ‘So Much Reasons’, by that time it had had some success. I was starting to get around a little bit in Europe. I was really starting to get some steam, especially in the reggae scene or the reggae industry in Europe. So the ‘In Transit’ album, because of that, was influenced by that. That album was also, more or less, a collection of different riddims that I voiced for a lot of different producers. ‘Fight This Struggle’ was a riddim from Jamaica, ‘Need To Tell You This’, of course, is a riddim from Germany with different people on it, you had ‘Gonna Leave You’, that’s a riddim from France. That was kinda the story then. I was really in the middle of that scene and ‘In Transit’ was that kinda album. Where I’m at now with this ‘Ziggi Recado’ album…it’s been two and a half years. I’m two and a half years older…wiser. I think I have more experience now than ever because after my last album is when I really started to tour like crazy. So, I got more experience. My voice developed. I know more than ever what I want and who I am as a person and as an artist. This album is really me. That’s why it’s influenced by anything that I feel. As long as I feel like ‘I dig this’ I’m gonna do it.

RR- It seems ironic that your second album was called ‘In Transit’. It seems like it was a transition into your new album.

ZR- Exactly! That was exactly one of the reasons we took that name! I felt at that time like I was still evolving into who I was supposed to be. I wasn’t really there yet. I was just getting in to the reggae market after my first cd that was really just my first songs. ‘In Transit’ was still like just starting to roll and then I think I arrived at ‘Ziggi Recado’ now where I pretty much aware of what I can do, what I can’t do. I’m curious as to what my next stuff is gonna sound like.

RR- I think the fact that you have complete creative control means there really won’t be any boundaries for you.

ZR- Exactly. Me too. I haven’t recorded one track, honestly speaking, since I finished this album and I’m starting to itch now a little bit again. Ideas are hitting me again…and vibes so I feel like getting back in.

RR- Ziggi Recado. Will you continue with that name or is that just for this album?

ZR- No, mon. That’s definitely my official name now. If I could go back to the past I would’ve gone with Ziggi Recado from the beginning of my career. The story is actually like this…like I’ve said now a million times, I was never intending to be an artist so when I started to record some tracks my manager back then was like ‘you gonna put out a single and promote it and it’s gonna do good’ and for me it was like a big joke. So he was like ‘what name? what’s gonna be your artist name?’ Now, Ziggi is not the name on my passport but I’ve been Ziggi from a kid. My grandmother an dem call me Ziggi from a baby so my whole island, my family, everybody knows me as Ziggi, nobody calls me Recado. At that time, when he was like ‘What are you gonna use?’ I said ‘I already have a nickname. Just put Ziggi on dat thing.’ I was never thinking that the reggae industry and people might get confused with Ziggy Marley. I was so far from thinking that. It’s only later on when we actually started to have some success and then you started to notice now and then there’s confusion about that. Then is when we realized how serious of an issue that was but in the beginning…no mon. Never thought about it because I never dreamed of doing anything like this.

RR- At least you spelled it with an ‘i’ at the end.

ZR- Yeah, that came after our first little success because immediately, especially when we started to deal with Jamaicans that started to be a little bit of an issue. Like if you say ‘Ziggi’ people automatically assume Ziggy Marley. That is why we decided to change it to an ‘i’ but even so, as long as you just say ‘Ziggi’ there’s Ziggy Marley, Ziggy Rankin’, Ziggy dis, and Ziggi dat, so it’s always gonna be tough. This was the only way to put a conclusive point behind this and let people know I am who I am.

RR- How much exposure have you had in Jamaica? You mentioned you’ve worked with a few Jamaican producers?

ZR- Yeah, I’ve worked with quite a few Jamaican producers. I know a whole bunch a artistes because of all a de touring. Eventually, you meet everyone multiple times on festivals, so I know quite a few artists. I was in Jamaica a couple of years ago to do some promo so, I got my tunes playin’ on de radio… ‘Need To Tell You This’..Since then I haven’t been back though.

RR- Anyone in particular you’d like to work with or collaborate with in the future?

ZR- I’ve always been a big fan of Wyclef….love to do a track with Wyclef. What to me would be the biggest of all would be to do a track with Shabba…a real icon. I heard stories about how difficult dat is gonna be but it would be something crazy.

RR- Do you have a favorite track on the album? Obviously ‘My Everything’ holds a special place?

ZR- ‘My Everything’ for a long time was actually indeed my favorite song. Right now, I still can swing. I have a lot of favorites. I like ‘My Everything’. I love ‘Mary’. I like ‘Real Talk’. I think those are the ones for me that I give the most play up til this day still.

RR- Who are your influences, past or present?

ZR- From the past, I kinda been influenced by all kinda music. It’s necessarily just reggae music. I like Dennis Brown… Cocoa Tea, I love his voice from long time. Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, those are some of the baddest singers ever to me. I used to be a big Biggie fan back in my hip hop days. Nowadays, I like Tarrus Riley quite a bit. I think Stephen Marley is cool, I like what he does.

RR- Taking music out of the equation, any hidden talents?

ZR- Nowadays I hardly get time to do anything besides music. Like I said, I think my greatest talent that I had before I discovered that I had a talent for music was basketball. I was a pretty solid ballplayer back in the day. In the Caribbean I played in the National team for a couple islands I lived on, traveled around, played against some other Caribbean National teams, against the Dutch National team, too. So, for our standards of basketball I was pretty okay back then.

RR- No shooting around or playing anymore?

ZR- No, mon. Amsterdam’s weather is messed up, most a da time it’s gray. You know what it is too, Europe is a football continent. Even if the sun is shining you really need to look for people who play basketball and take them to the court with you. You’re not just gonna find games. Everybody’s kicking footballs.

RR- You haven’t gravitated to football?

ZR- Not really. I could watch some of the finals…the more exciting stuff. Still, I’m a basketball man. I’m fighting nowadays, especially now that it’s finals (NBA). The games start at 9pm, for us that’s 3 am. It’s a fight every time to watch. I tried to watch last night. I made until midway through the second quarter and then I was wokin’ up this morning by my daughter to go to school so I had to look back on the internet to find out what happened.

RR- It’s been a real pleasure.

ZR- Yes, definitely mon. Nice little chat.

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