If you’ve been keeping up with reggae in the last decade, you’ve probably come across the name Michael Goldwasser. One of the founders of Easy Star Records and architects all of those wonderful Easy Star All Stars records everyone loves so much (Radiodread, Dub Side of the Moon, Thrillah, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band), Goldwasser is one of the most knowledgable and passionate musicians I’ve come across in my years of writing and learning about music. He taught me about how reggae is, within itself, a Jewish music. But it’s not just reggae music the dude knows. He knows his funk, his groove. That love of deep groove has birthed his latest creation, GOLDSWAGGER. This stuff is straight harddiscofunk fire, slathered in wet, sticky soul. Recorded properly, with live instruments and real musicians. Check a little taste of the soulful side of Goldswagger while you read the latest 5 Questions with the funky Goldswagger.
1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
I can’t say it was 100% my own money, but it was the first album I ever chose to buy…I’ve never done this before or since, but I ordered this album from a television ad. It was called Living In These Star Warz. It was music inspired by Star Wars. In my imagination as a little kid, I somehow thought it was going to be STAR WARS. But really, what it turned out to be – man, I wish I could find this album. Maybe it’s at my parents’ house, but it’s not in my record collection – but it turned out to be songs inspired by Star Wars. There was a song called “A Respirator for Darth Vader.” It was kind of “Another One Bites the Dust” vibe, but with a lot of heavy breathing. There was a song called “Chewie the Rookie Wookie,” that I still remember. And the theme song, the title track, “Living in These Star Warz.” I thought it was so cool – music that I love and Star Wars.
The first single I bought was “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel which is kind of hilarious because I don’t really listen to rock ‘n’ roll or care about it as a genre. I knew that song because my sister liked Billy Joel and she had all the albums so I would hear it in the house. But I also had a counselor at my day camp who loved that song and used to make all the campers in my group sing it all the time. That’s the power of music. They say if you can get someone to hear a song 10 times they’ll think that they like it, whether they do or not. That’s why you have recording companies paying to have songs on the radio. I don’t know why but I remember thinking that I had to buy the record and I bought the ’45 single of “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
2. When is the last time you did something for the first time?
The most memorable last time that I did something for the first time was in 2014 - I started my very first solo album as an artist. After so many years of writing and producing for Easy Star All-Stars and many other artists, I finally decided to express myself to the fullest by doing an album that was all about the music and lyrics that I had inside of me. It's funny because even though I have produced many albums over the years, this really did feel like the first time in many ways, and it was certainly a gratifying vibe in a way that I had not experienced before.
3. If you could spend a day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?
It would be with a late 70s or early 80s Michael Jackson and we would spend all day recording music.
4. Can you think of a book or a movie that had a genuine effect on the way you view the world?
I just finished a book two days ago that I felt was really eye-opening. I, like many people, care about environmental issues and the world at large and how to make things better. I just read this book, it came out in late 2015, called Let There Be Water by Seth Siegel. It’s about the world’s problem with not having enough clean, potable water and countries around the world often not knowing how to manage their water resources. So this book is about how Israel managed to go from a country that was largely arid to a country that has a surplus of water. It goes into detail about a lot of different methods Israel has used over the years. Things like desalination and treating waste water, making it usable for agriculture. It’s a fascinating because I’m interested in all this stuff but the reason I’m suggesting it is because the author talks about real solutions for how countries around the world, including the United States that has a water crisis, there are practical solutions. It’s just a matter of the will of the people and the will of the government to be forward thinking and implement these solutions. My wife found it for me at the library, we take out books for each other, and it blew me away. It’s not just about a problem but a problem and how to deal with it in a real way.
5. Do you think technology has the ability to set us free and unify us to a Star-Trek like utopia with all peoples working together towards a common goal?
I don’t want to come off a cynic but I don’t think so. A lot of great things come with technology but I think it’s kind of detrimental to the human condition. I don’t think that people are going to come together around it for the betterment of the human species. I think the rampant materialism and capitalism in our society has made people less caring and compassionate. So, I think we’re going down a bad road with a lot of it. I’m an optimist in any ways but I don’t think technology is the answer. I think music is the answer. If people could just vibe out to music and see how music has broken down so many barriers in the world. They could rally around that and make music and arts more important parts of everyone’s life. We could teach the youth that it isn’t about listening to 30 seconds of a song on your phone using crappy earbuds, but it’s about really listening to music and having a holistic experience with it. Doing it with other people and joining together, breaking down the barriers between performers and non-performers by exploring musicality within themselves, to be part of music on a cultural and spiritual.
This round’s Guest Question comes from Vancouver-based funk guru SLYNK…What horribly poor decision will you likely make this week (and be honest with yourself and us)?
I’m sure there will be a few. “Horribly poor,” though…that seems really harsh. I don’t put myself in a lot of situations where I could make “horrible” decisions on the regular. <laugh> I’m not one of those guys who’s like, “Let me just have one more shot of tequila before I jump on my motorcycle.” Because I don’t drink and don’t have a motorcycle. I’m sure I’ll do something where my wife says, “You should do this. I really want you to do this,” then I’m going to completely forget about it and it’s not going to end well for me. I don’t know if that qualifies as “horribly poor.”
I make poor decisions on a daily basis. Not to be self-deprecating, but I’m always juggling 5-10 projects and there’s just not enough hours in the day to do all the stuff I need to. I’m always not getting through my list of things to done. Often one of the things I omit ends up being, “That was a poor decision. I should have really done that instead of putting it off.” Maybe I’ll make that decision this week and maybe I already have. The week is already two days old.
Now that you’re done reading, have yourself a dance to “Sh*t or Get Off the Pot” and get your sweat on!