Interview: Michael Franti revels in his dub groove on “All Rebel Rockers”

Billboard — In the past four years, Michael Franti traveled into the hearts of Baghdad, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to shoot his documentary “I Know I’m Not Alone” and its audio companion “Yell Fire!,” and he wrote a children’s book, “What I Be.”

So you can’t blame him for wanting to blow off a little steam. “All Rebel Rockers” (out Sept. 9 on Anti-) is that release. Despite its revolutionary-sounding title, it’s a groove-heavy and often joyous affair shot through with the dub and reggae-club sounds of its Jamaican birthplace.

“I’ve definitely never left the political behind,” Franti says, “But absolutely we wanted to make this a fun record, to make music that could be socially engaging and challenging for this crazy time but would leave people inspired and uplifted.”.

“Rude Boys Back In Town” wastes no time in conjuring up a dub groove, while the sun-splashed “Life in the City” backs into the club-worthy singalong “Hey World (Remote Control Version),” the latter of which is now available online. The set was recorded mostly in Kingston with Jamaican production mainstays Sly and Robbie.

“In Jamaica, the music’s not on iPods,” Franti says. “You hear it first on a studio sound system. The door to the studio’s wide open, and people are coming in off the street, dancing and grooving. There was a guy in the corner I’d never seen before saying, ‘Hey mon, you know you need another keyboard to come in right there,’ and I was like, ‘What the hell, are you producing the record?’ But I listened, and I was like, ‘Damn, he’s right.'”

One of the elements Franti set out to explore more was dub. “Dub is more than anything personal enjoyment,” he says. “‘All I Want Is You’ started out as a bass line I hummed to Robbie, and when I started writing words for it, it was political. Robbie turns to me and says, ‘Nah, mon, that rhythm is too sexy; you need a love song for that one. You got a love song?’ I ended up moving the key and then dropping lyrics on top of it.”

To that end, what Franti says are “tons” of dub mixes will anchor the record’s two deluxe editions. The first will feature five music videos, a making-of doc and bonus tracks; the “super-deluxe” version, Franti says, will sport extensive liner notes, a 7″ vinyl component, patches and assorted goodies.

Franti and Spearhead will be on the road until the end of the year, performing at festivals throughout the United States, Europe and Japan; headlining dates in the States, Australia, Brazil and Tanzania are also in the cards.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

One response to “Interview: Michael Franti revels in his dub groove on “All Rebel Rockers”

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