Just when you thought all of reggae music’s possibilities had been exhausted, along comes someone like Oahu, Hawaii’s Mike Love. A video of Mike playing his song “Permanent Holiday” makes a good entry point to this man’s work: In conjunction with his considerable talents as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, his inventive and skillful use of looping has made the clip a bit of an internet sensation.
Mike comes to The Catalyst Atrium on Thursday, August 18 in support of his just-released EP Love Overflowing.
Local Santa Cruz: A lot of your songs seem to slowly build in intensity, to the point where by the end, you’re just wailing!Mike Love: I’ve listened to a lot of music in my life, and whatever genre that it is, the music that I’m always attracted to is music that has a lot of dynamics to it—a song that’ll take you on a journey. A lot of roots reggae music is very monodynamic, where it’s a really meditative groove, and it doesn’t necessarily do that whole rise-and-fall thing, but it has a sort of intensity that grows and blossoms in a different way. I think both of those worlds sort of collide in the music that I make, because I come from a background of listening to a lot of classic rock, alternative rock and [other] stuff where there is a lot of that dynamic. I think applying those sort of ideas to the spirituality and the meditative nature of reggae music is where my world comes together.
It’s a great combination. So, your video for “Permanent Holiday” has been getting a lot of attention, especially for the middle section where you use the looping pedal to build up the backing vocals one part at a time. Where did that idea come from?
Oh, I don’t know, man! It was just one of those things where I had all the lyrics, and I was just hiking one day, and the idea to do it like that kind of popped into my head. I just wrote it all out, memorized it and tried it. I didn’t really practice it; I just kind of practiced it in my head, and then I went to a gig one day and just did it. I didn’t really know whether people would understand what was going on or what. The first time I did it, I got a really big reaction from it, and that was when I realized it worked! [Laughs]
So the first time you ever tried that was at a gig?
Yeah! [Laughs] Because I have so much stuff to set up, and I have kids at home. I don’t ever really set up my [looping] stuff at home. I figure out how I want to do it in my head and then just try it at a gig.
There are a lot of ways that could have gone wrong, so I salute your bravery! While we’re talking about “Permanent Vacation,” that’s one of a couple of songs I’ve heard from you with lyrics about breaking free from the oppression of the capitalist system. Obviously, that’s a traditional subject for reggae, but when you sing about that, I hear a lot of passion and sincerity. I get the feeling that’s something you feel really strongly about.
Definitely. I think that’s one of the main reasons why we play music: to plant those seeds and help people wake up to the realities of the control of the system that we live in. There is a lot of passion in it, because there’s a lot of hope, frustration and desire to really connect people and help them wake up, do their research and figure out what’s going on and what to do about it. As musicians, I feel like we’re sort of the harbingers and the message-bringers. We come to places where people are totally entrenched in the system and not at all connected, and [we] start planting those seeds and ideas. As musicians, we can reach so many people in a single moment. In the past, music has led a lot of revolutions, and I think that’s the power of music: It has that power to lead people somewhere.
Is there a core message to your music?
Yeah. I think the core message is just to love and to take care of each other, to consciously awaken and uplift your spirit, evolve your spiritual overstanding. It’s about reconnecting to that place where we’re all one spirit. We all come from one Great Spirit, and we’re all connected. I believe that the majority of the problems in the world stem from being disconnected and not realizing that we are all reflections of each other, and when something affects somebody else, it also affects me, and that we all need to take care of each other and help each other through.
Mike Love: mikelovemusic.com