Douglas Mason, Getty Images Ziggy Marley believes reggae will never be what…
- Posted on Jun 6th 2011 3:00PM by Brent Hagerman
Courtesy of Ziggy Marley
Not only does he have a new record, on April 20 -- otherwise known as 4/20 -- Ziggy's new graphic novel, 'Marijuanaman,' hit the stores. With an intergalactic pot plot, 'Marijuanaman' is Jamaican superman meets Canadian pot prince Marc Emery. Spinner caught up with Ziggy to find out more about ganja superheroes, one drop beats and taking the road less travelled.
Compared to your albums 'Dragonfly,' 'Love Is My Religion' and 'Family Time,' this record is a return to a roots reggae sound. What was it that made you return to that sound?
I wanted to do that. I wanted to do something simple, something rootsy, something that would translate live. I've been on the road and I can tell what works with the people in terms of live. 'Cause I don't make music for the radio, when I make music, I think about performing it live. So I see what resonates with people. And with this album, I tried to keep that idea and make sure I can translate the songs live without having to do too much sophisticated things, you know? Technical things.
The title track is getting lots of attention. Can you tell me how that came about with you and Woody Harrelson?
The 'Wild and Free' track is a pro-cannabis track, a track that is trying to speak the truth about the plant that has been criminalized, demonized. When I was writing it, Woody came by my place and I was joking and just said, "Woody come sing." And then when he started I said, "Whoa, Woody sound good! Woody, come, go on the record. I didn't know you could sing."
So it was kinda accidental?
Yeah, it was.
You are a ganja activist that promotes more than just getting high. Can you explain your position on why marijuana should be legalized?
Oh yeah, man -- utilizing pot! Legalize yeah, but what about utilizing? Getting high is a description, but remember the plant actually is a medicine. Remember all those drugs the pharmacy makes? Like Vicodin and all of these things. When you take Vicodin, do people say, "Oh, you take Vicodin just to get high," or "You're taking your Xanax to get high," or whatever drug your doctor prescribed. People don't talk about it like that, they talk about it like it's medicine. So when people talk about marijuana, "Oh, you're smoking it just to get high," there are people that smoke marijuana as medicine just as any other medicinal things that is given out by doctors. So the description of getting high is derogatory in a way because it pretends the plant is just bad. They are just painting it with a bad paintbrush as if everybody that smokes marijuana just get high and act stupid or whatever.
I mean cultures have been using this plant for thousands of years. It has been used for fiber, clothes, fuel. The American constitution was written on hemp, flags were made of hemp -- cannabis. And the herb has been used by cultures also as a spirituality thing. In my culture we use it as a medicine, too, in a concoction that my aunty used to make if an insect sting or bite us. Marijuana used to be an ingredient in that along with other herbs and seeds and stuff. We want to get to the idea of legalizing the plant and the whole spectrum of it. And utilizing it because we believe the plant is a very beneficial thing to the planet and to the people, nutritionally. It's so wild, I could talk for so long. It's for more than just smoking.
What is your response to critics that suggest it's inappropriate to release such a brazen pro-marijuana album on the heels of your children's album, 'Family Time'?
I would say, "Pot is a plant and in our classes we should teach what this plant is used for." Children should know that this plant has medicinal properties, that it can be used to make fibers that you wear, that the seeds are the most nutritional seeds in the vegetable kingdom and it has certain elements in it that is beneficial to your body if you eat the seeds. Children should know this; it's natural science, the science of nature.
This is not like you're teaching children about crack -- "This is how you make crack, kids: a piece of this, a piece of that, put x,y,z in it and then you mix it up in the lab." This is not that, this is nature. There's no complicated process in it. The tree is there, the fiber is there, the seed is there, the fruit is there, and it's used for all these things in history. In [America's] history. People should know that the constitution was written on paper that was made from cannabis, the American constitution. They should know that George Washington grew cannabis. But children should also know that you can misuse it and have ill effects just like everything else. I mean, everything I buy for my kids in the store, if it's a vitamin it says be careful. Children should know the truth -- the good and the bad.
Tell me about your new comic book, 'Marijuanaman.' How did you get involved in that?
The idea was to kind of take away the stigma of the plant by portraying the plant as a superhero. The hero is a metaphor for the plant. This superhero is from another planet and he comes here to seek a solution for the problems his planet is having, some environmental problems. And he finds out when he lands in this pot field that he feels a connection to the plant. And his DNA starts to change and he gains these superpowers.
I looked up Jim Mahfood -- who is the artist -- online, and his art was really different and cool, not typical like Marvel/DC art. It was different and that was cool. I wanted it to be different ... I was actually reading a comic book one day -- I read comic books every now and again, I go to the store and get some -- so I was reading this one with Batman and Superman. It was like a combination comic book. And there was this dialogue in it that was very familiar to me 'cause it had some lyrics from my father's song 'One Love.' And I was like, "Hol' on, who write this?" And when I turned to the front and looked for the writer it was Joe Casey. I was like, "OK, this is the right guy to use." Him understanding.
So we just work together. I gave them stuff and they did their thing and they showed me stuff and I said, "That's cool. That's good." It's an experience, the comic book is really an experience when you check out the physical copy. It's very cool
In honour of the 30th anniversary of your father's death, the Grammy Museum debuted a new exhibit, 'Bob Marley, Messenger.' Did you have much to do with the exhibit?
Yeah man, we work with the Grammy Museum for that. We had the guitar shipped from Jamaica. All the pictures in there are family pictures. We work with them throughout the whole process.
Is it a burden or a benefit to have a legend for a father that you no doubt continually get compared to?
Oh, it's a benefit. There's no way it's a burden. It's a benefit from day one. It doesn't even have nothing to do with legend, actually. Him being a legend ain't got nothing to do with that because before him was a legend, him was my father, and he was a good father and teach me good things and carry me to the country.
And in Jamaica it's like, my father is a worldwide known. Because he was such a significant individual, there would still be certain expectations of me -- this is how it works. But it is a positive, never negative.
Can you tell me about 'Roads Less Travelled?' I think it is a very intense and brave song for you to sing.
Because you don't hear a lot of people critiquing Bob Marley, especially his own son. Particularly the line, "My daddy had a lot of woman and my mama had lots of grief."
[Laughs]. I'm not critiquing. I'm just telling the truth, man.
You don't see this as being a hard song for you to sing?
No, it's easy. We don't think twice about singing these things, it's natural to us. And the way I look at it it's not negative, it's just life. And it's truth, too. We just accept the truth and we're not scared of it. We're not afraid to address it. It's nothing.
The song is about how you have taken a different route from your father and family. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Well, it just means I do things on an independent level, kinda like what my father's idea was. But in my personal family life -- if you had an eye into my family, you'd see that I kind of stepped out of the family environment and went out on my own, into a new environment. So things like that. And I mean each of us think differently. I think one way and another family member might think another way. My father think one way, my mother think another way, and I think how I think. I take another road and I probably take roads that other people wouldn't take or try things that other people wouldn't try, do things other people wouldn't do. I see things how other people wouldn't see it.
Does it have anything to do with religion and Rastafari? When you sang 'Get Up Stand Up' on Jimmy Fallon's show you changed the words from "Die and go to heaven in Jesus' name" to "religion's name" and switched the lyric "God" to "love." You sing more about universal love as opposed to religion, or to talking about Jah Rastafari. Is that a difference between you and your family, you and your father?
Yeah, but what it is is the evolution of the idea, the evolution of the philosophy, the evolution of the concept. Obviously my father had his concept which I grew up with, but as we learn more we must evolve, we must understand how it really is. The evolution of it is to bring people together. And the way you bring people together is with love. Because people might hear you say something and them get turned off right away because them have a stigma about it. You might say "Rastafari" and people say, "What's this Rastafari thing? I don't like that -- I'm a Christian. Or I'm a Jew, or I'm a Muslim." But when we say "love" everybody can come into that. That is what it is really about. I say it is the evolution of the philosophy. So I approach it a little different from how my father would say it. But it is the same thing, I just say it in a different way.
Do you consider yourself a Rastafarian or not?
Well, yeah, I mean I don't like to put labels on myself like that. As I say, we evolve now. It's love. We are love, I consider myself love. That's unique to each individual, it's not a group.
Stephen Marley just released his third album and Damian has joined supergroup Super Heavy with Mick Jagger. How much collaboration is there within the Marley clan -- do you all provide feedback and assistance on each other's projects or are your lives all very separate?
We live separate lives but me and Stephen is the closest, and Rowan. Damian is the youngest one. He's a little closer to Stephen than to me because I'm the oldest boy, you know? So it's like there's a bit of separation ... but we still collaborate. But I communicate with Stephen a lot. We talk about everything, and everybody. We know about each other a lot.
In addition to releasing your solo albums on your record label Tuff Gong Worldwide, you also have put out reggae compilation albums such as 'Dancehall Originators' and 'Ziggy Marley in Jamaica.' Why is it important to you to promote older Jamaican music through your label?
Because I'm not a selfish person, that's just who I am, I tell you. These things must not just be about me. I must help. We have an independent label, which is what my father was working on. This is a fulfillment of his vision. It wasn't just about Bob Marley records at the time. Everybody used to come to the studio and stuff like that. So following that example I want to establish something that is real and not just my thing alone. It must be something that is respectful of the vision my father had. What I want to focus on is the history of the music. That is something I'm interested in because I think especially in Jamaican the younger generation I don't think is exposed enough to the history of the music. I want to pay respect to that.