Mykal Rose is one of the true legends of reggae music. His work has influenced numerous generations and his work is as relevant and vital today as it ever was.
MyKal is coming to perform in the Baltic Triangle this weekend at District. This is another fantastic event brought to you by the team behind Positive Vibration Festival.
We caught up with Mykal ahead of his performance to discuss his latest album, keeping positive in troubled times, working with (son of Ringo) Zak Starkey on a project in Jamaica and the high and lows of winning a Grammy.
Q. Bit of colour, tell us what you have been up to today?
Still in the gear today. Still in the gear of music and that feeling never goes away for me. I know there’s no sunshine today but, I know it’s out there somewhere and that’s just fine for me.
Q. You are currently on tour and will be playing Liverpool this Saturday. What are your experiences of Liverpool?
Well, my experience of Liverpool, like many people’s experience of Liverpool is a lot to do with The Beatles and the music that they created. What I also know is that Liverpool is a music town and it holds a good energy and I know I’m gonna feel right at home there.
England is the mother of reggae music and I want to say to the people of Liverpool that we’re bringing a bit of the summertime to the winter time and it’s going to be a great night.
Q. You worked with Zak Starkey recently on the Red Gold Green and Blue project. Can you tell us how that project came about and how was it working with Zak?
I got a call out of the blue. I was touring in America at the time but, I ended up going down to Jamaica. We did three songs in this new studio that Zak put together. It was all good vibes straight away. Zak was interested in doing a fusion between blues and reggae and it was something really different. Give thanks that everything turned out alright and the music came good.
Q. We believe there’s a bit of a reggae renaissance happening in Liverpool with the emergence of Positive Vibration festival and the continued growth of Africa Oyé. What is it within the sound of reggae that has lasting appeal?
Reggae music has a lifespan that will never die. At the moment reggae is on its feet again and everyone seems to be open to hearing its message. The music is about the everyday life of things, the realities and the substance – the music has a magic and the music has a love that runs all the way through it.
Q. It is just over 40 years since the release of Black Sounds of Freedom. Looking back, how do you reflect on that record
With us we keep on moving and looking forward but when I think about Black Sounds of Freedom and those songs it’s like history is always repeating itself. That music is futuristic – it related to the times in which it was written but it has remained relevant to the future we’re in now and the future to come.
Q. You have enjoyed a long career, what would you say has been your highest point and what has been your biggest challenge?
In terms of highest points, it’s hard for me because there were so many for me. For example, we had Island Records and through that we always got high in the charts like the record Shoot Out for Jon Jon and that was 38 weeks no.1 in the British Charts. Give thanks that I have been in high places, I give thanks.
Receiving the Grammy was ok but the thing about the Grammys is that they take you in the back room and give you the Grammy – they don’t give it to you upfront so that people and share and feel the softness and love in their hearts. It’s all in the back room so you can’t get up there and show the people and share in the appreciation – it’s one of those things that’s both high and low.
The biggest challenge was in the beginning when I was just starting out. I remember going over to the north coast to entertain people and that was tough – carrying equipment, travelling, playing hotels and doing talent shows. I was then discovered and got a chance to go to the studio but, the early days were hard. It’s wasn’t like today where some kid gets a million pound record deal – I didn’t see things like that when I was coming up in the ghetto.
Q. How did you come to reggae music and who were your influences when you were a young man?
When I was coming up they used to have dances – a chance to stay off the street and avoid getting a beating from my parents. Sometimes I’d run away on a Saturday night to hear the music and have my parents waiting for me to come back and give me pow pow – there was a lot of pow pow going on haha! But seriously, for me I was always drawn to the music, I loved the music from the start and I couldn’t live without it.
Q. We seem to be living in troubled times – continuous war, Donald trump, Brexit, poverty, racism and violence against women. As an artist who has never shied away from discussing issues of social justice, what are your thoughts?
What is hidden is now showing itself. People have to look hard and not keep their eyes closed – be aware that we are living in a dangerous world – you think that there’s peace and safety but there are a lot of things under the carpet. For me, I deal with the world through recording music and expression and delivering a positive message.
Q.What does the rest of 2018 look like for Mykal Rose – what will you be working on and what projects have you got coming up?
I’m working on a new album in a studio I’ve built in Miami. It’s all about what is happening every day in all parts of the world right now. The focus is spreading a positive message with happy music. Because we have our own studio we can take our time and get everything the way that we want it. The songs are a reflection on what I’m going through and my feelings on the world but also it has a universal quality. I feel a responsibility to spread the word on what is going on – the realities but also tied to a positive message.
MyKal Rose will be backed by Mafia & Fluxy this Saturday 17th February at District. For more information and tickets please click here.