By Noe Gutierrez
On March 4, 2017 at Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California there will be a hip-hop and reggae spectacle to behold. The Rhythm Wine Brews Experience, presented by Empire Music Ventures, is back and reggae music is taking the forefront. Hawaiian reggae-rockers Pepper, Kale Wassman on vocals and guitar, Bret Bollinger on vocals and bass guitar and Yesod Williams on drums, will be joining Snoop Dogg and The Expendables in satisfying the Coachella Valley’s ever-expanding musical appetite. Also on the roster of artists performing are Andy Frasco, Spankshaft and Macho Combo. You can still purchase tickets at rwbexpo.com.
Coachella Valley Weekly spoke to Williams on the phone as he and the band were preparing to “get down” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the high is in the low 60s. Williams and the band are doing their best to stay toasty. “There’s white everywhere and it’s snowbound! We’re getting a little taste of winter for sure. We can’t wait to come back to Cali and the heat.”
“We can’t wait! It’s gonna be such a blast! It’s been a minute since we did a show with Snoop and our boys The Expendables. This will be our first time performing in the Coachella Valley. The RWBE sounds like such a rad thing. We’ve had friends like 311 perform and we’ve heard nothing but great things,” shared Williams.
“We’re gonna be a well-oiled machine. We love coming to a festival at the end of a tour like this. We’ll be six weeks deep into our tour once we reach RWBE straight balls out rock shows every night. When we get there we’re gonna be like Muhammad Ali in his prime and just well trained. We’ve been doing a different set each night on this tour to give a different experience every night. You’re gonna hear a lot of new music from the Ohana album. You’re also gonna hear a little bit of everything from all our albums and maybe stuff you’ve never heard before.”
“Our friends at King Harbor Brewing Company will be pouring beer at RWBE. They’re making an exclusive Pepper beer especially for this event. It’s gonna be very Hawaiian influenced. We’re stoked!”
“Our most recent album, Ohana, was released in 2016.” Ohana means family in Hawaiian. The term, in an extended sense, includes blood-related, adoptive or intentional family members. “In Hawaii everything is based on respect. You have your elders as you’re growing up, even if they’re not your blood auntie and uncle, they’re still your auntie and uncle,” shared Williams. The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember each other. “In June 2017, we’ll celebrate 20 years as a band. We realize we’re fortunate and blessed enough to do this because of the fans, which is our honor. We wanted to make an album for them; our Ohana. We made it by going back to our roots in a sense. We got into our studio in Redondo Beach and we just started jamming – just started playing some songs. Kind of like the old school spirit of starting a band, let’s get in a room and jam. That was the approach we took and felt that was the best avenue to make a record for the Ohana. We’ve been a band so long we’ve gone in so many different directions and aspects that we felt like we’ve come full circle with this album.”
“There’s so much out there happening already on the major reggae levels. Transcending would be the main word because it’s getting so widespread. When it started it was such a cultural and regional thing as far as Jamaica goes. Nowadays, you think about today and events like the One Love Cali Reggae Fest happening in Long Beach, it’s strictly reggae bands from around the world. Bands are creating sub-genres. It all goes down to making good music which can rise above anything. Reggae speaks to people.”
“Reggae is also transforming the mainstream. You listen to the radio and you hear a ‘twenty one pilots’ song and there’s a ton of reggae all over it; the upstroke guitar and a bunch of other elements. Reggae is creeping its head everywhere. It’s one of the most positively conscious music movements.”
wā e hiki mai manao:
“We’ll be releasing an EP later this year and planning a big summer tour. We have our own label LAW Records. We’ve released music from bands like Katastro, Darenots and Kash’d Out. Keep making music, keep having fun and keep making people smile.”
“Patience is a huge thing. Have goals and set your sights big but also be realistic about the work that goes into making strides in this industry. It’s a lot of handwork with a little bit of luck. We feel so blessed and so lucky for the people we’ve met. Aligning yourself with the right people and surrounding yourself with the right people in this cut-throat industry.”
“Touring is the one thing that’s never gonna get replaced. I think all bands should concentrate. No amount of technology is gonna take the place of live music and touring. We always knew that when we moved from Hawaii we have to tour. We jumped in vans and we toured. Get out there and go see your fans face to face and always keep in touch with them. Never take it for granted.”
Who is your favorite keyboard player in the world?
“I’ll give you my top three. It’s Ronnie King, Ronnie King and Ronnie King, ha ha! Make sure you give him the rundown of the drummer’s top three. I love it!” There are rumors that the Coachella Valley’s Musical Ambassador will be performing with Pepper on a couple of songs he played on Pepper albums. “Ronnie will be jamming with us on ‘Stone Love’ and ‘Stormtrooper.’ He always inhabits whenever we’re around. We always try to keep close contact whenever we’re in the vicinity.”
Ambassador King chimed in about Pepper’s first desert performance and the role he has taken upon himself as anchor of the desert music world. “The Coachella Valley is abuzz! I love reggae. I first started playing with Pepper on their most hyped record, Kona Town and have played on every record since then. I’ve toured with them on the Pepper acoustic tour and performed with them on Jimmie Kimmel. I’m excited to get on the stage with them in my hometown. Pepper is one of the only reggae bands I’ve made records with. I feel that’s special. I’m fired up to host both of my colleagues,” shared King proudly.
King has also performed and produced music by Snoop Dogg. “I have over 2 million records sold with Snoop.” Don’t be surprised if King gets up and plays on “Bo$$ Playa” during Snoop’s set.
King is currently finishing up his book, ‘Punk N Thugs: RK Memoirs’ chronicling the era he reigned supreme producing West Coast hip-hop (Tupac Shakur) and punk rock (The Offspring) records. “I’ve done interviews with Kid Frost, Mellow Man Ace. I’ll get Pepper and Snoop on there as well. I’ve been connecting with all my former producers and the guys I’ve made a lot of records with and we’re talking about my time making hip-hop records and punk rock records simultaneously.”