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Pacific Amph - Photo by Josue Rivas

Santa Barbara’s Rebelution have been playing their Californian-style reggae rhythms for over a decade now. In those ten years, the band has accumulated a large and loyal following, or ‘Rebelutionaries’ as they’re known worldwide. Rebelution have recently released ‘Count Me In, their 4th full length album, which involves some iconic reggae identities and will soon be in Australia to perform at Bluesfest and associated side shows, one in Sydney with their hero Jimmy Cliff. The band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist Eric Rachmany had a chat with Australian Musician about the band’s career and the upcoming tour.

AM: Count Me In is your 4th studio album. Any lessons learned from previous 3 that you took into this one? Were there any concepts or ideas that you wanted to convey right from the start or was it just a matter of laying down the best songs you had at that time?

ER: I’ve always been a fan of concept albums but Count Me In isn’t one.  Each song touches on a different subject and emotion.  I suppose what I’ve learned from previous recording experiences is to just go in the studio and have fun, be yourself, do what feels natural.

What did producer Errol Brown bring to the album?
Errol brings the best vibes.  He has so much experience engineering, but it’s his energy and positivity that we really connect to.  He’s very much another member of the band.

What kind of things do you learn from working with someone like Jamaican reggae legend Don Carlos in the studio?
Well Don is one of my favourites of all time.  I’ve learned to be myself in the studio.  Don is just himself at all times.

Do the band’s songs ever come out of jamming or do they mostly come from yourself in your own time?
A little bit of both.

You always provide your fans with different versions of your albums … acoustic versions, remixes. What’s the philosophy behind that?
Historically Dub music has always been associated with Reggae.  We are big fans of Dub music so we will continue to put out Dub remixes.  I also really enjoy playing acoustic.  I have always felt I shine a bit more on the acoustic guitar rather than the electric.

Eric and his Gibson Silverburst Les Paul. Photo by C. Flanigan
Eric and his Gibson Silverburst Les Paul. Photo by C. Flanigan

Tell us about your main guitar .. is it still the Les Paul Custom Silverburst? Where did you get it? Why you like it so much? Any mods to it?
I walked into a local music shop in Santa Barbara and I saw the Silverburst in the window and knew from the moment I saw it that it was the right one for me.  I’ve always been a fan of Les Pauls because the heavy weight provides a little more resonance than most other guitars.  Typically people go into a shop and plug in their guitar and judge the sound based on what the amplifier is putting out.  What I like to do is play the electric guitar acoustically to really see how much it resonates.  I also use skinny top/heavy bottom strings and the Les Paul works great with them.  No mods to the Les Paul.

What amp do you run it through? Had you tried many different amps before you arrived at this combination?
I use a Fender ‘65 Twin Reverb.  My guitar teacher always had me playing out of a Fender amplifier during our guitar lessons and so I suppose I got used to them.  I also came to realise that most reggae guitar players tend to use the same amp.  I’ve never really played out of anything else.
Do you use many pedals and in what situations?
I suppose I am pretty active with my guitar pedals although I mostly activate and deactivate my delay pedal and overdrive.  My favourite pedal is my Boss DD-20 Giga Delay.  I love the warp effect.  I also love my Precision Overdrive XTS pedal.  I’m not into any compressors on my pedal board because your touch gets lost completely.  The only other pedals I use sparingly are a bit of reverb and phaser.

Photo by Greg Horowitz
Photo by Greg Horowitz

What’s the main thing about playing reggae on guitar that’s different from playing standard blues or rock rhythms? Do some players get it wrong in your opinion?
Well for me I have to play both rhythm and lead guitar in Rebelution.  I also sing as well so the combination is all over the place.  I can’t say my experience playing reggae is similar to most other reggae guitar players because usually everyone has one task … either you play rhythm, lead, or pick the bass-line.  I personally love the sound of a palm-muted bass-line mocked on the guitar.  Playing rhythm guitar in reggae music actually takes a lot of time to learn.  There are multiple ways to play rhythm, combining upstrokes and down strokes and little fills to spice it up.  I suppose I have sort of created my own rhythm and lead style of playing.

Who are some other reggae guitarists that you admire?
There are many lead reggae guitarists out there that rip, but I would probably say Ernest Ranglin is my favourite.  He combines jazz guitar with reggae and it sounds awesome!

What does playing guitar mean to you?
I’ve played guitar longer than I have played another instrument or even sang.  It’s a way to express myself I cannot do through words.  Composing music says so much about an individual’s personality.  One can convey almost any emotion they want through playing their instrument.

Reggae is all about groove. I’m thinking it might even take a song or two to really lock in for a band playing the kind of music that you do. What do you do to warm up before you go on stage?
Sometimes it does take a couple songs to lock in but honestly we play and tour so much that it never takes too long if at all.  I spend more time warming up my voice than playing guitar but I do practice scales on my acoustic guitar 20 minutes prior to the performance.

You’re playing Bluesfest, what have you heard about the festival?
I purposely haven’t looked into it too much.  I want it to all be a surprise.  Can’t wait.

You’re also supporting Jimmy Cliff at one gig. Have you been a fan of Jimmy’s music?
We are playing with Jimmy Cliff in Sydney.  We are so incredibly honoured to be playing with a legend.  Jimmy Cliff was one of those artists I listened to growing up.
Apart from playing music, what’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to about coming to Australia?
We all grew up around the coast here in California.  I’d like to explore the coast in Australia as much as possible.

What’s been your most memorable gig to date?
Probably the first show we ever played in Hawaii in 2006.  It was the first time Rebelution had travelled far to play a show.

What album defines all that is great about reggae for you?
Don Carlos- Raving Tonight

What’s the Californian reggae scene like now?
It’s really growing! It went from tiny shows to big festivals now.  It’s an amazing movement.

What’s an album in your music collection that we’d be most surprised to hear you have?
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds –Live At Luther College

What’s the grand plan for Rebelution?
The plan is to continue playing music and continue making albums.  We love what we do and there’s no reason to stop now.

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