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Know your Rootz

Guitarist Charles Lazarus on the humility of reggae and superstar status in France

WHO : Rootz Underground


WHEN : Sept. 24


Rootz Underground, a reggae outfit from Kingston, Jamaica is coming to the GLC. They're all about "vibrations" and "one love" and all those other things dorky white kids from the suburbs would love to say in public but know that they really shouldn't. Lead guitarist Charles Lazarus spoke with Pique about... well, just read the interview.

Pique : How long have you been on the road for so far this time around?

CL: This year we've done quite a lot of touring but mostly in Europe. We tour Europe quite a lot. We've been playing shows on the West Coast, I think we did three already for the summer but we just flew in, played those festivals and then left. We haven't toured. We haven't toured the West Coast since, man, maybe a year and a half now.


Pique : Is the vibe in the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada at all similar to Jamaica?

CL: The only thing that is really comparable is there is an energy that comes. We travel a lot, right, so I'm not saying this about everywhere. We do go to a lot of places, we're fortunate enough to experience people when they're feeling happy. When a lot of people are feeling happy in one place, they have an energy and as musicians we fill up on that energy.

I would say that Jamaica's a very special place that has a powerful energy but it has both sides. It has a very focused intensity in a positive way and it has that contradiction too. We have a lot of bad things that need fixing in Jamaica.

When we go to the West Coast, I feel a similar positive energy that comes out of the crowd. Now, it's not the same. It's different. But the intensity of it is the same. I don't know what it is. I don't know what creates that magic but it allows people to care about the environment more. Hugging a tree was ridiculous to me until I went to the West Coast and I actually understand what it means now. Really what it means is, 'I'm overwhelmed by how beautiful nature is and I don't know how to express it so I'm going to hug this tree.' ( laughs ) That's all it really is, man.


Pique : Does tapping into that energy affect how you play?

CL : When you play a show, it's an exchange of energy between the band and the audience. It's not just sharing. It's way deeper than that. The consciousness of the people comes and hits you on stage and they're loving the good vibrations. It empowers you with its ability to channel back to them in this pure way. When we're in different countries, that exchange is different, so when we say that we love the West Coast, as well as looking at how pretty it is and all that, we also love the feeling that we get on stage and that has to do with the people.

Now maybe not everybody on the West Coast, it's not fair to say that everybody that comes to the show is a good sample of the type of person that lives on the West Coast, but it's all we are really exposed to. ( laughs ). So yes, it does affect the show. I would say it has a more spiritual vibration.


Pique : Is there anywhere you have been to outside of North America that has a similar vibe to it?

CL: France.


Pique : France, yeah?

CL: I'm going to go out on a limb and tell all musicians that France is one of the super places to play. It really is. From government policy all the way back to the way the fan handles you. The only difference between France and the West Coast is in France, there's more of a superstar vibration to the band, whereas in the West Coast we feel more like the people at the shows are our friends. After our tour of France, when I got back to Jamaica, I was walking around like a peacock. (Laughs ). When I get back from the West Coast in general, I'm a lot more pensive. I want to go up into the mountains. I want to go kite boarding or spend some time in my country house, whereas when I come back from Europe I want to throw a party and strut around. It's a different energy, you know? But it's still great.


Pique : Which one do you like better?

CL: You can't really say that. Sometimes I'm in the mood for tea, sometimes I'm in the mood for coffee. Both serve purpose and it feeds the artist in different ways. It's reggae. It's not like pop music. The difference is there always has to be a humility about playing reggae or else it doesn't really work. That's the good thing.