Ooklah The Moc
Friday - December 19, 2008
A decade after original members John Davis, Ryan Murakami, James La Pierre (Ras Bird) and Asher Philippart began their musical journey together, Ooklah the Moc celebrates the release of its third album, Vaults, with a party at Pipeline Cafe Saturday (Dec. 20).
The group, which actually started off as a hard core/punk rock band, is now one of Hawaii’s leaders in original roots dub reggae music. And they have since added members Michael Cuera, Gary Nakano, Curtis Helm, Micky Huihui and Nicholas Navales.
Their newest album is an all-original mix of what Davis calls “half rhythm-style reggae and half Ooklah-style reggae.” It features 11 tracks, Thin Line, World Party, Revolutionary, Creation Man, Vibes, Only If You Want Me To, Tree, Ital, Green Light, Scene Gal and Runaway Love.
“This album is kind of different from our previous three,” says Davis. “We’ve had three singers, but we recently added Curtis Helm. So this album has four singles, so it’s pretty eclectic.”
Davis adds that the recording process of the album went a little differently. For instance, for a particular song the drum and bass were recorded first and then given to a singer to write a song over it.
“Sweet Spot has been popular,” he says. “And World Party, Thin Line and Creation Man are also standout tracks on the album.”
Known for original music, Ooklah the Moc is proud to say there are no cover songs on any of their albums. They admit they dabble with a few covers during concerts and live gigs, but even then, it’s still about 99 percent originals.
The CD release party will feature special guest Koko, Irie Souls, Most High, BW, Lamb’s Book and Father Psalms. Doors open at 9 p.m. for everyone 18 and over. Ticket prices are $12 presale and $15 at the door.
How did you get into music?
Ryan: I got into music through my father, Melvin. He’s been a knowledgeable jazz vinyl enthusiast ever since I can remember, and I grew up hearing music nonstop daily. Both of my grandfathers were great musicians as well.
Michael: I started playing the sax in intermediate school. Actually I wanted to play drums at first, but the drum slots were filled by the time I got to choose my instrument. I brought my horn home every summer break and tried to play anything I heard on the radio or whatever jazz tapes I could get my hands on.
Micky: My mother is a singer ... I grew up in music, I grew up in church choirs and bars and at weddings - my mother sings like an angel.
James: It’s always been there. From family to church, it was always around.
What is your favorite song on the new album and why? Micky: Hmmm ... not to be all li’dat, but I especially like Revolutionary because it is a wake-up call to kanaka and people everywhere to examine what they really believe - to take a sincere interest in the direction our world is headed, what our children are learning, and the values we need to solidify in them to make the world a better place.
James: I would say Tree because I wrote it when I was 16 years old. Everybody loves that song.
Gary: The bassline on Runaway Love is amazing. Micky’s vocals on Green Light are kickin’ and Thin Line, I believe, is just a great all-around song.
What do you feel defines the band and separates it from other bands out there?
Micky: There’s a lot of us, so it’s trickier to navigate sometimes ... but in the same breath it allows us to bring in the perspectives and talents of all.We write songs together mostly, and that’s really cool.
James: I would say it’s hard to get the variety. We are all different people, but we come together as one.
Michael: What defines the band is mainly the sound and the crafting of the songs. I think it’s pretty unique. Even the songs that sound simple are complex. I think what separates the band from other bands is the commitment to write and develop original material. Even if we do a cover, we usually work on it to fit our sound. It’s a testament to the band’s staying power. Over the years Ooklah hasn’t had to change their sound to get air play - just forged straight ahead and here we are. It’s the fans that really define the band. It’s truly a blessing to connect with people on a musical level.
Is it difficult having a band with so many members?
Micky: Nope, like I mentioned, I think it is more of an asset than a hindrance because we all bring stuff to the table. It allows for a richer musical experience. We are all coming from different “schools"of training - some are classically trained, some are self-trained, some have heavy influences in particular genres of music.
Gary: Yeah, logistically getting this large of a group to travel or even getting everyone together for a meeting is pretty tough. But we’re a pretty tight family and we help each other out.
Ryan: The difficulty being in a large band is not everyone shows up to practice.
What do you hope people take away with them when they listen to the group’s music?
Ryan: I just hope listeners don’t think we suck.
Micky: I hope that people will hear our music and the messages, and take to heart the overriding message of love and faith in Jah. I also like to think that the ‘opio (youth) who hear Ooklah can come to know that by increasing the peace and having love for Jah is cool and that life isn’t all about all the drama that comes with being young. That it’s about connecting to each other and to the world through love.
James: At least one lesson or one smile or just one feeling of not feeling the stress of life.
What has been your most memorable moment on stage?
James: I would say looking at my own brother and family and forgetting my words. Just totally being lost in the vibe we created. It’s like, wow. It’s nothing without the people and fans. They make it real.
Michael: Playing at Belly Up in Solana Beach, San Diego - unreal show.
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