Matisyahu Talks "Spark Seeker" and "The Possession"
Thu, 30 Aug 2012 16:30:30
Matisyahu shines on both tape and screen.
His latest album Spark Seeker strikes the perfect balance between ponderous lyrical philosophizing, hip hop heart, and reggae bliss. Meanwhile, in The Possession [In Theaters August 31], he steps into the shoes of Tzadok beset with the task of battling a demon possessing a young girl. He infuses the character with deep understanding and empathy, while giving an intensely powerful performance. He's truly a renaissance man…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Matisyahu opens up about Spark Seeker, The Possession, and more.
Did you approach Spark Seeker with one vision in mind? What's your take on the album as a whole?
Well, the flow on the record is something I wanted. It's similar to my first release pre-major label, Shake Off the Dust... Arise, where I had these interludes with rabbis speaking in between the tracks. I'd always wanted to do that again. We got a lot of material when we were in Israel. A lot of it was incorporated into the songs. We had some extra stuff too though. I wanted to figure out a way to use it so we incorporated that between the songs as endings and beginnings. If you listen to record from top to bottom, you can hear it as one full piece without any breaks in the music. Then, we brought in different people talking to overlay over the interludes. Today's music is more based on the individual track. People will use different producers. I felt like Spark Seeker was one piece. It's me and one producer from beginning to end. I think it's cool when you listen to a record and hear it as a whole piece.
What's the story behind "Shine On You"?
It didn't come together until the very end. We had the basis for the song early on in the recording process. I tried to lay down different vocals and various choruses. I felt stuck, but I loved the track. We kept incorporating different people. When we were in Israel, I had my friend Danny play saxophone on it. That took it to another level and brought everything where I wanted it, but there were still no vocals on it. It's the last song on the record, and it seemed fitting.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
Lyrically, it's similar in some way to the song "Sunshine". It ties into the record's theme of light. Whereas "Sunshine" is more about getting in touch with that light in yourself, "Shine On You" asks, "What do you now do with that light? Where do you take it?" It's fittingly the last song on the record. The place to take the light is to shine it outwards and share it with other people. My favorite part of that song is the lyric, "O my soul". I took that from The Psalms. There's something about that. It's a very simple phrase. It's only three words, but it gave me a certain perception. We think of the soul as almost a separate or holy part of the self. I have a song called "Warrior", which talks about how the soul comes down from heaven and gets invested into a body in the physical world. If you look at the soul as something separate, that means you need compassion to treat it in a certain way. It's a cool perspective.
Is it important for you to paint pictures with the music?
I use a lot of imagery in terms of landscape and nature. Those are the metaphors I use.
What's in store for the upcoming college tour? Do the songs evolve in the live setting?
The new songs feel great. They're relevant, and they're resonating. With a lot of my old songs, I figured out how to revamp them in terms of ways to make them feel inspirational even after a year or so. I left the Spark Seeker songs pretty similar to how they sound on the record for now. I wanted to see how they felt. We'll see what happens in the future though.
Does acting require a different creative mindset from making music?
It's different, but there's a similarity as well. I think the object of any art form is to lose yourself in it, let go of the technique, and allow yourself to get carried away. It happens for me in The Possession. I was able to transcend myself a little bit.
What resonated with you about Tzadok?
He's a character who's caught between two worlds, and he's trying to bring them together. In my line of work, it obviously has a very positive twist. In the movie, it has a dark element. It's not really his choice. He's going there to help another human being. He's stuck in the middle of his commitment and dedication to his circle and his empathetic, humanistic intuition which is telling him to go help this family.
Was the film's balance between horror and the philosophy intriguing for you?
For me, I see it very much as a real thing. We all have demons. We have our Dybbuk box where we take the darkness or the negative aspects of our lives and try to lock them away. Sometimes, curiosity or even something pure within drives us to open up that box. Once it's opened, those demons will come out. There's that line in the movie about how the demon will feed on you until there's nothing left. I see that in my own life. It's easy to slip into that darkness and let demons eat at you and take your life force away from you. In real life, the way to battle that was and continues to be prayer and tapping into my roots through the Hebrew language. It's one of the methods in which I do battle with my own personal demons. That was the method in which my character does battle in the movie. He finds out the name of the demon. He has to look into himself and beyond the surface. That's what I'm taking away from the movie today after going to the premiere last night and seeing it again.
Will you be seeing The Possession?