The Wailers started their current tour just two days after Christmas and January brought them through Upstate NY. UpstateLIVE’s Lewis Tezak, Jr. offered a great review of the Seneca Niagara Casino on January 12th. UpstateLIVE’s Jim Gilbert was at the Bearsville Theater show in Woodstock less than a week later to sit down with The Wailer’s drummer Drummie Zeb and keyboardist/bassist Aston “Famz Jr.” Barrett, Jr.
Jim Gilbert (JG): So, Aston it was nice to see you on stage with your dad. I noticed that this is only your second show back on this tour, what were you doing before that?
Aston Barrett Jr. (AB): I was in India playing with Julian Marley.
JG: What’s it like to play reggae in India?
AB: It’s nice, man. They love reggae. Everytime I go on the streets it was like, “Family Man, Family Man, Wailers.”
JG: So it was nice to be recognized?
AB: Oh yes.
JG: So Drummie, you have been on the tour since it started?
Drummie Zeb (DZ): We started this tour on January 27th and played right through 2012 and into 2013. We played New Years Eve in Telluride, Colorado. Way up there, beautiful country.
JG: I know how Aston got into the Wailers, how did you get in (the Wailers)?
DZ: Oh my my you have to go back a few years now. I met Famz in the early 80’s and I saw Carlton right after Bob Marley. They were on a tour it was either 83 or 84, Carleton was playing and the tour came through DC. Junior Marvin, Al Anderson, Alvin Patterson, “Wire” Lindo, Tyrone Downie – the whole band. And Carleton, the Mighty Carleton. I saw him rattle that snare. I can still hear it now. *makes the sound* Because he was sitting way up there, because of how the stage was in this building. It was unreal. It was such a pleasure to see him work. Good god, man, I was just always seeking out those drums. So, we drove from Virginia for two hours to that show that night to meet Famz. And ever since that night, they would be on tour and I would be on another support band called the Awareness Art Ensemble. It was a big band in the 80s and we would support the Wailers every year. We’d see Famz and hail up each other through the 80s and then through the 90s… all the way to 99. And Famz and I were on a show together, he sees me and says “hey Drummie” and I’m so honored, always to be amongst him and he asked if I would be interested in reviving the set. I said “yes, truly!” And time would go on but we met them in the 80s and I think that’s where it started. Cause I was on the set. I think with any young musician you need to stay on the set.
JG: Truly, thank you. Aston, do you remember your uncle Carleton?
AB: Nah, I was too young.
JG: I understand, what’s it like to play with your dad?
AB: It feels nice.
JG: Is he a tough critic?
AB: He’s a good father. You know it’s an honor all the time. Everytime I look at him. Sometimes I am playing and I’m like “oh shit that’s Family Man” and then I’m like, oh, he’s my dad. You forget you know? I look at him so highly and so proud to be his son. It’s like, “wow!” So anytime I am playing music, I try to reach the higher, higher, high. The highest standard and keep my father’s music inside me and my uncle’s music there. This music will never die, it will go on forever and get bigger and bigger and bigger until it finds its right people.
JG: I am glad to hear that and that leads to my next question. You guys have been touring now since 69 to now. Where do you guys see the Wailers going? Studio? Another album?
AB: Plenty of more albums to come. The only thing is that the singers now in these days are very different. As we listen to the message of Bob’s days. Almost every singer that comes out has a message. I don’t think they can sing the same message these days because it’s different times. So what we are dealing with now is more positive and positive vibes. It’s more peaceful and mind, body and understanding.
JG: So, Drummie, if we go back to the positive vibes, why do you think Family Man chose Survival for this tour?
DZ: I know last year it was talked about with Roger (Steffens). It was talked about to get a little intention to it. And God bless because last year we did the Uprising record. We did all the Uprising songs last year and tonight was Survival.
JG: Is there a Confrontation tour coming up?
DZ: That would be great. It’s one of my favorites and I tell his (Aston’s) father that all the time. Because we used to play “Buffalo Soldier” from Confrontation. But all the rest of them are such anthems. You know “Trench Town” and “Jump Nyabinghi”. I mean, wow!
AB: “Mix Up, Mix Up”
DZ: Ah, “Mix Up, Mix Up” oh man that record right there. We’d be dancing off the stage ourselves there because I wait to play that one.
JG: I just love the trilogy and you can see the Wailers evolve with those three albums.
DZ: That’s a good idea.
JG: Kaya was before those and sort of ganja loving and laid back.
AB: 1978! Ah right.
JG: So you are touring for the next two months and then what? Are you doing any festivals?
AB: I don’t know yet, but in June and July it’s festival season and if there is a Reggae Festival we should be here.
JG: My first Wailers show was a festival in the early 90’s.
AB: Ah that probably was with “Wire” (Earl Lindo), “Carrot” (Irvin Jarrett) , Junior Marvin was the lead singer at that time and Carrot’s Third World Band. First time to see them, respect, respect.
JG: With the chaos in the world today, I don’t know how much has really changed. What is your message to the world?
AB: Peace, Love and Unity. That’s all we can bring.
DZ: Jah guide that One Love. Keep moving forward ever, backward never.
JG: I like that.
DZ: Yes, sir. I think we just need to say it more. Send more vibrations out there. Because we are coming closer and we are feeling more love. More vibrations. More. So we will put the sonic sound of survival out for all of 2013 and really push this message. That is a powerful delivery of music, man.
JG: I really appreciate your time. I know you have a long day and playing again tomorrow in Pennsylvania.
DZ: It’s great. The audience hear felt great here. Everyone was warm, very accepting, we’d still be up there playing, man. It felt like that.
JG: It was a great show and our goal at UpstateLIVE is to get people out to the music. There is nothing like seeing it live. Aston, do you see the role as bandleader getting passed from father to son soon?
AB: Whatever Jah says. Whatever my destiny is we don’t know, but we are all good people. We will follow the right way, we do good so good will follow us, right?
JG: I was happy to see you slide over from keys to bass.
DZ: And to the first question you said, “Where’s the Wailers going?” Se this new generation right here (points to Aston Jr and Avery). To the future that. It’s done already. It’s going on.
JG: And it sounds good.
DZ: Alright! Rastafari long live. Jah Bless.
JG: Thank you for your time.
DZ: Thank you for your time. Love.
AB: Give thanks for your time and stay safe. God Bless.
If you haven’t caught the Wailers yet on this trip through Upstate there is one more chance. They will be performing at Turning Stone Casino on January 23rd in the showroom. Tickets are only $10/$15/$20.
Also, Upstate Reggae Woodstock presented its first award last Thursday at Bearsville Theater to Aston “Family Man” Barrett, one of the founding members of The Wailers. A Rennie Cantine original crafted wooden bass guitar signifying Famz’ lifetime of innovation and musical excellence on bass guitar and his steadfast commitment to world touring and producing music for the next generation of reggae talent. “May Family Man and The Wailers always return to perform in Woodstock, the home base for music,” said Lea Boss of Upstate Reggae Woodstock.