Interview: Matisyahu

Matisyahu (Photo by Mark Squires)

2012 was a big year for Chassidic Reggae Superstar Matthew Paul Miller – who performs as Matisyahu, and is addressed as Matis. With a reputation for eclectic, trippy, pop-centered reggae, the Los Angeles artist spent a year recording Spark Seeker, which was released in July 2012.  The album, which was recorded with Koool Kojak (Nicki Minaj, Travis Barker), included a trip to Israel where the pair enlisted Israeli friends and musicians to contribute their considerable talents to the recording. The resulting album pushed the boundaries of Matisyahu’s previous output, lending a multi-faceted, multi-cultural approach that is groovy and inspired.
The Grammy-nominated recording artist released his first-ever acoustic recordings, Spark Seeker: Acoustic Sessions, a six-track EP featuring variations of songs from his Spark Seeker album on Jan. 29. The tracks, which include live acoustic performances from more traditional Matisyahu concerts in support of the 2012 release, provide a teaser that will illuminate Matis’ forthcoming “An Acoustic Evening with Matisyahu” tour.
Ghettoblaster spoke with Matis prior to the tour to discuss his roots, the concepts behind Spark Seeker and the acoustic EP and his participation in the movie, “The Possessed.” This is what he told us …
How did you become inspired to you use music as a way to have your voice heard?
I’m not sure how. It just is. It’s not something that I have to work at. – Matisyahu
So music was always part of your nature then?
I’d say so. -M
So Spark Seeker: The Acoustic EP is your first acoustic recording. What inspired you to head in that direction?
Over the years I’ve done a lot of acoustic concerts and made a lot of acoustic style music. It’s just coming into fruition, coming into a revealed state now I guess. I’ve been doing it for a while.  So we’ve put together an official tour this year of acoustic shows because in the past they’ve felt same and successful because of the turnout. Because we were doing the tour, we felt like we should release acoustic music so people know what they’re getting. But I didn’t have time to write a new record or record a new acoustic record. So we just released live acoustic recordings of songs from Spark Seeker that we recorded over the past summer and fall tours that we did at other shows and we put those together to make an EP. -M
As part of this tour I expect that you’ll be providing fans with a VH1 “Storytellers”-like experience and let them know where these songs came from. Am I correct?
Not exactly. Basically, what I’ll do is a Q-and-A so that if people have questions, we’ll open the show up for those. So if people have questions about the songs, or meaning of the songs, or if people want to ask me what my favorite color is, I’ll answer those questions. I’ll just open myself up to the audience. -M
Can you explain the concept of being a “spark seeker”?
I think it means “looking for meaning”; finding a three-dimensional world, not a two-dimensional world; finding a sense of oneness, a sense of connection in this world to something greater. -M
Has that concept been particularly important in your journey as an artist?
That’s what being an artist is all about. -M
Pictures have appeared online that show that you’ve chosen to shave and lighten your hair, which is a departure from how many know you. How have people responded to your new look?
I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them. -M
How does your wife like it?
She’s getting in the car now you can ask her… -M
(Matis’ wife Talia joins the conversation)
Which look? -Talia Miller
Tell them about this look. -M
Right now he has a gray beard, brown hair with his grey roots growing in and he’s wearing a yarmulke. I think he looks fantastic. He’s very handsome. -TM
It depends what day you catch me on. -M
Tell me a little bit about your trip to Israel with Koool Kojak.
We were recording most of the record in Los Angeles and decided to take a little field trip to Israel. We recorded music in an old studio in Tel Aviv with some Israeli musicians, and I don’t know … it really added a world music element to it. -M
Did you ever feel like you were like Paul Simon when he was in Africa doing Graceland?
It’s funny you should mention that, because Graceland is a huge influence on me. Somehow that set it; the idea of combining traditional music and pop music and combining those two things together. Graceland is definitely where that idea got started from. -M
Today the DVD of “The Possession” was released and you did some acting in that movie.  What was that experience like?
It was a good experience, I guess. I acted most of my life, as a kid, in high school and in college, but I hadn’t done any acting in 15 years or so. I was looking for a way to do some acting again and it seemed like the perfect role for me. -M
If somebody left one of those creepy boxes from the movie on your porch, would you bring it in?
No, thank you. I don’t bring any boxes into my house unless I know where they come from. -M