Michael Goldwasser is the heart of the Easy Star All-Stars — a collaborative reggae group made up of members of bands on Easy Star Records, session players, and guest musicians. The latter is a category which has included everyone from reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry to up-and-comers like Matisyahu.
Goldwasser occupies a unique position with the All-Stars as the group’s composer and unofficial creative director. He also plays many of the instruments on each album, both adapting and executing their adaptations before letting them loose on the road with a live band. The group’s first album, Dub Side of the Moon — plainly, a collection of reggae versions of the songs on the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon — was a modest commercial success and hit big with critics, nearly all of whom ran one variation or another on the theme of “it’s a gimmick, but it’s actually good.” Since then, they’ve released another record, a cover of Radiohead’s O.K. Computer titled Radiodread, and a mini-album of original material, hailed by Pitchfork Media as a smashing success.
Though unexpected, Easy Star’s publicist was strongly enthusiastic about MJL’s coverage. When I finally got to talk to Goldwasser, he was bubbling with enthusiasm as soon as he climbed on the phone. He barely gave me a chance to speak before we plunged straight in:
MJL: Hey, thanks for talking to us!
Michael Goldwasser: I’m psyched to be interviewed by a Jewish website. I’ve been a musician for a while, but I’ve been Jewish even longer. My identity as a Jew is a much more central part of my being than even my music is, and that feels strange to say in an interview…but, there it is.
What brought you to reggae in the first place?
I’ve loved reggae almost since I started playing music. I started learning guitar informally at about 13, and I got into reggae when I was 14 or so. I remember hearing reggae as a much younger kid — I have a weird memory of being seven or eight, in the car with my dad, who has eclectic tastes. Some reggae song was on the radio, and I asked him what it was and he said, “That’s reggae.”