Matisyahu Brings the Light
Matisyahu: Anywhere in America where I happen to be -- Crown Heights, Willamsburg -- in any Jewish community, it seems like there's one type of Jew. There's pressure to fit in and dress a certain way, talk a certain way, and if you don't do that, it's almost like you're not Jewish. And then in other places, there are a lot of different types of Jews -- and, in those places, you lose the intensity of belief and of observance and of the lifestyle. And that's only among religious Jews. In America, you can be Jewish and elect not to have anything to do with Judaism.
In Israel, even sitting in the airport, you're among a hundred different kinds of Jews, and it's amazing. It's inspiring. Everyone's doing their own thing, but it's not just their own thing - they have a whole community of people backing them up.
Then you come back to America, and you really feel that we're a small minority of people. We're trying to hold onto something that doesn't necessarily fit into our hands. In Israel, Judaism is alive. It's a real, tangible, living thing.
Is that where the titles come in? Your last E.P. was called "Shattered," and it seemed like the very small prelude to something a lot bigger. And then the new album's going to be called Light.
Yeah, it all kind of figures together. There's a Kabbalistic idea of the first world being shattered, utterly destroyed, and the second world - the world we're in right now - being a tikkun, a fixing, of the first one. Are you an artist?
Do you mean --
I mean, like, a visual artist.
I draw a little, but I don't really know what I'm doing.
I know what you mean. That's where I am, too. (Laughs.) So when you look at something without light, it looks dead. It's two-dimensional, without any depth or substance. If there are no shadows and no light twisting off of surfaces, it's like it doesn't exist at all. Just like that, when a person looks at the world, it's like it's dead. Then, with light and a backdrop, everything becomes revealed, and their depth comes out.
That's what "Shattered" was about. Naming the E.P. "Shattered," it was about stopping running away.
I was running for the past few years, running nonstop. My career, my marriage, my kids -- but mostly my career. This past year I've spent mostly at home, going to minyan, working on my record, jamming in my studio.
The songs on "Shattered," and the stuff that's been released from the new album so far, is all way different than anything you've done before -- it's more beat-driven and electronic. Why the change?
The foremost changes were all vocally. Musically, we've used elements of reggae, but it's not traditionally reggae. If you listen to my first single, "King without a Crown," it's not reggae -- the beat isn't a traditional reggae rhythm. It's not really a reggae song.
Your vocals, though, really are very reggae-influenced...
It's true. When I sing that song, a lot of my earlier songs, I'm using a Jamaican accent. When I was first developing my singing, I was only listening to reggae. When you listen to only one kind of music, that style penetrates you. A lot of the big reggae singers, the people who've been around for years, they take new techniques and integrate them into their singing. These days, I'm listening to a lot less reggae. I'm listening to a lot of different things.