1 ) Can you introduce yourself, summarize your background and tell us how you started playing with Groundation?
TEK : Yeah, my name is Te Kanawa.Haereiti . I have a nickname « Rufus » (it’s much easier to say …) – As far as I remember, I’ve been playing drums nearly all my life … I would say when I was about 3 or 4 years old is when I began playing some drums. So, it’s been part of my life since I can remember. . My musical background is very diverse ; I come from Rock’n Roll . Later, I began envolving into jazz at about 7 or 8 years. You know, Jazz music opens many doors, it is a bridge between all kinds of music … I did a lot of things, as for example : some Blues, some Reggae or even Cuban / Puerto Rican music … before Groundation I had to play ,all thoses different styles. But, everything has changed very quickly! Actually, I was recruited by Ryan Newman ( the bass player ) – He’s a friend! We both
come the Jazz scene! I was recommended by my ex-roommate Grant Levin …. This is a phenomenal piano player. At the time, Paul Spina (**) did not want to tour anymore … He had to take a break and get back to his family. For taking cares of « hims » … You know, Ryan was a little upset. Actually, the whole summer tour was already booked !
PL : Ryan was looking for a drummer,right?
TEK : Right ! In fact, Ryan and Grant, are old friends. Ryan returned to Northern California (where they grew up) … By discussing Grant said: « Ryan, you should call Rufus » … The next day Ryan , called me up for asking me if I was OK … Then it is Harrison who called me personally and he told me that everything would be ready for me ! That’s how I started playing with Groundation.
PL : The first time I saw you, it was in 2008, at the « Tribute to Bob Marley » In the U.S . However, I know that Paul Spina came back for playing during the European tour in April !
TEK : Yes, after the European tour in the spring … I started the U.S tour « Coast To Coast » → We started in California, to Massachusetts (in the middle of nowhere) → (laughs) – Then, after that, we went to Florida! (It was crazy !) … When we came back on the West Coast : I « left » the group and Paul did the other half of the tour … The last Groundation’s show with Paul was at the » Catalyst « (a concert room in Santa Cruz) – Now, every time we play in San Francisco, Paul comes out to see us. It’s always nice to see each other ! There a r e many former members of Groundation who helped a lot. As for example, the original drummer James Stafford (*) … We also have a friend percussionist in Brazil: Ronnie Santos and a man called Tim O’Neal.There is also James Bodlovich (Editor’s note: The first drummer who has recorded with Groundation in 1998 )
2) How did you proceed to learn the Groundation’s songs – Knowing that most of these songs are quite difficult with specific breaks .. There are also some polyrhythms etc …
TEK : You know, I did not have any musical scores. So, my job was mainly to listen as much as possible to al l the Groundation’s albums . I had to assimilate many songs : From Young Tree to Upon The Bridge … At the time, there was a lot of new songs too… As those which has been released on the album Here I Am …
Finally, we established a set list: the list of songs that we had to play in concert ! Actually, it was the biggest part of each album . At the beginning, I have not learned all the repertoire. But, as one goes along with the time ;my amount of work increased! Later, I thus learnt the rest of the songs … There are some songs that we had not played yet But not much : I would say only two or three . Ryan has also really helped me! You know, with Paul, they are very close : They used to work together a lot ! And, the rhythm section drum/bass was really « tight » So, on my side, I really listened to what they were playing …
In February 2008, I did not had much time to rehearse for the « Tribute to Bob Marley » However, to assimilate the Groundation’s music I had a little more than four months ( from February to June) … It was much better … Meanwhile, « I finished what I had to (where I live) do at the time. And that’s it !
PL : Did you rehearse with the band ?
TEK : We therefore rehearsed quickly before flying to Hawaii. My first concert was at Pipeline Cafe, it was very difficult …!
3) Many people have been heavily influenced by the almost « perfect » rhythm section on the previous albums. Is it hard for you as a drummer to « replace » Paul Spina? Who moreover, has left a huge stamp in the Groundation’s sound. Have you sought playing it with the same kind of feeling?
TEK : Not at all, it was not my approach. For me, the idea was rather to come with my own background Paul Spina has also played Jazz . But he mostly played Funk and Fusion music ! Me, I play mainly Jazz , I had many experiences upon « the jazz scene »Moreover, with the pianist Grant Levin and Ryan on bass : I recorded an album (not released yet ) … So I would not say it was « difficult ». In the sense that, my goal was not « replacing » Spina.
PL : Finally, you are the new drummer with your own feeling /style …
TEK : I am the new drummer …. The band took a new direction … The symbol of all that is on the album Here I am ( published in 2009) – with the song « Run The Plan ». Paul Spina plays the intro on
drums with me. Until, the voice of Harrison comes in. And, from there I’m all alone on drums … The hardest thing for me was that some people were expecting the old Groundation’s sound. We can compare my situation with the one of the first drummer : James Stafford. For me, « Young Tree » and « Each One Teach One » are among the very best albums of Groundation ! Moreover, Each One Teach One has really allowed the band « to cross one crucial step musically. » We can say that with this album they have built a sound identity … I think James helped a lot the band to grow. He took them towards a new direction … Then Paul arrived and the group began to tour ! Now we have lots of fun. It is a well well machine … There are the girls Kerry-Ann and Kim … Yeah, now I can say that the band plays really well …!
PL : I confirm ! (Laughs)
4) Can you please give us the characteristics of your kit (drums model / cymbals etc …)
TEK : Well, as I have no endorsement, contract with any brand , I prefer to play on Yamaha Drums. My kit is the « Absolute Maple Custom » – I play with a kick drum of 20 « x18 – I find the sound deeper – My snare is a custom one from Yamaha 14 » x8 …
PL : You have also a second snare …
TEK : Yes, it is an « Picollo » snare from Yamaha. (***) → I use it in Europe and I love it!- For the toms, I use a right tom of 10 « x10 – 14 » x14 for floor tom that I can also put upon a rack …
For the new album, I added a second floor tom of 12 « … So my configuration is : 10 » 12 « 14 ». Because, for the recording of Building An Ark, I needed a third tom. For this album, we had to move forward, so I had to « lift up » the songs . Otherwise, to keep it simple my drumsticks are
Vic Firth 5A! For the cymbals, I love the Zildjian K series.
5) I saw that you were using a sub-kick! It seems that many drummers uses this material, but especially for the studio sessions …. The only Reggae drummer I’ve seen using a Subkick in live was Sly Dunbar! – Can you explain briefly what is this material and what it brings you in terms of the sound ?
TEK : Yes of course, the Subkick is basically a speaker made for fit the drum-kit with sound system (note: It is placed in front of the kick drum) … It vibrates like a speaker does . This material is able to capture /control the low vibrations which are coming from the bass drum … Sometimes when you try to bring out the low frequencies of the bass drum (those which rumbles and hits you) – Well, it’s a little dangerous because you can get some feedbacks, or weird sounds which come… Unlike a conventional microphone, with the subkick when you « miccing » the drum-set → This material sorts the frequencies and only keep the good ones . In fact, it’s as if you used a simple microphone on a single tom but for the kick-drum. I would say that the sound is « cleaner ».
PL : And specifically for reggae, this is useful?
TEK : You see, it depends … Personally I’m not the biggest fan of this « rumbling bass drum ». When you listen to the Roots Reggae, classics in Studio One – Well, it is closer to the « heartbeat sound ».
PL : Yes it’s true, it’s very discreet, sometimes one might even say that there is no bass drum on the record … This is a one and only sound ….
TEK : Yeah, that’s the sound of « drop » when you put the bass drum with the snare on the third time : You must do it perfectly . ! You’re right it’s like one sound because you should not discern any difference .This is the problem of the Subkick. It does not work in all rooms. In some concert halls that makes a sound like « Whooo » with too much bass, in this case it is removed.
6) Another question, I saw some videos in South America where you do not play with your own instrument … Is it difficult to play on a drum-kiy which is not his ?
TEK :I play on « jazz set » for this reason … All I need, is a bass drum, one snare (I usually bring my own snare ) and two toms … But the hardest things is the cymbals.
7) Can you tell us which drummers have the biggest influence on you? – Also, how would you define yourself as a drummer. Gives us one of your qualities and one of your flaws
TEK : My biggest influence without hesitation: The master Vinnie Colaiuta! He is incredible . As a drummer,the quality which I would like to « let » is my ability to help the band . I try to push the song forward and lift up the musicians, so that we play the best way possible!My flaw? I would say that I play too many notes .. (laughs)
PL : Yes, me too, you know, in the past I played with a Reggae band, but I was « in my world ». And I was not paying much attention to what was happened around me ». Since this time, I have evolved, but it was not my thing . The others members told me : « Why are you filled the song like that? You’re a Jazz drummer or what ? Fortunately, now I do not have these considerations anymore , I just play music …
TEK : Me, you know, everyone says that I have a good ear … It must come from Jazz or … « I dunno » It’s a job … You have to analyze the situation with all your senses and react well « at time T! »- That’s exactly what we try to do with Groundation: We approach our music in a different way every night … It’s never really the same thing … It’s a kind of experience every time : A challenge !
8 ) In general, the Groundation’s shows are very physical …. Before the concert do you practice a specific warm-up?
TEK : Not necessarily, again Jazz helped me! I used to play three sets of four hours sometimes! However, I still have my Pad with me! Like that, I can practice anywhere. But you are right, the quality of each show can fluctuate according to your physical fitness … The question is, to know if you are « hot or not. «
PL : Personally, I think that a good drummer is before all, a musician who knows how to keep the tempo, for me the most important thing is endurance …. The technique comes after … Do you agree ?
TEK : « Um, OK The endurance is good, but you must realize that most of the time the bass player is the most important … He marks the time/cadency and my role is to play with him by listening to the music. But, should also « master » the time. Yes, I would say that you must find the good balance! – We agree, as you said, keeping the tempo, is very important! But there is also the groove and the musicality of the song … You must be consistent with the style/ambiance of the song. And after it depends : If you play a Swing or a Stepper etc … There are rules that you must follow ! But me, As long as the people is dancing : I’m happy !
9) Before Groundation, did you like reggae music ?
TEK : Yes, when I was a young drummer, the first album I ever bought was Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey With Horsemouth – (I listen to him from my youth) …. Then after, I listened to Carly! « Pfffff, Carlton Barrett » (****) …. This guy is everywhere, every time you hear some Marley’s music : He is there! If you want to play Reggae that’s enough, these two guyd are the teachers.
PL : As drummer myself I know that the « Reggae drumming » is actually very difficult to « comprehend »! Many people mistakenly think: « Yes, just put the bass drum and rimshot on the third time » … Reggae is actually very difficult, especially the Hi-Hat with the famous « One Drop pattern » ! What do you think ?
TEK : Very good point. The goal when you play reggae, is to ensure that the song sounds simple. But then, precisely, it becomes complicated !
10) Can you tell us how the band proceeds for the recording of a studio album ?
TEK : For the last album I was with Marcus (the keyboardist) in a room. And then, in another room, there was Ryan on bass with Harrison on guitar. We were four. But we knew that some solos like those of the horns section or even the one of the percussions were going to be upon specific parts of some songs So,for the recording of the tracks containing the solos everyone was present. I will say that Marcus has recorded 75% of its takes at the same time (as me)! Ryan, also recorded live, but most of the time, he recorded upstream! The vocals and guitar tracks were « ghost tracks ». Subsequently, we had listened back the songs. And sometimes we recorded back again. But, only if something was wrong
PL : I noticed that in Live, you « answered » a lot to the other instruments. Especially to Marcus’ keyboard , but also to Harrison on guitar ?
TEK : True ! This is the problem with the studio, we had to re-record some of our parts . Because what we were playing at the base did not fit with some solos … The saxophonist Jason Robison was unable to be there So, when it was his turn, we played « on the times » !
PL : « You imagined the saxophone » !
TEK : « Haha Yes, Harrison has made jokes about it, we imagined the saxo … It was fun! We recently recorded for a radio in Seattle, all together in a tiny room! It was truly a great experience! Everyone « confined » in this room … The recording sounds great!Have you seen the photos ?
PL : Yes !
TEK : Yeah, it’s proof that we can record Live. But we do not … The girls are in Jamaica! And in fact, it is quite complicated !
PL : Do you play another instrument, such as for example the piano, an instrument that could help you « melodically » to be more connected with the other musicians ? !
TEK : Do I play piano?! No, I play DRUMS ! My mother was a piano teacher. But me, I’m just doing my « Jazz gigs (Laughs)
PL : So the « musical cohesion on stage » came gig after gig ?
TEK : Yeah, that’s really, gig after gig … You know, we do not rehearse : Our free time is very important …. The life of a touring musician is actually very « unenviable »…. We miss our families. In addition, most of the time you do not know the city in which you are. … The day before the concert there is a lot of waiting and it’s sometimes this is very « boring »! But, on the other hand it is also a kind of « blessing ».Yeah, I do not consider that, as a work, if you have the chance to play music and inspire people / fans and in addition of earning some money by doing it : It’s a pleasure ! We try to do it well and then, we are lucky to do what we do !
11) Beyond the music now, is it important for you to play in a band like Groundation whose message is almost as important as the music itself?
TEK : Of course,It’s primarily the reason why I joined the band : Good music with good lyrics! : Often for a band it’s rare to find the good balance « betwixt and between » – Even if we are mainly « inlaid » as a Reggae band. The band members all come from different horizons/ backgrounds! That’s why before being a Reggae band we consider primarily ourselves as musicians ! And finally, the people/fans listen/enjoy and dance upon our music while listening to one message which speak to them !
12) What would you say to some Roots Reggae purists who are saying that « Groundation, it’s not Reggae, but just some whites guys who are playing Jazz music by adding some
Jamaican Patois within their lyrics ?
TEK : « Grow up guys! For me, it is even not question of giving us a chance to be heard . But I think, that life is too short! I wonder why some people are so « narrow minded » « Open Your Mind » – Listen
as much music as possible! Personally, all kinds of music inspires me! As long as they are playing with passion and integrity! Regardless the musical genres ! Whatever if it is Afro-Beat or Country Music: The Good music: I listen to it !
PL : Well, I think they should listen to the message ! So maybe they would understand that Harrison wanted to overcome all obstacles musical or moral » which correspond to the imprisoning the music » !
And therefore, to propose a universal music with some universal lyrics, for me, Harrison is the man of the « concept » Groundation that we find throughout the different albums » . And today is an important period → (« Building An Ark »!!!) I see him as a symbol : I would say, as the one who gave back his letters patents to Reggae Music … Do you agree ?
TEK : Um, I think we have great success in France for this reason! At the first glance people love our music and do not necessarily understand the lyrics ! But some of them translate the lyrics into French. Thus, they have both: A music they like with a message that they approve! In the band, we are aware of this: we try to give a satisfying « content » to Harrison!
13) You’ve already partially answered to this question … Do you listen to the Jamaican Roots Reggae?
TEK : Of course all the time, although we listen more « Old School » Hip-Hop and Jazz But, of course, reggae is a big part of our daily lives! Mostly, In the bus : Reggae is present all the time … And sometimes, as you know we do some covers of the classics!
PL : « Is there any possibilitity for you to play in Jamaica in the future ? »
TEK : Indeed, there is the « Kingston Blues Festival » – However, we will not play in a Reggae festival … « Reggae in Jamaica is …. I do not know ?! Maybe the audience « would not be « excellent » for us, » We will go where the people are asking for us !
PL : (I exclaim myself) « Reggae is » dead « !
14) Finally, can you tell us something about « Building an Ark » (Editor’s note: New Groundation’s album to be released on march 2012) – Does the fans can expect any suprises ?
TEK : Surprises are surprises! The band has grown, and this album is the next step! We are much more mature and our sound is more aged ! For us, with this album, we are going somewhere !
PL : And now I think that the people in the audience knows what Groundation « stand for » When they come to see the band … I hope, they understand what is all about ! –> « Building an Ark! »! »
TEK : Some do but not everyone ! Sure, this new album will be a sort of challenge to the fans! We are not talking about an ark for the animals, but for the people, an ark for everyone and also for our new fans! So if you come with us, here we go!!!
PL : Do you think they should forget the previous albums ?
TEK : Not at all! Know and respect your past ….
PL : It’s still a concept ?!
TEK : Yes, of course that’s the « Groundation » → we go to the next step! Each One Teach One is actually my favorite album! But, now we are « here and now »! We have already reharsed and played some new songs … There is some very good things !
PL : « I waiting for it ! In fact I am confident you know ! »
TEK : « Yeah man ! I’m waiting for it too.We recorded the album in last January : Until the official release in March 2012 it will be more than one full year ! »
PL : « That was the last question, I hope that thanks to this interview some people will have the opportunity to discover Groundation …. My goal is to « promote » (Laughs) »
TEK : Thank you for helping and for this initiative This is a good thing for us .. We appreciate. And believe me, you are very « inspiring » – In the band we all appreciate your drumming !
PL : Thanks for answering !
TEK : « No problem my friend, it was my pleasure … « Definitely a pleasure ! »
Interview by Pierre-Louis Heidinger (www, myspace.com / plhtafari) for Groundation.fr
(*) James Stafford was the Groundation’s drummer from 1998 to 2001 → He plays on the firsts two
albums Young Tree (1999) and Each One Teach One (2001)
(**) 2001: Paul Spina joined the band following the departure of James Stafford. “In the in the same
breath”, he recorded Hebron Gate (the third album by Groundation released in 2002) – From 2004 to
2008, by taking part in some memorable shows – He travels the world as one goes along of the
different tours.He is also present on the albums We Free Again (2004) and Upon the Bridge (2006)
(***) I have not found the snare drum mentioned by Te Kanawa, however, in all likelihood it should
be a model very close to the snare « YAMAHA SD493 Brass PiccoloSnare Drum »
(****) Carlton Barrett was the famous Bob Marley’s drummer. following the example of the drummer
Horsemouth like Wallace, he greatly influenced Jamaican music (even global) with a recognizable style of
all!Horsemouth and Carly are probably among the most recorded drummers during the 1970s! Today, it
is not uncommon to see « Horsemouth Wallace » with Groundation , during the Tribute to Bob Marley