Long Beach Dub All Stars - High Times
Ras-1 is a big bearish guy who comes off like an amiable cross between Hank Hill's son, Bobby, and stoner dude extraordinaire Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High -- the operative word being "high." The noon day sun is beaming down on the residential section of south Long Beach that the Long Beach Dub Allstars' guitarist calls home, and he's already puffing away like a steam engine. It's the last week before the Vans Warped Tour kicks into action and Ras is enjoying the down time before he and his seven homies in the ensemble hit the road.
For those who've been living under stones for the past few years, Long Beach Dub Allstars is the band Sublime members Eric Wilson (bass) and Bud Gaugh (drums) formed after the 1996 overdose of singer/guitarist Brad Nowell. The two soon recruited Ras and Miguel (guitar) Opie Ortiz (vocals), Jack Maness and Isaiah Owens (keyboards), Todd Foreman and Tim Wu (saxophone), and Marshall Goodman (DJ), and set off to create a band that knew how to jam and loved to have fun.
The resulting album, Right Back, didn't dwell on the past, instead embracing the present with fists full of weed. The songs were loose jammy, but filled with enough groove to keep the rhythms flowing, even when the melodies were occasionally lacking. Through a ganja haze the 29 year old Ras-1 sheds a little light on the raison d'tre behind the sunny pop-rock-reggae hybrid and offers some hints at the upcoming album that's already in the works.
Guitar.com: When did you start writing songs?
Ras-1: I started writing songs before I even knew how to play guitar. I was a little kid like, "I'monna write me some songs." I had this manual typewriter that my dad brought home from his work and so I started writing blues songs. Most of 'em were stupid love songs about girls and it's funny because I barely had any, like, girlfriends or anything but I started writing all these broken-hearted songs about girls when I was right on ten years old probably (laughs).
Guitar.com: When did you first hear reggae?
Ras-1: I think it was "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth. I was in like, sixth grade. (Laughs) They used to play it on the Mighty 690 in Long Beach. It was an AM radio station that played everything - all the one-hit-wonders. It would play Musical Youth and then "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" after that and then "Call Me" or something by Blondie.
Guitar.com: What were the earliest rock songs you tried to play?
Ras-1: The first song I ever learned was "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions. My cousin Jason taught me how to play it. He was metal before metal was "in." You know what I'm sayin'? I thought he was the coolest. He still is the coolest. I think of him whenever I think of who inspired me to be a musician. He taught me that and the next song after that was "Rainbow In the Dark" by Dio (laughs). And it's funny 'cause me and Eric and some homies have a band called the Village Idiots instead of the Village People and play all heavy metal songs like "Looks that Kill" by Motley Crue and we have a good time doing it. It's fun. Cause everybody's trying to be so cool, like they don't want to admit to their metal roots (laughs). I got Iron Maiden in my CD player right now. Piece of Mind, buddy. (laughs). Those guys were a big influence, definitely. Dave Murray's bluesy leads - those were sweet. Their tones and stuff. I think some people don't want to go for old tones like that, a Marshall and a screaming Seymour Duncan pickup but I like that still.
Guitar.com: Do you do a lot of takes when you're recording?
Ras-1: It depends on what mood we're in. Sometimes we'll be writing something and Eric, our bass player, he'll be like, "Oh man we should do this right here." And we'll be like, "Okay let's try it." We like to throw in one little thing here and there and change up something from four beats to three beats -- something different so it catches people off guard. Have some stops here and there, and then have some groovy dance stuff too. But a lot of things come from recording and then listening to it and realizing what needs to go where.
Guitar.com: Which do you like better, the studio or playing live?
Ras-1: I like both. I like gettin' out there and playing live, but living on a bus for six weeks is kind of a bust though. I like going in the studio but I don't like sitting there all day listening to the same fucking song over and over and over again. This first album we did was kind of a learning process. I was new playing with those guys, but towards the end of the recording it got a lot easier. For this new album we've got a lot of stuff already written - like at least eight songs - before we go in the studio and that's in September. We're going to go in the studio with Paul Leary from Butthole Surfers. He did a lot of the takes on Sublime's self-titled album. The Butthole Surfers did all kinds of guitar layering. I think it's cool to work with him 'cause he's gonna push me on guitar.
Guitar.com: When you're not on the road do you play every day?
Ras-1: I don't play every day. Lately me and Eric have been sitting around his house and making up ideas for stuff. We've been bustin', but I don't play every day. Sometimes we're out on tour for like eight weeks and it's like I need to just put the guitar down and kick it for a while - watch TV, order a pizza and just chill. Smoke a bong hit. Roll up a fattie.
Guitar.com: Did you ever play any other instruments or was it always just guitar?
Ras-1: I played bass and drums. What I found out is guitar players shouldn't be bass players cause we just can't do it. Bass players are bass players. Drums are fun though. I like playin' drums.
Guitar.com: A lot of people say it's good to do that because then you have a better understanding of where the rest of your band is coming from.
Ras-1: You understand they work hard. That's why I gotta give it up to the rhythm section every time. They're bustin' their balls back there to make it sound good. If they miss a note I think it's more noticeable than if the guitar player misses a note.
Guitar.com: You have a nice mix of ensemble work and solo breaks.
Ras-1: We mix it up. Like, we have a DJ do a solo and we'll have the guitar do a solo or we'll have the sax do a solo or we'll have the flute do a solo. So we have a variety of things to have solos. Not without the band playing behind them, though. Nobody goes, "Okay now I'm going to do a solo for you guys" and stands there doing a flute solo for everybody watching while we go change our outfits or anything. We don't change our outfits. We don't change from what we wake up and put on.