The privilege of spending an entire afternoon with a world class group of musicians doesn’t come around often. Receiving a message from my partner asking if I would be interested to interview a group of musicians, called Big Mountain, I showed no sign of hesitation. Realizing shortly after that I had no idea who the group was, where I would be meeting them, or if any of them were expecting my arrival, I began to wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into.
Big Mountain, started in 1992 by two local San Diego brothers, Quino and James McWhinney bringing the roots of Jamaican music to the American mainstream. Receiving a lot of publicity and fame for their 1994 Peter Frampton cover of “Baby, I Love Your Way”, (that ended up being the soundtrack song for the movie Reality Bytes) and “Touch my light”, the group has since then played festivals, released multiple albums, and taken a lot of time to their own personal lives.
Several of the band’s members now live on the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as Jamaica, and San Diego. The luxury of being in close proximity to your fellow band members for rehearsals, collaborations and joint creativity had slowed Big Mountain for the past several years; however, changing their pace in the new year of 2012, Big Mountain plans to climb to the summit again this year.
Showing up to the location of Big Mountain’s rehearsal, I found myself again asking “Allie, what have you gotten yourself into this time?” attitude. Once inside the El Cajon, CA home, I was not just greeted with a “Hello, who are you?” but instead I was welcomed with, “Hello! Welcome! Would you like something to drink? A sandwich? Oh and by the way, who are you here with?” I couldn’t help but to burst into laughter. I had never met a single person here, and here I was, being treated like a family member. No more than fifteen minutes had to pass before I realized that this group was dedicated to their music, their message, and their familial community. It felt like a breath of fresh air at the top of a Big Mountain.
Big Mountain had been rehearsing for the entire week in preparation for their two night set at San Diego’s Tribute to the Reggae Legends. Big Mountain, playing both Saturday and Sunday night displayed angst due to their short set time, and their lack of pre-show rehearsal time.
As a writer, and an observer I immediately began to notice the difference between all 7 band members, and what each personality offered. Quino and James, both very talkative and explanatory of their thoughts and emotions of their music shared incredible insight into the music industry they have been a part of for the past twenty years. Everything from record labels, to endless days and nights recording albums in a small apartment.
Due to the large influence that record labels, and large producers govern over a lot of musicians, the ability to maintain their music, while being conscious of the ability to distribute and create world-wide pop reggae music, spotlights Big Mountains’ talents and abilities. Battling the labels with the demand for selling sex through the reggae industry caused hardship over the bands immediate instant label gratification, yet enabled the group to remain honest, and integral with the music they chose to create, and distribute.
The time spent with the musicians, demonstrated the roots and culture that the musicians all come from. Large influences from Jamaica and the music scene that exists in the country, in addition to the California roots stemming from Mexican ancestry, and upbringing creates diversity unique to Big Mountain’s music, and lives.
Paul Kastick (drums), Taddy P, and Reggie, all come from Jamaica and add an interesting value of the musical upbringing that Jamaica offered. Paul Kastick, on drums, has been largely involved in the music industry of Jamaica since grade school. Being raised by his grandmother, to take risks, adventure, and learn, Paul remains highly knowledgeable in Jamaican reggae, in addition to various styles of music. Influenced by Bob Marley, Marti Dread, Shaggy, and other iconic Jamaican music, the Jamaican flare provides Big Mountain with the true roots of reggae music that comes from that region.
Big Mountain has recently released a new single titled, ”Leap of Faith”, that is currently receiving air time on the radio stations throughout the Hawaiian Islands. During my time spent in Hawaii, I would hear ”Leap of Faith” on the radio, and associate many of incredible Hawaii memories with the lyrics, and the song. Not knowing that Big Mountain was the artist, I was more than pleased to associate the song with the energy that Big Mountain has. During their set at San Diego’s Tribute to the Reggae Legends, Big Mountain debuted their new track for the first time in front of an audience, and filmed a live recorded set of their new track. Quino, the lead vocalist, exclaimed to the San Diego audience to keep Big Mountain alive in San Diego, and slam the radio stations with demands to have ”Leap of Faith” on the radio locally. In addition, Big Mountain also recorded a track with the New Zealand group, House of Shem. Another sure fire track, soon to be released.
Big Mountain’s ability to create easy listening music, with a positive, healthy, and uplifting message comes from the musicians’ ability, drive, and desire to spread their love with the masses. The group is confident and comfortable in their abilities to create pop reggae songs, without losing the value of their music, or selling out to more profitable markets that detract from their roots.
”Its a hard road, the battle not won, never stop till the work is done…You will never fall if you do things right” These lyrics from their new track, ”Hard Road”, demonstrate the true, and honest qualities that Big Mountain brings to the reggae music scene, and Big Mountain is clearly still at their own summit.