Pepper has been at the heart of the reggae-rock community since the release of their debut album Give’n It back in 1998 and their subsequent move to California from Kona, HI in 1999. Since then, the group has released a total of 7 full-length studio albums, 2 live-albums, 2 EPs, 2 DVD’s while being featured on a ton of misc. compilations.
They started a label, Law Records, that saw the early success of groups such as The Supervillains, Ballyhoo!, Iration, Passafire and are continuing to introduce some great albums with some current and upcoming releases under the label’s umbrella. Pepper’s last album was Ohana, released April 2016 featuring 10 songs recorded inside their own Kona Inn Recording in Redondo Beach, CA. If that’s not enough, they have also released their own strain of Marijuana titled Hawaiian Pepper and is searchable via Weedmaps.com.
With so much going on, In The Barrel Photo and The Pier reached out to drummer, Yesod Williams, who graciously invited us up to his home for a in-person interview ahead of their Nice Dreams tour with Tribal Seeds. We found out that Pepper has new music coming out with a special guest appearance and that Yesod has started a Podcast called The Disposable Heroes — Read the details revealed in our Q&A below and see whats goin’ on in the world of Pepper!
Interview: Yesod Williams of Pepper
What can you tell us about new Pepper music? When can we hear some new tunes?
Funny you ask, we actually are putting out a super rad single very soon. It was recorded between our studio in Redondo at Kona Inn Recording, and a couple home studios. We don’t have an exact date, but I do know it will be out digitally before the Nice Dreams tour is over! Oh, and the song is called “Good Thing,” a version that we adapted from an old reggae artist we love, Sugar Minott. Also, the reason we have the single coming out is because we’re starting to get together ideas for the next record, and we stumbled upon this idea, so we had to get it out to the Ohana!
Nice! Are there any guest appearances, musically and/or vocally, on “Good Thing”
I’m more than happy to say that our brother, Miles (Doughty) from Slightly Stoopid will have a whole verse on the track. Me and the boys were talking one day, months ago, about new music and it dawned on us, we’d never done a collaboration with Stoopid, AKA the first band/people we met when we moved to San Diego from Kona on May 12, 1999! Kaleo had a demo version of the cover he had worked up at home, so we literally text Miles on the spot and that was that! Extra big shout out to Miles and J-Wiz for pulling the verse together while prepping and being on their Sounds of Summer Tour!
That’s fantastic! And crazy you guys have never recorded together considering your history…
It’s almost like we’ve been so busy and it wasn’t as easy to record back then. I think I was the first one to hit up Miles about it after we met one day about the direction we were going to take our new material. But yeah, I ended up texting Miles and he replied back, “Are you kidding me? Consider it done. Let’s do it.” So we’re pretty excited about it. We haven’t had a ton of features on much of our songs or albums.
There was the great Josh Fischel on “Stormtroopers” from Kona Town in 2002 & I think that was it, really…
Yeah maybe that’s why “Stormtroopers” became such a huge song for us. Because that was so effective and so huge, God rest his soul, what an amazing man Josh was. Since then, that was maybe the last time we had a guest vocalist. Point being is I’m really stoked.
How would you describe the song “Good Thing” & are there any plans to release a new album in the future?
“Good Thing” is two families joining forces in celebration of this gift of music we’ve been blessed with, and an amazing homage to the late great, Sugar Minott. And for a new album, YES, that’s the first priority for 2018 is to make a new record. After we really brought it home with Ohana, we can’t wait to continue down that path!
I’m just trying to find out where you guys find the time – How do you find the balance between prioritizing Law Records with your roster of bands and then your own music and your own schedule with touring?
For me, personally, it’s one in the same. It’s like you make music and then you promote your music. Like you said, we have our own label, but a lot of it’s just having the right team around you and the right people that you surround yourself with to run the machine that is Law Records. That’s the best way that it functions so well with it being so busy… One thing I can guarantee you from now on is that Pepper music will be out on Law.
Very cool! Is there anybody you’re currently looking at with Law? I saw you guys re-signed The Supervillains who dropped their album Nice Dreams on Aug 4th. Plus Kash’d Out, Katastro — Who’s next?
Yeah, well we just signed a band called Tropidelic. They’re the newest members of the Law family. And then, Katastro’s record, Strange Nights, was amazing. We recorded the whole album at Kona Inn Recording with Kaleo Wassman and Mike Sutherland who both co-produced that record. Those guys, Katastro, are so good! The Strange Nights thing is super rad and then the Kash’d Out record, those boys just absolutely made an amazing record with The Hookup. It’s such a fun record to listen to. And then we put out the new acoustic Katastro record, Bones. It’s crazy because I wouldn’t have thought they would have transitioned as well as they did, acoustically. I think I like Bones better than the full band version of those songs.
With Tropidelic, how would you describe them?
What I’m really excited about is we have nothing like them on the label. They’re filling a void on Law Records because they’re a little bit more of that hip-hop reggae, in a nutshell. They’re a lot more than that for sure, I don’t want to take away from them but they’re filling that hip-hop vibe which is different than Katastro. Katastro raps, like Andy raps a little bit, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like hip-hop to me, personally, where this just has more of a hip hoppy vibe. I guess kind of like a Dirty Heads, you get what I’m saying?
And how did that relationship form with Tropidelic? How does one get the attention of Law Records?
We played with them and just remember them from being out on the road. I think that’s maybe the unfair advantage that we have as a label; we literally can go all over the country/world and look for bands. Bret’s the one who brought Tropidelic in. We knew them as a band and Bret had kept in contact with them. He brought it to the table and then we ended up doing a deal with them.
Passafire was the same thing! We were on tour with 311 back in 2006, the summer before No Shame came out. We were in Atlanta. Bret rolls back onto the bus with a stack of CD’s and I was like, “What’s going on there?” He said, “Some guy just jumped over the fence and handed me some CD’s, said he’s a big fan!” And that was the first Passafire album, the self-titled record with a fucking lion on the cover. “Barcelona” was the first song on it that blew us away. Long story short, that’s how we ended up signing Passafire. I think it was Ted (Bowne) that hopped the fence with the CDs.
Flash forward and, just to give you an example of how it works here at Law Records, we were on Warped Tour last summer and Greg Shields was riding on Ballyhoo!’s bus. I knew he’d worked as a producer with Ballyhoo! on the Daydreams record. We’re hanging out all summer and at the end of the tour he gives me a CD of his band, Kash’d Out. I got home from Warped Tour, took a drive in my truck and put on the Kash’d Out record which was The Hook Up. That album was done for like a year and a half before we put it out. I was like “Oh, this is not your average band, these are some really good songs!”
Very cool and it really is a fun record, The Hookup. You guys continue to impress with your signings. So what can you tell me about this Podcast that I hear you’ve started up that is with Drummers?
It’s called Disposable Heroes! It’s all about drummers but not all about drumming, if you catch my drift. First one came out with my very good friend and brother Joe Dickens from Iration. You can go on iTunes right now and find it. I know nothing about pod-casting, but Mike Sutherland, Mitch as we call him, works in the studio with us. He’s also our tour manager and he’s been my drum-tech for a while. He’s a drummer, but he’s had a podcast for years now called Another Take. I did a few with him over the past couple of years and he was like, “You should do your own podcast.” He brought up Disposable Heroes as a name because I’m a huge Metallica fan. If it wasn’t for Injustice For All and Lars Ulrich, I probably wouldn’t have started playing drums. So Disposable Heroes, the name is basically a Metallica song off Master of Puppets. There’s no total plan yet on how the series will take shape, but I have the second episode I’m going to do with Vinnie Fiorello from Less Than Jake. I’m stoked because it’s giving me a chance to kind of nerd out on people and in an acceptable way. [Laughter]
Do you have a wish list of who you’d like to bring on to Disposable Heroes?
Well Vinnie was one of them so I’m going to check him off the list – I’m so excited to talk to him about all his record label days. One drummer I hope I can get some day, and pick his brain, would be Josh Freese; he’s playing with Sting right now. Then of course Dave Grohl would be a dream of mine. I’m going to bring on a bunch of close friends such as Wes Finley from Rebelution. Oh, I’d love to host Bud Gaugh and pick his brain about all the old Sublime stuff. I want to do one on Cyrus Bolooki from New Found Glory – He’s actually the one that got me in with Zildjian cymbals on Warped Tour back in 2007 and we’ve been friends ever since.
I understand Pepper has a new strain of marijuana as well. What’s can you tell us about that?
It’s called Hawaiian Pepper and it’s 100% sativa. The way it came about is we’re good friends with the folks at Weedmaps. When the idea first came up, we thought it’d be super rad to bring some of the weed that we grew up with in the islands and bring that to our fans. So when that idea first came up, we started going to conventions, meeting a bunch of growers. I told the guys at Weedmaps the genetics and the strain we were going for, that was similar to what we grew up smoking. So 6-8 months later and boom, exactly what I remember smelling from high school! I was like, “This is it!” So yeah, we ended up branding it.
It’s a Lemon Haze — It’s basically Haze sativa strains that were crossed to make it up. There’s actually a full review on Marijuana.com. It’s only in California right now. You can get the Hawaiian Pepper pens pretty much anywhere Shatter Tanks are at. If you go to the Weedmaps app, throw in Hawaiian Pepper, both will come up; Hawaiian Pepper and then Hawaiian Pepper cartridges. It’ll throw you up a map to GPS.
Very cool! Where do you see the whole Reggae-Rock genre going? I mean would you consider this the Golden Age of reggae-rock music?
It doesn’t seem like there’s an end to it per say. Like the Golden Age of rap, there was a lot of drama and media. The whole vibe of this scene, the reggae rock scene, is such a brotherhood! Everyone’s like “We’re stronger together, let’s do some tours, let’s do some shows because this is so rad we get to do this for a living!” I think in that sense, I don’t really see a roof to hit. I mean, you look at bands like Slightly Stoopid and Rebelution and they’re playing the biggest venues across the country. I don’t see that stopping.
I’m curious to see what’s going to happen Internationally. It’s obviously a lot harder; you need to kind of have a little more means to fly over to the other countries. You can’t just jump in a van and go tour with your buddies. So I’m curious to see how we can transition to the international market because, trust me, they know about all of the reggae-rock bands down in South America — They love Ballyhoo!.
Well the genre is so much more polarized now than it ever has been. We tried to give it the best title we could about 10 years ago with labeling it Reggae-Rock, but with Reggae there are so many interpretations of it depending on who or what you’re exposed to…
When I first heard Sublime, I didn’t put together that they were playing reggae. I think I was listening to “Don’t Push” or something and it clicked that they’re playing reggae on most of this album. It was the disconnect of hearing their Descendants cover of “Hope,” then hearing like “Badfish” and being like “Whoa this is totally different.”
Back in the day, you’d talk to people and they’d say “I don’t like reggae, but I love Sublime.”
I love listening to people’s perspectives because Katastro is a good example of that. They are so loved by reggae fans and I personally think they’re an alternative-rock band. I was talking to the drummer, Andrew, and he was like, “After a show, a kid ran up to me and was like: ‘Andrew, dude, you’re my favorite reggae drummer of all time!’” That is wild to me, but at the same time it’s so cool that this kid loves the band so much, but he’s a reggae fan, so he’s like I love these guys so much they must be a reggae band – It’s pretty funny. I think about the early 80s and there weren’t many branches of musical genres, really. That’s when heavy metal was just branching out to like thrash metal or whatever. And in reggae, it had gone from 2-tone Ska to Roots reggae. And then the 80’s were when the dance-hall movement started to hit. It’s just constantly evolving. Again, I don’t really see a roof or ceiling to hit with this music.
Yesod, Thank you so much — We appreciate your time and hospitality! We can’t wait to hear “Good Thing” with Miles on the track and congrats again on Hawaiian Pepper, Disposable Heroes and the continued success of Law Records!
Watch: Pepper – “Vacation”
Watch: Pepper – “Start You Up”