In I Made You A Mixtape, we ask our favorite musicians, actors, writers, directors, or whatevers to strut their musical savvy: We pick a theme, they make us a mix.
The mixer: Despite being born and raised in Southern California, Adrian Young knows a lot about reggae. He spent his youth scouring record stores for new records and new reggae sounds. That knowledge, compounded with his drumming prowess, earned him a slot in No Doubt in the late ’80s. Fast-forward 23 years, and the group has become massively popular, gone on hiatus, and come back again with a new record. Push And Shove is out now on Interscope, and like a lot of No Doubt’s previous work, it’s infused with ska sounds and reggae rhythms. Who better then than Adrian Young to make The A.V. Club a jammin’ reggae mix?
Adrian Young: I can give you an overview of all of them to start. Basically, as a kid I grew up to a lot of good music, and part of my appreciation for music, from being a small child, was appreciating Jamaican music. Over the years, I discovered that there are other bands that maybe aren’t reggae bands per se but they sometimes will play reggae songs. My list is traditional Jamaican reggae, but there are also rock bands that have played reggae music.
Bob Marley, “Positive Vibration”
AY: That’s the first song on the Rastaman Vibration record. It’s got that feeling of like, all right it’s time to party. That song just smells like a party to me. And it’s really uplifting. It’s just a beautiful piece of music. I love it.
Third World, “1865 (96 Degrees In The Shade)”
AY: Our band listens to that song quite a bit when we’re getting ready to go onstage. There’s something about it. You can definitely picture yourself in some tropical, extremely hot weather listening to that song. It’s one of my favorite reggae songs ever recorded.
The A.V. Club: How much did reggae influence No Doubt years ago, and how much do you think reggae influences you guys today?
AY: Reggae and ska has always been a big influence on us, and I don’t think that will ever change. When we were a lot younger, we played a lot more ska and reggae. Over the years we’ve branched out to many different genres, but I think it’s just a part of us. It’s what we grew up listening to. We just love it. Even on this new record there are elements of reggae and ska.
Toots & The Maytals, “Monkey Man”
AY: That song was actually made popular in the States and Britain by The Specials. They did a faster ska version of it. A few years back, we did that song with Toots. It was pretty cool. It was a remake album for Toots. He got a bunch of different artists to record his songs, and we did that song. It was a lot of fun. We played it more in a ska style than a reggae style, but it’s just a great, great, great song.
AVC: You guys are probably in a good position now where you’ve met a lot of people on this list. That’s got to be exciting after growing up a big reggae fan.
AY: Yeah, it’s awesome to meet and play music with people that we grew up listening to. There’s really no better thing as far as music goes.
UB40, “All I Want To Do”
AY: They’re a British band. I started listening to them right about when “Red, Red Wine,” came out. I think that was 1983. I was maybe 14 years old. I was hooked instantly. I bought probably six or seven of their records that followed that record. I think my favorite UB40 record is the Rat In The Kitchen record, and that’s why I chose the song, “All I Want To Do.” It’s got that really, really sexy horn line. In fact, we played that song live in 2009 or 2004, I can’t remember which tour it was. We played it live because we all love that song so much.
AVC: Is it reggae time all the time on the tour bus?
AY: [Laughs.] I would say there’s probably more reggae than anything else. Not so much these days, but in past tours we would have dancehall parties in the bus and backstage after every show. It was quite a bit of fun.
AVC: Now you guys all have kids.
AY: The party has slowed down a little bit, but the music hasn’t.
The Untouchables, “What’s Gone Wrong”
AY: I don’t know how popular they became outside of Southern California, but they were a band that we followed as young teenagers that we really looked up to and we played quite a few shows with. Really, really good band. That song, “What’s Gone Wrong,” is definitely a standout. I think it’s maybe the best song they had.
Stevie Wonder, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”
AY: Stevie Wonder, of course, not a reggae artist per se, but he really, really nailed it. I think he played drums on that song, too.
Steely Dan, “Haitian Divorce”
AVC: Same thing with your next song, Steely Dan. That’s not a group known for its reggae jams, really.
AY: Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder, definitely not reggae artists, but I think on both of those songs, they touched a nerve. They had so much soul with the way they played. There are times when non-reggae bands try to play reggae and it doesn’t quite come off. With “Haitian Divorce” and “Master Blaster,” it’s got a super deep groove. I thought that those songs are definitely worth being on any list of great reggae songs.
Steel Pulse, “Chant A Psalm”
AY: When I was a kid, I thought they were a Jamaican band. They’re actually British. They’re probably my second-favorite reggae group if I really had to choose one. I could’ve picked any song off that True Democracy record from 1982 because every song on that record’s really good, but I decided for this list I’d pick the very first song.
AVC: What makes them your favorite reggae band?
AY: I don’t know. They wrote such good melodies. I’m trying really hard to put it into words. I did go see them in 1987, and I lost my virginity that night.
AVC: That probably helped.
AVC: When you were growing up, it had to be so much harder to find reggae. Like you were saying, you thought they were Jamaican. Now you’d just Wikipedia Steel Pulse. Then, how would you know about Steel Pulse? By reading a zine?
AY: It’s a good point. It wasn’t convenient to know about good reggae bands and good ska bands. You had to really, really be in love with that music to seek it out. Not so much with The Wailers of course, but with other bands. It wasn’t like there was an XM reggae radio station back then. It was much harder to find. But myself and my bandmates, we were so obsessed with reggae bands and ska bands that we sought them out. We found a lot of good music out there just from the love and the passion we had for it.
Peter Tosh, “Equal Rights”
AY: That Equal Rights record he put out, it’s a masterpiece. Once again, I could have picked any song from the Equal Rights record, but that one in particular is a standout.
AVC: A lot of reggae songs are very political, but this one is extremely political. How much do you think growing up liking reggae influenced your politics? Or did you like reggae because you were political?
AY: No, when I was that young I wasn’t aware of so much of the politics involved with songs. I could tell they were political songs, but I didn’t really read into it that deeply. I just loved the way the melodies came and the way the music sounded. It just moved me in a way that was indescribable.
Junior Murvin, “Police & Thieves”
AY: I first heard that song because The Clash did it. Then when I found out there was an original version, I went and picked up that record. It’s such a great song. That guy, Junior Murvin, he sings in this high falsetto 100 percent of the time. It’s really amazing. If you listen to the record the whole way through, it’s like, “Wow, this guy sings really high all the time.” High in pitch I should say. [Laughs.]
Jimmy Cliff, “One More”
AVC: This is off his new record, right?
AY: This is off the Rebirth record. And to be honest, I haven’t bought a Jimmy Cliff record since the ’80s. But I saw that Tim Armstrong from Rancid had produced it, so that kind of got me curious. I picked it up, and I was truly blown away. Jimmy Cliff’s voice still sounds super-good. It doesn’t sound like a tired, old record. It sounds fresh. It’s a little bit traditional-sounding, but it doesn’t sound dated. It sounds awesome. That song “One More” is my favorite from that record.
AVC: Is producing reggae records something you’d want to do?
AY: That’s a great question. I’ve never thought about it. I would love to. If I heard a band that sounded really good and they asked me to do it, I would definitely consider it.
AVC: You could do a legacy artist’s comeback record, like what Jack White’s been doing.
AY: I don’t know. I get intimidated being around legendary people. Sometimes it’s almost better for me to not meet my heroes. I like to keep the mystique alive. You never know. Or a newer band that sounds really good, and if they were interested in me working with them, I would love the opportunity.
AVC: Do you worry about that when people come meet you guys? Are you conscious of wanting a fan’s experience to go well?
AY: I am aware of that, but that’s in life. I don’t feel any reason to be an asshole to anyone. That’s just not part of my DNA.
Fishbone, “Pray To The Junkiemaker”
AY: Fishbone was possibly my favorite band growing up. Once again, not a traditional reggae band. They played a lot of different styles of music. Their genre is spread pretty broad. They have quite a few good reggae songs, but “Pray To The Junkiemaker” came from an album called The Reality of My Surroundings, which was really, really—to me—an important record in music. That song, it’s worth putting on a reggae list of importance to me for sure. Another Fishbone footnote is that they are the best live band I’ve ever seen.
Bad Brains, “Jam”
AY: They were the first, to my knowledge, band to play hardcore and reggae. I’m sure at the time, when they first came out, it was quite shocking for some people. It made all the sense in the world to me. I don’t know, are they a better punk band or a better reggae band? It’s hard to say, but they’re really, really special at both.
AVC: Did you get into Bad Brains because you were into reggae, or did you get into Bad Brains because you were into punk?
AY: It was a little bit of both. I went to a show with Tony [Kanal] and Gwen [Stefani] when we were young, and I was like, “This is incredible.” It wasn’t because of one or the other. I just thought, “Wow, this band is playing two types of music that I love, and they’re just killing it at both.”