Thursday, January 01, 2015

Lujan Takes Fans Along For "Journey In Song"

For 15 years, Lujan has lent his talents to an all-star list of Reggae talent.
Now, it's his time to shine on his own.
The Salinas reggae artist, founder of the seminal local reggae band Dubwize, has performed with Mikey Dread, Eek-A-Mouse, Dub Congress, Cali Nation and many more. He released his first proper solo album "Journey In Song" on New Year's Day. Buy the album here. 
To celebrate, Lujan performs Friday, Jan. 2 at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz. He will be backed by his Yard Stylee All-Stars band. DJ Dread Ramas of Bless King Sound, One-A-Chord, and Militia of Love will open. Doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 advance, $10 at the door. For more info, go here.
Lujan talked to "The Beat" about the new album and the journey that got him to this point. 

Q: Talk about the album title:
A: “Journey in Song.” After all these years of playing in Dubwize, playing in so many other bands, it’s been a long journey to get to this point. The people can get a little feel of that journey in this album. The lyrical/musical content, they can feel it, they can relate to it and get a feel on that journey. Hopefully, it might touch their own journey. A lot of people can vibe with it.

Q: You mention the artists you have worked with. Give us a list of all the bands you have worked with the past 15 years.
A: The main one would be my 14 years with Dubwize. (We started) even before that. Also, backing people like Dub Congress (on bass). I started backing Mikey Dread, Million Styles, The 7th Street Band, Cali Nation, Wasted Noise (on trombone). It’s all part of the journey. Danny I, Army from St. Croix, Louie Culture, Eek-A-Mouse.

Q: Mikey passed a few years ago. What was it like playing with him? 
A: I got to play bass with him. Dubwize backed him. He called us for random things. That was pretty cool. We got a lot of learning experience from that.

Q: While you were collaborating with other artists, did you start developing your own solo career plans?
A: I started it during all those times. It’s definitely a lot of skill developed playing so many shows with all those people. It did help me get into the studio. 
 I tracked most of the album myself. I started the album and did most of the instruments.
 I did the bass, guitars, some trombone. Robbie of Militia of Love did harmonies on the new album, among others.

Q: You told me previously that it took you some time to really develop your solo stage persona. Talk about what was involved with that.
A: It did take time. You have your connections with your bros and bands you play with. You don’t want to step away from those things. But it was that one point in my life. I felt it was time to bring out that old book of old writings that never came out.
 I was in Dubwize and I was writing a lot. A lot of the songs that are out now (on the new album) never got on the table, or never went well with the band. 
"Smile Salinas," I started to play that one with Dubwize at the end of the years.

Q: "Smile Salinas" came out at a time when there was some unrest in the streets of Salinas. Talk about how the song fit into the context of those times.
A: It definitely fit into the context of the times... I had an idea to do a concert that was called “Smile Salinas.” I wanted to throw a concert back in the day. I wanted to do a concert but I was on the road with bands. I had gotten back from doing a show and had came up with a chord progression. I played that at a Dubwize practice and then we worked on it from there. 
 That song comes from everything that I live here on the east side and I see, just experiencing stuff, When I was writing that song, it was when that one young kid got shot (6-year-old Azahel Cruz, who was killed in gang crossfire in 2010).  I had mentioned in the song "One little youth boy has been gunned down in the streets of our home..." At the time I was tripped out, like "Damn, it’s still happening." That song I put out to open some eyes, or try to at least. I wrote it so Salinas can smile again. Because I see  a lot of frowns, especially from the kids. We need to smile. That’s why I wrote that song.

Q: Talk about the subject matter of some of the other songs on the album.
A: Some of the songs are more of a love song level. A lot of them are on the conscious level. The last song on the album is called "Starlight Hotel." That song is about our problem here with homelessness.  It’s a song based on true experiences.
 The idea started when I was walking with my uncle. I was 14 years old. We were going to Longs Drugs. We got to the other side of the street on our walk, and  he seen one of his buddies. We stopped, we were talking with him. At the end, (my uncle) said "Where are you staying right now?" His friend said "Man, I’m staying at the Starlight Hotel." As a kid, I said to myself what’s that? As I got home, I realized what exactly he meant. The outside, just sleeping on the streets. 
 That song has some crucial lyrics. It’s all real stuff. I try to do that as much as I can, write about my real life experiences.
 "Meet Me on the East Side" is another one based on personal experiences. When people to come visit me, I always say "Meet Me on the East Side." It’s telling people to not fall into the rumors or lies, and there’s lots of love and culture out here, so meet me on the east side.

Q: Is Dubwize active at all at this point: 
A: Dubwize is done. John Higgins has a band, The Cool Bus Experiences. Junior is in iRoots. Stevie is with Militia of Love and every band in the land. 

Q: Anything else you wan to add to the mix? 
A: Shout to all the fans and much love and thanks. They really drive it!

For more info on Lujan, follow him on Facebook. 

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