Taken from Hour.ca (Nov 2, 2006)
Michael Franti - Natty dread
by Bugs Burnett
Franti & Spearhead yelling at fire
photo: Megan Gentile
Michael Franti at the crossroads
Michael Franti loves Montreal - just don't book him a gig here in wintertime. "One of my most harrowing tour tales ever was when we first drove to Montreal for a concert in winter [years ago]. Our tour bus's brake line froze and we were stuck on the highway!" Franti recalls.
Franti, adopted son of white parents, combines his punk, pop and reggae influences on his band Spearhead's new album, Yell Fire!, which he is cross-promoting on his current tour that brings him back to Montreal for the second time this year. The album (see review in Spins section) was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, with Riddim Twins Sly and Robbie.
"The first time they walked into my makeshift studio in San Francisco, I was like, 'Whoa!'" Franti says. "I was definitely awestruck. It was kind of like going to the University of Riddim. I was [in Kingston for] three weeks and I'd written all the songs and they said, 'Okay, let's hear some of it,' and they'd come up with a riddim for it, and I was like, 'Fuck!'"
Franti - in addition to chronicling the lives of the displaced in his 2005 Middle East doc I Know I'm Not Alone (which he personally screened at Théâtre Outremont this past March) - is a musical voice of conscience. About the state of American hip-hop, he says, "Hip-hop has a long history of being conscious music, but in the early '90s the major labels decided to put all their money and effort into gangsta rap. For the rest of the music world, rock music can mean anything from Metallica to Natalie Merchant. But the world of black music doesn't have a label that captures its diversity."
As for Franti, with his roots in conscious reggae, being compared to his idol Bob Marley, Franti laughs. "I'm humbled by that, but I'm no Bob Marley!"
Michael Franti & Spearhead
w/ Nomad Tribe
At Spectrum, Nov. 6