Sunday, November 16, 2008

Entrevista: The Genie

If you were to ask me how I discovered the music of the Genie, I would have to say that it discovered me. I had no idea what to expect when I first listened; no idea that the music would awaken my senses and penetrate straight through to my soul. The moment transcended any mere listening took me to a higher place. I knew that I needed to know the man behind this music, and after knowing the man, I knew that the world needed his music.

These days, I am honored to call The Genie 'friend' and I am very happy to present this, mi primera entrevista, to my readers. It is an opportunity to learn more about the phenomenally talented inventor of 'scratch guitar' in his own words. His music is a blend of hip-hop, blues, dancehall, jazz, middle eastern, electronic, dubstep and more. Do your ears some justice and check out the links at the end of the interview to hear some of his work. Enjoy...

Your name is very unique, so I must start with the obvious: why The Genie? What does it mean?
It’s difficult to pin-point exactly when I chose that name because it has all become somewhat of a blur but it was essentially a combination of three things, I’ll start with the last one first. Back in 2001 I traveled to the Middle East as part of a mission to understand the realities of the people living in Palestine. I had recently graduated from San Francisco State in International Relations and was passionate about learning about the world. I traveled with a peace group and visited several communities to learn what life was like under military occupation. I was really shocked and disturbed by the realities but was also touched and inspired by the beauty of the people I met. I loved the esthetics of the written language, the beautiful sounds of the prayers, and the mystic imagery and somewhere along that journey I remembered the story of the genie. There was so much going through my mind that any bit of imagination was a welcomed relief.
Then there was the Steel Pulse song called “Stepping Out” which has the line “I know you find it hard to believe that I am the genie of the lamp, and I can do anything you wish but right now I’m commanding you to dance.” Being a huge reggae fan I’ve always taken reggae lyrics from artists I love and respect to heart and Steep Pulse were one of those artists.
And then there’s the one I don’t usually share because it’s kind of corny but back in High School I watched Aladdin and as silly as it sounds I could really relate to the character!

What is scratch guitar?
Scratch guitar denotes the fact that I make everything from scratch during my performances and that I employ a turntablist/dj approach to making music live. Because I lay the guitar down flat on a keyboard stand and manipulate the loop machine the way I do it’s common for people to tell me that I look like I’m dj-ing on the guitar so “scratch guitar” seems appropriate.

Did you receive formal musical training?

Not really. Besides a semester of piano in high school I never took music classes. When I was fourteen I took guitar lessons but then when my school grades were poor my parents took them away from me. From that point on I just learned what I could from guitar magazines, books, and from just listening and playing. I never learned how to read music but eventually figured out my own system to remember the notes and patterns.

Tell me who or what inspires you.

Just about everything in life inspires me-the good, the bad and the ugly! I love almost all types of music and art in general. It’s a difficult question because every day I can be inspired by something different. Sometimes even having a bad day or being lonely can inspire the best musical moments.

You've played in numerous cities in the U.S. and beyond and you decided to record a live album, Entropic, in Hawaii. What made you choose Hawaii?

Actually Hawaii chose me. About four years ago a friend asked me to play at a party because he wanted me to meet a group from Hawaii called Quadrophonics who were also playing at it as well They were really impressed by my show and asked me if I would be down to perform in Hawaii and you can imagine my response. They flew me out there and I had one of the most successful string of shows I’ve ever had so I’ve been going once a year ever since. The folks there are really supportive and appreciative of my music and it’s become like a second home.

Where would your ideal location be for your next live album?

At this point there are so many places I would love to play and record a live album at but if I had to just pick I would say Brazil, France, England and/or Japan. I’ve been to Brazil twice and fell in love with just about everything there. I’ve never been to France but I began performing in Montreal, which is a French-speaking city, and the artistic nature of the French culture seems to be calling my music. I’ve been so influenced by British music and have always covered songs by British artists so it seems natural to perform there. And Japan is fanatical about hyperactive musical maniacs so I think they’d be down with me.

What projects can we expect next from The Genie?

Right now I’m working on a project called The Gemixes in which I’m doing live remixes by sampling songs from artist that I like and creating tripped out spontaneous hybrids of them live. Its tons of fun and has given my performances a whole new twist. Besides that I’m always collaborating with different producers and eventually am looking to do a solo album.

Fans have called you a genius, critics have called your music mesmerizing, I call you a visionary. When you decided to leave graduate school to pursue your musical career did you ever expect your music to touch people in the way that it does?
Yes that was the idea and what I was hoping for but I couldn’t at the time envision where it would take me. Looking back I can definitely say that I had tons to learn and was quite na├»ve and inexperienced but in my heart I knew music was what I really loved and decided I would do anything I could to get there. I think everyone is a potential genius at whatever it is that they love and feel in their heart. It’s just a question of dedicating oneself, making the commitment, and being patient.

For more on The Genie and his intoxicating melodies, visit or In the meantime, the video below is a little're welcome:)