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Exclusive Interview with Zion Thompson of The Green

The reggae music movement spans far and wide. From Kingston, Jamaica to Huntington Beach, California, Miami, Florida to Brooklyn, New York. There are many sounds, ages and faces to represent this ever evolving and growing genre of music. While on Tour was lucky enough to sit down with Zion Thompson from Hawaii’s reggae band The Green to discuss touring, music, Hawaiian culture and their upcoming new album.

WOT:   Thank you for taking the time to meet with us.

Zion:  Of course

WOT:  You guys just got done supporting 311 on a summer tour and now you are on a fall tour with Iration. Does The Green have any plans to get back in the studio to record some new music any time soon?

Zion:  Yeah actually, we were in the studio right before we left for tour with Iration. We have about half of the fourth album done. We are going to go back at the end of this tour in like November or December and finish the album. It should be out in maybe March or so. We’re aiming for that but you never know. Stuff happens and things get pushed back. We have a big release planned, a lot of new stuff. That is our focus right now other than supporting Iration and being out here with The Movement and Hours Eastly. This is our last little hoorah then go back in the studio and finish up and start fresh next year.

WOT: Do we have a name for the new album yet?

Zion: It might be called The Garden.

WOT: You guys made a stop in Bonita Springs last night for an acoustic jam session at The Sugar Shack Sessions. That seems to be a trending spot for bands to stop at while on tour in Florida. Tell me a little bit about the experience and the crew there.

MJW Photography: The Green- Hotting Up Tour &emdash;

Zion: Well the crew there is awesome. Everyone over there is super nice and on it. It’s real casual but professional, they got it on point. The cool thing is the whole town and area is like all grass and greenery and coconut trees in everyone’s yards. There are no fences in between houses. Its just like grass and another cool little quaint little, sick little house. Most of it is kinda like Hawaii, it tends to focus on the surroundings more than big nice houses everywhere.

WOT: Like a tight little old Florida town.

Zion: Yeah, I mean it was really nice actually to see that. It was like being in certain areas of Hawaii. That was really cool. Just playing Sugar Shack was fun we know a lot of the boys, we’ve done that before. It was good, fun.

WOT: Let’s talk about artists that influence you. Who is on your playlist right now?

Zion: I’ve been listening to like some Chronixx and stuff like that. The new guys coming like Protoje. Reggae, Jamaican reggae singers. The Green, we are huge fans of Oswald and Steel Pulse. Reggae from England back in the day and Jamaican stuff. In Hawaii, Gregory Isaacs, Eek a Mouse and Don Carlos, guys like that are huge. Reggae radio has been big in Hawaii ever since we were kids. Those are the Jamaican artists you hear along with Hawaiin artists. But, we also listen to stuff like Shania Twain and like Nicki Minaj and whatever. We listen to anything. We did Warped Tour and that was fun too. We try to soak it up ya know.

WOT: If you could create your dream line up, who would be on tour?

Zion: That’s a tough one. Well, we wouldn’t be one it, The Green wouldn’t. Haha. I would love to have seen Bob ya know or Jimi Hendricks, legends like that. Stevie Ray Vaughn, I love blues guitar players. I don’t know, there have been so many amazing shows. I never got to see Michael Jackson live. He came to Hawaii and some of my friends when we were little kids got to see him.

WOT: I’m sure playing for a home town crowd is sick. Other than home, what is your favorite place to stop on tour?

Zion: That’s a tough one. Well, we wouldn’t be one it, The Green wouldn’t. Haha. I would love to have seen Bob ya know or Jimi Hendricks, legends like that. Stevie Ray Vaughn, I love blues guitar players. I don’t know, there have been so many amazing shows. I never got to see Michael Jackson live. He came to Hawaii and some of my friends when we were little kids got to see him.

WOT: I’m sure playing for a home town crowd is sick. Other than home, what is your favorite place to stop on tour?

MJW Photography: The Green- Hotting Up Tour &emdash;

Zion: Austin is awesome, We love Austin Texas. New York City, Manhattan area is super fun. New Orleans, we were just in New Orleans a few nights ago. Seattle is great, Oregon anywhere in Oregon we always have fun. California obviously. For us, being from Hawaii our reach started to catch on more on the west coast. Over the last five years of touring we have developed the east coast a lot more. We have sold out shows in random places on the east coast. We love Boston, Philly, we just love to travel and see it all. We do have our favorites though, everyone does.

WOT: On the opening of Hawai’i ’13 there is chanting. Is this something you all did growing up as part of your culture in Hawaii? Is it something you do often to this day?

Zion: You don’t necessarily grow up chanting unless you are going to school for it. A lot of times you have to take a language in school and Hawaiian language is offered. When I was a kid there wasn’t a lot of Hawaiian immersion schools or schools that primarily focused on teaching kids Hawaiian first. Now, that’s how it is, its huge. It is kind of a resurgence ya know, the pride and everyone uniting around that. Its all about the culture surviving through the language. The kids who chanted that are all Hawaiian language students from little to bigger than me. Their “Kumu Hula” which is their teacher or instructor taught them, she wrote the chant. “Ku’u aloha” is like “my love”. My deep felt, in my heart love for Hawaii. Calling to your ancestors, the people around you and the place you’re from. It’s a good way to start the album. We have always wanted to have kids sing on the album so that was it.

WOT: The song “Come in” was recorded separately from Jacob of Soja right?

Zion: Yeah it was sent back and forth for a while.

WOT: Has The Green ever been able to play that song live with him?

Zion: Yeah like a dozen times at least. We’ve done it at Sierra Nevada, I think we did it at Cali Roots maybe a couple of times. We pretty much do it every chance we get. The end of this tour in Texas we’re probably going to do it with them too. Those are our boys, we met them through a football playing friend of ours Colt Brennan who was a Hawaiian star quarter back that went to the Redskins for a while. They have a lot of love for Hawaii and we just kind of clicked.

WOT: Your last album Ways and Means did big things. It hit number one on iTunes and the Billboard reggae charts. How is Hawai’i ’13 different from that album in terms of the recording process and the touring?
MJW Photography: The Green- Hotting Up Tour &emdash;
Zion: The touring is always the same. We tour with bigger bands like Iration and Reb and stuff until hopefully one day we can get bigger. We try to support them and learn everything we can. TheHawai’i ’13 album was recorded in Huntington Beach California. Costa Mesa actually at Hurley Studios. We work with Hurley a lot. Our new album will be recorded all at home which is what we did for Ways and Means and our first album The Green. The differences of Hawai’i ’13 and Ways and Means is just where we recorded it and who we used. We had a house right across from the pier in Huntington Beach for like a week and a half, two weeks. We recorded all day and then went to the house, smoked and decompressed and hung out. Next morning we’d do it again.

WOT: So like a vacation where you get to make beautiful music.

Zion: Yeah, really it was nice. This new one is different, we are doing it at home. That was something special but for me its really nice to be back home again. We come from Hawaii and our music comes from Hawaii. It sorta feels a little more natural when we are recording and writing it at home.

WOT: What would you say is your most commercially successful song?

Zion: Probably “Come In” because of Jacob. “Chocolate and Roses” of Hawai’i ’13 did really good too. It’s like our non reggae love song. We love R&B stuff. This is a 45 minute set so we kinda slam it more. We want to give our versatility but we only have a short set. Hours Eastly they have even less time than us.

WOT: Is Zion your given name? It suggests a biblical or spiritual upbringing.

Zion: It suggests it but it isn’t at all why I was named that. I was named after the national park in Utah where I have actually never been and my mom has never been. There are other reasons why my mom gave me the name but it has nothing to do with reggae, it has nothing to do with Rastafari. She isn’t a hippie, none of that stuff. She is a spiritual person and the Z thing is part of it too. People ask funny questions, especially when you have a name like mine its kinda obscure.

WOT: What can we expect from The Green in the future?

Zion: New music. The fourth album we’re super stoked on. Full length album produced by us and good friends of ours who have been successful outside of the Hawaii reggae scene. One of our good friends DJ Graves has worked with big rap artists, everyone you can think of. We’re doing it home style like we always have, we just have more reach now. We have more stuff that we have access to. It’s going to be a big thing and we are just excited for it. I can’t really say much more than that. New music is the focus right now after this tour.

WOT: Awesome, thank you so much for your time Zion, have a great show.

 

A full gallery of images from The Green’s set list as well as galleries for Hours Eastly and Iration can be viewed here http://www.mjwphotographyfl.com/f552193970

 

Interview by: April Whitney

Photos by: April & Martin Whitney

About the author
April Whitney

April Whitney

April Whitney- Photographer, music lover and overall gypsy soul. I found my passion for photography, music, writing, and travel. While on Tour was born out of a desire to combine all of these things and become the wandering soul I have always wanted to be. I love to travel to different festivals, meet new friends and vibe out wherever the music may take me.

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