Tag Archives: reggae

“Grow Food!” – Interview With Charlie Mgee of Formidable Vegetable

Charlie Mgee is not flying anywhere, anytime soon. Not because of fear of heights, the man seems not afraid of much seeing how he lives in a vegetable oil fuelled truck-house, but because of the irony as he puts it. As you’ll learn below Charlie is a man that puts his money where his mouth is.

Charlie leads the musical collective Formidable Vegetable and sings his lyrics for the band as well. After having studied permaculture he wanted to share the knowledge with more people and through music. Hence the existence of this quite unique band.

On 15th of March Formidable Vegetable drop their 3rd LP and so I figured it was time so see what Charlie had been up to since our last interview.

So, how have you been since the last time we spoke?

Flat out! Just this past few weeks I’ve been demolishing a house (free wood for the future Formidable Veg HQ!), planning water harvesting & ponds for our little patch of land, converting my house-truck to run on waste vegetable oil… oh, and getting ready to release an album!

Formidable Vegetable has a new album coming out. What sets this album apart from the first to LP’s (if anything)?

This one is a bit more “grown-up” sounding… in parts – actually, its part grow-up (songs about wanting to find a sense of home) , part childish fun (songs about composting toilets that don’t flush).

The first album was inspired by the permaculture principles – this one is inspired by the three ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share – hence the title – Earth People Fair.

You mention that the album is inspired by the permaculture ethics. For those not familiar with the subject, what is permaculture and how to you translate the concept into music and performances?

Permaculture is a way of designing things more in-line with nature in order to help us build resilience in the face of things like climate change and peak fossil-fuels. It’s pretty much a set of helpful tools that can be used to design homes, gardens or entire farms – or even less visible stuff like personal decision making or community structures.

I studied it a few years ago and thought that it was way too important not to be limited to a few people, so I wrote some songs in the hope of spreading it round a bit!

Is your music your tool for activism or do you separate the two in any way?

Music is definitely my main tool for activism. Apart from being ‘active’ and trying to do permaculture related stuff in my own back yard (ponds/gardens/house demolitions etc) I think it’s a great tool for spreading the message and hopefully inspires other people to take action, too.

This week I’m playing at the School Strike for Climate and next month I’ll join a convoy to protest the massive Adani coal mine being planned near the Great Barrier Reef, which will be a great way to integrate with other forms of activism.

Photo by Jono ‘Dropbear’ Chong

What are some other musicians, activists or even politicians that are fighting for nature and harmony that you’d like to give a shot out to and recommend to our listeners to follow?

Pete Seeger is probably my favourite musical activist of all time. He did so much for the environmental movement in the US.

Bob Brown is the former leader of The Greens party here in Australia and is the one leading the convoy to protest the coal mine. He’s a legend as well.

I saw in a recent FB post that you decided not to tour your music outside Australia for now. Can you tell our readers a bit about this decision?

I just thought it was getting a bit too ironic doing so much international travel when I sing about climate change and fossil fuels. I still have a long way to go before becoming fossil-fuel free (not just with transport, but food, business and a whole lot of things), but cutting international flights out of the picture is an important step I think.

If anyone knows of a sailboat heading to Europe, maybe I’ll try and make it back that way!

What’s on the horizon for Formidable Vegetable?

More school shows and smaller house-concerts & garden parties from the back of my veggie housetruck. I want to scale down, not just in my life, but also with my music.

It’s ironic, as obviously I want many people to hear the songs as possible, but doing smaller, more intimate shows – especially in the context of a permaculture farm or garden – I feel can have a greater impact on the people who come. I guess for everyone else, there’s YouTube!

Thanks for participating and for the music! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

GROWWWWWWW FOOOOOODDDDDD!!!!

Find Formidable Vegetable’s music on Bandcamp and the group’s webpage. Cover photo by Patrick Latter.


A Protest Music Interview: WOXOW

A debut album featuring guests such as Ken Boothe, Akil from Jurassic 5, BluRum13 and others is no small feat. But that is exactly what Italian producer Woxow has just done. But Woxow does not only have some cool networking skills because Alcazar is also an absolutely banging album. Not only are the old school beats and smooth melodies super fresh but Woxow also set the production up with socially conscious themes which the guest lyricists followed.

Parallel to dropping his debut album, which includes a beautiful 7 inch of the track Chaos, Woxow has also founded a new record label called Little Beat More and apparently the world can except some more dope stuff coming out of there soon. I talked to Woxow and he explained to me how his ‘concept mini album’ is his input into a mainstream industry that disappoints him and how the music is a tool that can possibly unite people and spread some good messages.

“Yes, I wrote a concept for each song with a sort of a guideline, full of ideas, quotes and videos. I wanted the singers to talk about what you hear on the album. I’m a bit disappointed about the mainstream so I decided to do music for giving a little contribution, to spread good values. I’m actually a bit surprised how most people live this life. In the last years I’m trying to develop a sort of consciousness that makes me being a 99% vegan, stop buying the shit I don’t need, trying to be an ethical consumer, go for public transportation and bike instead of cars, do not waste, try to avoid plastic, recycling, etc…

And I have to be honest, what makes me crazy are not the people that ignore all these issues because they don’t know about it, or they don’t have time to dig it or because they’re trapped into the life of work, work, work. What makes me really crazy are the thousands of people out there who know the story, but then they don’t have enough will to be on this side or they don’t believe their little contribution can make a difference, or they’re just lazy. C’mon people, believe in it, we can do it.”

 

For a debut album, Alcazar boasts an incredible amount of maturity, depth and as previously mentioned guest features. I could only but imagine that perhaps Woxow has been lingering in the music industry for a while.

“Yes, I’ve been working in music for several years as promoter, tour manager, dj, etc. I’ve organised a reggae festival in my home town for 5 years until 2009 with names like Alton Ellis, Derrick Morgan, Mad Professor, David Rodigan, Dub Pistols and more. Then I joined The Sweet Life Society – that experience gave me a lot! I was mostly in charge of booking and tour logistics. We released an album with Warner in Italy and we toured all around Europe and USA. We were so lucky to hit some of the best European festivals including Glastonbury. I suggest you dig their new album Antique Beats, serious stuff. In that period I started putting my hands on Ableton and I’m so happy to have co-produced, with their help, 2 tracks, on that album.”

 

As mentioned above, Woxow got some serious names to drop political rhymes onto his debut production. But how did he get all these brilliant talents to collaborate on his debut album?

“I’ve done some research, mainly to find rappers that could fit with the project and I simply contacted them and proposed the collab. With BluRum 13 we already did something with The Sweet Life Society and Hannah Williams is a long time friend, I organised her very first gig in Italy at Jazz Refound Festival in 2010.

Regarding Ken Boothe, I had the pleasure of organising his gig in Marseille in April. After having spent 2 days we listened to the track, I proposed to him to do the feat and he said yes. To have Ken Boothe on my debut album is a real honor, even more if I think that he usually does not do lots of featuring (he told me it was his very first one on a hip hop beat with another rapper). Furthermore it represents a strong connection between the two music I love the most, hip hop and reggae.”

 

Woxow’s music has always been fuelled by protest. His love for hip hop and reggae has drawn him towards socially conscious music and he specifically gives a shout out to Massive Attack for mostly attributing to him turning to make protest music: “Their concert is not a concert, it’s a life experience full of sociological meaning.”

woxow official photo 2

 

Italy’s often turbulent political landscape has for decades been fuel for fiery protest music but before delving into some recommendations of Italian protest music, old and new, I asked Woxow about the current state of affairs in his home country, seeing how a new government was recently formed.

“It’s not actually that they [citizens] voted for the new government, they voted for 2 political parties (very different from each other) that then decided, against any expectation, to join together to create the new government. So basically all Italians are now completely shocked about it. I’m not really into that kind of politics, I think the power is somewhere else. I follow this kind of mainstream politics as I would follow TV series. And I don’t watch TV series.

There’s an Italian scene related to protest music, but I think it was much more serious a few decades ago, especially in the 70’s. We got lots of songwriters that were really protesting with their music (like for example Fabrizio de André). One I really and suggest you check out is Rino Gaetano. In fact he died at the age of 30, they said it was suicide but lots of voices say that he was killed and I believe so.

Then in the 90’s we had an awesome hip hop act which made the history down here, I’m talking about Sangue Misto (translation: mixed blood). They made just one album but it’s still recognised as the master piece of Italian hip hop. And the lyrics… ooooh, straight to the point: smoking and protesting against society. Other bands I have to mention are Casino Royale and 99 Posse.”

 

Through his newly founded label Woxow will be producing two newcomer artists soon and he informs us to stay tuned about that, which we will certainly do. Woxow states on his webpage that he’s been obsessed with music for quite some time so clearly it was thrilling to get him to name drop some acts he is currently listening to and to no surprise it was a long, tight list.

“I’m really into the new Kiefer out on Stones Throw. Then Mononome really excites me, Moderator, Emapea, the new Deca. These guys are my top beatmakers at the moment, you find some of them on the recent minimix I’ve done for The Find Mag.

I’m also into lots of solo piano by Nils Frahm (Screws is absolutely my fav), Akira Kosemura, chilly Gonzales, Lambert, Bremer/McCoy. Then I respect and follow the new London Jazz scene by all those guys around Moses Boyd, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective, Yussef and Kamaal… they’re amazing.”

 

Finally, as to everyone we interview here at Shouts, we offer Woxow to shout something of importance from the rooftops:

“Yes, a quote I like: “Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.” Thanks, peace.”