Interview with Bunny Wailer: Reincarnated Souls
by Larson Sutton
As the sole survivor of one of music’s most influential and important trios, Bunny Wailer has found himself in the news lately more for his association with Snoop Dogg and Wailer’s legal claims against sporting goods giant Adidas than for his artistry. Following the release of his new 3CD/2DVD box set Reincarnated Souls documenting 50 years of his contributions to ska, rocksteady, and reggae music, Wailer talked with us about the collection, his legacy, and plans for 2014.
You are celebrating 50 years of your music with these 50 songs. Why these 50?
They are all great songs. It’s been a long time since Bunny Wailer has put an album in the streets, maybe 15, 16 years. I’ve been putting together these songs for the 50th anniversary of ska, rocksteady, and reggae music.
These 50 seem to be more representative of a particular period, mainly songs from the Communication album era, but leave out other eras. Why is that?
Like the early Wailers and…
What’s going to happen is because we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of ska, rocksteady, reggae, we are also going to have a lot of tracks coming out from The Wailers, from “Simmer Down” onward. That’s different. This is 50 tracks from Bunny Wailer that have never been released.
Are you still writing songs?
These 50 tracks will tell you how much I’m writing. These are compositions of Bunny Wailer.
The DVDs included in the box set seem focused on discussions surrounding how you and your legacy are being handled, particularly in your discussion with Chris Blackwell. How much of a concern is your legacy for you?
I’ve been concerned from “Simmer Down.”
Do you think your standing, your legacy, should be something other than what it is at this point?
Well, it should be, and it is going to be, further at the next point.
You have your critics, as do most public figures. How do feel about what critics say?
Critics make me get more sensible. When I look at what critics would say in regards to Bunny Wailer, it makes Bunny Wailer more sensible.
So you must see yourself now much different than when you were younger.
With someone like Mr. Blackwell, whom you met at a much younger age, how has your view of him changed, if it has changed, over the course of your career to present?
Mr. Blackwell is not acting in the manner he should be acting as far as The Wailers, what they have done that is so beneficial globally. The way he performs - if we weren’t sure and secure in what we were doing, I don’t know what Mr. Blackwell would be thinking or what his capabilities would be. Right now, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer are the three main focus of establishing this great musical called reggae, globally. I’m still here doing my share of the job.
Did the three of you – Bob, Peter, and yourself - ever discuss your roles in the event that one of you died?
From the very first track, when we did “Simmer Down,” we had an understanding that we would be doing, as far as the establishment of reggae music, all that is required to put reggae music in the manner that it has been since then. I’m still doing reggae music to achieve and acquire the values that are related.
Do you still have goals?
Yes, of course. Reggae music is the kind of music that is always going to be growing as the generations increase. The new youths now are focusing on playing reggae music in all different nations; the white folks, the Japanese folks, the Indian folks, and the African folks. The establishment of reggae is what keeps me here, doing exactly what is necessary to be involved with all the nations.
Will that including touring?
I’m looking forward to touring now that the 50-track is finished and is out. I’ll be touring as it relates to the 50.
When we spoke in 2011, you expressed a desire to have the 50th coincide with performances centered around the World Cup. Is that still the plan?
Yeah, in 2014 and onward we are heading into the World Cup situation. There are things that need to be addressed as far as the World Cup. Adidas is a major player, as far as merchandise is concerned, and they have hurt Bunny Wailer.
Reggae has always served you as a platform for expressing beliefs, your culture, life in your community and/or the world. Where is the line between that purpose and entertainment for you?
I am a Rastafarian who serves King Selassie I, Jah Rastafari. This is me, being here. He created me for that purpose.
And entertainment is what part of that?
I relate it to the purpose. From The Wailers on to Bunny Wailer.
Is that what concerned you about Snoop Lion and his conversion? The apparent use for entertainment?
I don’t know Snoop Lion. I know Snoop.
Is Snoop’s use of reggae for entertainment, is that the wrong intention?
(10 seconds of silence) Do you know Snoop Lion? I know Snoop Dogg. D-O-G-G. I don’t know about Snoop being a lion. I never responded to Snoop being a lion. I’m just focusing on this great music called reggae that we now celebrate a 50th anniversary. This music has grown into a very serious position. When I did reggae with Bob and Peter, did the Burnin’ and Catch a Fire albums, that was when reggae began. It has been years since it began and it has grown on a lot of people globally. I’m still here, now doing this 50-track that is beneficial to the culture, the custom, and the practice.
Is the Snoop relationship resolved?
We are still trying to resolve it. It has not yet been resolved, but we are trying hard to make it become something that is not as peculiar as it has become.
You are the elder statesman of reggae, a spokesperson for the music and the culture. Do you see this role as your duty, your choice, or both? And do you enjoy it?
It’s all about that. It’s all about the duty. It’s all about the choice that I’ve made and am still fulfilling in the establishment of this great reggae music.