„We got to be still, and still moving into another intensity.“
Charles Colson & Harold Fickett in “The Good Life” Time is whizzing past and the world is changing in intervals that are getting shorter and shorter. The speed at which humanity’s knowledge is expanding into vastness is immense, and yet, in equal measure a large part of civilization is fleeing into artificial realms. Millions of people are addicted to the internet like a hospitalized person hanging on the drip; they are fleeing into Second Life, where virtual attractions are ready to substitute reality. In the real world, on the other hand, war is waged in the name of God, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing increasingly bigger, violence is taking on the most bizarre forms, and the mass media are showing us a world in which there evidently is not much space left for love, tolerance, and respect. For more than ten years now, Gentleman has been meeting this deficiency not only with songs about love, tolerance, and respect, but by living this ideal wholeheartedly with his own personality. The three studio albums released up to now, “Trodin’ On”, “Journey To Jah”, and “Confidence”, reflect an enormous artistic development, during which he grew to becoming the internationally best known German reggae musician. Especially the previous two albums, featuring an armada of Jamaican guest appearances, have long since entered the canon of contemporary Roots Reggae. Songs like “Dem Gone”, “Superior”, and “Send A Prayer” have become modern classics of the genre. In his songs, boasting with deep-felt truths and insights, Gentleman points out an alternative path, one that is profoundly human and spiritual. This also applies to “Another Intensity”: Gentleman is appealing for more intensity in any form of human encounte
“Another Intensity” sees Gentleman having arrived at another level. His music and his charismatic live appearances have affected audiences throughout the world. This summer, “Another Intensity” will be released in sixteen countries including the UK, USA, and Japan. In a sense, the two-and-a-half years that Gentleman has spent on tour with “Confidence” – months that passed in the wink of an eye – have yielded richest fruits. “Then it was time for a new album. I didn’t agree with anything, didn’t know where I was heading. I felt no inspiration whatsoever, I was worn out. So at first I took three months off, hoping that the hunger, the passion would come back. I just did everyday things and hardly listened to any music. Then I flew to Jamaica, looking for that inner drive to make music, such as I had felt it during the recording of ‘Confidence’. I had the feeling I would need much more time, should spend three months in Africa or in India maybe, to get some entirely different inspiration. Then suddenly half a year had passed and I finally got to the point where I told myself, ‘Just go ahead and record an album and then see what you’ve got and stop getting worked up about it.’”
Gentleman produced the first riddims for the new album in his own basement studio in Cologne. These rhythm tracks, out of which the songs “Evolution”, “Tranquility”, and “Rage And Anger” would later evolve, he took with him to East German Leipzig, where his band, the Far East Band, are based, and then they all went into a recording studio in Hanover. With some interruptions in between, Gentleman spent a total of five months on Jamaica for the new album, travelling back and forth between Cologne and Kingston. On Jamaica, he relied on his well-established network of musicians and producers, to whom he has longstanding friendly connections. The Far East Band, including the background vocals consisting of Mamadee, Blain, and Gentleman’s wife Tamika, is his steady team for all the concerts, tours, and recordings done in Germany. The Jamaican counterpart to the Far East Band is made up of the Firehouse Crew and the background vocalists, the Daffodils. Producers such as Bobby Digital, Steven Stanley, and Richie Stephens are among the tried and tested forces whom Gentleman trusts blindly and who have internalized his artistic ambitions. But Gentleman also gives upcoming talents a chance, such as the young Jamaican Pedro, who produced “Pursuit Of Happiness”. Pow Pow and the Silly Walks Soundsystem are German companions who have accompanied Gentleman for many years, and they also joined him once more for recording sessions. In spite of this deep-rooted and wide-branched infrastructure, there are clearly less features on this new album sharing the vocals with Gentleman. But it was a matter of course that Daddy Rings, who has done several tours with Gentleman, and Jack Radics, who soon will be releasing his new album on Gentleman’s label, Bushhouse Music, took part in the album; after all, they cannot just look back on years of a thriving friendship, but they are also soul-mates, whose congenial creative work often enough strikes divine sparks. This time, they perform the sweeping trio “Jah Love”, perfectly complementing each other in their various pitches and creating a profession of faith that surpasses the borders of confessions with its congenial, spiritual drive. Enter Diana King: the striking singer, whose biggest success was the mid-nineties’ top hit “Shy Guy”, for the first time shows her highly energetic soul voice combined with Gentleman on “Light Within”. And “Lack Of Love” displays Gentleman linked with the genius of reggae maniac, Sizzla, who has thrown forty albums on the market in only twelve years. Visiting Sizzla in his studio turned out to be an unforgettable adventure. Gentleman had happily accepted the invitation of the hyper active musician to come and join him in his studio, ensconced somewhere up in the Jamaican mountains. One must remember that travelling on Jamaica can be quite dangerous and Sizzla’s estate has something of a stronghold to it. To a convinced pacifist such as Gentleman, the increase in violence and the ever present display of weapons is one of the biggest issues on Jamaica, especially since it stands in stark contrast to the peaceful spirit of the Rastafari people. “Behind the walls of the estate there was a ravine with a narrow bridge leading over it. The house lay further down, through the jungle thicket. Sizzla introduced me to his mother and showed me around the studio complex. There was also a gigantic flat screen via which the entire estate could be surveyed. He recorded the vocal parts within ten minutes. In that moment, I could sense his genius, it was perceptible. Shortly before I came, he had composed a new song and was then going to record yet another track in one of the three studios that make up the complex and between which he moves continuously. Sizzla works like a machine, but he is human and creative and he never repeats himself. That was really amazing.” Such encounters remain unforgettable and are helpful experiences on Gentleman’s way to artistic maturity. It is his intention to create a body of work that will help other people grow and come to maturity, too. “As for the content, nothing much has changed compared to years ago. It may now be slightly more personal, it’s about relationships between people, even if more universal topics also come up again and again. The next step in evolution should be a spiritual quantum leap. And that’s what I’m stating in that song: We’re not turning in circles; we’re going in a certain direction. In this regard, the album also has another intensity. It is more enlightened.” The spiritual moments that Gentleman experiences are not limited to an artistic context, when he is on stage or jamming in a studio with other artists. “When I am with my son and delve into him, that is extremely spiritual, because he is still so close to the truth and I can learn so much from him”, says Gentleman with a beaming face. He spends as much time with his six-year-old son Samuel as he possibly can in this life, travelling throughout the world in the name of reggae. He also has a very good relationship with his sixteen-year-old daughter Tamica, seeking contact with her contemporaries, curious and open-minded for what drives and moves the youths of today. Gentleman himself has learned a lot from his father, a Protestant preacher. “I remember, all the books we had in the living room, most of them were connected to Martin Luther. My father does his job wholeheartedly and he passed on many good things to me. He used to be my religion teacher in school. That was extremely interesting, the way he organized his lessons. It wasn’t all about being well-versed in the Bible and fixed on any dogmas. He was very open, not entirely Christian maybe, but universal. When he spoke about the Islam, he would spread his knowledge just as much as when he treated Christianity or Buddhism. That’s what I always appreciated about him.” The dogmas of the world’s leading religions are judged by Gentleman with keen criticism. “I know that religions are the roots of all evil. This becomes increasingly clear. If I look at the wars that are waged today, they are all based on some religious faith, they are all carried out in the name of God. At the moment, people live in an extreme state of illusion. It’s really a tightrope walk: on the one hand, I have to say that religion is the worst curse in the world and on the other hand, it gives so many people energy and hope. That’s also extremely difficult for me as an artist. That’s why I always say that I find religiosity very beautiful and productive, but religion in the way it is practiced I find counterproductive and dangerous.” Thus, Gentleman lays much attention on his lyrics, also as a means to counter the above mentioned dangerous attitudes. The positive reactions to his lyrics, which are even known in Russia, Brazil, and Israel, prove him right. However, he has no wish to proselytize. “To me, the album is a kind of therapy, a kind of bequest. What I am longing for, for myself and my surrounding and for the entire world, is another intensity, which also means battling against superficiality and hypocrisy. If we share truths and experiences, we will get a feeling of sense and protection.” Many of the lyrics also were developed out of colloquies. “During the first two months in Jamaica, when the first tracks were ready, I didn’t spend much time thinking about writing lyrics, instead I was reading very much. I was browsing through books, reading through them, and whenever I found any truth or statement that I could identify with, I penned that down. I used to underline passages and then transform them to fit in with my own context. I spent a lot of time in Port Antonio with Jack [Radics]; we would read the passages and then discuss them, and we agreed in a lot of things. Sometimes we sat there philosophizing until the early morning hours.” These moments of glory with Jack Radics, who in the course of the years has become something like a spiritual mentor to Gentleman, seminally influenced the lyrical depth of the new lyrics. Amongst the works read and discussed by the two are The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Good Life by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, and the autobiographical novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, an Australian whose fascinating life story oscillating between crime and charity will shortly be turned into a movie. “Another Intensity” is one of these albums where the song preference alters each time you listen to the recording. Sometimes the bursting energy grips you that Sizzla and Gentleman develop on the haunting “Lack Of Love”; sometimes it’s the lightness of the guitar sounds that seem to be skipping along to the uplifting melody of “Pursuit Of Happiness”. The melodic power of songs like “Different Places”, “Evolution”, and “Tranquility” predestines them to become future classics; they have already become solid coordinates on the set lists for the upcoming festival appearances and the worldwide concert tour. But there are also manifold small details and nuances that turn “Another Intensity” into a voyage of discovery; be it the irresistible vocal parts that infuse the entire album like a golden thread, or be it the wonderfully warm acoustic guitar of “Soulfood”, which places the melancholic song in the realms of a world-music evergreen. A little dub here, some hidden brass sections there, even some well-tempered Hammond sounds. The golden dozen of songs that make the core of the album is characterized by a tenderness and aplomb that make one conclude that nothing and nobody can warp Gentleman from his inner balance, his often quoted “serenity”. The album is freshened up by three or four songs based mainly on dancehall riddims and hiphop beats. “Soulfood” and “Mount Zion” were produced by Cologne-based hiphop producer Benny Blanco, an up and coming young artist of whom we might yet hear a lot in the near future. It is to be expected that “Another Intensity” will draw even bigger circles than its predecessor. During his “Confidence” tour, Gentleman already had some spectacular live appearances, be it outside the city gates of Casablanca, in front of thousands of Muslims, or in Surinam, the smallest state in South America, where he was received and escorted like an official state guest; a surreal experience whose effect was even heightened when he encountered an audience of 15,000 Surinamese people, singing along frenetically. However, no live appearance makes Gentleman feel as nervous as the Summer Jam Festival by the Fühlinger Lake in Cologne, his hometown. He used to swim in this lake as a little boy. This is also the place that generated his career as a reggae artist. This year, there is a massive line-up of Jamaican superstars and not only is Gentleman the headliner, he might even be referred to as the good spirit of the festival, which is promising to be an early highlight for him this season, even before the release of “Another Intensity”. A major tour through Germany is scheduled for the autumn and next year a world tour is planned to promote the new album, in the course of which a live album will be recorded. Apart from the USA, concerts are planned for Senegal, Gambia, Japan, and South America. “Then, in late 2008 or early 2009, I will finally be able to relax completely, maybe take a boating certificate and then slowly prepare for a new album. With a different calmness about me.” Inner tranquility and certitude should not be too difficult for Gentleman to obtain. After all, his own songs, words of wisdom and perception rendered with his distinctive, smooth, and guttural voice, are the best imaginable guideline.