[We’re trying out a new thing at Three-Mile Spiral: an interview conducted through G-mail Chat. It seemed to work out grandly and I was fortunate enough to catch up with Dave Asher of The Process to discuss his band’s work and related issues. Enjoy.]
3-MS: Welcome to Three-Mile Spiral.
Dave: My pleasure, Marc.
3-MS: So, I’ve been listening to several Process CDs to get ready for this interview; at the moment, Dub Instructor. You guys have built quite a library. Is it fair to ask which is your favorite?
Dave: Well, personally, a favorite is hard to pick. However, I do love the trilogy of CDs we did with Gee Pierce: Craven Dog, Blood and Bones, and Weapons Of Mass Percussion. I guess Blood and Bones captures what we do best though.
3-MS: I know what you mean about having a favorite. My favorite poem is always “the most recent one.” … How did working with Gee come about and what do you think he adds to the projects?
Dave: Well, way back in 1992, when we were working on our 2nd album Baldhead Vex, the production team at the studio where we were working had a falling out. So we went looking for somewhere to finish the project. Gee didn’t have a compatible set-up with them, but we kept him in mind for a project up the road and I’m glad we did. His genius is on all levels of production. He is a very exacting but supportive engineer. He draws the best performance out of you in a manner that accepts nothing but the best from you, while being very encouraging.
3-MS: Since you mention Blood and Bones, I have a few questions about that release. First of all, I think it’s my favorite, especially “Spread the Money.” … But my question is, as three of the songs were previously released [“Run Them Down” from Baldhead Vex, “Rap Down” from Mystery Babylon and “Rasta Calling” from Live in Los Angeles], I’m wondering what made you want to revisit these pieces?
Dave: Our reason for wanting to redo a couple of those songs was that we felt they could be bettered, production-wise. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, as well as many other reggae singers have a habit of “reversioning” songs. I was very happy with the new versions. We have some plans to re-cut some other tunes soon, as well.
3-MS: In my review of the DVD (Live at The Vassar Theatre), one thing I noted along these lines was that some of the old songs now felt like fully-realized structures and in comparison, the original versions are like blueprints. Does that make sense?
Dave: Well, the energy seems to come through live. In the studio, you try to perfect things. When you go out live you just play, you know …
3-MS: Yes, I think with most bands (at least my favorites) it’s the live show that really captures the essence of the band. … With The Process, it seems that this is partly the energy and passion, but another important part is the aspect of theatre. How vital is the theatrical side of your performance in getting your message across?
Dave: Well, funny that you mentioned that. I’ve just been joined by Bill Heffelfinger [bass/keyboards/programming for The Process] and Seth Payton [of the ska band Stamp’D]! Bill is Mr. Production, you know. But I think the theatrical part of the performance was always there: before the lasers, lights and props. The passion becomes the theater. …
3-MS: Well, give them both a big hello for me.
Dave: They say hello back.
3-MS: So would you say that the theatre serves to further the impact of your songs … or are you just having fun?
Dave: You know it’s both, of course!
3-MS: Speaking of Seth, that brings me to Weapons of Mass Percussion, since Seth and a couple of the other culprits from Stamp’D appear on that. …First question, though, what was the seed of the idea for this record?
Dave: Well, to look at the original concept, our releases were intended (by myself anyway) as a sort of double trilogy: Mystery Babylon and Baldhead Vex were versioned for the Dub Instructor album. It was always my intent to make Craven Dog and then another album and then a dub release, which became Weapons. But in the meanwhile, the Internet happened and then 9-11 and the so-called “War On Terror.” These things gave the release a much different shape.
3-MS: Those events seemed to change everything. … What are your thoughts on the melding of music and political activism?
Dave: Well, to me music is the real weapon of the future. Look at how reggae music helped to raise the world’s awareness of Apartheid and to overthrow it. I have a newspaper clipping I saved with the headline “Marley Music Crumbles Berlin Wall.” That about says it.
3-MS: It’s like Woody’s guitar saying “This Machine Kills Fascists!”
Dave: True, true. …
3-MS: On Weapons of Mass Percussion, you seem to pull out all the stops; pushing your style out of its normal range (if there ever was such a thing for The Process) and breaking new ground on many fronts. … Is it your “White Album?”
Dave: I would say Craven Dog is more like that, style-wise. Weapons is like no other record I know of… Maybe it has a debt to Byrne and Eno’s Bush of Ghosts or African Head Charge.
3-MS: Am I hearing some Battlestar Gallactica Cylons sampled?
Dave: Yes. It took forever to clear the samples, that’s why the record took so long to release. It was a year in pre-production, also: gathering samples and sound bytes on the web.
3-MS: Time well worth it: Something chilling happens by mixing Bush with science fiction villainy. It somehow gets to the truth of the situation.
Dave: HAHAHA! So true, it IS unreal. But sadly the truth is stranger than fiction as well. When he says, “A mushroom cloud …” Wow!
3-MS: I remember distinctly when I heard him say that — it was one of the most terrifying moments of my adult life. It’s that moment when you realize that the pilot of the plane you’re on is completely, dangerously insane. …
Earlier you mentioned Craven Dog. Which brings me to what I’m guessing is one of your most-known songs “Jah Made the Herb.” I wondering if you have any comment on Michigan passing Medical Marijuana?
Dave: Well, the people have spoken and people who are truly sick can now get the medicine from a real Doctor. It only seems fair and decent.
3-MS: Amen to that. …
More of a general question now. Is The Process a reggae band?
Dave: Really, I would say we are a rock band that plays reggae. The reggae ethic drives us though. A do-it-yourself kind of vibe.
3-MS: I’d have to agree. …
Do Bill or Seth have any comments they’d like to sneak in?
Dave: Ask ‘em something and we will see…
3-MS: Bill: In a nutshell, what’s the difference between Bill on-stage, shredding wraith and Bill off-stage, hard-to-imagine guy?
Dave: He says he’ll get back to you.
3-MS: Fair enough. … Seth: Are you ever going to pay alimony for our love-child?
Seth: Not without a DNA test!
3-MS: Bitch. … Anyway, back to a serious note (or not), Dave, do you have anything you’d like to add, or is there anything we haven’t touched on that you want to hit?
(No pun intended)
Dave: You know that’s how I … roll. … Well, I really enjoyed this chat, Marc. It was a lot of fun.
3-MS: Definitely. Thanks for your time. …
Last question: If you had the chance to speak directly to these three people, what is your message for Bush, Obama, and Bob Marley?
Dave: To quote Proverbs Chapter 12, Verse 2: “A good man obtains favor from The Lord but a man of wicked intentions, HE will condemn.”
3-MS: So justice will come?
Dave: In Jah’s time and on HIS timetable.