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Interview with Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson
Kizzy O’Neal
Courtesy of Big and Bright PR
Jack Johnson, in his natural habitat, has just released a new record of remixes done in the dub style.

The laid-back musician digs into his love of Dub music with help from Lee “Scratch” Perry. 

When you think of world music, Jack Johnson may not come to mind. Known for his mellow, beautiful, beachy melodies perfect for summer nights on the porch — or for his songs from the Curious George movie — Johnson may not be known for doing dub remixes of his music.

Courtesy of Big and Bright PR
In Between Dub--Jack Johnson's new record

But to him, transitioning from his normal vibes to dub was easy. In my conversation with Johnson, we talk about how reggae and dub music swept through the airwaves as he was growing up on Oahu. We’ll also discuss how — if you listen closely — you hear hints of reggae, dub and even Brazilian influences.

Dub music grew out of reggae in the late 1960s and ’70s. Often lead vocals were removed and replaced with electronic echoes, reverbs and treble tweaks, while cranking up the percussion, according to Master Class.

On his new record, In Between Dub, through his own label Brushfire Records as well as Republic Records, Johnson remixes some of his best tracks, including “Better Together,” “Times Like These” and “Traffic in the Sky.”

Jack Johnson - Traffic In The Sky (Lee Scratch Perry x Subatomic Sound System Dub)

On “Traffic,” as well as two others, Johnson got to work with an icon and one of the innovators of dub music: Lee “Scratch” Perry. On a whim, Jackson reached out to Perry and asked if he’d be OK working on a few remixes of his songs.

Perry not only agreed but did a full-on collaboration on the songs. According to Johnson, Perry also put a lot of work with his band into the tracks, working from his home studio in Jamaica while Johnson worked from Hawaii.

Sadly, Perry died in August 2021 before the work was finished. In fact, Johnson thought these songs were going to be put on the shelf. But a few months after his death, Perry’s wife sent Johnson the recordings.

Johnson also works with other dub musicians, including Dennis Bovell, Mad Professor and Subatomic Sound System Dub, who worked extensively with Perry for years.

Besides diving into his new album, we talk about the differences between surfing off the coast of California versus Hawaii; and about the best burrito place in Santa Barbara, where he and I both went to college.

To support “In Between Dub,” Johnson will hit the summer festival circuit with a stop in Ocean City, Maryland on Sept. 29.

Whether you’re a Jack Johnson fan or on the fence, the interview with worth a listen.

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Ian Stewart
Jack Johnson thinks about his answer while World Music Show host Ian Stewart looks happy

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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