Elan: The Extended Interview

Bob Marley is alive and well, and living in Fairfax, CA. Or at least, that's what you'll think when you first hear former Wailers frontman {{{Elan}}} singing. But while he's used to the compliment, the singer wouldn't appreciate us saying that. Having just released his first original solo project, Elan drew on influences from New Wave, Dance Hall, Afro-beat and {{{Soul}}} music to record over 60-tracks that eventually got pared down to the solid eleven on the album, and he's just getting started. —Nathan Myers

SURFING MAGAZINE: Today's a big day, huh? The album came out.ELAN: Today is the big day. I'm so happy. I just went online and bought a couple albums off iTunes. Went out last night and celebrated a bit. It's been many years and a lot of hard work, but I feel like it's the beginning of a lot of great stuff to come, God willing.

Well, congratulations. Yeah, it's been a nice roller coaster ride. One word to describe my whole life, I've been very fortunate. Especially in this business. I've been blessed, and I give thanks all the time.

How did all this get started?I've been doing music professionally since 1996, but I didn't realize how much music was a part of my life until I watched old videos of me as a kid. My dad always stuck microphone in front of us and said, sing me a song. I have footage of me dressed in a cowboy suit, like eight years old, singing "The Gambler". [singing] You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em… and then just singing old Neil Diamond and Marvin Gaye. I was raised on such a wide variety of musical genres. From African, Middle Eastern, Salsa, Old Soul, Al Green, and of course, Reggae. When Reggae came into my life, I was just hooked. That was the foundation of what I always loved.

How does a white boy from LA end up fronting the Wailers? That happened out of, I don't know, everything is really meant to be. In the end of '96, I met an A&R guy and he thought I was a professional singer. I was going to a Sex Pistols concert with these two girls and they told him I was a singer 'cause they heard me singing in the car to someone else's song. But I had never written a song, never been in a band, never did anything. But he took me seriously and he said, "We should have a meeting, I wanna hear your stuff." I'd told him all this stuff I would have done if I ever did the music thing, like, it would be a roots, soul, reggae, dance hall. So, he's looking at me, going, here's this white kid, he's probably like 311 or Sublime, 'cause those were the hot bands at that time. So that's why I think he was interested. I got inspired by his interest that I saved up a bit of money and went into the studio and with a couple friends of mine, did a whole demo album of roots reggae dance hall. And that's how the Wailers came in. One night, I went to the Opium Den, this club out here in LA from way back in the day, and my friend goes, "See that guy over there, that's the lead guitarist of the Wailers. That's Al Anderson." I was 18 or 19 at the time. So I went over and met him and we started talking about music and stuff, 'cause this was the guy who played with the band I grew up idolizing musically, my whole life. Al happened to live two blocks away from the studio I was recording in and I told him I needed a guitarist and he came in and played rhythm and lead on the whole album and he really dug the album. At the time, the Wailers were having a falling out with Junior Marvin, the guy who was also a guitarist when Bob was around, but he'd taken over the vocals when Bob passed away. So, they got rid of him, and he played my stuff for Family Man who said, "You've got to come on tour." I was like, holy shit.

So you said yes, right? Obviously.It was heavy, 'cause I had all these labels at the time that were interested in my demo, 'cause I'd went to that same A&R guy and he was like totally shocked that it was not what he expected the music to be. He didn't even think it was me singing. I was like shit, I already know I sound like Bob, I don't wanna, you know. But then I went, "what am I crazy!?! This is the best experience." So, it was basically like college for me. I went on tour for three years, it was the first band I ever played with, first band even got up on stage with and been in front of an audience or anything. I had no sound check. No rehearsals. No nothing. I just showed up and went off the memory of listening to Bob Marley and the Wailers records as a kid. Basically, I look at it like all these great musicians were my professors, and those were my college years, and I took classes with Carlos Santana, the Wailers, so many people. The second show I ever did was in front of 7,000 people at the {{{Sierra}}} Nevada Music Festival; it was all the biggest artists in reggae music, and they were opening for me. I was 21 years old and I was so scared. I wasn't scared about the crowd, I was scared about getting all the lyrics right. So I did it, I went on tour with them for three yeas, then I was like, I have to graduate and keep going.