It’s fair to say that Woxow, like many people, isn’t exactly content with the state of the planet right now. In fact the Italian producer describes his debut album Alacazar as ‘a medium to describe a “malaise” about the way the world is ruled’ – a musical expression of displeasure which is underlined straight away by an intro based around the bass riff from ‘Bullet in the Head’.
However, Woxow is a world away from the aggressively confrontational approach of Rage Against The Machine. Awash with jazzy keys, conscious lyrics and boom bap beats, Alacazar is a record that more often evokes names such as those name-checked by MC Pugz Atomz in the opening bars: KRS One, A Tribe Called Quest and Stevie Wonder.
What’s more, his enterprising attitude and experience booking tours and running reggae festivals means he has managed to round up an array of collaborators to join him on his mission. From Jurassic 5’s Akil to retro soul singer Hannah Williams (not to mention the utterly legendary Ken Boothe), these guests all add their own flavour to the soup of samples that Woxow has prepared.
Following its release on Woxow’s own Little Beat More label (pick it up here and drink in that Moebius-esque cover), the Marseille-based musician offered MusicMap a few words of wisdom on Alacazar, protest music, and the “super special breakfast” he used to enjoy when working in London…
Firstly, what is the meaning behind the name woxow?
woxow: There’s not a real meaning. I wanted an original name so I started putting letters together and woxow naturally came out!!
Alcazar covers some heavy themes – modern slavery, materialism, globalisation, etc. What role do you think music should play in times of political tension and oppression?
Music is one of the most powerful things we have to reach the masses. It has always been a medium of protest. Imagine ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billie Holiday, which protested American racism in the late ’30s, or Nina Simone, or the work made by Massive Attack. Hip hop has always been used as a way to protest, reggae music as well; there’s a lot of work to be done, and music can make the difference, it’s direct and can be really tough. Even some festivals are celebrating this, Boomtown in UK has a full concept behind it, or Shangri-La at Glastonbury.
The album also features some impressive collaborators, including the legendary Ken Boothe. How did you choose your collaborations and make them happen?
I’ve made some researches, basically looking for rappers who could fit with the project. Then I just contacted them and made it happen, we live in a era where it’s an easy job to connect with people.
I’ve already collaborated with Blurum13 in the past, and Hannah Williams is a long time friend, I organised her very first Italian gig back in 2010.
Regarding Ken Boothe I had the pleasure to organise his gig in Marseille (where I live now) this last April. After having spent two days together I dropped the tune in the car, praying that he would be happy to sing the chorus and he said yes!! That’s something really unique because he actually does not do lots of featuring (he told me it was his very first one on a hip-hop beat with another rapper). Furthermore to me it represents a strong connection between the two music [genres] I love the most, hip hop and reggae, as on the same song I’ve got Akil from Jurassic 5 and Blurum13.
By the way, I didn’t press the full vinyl of the album, but there’s a nice 7” of this song on white vinyl, with a punchy remix on the b-side by my New Zealand friend K+Lab, check it out, the song is called ‘Chaos’.
What sort of music were you exposed to when you were growing up?
I started listening to trip hop and hip hop when I was 15 (mostly Italian hip hop), and then I’ve been hit by the reggae vibes and I went really crazy about it. I was a reggae selector and I organised a reggae festival for six years in my home town, we hosted Alton Ellis for one of his very last gig, then Mad Professor, Rodigan, Derrick Morgan, Dub Pistols, Pow Pow, Dub Incorporation and much more…
When did you start making your own music and what was it like?
I started doing mash-ups and remixes, you still can listen to them on my actual SoundCloud page.
You played a big role in the Italian reggae scene before moving to London. What prompted this move and how did it affect your work?
Our reggae festival was going very good but we had all the authorities against us, and this made the difference.
At the end I just decided to open another chapter, I wanted to spend some time in London because I knew the music scene there was the best ever, and I was already 26 so it was something like now or never. I’m glad I made it, I’ve seen so many gigs and bought so many records there. On the way to the place where I worked there was Rough Trade, so some mornings I was going for a super special breakfast: cappuccino, brioches and a record.
Can you send us a photo of the view from your window?
Sorry I’m currently traveling, but this picture from the hotel room here in Genova is better than the view from my window!!!! Genova is definitely one of the nicest Italian city where to go, highly recommended.
You’re a committed crate-digger – what’s your number one favourite record shop in the world?
There’s not a best one [but I feel I should] mention the one I really like now, Le Galette from Marseille.
Does your local environment influence the music you make?
To be honest for this debut album I’ve sampled lots of things from the web as well, so I would say no, I could have been everywhere and it would have sounded the same.
What’s your favourite track of 2018 so far?
Kiefer – Dope Nerd. There’s this solo with piano and trombone together, I would love to know who wrote it, who played it first and who was following. I found it really unique. To me the full album is one of the best so far.
What are your hopes for the rest of the year – both personally and for the world at large?
I released Alcazar on my brand new record label Little Beat More and I’m currently working on two new upcoming artists and their debut albums, so that’s my musical focus now.
I really don’t know what to say about the world, we’re suffering a very big crisis, I just hope that more and more people will start seeing the world with different eyes and realise about all those lies they’re telling us.
I really hope as well that we’re gonna work out the immigration issue, that’s really terrible what is happening out there.