Interview with Aston “Family Man” Barrett – Bassist from Bob Marley and the Wailers
Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Elan Attias, Monty “Moe Train” Wiradilaga
Lollapalooza – Chicago, Illinois
Moe’s Intro – You know how the song goes… “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.” And for the tens of thousands of people that were there during The Wailers’ set on Sunday afternoon at Lollapalooza, they certainly were feeling no pain at all. You know, it’s not too often that someone gets to sit down with one of the most influential and legendary bands of all time, but at Lollapalooza, Moe Train’s Tracks had the honor and privilege to sit down with Aston “Family Man” Barrett… The original bassist and “architect” of Bob Marley and the Wailers, and also, Elan, the new and amazing vocalist for The Wailers.
There was something amazing going on in that crowd that day. No, it wasn’t that cloud of smoke that was hovering over the crowd… It was the togetherness, the unity, the love that was going on and being shared through the music. If music was a church, The Wailers were holding mass that day. You know, it’s an amazing feeling when tens of thousands of people were singing along with every word that Elan sung that day. When I saw “Family Man” turn to Drummie Zeb and say “One Love,” he turned down to us and smiled, the one drop drums set in, Elan looked down to us and pointed, and there it was… The first time that I had ever heard “One Love” live. An amazing, amazing time, and what better place than Lollapalooza 2007 with tens of thousands of new friends.You know, as we sat down backstage interviewing “Family Man” and Elan, it was like we had magnets on our bodies. From out of nowhere, people were drawn to the scene, drawn to a legend, and everyone wanted to hear what he had to say. Luckily, we were one of the few to be able to speak to them at Lollapalooza.
I have to admit that there were certain times during the interview when I felt a bit like a fanboy! When “Family Man” Barrett started to recite his favorite lyrics that he had written from Bob Marley and the Wailers, it hit me hard. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing these words…. Words that I had sung along to ever since I was a kid… Every single summer! That half hour that we spent with “Family Man” and Elan is a half hour that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Make sure you go check out The Wailers on tour, because it will be one show that you’ll never ever forget.

It is with my pleasure, and true honor… To bring you Aston “Family Man” Barrett, and Elan, two members of the legendary Wailers…. ONE LOVE.Moe – We are sitting backstage with Mr. “Family Man” Barrett of Bob Marley and the Wailers… Thank you very, very much for being here, it’s a true honor.

“Family Man” (FM) – Yeah man, it’s a great pleasure to be here again in Chicago, you know… Partake with the Chicago blues!

Moe – Do you feel a certain responsibility of being a member, in my personal opinion, of the most famous band… the most influential band of all time?

FM – Ya mon, we come together from the late 60’s ya know… as singers and players of instruments and our duty is to spread the message… four corner of the Earth. And thy will must be done by all means, no matter the crisis.

Moe – I’ve heard that you feel that you’re destined to be continuing on the legacy of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

FM – Well yes! My legacy is also to keep the music going because I am on the road officially from 1969 until 2007…

Moe – Wow.

FM – Nonstop…

Moe – Nonstop… How does it feel?

FM – It’s good! Ya know… to be doing it before Bob, with Bob and after Bob! Ya my man!

Moe – You were the band director during the time with Bob, and still now, correct?

FM – Yes. Before Bob, with Bob and after Bob! (Laughs)

Moe – (Same Time) … with Bob and after… (Laughs) Right! What were your duties of being band director? Did you write a lot of the songs? Were you doing the lyrics?

FM – Well between Bob, my brother and I, we wrote like… eleven tracks. And we registered six out of that. And I put the band together, not only as the band leader, but the musical producer and arranger, bass player, and I play many other instruments too on all the catalogs. I play rhythm guitar, lead pluck guitar, keyboards and percussions.

Moe – You joined with the Upsetters, correct? Your brother and yourself were together, and you were recruited to play with Bob?

FM – Yeah… The first band was called… I mean, the first name was the Ippy Boys! And from the Ippy Boys, to the Upsetters… and also Youths Professionals, that’s what become Wailers International.

Moe – Well you were working with Lee Perry, correct?

FM – Yes.

Moe – His nickname was “The Upsetter,” correct?

FM – Yes… He’s “The Upsetter,” and we are “The Upsetters!” (Laughs)

Moe – (Laughs) How was the team? Was it a great team working together?

FM – Yes! And that was the state where we started out with Bob, Bunny and Peter…

Moe – Right.

FM – And the first track we doing was “My Cup Is Runneth Over.”

Moe – One of my favorites…

FM – Yeah, my man…

Moe – When you joined Peter, Bunny and Bob… How was it getting acclimated to that new scene?

FM – I know it’s kind of “joining,” but what we really do, we come together as singers and players of instruments, ya know? And to carry on Jah Jah, the Almighty Message, and create the reggae music… and I am the Architect of Reggae, and they know that reggae music is the heartbeat of the people. It’s the universal language what carry that every message of roots, culture, and reality… (Laughs)

Moe – Well speaking of the message, you say that “Riddim is the Message,” correct? And the heartbeat…

FM – The drum is the heartbeat, and the bass is the backbone… Yeah…

Moe – Your basslines are some of the most recognizable basslines in all of music. How do you take the spirit and passion of reggae, and put it into your basslines and into your music?

FM – It’s simple, because I love singin’, but I didn’t practice!

Moe – (Laughs)

FM – So when I play the bass, I sing baritone… So I give that melodic lines…

Moe – Yes you do… Yes you do!

FM – (Laughs)

Moe – I think it’s a culmination, you say, of everyone working together… and your basslines do hold it together and just really gives it a great overall feeling of the music…

FM – So true my man… So true!

Moe – When you were with Bob Marley and the Wailers… Reggae music was primarily in Jamaica, but you brought it together as a global consciousness of reggae music…

FM – Yeah… In Jamaica, the first music… you know… constructed was called ska. And it go from ska to rocksteady, and I and I bring it to be reggae! (Laughs)

Moe – (Laughs) How was the influence of ska in your music?

FM – Well the reggae music is consists of all different cultures of music. It got funk, it got soul, rhythm and blues… and of course some of the Chicago blues here…

Moe – Right.

FM – And it’s very jazzy…

Moe – When Al Anderson joined the band, didn’t he bring a blues influence to The Wailers?

FM – Also… from 1974.

Moe – Yes… What are your thoughts of Bob Marley being a prophet?

FM – Yes, we all are prophets of lyrics and we are musicians of the… we call… the archangels. (Laughs) Yes….

Moe – (Laughs) There’s so many different messages with The Wailers… Love, unity… What do you feel the main message of Bob Marley and the Wailers… What do feel that it has been?

FM – It’s to keep all nations… especially the young people… in line, so they don’t walk on the wild side. (Laughs)

Moe – (Laughs) You don’t think they walk on the wild side? (Laughs)

FM – (Laughs) To keep it in a straight line… Positive!

Moe – When I spoke with Ziggy Marley… I spoke with him at Bonnaroo… We were talking about how he feels he was on a quest for the truth, and he felt that it wasn’t through religion, through politics, but he feels that “love is the truth.” What have you found to be the truth in your life and in your music?

FM – Well, we know there’s lots of errors globally, you know… near and far… over abroad… That’s why we choose to do the positive thing, and make songs like “Rastaman Vibration… is positive…” And we always talk about what is taking place on Earth… you know… a lifetime… and you know… politics, the global issues.. (Laughs) Things like that….

Moe – What’s your favorite song out of your whole Bob Marley and the Wailers catalog? What song means the most to you?

FM – I’ll tell ya man… there are so many! But I’ll give you the first one… “We will be… forever…”

FM and Moe – (In Unison) “Loving Jah.”

FM – (Laughs)

Moe – Beautiful! Your life is following… Preaching… The word of Jah.

FM – Yes, the gospel… Musically.

Moe – This year is the year 2000 of the Rastafarian calendar isn’t it? Didn’t they say that this year is supposed to be the return of The Almighty?

FM – Oh yeah… The year 2007 here… We officially just reached the year 2000, you know, the west side, the colonies are like 7 years ahead… Like daylight savings time, ya know?! (Laughs)

Moe – Right, but with reaching the year 2007, didn’t they say The Almighty was supposed to be returning in the year 2000 in the Rastafarian calendar?

FM – Yes, they all have got 7 years to prepare. God Rasta’s in the heart, you know, of the true Rastaman for sure. And we have a lot of other thing taking part, like the good, the band and the indifferences. (Laughs) Yeah…

Moe – (Laughs) Everyone knows the serious and social influences that your band has on the world.

FM – Yes.

Moe – But it couldn’t have been all serious. What are some funny moments that you remember from your days on the road with Bob Marley and the Wailers?

FM – Well it’s good to hear people talk all over the world! We changed their lives. They thank us for bringing the message. They even named their kids after us and things like that! (Laughs) Ya know?

Moe – (Laughs) Yeah.

FM – And young people who could not come to the show when Bob was alive, they were underage… They are comin’ today. And even young people who were born after the passing of Bob, take on to the message and the music just the same.

Moe – The message is still the same. From back in the 70’s, back in the 60’s, to 2007, the message is still the same.

FM – Just the same. The reggae music… It’s for all age and all times. It’s for past, present and future. And it’s like the moon… As we say, “The older the moon, the brighter it shines!”

Moe – (Laughs)

FM – Yeah my man!

Moe – It’s still shining today. Out of any band, without a doubt, your band has heard by more than anyone in the whole festival here at Lollapalooza… Everyone knows your music. And I guarantee during your set that you’re going to hear tens of thousands of people singing along with your music.

FM – Yeah mon. Give thanks and praise to the most high… Ah God… Jah Rastafari!


Moe – Is there any particular moment that you remember of your personal time with Bob Marley that really stands out most in your mind out of any other moment?

FM – I’ll tell you one. When we were in Italy, playing for about 265 thousand people… and before we were interviewed by journalists, and I recall, they say to me, “What you guys think of the revolutionaries? Are you guys not-a-scared?”

Moe – (Laughs)

FM – I said, “No! We not-a-scared!” They say, “Why?” I say, “ALL the revolutionaries are our fans!” (Laughs)

Moe – (Laughs) That’s right! One of the moments that I remember the most out of Bob Marley and the Wailers, is the One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica.

FM – Yes!

Moe – When you brought together the two opposing leaders…

FM – Position and Oppositions… Yeah.

Moe – No matter if it was a very true sentiment between the two, they did come together with Bob standing in the middle, both hands almost with a triangle, with Bob in the middle.

FM – Yes.

Moe – Which was a very symbolic… Very, very symbolic moment.

FM – Yeah my man. I were there standing on the stage, playin’, and …

Elan – For today, it would be like if you took Michael Moore and George Bush, but even worse, with Michael Manley and Edward Seaga was like two “Dons of Jamaica” at that time.

FM – Yes.

Elan – There were shootings and killings. But if you took George Bush, our president, and you took Michael Moore… Someone who, you know, two that hate one another, and put them together like that.

Moe – You have to know the true power in your music, but when you bring it together in front of a nation that was divided at the time… So much political unrest at that time… How did that personally feel to you, standing on the stage?

FM – It was a good feeling of knowing that we are trying to get the people to come together… Bring them all together to know that “how good and and how pleasant it would be to see the unification of everyone. Ya know? (Laughs)

Moe – Ah… These lyrics you’re bringing to me are hitting right here.

(FM and Moe both put fists over their hearts)

FM – Yes!

Moe – It’s a beautiful feeling. What was your favorite song that you had written?

FM – Different from “We Will Be Forever Loving Jah?”

Moe – Right. But different from that.

FM – We love songs like “Exodus…”

Moe – “Movement of Jah people…”

FM – “Movement of Jah people!” And “Get up and stand up… and fight for your right.” And “Who the Cap Fit…”

Moe – “Let them wear it.”

FM – Which is “man to man.. you know, sure that your best friend could be your worst enemy or your worst enemy could be…”

FM and Moe – (In unison) “Your best friend.”

FM – You know? So you have to keep praying to The Almighty for health and strength, wisdom, knowledge and overstanding… Not understanding… OVERstanding! When you understand, you end up as a believer, and belief kills and it cures, but the greatest thing is to know. So when you know, then you overstand! (Laughs)

Moe – (Laughs)

FM – You have a lot of saying that sort of twist words around that bring words to your message, right?

Elan – Mind tricks!

FM – Yeah! I give you parables, and then I interpret it! (Laughs)

Moe – (Laughs) Are there any common misconceptions about Bob Marley and the Wailers that you hear all the time, and… “Oh, that’s not right!”

FM – Well what we do is bring in the prophet from the old age, and what is to be fulfilled in fulfillments in this time! (Laughs)

Elan – We’re actually working on a new album right now, that is like the Santana “Supernatural” album, that concept. We’re working on a new album that will bring in all these new contemporary artists… All these different names, like all across the board, from all different genres.

FM – Yes!

Elan – To do new songs, new material, with the whole original band, even with his brother Carlie. We have him on drums… Old two inch tapes we transferred to WAV files… Pro Tools files.

Moe – Wow!

Elan – And all these artists are going to give their own vibe and play their own music. Not play their own music, but their own instruments and sing and add to it. And we’ve had every artist that we’ve approached, they all have been super inspired by The Wailers, and obviously their music… And “Family Man,” “The Architect” of all of it. Really. The musical director and the architect of all of Bob Marley and the Wailers stuff, and reggae music. It even goes further than reggae music, it goes into hip-hop and everything that we hear today, ’cause that sound of the bass, that thickness that you hear in the clubs today, is from this man right here. So, look out for it next year, hopefully, God willing, next year this summer. It’s in the infant stages right now. I’ve approached a lot of friends of mine, who are musicians, so every single one of them has said, “Yes! Whatever you want to do!”

Moe – “Family Man,” if you could pick anyone for this album… Anyone! Who would it be?

FM – Well of course, I’d pick some of the name brands, the popular people, what everyone is listening to. Especially the young people, for sure.

Elan – The foundation is going to be a reggae album. The roots will be the foundation, but they’re gonna bring their own elements to it. A lot of them are playing here. It’s gonna be across the board… A world thing.

Moe – That’s some incredible news. How are you feeling about doing this sort of concept of album?

FM – Yeah man! It feels good! As the man could tell you, it was our hope for many years, and the time has come for it.

Elan – Since “Supernatural” came out, I always had this idea, ya know?

Moe – Basically, you got it from “Supernatural.”

Elan – Yeah, when Carlos did that album, I was like, ‘Man, this is what we need to do… The Wailers need to do… Comin’ out with a album with new material, but collaborating with all these other artists.

FM – Collaborate first and then after that one… Then we give you a full Wailers album after that.

Moe – When you do this album, you have to have a huge concert about this…

Elan – Oh yeah… Yeah!

Moe – You know that it would absolutely fill this whole park.

Elan – Maybe a TV special or something.

FM – Yes, we’re gonna make sure we set it up just like when Michael was in his swing. I heard that there there’s a 45 released in Jamaica with Michael Jackson. But we were workin on a song… Reggae! It’s called… “My World!”

Elan – Really? Wow. I didn’t even know that.

Moe – So, we have one minute left. I just want to say… My favorite song of all time is “One Love,” because “One Love” means more to me than any other song on so many different levels.

FM – Yeah mon! “One Love” is tellin’ ya about Jah Love… You know? The Almighty Love. Universal love! Not like I love you and you love me… Global love!

Moe – But I’ve never heard it played live! Why?

Elan – You’re gonna hear it tonight!

FM – I was just gonna say, if you played “One Love” tonight, I would be forever indebted to you, because I have never heard it…

Elan – (Laughs)

Moe – Honestly, I have never heard it, and I’m gonna be right up front singing along every single word. “Family Man,” thank you very, very much for your time. Much honor and much love to you and the rest of the family.

FM – Yeah, The Wailers! Yeah man… And The Wailers say, “Greetings to all the people of Chicago… and America… and the globe!”


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