Teach Me Culture : the John Cardiel (strictly reggae) interview

You know what’s really time consuming? Making a documentary for TV. I’d suggest you don’t get into it if you have more important things to do in life, such as updating a blog. Anyhoo, four months later, I’m back. I think. To get back into the groove, here’s this interview I did with John Cardiel regarding our mutual, often frown upon in skateboard circles, love for reggae music.  It came out in TSM a few issues ago, but I figured I’d archive it here. So… enjoy! Or not. Photos are mainly from a little stroll in Paris we went onto with John when he was invited to that Public Domaine art show last summer. 

The road to Patate Records. © Seb Carayol

Life and its tribulations did it: they just turned John Cardiel into Juan Love, a reknown reggae riddim sommelier. Having fed each other with rare Jamaican music over the last few years, it felt just natural that some day, we’d have to sit down and talk strictly about a music that, you might be surprised to find out, doesn’t have anything to do with hippie-ness. Or maybe it does: just dare and call Sizzla, Barrington Levy or Scientist “tree-huggers” next time you bump into them. Results may vary.


When did you start collecting reggae?
I really started playing music probably when I got hurt. Before that, I used to collect reggae CDs and make mixtapes before trips. At the time, it was more ska music just cause it was such an upbeat tempo, Prince Buster type of stuff. Then somebody told me about Sizzla when he just started to come out with his Praise Ye Jah and Black Woman and Child albums, in maybe 1996. It was more of a conscious sound, conscious lyrics.

Who got you into Sizzla?
We were in Boston skating the Cambridge Pool, and we ended up skating the vert ramp at ZT Maximus’, accross the street, cause it started raining. It was me, Julien and Joey Tershay, and this guy from the park, I really wish I remembered his name, just blasted Praise Ye Jah. It blew my mind. I wrote down the name, did some research and from then on, I started following the new roots music, Xterminator label, Luciano and that whole scene.

A few personal favorites, en passant. -Seb

Did Julien and Joey feel this music the same way?
No, they weren’t even tripping. It was a connection between me and this guy from ZT and we’re just vibing. He was a DJ at the time. It just seemed like he told me about it at the perfect time. To me, reggae had hit a weird stage through the early 90s, it was poppy, so I kinda lost touch with it, it wasn’t holding me. I was listening to harder music until then.

When did you discover the importance of the 7-inch?
After I got hurt in Australia, I was sitting down and healing and I had a couple 7-inches, so I bought turntables on Ebay for cheap, and I got a mixer, and I thought that if I had to sit down, cause I was in a wheelchair for about three to four months, I needed something to do. So I started to buy the big tunes that I liked in 45s.

Did this music help you heal a little?
Yeah, just the vibes, the energy, that music is coming from a real place of real desperation, so it seems when you listen to it and you’re hurt, it almost gives you strength to push on, with a strong respect to more powerful beings than you.

What was the first 7-inch you bought?
Oh, man. It makes me happy to just think about it. The first record I must have bought was Fade Away. By… what’s his name again?

Junior Byles?
Yes! Yes. And then I got the Glen Washington vocal on the same riddim [instrumental -Seb’s note], Jah Glory. It built up from there. I got really excited about the records. Actually touching the music, it was wonderful, man. It came to life. Reading the labels, Joe Frasier, whatever, I’m starting to understand the music more and soak it up. It gave me a broader understanding of what the people were doing and why their heart is in it so much, cause there’s so much more to it than just the words and the beat. It’s just the real way to listen to reggae music.

Junior Byles. © Small Axe magazine, 1986

Did your taste in reggae evolve?
Yeah, definitely. At some point a few years ago, the latest artists that were coming out were starting to ride a little bit more digital bass lines and it was getting very out there, more hip hop. So I started going backwards in a sense, to the earlier music, to Barrington Levy and the 1983-85 era of reggae music.
Maybe even earlier, Scientist dubs, all the Greensleeves records, that opened up a new chapter for me. And doing that, finding the original tunes and matching them to their Scientist instrumental dub counterpart, that began to be a whole new adventure.

You’ve been mentioning Scientist quite a bit, lately.
When the box of reggae music opens up for you, it seems like the most powerful figures keep popping up. [Sound ingeneer/dub master ] Scientist is one of them. You start to see his name on the back cover of the big tunes he mixed. You start to think he had something to do with the energy that’s coming through it. He’s almost as a conductor, he orchestrates the vibes.

Non-photoshopped background! The actual, elusive Scientist under that weird bridge in Echo Park. Los Angeles, 2011 © Seb Carayol

Do you still buy a lot of records today?
My record buying is very scarce nowadays. I’ll probably buy maybe 10 to 15 records a month now. Just whatever I’m really wanting to keep for a long time. I’m getting more mature in my selection.

How did DJing come into the picture?
Once my collection became substantial, I looked at all these boxes of 45s and I felt like I was caging them up. I needed  to let this music out. That was my direction to DJ music. Nowadays I’m part of a crew called Capital City Rockers, with my friends DJ SF, DJ KDK and Ras Matthew, Matt Pailes.

What are some recent finds you got?
Juts found Too Poor by Barrington Levy on Greensleeves for fairly cheap. You turned me on to these Greensleeves 12-inches. Oh, I’m looking for that album, Purpleman Saves Papa Tullo In the Dancehall. The big tune on it is called King On The Way… And on and on. Reggae is crazy, man. You’re finding new gems constantly.


5 Responses to “Teach Me Culture : the John Cardiel (strictly reggae) interview”

  1. Ross Says:

    Hey John, rad interview. In case you weren’t already into it, I would definitely recommend Mad Professor’s music. A lot of it gets real trippy… super heavy and tribal sounding. A long time favorite of mine!

  2. Teach Me Culture : the John Cardiel (strictly reggae) interview « Cleptomanicx Blog Says:

    […] nerd musical library”  zu erstellen. Inhalt seines neusten Blogeintrages ist ein Interview mit John Cardiel über dessen Reggae Leidenschaft und DJ Karriere. Interessant – sowohl der Blog als auch das […]

  3. DLXSF.COM » Blog Archive » John Cardiel A visual Sound Says:

    […] Cardiel A visual Sound A visual Sound sits down with John Cardiel to talk strictly about his love of Reggae music and the role it’s played in his life over the […]

  4. elblint Says:

    Wow amazing Seb! This is killer especially for those of us that have much love for both the reggae sound and for Mr. Cardiel. Big up Juan Love!!

  5. Shane Joyce Says:

    great interview. check out the surprisingly legitimate chunes dem from the UK childrens cartoon “Rastamouse” – a skateboarding, crime fighting rodent. Irie Mon! http://www.rastamouse.com/#/3.1

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