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House of Shem
House Of Shem is an Aotearoa (New Zealand) based harmony trio comprised of Carl Perkins and his two sons, Te Omeka Perkins and Isaiah Perkins, who are each multi-instrumentalist and producers.
Formed 2005 in the rural area of Whanganui, the band embodies elements of roots reggae, pacific reggae and traditional maori music with relatable song-writing that connects powerfully with not only New Zealand and Australia audiences, but reggae listeners globally attracting fans from all areas of the world.
Since bursting onto the music scene with their debut album ‘Keep Rising’ in 2008, House of Shem has released three very successful Albums and built a rapidly growing loyal fan base. Working with Grammy award winning engineers on two albums Errol Brown (Bob Marley, Burning Spear) and James Caruso(Damian Marley, Nas, Stephen Marley) and mixing at Tuff Gong Studios, Jamaica shows how dedicated House of Shem in presenting quality product to the world.
Having obtained two Platinum and Gold albums, Carl Perkins has also been inducted into the New Zealand Music hall of fame with former band, The Herbs. House Of Shem was the first ever Reggae band in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to debut at number one on the day of release for their album ‘Island Vibration’.
Irie Magazine recently sat down with Carl Perkins to reason about reggae music.
IRIE. You are considered one of reggae’s finest, a veteran of roots reggae music with thirty-plus years in the industry. You’ve sang, written and played guitar for bands like Herbs, The Twelve Tribes of Israel and Mana . Can you share what inspired you to play reggae music?
Carl Perkins: My mom and dad’s family were all musicians and singers so I was destined to make music. My introduction to reggae music was when I first heard the early ska tune , ‘My Girl Lollipop’ by Millie Smalls. When I first heard that song, there was something about it that touched me. I found myself listening to more of that music with artists like Desmond Dekker and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
IRIE. As a musical trio, you perform with three lead vocalists which results in such perfect harmony. Does everyone contribute to the song writing process?
Carl Perkins: Yes we do. When Te Omeka and Isaiah made the commitment to reggae music, they started writing and listening to ideas. I would share with them some of the ideas from our past. I wanted them to be free in what they wrote about. I never restricted them in anyway. I wanted them to have milk and honey first and then start to grow with their music. As they the got on life, they could share what they needed to share with the people. When they started to sing these songs,
I was so blessed to hear them.
IRIE. Your music embodies the elements of roots reggae, pacific reggae (cali reggae) and traditional Maori music which makes your sound truly special. Has this unique style helped you attract fans from all over the world?
Carl Perkins: It has brother! A lot of people have commented and made contact with us about our music. We have a Maori language track on the second album called ‘Tahuri Mai Ra’. I’ve had a lot of people worldwide ask me what the song means because they get a special feeling that they can’t explain when they hear the song. When I explain to them that the song is saying to remember the good news; that the good news is what is needed for our future generations, they are blown away. Their response is, “We actually felt that from the song.”
One of the record label guys tried to get us to keep the track off the album, saying, “that’s not going to go down to well because we won’t know what its all about”.
We’ve always felt that the song was about the vibrations. Alpha Blondy sings in french and we love Alpha Blondy! It’s the vibration, the feeling of the music!
IRIE. In your songwriting, is it important for every House of Shem song to have a message whether it’s a song to give people hope or a song to bring about awareness?
Carl Perkins: I think so. Whether it’s a love song or something of everyday life that we want to share with the world, I think every song we produce should have a message.
IRIE. For your albums Island Vibration (2011) and Harmony (2013), you worked with Jamaican engineer Errol Brown. Can you share with us the experience of two reggae legends, Carl Perkins and Errol Brown, working together?
Carl Perkins: It’s great to work with Errol. Errol gave me more of an understanding of himself as an engineer. I think I’ve learned from him. He was just so open to share and educate us on his talent and we learned some great things from him.
We were also lucky to be in a great recording studio when we worked with Errol. The albums were recorded at the Roundhead Studios in Auckland which is owned by singer-songwriter Neil Finn of Crowded House.
IRIE. We are living in serious times right now, where religion, politics and race continues to divide us. If you could send a message to the world to help heal these wounds, what would say?
Carl Perkins: We need to love one another. We are not on this earth to judge, therefore we don’t have the right to judge each other. We should respect each other.
IRIE. Irie Magazine’s tagline is ROOTS, ROCK, ROCK, RESPECT. What does each of these words mean to you?
Carl Perkins: Roots to me is the roots of humanity – the good people. Rock represents the people who fight the good fight. Reggae is something that moves the spirit. We’ve had people bury their love ones and played our album during the service. That means so much to me. Any reggae music that does that, I’m there. Respect means to love one another.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say to the IRIE Audience?
Carl Perkins: I would like to say to your audience to continue to embrace and support Irie Magazine. Before I started talking to you, I had that same understanding of where the roots of the magazine was coming from. You’ve done a very good job! A lot of respect to you and your team in the work that you do with the magazine. It does come out in the vibe of the magazine. I just want to say to each and everyone to spread the good news about IRIE Magazine and to uphold and embrace the magazine and keep it where it belongs. Love and Blessings to you! We will reason soon. Love you, brother!
IRIE. Give thanks for the IRIE opportunity to reason with you, Carl. I look forward to our next reasoning in 2016! Much Love and Respect!