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Marcus Urani started his career in Sonoma County, California. After graduating from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Arts in music, he and some friends from school started a band that would eventually take them all over the world, Groundation.
The band infused Roots Reggae, Jazz, Funk and Dub into their tapestry of sound. At the same time he performed in a local swing band “The Savoy Swingers” and a Jazz, Hip-hop and Funk fusion band called “Cannonball” as well as various smaller formations.
Performing gigs locally turned into international touring. During this time Marcus was composing and arranging music for these projects as well as Groundation. Then he began engineering and producing while not on tour. He teamed up with Jim Fox from Lion and Fox studios in Washington DC and they created the dubs that made up the Groundation album “Dub Wars”.
Marcus has also collaborated with many other artists and performed keyboards on their albums (SOJA, Mike Love, Danakil and more). Recently he started a new project called Rising Tide. During the birth of this band he also produced the album ‘So I Wander’ for Lior Ben-Hur and Sol Tevél on which he also performed several songs. He is currently producing a second album for Rising Tide and lending his keyboards to other artists.
Featuring core members of Groundation, Rising Tide is a new tapestry of sounds and styles perfectly timed for the changing times of the 21st Century.
Official Website: RisingTideVibes.com
IRIE. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and how did reggae music find you?
Marcus Urani. Yes I grew up in Concord, California. We had a Steinway living room grand piano in the house and I was very lucky to begin my musical journey on that. My parents listened to a lot of different music, a lot of jazz, and brought me to the Jazz festival a few times. This is where I fell in love with music and decided it was something I wanted to do the rest of my life. I first heard reggae music in high school, through Bob Marley. I also had Peter Tosh’s “Equal Rights” album and loved the groove’s and sonorities I was hearing from both of their works. It wasn’t until the University that I was fully introduced to the entire genre of Roots Reggae Music as well as Ska, Rocksteady, and Dance Hall. When we first started playing as Groundation we performed covers by many Roots Reggae artists, some of which we were fortunate enough to work with in the years to come.
IRIE. You are a founding member of the band Groundation, playing keyboards along with the B3 Hammond organ. How did you become involved in music production?
Marcus Urani. Groundation was the reason I began producing. Harrison and I started writing music together and we both wanted the music to be the best it could be. We would get together and go over rehearsals, talk about what we wanted to do, and really dove into the possibilities of our band. I was there for all the sessions of “Young Tree” and “Each One Teach One” of course and definitely gave my input on the production side but I didn’t fully step into the producer chair until “Hebron Gate”. I should say co-producer because Harrison and I did it together. That was the first time we met Jim Fox and we were completely blown away. I had started building my studio by the next album “We Free again” and Fox was my mentor on the engineering side. In fact he was a mentor for producing as well. His knowledge of the music was vast, his engineering skills amazing and his ability to focus was inspiring. The three of us sat in the control room many albums after that. Each time my studio was getting bigger and our skills were being honed in. By the time we made “A Miracle” I engineered the whole session at my place and just had Fox mix it.
IRIE. How did you and Lior Ben-Hur meet and what inspired you to work on his debut album, So I Wander?
Marcus Urani. We actually met through Jim Fox. Lior was a fan of Groundation and saw that Fox was our engineer so he decided to call him up and see if he would mix his album. They did some tracking and weren’t getting the sounds they were looking for, then Fox said to him “You should call up Marcus”. When I received his email I was in Europe on tour. We started corresponding and by the time we linked up it was the end of 2014. Lior and the band were in the studio tracking their E.P., and he asked me to come down to give them some tips on the production. So I was able to meet the whole band the first time, started giving my input right away, and had a really good vibe with Lior from the beginning . We became friends and began talking about recording the full album at my studio. I was touring very intensely for the first 8 months of 2015 and I told him we were going to have to wait until I had a break. Although, I gave him a few things to focus on now that he had some time building up to the session. We talked about preparation, songwriting, musical direction, and even some lyrical content. He listened to everything I said very carefully and by the time the session arrived they were ready, it was a great experience for all of us.
IRIE. Lior Ben-Hur’s sound and songwriting technique is a unique blend of reggae and world music. Can you take us through your thought process and approach in producing So I Wander?
Marcus Urani. First and foremost I wanted them to be comfortable and have fun. They are a great group of positive people and this was the beginning of an epic journey. By this time we had met on several different occasions and even performed together on stage. The recording process is always a good experience but is also very serious and can be stressful at times. I know the most important factor during the sessions is for the vibes to be right, good vibes equals good music. We had been talking for over a year now and I really started producing them from the first conversation. Lior was sending me rehearsal mixes of the songs and we would talk about the direction of the music. He was very open to anything I said and I was free to be honest about my thoughts. This made things go smoother during the recording process. Since I was engineering and producing I had to be very focused at all times. I gave them a lot of space to do there thing but would step in and say something when the music or one of the players needed some direction. They were all very open to my suggestions and we had good times throughout the sessions.
IRIE. Is there a track from So I Wander that resonates with you most?
Marcus Urani. Yeah, I really dig the song “Lion”. I think they performed it great and I like the lyrical story as well. Lior gives us a piece of himself, of his journey in life, which is something very personal and sincere that makes the music even more powerful. I also enjoyed joining them on the musical side, arranging and performing some keyboard parts and binghi drums. Plus Lior was talking about having someone else sing the choruses from the start, so it was great to have Kumar from Raging Fyah on there, I really enjoy his performance. Overall I think the song came out great and am proud of the work we did.
IRIE. You’re currently working on a new project with Rising Tide. Can you share that project with us?
Marcus Urani. Rising Tide has been such a positive experience. It all started from a conversation I had with our singer Kim at a festival in Europe a few years ago. We had no idea it was going to turn into Rising Tide at the time, we were just thinking about making an album. Then Kim had stayed a few extra days in California after we performed at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival and the first night we had a jam together. We wrote the song “Time Bomb” and even pulled out all the mics and made our first recording of it right then. We were already playing with Ryan Newman on bass and brought in our good friend Paul Spina on drums then we started writing songs and stretching out in different directions. Right away it felt really good and we could see the many possibilities of the group. The Rhythm section (Ryan, Paul and myself) had played together for a long time and had been the core of several different groups, including Groundation. Having written and arranged much of that music, this was our chance to explore different avenues. We are in the process of furthering our explorations now during our recording of the second album.
IRIE. Give thanks, Marcus!
Marcus Urani. Yes, thanks for having me!