Caught up with David Asher of The Process to talk music, religion, pot, working with his heroes including Dick Wagner (pictured) and the coming of the first full-length release since 2002's "Blood & Bones".
David Asher of The Process Interview....
Q: You guys have been at this a long time. How long has it been and, considering where you're from, why reggae?
A: We actually performed first under the name "THE PROCESS" in around 1985. At that time we were very electric cover band, that did a couple of punky originals.
We did Cream, Iggy Pop, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Bob Dylan, all kinds of stuff. No top 40 though. I guess even then we had our sights set on something bigger.
We only did a couple of shows with that early lineup but they were very supported locally, in Vassar, the little town that three of us were from. It was pretty clear that we were never going to be a cover band in bars though. The original group was Guitarist Garrick Owen and Myself, Bill Heffelfinger, on Drums and a couple of other guys.
Shortly after that, some of the players were not interested in continuing, so we went dormant for awhile. I did a bunch of recording with a guy named Dave Ivory, who played on some of our earlier releases, and I learned a lot. I also started to try to write songs.
In around 1989, Garrick and I hooked up with a another drummer and re-booted the band, with the idea of putting together a Reggae Rock fusion group. Bill and Garrick both come from a hard rock, or prog background. Both are great musicians but it was bringing in the Reggae that made us stand out a little more I think.
I was playing Marley to my college buddy's at CMU in 1980 and they loved it. I never went to class, I just dug into my guitar and learned to play it, or at least express myself.
So, I guess it was mostly me who wanted to bring the Reggae sound more into Rock. Meanwhile I became very interested in Rastafari, and the spiritual element in Reggae music, and I gained inspiration from that.
I had loved Bob Marley since the late 70's, and after he passed, I realized that there was a whole universe of talented singers and players of instruments in Reggae.I started listening to a lot of them, and a couple in particular inspired me in my writing. One was a very dark voiced Reggae chanter, named Prince Far I, who was murdered in Jamaica in 1983. Another was the legendary Reggae Producer and Artist Lee Scratch Perry. Both of these men ran their own independent labels in Jamaica. Through recordings featuring them, I discovered a British label, called On-U Sound, run by a maverick English guy named Adrian Sherwood. It was a collective really, with lots of great groups and performers on the label. On every payday I used to go the post office and send an international money order, and order as many On-U Sound records as my strained budget could afford. Through that example, a little light switch slowly turned on in my brain that, hey maybe we can do this too! It was a very fearless, or for a much better word naive idea. We started playing out a little in Detroit, with a changing line up, Garrick and I were the only constants. We released our first album in 1991. Eventually drummer Arek Aneszko, a young polish kid from Saginaw joined. We then rescued Bill Heffelfinger from his cover band, when he heard the music we were writing, and heard how great Arek was. Arek left in around 2001. Sam Metropoulos filled the spot for a few months, while we were writing an album. Then P-Funk All Star Gabe Gonzalez joined in 2002, and has been with us since.
Q: Interesting you mention P-Funk. Did Gonzalez's inclusion have anything to do with the theatricality of The Process. Tell me about giant paper maché heads.
A: Ha ha, actually, no, we were well on that path from the start but when Gabe first saw us, he saw something kindred in us I'm sure.
We have always been theatrical. I think it was from being big David Bowie fans, and of course Bill and Garrick loved Alice Cooper and all that. The very first gig we did in Detroit, was booked by Sue Static, God bless her. It was at Finny's Pub. We had many of the props we still use at that gig! I think it was Garrick who had the idea to make a Mardi Gras-like giant Pighead! So when Gabe joined, he brought that whole P-Funk theatrical thing with him, and things kinda fell into place.
We always seem to channel an energy from some other dimension when we play. We still play like our lives depend on it.
Q: Your lyrics are informed by a keen social conscience. Has that always been true and how have your influences informed your music?
A: It has always been crucial to me that the lyrical part of the music express something important. I don't take anything foolish, so I don't give it.
Bob Marley was a Psalmist and the Bible has also been a wellspring of lyrical inspiration to me. Really, that is all any Ambassadors of Rastafari are doing, they are singing King David's songs.
I have always tried to be a voice to the voiceless. THE PROCESS has always stood for truth, rights, justice and equality. I am sure it is an influence of many artists I have admired but it is also the voice of Rastafari, speaking to my heart to activate my mind to action.
Q: So there's a religious element to it. How would you say The Process differ from Christian bands that have gained popularity in recent years?
A: Well, I wouldn't call it Religious, I would call it spiritual. More of a channeling of the energy of the original source of being.
Most of what passes for so-called Christian rock sounds very bland to me. But that's just me.
Q: Right, but Rastafari is a religion, no? It's mentioned quite often in your music. As well as references to Haile Selassie, "The Lion Of Judah Hath Prevailed!"
A: To describe it more accurately, would be to call it a way of life.
Q:What's the difference between "a way of life" that worships Jah and a religion? Do you think religion generally scares fans of popular music and why?
A: Well, Rasta I would say, is more about the "livity" (loosely defined as life and freedom), than many other faiths. It is a very individual expression, I feel.
Although there are some very Orthodox Rastas, many others come to the faith because it offers freedom. I'm like a Gentile among the Rasses. To me, listening to that voice and being able to hear and act on it is the important thing. Not so much what you eat, or how you wear your hair. To me I just want to seek Selassie, and serve God.
I mean, I understand the reason people go to church, sometimes I go myself. I seek understanding of God, I seek God, so that I can have strength to go through to do these mystical musical works of the Most High.
As long as I am blessed with this anointing, I will continue, Jah willing.
So, you wanna hear about the album?
Q: We'll get there, I promise.
A: No hurry, my pipe is in hand! Lol
Q: Some might say the Rastafarian religion is just an excuse for white guys to smoke a lot of pot. (Laughter)
A: Some do, some don't. Most do. But I'm not white, i'm Irish. (Laughter)
Q: Do your bandmates share your deep faith? Has it ever been a cause if contention?
A: I wouldn't say contention. They are not Rastas. Well, Gabe shares my admiration of King Selassie. I think they like it when I come up with exotic sounds far-eastern riffs, and drop mystical/magical lyrics over it. I really can't take credit for the inspiration, it only flows through me. So it is what it is. They are great, creative players, and so it is always fun, doing new music. It's exciting because everyone brings something to the sound of the band.
Q: Recently you've been worked with Adrian Sherwood of On-U-Sound Productions and some of his stable of artists such as Ghetto Priest. It must have been very satisfying to work with someone whose work you admired so much over the years.
A: It really was wonderful, and for me personally a dream come true. Our fans stepped up and helped us finance the project as well, which was very humbling. I really felt the hand of Jah guiding the project. Over about three years we brought Skip "LIttle Axe" McDonald, Adrian, Congo Natty and former On-U electronic producer David Harrow to it. So many fantastic people assisted us on the way, It is really hard to describe how much it all meant to me.
Having it chart was a great blessing too. We did it on our own. I mean with no record company, not on our own by any means, haha.
Ghetto Priest is such an amazing artist. I mean creativity and talent just flow out of him. Working with him was an honor.
Q: Even formerly major artists are financing records with crowd funding now. The music business has changed so much in recent years, how has it changed your own expectations or experience? And how has it changed the way the band has operated in recent years?
A: Of course. I think back to 1996. Our album Craven Dog had just come out. We flew out to Los Angles to do a showcase for an exec at Virgin Records. We did a live radio performance and a little club gig. By the time we arrived, our man had already left Virgin! So we soldiered on and did the shows. Since that time, the whole music business has imploded as we knew it. I can say though, looking back on almost all of the bands who were signed and dropped by major labels, (most of them at one time or another), They are now gone. We aren't rich, and we may be more infamous than famous but we are still here. That says a lot I think. Too damn mean and stubborn to give up. I think it's because we believe in the band. We believe in what we have achieved, and what we will achieve. We haven't played live much in the last year. We have a gig coming up in Bay City in a couple of weeks, so I'm looking forward to that. We keep self releasing new product. This year we did two singles, "Gypsy Wind", as a digital only release, and a physical single "Fire Is Burning" with Lord Kimo from Asian Dub Foundation. The single also features mixing from legendary reggae mix-master Scientist, and again, David Harrow. We keep trying to keep up with all of the trends and formats in releasing music, as well as changes to the world of Publishing.
Having our fan base grow more internationally in the last 3 years, then it has in 25, has given me some satisfaction as well.
Q: Due to social networking, I assume.
A: Well, mostly yes, and how well the singles have done. It's a singles market now. That's why we keep letting the new album out in little shots. It keeps our name out there and shows we are continuing to write, record and release new music.
I think we grow with each new release. Our new stuff is going to be our best, I feel. We want to keep raising the bar for ourselves.
We worked with Dick Wagner on the new album as well, just before he passed.
Q: What was his involvement?
He played guitar on a new song called Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I can't wait to release it but we are saving it for the album.
It's really something else, he played his ass off on it. They way he played had an undertow of deep beauty. He had a rock and roll heart, that is for sure.
Dick and I were old friends. He was always a big supporter of THE PROCESS. He was always there with encouragement for us.
I am so glad we got the chance to work together before he passed. We did the backing vocals in London as well.
Q: That's a pretty nice endorsement.
You talked about raising the bar, reminding me of your peculiar dub release "weapons of mass percussion". What can we expect from the new album?
A: Well, It's all new material. Two of the tracks have already been released as singles but will be remixed for the album. We have Six songs almost finished and we are hopefully writing a couple more originals for it. There is one cover on it but it's a surprise.
I'm hoping for a late summer/fall release. Lots to plan, cover art, packaging, budget, promotion. After it comes out is when the work starts.
Q: What's the working title?
A: The working title is WHO IS THAT MAD BAND?
The Process will be performing Saturday, Dec 27th at Bemo's in Bay City, Mi with Rocktropolis and Everyday Ghost.