Collieman, I barely got to know you as the vocal sidekick of Bregt 'Puraman' De Boever of Pura Vida and already you released your first solo album. It all seems to have gone quite fast.
Collieman: "Where the album is concerned, things all happened rather quickly, yes, but apart from that I've been active in music for quite some time already. Like so many others I started my musical journey attending music school. After that I abandoned music for a while until my sister encouraged me to go to Summerjam. That festival would prove to be a real eye opener for me. When I got home I immediately started searching for more information about the genre of music that had swept me off my feet. The first band I joined was called Jah Generation. I actually had to try and convince the rest of the band to give reggae a chance, because they had their minds set on becoming a rock band."
How exactly did you link up with Pura Vida?
Collieman: "Jah Generation often shared the same bill and we often opened for them as well. That way I got to know Bregt. We then decided to record a song together and soon after he asked me if I would be up for joining Pura Vida on stage as an extra vocalist."
What attracted you to reggae music? Was it the rhythm or the content of the songs?
Collieman: "A bit of both, really. Musically speaking it's a groove that can really get me going, but at the same time I've always paid a lot of attention to the lyrics of the music I was listening to and I found that in reggae you often find a very positive message."
Can you name a few artists who inspired you?
Collieman: "I listen to quite a diverse range of reggae artists, from a group like Groundation to a singjay like Sizzla, really. Groundation has been of particular importance, because at the time when I was still a member of Jah Generation, we really looked up to them and I think I can safely say their vibe was defining for the music we were playing. I also want to mention Horace Andy and more recently Tarrus Riley. I don't feel bound by one genre, though; I also listen to a lot of jazz music - Dave Brubeck (American jazz pianist. He has written a number of jazz standards, including 'In Your Own Sweet Way' and 'The Duke'. Brubeck's style ranges from refined to bombastic, reflecting his mother's attempts at classical training and his improvisational skills. His music is known for employing unusual time signatures, and superimposing contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities. His long-time musical partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, wrote the Dave Brubeck Quartet's best remembered piece, 'Take Five', red.) is definitely among my all-time favorite artists - and even a little rock from time to time. All those different influences will reflect in my own music as well I guess."
You're still very young. What are your ambitions in the music business? What do you want to accomplish?
Collieman: "At this moment I'm just trying to grab each opportunity that presents itself. I don't want to overthink my goals just yet. The collaboration with Asham is something I'm really enjoying. Working with a backing band like that opens up a lot more possibilities for you as a singer and I'm really curious how that will develop in the future."
How did that collaboration with Asham Band come about?
Wim Radics (bass): "I went to see Jah Generation play at Dreadmond Reggae Kingdom in Rupelmonde in 2010 and I was immediately impressed by Collieman's vocal style and lyrical abilities; so much so even that the day after the concert I sent him an e-mail asking him if he would consider a future collaboration. With Asham we've focused on building a reputation for ourselves as a backing band and supporting an upcoming talent like Collieman is exactly up our street."
The fact you recorded an album together only strengthens your bond. Suppose Asham band is busy with another project, would that cause major problems for your live shows?
Collieman: "Well, that's something that is definitely not an issue yet. At this stage we're still in the process of promoting the album together and in doing so we're having a lot of fun."
Wim Radics: "Besides a good vocalist, Collieman is also a more than decent guitarist and should we get the chance to tour with an international artist again (Asham band already toured with The Heptones in the past, red.), I think we can just take him along as an extra band member and support act at the same time; killing two birds with one stone so to speak. We've entered into a mutual commitment and both parties fully understand what that entails."
Someone you often share the stage with is Saimn-I.
Collieman: "Yeah, that's another thing that developed out of my collaboration with Pura Vida. At one point I just asked him if he felt like doing a few songs together on stage. He was very enthusiastic about the idea and I've already noticed that his presence on stage gives my performances a bit of an extra edge."
You chose to perform in English, haven't you ever considered singing in Dutch?
Collieman: "(laughs) I'm used to singing in English, but I live and work in Flanders, so I'm definitely open to the possibility; the right opportunity just hasn't presented itself yet. Reggae and dancehall in Dutch and French definitely deserve recognition."
Your stage name, Collieman, refers to your real name, Stefaan Colman, but also to ganja or marihuana. Aren't you afraid you'll be stuck having to answer boring questions about weed for the rest of your career?
Collieman: "(laughs) Well, I'll just have to deal with that I guess. Marihuana is about more than just smoking; it's a way to extend one's boundaries. Listening to reggae music and using weed aren't always automatically linked either; I know plenty of people who love reggae, but aren't into ganja at all."
How does a Flemish country boy like you perceive the whole Rastafarian philosophy?
Collieman: "I think it can still teach us a lot; especially where mutual respect and understanding are concerned. I'm not a religious person though, on the contrary even. I'm still studying ethics and hope to get my teacher's degree in that subject one day, so profiling myself as being Rastafarian would be somewhat hypocritical. At the same time I have to admit I find that whole philosophy moving and inspiring at times."