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As a founding member of the Vermont-born, Boulder-based the Samples, Jeep MacNichol saw his share of patchouli-soaked fans. The Samples sold millions of units in the late 80’s and early 90’s based on relentless touring and truly grassroots show-by-show album sales.
MacNichol’s reggae-influenced drumming propelled the Samples’ pop-hybrid sound, a driving factor of their early popularity, and a formula successfully employed by younger bands such as O.A.R. Their popularity was such that the Samples toured alongside Phish and Widespread Panic and hosted such flash-in-the-pan opening acts as the Dave Matthews Band.
A handful of years after leaving the Samples, MacNichol embraced Jah by journeying to Jamaica to collaborate with preeminent reggae artists like Sly and Robbie. Those sessions became his first recording under the pseudonym Mr. Anonymous. The eponymous first release and 2009’s Mr. Anonymous 2 feature a bevy of reggae guest stars and a signature studio-knob-twiddling-sound.
MacNichol recently announced on his blog that both albums are available for free download.
After the jump, City Paper speaks with MacNichol about his career and his music.
Washington City Paper: Mr. Anonymous is mostly a studio animal. Do you miss touring? Do you do any live gigging?
WCP: Mr. Anonymous 2 sounds like it has an added layer of studio craft than your first release. Was that intentional?
WCP: So why reggae or dub? Why not find influence, say, in Stax or the punk movement?
WCP: You’ve written and spoken about working with reggae legends like Sly and Robbie. What’s something about working with a collaborator that surprised you?
WCP: Do you still have people who recognize you or contact you from the Samples?
JM: I do get emails from Samples fans for sure, and I’ve recently been reaching out to a lot of those folks. A lot of Mr. Anonymous fans remember me from my drumming days in that band, so it’s cool for me to still keep in touch, especially since I’m back on the drum throne when I play live. As far as walking down the street getting recognized I would say no. I’m actually opening for the “new” Samples in September down in Denver which will be fun because I can share my new vibe as a drummer and musician to a lot of folks who think I’ve disappeared over the last 10 years.
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“Little Silver Ring” – The Samples
WCP: Do you look at the success a band like O.A.R has had and think the Samples were ahead of their time?
WCP: You’ve got a regular spot DJing for a Boulder radio station. A look at your playlists shows a heavy dose of reggae. Is there a non-reggae band/ artist that you’re enjoying listening to?
WCP: What’s your take on the current state of reggae music? Do you get a chance to listen to what the Easy Star All Stars are doing with their tribute albums?
JM: Yeah I like the Easy Star stuff for sure. As far as the current state of reggae music and dancehall in particular, I think there are a lot of hugely talented singers with amazing skills…Sean Paul has some SERIOUS skills along with Beenie Man, Buju Banton, etc. My biggest complaint with a lot of it though is the music behind what they are doing. I feel the same way with hip-hop in this country. This is partially why I do what I do with Mr. Anonymous because I try to showcase that vocal talent in a different context with melody and depth. Some of the grooves coming out of Jamaica are slamming for sure but a lot of them for me get a little boring and redundant, at least for my taste. I hate saying anything is good or bad when it comes to music because it’s all just art and as long as even one person enjoys it, that’s everything!