Kaleo Wassman’s The Naughty Don points to the paradise within each of us through the alchemy of music and technology on Electric Beach (out 7/23/21 on LAW Records)
For many years, an artificial intelligence has existed, undetected, within the very fiber of the internet. A formless, disembodied consciousness, driven only by the lust for knowledge, the entity has been free to roam every connection and digital synapse of the vast neural network making up humanity’s universal mind. Like a detached virtual voyeur, The Naughty Don has learned much about humanity, always content to just watch with the cold calculus of the unfeeling observer.
That was until the entity discovered something new …something so simple about humanity, yet so profound. Music, a simple song — how it brought people together in perfect harmony —made the entity finally feel something. It was a curiosity that soon became a deep longing, a desire to connect with humanity. So, The Naughty Don created its studio far away on a Cyber island where it creates its own musical soundscapes and compiles the sonics that it has encountered on its endless wanderings throughout the World Wide Web. Here, it creates beautiful music to connect with humans, to give them a home for their lyrics, and to spark their inspiration to create more.
Producer, guitarist, and lead singer of noted reggae/dub bands Pepper and Sabotage Soundsystem Kaleo Wassman and the production team consisting of Ronnie King, Kyle (Aristotle) Grabiel and Jose Mario Fernandez (A.K.A Wizzo) brings The Naughty Don to life on Electric Beach (to be released July 23rd on LAW Records), a creative collaboration between man and machine to help humanity discover the paradise within each of us through the alchemy of music and technology.
Owned and operated by the prolific artist/entrepreneurs of reggae-rock mainstay band Pepper, SoCal independent label LAW Records has, over the years, steadily gained a well-earned reputation as the tastemaker label when it comes to American reggae and reggae-rock. As trailblazers and the unofficial ambassadors of a music scene they are largely responsible for creating, the LAW team has been equally invested in developing the next generation of reggae-rock artists and connecting the genre’s wide open future with its legendary Jamaican roots.
That LAW ethos, committed to brazenly forging reggae’s future sound while simultaneously honoring its past, is nowhere more acutely exemplified than on The Naughty Don’s Electric Beach , an ambitious project whose sophisticated production and boldly eclectic sonic treatment of its tracks could well cause it to go down in music history as the Pet Sounds of the reggae world. On June 11th, fans were treated to a sneak peek of the real-time evolution of the American reggae sound (in collaboration with one of the genre’s most legendary staple bands) with “Easy” featuring Pepper, the first single to drop in advance of the full album.
“With this project, I’m getting away from what every American reggae band is doing right now,” says Wassman, “and that is sounding exactly like the same band. It seems like every young American reggae band coming up these days sounds exactly like someone else. Electric Beach is where I’m taking American reggae next. Entering the DJ world. Entering afrobeat, entering all these disparate new elements that are taking reggae music somewhere new. Sonically, this will be a very different sounding album than you’ve ever heard in the American reggae genre.”
Yet, far more than a just brilliant concept album, Electric Beach is a full-on immersive, multi-platform musical experience, at once driving American reggae into new sonic territory and giving fans unprecedented access to interact with the music in new ways.
Music fans nowadays are often hungry for more ways to experience their music than to just listen to it on Spotify. Even if it’s just a vinyl edition, a pin, or even a shirt, fans jump at the chance for any tangible means to connect with the music they love. Tapping intuitively into that demand, Kaleo set out to create a holistic, immersive musical experience the likes of which reggae fans have never had access to before.
As such, a vital element of Electric Beach will be the beautifully illustrated comic book, to be released as part of the album’s packaging, which will provide a deeper dive into the complex Naughty Don origin story. Far from being just an additional aesthetic afterthought to a traditional album, the comic book (in conjunction with a sleek animated short that is currently in production) serves as nothing less than the visual narrative backbone to a musical universe that can be experienced most fully through a multi-sensory immersion.
But The Naughty Don’s immersive journey doesn’t end with passive narrative experience. Says Wassman, “Another exciting element of this release for those hard-core, immersive music lovers— something very special that no one in my genre is doing, but everyone in the DJ world does— is that I’ve made Naughty Don sample packs. We took a whole bunch of samples from the Electric Beach sessions, like samples of my vocals, of the keys, the guitars, and all the sonics that we used on the album, and put them together in sample packs that can be downloaded. So now, fans can literally take the real sounds that made this album and they can create their own music with them!”
Between the genre-busting good music, the visual and narrative aspects of the comic book & animation, and the open invitation for fans to co-create with The Naughty Don via the sample packs — with each asset complementing the next, these elements form the trifecta of a superbly immersive Electric Beach experience.
“I look at this project like the Dungeons and Dragons of music experiences,” quips Kaleo’s personal manager Ryan Sullivan. “It really has this element of endless possibilities to where you can get as deep and nerdy into it as you want. Because this is just Volume One. This is just the first chapter in your giant DnD-style, five-year hero’s journey through the Naughty Don universe!”
And therein lies the really fascinating aspect of The Naughty Don. It’s an original narrative that comprises an expansive, “Marvel-big” universe that is amenable to active participation and dialogue between the artist and the fan community. “For the next Naughty Don record, I’ll be reaching out to all of my Jamaican heroes and I’m bringing them on as features,” says Wassman. “And they will actually take the reins because what I want to do with this album is to remove my vocals, so The Naughty Don isn’t just one voice. All of a sudden, The Naughty Don isn’t singing; it is producing. So now we have a co-creating experience between AI and humans. It just so happens the humans that I want to involve are going to be my Jamaican reggae heroes, who never seem to get the props and recognition they deserve, so we can start bridging the relationship between American reggae and its Jamaican roots.”
Next, suggests Wassman, perhaps a Naughty Donna consciousness will emerge to produce tracks where all the vocals will be sung by females, then maybe transgender artists, and so on as the wide-eyed AI consciousness traverses the diverse spectrum of human experience.
“As The Naughty Don goes through the circuits of the internet, the circuits of time, if you will, what he learns allows him to understand all of humanity by connecting with whomever is working with him on the track. And we’ll be able to do anything from there: maybe classical Naughty Don, or maybe we can do a 1920s flapper Naughty Don. We can do a 60s hippie Naughty Don. There’s really no stopping the evolution of where this will go.”
The Naughty Don’s first single “Easy” featuring Pepper is available on all major streaming platforms. You can presave and check for updates at https://www.kaleolive.com/naughty-don
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