The throbbing beat of a Djembe drum, the enticing tink of the steel drum and the soulful wail of a saxophone are not sounds you would expect to hear in the suburbs, but in West Chester, Pa., you just might.
As its distinctive reggae guitar riffs begin to blend with the drums and horns, Johnny Myers’ vocals tease their way in, and you know this is not your average garage band. Myers, Mark Patterson, James Hoy and B. Hold make up Steppin’ Razor, a reggae band that has graced some of Philadelphia’s most prolific stages.
Myers and Patterson were in a Bob Marley and Wailers tribute band Babylon Bus, which split in 2005 and left them with a passion for reggae without an outlet. Thus, Steppin’ Razor was formed. Now, the band is about to release its second album, “Against The Current.” On Feb. 25, Steppin’ Razor will be sharing the stage with Barrington Levy at the Blockley Pourhouse and will perform on March 13 at the Legendary Dobbs.
This band takes its music very seriously and likes to keep a family vibe. All of the work for both albums was done in-house – most of the work done in Myers’ basement. Steppin’ Razor is currently working on putting the final touches on its newest album and preparing for two big shows coming up in Philly.
The Temple News: With your second album about to be released, when you look back at the start of Steppin’ Razor, did you imagine you’d be at this point?
Johnny Myers: Absolutely. After we settled into the core four members who make up the current Steppin’ Razor group, we knew we’d be doing this for a long time. We all knew reggae music was something we wanted to pursue, and [we want to] take it as far as we can.
TTN: What is your musical background?
JM: [I] started out in high school playing in the marching, concert and jazz bands and then went on to college at West Chester University and graduated with a music performance degree. I’d say jazz and classical [music] is where I started really getting into music.
TTN: What is your favorite/craziest show you’ve done?
JM: Our first CD release party. We did three hours at a venue where we had done a weekly residency on and off, for three years. That night, everyone was family. Nothing crazy happened per se, but it was an amazing experience.
TTN: What is your worst experience performing?
JM: Answering this one could have some negative repercussions. Some things are just best left alone.
TTN: Do you have a favorite Philly venue?
JM: Once we’ve played them all, we’ll let you know.
TTN: Besides Marley, who else in reggae influenced you?
JM: Midnite, Luciano, Garnet Silk, Horace Andy, Gregory Isaacs, Barrington Levy, Jacob Miller, Steel Pulse, Burning Spear, Stephen and Damian Marley. Honestly there are just so many great reggae artists that have influenced us musically and emotionally. It’s really hard to pick just a few.
TTN: What bands outside of the reggae genre have influenced your music?
JM: Tool, Rage Against the Machine, U2 (the old U2 that is), Soulive, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, the Roots – any real music. Music that touches and moves you – that’s what we’re trying to accomplish [and] getting a positive message across in a very negative time.
TTN: Why do you think reggae is not considered a mainstream music genre?
JM: It’s funny reggae isn’t a mainstream music genre, yet, if you ask anyone their thoughts on reggae music, I don’t think you’ll find many people who say they can’t get down with it or dislike it. Now that you ask, I’d like to know why it isn’t.
TTN: I know most of your tracks have a message. What are the key ideas/themes you wish to come through your music?
JM: I think the song that best describes the idea or theme behind our music would be “Human” off of our debut album “Gold In Rule” – positivity, righteousness, disregarding race, creed or stature as differences in the people of this world. We are all one people, and we are all human, no more, no less.
TTN: What’s next for Steppin’ Razor?
JM: At this point in life, we all have day jobs and family, kids, wives, et cetera, and we realize that a massive tour across the globe isn’t in the cards right now, but we do plan on promoting the CD locally and possibly touring in the tri-state area and maybe farther. It’s all a matter of timing.
Michael Rhoten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.