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Published: 2003/04/26
by Margot Main

Maktub: It Is Written

Faster isn't always better. High speeds are great for cars and connecting
to the internet. However, when life goes broadband sometimes the only way
to hang on is to let go and surrender to the groove. It’s times like these
that Maktub’s music makes submission natural.

Maktub (pronounced mock-tube) creates original songs that are as comfortably
familiar as they are lyrical silver linings of the human spirit. Each
member of this quintet contributes from their experienced strengths to
create the vessel that carries them through into their music. Live, their
overflow of soulful intimacy washes over the audience like a wild wave of
fresh water with enough undertow to keep the movement balanced and going
forward. Their CD, Khronos (Velour), offers a similar sense of progression
as songs move and combine elements from an Al Green spirited soul-pop energy
to classically seductive California rock. However, at times, they also
invoke the mysterious clouds of Seattle band’s sky and their music becomes a
rock structured meditative wading pool flirting with psychedelica.

Their original style has definitely benefited from working with a range of
people including Dan the Automater and Saul Williams as well as Nirvana
producer Steve Fisk and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam fame. Kevin Goldman
(bass) and Davis Martin (drums) deliver tight rock-dub rhythm and writing.
Daniel Spils (keys, synth) connects with Thaddeus Turner’s raging guitar
work. Altogether, the band creates a luscious groove that gives vocal front
Reggie Watts lots of room to surf from gripping baritone to free scatting
falsetto.

Sitting down with Reggie, Kevin and Daniel before the band launched their
national tour (that included many nights of opening for Soulive) afforded an
opportunity to unearth the personable side of the band.

Margot: Where did you get the band name?

Kevin: The name, Maktub, is an Arabic word which means it is written. We
had all read it and liked the meaning of the word and said lets use it as a
band name.

[Reggie enters backstage left with a huge smile]

Reggie: Interview’s over. (Chuckles) Sorry. I’ve always wanted to say
that. Like you ask one wrong question and that’s it.

[everyone laughs]

Margot: Umm, well, I’m asking about the band name.

Reggie: Oh, we all read this book, The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho.

*Margot: Is there any correlation between the name and how you approach or
create your music?

Kevin: In relation to the name. No.*

***

_Seattle based bands are generally known for great understatement. It’s not
without notice that the band’s name carries with it a similar sense of
subdued power. In fact, the word, Maktub, only appears twice throughout
Paul Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist. However, the word itself expresses the
book’s entire theme as well as serving as a life philosophy._

_Translated from its Arabic roots, Maktub means, "It is written." The writer
as one universal being that shapes its stories to assist those who work
toward achieving their own personal legend. However, to capture "all that
is written" into hard copy is impossible. Besides, life would be boring if
you read your life story before you had, in reality, lived it. Thus, omens
are offered as a means to communicate to the seeker what to do next. The
only purpose of omens is to be read by those for whom they’re intended.
Their only use is to guide the seeker to their fate; their destiny; their
ultimate happiness._

_Whether a person’s destiny is self-determined and the universal writer makes
edits along the way or pre-determined where a person’s story is written in
stone, could be the basis for a philosophical discussion on a very long road
trip. However, in relation to the band Maktub, their songs could be playing
during someone’s quest to claim their own personal legend._

***

*Margot: You cut a serious groove. How about a vision? Do you as a band
have some sort of vision?*

Daniel: People often ask that question. And, there’s a little bit of
meaning behind the band name and there’s a little bit of meaning behind how
the band was formed but, to overstate that would be a lie. Some of the
music we’re working on currently is nothing like we’ve been doing; and, it’s
fantastic.

Kevin: The goal is self discovery and expressing that self discovery
through the music. The goal is to play great music. The challenge for us is
that it stays new. And, we can earn a living. Pay our bills, and things
like that.

*Margot: Do you think with the advent of the internet and blossoming indy
labels it’s easier for bands to earn a living having their music more
accessible?*

Reggie: Thinking historically, it’s easier now. Maybe it’s just us. But,
we’ve had great luck with the internet. It’s been a huge tool. If you’re
smart and you use it the net which is a great tool for mass communication;
yeah, you could make a great living. If you don’t know how to utilize the
net then you’re just back in the old school ways – which works too, it’s
just slower.

*Margot: When you guys connect you’re all right there together. Your music
doesn’t sound over-rehearsed or structured; and, that’s really difficult to
pull off.*

Kevin: There’s a definite structure to every song that we play in our sets. Occasionally, on a rare occasion, I’ll introduce an idea for a song that’s
sort of in development that we’ll experiment with on stage in terms of
experimenting with the melodies and sometimes the arrangements. But, that’s
a rare occasion and when it does occur we try to keep the improvisation to
still fit into a song format where the choruses, bridges and where the
verses go. And, try to keep some sort of arrangement to it versus a twenty
minute jam.

Daniel: I think what’s true for many great bands (outside of this band) is
spending a lot of time together. So, this band spends a lot of time playing
together to the point that it becomes familial. And, whether we like it or
not, we spend a lot of time in this band together; we eat, breathe, sleep
together – literally sometimes just out of necessity – just living so close
to one another and having so much of our lives interlock; musically and just
on a friendship level it just makes us play well together.

Margot: You share the space.

Daniel: Yeah, literally.

Margot: Musical influences?

Kevin: [Originally from Phoenix, Arizona] I moved to Seattle in ’95 and
actually met Davis, our drummer, two days after I moved to Seattle. Davis
and I have a little bit of a similar background in playing Dub and so we
come a little bit from the same space musically being influenced by Dub
music or Reggae. Other groove bands, like Sade. I think part of the
challenge for each player to be able to express their influences where
they’re coming from in music and the other players support them but at the
same time be into what they’re playing. It allows for everyone to feel real
with where they’re coming from.

Daniel: I think most musicians like a wide variety of music. So, I think
there’s a misnomer like, "well, I only listen to jazz improv." So, I would
say specifically, I grew up in Alaska, so I listened to a lot of Top 40
because that’s what was available to me. I remember specifically when I
turned sixteen years old I heard jazz for the first time. And I went off on
a tangent for I’d say about four or five years I listened to that more
exclusively; that and Metallica because that was the environment I was in.
When I moved to Seattle the array of music that’s available was not
available in Anchorage, Alaska.

Margot: Reggie, everyone includes Al Green when describing your groove.

Reggie: Al Green is an influence. For me, it ranges from classical
melodies to jazz rhythm melodies to a lot of top 40 music from the eighties
a lot of New Wave from the eighties, industrial music, heavy metal. I love
all forms of music and I look for the stuff that "gets" me, you know? I
have a drive to constantly be looking for the most extreme forms of music
even if people are very against a certain type; like very
controversial.sometimes we find a little piece of treasure in a bunch of
garbage.

Margot: Do you think the music chooses you or do you choose the music?

Reggie: I don’t know. I think it just happens. We find it and if it
clicks, it clicks.

Margot: Can you describe the new material?

Reggie: Any music that we write people can move to. I think of [the new
material] as more Maktub than what Maktub is now.

Margot: How do you mean more Maktub than now?

Reggie: Well, when any band just starts out the palette is usually pretty
wide. Especially in the case of Maktub. We were trying all these various
and different avenues; and, we’re all very, very open and it’s just kind of
the nature of the band, the development of the line around that we what we
were discovering was ourselves.

*Margot: You’re also very interactive with the audience; has the call and
response scatting worked well for you?*

Reggie: Yeah. It’s fun. The first tour we ever went on we experimented
with; it’s an interesting experience. The joining on stage and deciding
what we can do; how to interact. Interacting with the audience is very,
very important and I’ve always known that. It took awhile to get the
courage and also building up a sense of when it’s appropriate; what people
will like. It has to be natural. It’s great. It’s a good experience to
share with the audience and have the audience give it back to you. It just
gets people there with you. It’s letting the audience know that you care
about them; as opposed to barely having an interest. I personally prefer
when a band plays natural on stage like, "Hey, what’s up. Let’s check out some
music."

Maktub is out on tour through May, including many dates wth Soulive.
They’ll also be playing with Garage a Trois and Dirty Dozen Brass Band in
‘nawlins at Twi-ro-pa on April 30 and May 1. Their recent release of their
record, Khronos, on Velour solidifies them as another blossoming artist of
this burgeoning NYC based label. Add all this to the completion of their
video, "Just Like Murder" (truly an original take on fallen love) which can
be viewed on their web site http://www.maktub.com. It seems the band is
well into writing and living their own story.

Though the players say not to overstate the relevance of the word maktub to
the band Maktub; it shouldn’t necessarily be understated either. Kevin
meeting Davis two days after arriving in Seattle, everyone having read the
same book and even Reggie’s trademark "Reg-a-phone" that he says he bumped
into a while ago could all be interpreted as omens. If that’s what they
really are then perhaps Maktub, the band, is the personification of maktub
the word.

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