Seattle Weekly: Your new album, Patterns of War (ROIR), mixes up older and more modern reggae, dub, dancehall, and drum and bass. It's also more of a showcase album than a single-artist one, unlike previous albums like 1998's Inna City Pressure, which ROIR just reissued. Here, you have a lot of other singers, most notably Lady K and Chemda, doing the vocals instead of yourself. How did that come about?
I'd been wanting to do a record that was Massive Attack-ish, but taking more from dub styles than from trip-hop styles. I wanted to use different vocalists and to experiment with the arranging and writing. I had an agreement to do a record for ROIR without having played them any demos, and we decided that they would put out whatever record I wanted to do.
How did you meet your collaborators?
Lady K and I met through Craigslist [laughs]. I had another project for a while called Seven, a heavy rock–reggae project, and we were looking for a vocalist. I figured I would try Craigslist—it wouldn't hurt—and she came along. Chemda I've known for about 10 years. She actually appeared on the first record I ever did for WordSound [Records], Seven Tales of Israel.
You're working pretty heavily in reggae styles, and I'm curious how you're received in Jamaica.
I'm probably not [laughs], only because Jamaica is a very, very specific market. There's been talk in the past of going to Jamaica; we did a tour, years ago, with that project, Seven, opening for Buju Banton in front of a lot of heavily Jamaican audiences, and it went really well. This was in America, though. I'm coming more from dub and drum and bass than from traditional reggae, although my vocal stylings are very traditional reggae and dancehall.
The Damian Marley song, "Welcome to Jamrock," is a similar kind of rapprochement between older and newer Jamaican styles, and "Counting Out Stones," from Patterns of War, works in a very similar manner.
I think it does. The other thing that was really big before that was Sean Paul, the last thing that really crossed over. "Welcome to Jamrock" hit in New York in February—they started pushing it on one station, Hot 97. I kind of got influenced by that song while I was probably halfway through the record, I think [in] a lot of my tempos, because I like to work with down tempos. I'm working on some new material that's more roots [reggae] oriented, so it'll be interesting to see if it'll open a gap in the line, as it were.
Dr. Israel plays LoFi with Heavyweight Dub Champions at 9 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 1. $10 before 11 p.m./$12.