At the origins of One Root there was a collective called Black Mystic Erotic.
Matt-I (guitar & vocals): "I was still studying jazz at Jazz Studio in Antwerp at that time and basically Black Mystic Erotic was a collective of about twenty musicians playing music together that was mainly based on improvisation. It was there that the four founding members of Sunrockers - Olivier Taskin, Axel Gilain, Pascal Paulus and myself - first met. With Black Mystic Erotic we played all kinds of music, but because I had started out playing reggae when I first took up the guitar, I felt more drawn to the more reggae-inspired things we did and I guess it was only logical we went on to form a reggae band."
How exactly did you get into reggae in the first place?
Matt-I: "I don't know… I was already drawn to the rhythm when I was still a child and when I really started listening to the lyrics I became struck by its message as well. At one point, when I was still in my teens, I also started attending meetings of the Twelve Tribes of Israel movement and that opened up another, more spiritual, side of the music to me."
I gather you felt more drawn to roots reggae than to ragga or dancehall then?
Matt-I: "Well, I grew up when roots reggae was still quite popular and never really got ragga or dancehall and with One Root we also mainly focus on roots and dub."
In 2012 Sunrockers entered and eventually won the Benelux Reggae Contest. Did that move things along for you guys?
Matt-I: "Yeah, absolutely. By winning that contest we met a lot of people one of which was Gregory Jacqmain from the Skinfama booking agency in Brussels, who's now our agent. Unfortunately it was also around that time that some strains within the band became apparent."
That eventually resulted in a name change from Sunrockers to One Root.
Matt-I: "Before Sunrockers we were even called Sun for a while! (laughs) What happened is that we didn't want to disrespect the people we had worked with as Sunrockers (bass player Axel Gilain and drummer Olivier Taskin, both founding members, red.), so we decided to turn the page and go for a fresh start as One Root. We still play a lot of the songs we played when we still were Sunrockers though, so musically it hasn't changed all that much."
For several of the tracks on the 'Revelation' EP you guys also shot a video. I'm guessing these clips haven't really made to MTV or TMF, so why put in the effort to shoot them in the first place?
Matt-I: "We just like to add that visual aspect to our music; it just gives it an added layer and shooting these videos is also a lot of fun. The guy we work it (Marc Timmermans, red.) is an excellent director and we're very pleased with the work he's done for us."
One Root is often compared to Flemish band Pura Vida. How do you guys feel about that comparison?
Matt-I: "I like their music, but apart from the high-pitched falsetto harmonies we both use, I don't know if we're really all that similar. We definitely share influences from The Congos and Lee Perry."
I think there's also a certain spirituality in your music, which is also present in that of Pura Vida.
Matt-I: "The message we put in our songs is definitely important to us and I guess the same goes for Pura Vida. The strange thing is we've never really met or played together yet. Maybe working together could prove interesting."
All the tracks on the 'Revelation' EP are in English. Was it a conscious choice not to do songs in French?
Matt-I: "Even though French is my native tongue, I just don't feel like singing in that language. Maybe that is because I've always listened to reggae sung in English and never really focused on its French counterpart."
You mentioned earlier, you were involved with the Twelve Tribes movement at one point. What does Rastafari represent to you?
Matt-I: "To me it's all about the message and actions of Haile Selassie I, whom I regard as a blessed individual and a freedom fighter and one of the great pan-Africanists. Marcus Garvey prophesized the coming of a black king and for the Rastafarians this prophecy was fulfilled in the persona of Haile Selassie I, emperor of Ethiopia."
You're mentioning pan-Africanism there and two pan-African leaders, but you're of Caucasian descent yourself. Isn't that somewhat conflicting?
Matt-I: "Well, we called ourselves One Root because we believe we all stem from the same root and humanity had its roots in Africa, something we all still carry around with us in our DNA. Personally I don't believe in borders and frontiers, so it doesn't really matter where you're from or what the color of your skin might be. These things don't really matter in the Twelve Tribes movement either for that matter."