Costa Rican born, Paris resident Mr. Kowalsky has catapulted onto the reggae ska scene of late, with the release of his fourth full-length Everything Nice! back in early December 2020. Since, the genre-bending musician has been promoting this solid piece of ska perfection — taking a full four years to make! Bouncing around the world, singing in multiple languages and incorporating some heavy-hitting players in the mix (Greg Lee of Hepcat, Vin Gordon of Skatalites, members of The Wailers, etc.), Mr. Kowalsky is one international name to know… so, let’s get to know him!
If you think you’ve heard ska reggae before, you’ve never heard it like this!
Top Shelf Music reached out for more details on the latest album, what sets Mr. Kowalsky apart from other musical collaborations and what’s to come. Here is what we got back.
Congrats on the new album! How does ‘Everybody Nice!’ differ from your past works?
MK: Ohhhh yeah, thanks guys, I’m very happy with my new album. I can say that in Everybody Nice!, I solidify the style of reggae that I have been looking for in the past albums… I was looking for my own style of reggae — I call it Surf Rock Reggae — that is basically a mix of early reggae and rocksteady with surf, ska and Latin accents. In my past album Surf Rock Reggae released in 2015, I started with this idea and I feel that the concept is clear in this new album.
It was recorded at studios all over the world. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience! Of course, we recorded this album before COVID, so traveling between continents and cities was easier, but challenging, as well, because I had to coordinate with the studios and [getting] session musicians in sometimes with short time, but to get things done was simpler, because every musicians involved in the recording process got the idea and also gave their personal touch to my music. The planets and stars aligned in the right moment and everything just worked out.
Your music incorporates so many elements and tends to jump genres. What are your main influences?
Yeah, that’s right. I guess that’s a Latin thing — to jump between genres — and, believe me, I have had a few issues with producers, because I even wanted to jump more between other reggae styles or rhythms, but I think we got a good balance in this new production.
I’m in love with early reggae, rocksteady and the first wave of ska bands, like Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, Heptones and singers like Alton Ellis, Keen Boothe, Hopeton Lewis are my main influences.
What messages are you trying to convey with the new album?
My main message in this new album is about Freedom, Peace and Unity. Most of the songs are about that subject, however some lyrics are about global warming and what we’re doing to our planet… the surf and the ocean are always somehow in my lyrics, as well.
Also, since I moved to Paris a few years ago, I started to write lyrics in French about the nightlife here and my experience checking out and being part of a new musical scene.
What’s next for Mr. Kowalsky?
I would love to go out on tour to play this new album! I will start in Europe as soon as everything is open again. Maybe, I can play a few festivals in the summer, if the government opens up and cancels all the restrictions. Then, the idea is to play in the east coast of the US and then go down to Latin America and hopefully Jamaica, as well. All of this depends when we get out of the [COVID] situation and the music business gets back to normal. Otherwise, I will have to wait until everything is open and play more locally here in France.
I’m thinking of doing a dub version [of the] album next to be released in 2022, that will give me some time to compose and produce a new full-length! In the meantime, I will continue doing live videos of versions of my own tunes and some other reggae classics that I will be posting in my YouTube channel.