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South Deerfield, Massachusetts, United States

South Deerfield, Massachusetts, United States
Solo Rock Reggae


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By Gary Carra

Frontman Noel Noel is the first to admit that the kid who inadvertently coined his band's name in 1991 was probably referring to the iconic hero Luke Skywalker.

"I was working with [the kid] at a youth facility at the time," Noel recalls. "And he thought we were like the Jedi, but with dreads... hence our name, Dredi."

But in looking back on his decades-long career, which has included more than its share of personnel configurations, high-level associations and tragic situations, the veteran Valley reggae-rocker seems to channel some of the more calculated, thoughtful sensibilities of the wily Obi-Wan Kenobi these days, carefully considering his current surroundings and the consequences of each action and reaction. That has made him far less likely to hurl himself headlong into the fray.

"We can finally afford to step back and watch where we're walking, you know?" he says. "There's no need to rush. Things happen in their own time... and we're living proof!"

As evidence, Noel cites the fortuitous set of circumstances surrounding his recent return to the local circuit. Apart from a one-off reunion in 2006, complications stemming from an auto accident had sidelined the singer—and the band—since 2002 for all intents and purposes.

Feeling better and fueled by a "Where Are They Now?" feature on the popular local music website My 411 Source, Noel notes that the perfect combination of his renewed interest in singing plus the constantly ringing phone soon led him to put on his recruiter's hat and seek some fresh Dredi troops.

"[Lead guitarist/vocalist/songwriter] Bryan House and I have been a team since the early '90s," he explains. "But from there, we have enlisted the services of two great Berkshire-based musicians this time—Pat Mack [of the Justin Allen Trio on drums] and Dave Brown [of the Blue Root Collective on bass] and are sounding better than ever."

Initially, the freshly retooled reggae troupe was to debut the new sound at the second Berkshire Music Showcase—a May 16 benefit for the troops occurring on Armed Forces Day at Flavours Restaurant in Lenox.

While that date still stands, a slew of others—including an April 11 engagement at the Dalton Depot, an April 26 stop at Pittsfield's Mission Bar and Tapas, and a slot on My 411 Source's multi-band Maximum Capacity package Operation Diversity: The Rock N' Funky Reggae Fest on April 26—has subsequently materialized.

As have, Noel anxiously adds, offers to lend a tune to a Dennis Brown tribute CD that will be marketed and distributed worldwide, and even some label interest, replete with a contract and an offer to release and distribute Dredi music.

"Everything is in preliminary phases, and we are proceeding cautiously," he says. "But after all of the years of hard work and dedication, it is exciting to have them happening now, that's for sure."

* - Valley Advocate

It's difficult to categorize South Deerfield's Dredi (pronounced dread-eye). On the face of it, they're a reggae band, but they combine so many other elements in their sound--ska, funk, world music, R&B, rock, hip hop--that they transcend definition. The best comparison would be to bands like Fishbone and 24-7 Spyz in the way they combine sounds and flip easily beteween genres depending on the song; and frontman Noël Noël's vocal harmonies even sound like they could have been crafted by Angelo Moore or Jimi Hazel. Their straight-ahead reggae songs remind us a lot of the Melody Makers or the Wailers, and a couple of tracks even have the requisite nod to Bob Marley. But we also hear everything from Rusted Root to Cypress Hill to the Counting Crows in the tracks on their record It's A Dredi Dance Party. Whatever sound you hear in their music, though, the party's sure to keep you jammin'. - Groundwaves.fm

By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Updated: 05/20/2009 03:00:46 PM EDT

Thursday, May 21
For some reason, the summer season always seems to bring a vibe of good feelings and harmony to people.

Which is what a local band called Dredi tries to do.

Pronounced "dread-eye," this self-proclaimed "reggae fusion" band has been around the block a few times, with its beginnings going back to 1989. But each time around, they've brought something new, be it a style, a lyric or an additional band member.

The founding duo is former Berkshire resident Nöel Nöel, 43, who now lives in the Pioneer Valley, and Pittsfield resident Bryan House, 46.

After nearly three solid years of dormancy, they're back, playing popular local spots such as Mission Bar & Tapas, The Alley and Flavours.

During a recent interview at brewhaha café in North Adams, Nöel and House talk about their return, their roots, and passion for music.

Q: How long have you been on hiatus?

NN: Since '02 when I called it quits. Cut my hair. Sold my guitar. We played a bit here and there. In 2006, was the last time until now that we played together.

Q: What brought you back?

BH: Collectively? Personally? I don't know. I don't think it's ever gone anywhere. We just stepped to it again. We came back. Not that Dredi went anywhere. We came back to Dredi. I needed to get back musically, creatively to what was so close to my heart, to me.

NN: That sums it up. I wanted to do something again, creatively. And I wanted to see if we could pull it off.
Q: Dredi has been around for awhile. How long have you two known each other?

BH: Summer of '92 is when I came on. We met through our friend Michael. And we just became friends.

Q: Are both of you from this area originally?

NN: I am, originally.

BH: I'm from Illinois, the Chicago area. I came out here. I was a baseball player professionally, a baseball player with the Cubs organization. After my career ended in '90, this became home.

Q: So how did Dredi start out?

NN: We actually started out, end of 1989. It was when we started writing music for it. Our first gig happened for what was to become Dredi — then we were called I in I — and that was Earth Day 1990. That was just me and our friend Michael and a drum machine. But it blossomed into this whole big thing.

At the point where Bryan came in, we had three guitars. We had Jason Marcus on keyboards. We had Jim Weber then, now from Berkshire Bateria. Some of us met through Berkshire Public Theatre.

Q: Why the band name change?

NN: We changed over to Dredi because there was another band named I in I. And they were making news nationally, and I was getting tired of phone calls and saying, 'No, it's not me.' (laughs) So Bryan and I played here, and later Key West (in the state of Florida).

Q: So who plays what (instrument) now?

NN: Now, Bryan and I share vocals, and we play guitar. Sometimes Bryan plays bass. And we both write songs.

Q: Do you bring other people on to fill out the sound?

BH: Yeah, I mean, Nöel and I are basically Dredi. But we bring in other folks around us. Right now we've got Dave Brown playing bass, contributing to the groove. We've got Pat Mack contributing drums, and Bush-I Harvey Ahmai on percussion.

NN: We do what we have to do to play, you know what I mean? It's how we keep going.

Q: So how would you describe your sound, your genre?

NN: We've never been straight up reggae, but that's where we started from to jump off.

BH: I would describe it as coming from a roots/reggae bass. From there, it's a product of the environment as we are, and as I am. I mean, I grew up with rock and soul and punk and that formed me as a musician as well as a person. Add that on top of our mission, and all that we're around, and you have a sound.

NN: Yeah, I've always called it reggae fusion. It's alternative reggae rock. Some of the songs off the CD are neither rock nor reggae, it straight up pop. It's what we love to listen to.

Q: How did music come around to you guys in the first place?

BH: I think music for me first came around from my older brother and sisters, you know, Black Sabbath, eight-track, Led Zeppelin, Funkadelic records and stuff like that. Also gospel music, I grew up in the church, a sort of Southern Baptist style church. I started really young, probably age 7 or 8. I started in the children's choir.

NN: For me? It's not as exciting. I think ever since I was really young, I knew I wanted to perform and be creative. I was born in 1965. My sisters and I get the Billboard charts and put on 45s and sing to it and stuff.

I think a big part of it was I lived in California when I was younger, and we'd spend Saturdays in the park. And, you know, there were hippies around and Chicanos, and this whole multicultural hippie aspect that was happening and this beat generation, and there'd be bands in Griffin Park. They'd sit around and played drums and stuff and women would dance and I was paying attention to that you know? (laughs) I would go down Saturdays and hang out with these guys and go to that circle and pick up a rhythm. So I really was into it.

I wanted to play guitar like The Beatles, and then age 14 or 15, I wanted to write Motown records. I had a teacher who tried to teach me to play, but I couldn't get it. So he taught me to play the bass. And then I tried more writing and just learned as I went. And now, here we are.

Q: Would you say you've matured a lot, your styles or sound?

BH: The sound has gotten tighter, gotten closer, I think. But I think at this point, the music speaks more for itself.

NN: Surely for myself, I've matured. I think it's just age. I wasn't trying to get mature. (laughs) In the beginning, playing, I was not very good. But in time, I was able to work things out and come up with my own thing. I think the conglomeration of the people that we've had over the years, makes us sound different every time (we play). We've had a jazz drummer. Sometimes we'd have a rock drummer. Also the songwriting has changed too.

Q: What do you write about?

BH: Anything. Love, hurt, oppression.

NN: There was a lot about reggae soul, a lot of social justice. Now, it's sort of changed and I let things come to me. One of them, I wrote for my youngest son.

BH: I lot of what I write, lyrically, just sounds good with my guitar. But also, I want to write a song about my father who passed away two years ago. I'm learning to write about stuff, real things in my life.

Q: Who are the kinds of people coming out to see a Dredi gig?

BH: Shoot, I'll tell you, the first time I came out to see the band, before I was a part of Dredi, what I saw there was just a total mix of humanity in this open space, all different colors, shades, ages. You don't see that in the bar scene, It's more kind of younger, hip folks that kind of relate to what we're doing. But when it's an open scene, it attracts all different kinds. And that's kind of what drew me to the band. And I think that's who's coming out now too.

NN: I think more people need to know that we're back and start coming out to check us out and see what we're about.

Q: Any new recordings?

NN: We're always thinking about that. But you have to have money for that. But right now we do have a few things. We're going to be part of an international album, a tribute CD to Dennis Brown, an international reggae singer. A Dredi song called "Jah Music" will be featured on the second volume of The Dennis Brown Tribute CD. We're also involved in something with a Canadian guy, a reggae star in his own right who goes by Prince Blanco. He's doing a tribute to The Clash's and the Mescaleros' Joe Strummer called "Shatter The Hotel: The Songs of Joe Strummer in Dub." We're doing something from the Mescaleros era called "Get Down Moses."

Q: Any other hopes or visions you have, now that you're back together?

NN: We're working on a distribution deal with a company out of Vermont called Halogen Records. My goal is just to try to get our music out anyway we can. I would like to be able to make a living at it. It'd be nice.

BH: Yeah, I second that idea, but also maybe my goals aren't so out there. I just want to play music from my heart and be happy.

Q: For a young person growing up around here or anyone else who's trying to be creative and do their own thing, what advice do you have for them?

BH: It doesn't hurt to find other people that share some of your passion and create. The world is what you make it. You know? You create your life. Life doesn't come to you. So feel free to go out and create it. Network. Find some cool people like me and Noel. We'll help you. And I learned. Learn your craft. There's something to be said for knowledge.

NN: There's something to be said about learning your craft. And if you have the opportunity, take lessons. You have to work at it. Cross-pollinate, you know, if you play, write too. Don't give up. Whatever you walls you have, smack 'em down. And when the doors don't open, find a window and sneak in.

To reach Jenn Smith: (413) 496-6239 jsmith@berkshireeagle.com

About the band
Name: Dredi

Members: Nöel Nöel, frontman vocals/rhythm guitar/percussion; Bryan House, vocals, lead guitar. Also currently playing with Dredi are Bush-I Harvey Ahmai, percussion; Pat Mack (also of Justin Allen Trio), drums; Dave Brown (also of The Blueroot Collective), bass; Star Drooker, drums.

Album: 'It's a Dredi Dance Party' (2003 LP)

Next gig: Friday, May 29 at 9 p.m., WHERE??? with Danny Pease and The Regulators.

On the Web: www.myspace.com/dredimusic, www.ourstage.com/fanclub/dredimusic

- Berkshire Eagle


1992: Return of The Dredi Warrior
2000: It's a Dredi Dance Party

Radio play at:
Valleyfreeradio.com Tuesdays 10am-12
wdbx live



 About Dredi
The group has been together in one form or another since the early days of 1989. What started as a pick up pit band for children's theater became an experiment in reggae rhythms mixing it up with good old rock. The original name was "InI", but we changed it to Dredi in 1991. We have been a six piece outfit as well as a trio, playing along with some very funky drum machine beats, and everything in between. We have played from the hills of Western Massachusetts, to the beaches of Key West, Florida. Founded by actor/director/songwriter frontman, NoĂŤl NoĂŤl, Dredi has been fueled and formed by scores of extremely talented musicians over the years. Guitar player and singer, Bryan House, joined up in 1992, after a career in Baseball, playing for the Chicago Cubs farm team, and has been an important aspect of the Dredi experience ever since, adding songwriting, vocals, guitar, soundscapes and bass(when needed). We believe that "Now is the time!" The time to get out in the street and make yourself be heard. This is the countdown. We play music with a message. Sometimes it's just to loosen up and party; other times, it's a bit more serious, but it is always inclusive...no-one is left out of the mix. We invite all people, regardless of race, creed, or sexual preference to "move your feet and dance!"

Band Members