Two new albums and a movie ensure that Matisyahu has a crowded near-future docket these days.
The Hassidic singer and rapper, who released “Live at Stubb’s, Vol. 2” in February, is taking “two very different directions” on the albums. One, which he’s recording with his current touring band the Dub Trio, is titled “Akedah: Teaching to Love” and is based on the Biblical story of the binding of Isaac by his father, Abraham, for sacrifice to God, as portrayed through the teachings of the 18th century Ukranian rabbi the Ba’al Shem Tov. Matisyahu and his own teacher traveled to Medzhybizh, where the scholar is buried, for research and wound up staying in a house once owned by a man who murdered Jews in the town.
“That’s where we wrote the record, in that house,” Matisyahu tells Billboard.com. “We found the creative process somehow really opened up for us there…along with a theme, Akedah, which is, essentially, murder but with some redemptive aspect to it. It’s got a lot of depth to it, a darkness to it, which I figured would be perfect for the Dub Trio.”
Matisyahu Brings the Hanukkah Love with ‘Miracle’
Matisyahu’s other album is a more hip-hop oriented set with Dr. Luke protege Kool Kojak (Ke$ha, Flo Rida, Katy Perry), who also produced Matisyahu’s 2010 Chanukah song “Miracle.” “We started recording some music together and had a blast doing it,” Matisyahu says. “It’s a completely different way of recording, more going into the studio and working on a beat and writing right on top of it. It’s more sonically a digital sound than the ‘Live at Stubb’s’ stuff. It will sound more like Top 40 than alternative.”
Matisyahu says “Akedah” is “pretty much written” while the Kojak collaboration is “pretty much recorded.” “Even though they’re two different directions,” he says, “I couldn’t really make my mind up as to what I wanted to do, so I decided to do both…simultaneously. I’m not sure which one to put out first, or maybe both together, and I’m not sure if we’ll get them out this year or the beginning of next year.”
Matisyahu is on tour until September, though he has recording equipment on the road with him and says he may even have Kojak come out and join him in order to finish that project.
In January, meanwhile, Matisyahu will appear in “The Dibbuk Box,” playing “basically a Hassidic exorcist” alongside Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The film is slated to open in January.
“It was great,” Matisyahu says of the experience, “except I had to do a scene where I had to scream at the top of my lungs, which wasn’t so good for the vocal cords. Besides that, I had a lot of fun. As a kid I did acting, and I did acting all through high school and college, but at some point I decided to go in the direction of music. So this was cool; it’s a great role, and it gave me a chance to sort of try it out again.”