Music has an impact on everyone’s life. Whether it is helping us rise up over the heavy loads of life and love, or just getting us out the house to move our dancing feet. Maybe it’s the thing that officially says you’re awake each morning on the ride to work or every Friday on the way home – lifting you up for the weekend. Any way you slice it, Bob Marley said it best.
“When it hits you, you feel no pain”. These lyrics inspired musicians like Steppin’ Razor,
a four piece band from West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Steppin’ Razor started off as a tribute band of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Today,
they are an all-original reggae band “encouraging souls” in West Chester, Philly and
Atlantic City, and sharing the 2012 summer stage with some of reggae’s legendaries like Jimmy Cliff, Beres Hammond and Dirty Heads. Their latest release Against the Current speaks to their perseverance of the bands to continue spreading truth, love and righteousness. Their accomplishments did not come without great challenges with Philadelphia being one of the hardest cities to be a successful all-original reggae band.
How did four white guys from West Chester come to the realization that reggae
music path was the right road for them? Starting as the three piece funk project “Steppin”
with “one volatile member, in the band they eventually knew that the Bob Marley tribute would
blow-up leading them to changing their name to Steppin’ Razor,” says Mark Patterson the band’s drummer, vocalist and percussionist.
“Steppin’ Razor” was written by Peter Tosh from Bob Marley and the Wailers.
During one of the hottest Sunday afternoon’s in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, I got the chance to sit down with all four members of Steppin’ Razor. With many questions running through my mind, first and foremost was “Why reggae music?”.
“Johnny was the catalyst for the entire band,” says Patterson of Johnny Miers, the band’s front man. “It all started down with Johnny, down in the Virgin Islands playing Bob Marley tunes
with just his voice and acoustic guitar making the locals lose their fucking minds. So who is this white-boy from Philadelphia coming to our land redefining what we already created?”
If the opportunity was to arise for the band to go on a nationwide tour of the US, would Steppin’ Razor Hit the road?
“We have wives and girlfriends, and children on the way,” explains Patterson. “Touring is not something we see in the bands near future. Yes, we always dream of getting bigger and spreading our music to as many as possible, but the reality of it is that our family and loved ones will always be the most important things in our lives.”
When I asked Patterson about his first memories of music and when it first hit him, he told a story he has told a thousand times before.
“So here is a thousand and one for anyone that still wants to listen,” Patterson explains. “As a small child , my dad had Pink Floyd’s The Wall playing in the living room and I would just run around with speakers looking for the helicopter.”
Being one of Patterson’s fondest memories of music, he remains a big fan of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd to this day, attending any performances coming to town. I then asked Ben Bean, Steppin’ Razor’s vocalists, guitars and bass player the same question.
“As a child, my dad always had oldies playing and what caught my interest the most was Motown,” says Bean. “Then, growing up in the early nineties my interest turned to hip-hop and rap over some of the phattest beats. Then I heard Bob Marley and Peter Tosh along with some other reggae bands in college. College really peaked my interest in reggae. Another reggae artist, Midnight, resonated with my hip-hop sensibility.”
Miers answered with Journey, Led Zeppelin and Jesus Christ Superstar.
“I remember my mother playing these albums while working around the house. Motown was also a huge musical influence on me growing up. First hearing Bob Marley is what drove me to wanting to play reggae music,” says Miers. These bands influence Johnny Myers to continue his education in jazz music in college adding a degree in bass percussion to his resume.
As the mic makes it’s way around the circle, it ends in James Hoy’s hands, the bands lead guitarist, percussionist and vocalist. He recalls his dad with an acoustic guitar playing Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen”.
“I vividly remember as a kid, my dad singing and playing guitar for me and seeing his fingers work the guitar, thinking I want to do that. My dad would also play UFO, Deep Purple and Guns & Roses,” says Hoy. Seeing his father playing the guitar peaked his interest in wanting to pursue the path of being a lifelong musician.
Steppin’ Razor started off with playing tributes to music that they love to creating their own original music. They inspire others to be grateful for the loved ones in their life. They believe that the love from their family and friends is the most important drive in playing reggae music. Though playing music for a living may not be a reality for Steppin’ Razor at the present, it could very well be true in the near furture. Their unique style and sound of reggae is like no other and could easily get the recognition and respect they so rightly deserve. See for yourself on July 7th as they perform with southern California’s reggae rock band, The Dirty Heads, and IAMDYNAMITE at the next Radio 104.5 summer block party.
by Samuel Winslow
Photo by: Aaron Owens