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By Kyra Scrimgeour
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There was another happy side effect of the trip as well. The day before the hurricane, Gillies sat in with a band called Children of Jah. "A familiar-looking older woman got up from the table to watch me play and sat there transfixed watching me," he remembers. "At that time I was playing a kind of heavy, chunka-chunka Marleyesque backbeat which I felt the band lacked." The next day the Postman discovered that the woman in question was Bob Marley's mother, Cedella Booker, with whom he's since become friends.
Another reggae notable, producer Steven McNamara, who's collaborated with Lucky Dube, eagerly agreed to allow Gillies to digitally restore some of his music. Gillies has become something of an expert at this process; he's been digitally remastering many of his most hard-to-find keepsakes. "I feel this material has to be preserved for future generations," he notes. "Much of the rarest material is on cassettes that are fading with age. I decided that they needed to be on a better medium, so I put it into digital form and ran it through large equalization, sonic enhancement, and so forth."
The result of these efforts, completed in association with Boulder's Deep End Productions, has been not only preservation, but added aural brilliance and depth. Completing this work in Colorado has proven to be surprisingly cost-effective. "I recently restored a tape that had two albums' worth of material," he recalls. "Had I done this in L.A. or New York, where de-hissing computer programs can cost up to $100 a minute, I've already figured out that it would have cost me somewhere between $60,000 and $160,000 to do what I've done for a couple thousand. Deep End Productions has really taken an interest in my work and provided me with substantial discounts so that future generations, long after you and I are gone, will be able to hear this very special music."
The music industry has caught wind of Gillies's experiments. He's been contracted by Outernational Records, a major reggae label, to restore some extremely obscure Jamaican tracks for an upcoming release. He's planning to restore acoustic recordings by Jimi Hendrix and an unreleased album by the Beach Boys, too. In addition, he is collaborating on a number of projects with Albert Chong, a Jamaican native and art professor at the University of Colorado; hosts regular KGNU fundraisers, including an annual presentation dubbed "The Life of Bob Marley"; and promotes a series of Bob Marley trading cards. His most pressing venture, though, is a film of a 1994 performance in Aspen by Bunny Wailer. Gillies was "deputized" by Wailer the night before the date to collect amateur video shot by nine different cameramen. With the help of Boulder's Spectral Edge Video, he used these images in the production of a computer-animated demo that Wailer claims is "better than MTV." Gillies is in the midst of negotiations with the vocalist to incorporate the results into "a complete Bunny Wailer documentary."
These aren't the only items on Gillies's plate: He's also weighing an invitation to write a biography of the musical Kinsey family and has been approached by numerous bootleggers. Still, he insists that his first love is Reggae Bloodlines--so much so that he uses two weeks of vacation time each year in order to host the program on days when he would ordinarily be scheduled to work. "I like to think," he says, "that I've been responsible for spreading awareness of the many different types of reggae around the world."
He has. Even when there's no mailbag over his shoulder, Postman Roger delivers.
Reggae Bloodlines, with Postman Roger. 1-4 p.m. Saturday, July 6,