Revive the Vibe

“We’ve been planning a Big Mountain album,” says singer-guitarist Quino McWhinney of his dormant reggae band. “But what it’s gonna be, we’re not sure.” McWhinney and his brother James have remained the nucleus of Big Mountain through years of personnel changes. The band’s last record was a collection of covers released in 2004 by their label in Japan. After, Big Mountain took a five-year break.

“We’re hoping to have a real good game plan by March. Maybe we’ll record a live album here in San Diego,” he muses. “Big Mountain has never done a live album.”

Big Mountain had a hit single with 1992’s “Touch My Light” and more success in 1994 with a reggae-style cover of Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way.” At the peak of their fame, Big Mountain headlined two Sunsplash reggae festivals in Jamaica. Aside from a recent side project called Quinazo (“It is very Chicano oriented”), Quino says he went back to school and eventually took a day job teaching at Olympia High School in Otay Mesa.

“Big Mountain is coming back to life on the backs of friends in the music business,” he says. “These seeds we planted, man, it’s kind of funny. These were seeds that we planted years ago. You never know.” To that end, there are plans for a Brazil tour in January.

“We’re going for about three weeks.” He says that he and his brother James will be touring under the Big Mountain name, but with the backing of local pickup musicians. “It’s the most economical thing to do. We’re kind of breaking back into the scene like that.” He says they will be sharing the bill with the Brazilian roots-reggae band Afrodizia.

“It’s just a whole new market, man, South America. Even with all its economic issues, there’s still money to be made and records to be sold and shows to be played.”

Quino describes the last few years as “biting the bullet, just because we knew that the last time we were doing this it just didn’t feel right, you know. We’ve been trying to get the vibe back again. When you’re young, everything makes so much sense. Business has a way of just bringing about a lot of loose ends, so many loose ends you forget what it was really all about and why. I think it was perfect that we had that time to get away from it,” he says. During the time out, he and his brother got their priorities in order. “Our families are good, and everybody’s healthy.

“Another thing,” he says, “is that this time we’re paying attention to details. We don’t want to rock the boat. It’s, like, let’s do this, but let’s not sacrifice happiness and tranquility.”

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