Archive for May, 2008

IAN DURY ( the upminster kid )

Posted in IAN DURY, Punk Funk, Soul/Disco on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

Kenwood House, the stately home on Hampstead Heath in north London, and a belter of a day. The sky is blue. The sun is hot. The grounds are lush and green. Babies in lacy sun bonnets sit up in their prams. Small children roll gigglingly down the inclines. A young couple neck greedily in the shade of a big tree. Ian Dury loves it here. Ian Dury, who now lives in Hampstead, comes here often. “It’s just so bloody gorgeous innit?” he sighs happily. “It’s just so English. It’s just so. . . who was that geezer? Coleridge?”

Ian Dury – inspirational pop figure, occasional playwright and actor – is big. Or maybe, I should say, gives the impression of being big. His lower body is actually very small, diminished by childhood polio, but his head and neck are huge. He looks part Oliver Reed, part Bill Sykes – or part Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes and part Bill Sykes’s dog, which, if I recall rightly, also had a small body and big head and may have been called Bull’s Eye.

He could look quite scary and would, were it not for the softening, humorous accessories, such as the Joan Collins-style sunglasses that he recently bought from a Rastafarian in a park for pounds 4. A man strolls past, out walking his two gorgeous Dalmatians. “Oi mate,” calls out Ian, “lovely bit a dog action you got going there!” It is idyllic here. It is brilliantly Coleridge. But I wonder, naturally, do heavenly days like this feel even more precious, once you know your time is running out? A cliche of a question, I know, but I’ve got a cliche for a mind sometimes and just can’t help myself. He says: “I just don’t think like that. It’s not in me nature. Do I ever get depressed? No. I only get hangovers. Ha! Ha! Shall we ‘ave a cuppa in the caff? And some crisps? I’m quite peckish, I think.”

In 1996, Ian Dury was diagnosed as having cancer of the colon. He underwent an operation, but then secondary tumours appeared on his liver. “When the specialist diagnosed it six months ago, I said: `What’s the worst scenario?’ He said: `Eight months.’ ”

Ian, I ask in my hopelessly clumsy way, how does it feel to know you are. . . um. . . dying? “Bloody irritating! But I haven’t shaken my fists at the moon, if that’s what you mean. I’m not that sort of a geezer. I’m 56 and mustn’t grumble. I’ve had a good crack, as they say.”

Do you ever feel sorry for yourself?

“No. Sorry for yourself is for wankers, innit?”

Any plans to become Cancer Spice?

“No! I don’t like the Spice Girls. I call it the Italia Conti School of Music. I prefer the All Saints. At least they make at an attempt at singing and move their arses right.”

There is, at the moment, no cure for such secondary liver tumours, although treatment can help prolong life, perhaps even keep the disease at bay for six, seven years. Ian is currently hooked up to a “Hickman Line” which feeds him drugs intravenously all day every day, and is not such a humorous accessory. The line consists of “this little chap ‘ere” (a pouch of chemicals, which he wears around his waist) and tubes that have been inserted directly into his chest. His biggest fear, he says, is that some mugger is going to think the pouch is a money bag, grab it and pull me lungs out.”

No, he’s not frightened of death, even though he doesn’t believe in God or any kind of afterlife. “There’s nothing beyond, if you ask me, but that’s alright. The human mind is such an amazing thing, that this life’s been enough for me.” I ask him what he thinks makes life worthwhile. “To love and be loved,” he replies, “and to watch me kids.” Being as cliched emotionally as I am intellectually, I find I get a bit choked up. Ian says no sympathy, please. “Look up sympathy in the dictionary,” he cries, “and you’ll find it comes between shit and syphilis, ha, ha!”

Ian Dury has always been a terrific one-off. Not just as a bloke, but also as a pop star. His music, a sort of cross between rock and music hall with immensely witty lyrics, has always been very much his own. He writes songs about having it off in the back of his Cortina with Nina who is more obscener than a seasoned-up hyena. He has, over the years, introduced us to Billericay Dickie, Plaistow Patricia, Clever Trevor (“knock me down wiv a fevva”), “Sex’n’Drugs’n’Rock’n Roll” and, of course, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, which shifted a million copies in the UK alone in January 1979.

Anyway, now reunited with his band The Blockheads, he has just bought out his first album for 17 years. “Why so long? Because I’m rubbish! For every good song, I write 20 bad ones I have to chuck away.” Mr Love Pants as the album is called, is as good and as cheeky as anything he’s done. There is an ode to a sandwich maker (Geraldine) that appears to exist purely for the pleasure of rhyming “inamorata” with a very cockney delivery of “dried tomato.” Plus there is the brilliant way Dury delivers them: Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes as Rex Harrison.

Certainly, Dury has always been more concerned with doing his own thing than being famous or rich. Money has never especially interested him, and most of it goes on medical care. He is being treated privately, yes. “I’m a socialist, but I didn’t want to go on no waiting list and become a dead socialist.” He reckons he must have spent pounds 50,000 to date. “I’m not terribly rich, but I’ve managed to so far. I might have to sell me Rembrandt, though.”

He could be a lot richer. Some years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber asked him to adapt the lyrics for the musical Cats. “But I said no straight off. I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber. He’;s a wanker, isn’t he?” Well, he seems very popular, I say.

“Popular. Popular! Aqua are popular! But it don’t mean they’re any good. To be good, you have to be semi-popular, like me. Every time I hear `Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ I feel sick, it’s so bad. He got Richard Stillgoe to do the lyrics in the end, who’s not as good as me. He made million sout of it. He’s crap, but he did ask the top man first!”

Dury can be quite horrid about people. Oasis are rubbish, too, he says. “They’re not very good and the music’s boring.” Shakespeare is boring. “I’m very good friends with Helen Mirren. She told me to read it ‘cos I’d love it. But I can’t see the point in it.” He detests opera. He is undecided about Philip Larkin. “I think I’d quite like him if he weren’t such a bitter, curmudgeonly old bastard.” You might, from this, take him to be a bitter, curmudgeonly old bastard himself, but he isn’t.

He just says these things because he’s not frightened of saying what he thinks. He actually strikes me as a very loveable bloke. And the cheerful acceptance of his illness is typical. He could be mean, angry and bitter. But isn’t because, possibly, the first bit of his life was so rotten he decided nothing would ever be as rotten. His mother, Peggy was the middle-class daughter of a doctor while his father, Billy, was a working-class bus driver turned chauffeur. Quite a dandy, by the sound of it. “He was very good looking. Very handsome, with a broken nose. He’d been a boxer once. My dad was quite something. He could fart the first line of God Save The Queen. I think he had a stomach ulcer. Certainly, he always had a lot of wind.”

His parents split shortly after Ian was born, then he contracted polio from, he thinks, a swimming pool in Southend. He was in bed for the best part of a year and, at the end, had a wasted left side. He says he didn’t mind when he was told he’d have to wear callipers. “When you’ve been encased in plaster for eight months, you don’t worry about something that’s going to help you walk.” He still wears them.

He was dispatched to a special school for the disabled in Sussex where, he says, a lot of sexual abuse went on. “A lot of the staff were pervs. No buggery, but a lot of enforced wanking.” In terms of his disability he wasn’t the worst-off, he says. “You know, there were kids with just fingers coming out their shoulders. Still, they played ping-pong. They were f***ing lunatics!” He was very bright, and got accepted at a grammar school where he was initially bullied. “These loony prefects called me Spastic Joe, so I grassed ’em up. I wasn’t having any of that.”

His first ambition was to become a painter so he went to art school in Walthamstow, where he did big paintings of either gangsters or naked ladies (“I was very interested in Trilby hats and tits”) and married a fellow student, Betty, by whom he had two children, Baxter and Jemima, now young adults. He was thrilled to become a dad. “When me old man died, I got two grand so me and Betty decided: “Right, we’ll buy a fridge and have a baby.”

His paintings were never successful commercially. “I spent 12 years not earning a crust, so I started doing music as a joke. I thought of a name, Kilburn and The High Roads, and then got a band together.” The band became Ian Dury and The Blockheads, who were to have their first big hit in 1977 with the punk anthem “Sex’n Drugs’n’Rock’n’Roll”.

Fame did not, as it happens, miss going to his head entirely. He and Betty divorced in 1985 mostly because, it seems, he could not resist women who pursued him. “I was 30-years-old and getting smothered in birds, smothered.” His leg has never put women off, he says. “I lost me virginity at 14 on Upminster common. Gorgeous it was.” He remained on good terms with Betty who died four years ago from, yes, cancer.

He has since married the sculptress Sophy Tilson, the daughter of the artist Joe Tilson, who is 23 years his junior. He now has two little sons – Albert, three, and Billy, one – who, he says, smell lovely. “Like chocolate and coconut.” No, they don’t know he’s ill. Yes, he does think about not being there to see who they grow into, but not morbidly. “They’ll be alright. They’ve got their mum.”

Anyway, he’s due for another scan this week, which will tell him the state of his tumours. As we part, two magpies flutter down. “Two for joy!” I exclaim in my clumsy way. “Perhaps the news won’t be that bad.” “Only if you believe in that sort of crap,” says Ian cheerfully. One of us might not be a cliched thinker. And I don’t think it’s me.

`Mr Love Pants’ is available for pounds 12.99 on Ian’s label, Ronnie Harris Records, which he named after his accountant because “I knew he’d take care of the business if I named it after ` im”.

click below to listen

IAN DURY – Spasticus Autisticus

HERBERT ( dr. rockit, radio boy, wishmountain, big band )

Posted in HERBERT, Leftfield House on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

Restless innovator, sampling wizard, classically trained pianist and superstar collaborator, MATTHEW HERBERT is one of electronic music’s most versatile and prolific figureheads. Recording under his own name as well as Doctor Rockit, Wishmountain, Radio Boy and others, Herbert has also produced and remixed artists as diverse as Björk, REM, John Cale, Roisin Murphy, Yoko Ono and Serge Gainsbourg.
An alchemist of avant-garde sound in the tradition stretching from Stockhausen to the Aphex Twin, Herbert combines playful pop sensibility with a strictly imposed experimental agenda. In his increasingly conceptual and political albums he has emerged as a unique figure in modern music: a kind of one-man Radiohead, or a Brian Eno for the 21st century.

It was in January 1995 that Herbert gave his first large public performance. His instruments: a sampler and a bag of crisps. But long before he discovered the revolutionary possibilities of sampling, he began playing violin and piano at the age of four. When he was seven he sang in the school choir and played with orchestras. At school, he had the good fortune to have a music teacher who considered Reich, Xenakis and Jazz standards to be the equal of Beethoven. During his time as a theatre student at Exeter University, Herbert, the son of a BBC sound technician, continued to invest in his own home studio.

Herbert’s studies helped to germinate his interest in “musique concrete”. Rummaging around his bag of crisps was only the beginning. His 1998 masterwork ‘Around the House‘ (re-released on !K7 in 2002) collected sounds from the house and home: washing machines, toasters and toothbrushes were sampled and processed into swinging grooves and absorbing sound scapes. All the project needed was the silken voice of Dani Siciliano, Herbert’s long-term collaborator, to humanise the album into a left-field classic.

In 2000, Herbert wrote a manifesto, the “Personal Contract for the Composition Of Music (PCCOM) (Incorporating the Manifesto of Mistakes)”, rules which have defined the compositional methods ever since.

The manifesto, not unlike Dogme 95’s filmic principles, prohibits the use of any pre-recorded musical sources, as well as any synthetic sounds that imitate acoustic instruments.

Furthermore, accidental sounds or errors should influence the process of his production. Herbert considers mistakes in programming or recording as the welcome intervention of random humanity in a sterile world. This is a man, after all, who runs a record label called Accidental.

Deriving much of its musical content from human skin, hair, bones and the random contents of Dani Siciliano’s handbag, Herbert’s 2001 album ‘Bodily Functions‘ was the audible result of putting this theory to practice. But far from being limited by these self-imposed rules, the record unlocked rich new vaults of unique sound and fascinating rhythm from the most unlikely everyday objects.

In 2003 Herbert redefined his musical agenda yet again with his big-band album ‘Goodbye Swingtime‘, which was recorded at Abbey Road studios with 16 jazz and session musicians. Despite its self-consciously traditional elements, the album was composed under strict PCCOM rules, and again featured Siciliano on vocals. The subsequent live shows, including Sonar in Barcelona, the Montreux jazz festival, and Roskilde festival in Denmark, were rapturously received by large crowds.

From bedroom samplers to concert halls, Herbert continues to expand the horizons of electro-organic music.

The political content of Herbert’s music has become increasingly overt in recent years. His 2004 album ‘Plat Du Jour‘ was his most rigorously experimental to date, featuring sounds entirely derived from food and its packaging. Unified in concept and content, it used witty culinary metaphors to attack not just giant food companies but also the death penalty, body fascism and war in Iraq. In Britain, ‘The Guardian’ called the consequent live shows, complete with a chef making live smells “a wild stimulation of senses, feet and intellect”.

In 2005, Herbert produced ‘Ruby Blue’, the debut solo album by Moloko singer Roisin Murphy. A fertile garden of flamboyant dance-pop and artfully textured jazz-funk.

Herbert’s latest album, ‘Scale‘, is probably his most pleasingly pop-friendly mellifluous so far. But beneath its deceptively glossy surface sheen of jazz, disco and sensual house rhythms lie quietly anguished meditations on mortality, global suffering and the end of the oil age. Among the 723 objects sampled on these lush tracks are coffins, petrol pumps, meteorites, an RAF Tornado bomber, and somebody being sick outside a banquet for a notorious London arms fair. More than any previous Herbert album, ‘Scale’ combines immaculately groomed dance music with subversive subject matter.

Herbert is as solid as a rock in these times of “borderless digital arbitrariness,” as the German newspaper ‘Die Zeit’ once described his work. Between programming mistakes and the conceptual stringency of his PCCOM manifest, between divine accident and strict intent, whether he scores films or theatre shows or paints the musical backdrop for fashion shows – Herbert’s endless innovation and transgression of genres is never just art for its own sake. His music is always engaged in lively dialogue with the wider world, with the past and future of experimental music, with its own political and economic origins.

click below to listen

HERBERT – The Audience

GINO SOCCIO (canadian hero, and better than Cerrone )

Posted in Boogie, GINO SOCCIO, Soul/Disco on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

Gino Soccio is often mistaken as a European artist. Perhaps because of his euro-disco sounds? In fact Gino is a French Canadian, who was born in Montreal and now resides in Quebec.

Gino first gained prominence as a musician in the mid 1970’s. His first sessions of note were under the guise of Kebekelektrik (pronounced Quebec Electric) who scored hits in 1977 with “Magic Fly” (predating a version by Space) and “War Dance.” Both songs would be remixed and re-released in 1981 and 1982 on Rio Records.

Moving into the realm of producer in 1978, Gino went to the famed Muscle Schoals Sound Studios (my cousin’s studios) to work with it’s legendary musicians on a disco concept album of rock classics. The resulting “Witch Queen” was released in 1979 and scored a major hit with “Bang A Gong.”

Still not ready to become a solo artist he continued producing. Next up was fellow Canadian Karen Silver and her debut album, “Hold On I’m Comin’.” The title track from the 1979 album became a top ten hit. Both were released on Arista Records in here in the States.

With both of these successes Gino was ready to step forward as an artist. Released in 1979, “Outline” became an immediate hit. The 12″ single of “Dancer” raced up the charts and landed at number one. The album spawned two more 12″ singles, both of which went Top Ten in the clubs, “The Visitors” and “Dance To Dance” neither had the radio impact of “Dancer.”

Despite coming into disco near its end, Gino would be one of the few artists to survive the disco backlash and flourish through it’s darkest period. By the time of his next release, 1980’s “S-Beat,” musical tastes had shifted. This album still had his euro-disco sound but incorporated elements of the emerging “new wave” of sounds, as evidenced by the 12″ single of the title track. A second 12″ single, “Rhythms Of The World,” also became a hit, perhaps more because of a special Disconet remix. The album’s sales were good and established him as a major disco star. And a third single, “Heartbreaker,” made him one of the only disco artists to have three singles from each of their first two albums chart.

His biggest success came in 1981, just as disco seemed to be dead. The release of “Closer” brought Gino to a wider more diverse audience. His previous releases were widely accepted by the close knit disco community whereas “Closer” brought him acceptance from the R&B/Black radio stations. The first 12″ single, “Try It Out” was exactly where radio and clubs wanted to be, downtempo. And the follow-up “Hold Tight” continued in that vein.

Gino, seeing the future of dance music, realized that high energy was not the sound of the early 1980’s. Downtempo and funkier were the key words. So he proved he could change with the times.

His work with Karen Silver continued with a streak of hits for her. “Fake” (1980), “Nobody Else” “Set Me Free” (1981) and “Clean Up Woman” (1982). All of which were packaged with her “Hold On I’m Comin’ ” tracks and released on compact disc.

For his next solo album he continued his mid-tempo style with 1982’s “Face To Face.” The first 12″ single was “It’s Alright” which sounds like a leftover track from the “Closer” sessions, naturally it did well. The prize of the album was the next 12″ single, “Remember,” which was pure euro-pop. It was similar in style and formation to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” or Patrick Cowley’s “Menergy.” Needless to say it revived high energy dance music at a badly needed time and was one of the forerunners of the second wave of “disco high energy” music.

His next release wasn’t until 1984 with the 12″-only of “Turn It Around.” Seems American record companies couldn’t or wouldn’t invest in another album from him. “Turn It Around” was an immediate club hit, in a softer vein than what was popular at the time. Perhaps that was because Gino had tired of trying to make “hit” records and was now focusing on what he liked to do?

Two more 12″ singles followed in 1985 and 1986, “Temptation Eyes” (not the old Grass Roots song) and “Magic” (not the Olivia Newton-John song).

By the late 1980’s Gino had gone back to being a session player and most notably a producer. Since then he has kept a low profile, but one could see another round of his well crafted dance music appear at anytime, because a great talent can never be held back.

click below to listen

GINO SOCCIO – You Move Me

STUDIO (the group)

Posted in Leftfield House, STUDIO (the group) on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty


Never put stock in MySpace genre tags, but the page for Sweden’s Studio says “Experimental/Afro-beat/Pop” and that’s a decent start. It’s vague enough for almost anything to happen, but with one specific reference point that pushes expectations in an interesting direction. The band consists of just two people, Dan Lissvik and Rasmus Hägg, though they do a nice job of sounding much bigger. Their music has been trickling out slowly since 2001– a 7″ here, an EP there– but somehow none of it made its way to CD until last month. This record on the band’s own label collects versions of work issued last year on two vinyl-only releases, the LP West Coast and the 12-inch “No Comply”.

A lot happens in 70 minutes, as Studio basically functions in two modes. Much of the time they work in long form, winding melodic guitar lines around a core of clean, hypnotic rhythm. During these tracks they explore the trance-inducing repetition of Manuel Göttsching and gossamer lyricism of Durutti Column, and underpin the development with rhythms that allude to Can or the exotic tinge of Bill Laswell’s Sacred System. Hard to say exactly how serious the “Afro-beat” mention on the MySpace page is, but it’s not hard to hear the folding-in-on-itself quality of King Sunny Ade’s guitar in something like the 13-minute “Life’s a Beach!”. There’s even a hint of Nordic space disco in the reserved, easy funkiness of the gently modulating instrumental “Radio Edit”.

These longer tracks, exemplified best by the 16-minute epic “Out There” that opened the West Coast album and is also included here, are huge fields of possibility. Beginning with a surge of synth and rubbery bassline, the distorted guitar in “Out There” alludes to the sort of 80s cop show instrumental Trans Am tried to perfect, but then heads in several more compelling directions simultaneously. A half-reggae beat is at first only faintly suggested, but eight minutes in, Studio go all the way as the bass takes over, the tempo drops by half, and the percussion finds itself bouncing around in a chamber of dub. They hang out there for a while.

What anchors these long tracks and makes them not just bearable but enjoyable over their full length is Studio’s commitment to melody and ear for dynamics. “Life’s a Beach!” is really just an exploration of a single idea– intertwined descending guitar lines over a syncopated groove– but it seems to reinvent itself every few bars with melodic tweaks and abrupt shifts in focus, as new harmonic ideas crash into the beat like waves. The latter metaphor is made literal in the tune’s final section when ocean sound effects come in, the whitecaps speckled with generous handfuls of new age percussion glitter.

When not thriving on a riff into the double-digit minutes, Studio are also a pop band inspired by 80s new wave, with one of the dudes singing in an aching tenor that recalls an earlier, rougher Bernard Sumner. The opening “No Comply”, with its bouncy piano line and singsong lead, almost sounds like the work of a different band, except for the gorgeously recorded bass, which remains consistent from track to track. “Self Service” has a similarly sprightly cast and a better chorus hook. “Origin (Shake You Down By the River)” combines the two sides of the band in one package, repeating a simple chord progression over and over as the guitars work through theme and variation above a percolating polyrhythm, but then vocals appear throwing out mysterious couplets: “Why not push me right through the window/ Broken glass would do me some good.”

As an album, it’s long and all over the place, but somehow tight and disciplined; it feels like one unit working through various ideas and finding new ways for them to hang together. Subtle humor, both in the music and presentation, also helps keep the record afloat. All titles are in English but they’re delivered with a playful twist. “West Side” alludes to Studio’s hometown of Gothenburg, located on Sweden’s left shore. “Life’s a Beach!” is hopelessly goofy, but the music behind it is astonishing.

click below to listen

STUDIO – Life’s A Beach (Prins Thomas Remix)

KONK

Posted in KONK, Punk Funk on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

With the rise of electroclash’s popularity in the last few years, the sounds of robotic disco-funk have been seducing fashionable nerds onto the dancefloor in record droves. And with the parallel surge of interest in the early 80s New York scenes, it’s a good time to discover Konk, an act that was born out of jazz, early hip-hop, and disco to create a fusion (certainly a dangerous word) of the better kind. Led by saxophonist Dana Vlcek, Konk channeled sounds ranging from the alien hooks of P-funk to the stilted grooves of krautrock through early-80s technology. Of course, a band with such a period-specific sound risks seems more silly than relevant 20 years later, but happily, Konk is both at once. It’s cheesy, for sure, but if you dig good times, then The Sound of Konk– a collection of their singles and LPs (such as Yo! and Jams)– is ready for action.

Like post-punk reference-point the Talking Heads, Konk apply the rhythms and melodies of Latin music within funk’s staccato pulse. But while the Talking Heads’ experimentation is contained in song forms, Konk maintain a funk-sprawl ideology in a system that foretells acid-jazz– a slew of solos and sections announce themselves unprovoked over shifting grooves, creating non-linear yet highly organized multi-part jams. With several layers of live and electronic percussion, Konk compel movement. You don’t need to dance to enjoy the music, but Konk won’t likely do much for you if you’re sitting still– driving, running, cooking, or partying are all recommended Konk-enhanced activities.

Konk’s integration of live instrumentation and electronic manipulation remains impressive, combining synthesized sounds that are still imperfect enough to sound human with musicians of precise virtuosity. While Konk is often lumped with fellow downtown experimentalists Glenn Branca (with whose ensemble Konk shared members) or ESG, the strongest link there is a shared interest in the deconstruction and reformation of musical elements, especially in live performance. Simultaneously, Konk shares just as much common ground with the proto-techno of The Art of Noise or Yello. Like these acts, plenty of gated snare drums and Max Headroom-style vocal manipulation keep the mood of Konk gleefully rooted in the 1980s, but Konk’s timeless horn section and airtight basslines save them from the fate of becoming a technological artifact.

The Sound of Konk begins with one of Konk’s most conventional tracks, instrumental “Baby Dee” (the bonus live version includes some excellent Kurtis Blow-style MCing). Delayed female vocals intertwine with a robotic male chorus in “What U Want”, before the song lets loose a prolonged rhythmic breakdown of drums and synth bass. “Love Attack” begins with a monologue highlighting various dangers of an oncoming love attack– such as when “some girls think a kiss is a contract”– segueing into a vocoded chant that could be taken from one of Senor Coconut’s Kraftwerk covers. “Soka La Moka” breaks up the relative rhythmic homogeneity of the album with a tumbling bongo beat and klezmer horns. To today’s ears, The Sound of Konk combines true dance pleasure and experimentation with the humor of the groovy whiteboy sound embodied/parodied by Gary Wilson.

click below to listen

KONK – Baby Dee
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LEROY BURGESS ( redbull academy interview pt. 3 )

Posted in Boogie, Interviews, LEROY BURGESS on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »Now, you were talking about that song yesterday and you were actually talking about Sonny, who composed the lyrics to the song. I would like to talk to you a little bit about the lyrics and what was unique about that record and what he pulled out of that?«

Leroy Burgess: »I lost my cousin, unfortunately, in 2001 he passed away. But when Sonny was with me, he was just this huge creative mind. He could do stuff with lyrics that I just come with: ‘Ok?!’ When he created the hook to ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’, ‘Get over like a fat rat, piece in a pie, bugs in a row, we never stop, we get over like a fat rat, snugged as hug in your arms.’ Who would think of that? But it works so well. It’s amazing. The lord has presented me with an amazing gift in my cousin Sonny that we would share music together. He was just able to come up with amazing stuff. Like ‘Get Loose’, the first tune that I played. He just came up with those lyrics out of the top. And I’m like: ‘Wow, some kind of voodoo genius.’ It was very cool and he ended up writing a lot of stuff with me. And that’s him playing drums. James Calloway on bass and me on keyboards. And as you could hear as I was describing that particular type of rhythm section in “Let’s Do It’, you can hear the style of the musicians on it. So, we were starting to develop an identity for the group.«

RBMA: »Now, writing songs. So many of these songs are romance based, basically, right?«

Leroy Burgess: »Is this my water?«

RBMA: »Yes, it is.«

Leroy Burgess: »Oh, cool. (takes the cup and sits down on the couch)«

RBMA: »…romantic songs in a way. Was your background like in the sweet soul thing, were all of the songs… had it anything to do with it?«

Leroy Burgess: »Oh, now. (snide movement of the hand) In the case of ‘Fat Rat’, he was writing that for his sisters and my sisters and stuff like that.«

RBMA: »Explain, what that song means for some of the people who aren’t English sufficient.«
Leroy Burgess: »’Over Like A Fat Rat’ was a song we wrote because a couple of our sisters were coming up about how the guys were pressing up on them. By that I mean, they were a little too: ‘ Wanna meet you, baby…’ and so forth and so on. And even guys that they liked, they were: ‘Damn, could they get off of me for a minute?’ You know? Back up!

And you know, if you back up a little, there is the chance that it works out anyway. When they explained that dynamic to Sonny and I, I was like: ‘Yeah.’ I mean, as a man, I like pressing up, but we had to see it from their viewpoint. And so we wrote a song about it. The lyrics were: ‘I see you trying to take advantage of a sweet girl like me. I know that if you had the chance to, I’d never be free. But while I am waiting and have reservations and they constantly talk to my mind, inside a voice says this relationship could be heavier for me.’ So, it’s a deep thing. Something the ladies really can honestly feel. «

RBMA: »Conflict.«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, it’s written by three guys. We had to kind of really get into your head, in order to make that work. ‘Weekend’ on the other hand, is all about: ‘I’m tired of this. You know, he is really doing me no justice here. And now so as you go out with your friends every week or whatever, I’m gonna go out and have a night of my own! Me and the girls. And you better hope, it’s just me and the girls because it might be a dude or two in there!’«
(audience laughing)

This is how my sisters and them felt. And I love them. It touched me, even as a man, it touched me. And I was like, ok, I had to write something about that, you know? ‘Tonight’s the night, the time is right, I’m gonna find a friend…’ You know, what I’m sayin’? If nothing else, it shakes up the relationship. It makes the relationship become a lie! ‘Cause a guy’s like: ‘Did she cheat on me?’ and she’s like: ‘Yes, I did! Goodbye.’ Slam (imitates slamming a door).«
(audience laughing)

»So, we try to keep the lyrics real. So the people who hear it and their story is somewhere in there. Their story, your story, her story, your story is in the lyrics somewhere. And you’re like: ‘Damn!’ Do you all know what I mean by ‘barely breaking even’? Ok. We decided to write a song about it, right? And I wanted the lyrics…I did a lot of these lyrics myself because I thought of that concept, but Sonny helped me a great deal.

I wanted the song to be about…(stands up and walks around) I was like: ‘Ok, I’m a successful musician! I mean reasonably successful. I’ve got gigs coming along, I’m working, you all know what I mean. I’m working and everything is pretty cool. But with the working and the limited success that I have, I’m still having trouble making an end to meet. So, I decided to write a song about it. And it’s basically about the struggle of surviving everyday. Know what I mean? It goes like this.«
(music Universal Robot Band ‘Barely Breaking Even’)

»It’s got a bit of an intro on it. (sits down to the keyboard) Turn it up. That’s James Calloway and Sonny. James on bass and Sonny on drums. You gonna move a little forward into the lyric part. So, you see I settled the groove, alright? We gonna go just a little bit forward. A couple of minutes, half a…I don’t know. Forward! (lyrics already in full bloom) Put it back.

Right there! (sings the lyrics and stands up) ’Just got my paycheck, I’m on my way home, the […] on it, is nearly gone, but I try to make every catch, just don’t wanna meet, I can’t complain, but somewhere I’m getting’ beat, now maybe it’s the system, maybe it’s the cost of livin’, but every single weekend, I never know where the money goes, still I’m always givin’, just barely breakin’ even, I got to get some for myself, just breakin’ even schemin’, I got to get some for myself. I’m not a poor boy and I work everyday, somehow my cash flow slipped all away, but I just try to make it into another day and as long as the lord is with me, I find a way, maybe it’s recession or the stocks that rise and tumble, still there is the question of the bills I pay, that are always stay…..till I’m down and under and I’m just barely breaking even.’ See what I mean? Anybody relate to this lyrically? Anybody? Put your hands up! Anybody know what I’m talking about? That money is hard to get! «
(applause)

»Thank you! (Leroy sits down)«

RBMA: »You said, you described yourself at that time as reasonably successful. So, was it frustrating then to have these different groups, phantom groups, studio groups, but being not the most prominent name out there? Lacking, as they say, the synergy of all the different elements to forward your career?«

Leroy Burgess: »I don’t know. It didn’t really hit me then. Again, the important thing to me was that the music was gettin’ out there. People were hearing it and people were relating to it. Much as you guys are relating to it now. Like I said, I mean there was a time in my life, honestly, that I paid attention to the persona person. The Leroy Burgess quote unquote. And when I did that, I found that the music, the importance of the music would slip. Because I’m thinking: ‘Oh, I’m fabulous. Yes, everyone, I’m Mister…’ You know? And I find that when I’m so concentrated on myself, the music is suffering.

‘Everything that I write is going to be fabulous, you know? I can do no wrong.’ But you write your best music, when you’re not thinking about yourself. When you’re hungry and when you just let the music flow into you. So, for that reason, I mean in hindsight in my current age, had I had better publicity, better lawyers, better so forth and so on, I’d be in a very different place perhaps. But the place that I’m in, is very cool. I’ve got a world of people who are listening. I got all you guys, who are here today, just listening to what I have to say.

That didn’t have to happen! So again, you guys are here, maybe a little bit of me, but because of the music. What I have done, what I have managed to present to you guys and what you guys are inspired by. So, that’s what’s important to me. I mean, yeah, barely breaking even. Money is great. Money is this and that. But money is not everything. Money is like…sometimes money can be a complete diversion of the way you really feel. It can make you…it can alienate you to how you feel because you only care about that. Alright?

These days I say, you know, as long as the lord takes care of me, I need very simple things. Just take care of me and let me continue to do my music and I’ll be alright. As long as I’m eating, I’m okay. That’s the best answer I have for that question. Yeah, I could have been the fantastic Leroy Burgess, but I’m just Leroy.«

RBMA: »How did you feel, you know, when the 80’s get on…we heard that ‘Get Loose’ had more of an Electro-type of production style to it because of the technology and changes. How did you feel about the era later in the eighties, when Hip Hop became much more of a force? People might recognize that ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’s bassline is in ‘Eric B Is President’, which was a huge record in 1986. If you look at your anthologies, there are fewer records from that time into the 90’s. What was going on in your life at that time?«

Leroy Burgess: »I had stepped away from music for a second because Hip Hop was such a phenomenon and I didn’t understand it. I honestly did not get Hip Hop! I was smart enough to say to myself: ‘Let me step back for a second and watch this evolution happen and study it as it goes along to see if I can incorporate it at some point later on.’ That was most of the 90’s, actually. Do you understand? During the late eighties and early 90’s, my last couple of things came out from that era of the late 80’s and then I sat back for five and six years and watched Hip Hop evolve. And Hip Hop is a very cool thing. It’s another form of expression. It’s a form of expression that people can…just average anybodies can put together and make a record good and can make a record work. And make a statement. That’s important, man. Make a statement with it.«

RBMA: »So to say a music of the people in a way.«

Leroy Burgess: »It’s the music of the people and it’s music that people can relate to that’s not karaoke! Ok? And it gives them a voice. I mean, not everybody can sing. Right? Not everybody can sing, not everybody can play, but you want to be able to express yourself in a musical form somehow. And that is part of where Hip Hop lives.«

RBMA: »How did you feel, when you heard ‘Eric B Is President’ using the bassline from one of your records?«

Leroy Burgess: »It was an honor ‘cause he picked my bassline out of the millions that exist that could be picked. He could’ve picked ‘Good Times’ or he could’ve picked something by Sylvester or anything else. And he picked mine. So I’m honored by that. I think it’s a compliment. I think, it’s a great thing that someone is influenced by you. I allow myself to be influenced by the music that I hear, the music that I listen to. When someone is influenced by the music that you create, [it] makes you feel good. So, it’s cool! You know, I would like more people to do it. The last one who did it was Nas. On Nas new album ‘God’s Son’ he did a track called ‘Revolutionary Warfare’ that uses an old Black Ivory track from way back in the 70’s.«

Leroy Burgess: »They sampled ‘I Keep Asking You Questions’. That was the flip side of ‘Don’t Turn Around’. And they put it on his ‘Criminology’ record. So, I’m honored that people would choose my music for later records. You make money off the initial release and that is the end of it. But then, young people like yourselves might be inspired by it, use it and sample it and then, boom, you’re touching a whole other audience. You understand? And you’re allowing somebody to express themselves with something that you did. So, that’s always a prideful thing and something that feels good and a huge blessing.«

RBMA: »I want you to talk a little bit about the more recent collaborations or things that you have done that you want to talk about.«

Leroy Burgess: »Sitting in the corner is one of your lecturers. (stands up and goes to the piano) That’s him right there.«
(applause)

»He is one of the people, I have been really, really fortunate to work with. His name is Phillipe Zdar. If you would stand and say hello to everybody? Most of the guys have seen the schedules and you know that Phillipe Zdar is one of the members of Cassius. And back in 2000, Philippe came to my house, my house in Harlem. Him and Hubert Blanc? Is it Blank?«
(Philippe tells the right pronunciation)

»I guessed so. Him and Hubert came to my house and we sat down and started banging out these songs that are on their current release, their new album called ’Au Reve’, right? And so I had the real pleasure of working with him. That just came out a couple of years ago. So, it’s one of the newest things. There is a new record out with myself and Belita Woods. Have you all heard of the group Brainstorm? Yeah? Belita Woods was the lead vocalist of Brainstorm and I had the extreme pleasure of collaborating with her on a song called ’Best Of Me’ that came out in 2003. And (laughs) there is a new record out, I worked on with a gentleman named Chez Damier. He is a big DJ from the Detroit/Chicago area. That’s just been released. What is it called? ‘You Been Lifting Me ?

RBMA: » ‘Your Love’.«

Leroy Burgess: »It’s another ‘Your Love’. My second ‘Your Love’. Those are the most recent releases. In addition to that, I am currently working on the first new album by my original group Black Ivory

RBMA: »That’s with the original members you worked with?«

Leroy Burgess: »Right, it’s with Stewart and Russell and myself. So, it’s the original group and we will be releasing that hopefully in the forth-coming year 2005. I’m very pleased about that and very happy. Working with them again is kind of cool.«

RBMA: »I would like to open it up. If anybody has any questions?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, have you guys got any questions at all?«

Participant: »You said something to the effect earlier that you’re humble and happy as an artist. But I just have to tell you, man, and I’m sure that I’m speaking for a lot of people here, I grew up listening to your music. I grew up watching my uncles play your music. And it’s one of the few things, that type of music, your words helped me, inspired me to become a DJ. And sitting here is an honor man. So thank you very much!«

Leroy Burgess: »Thank you very much. It’s very much a mutual honor for me. Who would’ve thought that I would be sitting here, helping the next generation out so well appreciated? I’m so thankful that I have you guys. So why don’t you guys give yourself a round of applause ‘cause that’s real!«

(applause)

»I mean honestly, I’m going to listen to your guys’ music over the next coming years or something. You guys are the guys who will be making the statements. That’s cool! Does anybody else have a question? Oh, hi!.«

Participant: »In the heyday of things like Pro Tools and sequencers and things, it’s pretty easy to do a vocal take and then just keep doing it and doing it and then kind of run down what you need. When you were with a band like Black Ivory, you said you’d been doing vocals and trying to find the right ones. When you are recording a melody do you do it the traditional way or do you also bring in the technology element into it?«

Leroy Burgess: »Well, I incorporate the technology a little. I mean, it’s there and I don’t work with Pro Tools, I work with Digital Performer. But it’s the same thing, you know? So, you have the capability to do five takes of one lead vocal and then pick the best one. And that’s a good thing. But usually, what ends up happening is, you got it on the first or the second take that you did. Just like back in the days, when you went into the studio and had five different tracks you could do. (stands up) You could only sing it once or twice and the engineer is like: ‘Oh man, when does this guy get out of here?’

So, you had to try to get it right on the first takes. I still live in that dynamic. That’s kind of why I get it quickly ‘cause I’ve been thinking about it long before I sing it. I am working on it up here (points to his head) and it just comes of that dynamic. The other side of that dynamic is, you are aware of that technology, so you know, you can do a thousand takes until you get it and you can just keep on tweaking it and keep playing with it and so forth until you get it. That’s like…to me that’s not real music. To me it’s like, get in there, get your hands dirty. For rea!! Don’t rely on the technology.

Technology is cool, but what you are creating here is art! That’s what music really is. It’s not technology, it’s art! I mean, if it’s just moving this little and that and deleting this and stretching that and pitch shifting this and that, who is really doing the art? Ok? So, you have to keep a perspective on that and balance it, alright? As I said earlier, I suggest to any of you who are in this seriously and I think all of you are, right? Learn an instrument! Learn how to play that little keyboard for real. Learn how to do a skeleton. It can’t hurt! And it can give you a little bit more insight into the real art that you’re creating.

Nothing makes me feel so good as to get behind an instrument. (sits down on the keyboard) My instrument is keyboard, right? Just get behind it and just…(starts playing) That just came out of my head. And my hands are on the board and I realize it. If this was a normal acoustic piano, you would hear the same thing. You understand? And it’s not lying. I haven’t turned on a computer yet. I haven’t sequenced a thing. But my vision, my idea of how I feel at that moment is now right here.

There’s nothing like that. There’s nothing like realizing your idea from your own hands, alright? And technology is good and it’s cool, use it as much as you need to, but add you to it! Put you in it! Don’t be afraid to do that, alright? Because if you don’t, it’s just technology. It’s not art at all! That’s what everybody, everywhere can do. Put you in it! Put your hands on something and put your voice to something. It’s important, I think.«

RBMA: »Any more questions?«

Leroy Burgess: »I knew, you had one!«

Participant: »I just like to discuss your composition and you talked about tension. I liked that theory. With not getting too technical with the terms, but how do you relate to what you consider a bridge? Can you just talk a little about your concept, how you like to place your parts and how you like to build the tension? Maybe you just let it burst break out open into a break and how that relates for you?«

Leroy Burgess: »Sure, I’d be happy to talk about that. The word that you used ‘bridge’, you guys are familiar with that use in song composition? Verse, chorus? Most songs have verses and choruses, right? Just as a standing form. And then, what’s been disappearing from music, is the ‘bridge’ or the ‘turn-around’, you understand? And bridges, creating bridges is a tension-builder. It creates tension. So that you know, when you release that tension, the audience goes (raises his hands in the air and starts to cheer), you know what I’m saying?

I wrote a song called ‘I Know You Will’. (plays the melody) Now that’s a groove that we stayed on for a long time, alright? This was the main groove of the record, but both the verse and the chorus was in this groove. So, without a tension-builder or a bridge inside of it, that’s all you got! The song is going to go like that on and on and on and on, alright? That doesn’t make sense to me! So, you have to build in a tension. You have to build a section that increases and builds tension up, so that the audience anticipates and let it go. So, what I did was, (repeats the melody), did you all feel how that section made you listen and wait for the tension break? Play ‘I Know You Will’ for them.«
(music Logg ‘I Know You Will’)

Leroy Burgess: »This was mixed by the great DJ Larry Levan.«
(Leroy sings along and points out bridge and tension)

Leroy Burgess: »That’s what I’m talkin’ about, tension!«
(audience cheers and applauds)

Leroy Burgess: »Next question! Oh, this is another one I knew who would have a question.«

Participant: »I think most of us have a sense of how shady the record business is.«

Leroy Burgess: »Aha. Shacky?«

Participant: »Shady.«

Leroy Burgess: »Shady? Aha!«

Participant: »Now, just artists getting’ jerked, people never getting paid for, publishing without getting’ royalties…«

Leroy Burgess: »Ah!«

Participant: »Now, you’ve been in the game for a minute. You have seen the small New York indie labels that were putting your stuff out, and sort of how the entire music industry has been condensed down to five major labels who control everything.«

Leroy Burgess: »Riiight!«

Participant: »Control the music production, control the means of distribution and control the means of promotion and marketing. What’s your take on it? What do you think about it, as someone who has made a career as a songwriter? What’s your take on sort of the status of the industry? Besides all of that, the fact that most American artists, Pop artists, R&B and Hip Hop are just a façade for the sort of writing machine that goes on in the background. From the producers to the singers. I mean, what do we do in the face of that lie? How do we sort of keep movin’ forward or just deal with that?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, I understand. I understand, where you are coming from. The machine, as I called it. You remember? Philippe, you remember when we had a conversation about this in Paris? The machine versus the actual creative person, you know? You against the corporate market. You understand? It’s a tough place, man, it really is. (stands up and walks around) It’s hard to write music and to be forced into writing it. ‘I need just to sound more like Puffy…’ or ‘ I need just to start to sound more like this’.

And you can’t be you, you got to be what the market tells you to be. And then, and then (laughs) once you do that, they still rip you off. They still beat you. They make you chase them, they make you search it all over. Try to get your money, the money that you’ve earned. My thing is: Do you. Be you first. Take it there and don’t let them change you. Rightfully? Take YOU there and tell them: This is you. This is, what it’s going to be. And if they say no, keep taking it. And if everybody says no, start your own damn company!«
(applause)

»Because that’s how Puffy, that’s how… you know, when I couldn’t rely on the majors, I went to the minors. Because they would look out for you. And you’re right about to have to chase them, too. Because after a minute, even the minor record company starts to get a little major when it comes to that bank account and that dough. You understand? And nobody wants to give you the dough, no matter what you say. (laughs) Nothing, no matter what. But the truth of the matter is, depending on the place you were in while in the creative process, you deserve it. You earned it. You all know that today you’re earning the royalties for the future. You understand? That’s what y’all are doing here.

Talking, learning. You understand? When that translates into the work, the records, the work that you’re going to do to make those records, alright? You are supposed to get yours. Right? And if you have to collaborate with any company, large, small, indifferent, right? What you do upfront is, get your lawyers, get your people, talk to your friends. Get yourself represented by people you can afford, but represent yourself. You know what I’m sayin’? Make sure that when somebody says (stands up): ‘Here is the contract, sweetie. Here is the contract, take this, read it. I love your stuff. Please sign it’ and so forth. Don’t sign your life away! Know what you’re reading!

And if you’re not happy with it, don’t sign it. Tell them: ‘this got to change.’ Or: ‘That has to change.’ Don’t be afraid of that. Because, trust me, you’ve said it (points to RBMA interviewer), you’ve said it (points to participant). I have been in this long enough to have been ripped off a lot. Ok? To have been ripped off a lot! Ok? And all of these records that come out, right? You don’t automatically know about them, alright? I mean, there is a record coming out right now that’s been using my beat that they not want to tell me about, unless I find them. Do you all understand, what I mean by that? Do you all know what I am talking about? Unless you find that little company on the side, they ain’t going to pay you. (laughs) Now that’s ironic a little bit, but if your stuff is out there, at first get that happening.

If and when you find these companies, make them pay you. Say: ‘That’s mine.’ Get yours the way you’re supposed to do it. But you are dealing with a market play that has been existing for years and years. And their thing is to rip you. I mean, if you don’t ask them about it, they ain’t going to tell you, alright? They ain’t going to say: ‘We got to pay you this and we will be completely honest with you and get you everything.’ They’re not going to say that. They got to let you tell what do you want, what do you need? And when you undersell yourself, they’ll pay then. Because that means, they’re keeping the rest of the money. You understand what I mean? So, it’s all about you.

The more you know, alright? So, my recommendation is this: When you are fortunate enough to be up against a contract or see a contract – get a lawyer. And talk to your lawyer and make sure, your lawyer is not talking over your head. Say: ‘I don’t understand this and I need for you to tell me what it means, so I do understand. That’s what I’m paying you for. That’s why you get 10-15% percent of whatever this money going to be. I’m paying you, so that I understand, So that I’m signing the right thing.’

Don’t be afraid to ask anybody anything. Go straight up to the company and the president of the company or whomever you are talking’ to and say: ‘ No, this is not happening for me. We need to reshape, rework, negotiate this, so that I’m happy. And when I am, we got a record. We can put it out.’ Don’t be compelled to just drop everything because that’s how they get you. That’s how they get you. ‘These little hungry artist want to come out with everything and if we throw any money at them, they going to jump at the chance.’ It’s money, we are all hungry, right? ‘So, here’s 10.000 dollars. Do me five records.’

What’s wrong with that? Five records? 10.000 dollars is not enough, ok? You understand? You’re being ripped off. It’s happening too fast. Slow it down. Let me say this about that. It’s all about what you guys say. All about what you guys do. Each one of you got a mind. And there are some pretty boggling minds I am looking at, right here. For real, alright? Hold up you’re end. You’ve done the music. Make the background work. Get everything happening. Make sure you get your money. Don’t be afraid to ask for it because they start out, they come out ripping you off. You understand? Ok? Hope that was helpful.«

Leroy Burgess: »Anybody else?«

RBMA: »Anybody else with a question for Leroy?«

Leroy Burgess: »Anybody else? We cool?«

RBMA: »Torsten, you got a question?«

Leroy Burgess: »Let’s get him the mic.«

RBMA: »You are talking a lot about collaboration and you mention a lot of great names there. Like vocalists like Fonda Rae or producers like Patrick Adams. Now, just because someone’s got a good name, doesn’t necessarily mean that you get along well. But for whatever reason you want to make that thing happen and there is something in that person, you know, you want this thing get going, make this music. How did you learn to cope with some personal differences or whatever in such a creative, professional situation?«

Leroy Burgess: »The old ego thing. The old ego question. That’s what it boils to. Everybody’s got a ego. We all carry it with us, you know? Patrick had an ego, Fonda had an ego, I’ve got an ego, you know what I’m sayin’? You have to leave some of that at the door, if you want to succeed creatively. Do you all remember when Quincy Jones did ’We Are the World’? ‘USA for Africa’ and all the different artists that came in? There you’ve got Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

They’re all walking through the door. They’re all fabulous. ‘I’m fabulous. Oh, here I am. La, la, la. Oh no, this is not right, it has to be, I need this and I need that…’ You’ve got fifty artists in this room all going: ‘Ah, I’m fabulous, do me. ’ No work will ever get done. Quincy puts up a sign. Big as hell: ‘Leave your egos at the door.’ Ok? When you drop that, than it’s like: We just people and we can kick it together. And we can work together and we can do a track together or we can sing together or do whatever together.

Because it’s not like I’m thinking: ‘I’m Mr. Fabulous, mind my way. Thank you everyone.’ I’m just thinking: ‘I’m Michael Jackson and I’m working with Lionel, I’m working with Dionne. Everyone is just straight up. There are not ‘Dionne Waaaarwick’, they’re just Dionne Warwick, you know? When it comes down to it and you drop that ego and you drop that façade that’s when working and collaborating becomes easy. When we all drop our façades. You understand? Hope that was helpful. What else you got for me?«

RBMA: »Anybody else?«

Leroy Burgess: »You always got…give him the mic, give him the mic.«

RBMA: »I can see it in your eyes, when you talk about your family and people that may not be in direct relation to you as family. And I think it’s important like even right now we’re developing a new family. Maybe you could just elaborate on how important it is to you to kind of create, whether it’s Paris or New York or Germany or whatnot, but how important it is to really create those connections with artists, you want to work with and open new doors with?«

Leroy Burgess: »That’s very, very eloquent, very, very well put. You know what you’re real family is outside of what we consider our immediate family? The family of man. The family of mankind. I’m as much your brother and your brother and your brother as you all are my brothers and sisters. Realizing that gets me over a lot of humps. Alright? It makes it easy for me to talk to you guys.

No matter, where you come from. No matter, what language you speak. No matter, what color or whatever. You know, if I start looking at it like these are my brothers and sisters right here, and my aunts and uncles and whatever, you know what I’m sayin’? That makes it easy for me. And I want it easy ‘cause I want to talk to you. You understand? I need to talk to y’all. I need to feel y’all and what y’all sayin’. You understand? It needs to be a part of me and the only way for me to open up.

Leave that ego and, slash, prejudices at the door. You understand? Because, in order for anything to move, communication’ got to be there. We got to be able to talk to each other. We got to be able to sit in the same room and have a drink and have some food and smoke a joint.«
(laughter)

»You know, we got to be able to do that without takin’ each others heads off all the fuckin’ time. You know? Without harboring: ‘Oh, this motherfucker…’ That back in the mind animosity. When we throw all of that away, get let go of all of that, we become a family of man, you understand? And when you’re in a family, you want to be able to talk to your brother and your sister and you want them to talk back to you and feel you. You understand? So, yeah, that’s how we go about that. Just drop all the façade and say: ‘You know what? Just being here is cool. Just being here is everything.’

You know? Just feelin’ you like you feelin’ me. You know what I’m sayin’? That’s what makes it real. I mean, just look around. Everybody look around in the room for a second. Look at the different faces. No, there, take a look. Take a look! A lot of people, y’all don’t know, right? Y’all don’t know each other, right? What makes this cool? Because we’re all human.

We’re all human, we’re all musicians and we have found a thing that brings us all together as opposed to the things that tear us apart and keep us apart from each other. And that’s why we’re here. When we keep that dynamic in our lives that’s when the most movement happens. That’s when we do the most – we are the most. Feel me? Ok now, are you done?«

RBMA: »I’m done. I think that’s the last word unless someone else has got a question?«

Leroy Burgess: »Enough talkin’ for now and stuff like that.. I think, it would be kind of cool, if we all kind of crowded into that studio and see what kind of music we could come up with. Just real quick. What do you all think?«
(applause)

»Before we do that, I just want to say to each and every one of you, to the people that brought me out here. The red Bull Music Academy, all you guys. This is one of the moments in my life that I will with me forever, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m going to remember this and I want to remember this and how you guys are just cool and we had this moment together. I want to…I want…this is one of the bright moments. And I don’t ever want to forget and I want to thank you guys. One for having me here and two for sharing everything. That’s real. For sharing because that’s where (stands up)…my music comes from anywhere and from touching the world and from touching you guys. So, I want to thank you all. (applauds) «

click below to listen

LOGG – I Know You Will

LEROY BURGESS ( redbull academy interview pt. 2)

Posted in Boogie, Interviews, LEROY BURGESS on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »What year was that around?.«

Leroy Burgess: »I left the group in 1977. My contract with Buddah Records was up and we had been together for seven years. I said, ok, time for me to move on. Like I said, I wanted to bop the music a little bit – pick it up. At the time, the bass player of Black Ivory was a very close friend. I called him like my brother. His name is James Calloway. He is a real good bass player. He was playing bass with the group for years. We left together. I left and he left the group as their bass player. We started writing songs, alright? A year and a half went by. We starved. We were like: ‘Oh my god, what’s gonna happen? This is so not happenin’. But we were still writing. We were still trying to come up with stuff and then one moment I got up and did this…«
(plays the chords to “Weekend” on his keyboard)
»James heard me playing it and said: ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop.’ It was like five in the morning, ok? He gets up, he gets his bass and he starts putting a bass line to it. Basically, this became the song ‘Weekend’. Play a little piece of that.«

(music Phreek ‘Weekend’)

»And I show you how the structure is. Come on, crank it up a little bit. Come on, come on.
(plays on the keyboard again.)

»It’s real simple, you know?.«
(imitates the bass line)

»So now, you are setting up that groove again, you go…«

(starts playing the keyboard again)

»It’s easier than you think. The groove is in you, that’s why everybody’s here. Everybody here, every single one of y’all is here because the groove has touched y’all in some way. Music has hit y’all. Probably knocked on your ass, like it did me. You are here to find out more about it, learn more about it. So in your creative period, in your creative structure, you can start to do it. A groove like this is…it sounds nice and it is cool, it really is. But it’s just how we were feeling that day. What was up in that day? We were sick of it, we’d be like: ‘This is the last song I’m ever gonna write.’ And then it becomes this song and ‘boom’, there goes your whole career. It comes from the heart, how you feel.«

RBMA: »What was the artist of that song?.«

Leroy Burgess: »Initially, the group was a studio group called Phreek. Studio groups are pretty much non-existant groups. They are just singers, artists, musicians that a certain producer calls together and makes an album with them. At that time, it was the same producer I had worked with Black Ivory with, Patrick Adams. He had these three girls: Christine Wiltshire, Gena Hatt and Crystal Davis. At least, I think that’s the three of them. They worked on a lot of stuff. Anyway, he had these three girls and said: ‘Put ‘em together, put the song together.’ He had already done most of the album when he heard ‘Weekend’. He loved that song and that’s how it happened. Again, I am going back to Patrick Adams

RBMA: »That track was actually remade again.«

Leroy Burgess: »See now, this is funny. Sometimes, you’re working with an engineer and the engineer on the session, this guy named Bob Blank who had a studio called Blank Tapes, right? When we did the Phreek session, he was the engineer. Years later, after Phreek came out and it was a big hit and all that, he said: ‘If I put this out and produce it, I maybe can get some more money out of this record.’

What he did was, he called Christine, Gena and [Crystal]. Called the same three people who sang it back then, called in some new musicians and did a version which is known as the Class Action version. That’s the name of the group. Non-existing group! There is no group called Class Action! There is no group called Phreek! No actual group. This is just a producer’s concept. Got a piece of Class Action? And it changed up a little bit. He set the groove a little different.«
(music Class Action ‘Weekend’)

RBMA: »And is this actually the Larry Levan mix of the song?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yes, this is the Levan mix.«

RBMA: »Larry Levan from the Paradise Garage.«

Leroy Burgess: »It takes a minute to recognize it as the same song. You get the same guitar line, but now a synthesizer is playing it. Now you have a generation that seven or ten years were moved from the previous generation that heard the original. These guys never heard ‘Weekend’, so this is the first time they hear it and they are boppin’ their heads the same way. And this is, where Disco is becoming more expansive and you are stretching the record.«
(dances in his chair and plays keyboard along to the music.)

»And instead of using it in eleven, he uses the minor chords. But it’s the same thing. «
(music ends/applause)

»A second version of the same song. And I had nothing to do…except for writing the original song, I really had nothing to do with it. Another producer just took this idea, came in with some other musicians and…«

RBMA: »Same singer though.«

Leroy Burgess: »Same singer though…hm, hm!«

RBMA: »How do you feel…«

Leroy Burgess: »I apologize! When I say ‘hm, hm’, the singer Christine Wiltshire, the wonderful person that she is, had a lot of trouble singing that song. Especially initially it took her like, oh Lord, five studios and we had like nine tracks of her to make this one lead vocal. Some of the takes were just absolutely horrific. She was just like: ‘Oh my god, would you please get somebody else’ and so forth and so on.

But you know, I was persisting, Patrick was persisting and Bob was persisting in getting that final vocal. We just had to use this line from one track and the other line from track two. That’s production. Fortunately, we had enough tracks to do that. That was just why I was so …as I heard the name Christine, but don’t worry about that.«
(laughter)

RBMA: »I guess, just one of the things you mentioned the other day, when you were sitting here with some of the participants informally, listening to one of your songs, was the sort of tension you can build musically with changes and using the Jazz chords. You sort of talked about it a little bit previously.«

Leroy Burgess: »Right, right….«

RBMA: »What emotions are linked to certain…«

Leroy Burgess: »Now, that’s too broad of a question. Big question!«

RBMA: »Use some sort of example or something of how you would….«

Leroy Burgess: »Tension, huh?!«

RBMA: »Tension.«

Leroy Burgess: »Like I said, you set the groove and the groove is, where all the tension is let out. It’s like groove, ok? I don’t want to say groove too many times…«
(laughter)

»What I would try to do is to infuse tension into the song. So that it goes somewhere. It doesn’t just stay on a groove. You notice how a lot of Hip Hop records or some of the dance records now, stay on this one groove for like eight minutes or something like that That never really changes, never really goes anywhere and I’m like: ‘Ok, I’m really getting tired of listening to this.’ You know, it sounded nice for the first four minutes and then you are into minute nine and it still sounds the same. So, that’s why you add tension. Let’s see. I’m thinking of a great song for tension. This song is great for tension…«
(plays keyboard)

»That’s great. That’s a great little part. But how do you take it somewhere else?«
(plays the theme to Black Ivory ‘Mainline’ on the keyboard)

»So you build tension and let it go, you build tension and let it go. The song is called ‘Mainline’. Play a little bit of it.«

RBMA: »These songs, these tracks with a full orchestra…you actually have people in your family who are very accomplished as far as arranging and producing [is concerned]. I wonder, if you could mention your uncle and his influence on you at this point in your career?«

Leroy Burgess: »Ok. My uncle’s name is Thom Bell. And he is a very, very famous producer and arranger. He is my mother’s first cousin. But because he is in my mother’s age range, I called him my uncle. I don’t call him my cousin, I call him my uncle. He was a big influence on me during the times I could catch him at the family picnic.«

RBMA: »He was doing such records as in Philadelphia with Gamble and Huff.«

Leroy Burgess: »And everything for the Spinners, everything for the Delfonics, everything for The Stylistics. Did quite a few records with Deniece Williams, couple of records on Johnny Mathis. He was big time, you know what I’m sayin’? I always liked his style of music. Because again, he would do something unusual to make you listen to it. So, I always appreciated his style. And then second early, in addition to Thom Bell being part of my family, we found out later on… we just found this out in ’96 that the Bell brothers, Robert, Kevin and Ronald, the Bell brothers, are my first cousins from the Bell side of the family.

And these are the guys you might know as Kool & The Gang. Kool is the bass player as Robert Bell, Ronnie is the sax player and Kevin is the keyboard player. So, we found out later on that they are actually family. But check this out. Before I came out with Black Ivory, when I was fifteen or something like that, my manager decided to, you know, expose the group. Now, he was friends with a guy named Gene Redd who was the manager of Kool & The Gang. And at the time, Kool & The Gang didn’t have their own band, I mean, they didn’t have any singers.

So, they let Black Ivory come on stage with two songs, you know, just let us sing ‘Love On A Two Way Street’ and Sly Stone’s ‘Everybody Is A Star’ and kind of premiered the group. But during this time, I had no idea that these guys were actually my cousins! I found out much, much later. I knew their name was Bell, but I was like: ‘There are Bells all over the world.’ It’s only later on that my mum went to a Bell family picnic in North Jersey and they were there! She was like: “Do you know that Kool & The Gang are your cousins?” And I was: “They are?” But those are those kind of connections and those are family connections.«

RBMA: »I mean, you always had people in your family that you were collaborating with, right? You always had a team of people around you.«

Leroy Burgess: »Not always.«

RBMA: »There is a couple of important people…«

Leroy Burgess: »Like I said, I called James Calloway my brother because he’s been the musician I’ve been with most of the time. I mean he came on in Black Ivory after the second year. And I always liked his style. We got tight right away. So, that is my brother. Years later, after Black Ivory, I have met up with my cousin, another cousin, Sonny Davenport. If you own any of my records, you might have seen the names Leroy Burgess, James Calloway and Sonny Davenport. S

onny was just starting. He had been playing Gospel and stuff like that, but he wasn’t really doing commercial music. He wanted to try it and by this time I needed his help. So, Sonny came into the group. And he is the family member. The first of my main cousins and stuff like that. Ultimately later on, it became my sister joining the group for a minute and more of my family members came in.«

RBMA: »These are some of your groups under your synonyms we were talking about.«

Leroy Burgess: »Right. The non-Leroy Burgess groups. Just to give you an example, one of the groups was a group, a studio group. Everybody got that? Studio groups, not real groups! Ok? This was a studio group called Convertion. It consisted of myself, Sonny, James, my sister Renée, a young lady named Dorothy Terrell, my cousin Leo on percussion. We began to develop a sound as a rhythm band. One of the first tracks was a tune called ‘Let’s Do It’.«

(music Convertion ‘Let’s Do It‘)

(Leroy stands up, plays along the tune on the keyboard and starts singing)
(applause)

Cool record, right? .«
(audience cheers)

RBMA: »That is one of the ultimate roller-skate type of jams back in the day.«

Leroy Burgess: »Rollerskate! I used to fall a lot.«
(laughing)

RBMA: »It would be interesting to know, when you were creating these songs, what was the process like? Who was in charge?«

Leroy Burgess: »This is funny. This is a cool story. When we did ‘Let’s Do It’, like I said, we had gone to the studio. Everybody was just hanging out and we had begun to do another song. Greg Carmichael was the producer and he called us in to play music for actually another song. We did it so fast that we ended up with all that studio time left.

And he was like ‘Do whatever y’all want with it.’ By this time we were all smoked up and hungry, right? So we send out for some cheeseburgers, bacon cheeseburgers, fries and sodas. Now, while we’re waiting for the food to come, we go to the studio and start something up. Again I came up with (plays the theme of ‘Let’s Do It’). Now, immediately, James come in and starts playing with me…playing the bass with me!«
(laughter)

»And before we know, Sonny comes in and he is playing along, too. The group started being hit so hard that we forgot about the food, the bacon cheeseburgers and all of that came and got freezin’ cold because we got to this groove and couldn’t stop. We ended up doing the whole thing in…like an evening.«

RBMA: »Is that how all this records became, just with a riff from a piano? Or did you also start with other elements first?.«

Leroy Burgess: »They started different ways. You know, sometimes Sonny would come with an idea or drum pattern. And you know that I might start singing on top of that and then an idea would come out of that. Or James would start coming with a bass line and Sonny would play on it or I would play on it.

Songs come from all different places. The energies that bring good music and good creative songs in, they are all over the place (waves his hands) and in the air. You are thinking of something and your mind is clear and all of a sudden something hits you and it is a melody or something. You know, it just stays in your mind and you hum along with yourself. So it comes from everywhere. But the process with that was just…something hit us.«

RBMA: »What is with these records having those interesting changes, turnarounds and chords? You can only really do these things, if you have some training, basically?«

Leroy Burgess: »That is very true.«

RBMA: »If someone is inspired to add all those different elements in their music, what do you think is the best thing for them to get started in the right direction?«

Leroy Burgess: »I’ve looked at the schools in the last few days and it was really cool hanging with you guys, watching what you guys are doing and the stuff that you’re doing. I would recommend to each and every one of you to learn an instrument. Those of you who are creative and want to expand your songs and expand your musicality, it’s a good idea to know one of them! So that some of your songwriting can actually be instrument-based, ok?

These days everything is what? Computers, right? Computers, sequencing, sampling, stuff like that, right? And a lot of that is actually not going to the source of how you feel for music. The source of how you feel for music is when you get up (stands up) and take a shower and you’re singing. That’s how you feel, alright? That’s because your voice is an instrument, alright? And if you’re inspired to write songs or to produce records, it’s a good idea to learn how to play something! Because my history is prior to these technology existing…it were instruments. Acoustic piano and acoustic bass.

Stuff like that. If you want to make a song, you had to get on it (plays on the piano) and play. For me, it made me feel good that I could play. It takes a while. It takes a while! You have to stick with this. You got to learn scales and you got to learn chords and you got to learn different chords. But after you learned it all or you learned as much as you can, you will be surprised, what it will do for you. I will give you an example. This is a complex Jazz change, right here. (plays on the piano). Those are complex chords, you know what I’m sayin’? I’ll do that one more time (plays on the piano). Now, you wouldn’t think that this would go into a dance record.«

RBMA: »Sounds like some old Jazz trio, right?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yes, it sounds like some old jazzy ‘shoobeedoobee, shoobeedoobee’, it sounds like somebody is going ready to go and do that. Me, being a rebel and being wild and being crazy, I’m like: ‘Okay, let’s take that change and throw a beat behind it, right? And throw a groove into it, in the middle of it, and see what we’ve got! And they were like: ‘Oh no, that is much too jazzy!’ (plays on the piano) ‘Where is Solomon? Where is Ella? Where are they? Where is Anita Baker?’«
(audience laughing)

»We found a young lady named Fonda Rae. And after we did this stuff with a beat, it ended up like this.«
(music Fonda Rae ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’)

»We’re gonna go a little through this tune.«
(Leroy plays keyboard on top )

»Just a little simple. You know, here is this guy don’t playing guitar, he is just playing blue notes.«
(Leroy mimics the bass player )

»And it works!«
(music Fonda Rae ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’)

»You remember what I said about the tension? So, you get the tension. Take that down«
(applause)

click below to listen

LOGG – You’ve Got That Something