Archive for the Interviews Category

DANIELE BALDELLI ( redbull academy interview)

Posted in DANIELE BALDELLI, Interviews, Soul/Disco on July 7, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »Let’s welcome Mr. Daniele Baldelli. In the ’70s, New York had DJs like David Mancuso, Nicky Siano or the early Larry Levan; in Italy there was Daniele Baldelli

Daniele Baldelli: »I started in 1969 in a club named Tana in Cattolica. But I think nobody called me a DJ back then. When people asked me: “What is your job?”, I answered: “I play records in this club.” I had no mixer, no headphones, nothing. Just 7″ records. I put one 7″ on one turntable, when it was finished, I started the other one. When there was silence in between, nobody cared. People were used to wait for me and the next record.

But still I tried to put the records together – even though the turntables didn’t have pitch control. At that time we had Lenco turntables. With them, you could adjust a level in between 33 and 45 rpm. So I had at least some kind of pitch control. As I didn’t have headphones, I listened to the needle on the record. And when I heard that ‘tz-tz-tz’ sound, I knew that it was time to start the other record.

As we had automatic turntables, I couldn’t just press stop. You had to push a button and wait for the tone arm to lift and go back automatically. Sometimes you were late. Then you had to wait for the tone arm to react. But we had these automatic turntables only for one year. The development of the equipment was very fast. When I started, I was just 16 years old. I used to go to this disco club in Cattolica where I lived…«

RBMA: »Cattolica is near Rimini, not far away from Bologna.«

Daniele Baldelli: »100 km from Bologna. Anyway, I just went to this club for dancing. The guy that was playing records had some problems with the boss. So one day, the boss asked me if I wanted to do this job. At the beginning I was like: “Oh no, not me.” But then I was very happy about it and started playing records there.«

RBMA: »You were fond of music. That was the reason why he asked you.«

Daniele Baldelli: »Of course, that was the reason why he asked me. It was very difficult to find records these days. I was DJing in Cattolica, and I stayed in Cattolica. The DJs in Rimini stayed in Rimini, those from Bologna stayed in Bologna. All the DJs bought their records in the same shop of the town where they lived. But I had the feeling that I must find something else.

So I took the train and went to Switzerland. In Lugano, there was a shop where you could buy imports from the USA. I was playing black music or rhythm&blues in the first place – records from people like Joe Tex, Rufus Thomas, Ann Peebles, Wilson Pickett, Etta James and James Brown, of course. I also played rock bands like The Stooges or Atomic Rooster. I played these records only on 7″. Going to a disco was something really new. So everybody wanted to go to discos.«

RBMA: »In Italy, public moral has always been an issue. Discos were regarded as bad places. At that moment, did you have to deal with prejudice?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, not at that moment. This started later.«

RBMA: »What about drugs? Were drugs common?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, not at the Tabù club where I played from 1970 onwards.«

RBMA: »So was it just about wine and beer?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Wine in a disco club? No. We had whisky. But back to buying records, I wanted to buy my own records. So I said to my boss: “I’ll buy the records by myself. Please give me a little bit more money.” He agreed. And that’s the reason why I own 60.000 vinyl records now (murmur in the auditorium).«

RBMA: »Today, the DJ is such an important figure. All the girls look at the DJ, was it similar in the late ’60s and early ’70s?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, I was only thinking about music. Now I know that I must have been stupid at that time.«

RBMA: »You met your wife in a club?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Yes, of course. Where else? I met her soon after I started DJing. So I didn’t have a chance to be a sex symbol.«

RBMA: »You did your job mostly in summer. How was it in winter?«

Daniele Baldelli: »In Winter, the club was open on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. In summer, we were open every night from June until the end of September, from ten until three o’clock in the morning.«

RBMA: »It was just you DJing?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Yes, just me. Then, in 1974, something very important happened in Italy. The club Baia Degli Angeli opened near Cattolica on a nice hill near the sea. This club wasn’t like anything people had seen before in Italy. It topped everything. The club didn’t have psychedelic lights. It was all white. They played music from 12 o’clock at night until six in the morning. As DJs, they hired two guys from New York [named Bob Day and Tom Season].

Today we know that they weren’t DJs before they started at the Baia Degli Angeli, they turned into DJs here. Their strong point was that they had beautiful music – records we didn’t get in Italy at that time. The export/import business, as we know it today, still wasn’t existing over here. These guys had all the Philadelphia sound, disco, afro funk or afro disco. Nobody in Italy had listened to these records before. When they were about to return to the States, they introduced me the boss of the Baia Degli Angeli.

So I started working in this club. It was very, very, very very… The DJ booth was in a glass elevator. I could go up and down all night. This way I could see the dancefloor on the first level and the other three dancefloors upstairs. At the beginning, the Baia was a VIP club. But then it became more and more popular. About 4.000 went there every Saturday.«

RBMA: »And some of them were American actors visiting Italy?«

Daniele Baldelli: »In the early days, yes. But later on, the Baia was about common people from all over Italy.«

RBMA: »I remember a picture of Grace Jones in the Baia Degli Angeli.«

Daniele Baldelli: »She was there when her first 12” single was just released. I think it was La Vie En Rose. At that time, nobody knew her in Italy. But she was at the Baia Degli Angeli, and I have a photo of her and me.«

(we hear a short mix tape of Daniele Baldelli)

RBMA: »You are using the tweak that the Americans taught you about lengthening the songs by using two 7″ copies of the same record.«

Daniele Baldelli: »Of course. But then I became better than them (laughs).«

RBMA: »But the Technics decks with pitch control as we know them today, they still weren’t there. What kind of decks were you using? And how did you manage pitch control?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Normally, DJs are using these 1200s we have here. But I am still very fond about the Technics SP-15 turntable. At that time, this turntable was really expensive. You bought this turntable without a tone arm, it wasn’t included. So I bought a special oil damped tone arm. It made me crazy when using the tone arm lift caused the record to jump.

And then I found this tone arm in the UK. As the tone arm is balanced by oil, you can even move the turntable up and down – the needle won’t skip. I have four of these SP-15s at home. I didn’t like the turntables they had at the club, so I decided to buy my own and brought them when I played at the Baia Degli Angeli. The SP-15 has LEDs displaying the pitch speed precisely. The SL-1200 MK2 here has plus/minus 8, the SP 15 has a pitch range of plus/minus 10.«

RBMA: »And you could stop the records after queuing?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Yes.«

RBMA: »The mix tape we just heard demonstrated the typical opening of a night at the Baia Degli Angeli. Before you got to the decks, there was no music in the club. Is that correct?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Yes. Can I say one thing? I’ve been playing the same record for one year to close the night. At six o’clock in the morning, when I saw the sun shine, I’ve always been playing Ravel’s Bolero. While this was playing for 18 minutes, I mixed in Pink Floyd, Malinké chants, effects from Jean-Luc Ponty’s violin … Everything I could think of. People went mad, they were full of drugs.«

RBMA: »Which were the hits?«

Daniele Baldelli: »I’ve been asked this question before. My answer was: “Please don’t ask this question. If I mention just one record, thousands of others will be angry with me.” You know, I always care about my records. Some of the tracks I always played were Loleatta Holloway – Hit & Run, Miroslav Vitous – New York or Le Pamplemousse – Get Your Boom Boom.

Of course, many people asked for records that were in the charts. I didn’t like the top ten. So I always played something different. The b-side or something like that. I’m still buying all the underground music of the ’70s. Also nowadays, in 2004, I still find records I’ve never seen before. Somebody must have made them for me, and so I’ll buy them.«

Participant: »I am very curious about the mixing specifically. You had these turntables with the LED. But disco records aren’t staying exactly where you’re riding.«

Daniele Baldelli: »Of course not. The records 20 or even 15 years ago were not electronic. The drummer was a real drummer. Human people were playing. So the song would go up and down. It was terrible to follow a mix. In fact, I had my own idea – or paranoia: All day long, I stayed at home, played one record on one turntable and tried maybe 200 on the other one. Until I found the record I liked to mix in.

I even made notes for the mixing. Like 0.0 with the first record, the other one minus 5 for the first three beats, then plus 3, you understand? I wrote down all these notes, like a musician. Everybody told me that I’m crazy. Well, that’s true. So I always prepared my playlist at home. It was very hard. But it wasn’t that difficult because at that time you didn’t have as many records as you have now. When doing this nowadays, I go crazy because meanwhile there are 60.000 records. In the past, I had to choose only among 3.000 records.

Back in the days, the DJs used to cover the labels of the records. So nobody knew what the other DJ was playing. We were jealous of each other. Even the shops did that. They prepared stickers for the DJs to cover the label. Like this record here (Daniele Baldelli pulls out a record with a stickered label). They put a sticker on it with my name. But I find this terrible now. Because when I want to know what this particular record is, I can’t see anything on the label. So I can’t tell you the title. Sorry.

I made my money with mix tapes. Because the money I earned for DJing was spent for the records. Even today, I’m selling mix tapes to people that are 40 or 45 years old. They approach me saying: “I remember you from when I was young.” I say: “OK, come to me.”

Back in the days, my mind was free. I had no input from anybody. Today, it is rather difficult for me. House music is not exactly my feeling. So when I go to a club once in a while, I hear house music usually. All I can tell is that I understand nothing about house music. At that time, I didn’t know nothing. I just saw the records and chose them by myself for my playlists.

I didn’t know if the record that I was just playing was a top tune. I played it because I liked it. For me as a DJ, the situation couldn’t have been better. I could do whatever I wanted to do. This isn’t the case anymore, as far as I know. Correct me if I am wrong. Today, you have to make the people dance. Otherwise the boss will look at you: “What are you doing? The dancefloor is empty. What kind of DJ are you? Go back home!” Back then, I was free. I never had to be worried about a boss that might send me home.«

Participant: »When you were playing all night, how did you manage to go to the bathroom?«

Daniele Baldelli: »I was young. I could stay in the booth all night long. I could resist.«

RBMA: »The Baia closed in 1978. What happened to your life then?«

Daniele Baldelli: »I didn’t find a job for six months. Because nobody wanted to have the DJ from the Baia Degli Angeli – the club that was full of drugs. When I played somewhere else, the people, and the drugs, followed me.«

RBMA: »You are married. What has your wife been thinking about your job?«

Daniele Baldelli: »She was the girl at the cash desk. So I didn’t have problems. One day, a man from the Lago di Garda came to me and said to me: “I saw you at the Baia Degli Angeli. This Summer, I am opening a new club. I would like to have you as my DJ.” The name of the club was Cosmic. They took the Commodores’ logo and altered it. Stickers were a good business at the time. Everybody wanted to have hundreds of stickers on their cars. So the Cosmic stickers with that logo really sold well.

The Cosmic was another new and groundbreaking thing for Italy. The club was all dancefloor, no place to sit down. The equipment, soundsystem and lights, was incredible. Alcohol wasn’t sold. Only cola, orange juice and things like that. During the first year, I was playing all the music from the Baia Degli Angeli. Disco music, Philadelphia sound and so on. Then, in 1980, something changed in my mind. I started to discover records from all kinds of genres.

Today, I understand what I did and I can explain it to you. But back then, I just followed my instinct. So I played an electro track and mixed it with an African song, and then one from Brazil, followed by an electro record from Germany. This was mixed with a jazzy song and so on. The music was a melting pot. The people liked exactly this crossover of styles when a funk guitar was mixed with an electronic Kraftwerk beat.

The one thing I don’t like about house or techno is that you can put on any record. I don’t want to say that they are all the same. But it’s far too easy to do a mix. It’s always the same beat. I prefer to create my own music, combining the guitar of this record with the percussion of the other one. Or maybe the voice of this record goes down well with the voice of that one. My opinion is that you all should go the same way when mixing.

There was a famous shop in Rimini; Disco Più is its name. Every week, they received a lot of new records. Some of them, they had in a quantity of maybe a hundred, of others they got only one copy. Those were the records that nobody wanted to buy, so they put them on my shelf. “Baldelli takes everything,” they said.«

RBMA: »So you don’t go to the shop and listen to all the records?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, no, no. I listen to everything. There are good tracks in every kind of music. I also find good techno records, but I play them at 33 and not at 45. I just want to give you some examples of the records I played – or how I played them. Changing the speed of the records especially worked with dub records. (Signore Baldelli plays us a dub reggae record at the original speed of 33 rpm) This is nice. (changes the speed to 45) But like that it’s even nicer.

The next thing I want to show you is something I can do because I am Italian. Most Italian people don’t speak English. So we never understand the words of a song. And that’s why I don’t care when it’s sung in this way… (plays a reggae song with vocals speeded up to 45) For me, as a person who doesn’t understand the words, this pitched up voice is simply music. But I was also doing the contrary. Like this… (now we hear Alien Sex Fiend’s Ignore The Machine at 45) This is how it usually sounds like. But I played it this way… (Alien Sex Fiend slowed down to 33 rpm)

In Summer, when a lot of German tourists were at the Lago di Garda, there got furious sometimes, when I played OMD’s Enola Gay at 33 (laughs). I said to them: “Go back home to your town. I play what I like.” (next victim is a Culture Club record pitched up to 45) Of course, with instrumental music, this works even better.« (Daniele’s weapon of choice is the highly sought after 1979 Decca single Underwater recorded by Harry Thurman – slowed down to 33) This sounds terrible when played at the right speed (switches to 45).«

RBMA: »So most people didn’t notice that you played the records at the wrong speed? I mean, except of those Germans who didn’t like Enola Gay on 33.«

Daniele Baldelli: »At the beginning, people didn’t know this. But then they started to understand. They were used to going to the record shops with my mix tapes. Then they went to the guy working there and said: “Listen, I want to buy this record here.” So one day, somebody from the shop called me: “Stop to play the records on 45! I never understand what the people want from me.”

There’s another nice story I’d like to tell you. Maybe you can even help me. I know for sure that some dub musician – Scientist, Yellowman or Mad Professor – wrote on the cover of one of his LPs: “To the fucking Italian DJ who plays our records at the wrong speed.” I want to find this record!«

(Daniele Baldelli presents a mix CD he recorded three weeks ago. The mix catches the original vibe at Lazise’s Cosmic club in the early ’80s. Moreover, some photos taken at the club are shown)

Daniele Baldelli: »Now I want to show you what I did 18 years ago. Please don’t laugh, please consider at that time, I didn’t have the machines you have today. You had to do everything by hand.«

(video screen: DVD shot at Cosmic)

»I remember the first drummachine, an old one from Korg. It was like a typewriter. I have bought a lot of keyboards and drummachines. Compared to today, these machines were really nothing. My sample keyboard, a Prophet 2000, only had four seconds of memory. So I bought three of them in order to have twelve seconds. Nowadays you can buy loads of memory for that money.«

RBMA: »So you had three decks and a sampler?«

Daniele Baldelli: »In that period, I drove to the club with my own van. I brought my mixer, my turntables, my monitor, my amplifier, three keyboards and two drummachines.«

RBMA: »The turntables were the same that you used in the Baia Degli Angeli?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Yes, the Technics SP-15. You’ve seen it in the video. The mixer was a Teac Model 3.«

RBMA: »Were you playing with these machines all night long?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No. It was for ten minutes every hour or something like that. Otherwise the people would have thrown vegetables at me (laughs).«

RBMA: »So this was like a live gig.«

Daniele Baldelli: »Yes, like a DJ concert.«

Participant: »Now we know that you are the master of this sound. But there were other DJs on the same scene as well. I think of names like Tosi Brandi, Loda or DJ Ebreo.«

Daniele Baldelli: »But, as I told you before, everybody worked in his own club. There were five clubs on this scene in Italy: Cosmic, Melody Mecca in Rimini, Typhoon (Gambara, Brescia), Chicago (Bologna) and I don’t remember the other one [Les Cigales in Bedizole, Brescia]. The DJs in these clubs played more or less the same thing.

But everyone had his own style. For example, Moz-Art, Claudio Rispoli, – who is now part of Jestofunk, maybe you know this group – was more fond of jazz. He played a lot of Weather Report, Don Cherry – this kind of music. Ebreo, Mauro is his real name, he played a lot of Brazilian stuff – Jorge Ben, .Gilberto Gil, Tania Maria and so on. Another one played more reggae. I played what people call cosmic style now, that is everything mixed together. My music was more electronic. The others went more in the funk direction. I played funk or Brazilian as well, but the matrix was electronic.«

Participant: »I have a question. Did you have much contacts with the other Italian artists who were making this kind of music? Do you think other artists decided to do electronic music because they heard you play?«

Daniele Baldelli: »At that time, we had a musical phenomenon in Italy which is known as Italo disco today. But I didn’t like Italian music back then. For me, it was all shit.«

Participant: »Was the music of producers like Mario Flores, Claudio Simonetti or Rago & Farina appreciated in Italy at that time?«

Daniele Baldelli: »They didn’t know me and I didn’t know them, sorry. Italian people are always looking abroad. I think this is still the case. 20 years ago, we were looking at the USA, the UK, Germany. Next thing I want to show you is a new project of mine – Funkadiba.

Next month another CD of mine is coming out. It is called Daniele Baldelli – My Funky Side. Twelve tracks. I used musicians: trumpet saxophone, double bass, keyboard. These people realized the ideas I had. In early 2005, there will be a Cosmic compilation. I won’t tell the name of the company. This will be a mix CD. This compilation will be released all over the world.

The label is about to clear all the licenses of the tracks I chose. A few of them I have here. One is by Richard Wahnfried, a project of Klaus Schulze. Do you know the label Innovative Communication from Germany? The track I’m playing you now was a big Cosmic hit. I’m playing it at the right speed, by the way.«

(music: Richard Wahnfried – Time Actor)

RBMA: »This was the first electronic record you played?«

Daniele Baldelli: »It was one of the first. I played many records from Klaus Schulze. He’s always been on Innovative Communication. And also the Sky Records label from Germany – they had a lot of electronic music. Now I can make my own edits of records like this with the computer and burn them easily on CD. Back then it was more difficult.

For example: there was one record I was playing at the Baia. I can’t remember the group. It was named Cosmic Melody. They were singing: “Cosmic, cosmic, cosmic melody, melody melody…” I liked only this part. And I thought this is something for me to play at Cosmic. So I recorded it with minimum speed and made it three minutes long with my Revox reel. Also with cassettes, I recorded electronic effects.

So I could play a record and effects on it. I used an equalizer, it was a GE-20. Today you can buy a lot of effects. There are so many machines now. I used only the bypass button, made a strange equalization and switched it on and out in the rhythm of the music. So I had this effect the equalizer can do. The effect depends on the frequency you use. In that time, this was really a fashion. And today, people tell me that they would prefer an old equalizer to all these modern machines.«

RBMA: »How long went the Cosmic thing?«

Daniele Baldelli: »It lasted for five years; from 1979 until the end of 1984. The club was built for thousand people. But outside, in the park, there were more than 3.000 people.«

RBMA: »Because it was so crowded that they couldn’t get in?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, I think they stayed outside for their drug traffic . The fashionable car at that time was the Citroën Diane. The poor people had a Diane or a Renault 4. Those with money owned a Citroën DS. So the people had these kinds of cars. They stayed in the park all night with their cars, which were plastered with stickers of Cosmic and the other clubs. The doors of the cars were open and the people played my tapes. They didn’t go inside. If they went, they did it to buy a cassette.«

RBMA: »So most of these people stayed outside on purpose?«

Daniele Baldelli: »The people who were using drugs, they stayed outside. They had to spend their money for the drugs.«

RBMA: »I suppose, Cosmic had problems with the police.«

Daniele Baldelli: »Of course, they closed the club twice. And then it was finally shut down in 1984. A strange thing about Cosmic was that the club opened at nien o’clock, at ten it was crowded and we closed already at one o’clock. Today, the clubs have many problems with the authorities.

They say it’s dangerous when people go out until the early morning, drink a lot of alcohol, take drugs and then drive back home. But back in the days at Cosmic, it was the same thing. It’s stupid to drive a car when you have taken some kind of drug. In Germany, people take a taxi. But in Italy, no. Here it’s like: “I want my own car because I am Italian and powerful.”«

RBMA: »What happened when Cosmic closed?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Again I was without work for six months (laughs). Then I returned to Baia Degli Angeli which was reopened as Baia Imperiale. The style was like in a Cleopatra film.«

RBMA: »It was a nightmare, believe me. The Baia was transformed into the scenery of an ancient gladiators movie with fake statues of Roman gods and so on.«

Daniele Baldelli: »…like a temple.«

RBMA: »So the original minimal style of the Baia, which was a trademark, was totally transformed into something like a theme park.«

Daniele Baldelli: »It was like Hollywood.«

RBMA: »Yes, the crap side of Hollywood. Like Hollywood trying to recreate ancient Rome.«

Daniele Baldelli: »At this time, I started to play a little bit of house music. These were the early days, I played stuff like Frankie Knuckles, really good stuff. But also in that situation, I was attracted by the b-sides. This may be the reason why I had no success with house music. I never realized that the a-sides included the good tracks, the ones that the people wanted to hear. I stayed at the Baia Imperiale for six years, from 1986 to 1989. Like I did at Cosmic, I was also using synthesizers, samplers and drummachines.«

RBMA: »So you had no success because people didn’t like what you were playing then?«

Daniele Baldelli: »It just wasn’t good enough.«

RBMA: »You had some relation with the blooming piano house scene in Italy at that moment. Did you know people like Black Box personally?«

Daniele Baldelli: »I know Daniele Davoli. I know all of them, of course. I have done a lot of productions myself, only 300 copies of each release. It was very hard to sell all of them. My mind was not ready to make a hit or create a beautiful song that people wanted to buy.«

RBMA: »At the same time you were doing Cosmic revival nights.«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, I had stopped everything. I started Cosmic again in 1992/1993.«

RBMA: »You were asked to play in Germany and Austria. How did that come about?«

Daniele Baldelli: »As the Cosmic club was at the Garda Lake, Austria and Germany were near. During the summer, a lot of people came to the Garda Lake for holidays. People from Innsbruck started doing Cosmic parties and invited Italian DJs. This has grown within the years. Every year, there’s a big festival named Afro Meeting in Innsbruck. This lasts for two days, 5.000 people and more have been there. The music on the Cosmic CD which I had played you before, people in Italy were used to call it Afro sound – for whatever reason. But this is not the correct term for my style because I have been playing electronic music.«

RBMA: »You have no idea why they have been calling it Afro?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Maybe it’s because I also played records like Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa or Johnny Wakelin’s In Zaire every now and then.«

Participant: »Can I ask you a question? I’m from Ireland. I was never aware of the depth of history of Italian music, and your involvement in it. Have you ever thought of documenting your story so that the next generations of DJs can appreciate what you did?«

Daniele Baldelli: »I think this is going to happen because now I am here. I can also tell you about Maestro. Josell Ramos is the director of that film. It’s a 90 minutes documentary of the disco scene in New York also reflecting on the fact that the first disco DJs were of Italian origin: Francis Grasso, David Mancuso, Victor Simonelli. This film shows that nightclubbing was born in New York or how the first 12″ single was created. There are a lot of interviews with the people who were involved in New York’s disco scene.

One day, Josell Ramos came to Bologna and presented the film. We talked a lot, he knew about me and wanted to hear my story. He did an interview, and now I am in this film. I think I can be very lucky that I had the opportunity to experience that era. I have gone through everything – from the early beginnings, from rhythm&blues, soul, funk and disco until now.

A young man like you will know only nowadays’ scenes, of course. But if you are very fond of music, you will also be able to go back for sure.«

Participant: »In the video from 1984 that you were showing us before, you played that “fresh” sample on your synthesizer. Do you know what I’m talking about?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, I don’t remember.«

Participant: »It sounded like scratching.«

Daniele Baldelli: »This sample keyboard was a Prophet 2000 and it came with factory samples. These also included some scratch style sounds.«

Participant: »The reason why I’m asking is that what you did was very similar to early hip hop turntablism at the time in ’84. It really struck me that you were thinking about that the same way. This is cool. Did you ever think of scratching?«

Daniele Baldelli: »No, I can try that when I’m older (laughs).«

Participant: »Were there any scratch DJs in Italy at that time?«

Daniele Baldelli: »I have been to an Italian DMC competition back then. But the DJs didn’t really know what to do there. So everybody thought that it’s about playing as many records as possible within the time given. The one playing the most records was the best. But then, after one or two years, we have seen what’s happening, of course. I like that very much. Not because of the music. I like the skills.«

Participant: »I saw that you were DJing together with a drummer. For the future, could you imagine to play with a scratch DJ?«

Daniele Baldelli: »For the music I’m playing today, I don’t need a scratcher. From 1996 to 1999 I worked in a club where I played only funk and soul – from 1969 until now. There, I used to play with a saxophone, a trombone or even a quartet. On my signal, the drummer started to pick up the groove of the record and then the band played the song.«

RBMA: »Any other questions? No?«

Daniele Baldelli: »Go back home (laughs).«

TONY WILSON (1950 – 2007)

Posted in Interviews, TONY WILSON on June 23, 2008 by bangtheparty

Were you Manchester born and bred?

No. Salford. Yvette and I were guest editors of Building magazine. Along with everything else we do we’re regeneration experts now, and as regeneration consultants with a bit of a reputation we were invited to guest edit Building Magazine. In it I made the point that neither of us have forgotten our backgrounds – my partner comes from the Ribble Valley, I come from Salford – but by the mid-80s we came from Manchester. Now, until about 1980 when people asked where do you come from I’d have done what I did then, “I come from Salford”.

And people would go “Ah, Manchester”, and it’s “No, it’s fucking Salford.” Albert Finney would have said that to you, Ben Kingsley, Alistair Cook, we come from Salford, and there’s a real pride about it.

Suddenly in the early ‘80s, the word Manchester came not just to mean the centre of Manchester, it came to mean “the project”, being the rebuilding of this whole Northern place. I always say that in the early ’80 s when we built the Hacienda we thought we were idiots, just individual crazies for some strange obscure reason in love with our city and putting some of our money back into the city.

It was only by about ’84, ’85, that we realised there were a lot of other people doing exactly the same thing, also individually, on their own, separately thinking they were just the same idiots. Our city fathers, council leaders, were doing, and we all thought it was in isolation, and suddenly by the mid ‘80s were realised we were all doing it.

So I’m quite happy to say that I come from Manchester, even though for many many years I would have denied it completely.

What is it about Salford that makes you so proud?

Salford is what it is. It was the working class city. Manchester became the city centre as it were, although Salford is separated from the Manchester city centre by just a river. So Manchester and Salford are a bit like Minneapolis and St Paul, two sides of the same city. There is of course a romance about being working class.

Rock’n’roll is meant to be working class but it never is. Elvis Presley was working class, The Beatles were all grammar school boys, admittedly I have to accept that John Lydon – after he once had a go at me in a seafood restaurant in Malibu where we bought him 16 seabreezes for lunch – was actually working class, but Strummer was diplomat’s son and the origins of punk were in nice middle class intellectual boys having those idea. The fact that Bromley in Kent was the hub of it says it all really.

Obviously New Order were grammar school boys in certain ways, and then suddenly you get another burst of real working class rock’n’roll activity with the Mondays and the Roses, which is one of the reason why they’re not still around while the nice middle class work ethic boys of U2 and Coldplay do very well.

Why? Because they have better financial advisors?

No, it’s the work ethic. If you’re middle class you have a work ethic where it’s a wonderful job and you work at it and you make lots of money and take it seriously. If you’re working class in the music industry it’s like robbing the bank. Rob the bank, take the money, shove it up your nose and fuck off. I’m quoting Happy Mondays’ agent Martin Gallagher there.

What did your parents do?

My father was an out of work actor and my mother was a shop-keeper. The core of the family were German émigrés. My grandfather Herman Maximillian Nuffal arrived in Salford in 1900. He’d gone to America and the family said come home, but he said “No, I’ll come nearer home and move to Salford.” Although it sounds very weird – I always thought it was until I realised that if you’re the second son and the Kaiser is bringing in conscription in 1899 and you’d think fuck it, I’m going to America.

Fair enough, I can understand that. But coming to Salford?

Then about 15 years ago that I did a documentary about Haim Wiezmann, who was a Manchester German scientist (and first president of Israel). Of course, doing this film about Weizmann I discovered – which I should have known anyway when you think back about because Engels was here – but if you left Germany in the 19th century, you came to Manchester. Whalley Range, now our prostitute area, used to be called Little Germany, and all the large houses there were built by German émigrés in the 1870s, 1880s. The Halle Orchestra was of course founded by a German. The amazing thing I learned making this documentary was that the only language you would hear spoken in the cocktail bars during the interval at the Hallé was German.

So this was German town. This is why I always say there were two reasons for Manchester music, and the second was Manchester’s openness. Which city in Britain was welcoming Chicago and Detroit house music in ’86-’87? The answer is Manchester. I always remember even though I think (London club) Shoom!, which was an important part of acid house, probably preceded the Hot night at the Hacienda by about a month, which was April or May ’86, I remember Mike Pickering Djing at the Astoria in January and being bottled off stage and heckled because he played house music. But the history of rock’n’roll is the history of being open to influences, and that’s why things happen.

Anyway, my grandfather apprenticed himself to a jeweller and watchmaker called Mr Ranks. When he died my grandfather got some money out his family in Freiberg and he took over the shop as Nuffal’s. Then it became Nuffal Brothers as my uncles came into the business. The second shop was in Caddeshead, and then Karl the eldest took over the Salford shop and Edgar, who was my immediate uncle who I lived with for many years, had a shop in Eccles. So there were three shops called Nuffal Brothers and they were watchmakers and jewellers. My mother took the money she inherited from my grandfather and bought herself a tobacconist and card shop at the end of William Rd. She married my father in 1948. He was an out of work actor, who then began to run the shop.

When you’re at Oxbridge you know what jobs are coming and you knew your competition. There were two general traineeships at the BBC every year but they were cancelled the year that I left Cambridge, so there were six Thompson newspaper traineeships in Cardiff, two Reuters traineeships, two ITN traineeships, and there were six BBC news trainees. You applied for these knowing that there were 20 others from Oxbridge and maybe five from York or somewhere else, and I just got very very lucky. I went for my interview at ITN knowing I didn’t get the Reuters job, didn’t get anything at the BBC, and at my interview they said, “Was there anything that we could have done better”, and I said that I didn’t think much of their coverage of Jimi Hendrix’s death.

I said, “It might not matter much to you but from the culture I come from Hendrix is a very important person and it seems to me that you should be able to cover it with a little more insight and not treat it as something from the counter culture that means nothing to you.” About four days later a telegram arrived at my room in Cambridge and I’d got the ITN job. There are some core moments in my job and getting into Cambridge was a core moment, the ITN job was a core moment, and I have to say that very recently getting the second stage of the regeneration project we’re doing right now felt exactly the same.

What was it about TV that attracted you rather than any other media? (Wilson worked at ITV, then at Granada in Manchester where became a local celebrity thanks to music shows What’s On and So It Goes.)

It had words and pictures, I suppose, which rather excited me. I went to ITN which had just reinvented TV news with News At Ten which didn’t have people wearing bowties, and at that point in the early ‘70s the esprit de corps at ITN in Wells Street we were the second best TV news organisation in the world behind CBS News New York, just. If you put yourself up there with CBS New York and its traditions and way of doing things it meant you felt you were the top of the pile. I learnt so much in those two years.

The way you learned at ITN was by becoming a scriptwriter and I used to write the stuff that Andrew Gardner or Sandy Gall or Gordon Honeycomb or Reginald Bosanquet would read. It was a wonderful thrill and wonderful job, and you progressed to doing end pieces or the occasional small item, but I wanted to be a reporter, felt the need to go out on the road and do the next stage.

I have to say, and this is something important actually, that it never occurred to me that I would ever be famous. It never occurred to me to be on television just to be on television. I thought that to short circuit the process I would go to a regional ITV company on a local magazine show for two years, learn my trade on the road and come back to ITN a fully trained reporter. The very first advert I saw was for a different post in my home town of Manchester, but I thought I’d apply, and strangely, even though I completely screwed my interview up I got a job as a reporter.

Anyway, a friend said to me, “So you’re going to be a reporter? Oh my God, you’ll become famous.” I asked him what he meant, and he said, “My mate went to Central TV in Birmingham and he got a letter from a woman saying, Oh, I’d like to do this to you, and there was a drawing of a woman performing an obscene act on him.” I was utterly shocked. I hadn’t connected being on television with being famous. I had always wanted to be an actor, but when I went to Cambridge I discovered that I was either a shit actor or an OK actor, but I wasn’t a great actor, and the whole idea of being famous had removed itself from me. I really was surprised that by being a reporter I might actually be known. So I turned up at Granada to do two years as a reporter, and I got stuck.

So when did the magazine programmes come along?

That was a bit like Broadcast News. It opens with the title, and some guy says “Good evening, here is the latest report from John Thompson in Namibia”. Then it cuts to this incredibly exciting film of a reporter in the jungle dodging bombs, doing incredibly exciting things and pieces to camera and directs the whole thing, and it cuts back to the studio and this guy says, “Thanks, that was John Thompson, we’ll see you next week.” The guy who says “we’ll see you next week” is higher up the food chain than the guy on film. I was expected to be in the studio as well as being the reporter, but after my first summer there Granada, instead of making me the number two anchorman they hired someone else.

I’m thinking, How do I get in the studio? One of the guys had been doing What’s On, an arts round up one night a week, and the guy who’d been presenting it went off to write some novelisation of Blake’s Seven. I liked movies, I liked music, I was into the theatre, I had an arts degree, so I asked if I could do the arts show, and they said yes. From summer 1974 What’s On ran for about four years, and many things that people think were on So It Goes were actually on What’s On.

So for example when I wasn’t allowed to have Blondie on So It Goes because the producer thought they were crap, so I put her on What’s On and she did Rip Her To Shreds. Many north west kids remember, much the same as many people remember seeing the Sex Pistols on TV for the first time, me saying, and now a young singer who’s come up from London, he’s actually from Liverpool, Mr Elvis Costello. And we turned round and there’s Elvis with on a little podium with his electric guitar in his arm, and he’d got up there to do Less Than Zero, but he’d said that he’d written a new song two days ago and could he do that instead, and I said yeah sure, and he did Allison. Two days old, amazing.

What’s On was about getting me back in the studio, but it became a cult show because it was very whacky and we’d hang parrots around the studio, a camel once ran through the set, it was a weird show. I remember once having (creator of Spider-Man) Stan Lee on and he brought a Spider-Man costume with him and Clive James, who was a friend doing the show with me, spent the whole time walking around in the back of the shot wearing Stan Lee’s Spider-Man costume.

So you were given carte blanche to run riot.

Absolutely. It was a wonderful show. There were some wonderful producers there who just thought, “Why not?” It was anarchy and everyone loved it and let me do exactly what we wanted. The one night they didn’t let me do what I wanted I resigned and walked out. It was 1976. Granada decided to do a What’s On music spin off, hoping it would be a network ITV show to rival Top Of The Pops.

We did one pilot and they went, “Well, it’s not a Top Of The Pops rival but we’ll give you a late night series, and that was So It Goes.

Anyway, November ’76, the Anarchy tour, and my friend Roger Eagle from Eric’s in Liverpool rang to say that he had to cancel the Sex Pistols after Merseyside police had been round and told him his licence wouldn’t be renewed later that month if he put the band on. I had a graphic made up saying “What’s Off, Sex Pistols at Eric’s”, but my bosses said I couldn’t use it.

I argued that this was the most important thing happening, the greatest band in the world being censored and we had to say something, but I lost the argument. Being what I thought was a professional I did the show without the graphic then walked upstairs, tore up my cards and walked out the door. They got me back in about five days later and made me sign a piece of paper saying, “I’ll do whatever you tell me, because you fucking pay me.”

I learned so much from that. People who worked for me, I used to say, “You don’t like this? I understand. Start your own fucking company. The tragedy is that I pay your salary, so I can tell you what to do, it’s a tough life but you can also leave.”

So did you set out to make What’s On a whacky or funny show?

God no. I’m not a funny man, I can’t tell a joke. Recently I started telling a story about Steve Coogan, John Thompson and Caroline Ahern at a BAFTA thing and Coogan actually interrupted and shouted, “For fuck’s sake Tony shut up”, and told the story and it was hilariously funny. But I used to write jokes and one producer actually said to me, “You’re not a funny man, you can’t tell jokes, but What’s On is a funny programme, I’m astonished.”

Everyone else who went to see the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 4 June 1976 seems to have formed a band, but you started a record label.

No no, no I didn’t. My job was as a television presenter, and I went back the next day and screamed to my producer that we had to have this band on the show, it was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. They said OK, but I had to take Malcolm the researcher to see them to make sure he liked the band too. I remember bright blue skies driving from Golden Square in Soho to the Walthamstow Assembly Hall, and walking into the hall at 9 in the evening, still this bright sky, and into this completely dark hall, with 20 people watching in a semi-circle stretching across the whole hall. I soon realised that it was because John was gobbing and they were just out gobbing distance.

So a label didn’t enter your head at the time?

Not at all. That first series of So It Goes was pile of shit except for the last show when we had the Pistols on, before that we’d had Eddie And The Hotrods and Be Bop Deluxe and other safe middle of the road stuff like that, but the second series was brilliant. I would put Buzzcocks and Slaughter And The Dogs on What’s On through the autmn of ’76 and spring ‘77, but I was told I had a new series of So It Goes in autumn ‘77, and would wake up every night that summer in a sweat worried that someone else was going to beat us to it. It was a disaster.

We launched again and were able to put on Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello and the first Jam appearance, Magazine, all this great stuff, and we had it all to ourselves because the Old Grey Whistle Test only put on people who were accomplished musicians or had American accents. They had The Ramones and to my annoyance Patti Smith, but hey. Iggy caused all sorts of trouble by swearing during a rambling bit in the middle of The Passenger and my boss wanted to cut it.

So this was my hobby, my passion, my life, and suddenly I realised that I was clutching this thing had seemed so distant when I went out and bought Jefferson Airplane album and listened to it on the floor going nuts. You know, Elvis Costello would walk on stage and smile at me in the audience! Malcolm McLaren would give me a T-shirt and ask how things were going, even Lydon would grunt at me. Suddenly I was connected to my heroes and this artform, and I still feel it as an utter, utter privilege. Then I was told, that’s it, no more, but I wanted to stay involved.

Then on 24 January 1978, which is why several of our companies are called something to do with the 24th of January, I got a call from my best mate Alan Erasmus who had been managing a band for about nine months called Fast Breeder – since my stag night when we took Dutch speed and went to see them. There’d been a coup and he was thrown out along with a couple of band members. I said, don’t worry, we’ll form a band around the remaining guys, and that was the moment that got me into the music business.

Those two, guitarist was Dave Robotham and the drummer Chris Joyce, who later became Simply Red’s backing band, but we put them together with the ex-Albertos bass player and the guitarist from the Nosebleeds, Vini Reilly, and two singers and that was Duritti Column. We had a group, we needed a place to play, and Alan said I know a club in Hume that we might be able to borrow, so we went and met …. Blah blah

So, starting Factory in 1978…

The thing I remember specifically about starting Factory is that independents are set up to get bands signed to majors. Everyone thinks that punk was all about some anti-capitalist response to the majors, but it wasn’t at all. Malcolm signed the Pistols to anyone, The Clash’s first single came out on CBS, and Buzzcocks signed to United Artists the night I saw them at Electric Circus, which was the same night Elvis Presley died. It was all major label stuff until this wonderful distribution network called Rough Trade started, and also Pinnacle. Independent labels at the time were to get your band signed to a major label.

I remember interviewing Tosh Ryan from Rabid Records during the What’s On days and saying to him why did you sell Jilted John to EMI and John Cooper Clarke to CBS, and he said “Don’t be such a twat, living in this mythical past, that’s what independence is all about, getting your act signed to a major. Alan and I were doing what we thought was the right thing and trying to get Duritti Column and we managed to get Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark signed to Virgin after a bidding war.

I did two or three trips to London with (Joy Division and New Order manager) Rob Gretton to talk to Andrew Lauder who was the leading person to sign Joy Division to Warner Radar Genetic. Then one night at Band On The Wall in Manchester, Rob says to me, “Er, why don’t we do the first Joy Division album and then go to Warners?” I said, “Are you sure? How much will it cost.”

He said Martin Hannett had told him about eight grand, which was a complete lie. I didn’t jump on it because it was a complete surprise, but looking back on it that was the dawn of the British independent movement, all from Rob thinking, well the first single Tony spent £5000, we got £5300 back after paying all the costs and we all made £100. If we made an album we would make real money, which would mean, and I quote Rob here, “I wouldn’t have to go to London every week and talk to cunts.”

Also, being Rob, he then said, “Here’s the deal I suggest: 50-50, and you pay publishing out of your per cent. And that deal, done that day, is the most generous ever for a band, because I didn’t want to make money, and it applied to every Factory act ever, most particularly Joy Division and New Order. That’s why Blue Monday never made money. The sleeve and the vinyl and everything cost 79p and the average return from Pinnacle our distributor was 91p, so we made 2p a copy, which was 1p to New Order and 1p to us, and out of that we paid publishing at 3p a copy, which we had to pay.

Not the greatest business deal you ever made, surely.

No, but I’m a catholic, and the most profound moment of my life was as a young journalist, about 1977, I was asked by my newsroom if I wanted to interview the arch bishop of Sao Paulo. I went along, a good catholic boy to interview, and I was taken to the cathedral and met this rotund prelate. About 15 minutes in I realise this is Cardinal Arns, who was Mr Liberation Theology, in other words the man who put the shits up the Vatican for 30 years, the leading light behind liberation theology who ran the Catholic church on Marxism in South America.

Towards the end, and I’m a good altar boy and playing theology with him and all that, and I said, “But Cardinal, are you saying that to be rich of itself is a sin?” And he leaned back and said with a grin, “Yes my boy”, as if to say, “It’s only taken me 45 minutes but you’ve finally got it.”

If you believe that it’s very hard to make money. I’d love to have a yacht and a house on Lake Cuomo, but they’re numbers 98 and 99 on my priorities.

So was this around the same time you decided to sign a contract in blood?

Yes, We agreed the deal and a couple of weeks later Rob had his lawyer write it up and sent it to me. It’s not like the film where I write the whole thing in blood, but as a joke I think I just signed AHW to this formal contract in blood.

How do you actually sign with blood?

You just prick your finger and let it onto the page then take a dry pen nib and write through it. The central feature of the contract, which caused us disruption later, was the phrase “The musicians own everything, the company owns nothing, all our groups have the right to fuck off.” When Polygram and Roger Ames were buying us, it was going along very nicely until a meeting where someone said, “But you have no contract.” I said that we had a kind of a contract and they looked at it and all the faces on the other side of the table dropped.

Roger waved it at me and said, “Tony, don’t you understand, if you have no contract at least you own the catalogue because you paid for it to be recorded. That is, unless you have a piece of fucking paper that specifically says you own nothing.” Far from being the heroic moment portrayed in the movie, I just sort of went, “Oh well.”

So how did Factory make its money?

Selling enormous numbers of albums. We also didn’t market for the first two years. And although I’m accused of refusing to let us have a dance label, all I said was that to make money in dance you have to be a good businessman, and all we’re good at is finding bands no one else wants and getting them to sell a million albums around the world.

So even for overseas sales your 50-50 contract held?

Absolutely. Except that because we felt we weren’t doing as much to sell overseas, that split became more like 60-40, rising to 66-33.

You say Factory was about finding bands no one else wanted, who were the bands you didn’t want?

I don’t think we missed out on anybody, but the bands I didn’t sign that were successful were obviously The Smiths and The Stone Roses. I always thought Steven (Morrissey) was going to be our novelist, our Dostoyevsky, in fact I lost a one act play he wrote about eating toast in Hulme. But I got a phone call one day asking me to come over because he had something to tell me. I went to his mum’s house and he took me into his bedroom with a poster of James Dean on the wall, and he told me that he was going to be a pop star.

I had to stifle my laughter because I thought this was the last person in the world about to become a pop star. I had a conversation with Richard Boon, Buzzcocks’ manager and a mutual friend, saying can you believe he’d ever be a pop star? Four months later I went to either their first or second gig at the Manhattan club and being utterly stunned. I remember walking out and Richard saying, “Now do you believe me?” Obviously I did, it was stunning.

But that point in time, there are three stories. The Smiths’ story is that Wilson was a cunt, blah blah blah, there is my version of the story which is that I had James and Stockholm Monsters and couldn’t sell their singles, and Factory was two and a half years old and a dinosaur. Not marketing and being weird had worked very, very well, but suddenly it had grown old and stale. I was very depressed at the time.
Why wasn’t it working?

I think that when everyone is promoting like mad and you don’t promote there’s a two year window when that works fantastically well, when not promoting is the best promotion there is. But then it all… I was extremely depressed about Factory at the time. Movement, the first New Order album, had sold extremely poorly, and I felt that I couldn’t sell the first James single or the first Stockholm Monsters single, and thought my company had lost something.

I didn’t know what it was we’d lost, but I wasn’t going to saddle Steven with a shit record company. Now Rob Gretton, who was more significant within the company than me, was wandering around Manchester telling everyone that The Smiths were the new Beatles, but he was telling The Smiths that their demo was shit, and I’m not signing you until you’ve got a good demo.

But whatever, The Smiths have their own version of the story, and Steven is a nightmare to work with. Historically though, Pinnacle went bust, and I probably lost about £150,000 in that, but if The Smiths hadn’t gone to Rough Trade that probably would have gone bust too, and the British independent movement would have ended right there, never lasted beyond the mid ‘80s.

The Stone Roses, I hated. I’d seen them in the early ‘80s when they were a goth band and badly dressed. By the time they started spreading their names all over Manchester they were managed by my ex-wife, my ex-business partner Martin Hannett, my ex-protégé from the Hacienda Tim, who’s now Ticketmaster, and the guy who used to run the Hacienda, Howard Jones. So everyone who was an ex in my life was involved with the Roses, so I completely ignored them.

One night I was at home, about to crash out in front of the TV, and the Mondays were playing Chester in the small basement of a pub. I had the strange feeling that they were about to break, I don’t know why because we were releasing the third version of Wrote For Luck, but I thought this might be the last time they played a small gig, and indeed it was.

Anyway, I went into the dressing room and the drummer Gaz Whelan goes, “Hey, Tone, listen to this”, and put something in the cassette player, and the cassette plays and I’m like, “Fuck that’s fantastic, what is it?” The whole group go, “Nyah, it’s the Roses,” because they all knew I hated the Roses.

But I always say that they were a rock’n’roll band. That Stone Roses album, along with Guns N’ Roses, were the great rock albums of the ‘80s, but now we remember them for Fool’s Gold. What people don’t understand is that there’s no Fool’s Gold and no Loaded by Primal Scream without Happy Mondays changing music.

Shaun Ryder once said to me, “I bet you wish you’d signed The Stone Roses.” I asked him why and he said, “They sell more records than us.” But I said to him, “Shaun, I only wanted to sign the most important groups, and you were the most important group.”

One of the reasons that I got involved with the 24 hour party people record is the Mondays. Joy Division and New Order are regularly regarded among the 50 greatest bands of all time, and the Monday are not. Over the years, particularly the last four years, people have come to accept that, but it’s only because they were working class and in the words of some writers looked like the kind of people who’d steal your stereo, they were one of the great groups.

Historical perspective will always win through.

True. In many ways Shaun didn’t do himself many favours, a rock star posing with scrubbers in a hot tub and so on, but in the end people are realising the quality of his work. The Manchester cancer event recently at Gmex (on 18th January 2006) with Andy Rourke, Doves, Elbow, New Order… someone rang me up and asked if Shaun would be interested. I was a bit shocked because Wrote For Luck has become quite electronic these days performed by Happy Mondays, and this was a much more guitar thing, but it was a thrill to see my two singers on stage together.

The two American producers of the Joy Division movie were at the show and they said, “Tony, we don’t understand, when Shaun came out the audience were already excited but they raised to a whole other level.” Well, number one, Shaun is the singer of one of the five great Manchester groups, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and Oasis. Second, everyone knows Shaun has taken more drugs than almost anyone else, and this is a drug town and people respect that.

When I went to the Peruvian jungle to take (psychoactive drink) Ayahuasca for a Channel 4 documentary I couldn’t wait to get back and show off to Shaun. I said to him, “I’ve been taking this amazing stuff in the jungle, Ayahuasca,” and he just goes, “Fucking great, in’t it?” I couldn’t believe it, “How could you know?” “I’ve fucking taken it.” And I’m, like, “I went to the far corners of the fucking rainforest to take it, how could you have had it.

And he goes, “Oh, Bez brought some back from his holidays.” And he described this Peruvian jungle hallucinogen in more detail and more eloquently even than the 60-year-old shaman I’d been working with in Peru. He said that it did change you, and that Bez was a totally different person for six months after taking it until it wore off, and I guess I was too.

The third thing, actually, is that in Manchester we know that Acid House was as big a youth explosion as punk, and was as colourful and wonderful and exotic. In terms of acid house everyone is now slowly beginning to understand that Shaun Ryder is the Johnny Rotten of acid house, and that is a major cultural thing, and that is why people went nuts when he came on the stage.

I always say that my two main groups – notice that I say my groups, I even say my songs even though I never wrote any of them which is a bit cheeky – both achieved something very rare: they both created classic timeless albums back to back. I’m talking about Unknown Pleasures and Closer and Bummed and Pills N Thrills And Bellyaches. The rarity of that in the rock pantheon is that normally groups have to go through one or two, even three transitional albums to get to something new, but they got it straight away.

Why Manchester?

It’s been Britain’s immigrant city since 1200, and that openness is essential. But the other reason is a guy called Dave Ambrose. He was a famous A&R man, but I only recently found out he signed Duran Duran so I should have shot him. Anyway, Dave Ambrose signed Duran, and about 1990 I saw him in Deansgate and I asked what he was doing back here, everything was signed. No one was left, but he said he was back because Manchester kids have the best record collections.

And that summed it up. When he said that I immediately flicked to a squat in Hulme in the early ‘80s, ACR’s place or somewhere similar, and there on this floor with no carpet and little furniture, will be 200 albums. And in those albums will be the entire Parliament, Funkadelic catalogue, and 20 Brazilian samba albums, and German metal noise albums. In a Liverpool falt you’ll find the entire works of Love, and The White Album. Tra la la. Also, Scouse bands tend to sing with an American accent and that’s just wrong. Listen to Arctic Monkeys. They’re the least American sounding band ever, you could cut steel with those accents. It’s that broadness that we’ve lost over recent years because we suddenly closed ourselves and became dance snobs.

Could Factory have thrived in today’s market?

Well, the bright group of the 21st century will always sign with an indie and grow with the label. Ryder always says the Mondays signed with Factory because no one else would have them, but in the 21st century there is a very real choice. And this century the two most significant bands so far, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, have both chosen to go with an indie.

Style and not being afraid of wealth seemed a big part of factory and Manchester in general.
Well, I used to have this 13 year cycle theory that British youth culture exploded every three years. It wasn’t much but I noticed that the Beatles happened in 1963, then punk in 1976 and ’89 was acid house. Then someone pointed out that if you go back 13 years from ’63 you get teddy boy.

Anyway, it suddenly made some kind of sense. I thought that in normal British youth culture fashion we would take North America, invest it with English style and wit, and I thought that would happen with nu metal. Sure enough, someone did, and there were Lost Prophets and Funeral For A Friend who came out of the Rhonda Valley, who I thought were fantastic.

They are wonderful, but there was nothing to it. I went to a Funeral For A Friend gig a couple of months ago but it was only music. The was no drug, there was no politics with a small “p”, there were no clothes, nothing that goes with a cultural explosion. And that’s why in Manchester all those other things went with it, the drugs, the loose fit look all of it.

MIZELL BROTHERS ( redbull academy interview pt. 2 )

Posted in Interviews, MIZELL BROTHERS, Soul/Disco on June 3, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »Time to open it up to the floor. I’m sure there are quite a few questions to come, so don’t be shy.«

Participant: »Two questions really. Since you’ve got an array of hits, do you have any tips on how to avoid being thrown in the one-hit-wonder bin? Also, from your long array of tracks how do you choose what goes onto an album and what gets thrown away?«

Larry Mizell: »Would you repeat the first question?«

Participant: »How do you feel about one-hit-wonders? Do you have any tips on how not be a one-hit-wonder and is it bad to be one?«

Larry Mizell: »We’re not big fans of one-hit-wonders, longevity is the name of the game in the music business. What it comes down to in our trade is the songs themselves. You’ll see songs lasting way after the artist has faded away and when you think of certain artists you usually think of a song. The first thing that comes to mind when you think of that artist is a tune. Only a few artists have surpassed that level where just their touch makes the song a classic: people like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra. It’s just their thing, they’ve risen above. A Streisand. But it’s the song for us, make sure your writing is speaking on many levels. Then it’s the arrangement, how it’s presented.«

Participant: »And when it comes to picking what you put on the albums?«

Larry Mizell: »Creative choice: you’re feeling one, you’re not feeling another. That’s the main thing. A lot of times we wanted to put songs on an album that we just didn’t have room for, so that came into play as well.«

RBMA: »Are there any tracks that didn’t make it to the album where you look back and say, “Wow, we really should’ve put that out. That would’ve been the one.” Are there any tracks you can think of on any of the records that stand out that way?«

Fonce Mizell: »There was one where we went back in and changed the whole groove of a song. The name of it was ‘Mrs Kane’.«

Larry Mizell: »Oh right, we did several versions of that. The thing about it was we’d just finished that ‘Mizell’ album for Blue Note and they sent us a whole catalogue of things we’d written, but we really didn’t remember the tunes we’d written that we didn’t use. We really had no idea of them and we’d have to go back through them because we’d cut so much. So we just moved on after that.«

RBMA: »You know, most of the people in this room would kill to be able to hear those tunes you just forgot (laughter).«

Participant: »A question for Fonce with the Jackson 5. Someone told me the lyrics of ‘The Love You Save’ were about traffic safety. Is that true?«

Fonce Mizell: »No, no.«

Larry Mizell: »That was a metaphor. The light you save. Stop signs.«

Fonce Mizell: »That’s where we got the idea from, the old saying. There was a commercial back east about traffic safety. But ‘The Love You Save’ was about a chick who was too loose with herself.«

Larry Mizell: »She wants to stop doing that.«

Fonce Mizell: »Yeah (laughs).«

Participant: »My second question is about the Rance Allen Group. I believe around the same time there was a man named DJ Rogers selling Gospel music. Did you ever work with him?«

Larry Mizell: »No, we never worked with him, we ran into him mixing songs at the same studio. He was a big fan of Rance’s and we liked what he was doing, too. But he knew all about Rance.«

Participant: »Do you think you will release the songs you did with Marvin Gaye one day?«

Larry Mizell: »Hope so. We’ve talked with Universal about it. The tune they released was ‘Where Are We Going’; strangely they’ve released it three different times on three compilations, but still the creative is not releasing ‘Woman Of The World’. It could be they feel the track wasn’t finished, needed sweetening or whatever. We liked the rawness of the track anyway, so hopefully they’ll come to their senses.«

Fonce Mizell: »That tune, we were thinking about putting it on our album, do ‘Woman Of The World’ with a different arrangement. It would’ve been slower, I don’t know how slow.«

Participant: »On the Blue Note album that came out last year there was a tune called ‘N R Time’, which I listened to a lot, and I know that some elements were re-recorded. I know the incredible drum track with Harvey Mason, I just wondered if you could speak on that tune. What does ‘N R’ stand for?«

Larry Mizell: »That was a track that Blue Note sent us to remix for this album and we got the Pro Tools tracks and basically stripped it down to just drums and re-wrote the whole groove on top of it. We overdubbed the parts, brought people in, put vocals on and reconstructed ‘N R Time’ from just the drum groove. What we heard on the multi-track convinced us why we never released it in the first place, it just wasn’t really cutting it, we thought. It was all done last year, all the overdubs, except the drums.«

Participant: »One more thing; do you think before the lecture ends we can hear the Marvin Gaye tune one last time (laughter)?«

Larry Mizell: »Sure, sure.«

RBMA: »There’s another question this way I think… no? Anywhere?«

Participant: »I just noticed your next collaborations coming up are with 4 Hero and Madlib and I was just wondering how did you get together with those guys, whether you jam with those guys the same way as you did back then?«

Larry Mizell: »We met Dego, he would come to the States because he had a friend who was an acquaintance of ours. He was a fan of some of our music so she put us together, a lady by the name of Felicia. Dego came up to the house and we really didn’t talk about too much, we just went for dinner and he left some of his CD’s and I liked what he was doing because he was using live strings. That’s refreshing. Live, period, the musicality of it. They would go on to take a groove and lay on it, it was great. We were in London in December with them doing some mixing for a single that’s coming out at the end of January.«

Participant: »And how did you get together with Madlib?«

Larry Mizell: »The same way. He had been sampling some of our music and had been doing a lot of work with Blue Note, remixing some of our tunes. Eli Wolf, who A&R-ed our record for Blue Note in New York, connected us up and we actually hung out for a while. We’re still talking with Madlib about how we’re going to do it. We want to do something really different: not a typical Madlib record and not a typical Mizell record. So we’re still talking and we’ve both been travelling like crazy this past year, but we talked before we left so hopefully soon we can nail down the parameters.«

Participant: »Cool, I’ll be looking forward to that.«

RBMA: »We’re actually trying to find the 4 Hero track here. Benji has it and we had it a minute ago, when we find it again we’ll drop it on.«

Participant: »Hello, first of all thanks for everything you’ve done, all the tracks and lyrics. I know that Carl Craig and his Detroit Experiment has taken a very special part out of ‘Think Twice’ and I was wondering, did he call you to ask permission, and what’s the financial part of such remakes? If I’m an artist and I want to use one of the best parts of your song, what are the financial considerations?«

Larry Mizell: »As far as Carl Craig, we don’t really know him, we know of him through a friend back in Detroit. The procedure is basically to get clearance from the publisher and the record company. It’s different if you’re just going to cover the song, then you just need to contact the publisher and if a song’s been released already you don’t even need to do that. It’s called statutory copyright, where you just record the tune and the label pays mechanical rights to the publisher.

But in the case of sampling you have to make a deal with the publisher and also the record company, because they copyrighted the master recording and they have certain rights to that. It’s good to have somebody who knows the in’s and out’s of it to do that for you, because different publishers and record companies have different procedures. They try to anticipate whether it’s going to be a big record and other kinds of things to decide what the parameters of the deal should be.«

RBMA: »Anybody want to hear the 4 Hero track (hands go up)? Okay.«
(music: music: 4 Hero with Larry Mizell and Talita Long ‘Play With The Changes’)
(applause)

RBMA: »Any more questions?«

Participant: »Yeah, I’ve got a technical question. Obviously, coming from an era when synthesizers were really new and you were the first ones to introduce them to Pop music, did you still keep them around at the beginning of the 80’s or did you go into a shop to trade them for a digital piano? Do you still have that equipment?«

Larry Mizell: »Some of it. We had a fire in our studio ten years ago and we lost a bunch of our vintage stuff, as well as outtakes from Byrd and J5, irreplaceable stuff. And some of our vintage stuff, D6 Clav, Arp Odyssey. Actually, we’ve put together a few of them and with the help of eBay we’ve got a Fender Rhodes and so on, but we’ve been impressed with where the new software stuff is coming from. You can tell the difference. We do have some vintage stuff still around.«

Participant: »So you’re not entirely looking back at this time and thinking we lost a really good sound and everything today sounds really plastic?«

Larry Mizell: »I don’t think it’s as warm, it’s not as warm. It’s very detailed and we’re still waiting to see with Pro Tools now at the high limit, 192K, which uses a lot of memory, people say 96K sounds good, 192K is even better. But the more we approach an analogue curve the better it sounds, some of it sounds pretty good. Along those lines, it’s a conflicting concept when you use this high technology to produce a super fidelity product and then it gets transferred to an MP3 and everyone has the iPods and they download from the internet and it’s not a full wave file; it’s counter-intuitive actually.«

Participant: »You’ve been prolific songwriters and musicians for other artists. Were you ever tempted to use this material for yourselves?«

Larry Mizell: »We did an album on ourselves, I played on a cut from it, it was for Warner Brothers and it’s still never been released. We enjoyed it and we did play on all of the tracks on that album, but we did play on some tracks ourselves for other artists. We enjoyed jamming and we were thinking of coming back here tonight at 8.00, jamming keyboards, bass and drums (applause).«

Participant: »Studio’s ready!«

Larry Mizell: »Studio’s ready, let’s get it on. We need one or two guitar players and percussionists and whoever else needs to join in up there. I can play the Marvin Gaye after the next question.«

Participant: »You mentioned your man Chuck Davis, who built the Sound Enhancer for you, and you also said you guys were fortunate in that you had great engineers. Was there ever any blurred line when you guys stepped from producer into engineer mode, you wanted to move the mics around, hit the faders? And also if any of your engineering background came in and you find yourself tweaking the box and getting your own space age sound?«

Larry Mizell: »We didn’t really blur the line other than fader levels: more snare, less kick, EQ it a bit. But the processing, the types of reverb, plates, EMT’s or natural chambers, we left that to the engineers because we wanted to concentrate on the music. We kept that line, we were on a creative lean. As far as my engineering background, I kept it out of the engineering part. It really wasn’t that interesting until today. Today, you need to have a grounding in electronics, physics, not necessarily a degree, but there’s a whole lot you need to learn just to understand these programmes of today, so I find it very interesting today engineering-wise.«

Participant: »A philosophical question. Listening to most contemporary producers and albums, from Rock to R’n B, every time you listen to a new album there’s something that reminds you of the past. I have a feeling that I haven’t heard a single album that was completely new, and I feel there is nothing new nowadays being composed. So, the question is why, after twenty years, are we sitting here and talking about your heritage that you’ve given us rather than the new producers? Is it that the creative potential of new producers, musicians is so low that there’s nothing completely new?«

RBMA: »We have Skream this afternoon.«

Larry Mizell: »There’s a commercial aspect. There are only four major record companies now. All the independent labels that existed in the 60’s and 70’s, they nurtured artists stretching out. Now it’s bottom line, if you’re not selling enough you get dropped, and a certain amount by a certain time. They don’t just stay with an artist. You have those factors, so people are chasing hits and are unwilling to step up. You have more business-minded A&R people.

This is on the major record labels. Where you guys are coming from is totally creative, there’s not a sense of commercialism. What we’ve seen this week is totally inspiring, the mixing and matching of musical styles. So we see hope. And not only that, the major labels that are out here right now, that whole model is changing, because now we’re going over to internet distribution and the labels are scrambling to figure out the point of their existence. Now they’re just becoming distributors, but they’re not as relevant as they were. Hopefully you guys can change that.«

Participant: »When we heard ‘Think Twice’ with different layers and you talking about how you would cue different sections with your cards, A, B, C, D, the change up from the alto solo from Gary Bartz on that tune to the change that I think is possibly my favourite eight bars in music. I was wondering if you could talk about that specific chord progression and possibly even demonstrate it on the Rhodes (applause).

Larry Mizell: »That would be somewhat difficult, I’d have to look at the charts, I’ve got a lot of chords in my head. Which particular section are you talking about, when Gary comes in?«

Participant: »The B section actually happens at the start of the song, but the extended part at the end, which was famously sampled by A Tribe Called Quest, that’s where I discovered it. But perhaps any other famous signature Mizell chord progression which you could lay on us.«

Larry Mizell: »We had a lot of minor chord progressions which we favoured and we’d throw different modulations in in the minor keys. It would vary.«

RBMA: »The Fender Rhodes awaits.«

Larry Mizell: »But we can get into that tonight, let’s show up tonight.«

click below to listen

DONALD BYRD – Wind Parade

SAL PRINCIPATO ie LIQUID LIQUID ( redbull academy interview )

Posted in Interviews, Punk Funk, SAL PRINCIPATO (LIQUIDx2) on June 3, 2008 by bangtheparty

MA: »Ladies and Gentlemen of the Red Bull Music Academy, Cape Town 2003, term two, this here is the video for a song you might know or you might have heard referenced at other places. It’s a song called ‘Cavern‘ by a group called Liquid Liquid. I have a core member of Liquid Liquid here on the couch today. So everybody, please welcome Sal Principato. Why don’t you grab that microphone and tell them who did this video?«

Sal Principato: »Alright, this video actually was done in 1927 by an animator called Oskar Fischinger and I don’t know if you know the history of animation. He was the guy behind the concept of ‘Fantasia’. [Walt] Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ and this video is called ‘When The World Got Drunk’. One of the guys from Liquid Liquid went out to L.A., California, to talk to his widow, like his 100 years old widow, to get the permission to use this for ‘Cavern’. She gave us [the permission], so it’s all straight up. And we are streaming it off the web, that’s why the sound and everything is a little twisted.«

RBMA: »Was this video ever released to television or video channels?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, MTV did it a bunch [of times]. And I forgot who it was, someone wanted to use it for commercial purposes. As I said, we got the permission to use it for promotional purposes, but not commercial purposes. We got stopped from doing that. It’s like, that’s it whenever you create anything, whenever you put anything out there, you better check all your legal stuff to make sure that you not giving all away. Signing all your rights for all your life, only getting limited use. You know, we only got limited use of the video and it’s kind of stopping us from distributing it further out there.«

RBMA: »It’s understandable though, since it is someone else’s video work.«

Sal Principato: »Absolutely. You know, we pay for it, too. We pay for using it. And I mean, if I was his widow, this Oskar’s [Fischinger] widow, I would say: ‘Hey look, a whole new generation could be exposed to his work.’ I mean, it works both ways. Which we can talk about: people using ‘Cavern’, about samples.«

RBMA: »It’s funny that we are talking about that. Particularly with this song. Let’s actually switch the audio to a full res[olution] version. So this song ended up on WBLS?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, WBLS. All the urban contemporary stations in New York at the time. And also in the heavy duty dance clubs back in the early 80’s in New York: the Paradise Garage, the Fun House, the Roxy, Afrika Bambaataa, Larry Levan, you know, the dance scene there at that time was like very serious. People took their dances in the club scene very seriously. And somehow though we considered ourselves a rock band, it was actually the break dancing scene, the urban dance scene, that really embraced our stuff. And which lead to the sampling and everything else that followed.«

RBMA: »It’s actually kind of funny. When you hear this song, if you don’t know Liquid Liquid, you probably think of a song called ‘White Lines’, which actually takes a line from this song that, I believe is “slipping into another phenomenon” [, a line of Liquid Liquid’s ‘Cavern’], right?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, right.«

RBMA: »…and turns into “something like a phenomenon”, which is a Hip Hop phrase you have heard years ago again and again. I think it was like two years ago that was a LL Cool J single. But, you know, that’s like the main refrain. But you’re actually listening to ‘White Lines’. It is not even by Grandmaster Flash, it was like Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, or something. You know, it’s getting into a real grey area, nit-picking stuff. It’s not actually sampled in the version that’s on Sugarhill [Records], the Grandmaster version, because they had this band called Tackhead and I think that’s how they thought how they could get around the copyright stuff. You kind of couldn’t mess with Sugarhill, they had some mafia connections, to my knowledge.«

Sal Principato: »Who said that (laughing)?«

RBMA: »Rumors I’ve heard, things I’ve read (both smiling). Anyway, they had their band replaying that and actually you might want to know that band that replayed it. If you are listening to it, it’s definitely a crappier version as far as the production and whatnot. They lifted the tones up and I think they made it a little bit more like a radio version.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, it’s more accessible, their version. I think it lacks a certain bottom.«

RBMA: »Yes. We should actually go back to the point of: how did this song cross over to this crowd. You know, this is pretty unique. It’s like a band coming from…? So let’s rewind to before there was ‘Liquid Liquid’.«

Sal Principato: »Basically, we come out of the Punk Rock scene of the 70’s. And an aesthetic of the Punk Rock thing was: whatever else you were doing, whether you were chef, whether you were a visual artist, whether you were an athlete, you seemed to form a band. You seemed to get into music. Music seemed to be the thing to express yourself through. It was very much a do-it-yourself aesthetic. You weren’t following any template.

Actually, you would pick up an instrument and start playing. And when you learned that instrument, you would put it down and pick up another one. Because knowing how to play an instrument really well, was not looked at as a good thing. Because it stands for creativity and innovation. So we come out of that aesthetic and then as we hit the 80’s, coming on and a whole new thing started coming into play.«

RBMA: »So the first Liquid Liquid record is actually, what? ‘Liquid Attack’ or something?«

Sal Principato: »No, no, it’s ‘Liquid Liquid’. I mean, I had a few manifestations self-produced like seven inch 45’s and stuff like that. When we were kind of a Punk band, we called ourselves Liquid Idiot and played CBGB’s back in the day and all that. But then we started getting the groove on, we started getting the big beat. Because the big beat was in the air. There was all this kind of innovation going on uptown, downtown. And that’s the other point, too: I mean, there was a convergence, there was a Hip Hop scene and a downtown Dance Rock scene. Back then everything seemed fresher and newer. (…). I don’t know if they were more open, but there was a feeling, that there was time to see what we can learn from each other.

But it wasn’t like this ‘big conscious thing’. People were just doing their thing. We were on the street. I mean, remember too, this was before the video age and that changed everything. Because that illustrated how things were supposed to be. Before then you would go and see a live show to see how things supposed to look. And how they’re supposed to feel. So there was a whole different texture. And it allowed you to be a little more quirky. People were a little more tolerant of your quirkyness. Mistakes weren’t bad. Mistakes were possibly a lot of people’s only spontaneous moments. So they were looked upon as interesting.«

RBMA: »It’s also important to think about it as the time before Hip Hop was really on record. The time of the Liquid Liquid records is just [when] the dawn of Hip Hop [was] coming onto record. You know, it had been maybe in parks, in nightclubs. But it actually hadn’t been solidified yet. It was much more of an open thing. So what was like the first Hip Hop stuff that you saw?«

Sal Principato: »First Hip Hop stuff I heard was Kurtis Blow’s ‘The Breaks’. We were really into that jam.«

RBMA: »Yeah!«

Sal Principato: »But the real thing that I loved so much, which really coloured my perception of Grandmaster Flash, eventually, you know, using our tracks, there was this track they had called ‘Supperrappin Nr. 2’. It’s played live. The Sugarhill house band played that, there were no samples in it. This was pre-sampling, too. Another thing: this is all pre-sampling, this is pre-video.

This is ancient history, really. But, they played this wicked, wicked groove. You had the five of them rapping over there. (starts to rap) “…introducing the crew, you got to see to believe, we are one, two, three, four, five MC’s (laughs)”. (…). We were feeling the warmth [of Hip Hop]. There was a warmth in the music, too. In 1982 we tried to do this show. It was…what’s his name? He produced some of the Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash?«

RBMA: »Oh, Rick Rubin.«

Sal Principato: »Ah, Rick Rubin, all right. Rick Rubin was a student at the NYU at the time. And he comes to our manager. We had this underground label called 99 Records on McDougall Street in the village. And we had this guy, Ed Bahlman; he was a producer and everything like that. And he had a record shop. He was the hip underground guy at that time. And Rick Rubin goes to Ed, he says: “I want to put on a show, I want to do something with your acts.” And so we came up with this concept, uptown meets downtown, we had the Treacherous Three, (rapping) “Rock the body body, Rock the body body.” They had that jam at the time.

And we had this Punk hardcore band at this time and we had Liquid Liquid, which was like the groove music. The link, like the connection between hardcore Punk and Hip Hop that was going on. And we rented this hotel in midtown Manhattan, the Diplomat Hotel. Man, I was so psyched about this. It didn’t seem like no one ever did this. No one even thought about this stuff. That Hip Hop and Rock could get together and do something. Well, (laughs) it was a beautiful show, but it wasn’t as well attended, as we wanted it to be. And, at that time I got really discouraged. It was like ‘what the fuck!’, you know?

But it was the start of something. It was like the opening salve of that cross connection. But ultimately it wasn’t us who initiated it. Like I said. It was amazing. It was the DJ’s. It was Afrika Bambaataa, you know Afrika Islam, Larry Levan and a host of others. Some I know, some I don’t know. But our jam started appearing in master mixes and WBLS. And also our manager, too, going up to the offices of BLS net. That was the days of PLO [the Palestinian Liberation Front] was still in effect and stuff. But things started happening. It started appearing in very unlikely places.«

RBMA: »But let’s talk about coming right out of the Punk scene. What was it like when you first heard ‘Second Edition’?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. Well, first see, that thing was in the air. It was not only that ‘Second Edition’; it was [P.I.L.] ‘Flowers Of Romance’, too. Let me first refer to ‘Flowers of Romance’. Because, at the time Liquid Liquid had songs, that were just drums. You know, drums, or drums and bells, drums and sticks. I always kind of looked at it [as if] we were just playing sticks and stones, basically. So anyway, we had this very minimalist percussive thing.

And then, I heard Public Image, doing like ‘flowers’ over that song. And then Adam Ant, all these people using the ‘Burundi’ beat from Africa and stuff like that. And it was like ‘damn!’ Right now we are with an underground New York label. These people had access. Same thing with David Byrne. He was doing all these experimentations. And it was all good. But it was like, how come these guys could get it out that fast? We’ve been working on this for three or four years and no one’s heard our shit. And these guys probably thought about it last week and they were already out there with that.’ And it was like ‘Aaaahhh!’ (laughs).«

RBMA: »Yeah, so the first Liquid Liquid record, it’s a…«

Sal Principato: »1980, that was. And that was before ‘Second Edition’.«

RBMA: »Really?«

Sal Principato: »Yes, it was.«

Participant: »You were saying that you consider yourselves a Rock band. And then you tracks attend on all the mixes and, you know? You had support from the breakers and stuff. Did you pen any songs after that at all for that scene or become influenced and start changing your stuff for that?«

Sal Principato: »No, no no. That’s against the rules, you know? You just do what you do from your heart. And when you are doing ‘heart’ music (points to his heart), you can’t be… Well, let me put it this way: the inspiration for a song or for any piece of art should solely come from within you, for you. Or just speaking to someone you love. But, when you go into the production stage of it, then you have to target your audience. That’s when you think of, you know: ‘who is it that is gonna possibly care about this and how should I present it to them?’

But the original spark of inspiration, your groove or your melody or your catchy vocal line, it’s just got to be for you or the one you love (points to his heart). There are no other considerations. Anything else is just commercialism, which is crap. In a certain respect, in an artistic sense. I don’t know, everybody is trying to make a living. If you are just trying to put [out] your product, fine. You could do it, the way you want. If you are trying to make art, it’s got to come from here (points to his heart again).«

RBMA: »Let’s check out some of the stuff.«

(music: Liquid Liquid ‘unknown title’)

Sal Principato: »Now, just by the way, this is recorded live in 1980 at this club called ‘Harass’. And that’s another interesting movement that started happening. Before that there was only, for a downtown Rock band, there was only CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City to play at. And then, all of a sudden, these so-called Rock disco’s opened up. They were more based on like the Disco era.

With the mirror balls (waving his hand in circles) but they were playing edgy Rock music. A Certain Ratio or The Slits from England or all the New York bands. And this was recorded live in 1980 at that club Harass. We are now presently doing a studio version of this with the label DFA in New York. So we going to do a club mix of this now. But this one is just done on a little type one cassette, basically. All bells, all drums.«

RBMA: »What kind of percussion were you guys using? This is a group of four people?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, that was four guys, making that noise. We were, in that song, it was a home made go-go bell. (singing) ‘Ding ding dong da ding ding dong’. There was an alarm bell. Like an alarm bell on a stand being tracked with a stick. And then there was Dennis playing a marimba. As you heard, like the ‘dancing skeleton’ sound and then there was just a trap drum.

So that’s an acoustic song. It got some club play back in the day. And back in the day, just like kind of now, there was electronic sequencing, which just started to come into fashion. And there was this kind of electro sound and stuff. So you would hear all these keyboard synthesizers and sequencers and stuff. And then in the distance you’d hear (singing) ‘bing bing bing, bing bing, boom’. And you’d hear our acoustic songs being played in a club. And I’d be amazed, but people just started dancing to it, you know.«

(music: Liquid Liquid ‘unknown title’)

RBMA: »On to the second record. Here is a studio record.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, but the production of this is so flat (smiling). It’s unbelievable. We were just making it up as we went along, you know.«

RBMA: »How much of an influence was African music?«

Sal Principato: »Well, at that time we were absorbing all kinds of ‘roots’ music. Whenever we heard something rootsy or authentic, we got all excited about it. But I can’t say it was an influence, because rhythm is in all of us and we were just bringing our own rhythm. We weren’t trying to appropriate anybody else’s rhythm. Because, you know there was a little of that being done at that time.

People not digesting their influences and spitting them out. And I feel that at least when we were influenced by something, we totally digested it before we put it out there. So you could say: “Ok, they are pounding on drums, you know, African music, whatever.” But, that’s not an African rhythm.«

RBMA: »No, I hear it actually mostly in the bassline, I think of it kind of like ‘Juju’ at that time.«

Sal Principato: »Really? No, totally unselfconscious.«

RBMA: »This makes me want to jump up.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, maybe we were listening to Sunny Ade’s ‘Jah Funmi’. (sings ‘Jah, Jah, Jah, Jah Funmi’).«

RBMA: »You were one of the first acts on 99 Records. This label came out of a record store?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, like I said Ed Bahlman, he had a record store. And that time even his record store was a little bit revolutionary. Because at that time, you couldn’t go into a major record store and listen to what you were buying. You were just buying it and bring it home and see if you liked it or if you heard it before. And he had a thing where he would play records for the people, for the asking. And so for that time it was revolutionary or at least progressive, not revolutionary, progressive.

Let’s put it that way. So his first release was Glenn Branca. And Glenn Branca wrote guitar symphonies. He would have 14 guitarists doing these symphonies. And it was very intense music. And I don’t know why Ed started doing that, but that was his first release. Then there was the Bush Tetras, which was another downtown dance rock beat band, and then ESG, and then us. And then he formed an alliance, with some of the people in England like On-U Records, Adrian Sherwood, the Congos. He did a 12″ with the Congos, the Reggae group.«

RBMA: »Really?«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, yeah!«

RBMA: »But yeah, this ESG record gets produced by Martin Hannet, giving them the sound that’s and takes this really interesting young group of girls from the South Bronx.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, they were three sisters, literally sisters from the south Bronx. The drummer, you couldn’t see her over her drumkit. I mean, they were like sixteen years old, between sixteen and nineteen years old. They have this little squeaky sound and stuff. It was sweet. It was really sweet.«

RBMA: »They told me that their mum bought them instruments to keep them off the streets in the south Bronx, to give them something else to do. And they were just listening to James Brown records and try to come up with a cooler rhythm than James Brown. It was their motivation to top James Brown.«

Sal Principato: »Yeah, we used to call it ‘Bubblegum Funk’. We did a show at Knitting Factory in March of this year. And it just went really well. It was really awesome and since then it was all these offers including electronic music festivals.«

RBMA: »And thanks to a crazy lady named Tinku, who had the energy to pull it together, she got Liquid Liquid and ESG at the right time for Detroit to see this. It was probably the most legendary moment of the Movement Festival this year. You had producers [from Detroit], that wouldn’t ever leave their home to go to a club or anything, standing around in the crowd, actually losing it, seeing four guys standing on stage, all hitting different rhythm instruments. Or when you had ESG, who in their current incarnation, had their younger cousins in the group?«

Sal Principato: »Now their children are playing in the group. They’re going to dress in spandex and all that shit.«

(both laughing)

RBMA: »It’s a family affair. Have you seen anything that captures the feeling of that time?«

Sal Principato: »Alright. I’ve heard things. It’s interesting enough; there is this whole raft of bands coming up now in New York, like The Rapture and stuff, which take the whole catalogue and the whole vocabulary that we used in the early 80ies. And they’ve updated it and they’ve swallowed it ‘hook, line and sinker’. Like, you’ll hear Pat from The Contortions on guitar, and you’ll hear Liquid Liquid percussion and you’ll hear ESG congas and stuff. But, you know, they evoke that purity, they really do. Just to hear that. ‘Cause, it’s just people doin’ it (smiles), you know, just doin’ it. That’s what reminds me of it.«

Participant: »I’ve been listening a bit to [music from] this era and I just wonder how James Chance and the Contortions kind of fit in. You haven’t talked much about them?«

Sal Principato: »He talked about No Wave. That was definitely with them and DNA, they were part of the No Wave movement. When I came to New York, I arrived in New York in 1979 from California. James Chance at Max’s Kansas City was the first show I ever saw. And he was walking on the tables, because they have big long tables, family style tables at Max’s Kansas City.

And you could walk right off the stage onto the tables. And James Chance walks off the stage and he was just kicking off everybody’s beer (stands up imitating him). ‘Off with those things’, you know. He was very wild, you know? But his thing was based on; he was like the ‘Punk James Brown’. He was trying to do a pretty selfconscious version of James Brown.«

RBMA: »James White and The Blacks

Sal Principato: »Yeah, James White and The Blacks. To a certain extent we were a self-contained unit. We weren’t trying to associate ourselves with anybody. And it’s only in retrospect, I think, that it all comes together. At the time it was just everybody doing their thing. And you didn’t really look at yourself as all that related to anybody else. You appreciated what they were doing.

But you said: “Well, that’s Arto Lindsay [guitarist of DNA] doing that and Fab 5 Freddy doing that and we are doing this.” But when you look back on the whole thing, you see a connection. There is a compilation that came out; Soul Jazz Records put out a compilation called ‘New York Noise‘, which has a pretty broad range of all [those styles]. I have it here.«

RBMA: »I would like to go from the times of these early 99 Records and go a little bit further than that to after the Hip Hop thing was stronger in New York. It seems, this record here is really focused, the ‘Optimo’ EP. It’s like a very focused record. There is one song, if you have never heard Liquid Liquid before, that one you just have to hear.«

(music: Liquid Liquid ‘Optimo’)

»That record right there is why I will always cite Liquid Liquid as a major influence.«

Sal Principato: »And just to keep reminding you: that was basically an acoustic song with an electric bass. That was the only electronic thing that had a plug in, in the whole song (smiles).«

RBMA: »It has so much energy and how did you guys, for instance, put together that kind of structure?«

Sal Principato: »Totally organic. I mean probably just sitting around, smoking all afternoon and got the groove going. And then we recorded it the next day and tried to imitate it. This lead to that. And this lead to the other thing. It’s just organic grooves.«

RBMA: »And what about the lyrics, the voice? It seems to me that the voice isn’t trying to tell you a story. It’s just trying to evoke imagery. Quick emotions.«

Sal Principato: »Well, you know the thing, what I consider a great vocalist is to be, is not someone who can sing in twelve octaves. But someone, where you can hear their voice, it opens up a vista. Just a texture of their voice gives you a whole view of life. But not by what they are saying, but just how it feels. And the other thing is, that even back, twenty years ago, it seems life is one big billboard or one big commercial.

Like everybody is trying to dictate your reality, giving you this complete package of how to feel, think, look at yourself, look at others. And so I thought literal meaning should be put in the background and just the pure texture of the voice should be brought out. And not to mention, at the time I was very impressed by Dub Reggae. And not necessarily on that song, but on certain other songs

I was just trying to do dub snippets. I listened to lots of Reggae music at that time and I liked the dub versions more than I liked the regular songs. I felt the vocals in the dub versions said more to me (points to his heart) than (sings) “Ladi da da, da da da.” I would rather hear: “La la la la la. Da da da da da (imitating an echo with his voice)”«

click below to listen

LIQUID LIQUID – Optimo

CHATEAU FLIGHT (redbull academy interview with GILB’R )

Posted in CHATEAU FLIGHT, Interviews, Leftfield House on June 2, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »You grew up in the South of France?«

GILB’R: »Yes, in Nice. I moved to Paris ten years ago because Nice was a very boring town in terms of music and culture, so to do my thing I had to move to the capital.«

RBMA: »What’s Paris like for a producer or a DJ?«

GILB’R: »The club scene in Paris is not very good. I don’t have any residencies there. Like most of my friends, I prefer to play abroad. Nowadays I get the opportunity to be more in the studio instead of playing in a club. For producers, there was almost nothing going on five years ago but now there are some very good producers in Paris. There are lots of new guys around and more music than ever before. The Paris scene used to be into a funky house, deep kind of music. Now you have some drum ‘n’ bass producers, some very good hip hop producers and some very good techno producers, too.«

RBMA: »So you came to Paris ten years ago as a DJ. Were you able to make a living as a DJ?«

GILB’R: »Yes, because I was given the opportunity to play in a club twice a week. That gave me the chance to move to Paris. So I said: “OK, I move for this and then see how it goes.” Then I started to hang out at Radio Nova, an independent radio station – they’ve had no adverts for over ten years. Nova was like an oasis, no stuff like adverts polluting your ears. They invented the concept of ‘Sono Mondiale’, which today you would call world music. Loads of different influences mixed together into one format. They were the first to play Fela Kuti and stuff like that alongside new wave, electro and funk. Nova also did the first live hip hop shows [on French radio]. Nova’s studios were really important for the scene in Paris because everyone came there to jam and play records and meet each other.«

RBMA: »Radio Nova’s mix of urban styles really influenced a whole generation of producers who are really famous today like St.Germain.«

GILB’R: »Even I:Cube, one of the artists on my label Versatile. He heard techno mixes for the first time through Radio Nova. So yes, it was a very important station. Jean François Bizot was the guy behind Radio Nova. A very crazy, rich man, Bizot had a counter-culture magazine called Actuel, which was huge in France back in the day. Because he was a music lover, Bizot decided to put his money into radio and create an open environment for different talents to come together. I had a great time there. I played with many different musicians, like Leon Parker, the jazz drummer. It was a very open place, which unfortunately it isn’t nowadays. Back then it was the golden era for Radio Nova. I hope things will be very good there again, but for the moment it’s not good as it used to be.«

RBMA: »It’s a tricky thing to run a radio station like Radio Nova. You either need a sponsor with lots of money and a big heart or you have the public radio stations – a system that we have all over Europe. Public radio stations, either financed by the state or by donations from listeners. With either model, the objective isn’t just commercial. Nova is fortunate that Paris has such a huge catchment area.«

GILB’R: »I think it’s about 10 million people.«
RBMA: »That’s a huge amount that allows yourself to take risks making a good radio program and still have enough listeners to make it worthwhile in commercial terms.«

GILB’R: »But the most important thing was to mix it all up and show all the listeners that it’s OK to like a straight hip hop tune and a straight techno tune because they have the same kind of origin. The purpose was to create a really anti-ghetto kind of spirit. I kept that spirit in mind when it came to starting my label. I kept away from a specific type of music so that I could allow myself to produce a jazz album, a techno album, a house album or whatever, as long as I think it’s good music.«

RBMA: »So how did you come to be in charge of music programming at Radio Nova?«

GILB’R: »To me, all these things that happened in my life were pretty accidental. I was hanging around at the station one time because I knew someone there. I was going to DJ somewhere later that night, so I had my record box with me. A guy doing the programming there looked in my record box and said: “Yeah, that’s cool, why don’t you come back a bit more?” So then we started hanging out and DJing together. I was introduced to the station and after a while, I started music programming. All the DJs were programmers. They chose the music. It was a novelty because that isn’t the case too much today. We spent a lot of time in record shops listening to everything and taking tracks from there to the listeners. It wasn’t just an ego thing, it wasn’t just like: “Oh yeah, I like that track. I’m gonna put that in the show.” I would choose a track that I thought would appeal to the listeners.«

PARTICIPANT: »When you were the music programmer, did you have complete liberty to choose what you want? Were there rules and restrictions that you had to respect?«

GILB’R: »We used a piece of software called Selector when we programme a radio show. You select an hour and you do a camembert, sorry but that’s how I call it. It’s like a pie chart. And so you divide the hour with some specific music styles. For example, I want to start with a playlist track. A playlist track is a tune that the radio station is pushing, played at least three or four times a day. Then you follow that with a world music track, then a techno track, whatever. The software shows you exactly what you have in the camembert, in that one-hour slot. But yeah, the programming was totally freeform during the time I was there and I think we were quite responsible with that. It wasn’t a situation where I had just bought a record – it’s fantastic, let’s put it on the playlist. We were always disciplined with ourselves on the programming.«

RBMA: »There are a lot of people here that would like to get on the radio. What advice could you give about the selection process? What’s going in the minds of these people who choose what to play on the radio?«
GILB’R: »I actually wouldn’t advise any DJs to do this. Basically, because after a certain time you tend to get a bit schizophrenic! Being a DJ, you have your own vision but on radio your priority is pleasing the people. So after a while I was a bit schizoid, as I said, I couldn’t play a track I wasn’t really into. It was difficult and that’s why I decided to leave and concentrate on the DJing and production.«

RBMA: »Was there an overall plan for a whole day’s music programming at Nova or was it just a continuous random selection of music all the time?«

GILB’R: »It depends the hour. At 8am for example, maybe you’re not in the mood to listen to a hard step tune or a Jeff Mills hardcore kind of techno thing. We decided to set a mood from 8-12 and then the afternoon was another mood. It was more about setting moods.«

RBMA: »So how would you advertise the mood to listeners?«

GILB’R: »The concept we had was to have no talk at all. Instead, we used a selection of very strong jingles, very recognisable, stuff like that. We used a lot of word games in the way we made the jingles, they stuck in your mind. Instead of having someone say what the tracks are and who by, we just put in jingles, which gave an identity to the whole thing.«

RBMA: »Why did the situation change at Radio Nova?«

GILB’R: »Because of the money, it happens all the time. They needed to earn more money, so they started to allow advertising on the station. They also haven’t made any changes to the staff since I left. After my friend Louis and I left the station, they didn’t find any other people that really had the same passion that we had. There are people from 10 or 15 years ago that are still there and I find that a bit pitiful in a way. They got Laurent Garnier in to do the music programming for a year but he left last month because of differences with the guys who run the station. I think that was a great mistake to become a mainstream station, so they could play a lot of that what they call “gold”. That’s why he left, unfortunately.«

RBMA: »I’ve noticed that they have many releases out at the moment.«

GILB’R: »Yes, but they are compilations. I think that’s a bad thing for Nova because they’ve had so many people jamming there. They could have a fantastic label but that’s impossible to do because of ego problems and all that bullshit, so now they just have compilations. Those records are basically what we played last year, which is nice because they’re good tunes, but it’s not original material. It’s just one more compilation and I think with all the compilations around right now, it’s very tiring at the moment.«

RBMA: »Let’s talk about your own sound. You started out as a b-boy, playing hip hop and influenced by early De La Soul and Jungle Brothers. From there you got into drum ‘n’ bass and for a long time you’ve been known as a drum ‘n’ bass DJ.«

GILB’R: »Yes. I started as a very straight hip hop DJ. I didn’t get house at all. It didn’t speak to me. Then I was in New York in ’92 when I heard all the Larry Levan, Paradise Garage-style stuff and it really blew my mind. I really understood it and I put all the clichés I had about house music to one side.

When I returned from New York, I started to incorporate some house into my sets. When drum ‘n’ bass arrived it was a shock to me because it had all the things I liked in one style of music. It was experimental, it had hard sounds, sweet sounds, some breaks, even some house and techno elements. Plus the way to mix it was very attractive to me. So I got into that completely. I was playing only drum ‘n’ bass for about three or four years.

After a while, everyone started to sound the same, maybe because of the impact that Ed Rush & Optical had on the scene. After that, everyone started doing the same music – very dark. Doc Scott, Metalheadz and some of the No U-Turn stuff had this sound especially.

Nowadays it’s more like a rave scene, which I’m not too much into. So now I’ve left drum ‘n’ bass because I feel it’s not as good as it used to be to be. I’m more into mixing all kinds of music I like in a very programmed way, which is pretty difficult. It has taken me maybe ten years to reach this point.«

RBMA: »When did you start your record label, Versatile?«

GILB’R: »Well, the first label was set up with the radio station and it was pretty crap. It turned into a very bad relationship at the end, some ego problems with some people there. I’d been to New York for a while, at great expense. I was in the studio with Branford Marsalis. There was a lot of energy in New York. When I came back to Paris, the atmosphere at the station was so heavy that I decided to leave straight away.
Three days later I decided to start my own label. Around the same time, I met I:Cube, who sent me a tape and I was really amazed by the quality of the music. Daft Punk hadn’t made their first album then. So I started the label and signed this guy. I asked him if he’d like to do an album with me and he said OK. One week later, we finished the record and it was a huge success. I even surprised myself, so it all just started as an accident, really.«

RBMA: »What was the first release on Versatile?«

GILB’R: »It was I:Cube – Disco Cubizm. By the way, the music that was playing when we started was from an album called Remixent. It’s a collection of 14 remixes that I:Cube and myself have done for several artists [as Chateau Flight]. The one we heard was Brand New Day. That was made with Dego [as Pavel Kostiuk], who is one half of 4 Hero. He has his own label called 2000 Black.

The next release on Versatile will be the new Chateau Flight 12″. We’ve been listening a lot of old Detroit stuff lately and we’ve really come back to this sound because it has a very strong vibe. We spent a lot of time on the structure and production on this one. We decided to make it very rough, very raw. Just the meat on the table.«

RBMA: »You’ve also been remixing the icon of French chansons, Serge Gainsbourg. Can you tell us something about that?«

GILB’R: »Serge Gainsbourg was a very important person for France and is a big influence for other people like Beck or Air, he was very much ahead of his time. His music was always different. He’s worked with all kinds of people, from John Barry to a Reggae album with Sly & Robbie.

For us, it was very difficult to touch this because it’s kind of classic music, classic French music. So that’s why we decided to remix a track [Lola Rastaquouere] from his reggae album [Aux Armes Et Cetaera] because I think it was more suitable for a remix.

Another astonishing thing about Serge Gainsbourg is that he always had this tradition of brilliant lyrics. He was one of the first to use the actual sounds of the words as an instrument in its own right, rather than just lyrics. He always behaved as a producer and had people around him who were really on the edge at that time.
On the Gainsbourg remix, we used a great piece of software called Reaktor. It’s a very good sequencer developed by the Germans.«

RBMA: »You said before that you didn’t really rate the Parisian club scene, but what about the producers there? Is there anyone in Paris you would collaborate with?«

GILB’R: »It’s very difficult to collaborate, you know? The only guy I’m really close with musically is a French DJ called DJ Deep, who’s huge. He’s been doing this for a long time and is very focused in what he’s doing. So we are really close friends, DJ Gregory and I really like him. I don’t have any problems with anyone in particular. Obviously, I’d like to collaborate with others, but it’s very difficult.«

RBMA: »Gregory is the one who had the smash hit Sunshine People right?«

GILB’R: »Yes, and now he has a new tune called Tropical Soundclash on his own label, Faya Combo [later picked up by Defected Records].«

RBMA: »Do you find it difficult to make music in a different style when the Paris scene is so dominated by house? Have you found it more challenging than if you were making house music?«

GILB’R: »Yes, it has been pretty challenging but we had to do it because as a label, I didn’t want to get stuck on that housey style. The turning point for that was definitely I:Cube’s track, Adore. It was difficult to make the change, but you have to do what feels good to you. I wouldn’t have been comfortable just sticking with that disco kind of thing and just wait for a massive hit. The purpose of the label is to be artistic, so if I feel I need to move around musically, then I do it.«

RBMA: »The productions on your label, the music you play on the radio and also the recent big success of Air and St.Germain, they all have a quite eclectic sound. Would you agree?«

GILB’R: »I really respect Air because they first started with an album called Casanova 70, which was very sample-based. I wasn’t really crazy about that one, but they left all that stuff behind and became more like a real pop band. That was a real difficult choice for them and I really respect that.

St.Germain has done this sort of thing before, with an album called Boulevard, which was a huge hit for F-Com. It was a kind of ‘storm in the electronic hole’ kind of thing and his music now is not so different than what he was doing before. St.Germain is very talented but he can come across like a moody guy because of some business problems, which prevented him from making music for about five years. Also you have Joakim who is doing a more jazz/experimental kind of thing. It’s definitely getting to be a more varied scene in Paris.«

RBMA: »Would you agree with the statement that French producers have a hard time making it in the UK?«

GILB’R: »I think everyone has a hard time making it in the UK to be honest with you. The UK is very conservative market and it’s very difficult to penetrate it, you know? There are other reasons, too, like Britain not accepting the Euro.«

RBMA: »Hip hop is very big in France and you used to be a hip hop DJ. Do you still have anything to do with that today?«

GILB’R: »Next year we are going to release our first hip hop record on Versatile. Even though I don’t play it anymore, I still pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in the hip hop scene. To me, it’s a kind of like my home town. Hip hop became very big in France because of a law that says 40% of music played on the radio must be French. I think it’s a silly law, but it made hip hop huge in France.

For example, a French guy singing in English can’t be played on the radio, but if a guy in Japan does a record talking in French, that can be played. I think France has the second biggest hip hop market in the world, after the US. I’m making a record myself, with French vocals because of this law.«

RBMA: »What’s the hip hop you’re putting out on Versatile like? Will it be a leftfield kind of thing?«

GILB’R: »No, it’ll have a big sound. What I like in hip hop is the production. I like it very fat, very big. I’m a big fan of Jay Dee and all those kind of producers, Madlib and those guys. So it’s going to be that kind of sound and the MCs will be from America, not from France.

MC Solaar’s first album was good but now he’s turned away from the real French hip hop scene. Nowadays his stuff is just pop music, which is sad because he started very underground and had a lot of respect. The scene has gotten a lot of exposure and now those guys have seen that they can make a lot of money, which has made French hip hop very unreceptive to variety. It’s all like regular pop music now. There’s still a lot of hip hop getting made in France, but there is little that is interesting. Money perverts everything and that’s it.«

RBMA: »That’s an interesting thing about the money. When you start your label and you’re struggling, it becomes a question of your own character, of how far you want to go. How far would you like to go?«

GILB’R: »This is very simple to me you know. I want to have a hit and to go far because I’m really ambitious but I want to do it with my own stuff, on my own terms. I don’t want to say: “OK, let’s get some loops and put some little cheesy vocal there and maybe then we can reach some more people.” I know we can reach out to more people, but we’ll do it our way.«

RBMA: »You’re more true to yourself, more true to the music by not selling out?«

GILB’R: »I think the music we are doing can be heard by quite a different range of people and still sell well, but I think the main difficulty being an independent label is that it takes more time for us to publicise and market a record compared to the majors.«

RBMA: »Another problem for independents is distribution. Distributors will take your records but take forever to pay you. I can name a whole bunch of American companies that will distribute your record, but when it’s time to pay they’re like that.«

GILB’R: »I know, that’s why we use a German distributor called !K7 for American sales.«

RBMA: »Most DJs in Europe with your status earn more money DJing than producing. Do you actually have to DJ to survive?«

GILB’R: »I think I can make a living through the label but I still enjoy DJing. I could earn money elsewhere but DJing is such a great way to earn money, so why should I stop?«

click below to listen

CHATEAU FLIGHT – Baltrigue

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