Archive for the Soul/Disco 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).«

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FUNKY NASSAU : THE COMPASS POINT STORY

Posted in Compilations, Post Punk, Punk Funk, Soul/Disco on June 23, 2008 by bangtheparty

On the surface, this compilation is intended to be a broad rundown of a specific studio’s output– that of Compass Point, the Bahamian outpost established by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and manned by a who’s who of reggae session players including the ace production team/rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. But it might as well be a symposium on the polyglot tendencies that made the dance underground of the first half of the 1980s so unpredictably rich in ideas. Name a genre that either established itself or peaked in the late 70s or early 80s– electro-funk, disco, reggae, dub, post-punk, old-school hip-hop– and it’s represented in the music on this compilation, rarely without being comfortably fused to another genre to spectacular effect.

The most well-known cuts on Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980-1986 might as well be shorthand for this type of fusion– Tom Tom Club’s chirpy, blissed-out Caribbean/new wave/rap pastiche “Genius of Love”, Talking Heads’ jittery Afrobeat-inflected digital rave-up “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)”, and an extended version of Ian Dury’s BBC-banned “Spasticus Autisticus”, which retorted to Britain’s patronizing declaration of 1981 as “Year of the Disabled” with Spartacus-lifted shouts of solidarity, bitingly arch lyrics (“So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin/ And thank the creator you’re not in the state I’m in”) and a vertigo-inducing bass/synth interplay. There’s just one baffling decision in the famous names department– instead of something from the superb Nightclubbing, Grace Jones’ tenure at Compass Point is represented by the digital reggae of “My Jamaican Guy”, and the combination of her flat singing and the gradual tedium of its seven-minute extended mix makes for an unexciting way to open the compilation.

But Funky Nassau gets better in a hurry, thanks not just to the usual post-punk suspects but also due to the fringe artists, obscurities, and ostensible novelty records (emphasis on novel) that fill out the bulk of the collection. There are two tracks that, thanks largely to house music pioneer François Kevorkian, prove to be the collection’s most surprising highlights. Cuban-born Guy Cuevas’ 1982 France-exclusive “Obsession” piles glimmering keyboards on top of a Bernard Edwards-caliber bassline and comes up with a late-disco gem that sounds triangulated between Havana, Paris, and NYC. And the Kevorkian mix of “Dance Sucker”, the 1983 debut single from Scottish obscurities Set the Tone, sounds like a uprocker’s take on a circa-1988 Nine Inch Nails demo, with a lead singer belting out sneering Reznor-isms (and the occasional Nic Offer-ism) over a packed wall of electro.

Where most of the tracks on Funky Nassau breathe free with loose-jointed smoothness, disco deconstructionist Cristina’s “You Rented a Space” is a claustrophobic slab of electronic dub where the percolating bass and the staggering but sure-footed rhythms practically corner you in a hallway and breathe down your neck. (Cristina’s decadently sly voice knows better, and aims directly at your inner ear: “Your lovin’ is as cold as the cold clasp of death.”) And then there’s Bits & Pieces– basically Sly & Robbie working under an alias- – cranking out a playful but heavy cover of Yarbrough & Peoples’ 1980 hit “Don’t Stop the Music”, replicating its fuzzed-out synth-funk faithfully but throwing in a subtle reggae backbeat and, for kicks, a few likeably daft rap lyrics about hairstyles. The Compass Point sound proved that the sound of the Caribbean could cover just about anywhere– and, at the same time, helped create music that couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

click below to listen

GUY CUEVAS – Obsession

CHAKA KHAN

Posted in CHAKA KHAN, Soul/Disco on June 3, 2008 by bangtheparty

Our favorite ‘soulful diva’ was born Yvette Marie Stevens on March 23, 1953 at a Naval Base near Chicago, Illinois. Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Chaka began her singing career at the tender age of 11, forming a group called the Crystalettes. At 13, she was christened ‘Chaka’ by an African shaman, and by 15, she was performing in local clubs under that name, which means, fire, war, the color red, and the planet Mars. These are all aggresive traits, and Chaka’s personality (& spirit) matched perfectly. Within a year or 2, Chaka met & then married Hassan Khan. The marriage didn’t last long, but in 1973 Chaka gave birth to a daughter named Milini, and she had retained Hassan’s last name after the relationship ended. Chaka ‘KHAN’ would surely endure!

At 18, Chaka found herself in Los Angeles, fronting a group of fledgling musicians by the name of Rufus, and she brought to the ensemble a vocal range that can only be described as primal. Her impassioned and perfectly pitched contralto was in a class by itself, even though it had a touch of Aretha ‘The Queen Of Soul’ Franklin. Chaka was soon dubbed ‘Lil Aretha’, and proof of her powerful voice was apparent in the band’s self titled debut album in 1973, then it’s follow up, ‘Rag’s To Rufus’ (1974), netted Rufus & Chaka’s 1st Grammy for the song “Tell Me Something Good”. This classic was written especially for Chaka by an admirer named Stevie Wonder!!

In the years to come, Chaka and Rufus would prove to be one of the most popular and influential groups in music, effortlessly bridging the gap between pop, rock and soul. In just five years, they notched 11 chart albums and nine Top 40 hits, including “Sweet Thing”, “Once You Get Started” and “You Got The Love”. The girl who had set out to become a singer had found stardom, and many other things associated with fame. It was inevitable that one day Chaka would step out on her own, and when she did the results were nothing short of spectacular. In 1978, Chaka teamed with legendary songwriters (& singers!) Ashford & Simpson on the Quincy Jones classic ‘Stuff Like That’. Later that same year Chaka released her solo debut (‘Chaka’), which yielded the smash hit single, ‘I’m Every Woman’ (written by Ashford & Simpson). Chaka was still a member of Rufus in 1978, and they had a hit with the ‘Street Player’ album, and the classic anthem ‘Stay’. As a soloist, Chaka’s debut album was also the begining of her fruitful creative relationship with legendary producer Arif Mardin, who previously made magic with Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, and Bette Midler among others.

1978 would prove to be one of the most eventful years in Chaka’s career, and it proved to be a special year in her personal life as well. Son Damien Holland was born in 1978 (she was pregnant with him on the ‘Chaka’ album cover!) to Chaka & her then husband Richard Holland, but the young diva had little time to sit still!

Once Chaka was ready to return to work, Rufus was more than ready to record! The group’s next album would be radically different from previous efforts, and slick production by Quincy Jones & Rod Temperton moved Rufus & Chaka into a new direction titled ‘Masterjam’. Many of the players from Jones’ recent hits (The Brothers Johnson & Patti Austin for example!) participated in ‘Masterjam’, so the songs resembled tracks from ‘Off The Wall’, ‘The Dude’, and ‘Light Up The Night’ (to an extent). By mid 1979, ‘Do You Love What You Feel ?’ was released as the 1st single from ‘Masterjam’, and would prove to be a smash hit! The Quincy Jones produced album was released before 1979 came to a close, and another single (‘Any Love’) would be released early in 1980.

Now that ‘Masterjam’ was released, Chaka was ready to return to work with Arif Mardin on her sophomore solo album. ‘Naughty’ would be released during 1980, and it featured classics like ‘Clouds’ (written by Ashford & Simpson), ‘Move Me No Mountain’ & ‘Papillon (Hot Butterfly)’, which was a cut destined to become a live-performance favorite. ‘Papillon’ is a special song for Chaka, and if you listen closely, you can hear Luther Vandross, Cissy Houston, and Whitney Houston (at 16 years of age!) provide great background vocals! ‘Naughty’ would prove to be a successful project before 1980 came to a close, and Warner Brothers wanted Chaka’s third album A.S.A.P.! In between a few live gigs, promotional appearances, and other responsiblities, Chaka returned to work with Arif Mardin toward the end of 1980, and the resulting album in 1981 would be another creative success to say the least.

Blazing into the 80’s, Chaka’s “What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me ?”, was released with great fanfare in 1981, and the title track became one of Chaka’s biggest hits ever. Arif Mardin did things with Chaka’s voice that were mindblowing, and ‘What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me ?’ is a must for any Chakaholic’s collection. The album was ventually nominated for a Grammy Award, and it also featured ‘I Know You, I Live You‘, ‘Night Moods’ and the genre-splicing ‘And The Melody Lingers On (Night In Tunisia)’, which features be-bop legend Dizzy Gillespie (Charlie Parker’s trumpet solo was spliced into the mix!). Chaka’s love of jazz really flourished while working with Arif & Dizzy, and ‘And The Melody Lingers On’, which is one of the most vocally demanding songs that Chaka has ever recorded, is still featured on many jazz stations around the world!

By 1981, Chaka was a soaring solo superstar, but she still had to honor her contract with Rufus, which required 2 more releases at this point, and to make matters tough, she wasn’t on good terms with her bandmates. When all of the dust cleared, Chaka provided her vocals for the 1981 Rufus featuring Chaka Khan album titled ‘Camouflage’. While Chaka was up to the challenge vocally, the album failed commercially, and the diva has always distanced herself away from it (like it never happened!). Chaka & Rufus were on such bad terms in 1980-81 that her image had to be digitally added to the group’s album photo because of ‘circumstances’. Chaka wasn’t feeling ‘Camouflage’ because she had a booming solo career, and it would take another 2 years for the final Rufus & Chaka project’s release.

click below to listen

CHAKA KHAN – Clouds

JAMIE LIDELL

Posted in JAMIE LIDELL, Soul/Disco on June 3, 2008 by bangtheparty

Jamie Lidell has built his career upon surprising people, whether via his on-stage antics, sudden stylistic shifts, or cryptic interviews. But the biggest twist to his third album, Jim, might just be its lack of left turns. Jim isn’t quite Lidell’s Sea Change, but it’s close, and not only because the singer and producer recently toured and recorded with Beck. Despite a few uptempo rockers, the album is generally subdued; its perspective is almost confessional.

On the surface a collection of love songs, Jim remains obsessed with the themes of emotional imbalance, self-doubt, and dual identity that Lidell introduced on 2005’s Multiply. Building on the blueprint drafted for that album, Jim deepens the singer’s engagement with 1960s and 70s r&b across a carefully crafted set of ballads, rave-ups, and easygoing soul, showing off not only his considerable vocal chops but also the songwriting and studio prowess of his longtime collaborators Gonzales and Mocky. (Co-producer Mocky shares songwriting credits on virtually all the album’s songs; Gonzales had a hand in two, and the Tower Recordings’ collaborator Andre Vida, responsible for Multiply’s horns, is credited on one.)

Given Lidell’s past provocations, Jim’s spoonful of sugar will likely disorient some fans. But thick with hooks and Hammonds, funk squelch and background doo-wop, Jim nevertheless makes for some of the most satisfying Sunday-morning listening you’ll hear this year. That Gonzalez and Mocky also played significant roles in the creation of Feist’s The Reminder shouldn’t be surprising. (Lidell appeared on that album as well: he sings and is credited as “Energy Arranger” on “So Sorry”.) For all Lidell’s background in the trenches of the rave scene and its experimental aftermath, Jim is unabashedly pop in spirit and feel-good in sound.

After Lidell’s abrasive first record, 2000’s Muddlin’ Gear and the avant-funk he concocted in the duo Super_Collider (with Chilean-English techno veteran Cristian Vogel), Multiply’s sparkling keyboards, taut electric funk, and rattling tambourines often earned accusations of pastiche. That wasn’t always far off: The album’s songwriting, production and vocal delivery are deeply indebted to the soul tradition from Stax to Motown, Prince to D’Angelo. With its plucked bass and careful treble counterpoints, “Multiply”, a song about the joys of a split personality, sounds almost like a repurposed “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”.

That combination of subject matter and source material ought to have been enough to undercut the charges that Multiply tried too hard to be “authentic,” but it wasn’t. You can find a typical criticism in Andy Kellman’s review for Allmusic.com, where he calls the album “as authentic as any neo-soul release”– a faint-praise damnation that makes “authenticity” sound positively counterfeit– and complains that “there’s so much overly earnest, reverential, ‘let’s get back to making real music’ energy floating around that you can sense it nibbling away at the desire to make something that sounds like today.”

If anything, there’s even more pastiche on Jim, but that never stops the music from sounding relevant. (Part of Jim’s pleasure is that it doesn’t sound terribly concerned about the sound of “today.”) The rollicking “Where D’You Go” is an exercise in sock-hopping 50s rock’n’roll. “Out of My System” burns a hole through the back of James Brown’s cloak. “Hurricane” could almost be a White Stripes song, if they spent more time listening to the Meters and less with Led Zep.

“Out of My System” is even more shameless in its borrowings, opening with a riff stolen from Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and closing with railroad-whistle chants straight out of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”. (The reference to the latter act– as well as the “Sheriff”-covering Eric Clapton– serves as a useful reminder that Lidell is hardly the first white, English artist to find inspiration in African-American musical traditions.)

Indeed, after listening to the heavily acoustic, era-faithful Jim, Multiply begins to sound like more of an “electronic” release than ever before. For all its debt to American soul forebears, the album was riddled with clever edits, digital effects, and transient random noise bursts. Jim may have been recorded in Berlin, Paris, and L.A., but its natural reverbs and warm room tones sound more intimate than that jetsetting might suggest. On Jim, the “experimental” bits are folded more deeply into the whole.

A few minutes into “Little Bit of Feel Good”, there’s an ambient blues bridge where the soloing saxophone takes a weird modal leap; build out a loop of that and you might have the basis for a Rune Grammofon release. But by and large, the outré moments have been toned down and blended in, as with the drifting electronic touches of “Figure Me Out”. Far more unified than Multiply, the album has a satisfyingly cohesive arc, although the comparatively banging “Out of My System” and “Hurricane” may well get left off of the make-out music playlists inspired by more Al Green-influenced fare like “Green Light”.

Jim might be far less interesting were it not for the ambiguities that Lidell brings to the table. His turn towards the personal is right there in the title; the press release goes so far as to declare, “Jamie is Jim.” But it’s never so easy with Lidell. He’s a notoriously slippery artist straddling two scenes– underground electronic-music subculture and indie hegemony– obsessed with authenticity and distrustful of ambition. It’s never clear whether Jim is also Jamie, or whether the titular character is just that, a character– Lidell’s Jim Shady, perhaps.

Most of the songs on Jim are sung in second person, but Lidell’s lyrical declarations cut in unpredictable ways. “Another Day”, in which he sings of searching for “another day/ Another way for me to open up to you” might just be a love song, like a good half of the album’s 10 tracks. But when he sings, “I used to scream when a whisper would do,” it’s hard not to be reminded of Lidell’s rep as a belter and a noisemaker, and wonder if he’s not addressing the conspicuous mellowing of his sound.

But ultimately, such biographical bits are probably of the greatest interest to lit-crit schooled music reviewers and potential stalkers. Jim succeeds by virtue of its polish. The record sounds simply wonderful: alternately nubby and spangled, it’s like a cashmere throw that turns intermittently into a showman’s cape. Lidell’s voice has never sounded better than it does here.

With his mellifluous melismas and effortless fillips, he’s as captivating here as his sweat-soaked, seat-of-his-pants Doppelganger is on stage, just for different reasons. Three years ago, reviewing Lidell’s chaotic live set, Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal wrote that “Lidell’s focus on his ancillary musical wares– and not his main-stage voice– seemed to demonstrate that his popular crooner persona may just be a seriously enjoyable excursion rather than a nostalgic destination.” From the Bacharach-inspired kitsch of “Another Day” to the touches of Nick Drake on the closing “Rope of Sand”, Jim now suggests otherwise: This is an album by an artist getting comfortable with his softer side. It’s another welcome surprise.

Jim is, I suggest, Lidell’s most accessible album.

It is,” he sighs. “I wanted to make it commercial just as an experiment. My ideal audience is people who appreciate that I’m not just a singer, but some people just want to go out and have a nice night with some nice music and I totally understand that.”

The album is a reflection of his mellower, Dr Jekyll side, which is not to say that Mr Hyde won’t make an appearance when Lidell embarks on next month’s UK tour. “When I’m tired or frustrated with myself, I tend to make a lot of noise in shows,” he admits with a wry grin. “F*** everyone! Listen to this, bastards – it’s gonna hurt! I need to cleanse myself.” What kind of things get his goat?

“Everything, from people pushing into a queue to really substantial problems: where am I going? Am I doing the right thing with my life? Am I going to die?”

The tension between science and art, soul-searching and melody-making, would appear to stretch back to Lidell’s childhood in Perry, a village just outside Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. His mother, a classical singer, would trill around the house; his father, a psychologist, was “a very cerebral man” who “always seemed to know everything”. Also looming large in Lidell’s formative years was Prince, whose music taught him that synths and soul were not mutally exclusive. His education continued at Bristol University, where he studied the cosmic combination of physics and philosophy and revelled in the golden era of Massive Attack et al.

After a stint in Brighton, where he began a longstanding collaboration with South Coast electro hero Cristian Vogel, Lidell moved to Berlin and set about finding a USP. He took a year out to programme his own software and developed an innovative way of working, which involved sampling his voice on a loop pedal and building tracks live, entirely from those samples. “Now everybody’s got a loop pedal,” he sniffs. “Nice, but I was doing that seven years ago. Did that go completely unnoticed?”

For his live appearances Lidell has recently started playing with a band because “when TV shows ask me on I can’t go up there and do it solo”. When he appeared on Later…, he got round the problem by duetting with Jools Holland, a decision he now regrets. “He’s a nice geezer, but I should have gone on there and blown everyone’s minds with some solo shit.” He still seems unconvinced about the merits of a band: “I can hear a band playing and think, Christ, I hate bands. But here I am singing with a bunch of guys.”

He needn’t fret, though, because the new live set-up works like a dream, the band providing a foil for their gawkily charismatic frontman and his Little Richard moves. And Lidell is always free to embark on his solitary detours: “If I’m not down with the way a song sounds with the band, I’ll go, f*** this: I’m doing this one solo with all my machines.”

The whole business is “a constant battle for me”, he admits with a wonky smile. But that, you suspect, is how he likes it. “I don’t like to be secure.” Hence his imminent move from Berlin to Paris: “There’s something about being exotic and being on the outside that I thrive on. I like to be the underdog, it helps me creatively.” I’m looking forward to seeing him live next month, I tell him. He grins: “Hopefully, you’ll see a new me.” What, yet another one?

click below to listen

JAMIE LIDELL – Figured Me Out

CHAZ JANKEL

Posted in Boogie, CHAZ JANKEL, Soul/Disco on June 3, 2008 by bangtheparty

Keyboardist, guitarist and singer/composer Chaz Jankel is best known in the UK as member of Ian Dury & the Blockheads during the British funk/new wave band’s commercial peak in the early 80s. First hooking up with Dury as part of the pub group the Kilburns & the High Roads, Jankel was asked by Dury to join his new outfit, and appeared on such Blockheads releases as “New Boots & Panties!!” (which spawned Dury’s best-known hit, “Sex & Drugs & Rock n’ Roll”) and “Do It Yourself (single — “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,”) before leaving the group. But in 1981, Jankel teamed up once more with Dury (sans the Blockheads), for the release Lord Upminster, which spawned the U.S. Top 40 dance hit “Spasticus Autisticus.” By this time, Jankel had become more interested in pursuing a solo career and he issued several releases for A&M under self-titled debut followed by “Chasanova,” “Questionaire” (contained the U.S. dance hit “Glad to Know You,” a collaboration with Dury), “Chazablanca,” and 1985’s “Looking at You.

Chaz Jankel was Ian Dury’s writing partner in The Blockheads but went on to become a successful artist in his own right, racking up a sizeable roster of hits including platinum selling singles like ‘Glad To Know You’ and ‘Ai No Corrida’. Jankel to this day remains a part of The Blockheads, but his work as a synthesizer auteur as documented on this compilation tells another story, representing the career of an artist who ably dipped into the nascent electronic sub-genres of the day, referencing new wave, post disco and electropop whilst never shying away from the weirder corners of electronic music, as captured in the bizarre edits and overdubs littering the otherwise fairly straight-up rhythm track of ‘Reve De Chevres’. If there is a overriding theme to Jankel’s career it has something to do with placing emphasis on taking all these various forms and production angles and wrapping them around a central pop superstructure, something Jankel seemed to accomplish throughout his career with an impressive consistency.

click below to listen

CHAZ JANKEL – Glad To Know You

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

MIZELL BROTHERS (redbull academy interview pt. 1 )

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

RBMA: »So without further ado, the Mizell brothers.«
(applause)
»We should introduce each of you individually first.«

Larry Mizell: »Ok, I’m Larry. This is my brother Fonce, this is my other brother Rod. This is my lovely wife Yvonne.«

RBMA: »With the camera.«
(applause)

Larry Mizell: »As Jeff said, when we were first approached by Red Bull to do this in Australia, we’ve done some interviews before and in the heat of doing an interview there are some things you always miss. We wanted to present a complete picture – or as complete as we could make it – of our beginnings and what we’ve done along the way.

So we went out and bought a copy of PowerPoint and attempted to learn it in two or three days. PowerPoint is not as reliable as you might think, being a Microsoft programme with a PC, so it has a tendency to crash, so if that does happen we’ll have a little break while I kick it in the butt. So the presentation is basically a series of slides to trace our chronology. So we’re ready to go anytime.«
(music: LTD ‘Love To The World’)

»This is ‘Love To The World’ from our LTD album.«
(music: LTD ‘Love To The World’ continues)

»(next slide) That’s mum and dad there, Al and Ruby who we named our publishing company after, Al Ruby Music, and the next slide is a video taken many years ago on an old Sony three quarter inch tape machine. Mum had just written some lyrics and she was showing it to pop, and she sang it to dad, she sang it down.«
(video: Ruby Mizell) »This is just something I did tonight. (sings) ‘Give me a word/ give me a sign/ Do something to let me know you’re mine/ I’ve waited so long/ Can’t get along without you’.«
(applause)

»This is a little history of some of the family members over the years; Jane Bolin Mizell who was the first black woman judge; Ralph Mizell who was appointed department head by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This is a great-uncle, he goes way back to the 40’s, by the name of Andy Razaf, and he was Fats Waller’s writing partner. Fats Waller had many hits, one you may know is ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’. Our great-uncle wrote a lot of the lyrics for Fats and for other people, like Glenn Miller, some of the Swing bands out of the 40’s. So this next slide is Fats Waller performing in 1941 the song that he and my great-uncle wrote, ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’.«
(video/music: Fats Waller ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’)

»Next we have some shots of our other cousins who’ve been in the industry.«
(music: Ronettes ‘Be My Baby’)
(music: Cindy Mizell ‘unknown’)

»That’s Ron, Fonce and I on the end and second from the left is Don Mizell who won a Grammy last year as co-producer on the Ray Charles ‘Genius Loves Company’. We’re just out in the woods hiking in California.«
(music: unknown child rapper produced by Jam Master Jay )

»(next slide) Here’s where we grew up, Harlem in New York City. Fonce and I grew up between there and what was also known as the top of Sugarhill, Edgecombe Avenue. Then we moved to the suburbs of New York, in New Jersey. That was a picture of our high school, Dwight Morrow High School. It was really a nice experience for us. That’s where we learned to play trumpet in the high school band, a little bit of keyboard, my grandmother had a piano and we’d tickle it a little bit. (next slide) That’s where we went to college in Washington DC, Howard University.

We went with a partner of ours by the name of Freddie Perren who was from Englewood, New Jersey as well. Freddie, after the Motown era, which I’ll get into in a second, he went on to produce a lot of records that have become anthems. He passed away last year. He wrote ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor, ‘Shake Your Groove Thing’ by Peaches and Herb, ‘Reunited’. A number of records.«

RBMA: »Actually, we should get into the significance of Howard University because most of the folks here are not from the US.«

Larry Mizell: »It’s an historically black university, one of the largest in the United States, and it has a huge campus and it offers degrees right up to PhD level in several disciplines. It has a med school and dance school.«

RBMA: »And it always had the reputation for being the cultural and intellectual centre for black communities all across the country.«

Larry Mizell: »It’s one of the oldest and it’s kind of a Mecca; a lot of black students were able to go there and interact and grow up in an interactive culture that they wouldn’t have had if they’d stayed at home in their own city.«

RBMA: »You were there in a period during a lot of activism on the campus. Who were some of the folks that were coming through on the campus at that time?«

Larry Mizell: »Stokely Carmichael, who headed up SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordination Committee that was doing voter registration in the South at that time, his partner H Rap Brown was there. The mayor, who later kind of self-destructed, Marion Barry was a student there at the time. There was a lot of activism, there were students who’d leave in the middle of the semester and pursue voter registration in the South. All in all it was a good experience.

This next slide shows the beginnings of our singing seriously. We’d perform in many Howard University talent shows. We were lucky enough to win some of them. It shows us on stage and you can actually hear us singing. It was kind of a jazzy Four Freshman thing, a lot of people thought it was corny but we won the first prize. And Donny Hathaway was our piano player from time to time.«
(music: The Vanlords ‘unknown’)

»This was a record company we started back in college called Hog Records. Our group was The Moment.«
(music: The Moments ‘unknown’)

»Interesting story. We put together what we called the record company, paid for it, rented a studio, found some students at another college called Morgan State, named them The Moments and took them into a studio, hired some strings from the air force, $25 the lot. We put together this record and we didn’t know what to do with it after that. We had an apartment full of records and we couldn’t give them away, we passed them onto the DJ’s and kind of forgot about it.

The record surfaced a few years ago on eBay and sold for almost $5,000. There’s not too many copies around now, so needless to say we went through the basement looking for them to find them, but it was a fruitless search. (next slide / plays music, quickly stops) My degree was in engineering, as undergrad, then I went on to get a graduate degree in engineering. I worked on the space programme and gave some technical talks at Uni, but all the time playing in bands at weekends, a singing group locally. I was into ham radio, things like that. Next. (next slide) I’d moved to New York, Fonce moved to Los Angeles and after different trials and tribulations signed to Motown Records.

This chart you see here is called ‘I Wanna Be Free’ and if you notice right under it it says Gladys Knight. Well, up on the upper right it says Gladys Knight, but underneath you’ll see a subtitle saying ‘I Want You Back’. This song was supposed to be cut on Gladys Knight, but the night before Fonce and Freddie were due to do it, Berry Gordy phoned up and said: “Forget that, I’ve got this bunch of kids I want you to cut on and change the lyrics.” They were bummed out because they had Gladys Knight and who are these kids? The kids turned out to be Jackson 5 and they changed the title to ‘I Want You Back’, so that (points to slide) is the original music that shows it. I don’t think Gladys Knight knows that story to this day (laughs).«

Benji B: »So there isn’t a version with Gladys Knight singing somewhere?«

Larry Mizell: »No, she never put a vocal down on the track, she really didn’t know.«

Fonce Mizell: »(via video) Two good things happened to the Mizell family in the same era. My brother Larry worked on the Apollo programme which put the first man on the moon and I had the chance to write, produce and arrange the Jackson 5’s first three records, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’ and ‘The Love You Save’. All three went on to become platinum records.«
(music: Jackson 5 ‘I Want you Back’)

Larry Mizell: »The next slide shows Fonce, Freddie and the rest of The Corporation, Deke Richards and Berry Gordy receiving an ASCAP award. There’s also a picture of – we used to play basketball with the J5 – that shows Michael and Marlon, and Randy’s just kind of watching (next slide).«
(music: Jackson 5 ‘ABC’)

Larry Mizell: »This is a video of after we moved to LA. Fonce and I had a house up in the Hollywood hills with a studio and we would create our tracks, the two of us would just jam, switch off with bass, guitar and piano. We’d just switch off and create stuff we liked. This is a video of the two of us jamming. It’s not good quality, just us working out by ourselves.«

RBMA: »I was just wondering what kind of stuff you guys were listening to back then. You guys were writing all these hits but what kind of stuff was inspiring you, making you say, “I’ve got to top that”?«

Larry Mizell: »We loved what Motown was doing at the time. The difference they brought to R&B music, they took away the Blues feeling and they were playing – especially Holland-Dozier-Holland – minor sixth chords and writing really unpredictable chord changes. We loved the originality and they had different innovative studio techniques with two drummers.

The Funk Brothers were actually Jazz players in the local clubs, so they had chops and they could stretch out. So our inspiration was definitely Motown big time. We had a lot of influences from our parents’ records which at the time were 78’s, I don’t know if you even know what that is, they were smaller than LP’s. We listened to some of the Swing bands and we liked Dionne Warwick’s records, what Bacharach and David were doing, and a trumpeter called Clifford Brown. We loved Tony Williams, a drummer, his polyrhythmic approach, as with Elvin Jones and a host of other different 45’s that would come out that would catch our ears. There were a lot of them.«

(music: Marvin Gaye ‘Woman Of The World’ in background)

»This is a cut on Marvin Gaye. We produced a Marvin Gaye record that never came out. This record’s never been heard before, it’s never been released. It was supposed to be the follow up to ‘What’s Going On’, but it got shelved when Marvin did ‘Trouble Man’. It was buried in Motown’s vaults. About two years ago Universal, who bought Motown, released the other one we cut called ‘Where Are We Going’.

That was part of a collection and it went gold, so we had a gold record 30 years later, but the other cut we cut was this one, ‘Woman Of The World’, and that was really our favourite. Another bit of trivia for you, Fonce, Freddie Perren and I are singing background behind Marvin, bringing our college crooning to the scene. It was just an honour to be singing with Marvin. We’re still talking to Universal, trying to get them to release this one because we really like it. I’ll just let it play for a second. ( music cuts).«

RBMA: »I don’t want to spoil the moment because that was a big moment, actually. But you said you guys recorded with Marvin Gaye and this was going to be the big follow up to ‘What’s Going On’. A whole album’s worth of material?«

Larry Mizell: »Now we made three cuts. (turns to Fonce) It was three, right? Marvin only opened up two of them with vocals. What happened was, Marvin was in a sophomore slump after ‘What’s Going On’. Berry Gordy thought it was too political, but when he put it out it influenced everybody, it just knocked everybody out. So Marvin had to come up with something else and he was tripping, he was in a creative slump. So Motown had meetings to bring in other producers to write tunes with Marvin, and Marvin’s perfectly capable of writing smash hits off the ying yang. But this time the procedure got started, Marvin agreeably went in and did the overdubs.

And then we came to our senses; there were other politics happening too, the records got shelved. It ended up, this particular song and the other one, the one that got released on Marvin, ‘Where Are We Going’, since we knew they weren’t coming out we cut those songs on Donald Byrd. If you notice on the Donald Byrd album the publishing is listed as Jobete, which is Motown’s publishing company. We were anticipating they would never come out but after Motown was sold to Universal ‘Where Are We Going’ came out. Yeah, it was supposed to be the follow-up. After working at Motown we moved forward to start our own production company, Skyhigh Productions. (next slide) This is the first song on Skyhigh, we’ve got a sample of a jet plane taking off.«

(music: Donald Byrd ‘Flight Time’)

(music: Donald Byrd ‘Black Byrd’)

»This is the title song from ‘Black Byrd’ and we were using the new Arp synthesizers and we were playing the synthesizer line and dubbing it with a Fender bass and with a double octave grand piano, which gave us a different sounding bottom. We didn’t want to mess with the 2600, the Arp with the cables just like the big mode, but these were pre-set synthesizers that came out: the Arp Soloist, Arp Pro-Soloist and we got the Arp Odyssey later, which had the slide.

We had to go to the studio and work them, this is one of the first uses in Jazz of synthesisers. This next video is Fonce and I recording in Montreux, Switzerland. Right after it looked as if the record was making some noise, Blue Note flew the whole label over to Switzerland to the Montreux Jazz Festival and we performed ‘Black Byrd’ on stage with the newly-formed Blackbyrds.«
(video/music: Donald Byrd & Blackbyrds ‘Black Byrd’)

»That’s Kevin Tony playing piano, that’s Byrd in the denim shirt obviously, Fonce in the blue shirt, I’m in the red shirt playing synthesizer. That’s the Arp I was playing.«

(video/music: Donald Byrd & Blackbyrds ‘Black Byrd’)

»The next project we did for Blue Note after the ‘Black Byrd’ success was with Bobbi Humphrey, a female flute player who could play and looked like a little girl, which gave her a certain uniqueness. Our second album was on her. Let’s see the next slide. I want to point out, on the right there was Chuck Davis who was one of our staff engineers and producers and writers.

He was also an electronics nut. He produced a device we used on our records called a Sound Enhancer. Basically what it did was, in a straight stereo it caused different space relationships at different frequencies in the audio spectrum, 20 or 20K, and it allowed the sound to appear to come out of the speakers. You never knew when an instrument was going to do that. Today the devices that do that are the BBE Sonic Maximiser, the Aural Exciter, they use a similar technique. We had a lot of trouble in the studio – well, not trouble, but the engineers were reluctant because we brought it in on a bread box circuit board and we wanted to plug it into the board. But we prevailed. So that’s Chuck right there.«

(music: Bobbi Humphrey ‘Harlem River Drive’)

(music: Bobbi Humphrey ‘Street Lady’)

»Just wanted to say that ‘Street Lady’ might not be too evident if you look at the songs on the album, but it was a concept album dealing with women. All the titles reflected that, different lifestyles. ‘Woman Of The World’, which Marvin cut is on there, ‘Lansana’s Priestess’, who was a priestess of a tribe that Lansana was a member of, ‘Street Lady’ of course, ‘Witch Hunt’, ‘Miss Kane’. That was little known.«

(music: Bobbi Humphrey ‘Uno Esta’)

RBMA: »That’s really interesting, what you’re just saying, because that Arp string sound is something I really associate with all your productions. But you say one of the reasons for using it was because they replaced all those session players who were costing you money, right?«

Larry Mizell: »(laughs) Exactly. Particularly as a lot of session studio work was the playing of sustained notes and the string players would be yawning through their session, making all this money. They all had chops, but the kind of arrangements that were called for in Pop records weren’t supposed to take away from the artists, the main vocal. When this came out, I think Stevie Wonder got the first one.

They demonstrated it in Hollywood at the West LA Musical Guitar Centre. Stevie Wonder got the first one, we got on the list, I think we got number five. Everybody went crazy, but you had to bear certain things in mind. You couldn’t play it like a keyboard, a lot of people played it like they played piano. You had to watch your octaves and keep it simple and look for overtones and harmonics. But in retrospect it sounded nothing like strings, it had its own sounds. That was the Arp Solina that you heard. But yeah, it did save money on the strings.«

(music: Donald Byrd ‘(Falling Like) Dominoes’)

»One of our next projects was a new artist, an organ player by the name of Johnny Hammond that we had heard earlier that year on an album he had out on the CTI label, Creed Taylor’s label, ‘Higher Ground’ was one of his albums. He was amazing, one of the fastest keyboard players we’d seen on organ. One thing that contributed to that was that he was a piano player who switched to organ.

His real name was Johnny Smith, but he changed it to Hammond because of the Hammond organ and he was looking for a uniqueness there. You see his name sometimes as Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith, but mostly just Johnny Hammond. We did a couple of albums there, one on Creed Taylor’s label called ‘Gamblers Life’ which really didn’t do that much. We enjoyed doing the album, one of our favourites, then we did an album on Fantasy called ‘Gears’ and we enjoyed that as well, very much.

The cut I’m going to play from that album is ‘Los Conquistadores Chocolates’, which means the black conquerors. It’s a story about the Moors being in Spain. One of our partners who grew up in New Jersey had gone to Spain and gotten a master’s degree in Spanish. We had him create an opening to the song in Spanish, we’d given him an encapsulated history of that event. It starts off with what sounds like a wind sound. That’s actually an Arp synthesizer with a White/Pink Noise Generator being swept by a filter.«

Larry Mizell: »One of our projects at the same time was a deal with A&M Records for a group called LTD. There were two brothers in the group, Jeff and Billy Osborne. Jeff played drums, actually both of them played drums, but Jeff was the drummer and Billy was the singer, a very talented R&B horn band. It was really different for us because we were working with nine or ten different personalities in the studio for the first time.

Where normally we controlled the vibe because we hired the cats we wanted to use and laid everything out for them and overdubbed the artists we wanted to use later; here we had a band that had already coalesced and had its own creative unity and their own ideas. A&M told us the group was basically six figures in the hole and they were about to get released, and if we wanted to do something with them the door was open. I don’t think they asked LTD if they were fine with it, they just told them this was the way it was going to be, so they were somewhat reluctant.

So we got with them and it was a… I won’t say trying experience, but one of the more different efforts we’ve done. We had to use a lot of diplomacy. But they got back on the positive cash flow side, A&M was happy, and we got a decent single out of it, which was this right here.«

(music: LTD ‘Love Ballad’)

»I said Jeff was the drummer. Along with the trying situations we had making this record, Billy was giving us a lot of flak about not wanting to do this, not wanting to do that, so he walked out of the studio one day and we had this tune, ‘Love Ballad’, that our partner Skip Scarborough had written. We had heard Jeff crooning in the background while he was playing drums, so we said: “Jeff, why don’t you try the lead?” Jeff came to the mic and did the overdub and blew everybody away, and that was the end of Billy’s lead singing career (laughter), and that’s how Jeff got going with his record deal.«
(music: LTD ‘Love Ballad’ continues )

»The next project we had, a friend of ours, who went to Howard University with us, had seen this group at a party, and it consisted of two ladies out front playing bass and guitar, and he said: “Man, you’ve got to see this group, they’ve got a thing, something different.” Finally we got to see them, they were playing at a local club across from A&M Records, and we said: “Yeah, they’re might be something there.” We got a video crew in to shoot them and went to shop them at different labels in Hollywood.

Nobody was biting, they couldn’t see the vision we had that there was commercial value here pop-wise. Finally, another old school mate was A&R director of R&B at Capitol. He was reluctant but we talked him into it and he gave us a development budget, and we said: “Okay, that’s cool, we’ll see.” So the group was A Taste Of Honey, and they were kind of one hit wonders, but it was unique to see two ladies playing rhythm instruments like that and they looked good.

Here’s them performing ‘Boogie…’ live just a few years ago. (new slide) Yeah, that’s them. To the left is Janice the bass player, that’s Hazel, Janice Johnson and Hazel Payne, she plays guitar. There are two gentlemen there, the drummer and keyboard player Don and Perry, and through the politics of the record business they got exed out of the PR and people started to think of them as just two ladies. Actually the keyboard player was seminal in putting the group together. Needless to say they were very disappointed, but everybody was making money from that record. It was number one platinum album, platinum single and it won a Grammy for best new recording artist. This is them playing live.«

(video/music: A Taste Of Honey ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie’)

»We did a single after that with a lady we were big fans of during her Motown days, Mary Wells. She had signed with CBS Records and they had done an album on her, but she didn’t have a single, so they talked to us and we produced just one record on her, called ‘Gigolo’, a Dance horn record, which was kind of out of Mary’s idiom. It wasn’t the ‘My Guy’, ‘You Beat Me To The Punch’, pretty Smokey type thing, it was more like what was happening then. So she struggled somewhat. It came across ok, she got a little bit of mileage out of it. On the rhythm track Fonce played drums, Rod played bass and I played piano. It was one of the few times we performed on our own production. A neighbour of ours played guitar. This is the cover and the record itself.«

(music: Mary Wells ‘Gigolo’)

»We did several other projects, singles and maybe two cuts on an album. These are some of them, just a listing. The tune you will hear playing is from a solo album called ‘Mizell’ that we did for Warner’s but was never released. There’s been talk of releasing it, but this tune is called ‘Spank’. It lists the other productions with different levels of success or non-success.«

(music: Jimmy Bo Horne ‘Spank’)

(music: Larry Mizell playing trumpet)

»We recorded the majority of our songs in a studio called the Sound Factory and we used the API console, the one pictured there. It has punch, but it also had clarity and was warm too, and of course we used a lot of 2” tape which added that saturation and distortion that was pleasing compared to the records that come out today. The owner was Dave Hassinger, who engineered for a number of people including the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke and he was really into his craft.

The majority of records were done at his studio and that’s what you see on this slide (next slide). These are some of the electronic instruments we used at his studio which most of you guys are familiar with. The Fender [Rhodes], the D6 Clav, that’s the Echoplex and the lead, that’s the Maestro Phaser, which is really a swirling type of phaser, you can buy one on eBay today, that’s the Arp Solina, of course, and the Princeton amp, the old tube amp, and this of course is the Minimoog.

One other thing, the letters there at the bottom – A, B, C, D – relate to the way we used to produce rhythm tracks, we would make big signs up with A, B, C and D on them. We’d go in with the rhythm guys and we’d rehearse a rhythm chart with different musical parts; the bridge, the interludes, the hooks, whatever. And they’d be on these different signs, sometimes they’d go all the way up to F. We didn’t have set lengths for each section, that’s why on some of our productions the sections will change when you expect them not to.

We’d be listening to the rhythm tracks, the way the guys were playing, then we’d put up a certain sign, and they never knew what was coming. We rehearsed different sections before we started recording and we made sure they had that down. Most of them were good at taking chances, doing the fills, being able to do something hip to signify the fill. So we’d hold up different signs as we heard them grooving and peaking, we’d say let’s go back to C, whip that out, four bars later they’d hit the downbeat. This is to show how our players interacted with each other.

Typically we use two guitar players, a bass, Fonce and I played keyboards, a drummer and a percussion player. So I have the multi-track in Pro Tools format of ‘Think Twice’, so I’ll break it down and build it back up. So what you’re going to hear is Harvey Mason the drummer, then you’ll hear the snare and the hi-hat, Chuck Rainey, bass, will come in, King Errisson congas, and then you’ll hear either David T Walker, John Rowin or Wah Wah Watson playing guitar. It’s just a rhythm track and it builds up from there.«

(music: Donald Byrd ‘Think Twice’)

»We’re getting near the end right now. This next slide talks about how technology changed the game for our records as well as for music period. We found our records sampled quite a bit and we were honoured about that. We had some of the early samplers, when Akai and Emu you found you could do all kinds of tricks with the sound that weren’t possible before. We’ve had a lot of samples of our catalogue, but this one I thought would be of interest. It’s by a French group called Kids, they sampled ‘Wind Parade’ and they’re rapping in French.«
(

music: Kids ‘unknown’)

»This is Fonce and I jamming in our studio just a couple of weeks ago.«
(video/music: Fonce and Larry Mizell studio jam)

»Last year we put together a compilation for Blue Note of some of our favourite things that we did for Blue Note. We remixed some of them, put on a couple of tracks that hadn’t been released, overdubbed some of those. That’s the next slide here.«

click below to listen

DONALD BYRD – Lansanas Priestess