Interviews

Record Rundown with Nanna.B

August 11, 2017

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I first met Nanna.B at the old Delicious Vinyl shop on Sunset Boulevard back in 2013, chatting boys and L.A. with our other homegirl Denisse (a.k.a. Girl Is Tough). Now years later, and after many West Coast parties, late night tarot sessions, and deep conversations, I am proud to count Nanna as one of my closest female friends.

With the release of her recent EP Golden, Nanna’s star is certainly on the ascent, and deservedly so. I asked her to pull 10 records that have been influential to her as an artist for Wax Poetics. Peep the feature below, originally posted on the Wax Po site here.

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We love Nanna.B : the striking Scandi babe who pens such beautiful yet relatable songs, and has been steadily collaborating with some of L.A.s finest musicians right now. Over a fresh beat from the likes of Mndsgn or Anderson Paak, her honeyed voice effortlessly links up spiritual concepts with modern day afflictions.

On last year’s self-produced “Where Is the $$$?” for instance, quips about the pressure to build a substantial pension and the refrain “God send me a dollar sign” root the song’s wider theme of karmic principles, intention and result, into modern society and everyday existence. And of the Anderson Paak-produced track “Golden,” featuring Odd Future’s Hodgy, Nanna describes it as “a reminder to all the women out there, including myself, to protect their power, their womb, their gold. You’re divine, be aware who you share your energy and body with but also allow yourself to open up when you do meet that king that sees you. Navigating that is the main theme of this song. There’s layers to this song really, but let’s just say that this guy I recently rejected hit me back with a “you must think the pussy is golden or something” text, so as of now this song is for him.”

 

Nanna.B’s ability as a songwriter to touch on lofty ideas while maintaining a sense of humour, honesty, and humility in her expression is itself golden, with the power to stir up untapped wisdom within her listeners. I feel like if I had daughter one day I might leave a Nanna.B record outside her bedroom door.

Hailing from Aarhus in Denmark, Nanna grew up surrounded by her craft. Attending a school that specialised in music, with an emphasis on West African music, samba, and funk, she began to sing and play both keys and percussion at the tender age of 6. She started creating her own music too at an early age, “writing little songs when I was around 7 about ducks and shit.” But her songwriting “for real” began when she was 16: “I would get melody ideas and then find the chords on the Rhodes for it. [That’s] still one of my processes.”

Nanna is now based in L.A., after first visiting and connecting with like-minded artists back in 2013. “The only person I knew out here was Teebs who I had met in Copenhagen on tour. I had contacted Shafiq Husayn and he invited me to the studio and later into his band [Dove Society.] That’s pretty much how I met everyone.” Finding appreciation for her work and her musical tribe as it were on the West Coast, she adds: “the family here is still growing.”

Last month saw the release of her EP Golden – an ode to the changing shades and seasons of love. She explains: “It’s inspired by different relationships but could pretty much describe one from the meeting and establishment of common grounds on “Golden” to the all-consuming passion on “Apocalyptic Love,” the ‘now I need my space and I got shit to do’ vibes on “Steady Line,” to the call for universal love energy on “Antidote.””

We asked Nanna to select 10 records that have played a role in her journal thus far to find out more about her musical inspirations and influences …

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D’Angelo  

Brown Sugar 

(EMI) 1995

I first heard this album on a school bus when I was maybe 12 and I instantly fell in love. I had never heard anyone that sounded like that and D’s voice just mesmerized me. His smooth silky voice over those grooves, the way he arranges and stacks his harmonies, the space he allows in between his crooning, all of those things inspire me to this day. Throughout high school I was pretty depressed and I used to wake up to Voodoo and fall asleep to Bjork’s Vespertine as my medicine.

 

Prince  

Love Symbol

(Paisley Park/Warner Bros.) 1992

I grew up listening to a lot of Prince. It’s hard for me to pick one album, but this was on repeat through some very defining years and some of my favorites of his are on there, like “The Morning Papers.” He touches so many genres on here and his melodies and lyrics are always inspiring, and him and New Power Generation just sounds amazing.

 

Joni Mitchell

Hejira

(Asylum) 1976

I was late on Joni, but when I finally got on it, it was like opening a door into a strangely familiar world. To me Joni is the personification of free flow and when I listen to it I feel like she’s leading me down paths of imagination with her stories. It’s always a very visual experience for me. Hejira speaks to my restless nature and my search and growth as a woman and artist, and is my favorite of hers. Her lyrical universe, her chords, those blue notes she hits and her ways of using her voice are a constant inspiration to me as a artist and a human being. Joni makes me more brave.

 

Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

(Ruffhouse/Columbia) 1998

Growing up in Denmark I couldn’t really reflect myself in the female artists that were being exposed to me through the mainstream media like Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, it was fun but I wasn’t feeling it. So when I found Lauryn, and also Erykah and India and Bjork, I found the role models I was in need of, and they became my therapists, my healers. The vulnerability and strength and honesty they shared through their artistry inspired me and really gave me a home when I was in that awkward space in life where you go from being a girl to a woman and you got all these emotions you don’t know what the fuck to do with. This album in particular showed me how powerful being a woman is.

 

Donny Hathaway   

Live

(Atlantic) 1972

I remember hearing this in a car after gospel rehearsals and it gave me chills, still does to this day. I had to go get it and was completely absorbed in it for days, just glued to my speakers. The way the band grooves, the way he sings live, oh my god! It’s just so brilliant and it touches me deeply every time I listen. Gives me a warm sensation of love and hope and his version of “Jealous Guy” is one of the best things that happened in the history of mankind. He’s always amazing but I don’t feel him with the same intensity and presence on his studio recordings.

 

Stevie Wonder 

Fulfillingness’ First Finale

(Tamla) 1974

This was the first Stevie Winder album I ever owned and my piano teacher Maria got it for me. She would teach me a lot of Stevie songs and generally at my school he was the most loved and played. I think “Please Don’t Go” was one of the first tunes I could play. From the first to the last song, this album is just so good, and “Creepin’” and “Bird Of Beauty” are some of my favourite songs. His musicality and genius continuously inspires me. He’s in my DNA. Doesn’t hurt that the Jackson 5, Deniece Williams and Minnie Riperton are on backing vocals here.

 

Bjork 

Vespertine

(One Little Indian) 2001

This sonic landscape is so intimate, raw and hauntingly beautiful that it still brings me to tears. One of my best friends introduced me to this album when it came out and it’s been with me ever since. It feels like a brush of a feather, a mother’s lullaby, an iced lake about to crack and that prickling sensation in your every cell when you’re in love. It sounds ancient and comforting to me and I think that’s why I used to listen to it as I would fall asleep, as it brought me peace and release. The use of field recordings, the celestial strings and harps and the vocal layerings are so divine.

 

Andre 3000  

The Love Below 

(LaFace/Arista) 2003

To me this is one of the best albums of all times! It just feels so free and playful and honest, like a necessary explosion of creativity. It inspires me to let go when I hear an artist really digging deep and letting it all out without limitations. Heart expression without fear. Listening to it feels like entering his world and vision and it’s a strange and beautiful and colorful trip through all his different styles and experiments. Timeless really.

 

Snoop Doggy Dogg  

Doggystyle 

(Death Row/Interscope) 1993

My first hip-hop love was this album and Snoop. I was super young so my English was still very new and understanding the codes of LBC slang was a challenge, but didn’t stop me from rapping along in my broken language. “Gz & Hustlas” was the hardest thing I had ever heard and I remember we used to jam it on the piano in between classes, that bass line! Wasn’t ’til years later that I heard “Haboglabotribin’” and made that connection, but I grew up with funk so G-funk naturally just felt good, Bernie Worrell’s synth lines making it feel like home, and the combination of Dre’s beats and Snoop’s flow (and voice) and Ricky Harris’ hilarious interludes had me hooked. This album allowed for me to connect with my more savage side and it gave me a sense of confidence that I hadn’t felt before. My parents weren’t particularly crazy about me walking around saying fuck and bitch and me putting Snoop’s face on the outside of my door, but they let me do my thing. “Ain’t No Fun” is one the most misogynist songs in the world, but it’s so hard to not sing along to that shit.

 

Sly and the Family Stone  

There’s a Riot Goin’ On

(Epic) 1971

This is another one of those albums where I feel like you get to step into the world of the artist, an uncompromisable one, and it’s painful, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting, and it’s honest and raw. This is just one of the best sounding records ever made, I mean just listen to “Family Affair”! The way Sly layered everything and mixed it just sends me into a psychedelic underwater space every time I listen. I feel it’s a deeply personal and political album, and I vibe with the more introvert sound he’s exploring on this project.

 

Nanna’s next EP LAPIS will be dropping later this month, and in the meantime you can listen to Golden here and buy it here.

Soul Clap in Paris

February 18, 2017

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Back in October I had the pleasure of kicking it with the Soul Clap guys, Eli and Charles, in Paris on the day of the release of their self-titled album Soul Clap. We chopped it up about the album’s recording sessions down at George Clinton’s studio in Florida, favourite French records and artists like Daft Punk and Air, and personal music memories that influenced their creative direction. The interview was conducted at the Hotel Amour in Pigalle (one of my favourite local spots), in the comfort of the most pimped out hotel room I’ve ever set foot in – the entire ceiling was covered in motorised disco balls (see the picture above)!

Check out the full Wax Poetics feature with the video for their single “Synthesiser Girlfriend” here.

I had a great time chatting to Eli and Charles, such nice dudes. Afterwards we rolled to their show at Nuit Fauves, a neat club on the River Seine, and my buddy DJ/producer Jamurai from London happened to be in Paris and came through. All round good vibes and memories!

Peep the interview below…

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Tell me about the recording sessions for Soul Clap. What was the atmosphere like?

Eli (a.k.a. Elyte): The original recording session was down there [at George Clinton’s studio] in Tallahassee, Florida.  We went down there not expecting anything, at the very least we would get to see the vaults of all the tapes of a lot of the P-Funk stuff, and just maybe we could meet George Clinton. So we just went in there and got loose and started jamming the two of us, and getting to know the musicians down there. Then all of a sudden George showed up and said “bust the studio,” and we just carried on working on music. We got the hang out with him there and played him a bunch of stuff.

Charles: Obviously leading up to that P-Funk had been a big influence for us. We played him a piece of music we had already worked on using Ableton that was little samples of Funkadelic songs, lots and lots of samples. His ears really perked up then because he could hear the original ideas re-contextualised. I think that showed him that we weren’t just a couple of chumps [both laugh]; that we knew the music.

 

Do you feel like you learned a lot working with him? If so was there anything in particular? 

C: We learned a tremendous amount working with George Clinton. Just the inspiration and confidence of having a titan like him say “hey, that’s cool what you guys are doing.” And I noticed being around him that he really responds well to people who are confident in themselves and have their own thing going on. I think that’s a beautiful thing to put forward.

E: Also the way he works in the studio was almost like how a producer works on a computer. You see how the recording process used to be, having to pull all these musicians together to play the parts that were in his head and guiding it to become a piece of music. It’s much easier now where you can do all those parts separately, but that’s still how he thinks. He teaches each person what he’s hearing and then records, so that was really a learning process seeing how he works.

 

I interviewed Shock G 3 years ago, and he described it like there was before working with George, and after working with George, that his life was better after. I’m just curious if that’s a common experience? [All laugh]

C: I think Shock G said it right. I can totally understand that. It’s like there was an unknown, but now there’s an experience and a known, and we’re carrying it forward. So that’s a beautiful thing, and why the album is so magical. You get a sense that we’ve accomplished what we set out to try to create musically. That’s why this is a self-titled album. In many ways a new beginning I think.

E: All those years finally paid off.

 

Do you find you go through phases where you get a little obsessed with certain types of music or certain artists?

E: Definitely. I would say right now, hip-hop is finally exciting again. It’s been super exciting for me, starting with Kendrick’s album [To Pimp A Butterfly]. Plus that whole explosion of exciting jazz and funk coming from L.A.. Kaytranada, he’s working with this guy Mick Jenkins, then Chance the Rapper is doing all this exciting stuff too. It feels like hip-hop is in an exciting musical place again. The first time since I was a kid, which is so cool.

C: I’ve been listening to a wide variety of things, but I guess artists that jump out are Little Dragon, Death Grips, and we saw Herbie Hancock in concert a few weeks ago.

E: We’ve been listening to all the Herbie Hancock we can.

 

Do you ever notice a difference in the different cities you play, in that the crowd has a different feel? Or does it tend to be a similar vibe at most of your parties? 

E: I think our parties bring an eclectic crowd to them because we play a range of music, but we’re based in dance music and house music. There’s a big difference from the U.S. to Europe, and the the U.K. to Europe is another thing. We’ve been touring for 6 or 7 years, so you really get to know a country. We always try to bring a general funkiness to the equation, which I don’t think necessarily always happens at a lot of these dance clubs. So that brings us a universal family of freaks.

C: I like that [both laugh].

 

Being that we’re here in Paris, do you have any favourite French records, producers, or artists?

C: We’re Serge Gainsbourg fans.

E: Daft Punk, obviously. Homework is one of the best albums ever. Charlotte Gainsbourg too had some really awesome stuff. I recently found out Tony Allen played on a couple of her albums, which is amazing. I think he lives here now, so he’s done a lot of work with French musicians including Charlotte Gainsbourg. Also gotta shout out Air, so good, and I.Q., one of our favourite house producers.

C: Breakbot too.

E: Phil Weeks. Another great house producer from here.

C: Just going back to Daft Punk, all the amazing French stuff, that really left an impact on us as disco house ravers in the nineties.

 

Did you ever listen to an African disco guy from the seventies called Jo Bisso? He did a lot of stuff here in Paris. The record label was Disques Espérance. A friend gave me a record of his and I’m trying to find out more about him. It’s very cool, definitely worth checking out. 

C: Sounds really familiar.

E: You know what deserves a shout out is this compilation series called Source Lab, which was actually one of the first house CDs I ever bought. I had been into acid jazz and kind of stumbled upon it, and it was just really dope french house, trip-hop, and acid jazz. The house music jumped out at me.

C: How did we forget? Dimitri from Paris!

E: Oh the best!

C: Duh.

E: Definitely the king of the edits.

 

Do you remember what the first records that you bought were?

E: My dad’s really into jazz so I started going with him to a place called Stereo Jack’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I’m from. I started buying stuff that I was into, that was when I got really into John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But soon after that I found hip-hop and started buying hip-hop records, then house and jungle.

C: First record that I owned? Jeez that’s a tough question. It was probably digging in a used record shop, but I can’t really remember. I do remember it was drum & bass and jungle that pulled me in the electronic direction. I was listening to LTJ Bukem and Goldie in my headphones in high school and going to the record store. A guy named Francis Englehardt, who many people probably know from Dope Jams in New York, I remember he gave me a bunch of Ganga Kru records, so like DJ Hype and DJ Zinc. Those were some of the first records I clearly remember. Plus walking into Satellite Records. That’s sort of before I even realised I was into house music.

E: I actually really clearly remember going to a record fair, when I realised I wanted to buy records, and bought a record by a group called Krush – I thought it was DJ Krush – but it was actually some electro stuff…

C: Was it breakdance music?

E: Yeah [grinning]. And I didn’t really get it at the time, but I still have the record. I will always keep that one. [laughs]

 

It’s funny when you talk about DJ Hype and all the drum & bass – it takes me back – you know how when you are a teenager and music just makes you feel really cool? I went through a break-beat / drum & bass phase. [all laugh]

C: Yes! Still does today. There were a couple of kids in high-school that were older than me that were definitely junglists, I just remember them outside smoking cigarettes with big caffeine pants on. I was like “what’s going on? These guys are cool as hell!”

 

That inspired you?

C: Yeah. In America we had jungle sky, liquid sky, and DJ Soul Slinger. That was really cool music, to this day still, This Is Jungle Sky, Volume 2.

 

That’s cool. I find it can be hit and miss when you go back and return to music, sometimes it really was as good as you thought it was, and sometimes it’s not. So it’s nice when you can say: “this really was quality.”

C: Yeah. That stuff was the most futuristic, forward-thinking music.

 

Anything else you want to say about your new record?

C: Should probably mention crewlove.us – our collaborative crew website. We have a subscription based service where people can go and get all of the music, there are lots of perks there for members.

E: Crew love is true love.

A Family Affair

January 29, 2017

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It was my last day in LA and such a perfect way to end my stay. I first met Jansport J in the summer of 2012 when he played DVTV (back when we used to party on the roof) and have been a fan of his music and vibe ever since. Needless to say, I was stoked to get to interview ‘Sport for Wax Poetics while in town. (Shout out to the homie Jordan Lockett for hooking it all up!) And an extra added bonus was getting to steal some interview time with Fatlip, who just happened to be kicking around DV HQ at the time.

Earlier that afternoon I had been hanging out in Topanga, the most magical place, drinking cocktails at Christian Audigier’s ranch with my very special friend and fellow free-spirit Lauren. I hot-footed it back to Hollywood for the interview, full of that sensation of awe and disbelief that I think is very particular to LA, absorbing the visceral beauty of the changing surroundings (green and yellow velveteen Topanga mountains turning to the neon pink lights of Sunset Boulevard) and counting my blessings to be creating such wonderful memories with some of my favourite people. I love you LA.

I owe a huge thank you to my friend and brilliant photographer Mekael Dawson for filming the interview and also taking these stills … Enjoy!

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Real Talk with Jansport J & Fatlip

January 29, 2017

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When we filmed the Jansport J interview In the Court of the Covina King at Delicious Vinyl HQ in July, I was lucky enough to grab some time with Fatlip to chat with him and ‘Sport for Wax Poetics about music-making, clearing expectations during the creative process, and the early days of Pharcyde …

Enjoy!

Biggups again to the homie Mekael Dawson for filming the interview, Jordan Lockett for hooking it up, and Delicious Vinyl for hosting! I also edited this video :)

In the Court of the Covina King

January 29, 2017

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Back in July I caught up with my friend Jansport J for Wax Poetics at the Delicious Vinyl headquarters on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. At the time of the interview ‘Sport was deep in the creative process, the “wilderness” as he coins it, of producing p h a r a o h : his raw, 27-tracks long, NYC-inspired, aural tour de force.

Peep the interview to see ‘Sport talk about his musical journey and influences, working with both major and independent labels and legends such as Snoop Dogg, and the timeless quality of the soul music he samples…

p h a r a o h was released January 27th via blackwhitegoldville music/Fat Beats Distribution.

Find it on iTunes here and Bandcamp/Cassette here

Biggups to Mekael Dawson for filming, the homie Jordan Lockett for hooking it up, and Delicious Vinyl for hosting! This is also the first video edit I’ve done myself .. :)

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Sitting in the Park … with Dan the Automator

January 4, 2017

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Back in the summer when I was bopping around California I had the honour of meeting Dan Nakamura, a.k.a. Dan the Automator, in his hometown of San Francisco. Dan is one of those producers who is behind such a varied array of great music, I’ve often felt as though I am constantly discovering that he has played a part in hit records – it was only in conversation with Dan that I learned he produced two albums for Kasabian (dudes from my hometown!).

I interviewed Dan for Wax Poetics at the top of Dolores Park on a beautiful and rather windy day, and chopped it up about the music he loved growing up, the Bay Area scene, working with artists like Kool Keith and Del the Funky Homosapien, porno music, and much, much more … Enjoy!

You can also check it out on Wax Poetics here!

Mega props to Zhubin Rahbar and Paul Keller for filming the interview, and to Matt ‘Matman’ Smith for painstakingly editing it to be so fresh and informative! :)

Talk Stoop with Prince Paul

July 30, 2016

Prince Paul Wax Po

Last month I got to catch up with my favourite hip-hop producer, the one and only Prince Paul in Manhattan’s West Village. If you had told seventeen-year-old me this, I probably would have died.

There’s a certain risk that comes with meeting one’s heroes, we’re all just human after all, but Paul is one of those dudes who’s even cooler than you imagine. Super hilarious (that’s hardly a surprise) and super modest, despite having produced some of the greatest hip-hop joints there are.

We chatted about his upcoming projects – new groups Brookzill! and SuperBlack, as well as a new solo album – recording with De La and Gravediggaz back in the day, exchanging snail mail with Daddy-O, making movies, and life lessons learned along the way …

You can also check it out on Wax Poetics here!

Mega props to Zhubin Rahbar for filming the interview, and to Matt ‘Matman’ Smith for editing it to look so fresh! :)

Star Child : George Clinton Interview

May 28, 2016

 

Last month I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the one and only George Clinton for Wax Poetics. When I first bought Funkadelic’s self-titled debut Funkadelic as a teenager, I never dreamed that one day I would get to chat to George himself about tour stories, life philosophies, and spirituality…

Peep the interview below and enjoy!

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For a musician whose creativity orbits around its own funk-fuelled planet, spinning out infectious melodies and dreaming up the most liberated of ideas, George Clinton is remarkably down to earth.

Born in North Carolina and raised in New Jersey, Clinton founded the group the Parliaments in 1955, releasing their hit single “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967. The group went on to evolve into the now iconic acts Funkadelic and Parliament in 1968 and 1970, respectively. The combined creative output from Parliament and Funkadelic in the ’70s is truly staggering, including platinum albums Mothership ConnectionOne Nation Under a Groove, and Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome, and hit singles such as “Flashlight” and “Aqua Boogie.” The list, of course, could go on and on (and on). It is no exaggeration to say that Clinton’s work has inspired countless other artists, and, he continues to record and collaborate to this day.

In conversation, the man behind the P-Funk juggernaut, arguably one of the most influential movements in music history, is at once open and brilliantly funny. He chuckles heartily and speaks candidly, sharing views and drawing from personal experiences. It was after a show at the New Parish in Oakland that I caught up with George to chat about the Bay Area, tour stories, perspectives and spirituality, and, of course, new music.

 

There are so many great funk and soul acts from the Bay Area. Which of those groups have inspired you? Do you have any favourite Bay Area groups?

Oh, you know who it is! [laughs] It’s gonna be Sly Stone.

Of course.

Without a doubt. There’s a lot of them from that area over the years, going back to Jefferson Airplane and all the way up to Too Short. But overall? Sly Stone.

Do you remember when you first heard his music?

Sixty-six or something like that. I knew him as a DJ before I knew he put a record out. He was a DJ right there in Oakland.

I didn’t know that.

Oh yeah. Sly Stone, that’s where he was first, as a DJ on KSOL on KDIA.

Did he play parties as well? Did you ever see him DJ?

Nah, I never saw him. But I used to listen to him on the radio, ’cause he talked so much shit! As a matter of fact, on my new album I have out right now I recorded Sly doing “The Nazz.” That was his theme song when he came on the radio.

It’s neat that you remember his theme song. It obviously still sticks out. You tour a lot, it seems like you’re almost constantly on tour.

I live on the road.

Do you have any favourite memories from being on tour or any tour stories? 

Oh lots. Lots from when we first got the Mothership and were going to different places like the Oakland Coliseum. That’s a good one right there! We actually did the live album there, it was called the P-Funk Earth Tour. I can remember getting there in the afternoon on the day of the show and watching them set up the spaceship and the big hat. And I fell asleep under the bleachers! [laughs] And when I woke up the show was on. The show was on. Scared the shit out me, I was goin’ be late!

Were you or did you make it?

Oh I made it. Got in the costume and was there just as my turn came on. [chuckles] Bootsy was on when I woke up.

They must have panicked wondering where you were.

Oh they were panicking. Nobody knew where I was at because I got there early afternoon. I just sat down by the bleachers and fell asleep!

That’s brilliant. And the audience would have had no clue. So I interviewed another Bay Area artist Shock G a couple years ago – 

Oh, that’s my boy.

Yeah. He talked a little about when you made Sons of the P and said that after he spent time working with you, he felt that his life got better in all regards and that you have a very positive influence on people. Do you have a life philosophy or outlook that you share with others?

Basically, do the best that you can and then funk it! [laughs] That’s basically my philosophy. You know, after you’ve done the best you can, that’s all you can do and that takes so much pressure off of you. You goin’ be alright most of the time like Kendrick Lamar says, “We goin’ be alright.” Whether you like it or not, you goin’ be alright! You can take a lot of the stress off of yourself by just knowing that for a fact that no matter what any moment might feel like at any given time, 99% of the time you going to be alright. And if you know that you don’t worry.

Shock G, oh man, he’s like that himself. He’s one of the few that makes sure the people are taken care of and is concerned that people are getting paid for their samples. Same with Ice Cube. A lot of people don’t know, they just make the record and they don’t know nothing about the business and business form. They don’t care about your relationships with other people, so they don’t care about paying the other people. But Shock G is one of those ones that the paperwork was clear right from the get go.

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George Clinton, Shock G, and P-Funk's Gary "Mudbone" Cooper

He cares about musicians. Do you have any spiritual beliefs?

Well I believe in everything; I believe in all people’s beliefs. I understand all people’s points of views and the supreme being that all of them are relating to. I think it’s the same one that we just have a different way of saying or doing it or relating to it. Oh I know we ain’t the only ones in here! I know there’s something else controlling us, ain’t no doubt about that. What it is or who it is, I don’t know or care, you know, I appreciate it, that what we call god or whatever. He is appreciated, or she is appreciated – whatever you want to call it!

Yeah! Your music has influenced and inspired so many and such a range of artists, from funk musicians to hip-hop producers. When you were starting out at the beginning of your career, was building such a body of work something you dreamed of? Was that what you were going for?

Yeah, I mean, when I got started, Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy were my models and they were turning out shit so fast. That’s what I was trying to do. I was trying to get a crew of people to be like the Miracles with Smokey, like Mickey Stevenson, you know, all the teams. I really did love that concept. And we modelled P-Funk after that, you know with Bootsy and the Horny Horns. More or less. A body of work that goes on and on. And it’s still going on. We got a new record out with Kendrick Lamar and Ice Cube: “Aint That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You.” Matter of fact they did it at Coachella a couple of nights ago.

Were you there?

I was supposed to be, I was invited but I couldn’t make it, I had a show the very next day. I had no idea they wanted to do that, but I saw the show last night and realised they actually did the song and had the video on. Oh it blew my mind. Kendrick did “Alright,” and I had to call him and tell him, “You made me cry with that shit.”

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Working on the new Parliament album, it’s called Medicated Frog Dogs.

 

Keep up to speed on the world of George Clinton here : www.georgeclinton.com

Originally posted on Wax Poetics here .

An Interview with Dawn Surratt

November 8, 2015

Dawn Surratt

 

Last month was breast cancer awareness month, which got me thinking about my time interning at the non-profit organisation Breast Cancer Action (BCA) in downtown San Francisco. For two summers running I worked there, learning about political activism and the issues surrounding breast cancer and women’s healthcare. My summers at BCA were some of the most inspiring times for me, working alongside brilliant and strong-minded women and exploring the city of San Francisco.  I spent many afternoons amassing rap records in the Amoeba dollar crates and writing in Dolores Park.

The first interview I ever conducted was in the summer of 2009 with former BCA board member Dawn Surratt. I remember taking the bus out to the UCSF campus on Parnassus one brilliantly sunny San Francisco afternoon to chat to Dawn in her office. It was my first experience of probing a person with big and personal questions, and I remember feeling so amazed that someone I had just met would share so many experiences and feelings with me.

Dawn and her stories really inspired me, so I wanted to share the interview here. Enjoy!

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Dawn on Breast Cancer Action

There are so many nonprofit organizations concerned with breast cancer in the U.S. BCA really stood out from the pack. Their work really challenged the status quo. Their stance was not about employing pity or sorrow for women who had died of breast cancer or were living with breast cancer. It was about how do you take this illness and turn it into something that is more of a political agenda and more incisive in terms of getting to the roots of the most common cancer with causes unknown. Also, the Think Before You Pink® campaigns caught my attention. They are simple and clever. I think they really help to expand awareness on issues around environmental injustices and the links between what we consume and illness and disease. All the campaigns really drive home the reality that there are businesses, corporations, manufacturers, even breast cancer organizations that don’t “walk their talk.” Every October the market floods with these products that claim to be about raising awareness and saving women’s lives. In reality, they are more about “how do I make my company look good” than about doing anything substantial to end the breast cancer epidemic. So I think this really clever campaign has shed a bright light on these shortcomings, and they’ve not been afraid to spotlight some pretty big players involved in the whole pink frenzy.

 

On Healthcare Reform and Big Pharma

I don’t know if having a single-payer system will come to the U.S. People will have to get more pissed off. I think people are pissed off, but they need to get more organized at a federal level. I think a lot is happening at a local level—there is a whole lot of drive and energy around getting a single-payer health care system in place. However, whether that’s going to be at a federal or national level, I’m not sure. So I think to the extent that this administration can really overhaul this system, it’s not just about covering the uninsured. That’s part of the issue. Roughly one in four or five [are uninsured], but that’s only a part of the problem. There are people who have insurance, but the premium is really horrible, or families with private insurance whose insurance doesn’t cover certain treatments. What does that mean to cancer patients and someone’s longevity and level of treatment? Ethically, our health care system is perverse. The new administration needs to address these problems. The government needs to take their cue from those who have had serious illnesses or people close to them, not insurance companies or drug companies. I wish I could say that I was hopeful, but I’ve become very cynical. I know what I want to see, but what can I expect? In four years? I hope that the new heads at the FDA will be much more conservative concerning the “fast-tracking” mantras and off-label use, that people in positions of power will use their training to say “no” to the pharmaceutical companies.

 

On Putting Patients First and Social Inequities

One of the things that this recent presidential election did was to wake up a lot of apathetic voters. So if that level of civic participation can be sustained and that kind of energy can transfer over to the realm of health care, that would be an amazing thing. Regarding breast cancer specifically, I think people need be less lulled by the whole pink ribbon madness.

People talk about breast cancer and raising awareness, which is like running fingernails down a chalkboard for me. Awareness is not the issue anymore; the issue is about who gets treatment. What kind of treatment do they get? What groups of people get treatment? What’s the quality of the treatment? Who lives with this disease? Who dies?

More white women are diagnosed with breast cancer, but in terms of outcomes, if you look at who dies sooner, you are looking at women of color and women who are poor. It has to be a broader discussion. It has more to do with social injustices.

“BCA’s stance is not about employing pity or sorrow for women who have died of breast cancer or are living with breast cancer. Rather, BCA puts women in the driving seat when it comes to self-advocacy.”

BCA’s stance is not about employing pity or sorrow for women who have died of breast cancer or are living with breast cancer. Rather, BCA puts women in the driving seat when it comes to self-advocacy. Their campaigns show people, women in particular, that our bodies are not just things that have things done to them. We can have a say, a big say, in what gets done.

BCA enables ordinary people to get to get in and have their say. For example, recently Breast Cancer Action did a survey on the effects of aromatase inhibitors. For some women these drugs work, but for a lot of others, the side effects are horrible and not worth it. People being prescribed these treatments need to be able to access this kind of information. A scientific advisory board refers information back to the staff. The sheer amount of information is overwhelming—new research findings, conferences, information that needs to be acted on. BCA has taken on the role to be the watchdog of the breast cancer movement. It’s about helping women get to a place where they have a collective voice that gets heard. A collective voice is more powerful than an individual voice. One of the things I’ve heard a number of survivors say is, it’s hard to be your own medical advocate. One of the most important roles you can have for people living with cancer is as a personal advocate. Putting together a team is important. I feel like BCA acts as that advocate; they assume the role as part of that team.

The entire “who lives and who dies” issue is not going to be addressed until we approach some other issues about who lives where, what kinds of foods do they have access to, etc. There is so much emphasis on individuals’ behavior without making the link between choices and what is in a person’s environment. Studies are constantly showing up the gaps in breast cancer diagnosis and breast cancer survival rates between different races and classes of women.

 

On Sustained Involvement

I was born in 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, and there were things that I saw that made me very aware of racism. I know what it was like for my mother. I was not the first black girl at my school. My mother was the first black girl to go to her high school in Texas, and so the kinds of things she encountered I did not have to. I worked in Africa. That was a really humbling thing, in terms of the degree of suffering that I saw. I witnessed absolutely preventable deaths caused by poor nutrition and a lack of access to clean water and anti-malaria drugs and vaccines. These were early and untimely and unnecessary deaths. I befriended some nursing students while I was there, they would tell me about their experiences in the maternity wards. As a nursing student in the U.S. or U.K. or Canada, it is rare to see someone die in childbirth. It happens, but it’s not commonplace. It is just the flip in a lot of African countries—to see a woman bleeding to death, and there is nothing you can do because you don’t have the right drugs. She was too anemic when she came in the first place, and all you can do is watch this woman bleed to death. This is something these nurses witness routinely and experience throughout their work. Breast Cancer Action has taken the experience of breast cancer and said, “This doesn’t need to be as bad as it is.”

You ask how I stop becoming disheartened. A good friend of mine who is an activist in Austin told me she would often say, “Those of us in positions of privilege cannot afford to be disheartened.” If these young nurses cannot be disheartened knowing what they are stepping into, then, well…

“Things change because of people…”

There were many days that I would cry listening to stories in the clinic, but you see what your colleagues deal with day in, day out. I have respect for what these people are trying to achieve with very few resources, not just in terms of money, but human resources. Things change because of people like that. BCA operates on a shoestring budget. Yet they achieve so much. They make changes that matter. What sustains me? Knowing history, knowing fully that people who made really radical change happen did so with far fewer resources than us. They didn’t have the Internet. If they were able to make things happen, then we can, too.

 

George Clinton Interview

July 5, 2015

gc

I was recently listening to “(Not Just) Knee Deep” by Parliament, and was reminded of the sublime feeling that song can stir! I have loved the music of Parliament/Funkadelic for many years now, and I think it will always hold a special place in my heart. Going back into the P-Funk archives inspired me to pull out an interview I did with George Clinton in the summer of 2011. Enjoy!

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I first discovered George Clinton when listening to the Prince Paul-produced De La Soul album De La Soul is Dead. It was the opening vocal-sample on “Millie pulled a pistol on Santa” (promising some funky emotion-licking in return for sucking on a soul) that was enough to convert me over to The Funk.

The world of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic is deliriously intense (in the best, most liberated, technicoloured possible way) and his contribution to the world of music through the P-Funk empire is undeniable – not only to funk styles, but to so much music since. Clinton is one of the most heavily sampled and borrowed-from musicians of all time; nearly every one of his songs can be traced in a hip-hop joint somewhere. Just listen to anything from the G-Funk era to hear an instance of his influence.

The P-Funk are also known for their legendary, epic live shows. Think roller-skating onstage, prosthetic noses, half-an-hour guitar solos and a whole lot of soul.

All the way from Houston, Texas, George was nice enough to catch up with a fan in London and chat about his music, inspirations and experiences…

One thing that really strikes me about your music is how it pulses with so much imagination. I’ve often wondered whether you always had a strong imagination growing up?

When I was growing up?

Yeah. Since you were a child maybe…?

Well, when I was growing up, there were singers like Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers that made me want to be a singer. I started following them in grade school, in 1956. I’d always love to be those singers. And then, ten years later, we got a first hit record in 1966.

So would you say it was then that your creativity took off? Once you were a teenager?

Yes. We did “I Just Wanna Testify” in 1966. We put out the first record in ’57, and we didn’t get a hit until like ’66. That was the beginning. We came to London in ’68, and we had that hit record out. And then we had Parliament, and Funkadelic. And then ten years after that, ’76, we came off The Mothership Connection, which was the biggest, you know – The P-Funk – which is still going on now. They had a space-ship, and we came over there in ’78. And it’s still Funk in every sense.

I find your artwork and your music so complementary of one another.

I mean, all the Funkadelic, then we had Bootsy, the Horny Horns, and all the other names that we had with the group. We have all the bases covered, because they all complement each other.

I was wondering about how you feel your relationship with music has developed. The Funk – does it still mean the same thing to you today than it did say forty years ago?

Oh yes. Well, The Funk still is the way it should be, and it always evolves. Whenever I hear that – that beat – that is the new Funk. Hip-Hop is Funk. Hip-Hop – Funk is just being that. Or Techno, or any dance music – Funk is the DNA in it and that’s what makes it survive. So yeah, I’m still into Funk music. Whenever I hear somebody say “No, don’t do that in music,” to me, that’s the music to do.

So much of your music has influenced so many musicians afterwards – do you have a particular favourite song that samples or is obviously inspired by your music?

Oh, there’s quite a few of them that I’ve liked the samples. I like Public Enemy’s music and use of samples, a lot – an awful lot. And I also like Digital Underground. There’s so many clever ways and real good producers that can just make brand new music from samples. But I liked it right from the get-go – EPMD, Rakim and all of the Bronx music, and then out of the West coast – NWA, Dre and all them, I like their music too.

Yeah, same. I’ve been following your FunkProbosci blog – (Sadly, whilst Clinton is one of the most respected and influential figures of the music scene, he is currently involved in an on-going battle about the royalties of those celebrated samples – check out the full story here - it seems like it’s been such a struggle for you with the royalties case.

Well, we’re getting ready to go to court now for a lot of that royalty stuff. The record companies, the BMI, publishing companies – they’ve been stealing the money from all the writers. So, FunkProbosci, that’s what we’re talking about over there. All of that is getting ready to come out into the courts. We just came in The Mothership to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, the museum, and we’re doing a big thing at the British Museum.

Yeah, I saw that you’re doing the ‘Space Children’ talk – I was actually wondering if there were any particular works of Science Fiction you would cite as favourites?

Well, you know, like Star Trek and all Space-life. I mean, The Mothership has always been there in my heart, you know cos I’m not from this planet – I’m from the Dark Star. Life is serious. But I’m glad to be a part of the British show over there, because it shines light on how important the music is throughout the world.

Yeah. I’m going to come to the London show in June… Would you say that London’s a Funky place?

Oh yeah. Always. London has always been a good place for The Funk because in the sixties when we came and did “Testify,” and it was more Motown, but London was going all funky. A partner of mine in 1959 named Jimmy Miller, who was producing The Rolling Stones, Spooky Tooth, Traffic, Steve Winward – he was producing all those songs and those groups – and he was Funky as all hell. He was my partner in ’59/’60. And then they have Northern Soul out of Birmingham and Manchester. I have a big stake in that as a lot of songs I did in ’62 and ’63 are really popping up there in Northern Soul. So I enjoy being over there a lot.

What can London expect from the show when you play later this month?

(pause) A whole lot a rump-shakin’!

(laughs) Amazing.

The new music we got is called ‘I Got That Doo-Doo’ – ‘Got that Doo-Doo’, that’s the slogan.

I’ll be sure to remember that one… And I was wondering – firstly, whether you remember your dreams often? And if so, whether you could tell us about a funky dream if you’d had one?

Dreams? Ooohhhh, shoot. Well, I was dreaming that we had the entire planet inside a Mothership shell, and that the Mothership came back with a second landing on the planet Earth. And we’re getting ready to realise that one – I think that that was not a dream; I think it’s a…déjà vu. It’s on its way in now – The Mothership. So, we’ll see the dream come true.

 

First published on SomeThinkBlue in 2011.

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