Interview

San Francisco July 2016

March 6, 2017

I tend to always bookend any trips to California with quality time in San Francisco, and the last time I visited the States was no exception. Back in July I was lucky enough to enjoy just over a week in the Bay before flying home to London, getting to see my family and friends and explore the city, as well as hustle a little…

I’ve written before about my love of Amtrak; the beatnik side of me just adores the opportunity for reflection and observation. There’s something remarkably soothing about the trip up to SF from LA, full of epic views and curious characters.

*Roadside Views*

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*Champagne on the Train. Amtrak in style*

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One of the biggest highlights of my last days in SF was getting to meet local legend Dan the Automator and interview him for Wax Poetics at the top of Dolores Park. It was my first time meeting Dan, and such an honour. My buddy Z came through with some very impressive recording equipment, and shooting by the Park’s ‘Gay Beach’ corner allowed an epic panorama of San Francisco as our backdrop. The wind was definitely working against us, which with my mane was a challenge for sure! But, it was so cool to hear Dan’s stories and insights, and I’m super happy with how the final video came out – shout out to the homie DJ Matman for the dope edit! After the shoot we got pizza and drinks at local favourite Pizzeria Delfina – so delicious and definitely worth a visit.

*Behind the scenes*

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Watch the interview below!

*Me and Dan*

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*The iconic and inspiring Women’s Building in the Mission*

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*My cousin’s very cute birthday cake*

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*Prince Paul spinning 45s at The Uptown in Oakland*

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Another highlight of my final sojourn in SF was catching Hieroglyphics play Stern Grove. Dan the Automator was DJing before, and managed to sneak me backstage so that I was able to hang with him and Hiero there. I enjoyed drinking copious amounts of high-grade sake, riding around on milk-float-esque carts, and meeting Del the Funkee Homosapien and Davey D for the first time.  Afterwards we got ice-cream and hit a dive bar for a pool tournament in the Sunset District. Very cool memories.

*Beautiful NorCal trees at Stern Grove. Such a cool hidden spot I had never been to before.*

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I couldn’t wait to hit up the newly reopened SFMoMA, I always love to spend a few hours there when in town. Such a treat. The Miranda July & Harrell Fletcher Learning to Love You More room was my favourite part this time.

*Reflections at the MoMA*

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*Embarcadero at night on 4th July*

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*Leaving Cali Bluez. Nothing quite like rounding off a long trip by gazing out at the runway, sipping on a glass of wine and reflecting on the time gone by.*

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*Living life in the window seat. Always.*

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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

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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 .

George Clinton Interview

July 5, 2015

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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.

Da Vinci Interview : A Fillmore Story

February 26, 2015

When I think of Fillmore Street in San Franciso, I always think of Yoshi’s and the sushi spot next door, as well as Jazz festivals in summer and all the musical heritage that the area boasts.

It was illuminating to meet and chat with the young rapper Da Vinci, a Fillmore native, back in 2011 and hear about his experiences growing up and starting out in such a musically saturated place. We met at Gussies Chicken & Waffles on a sunny San Francisco afternoon and discussed a myriad of topics stemming from music and city life, and it prompted me to reflect a lot more on the socio-economic issues surrounding the Arts.

Here is my interview with Da Vinci as it originally appeared in Nerdtorious .. (shout out to San Jose’s David Ma!)

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A FILLMORE STORY: INTERVIEW WITH DAVINCI

(Alice Price-Styles, a young journalist and aspiring academic out of London, contacted me wanting to contribute an article. Ms. Styles has an affinity for hip-hop, particularly the ’90s era and has done some extensive coverage of Delicious Vinyl and its history. In line with some of her recent work, I thought it’d be interesting for her to interview one of SF’s current brightest MCs, DaVinci of the Fillmore district. Here’s a talk that went down between Alice and DaVinci at Gussie’s Chicken & Waffles. Word to DaVinci and shouts to Alice for the nice interview. – DM)

By Alice Price-Styles

A metropolitan melting pot of cultures and characters, the eclectic city of San Francisco has long been known for its diverse population and distinctive, colourful history. Tightly sandwiched between Japantown, Hayes Valley and affluent Pacific Heights is an area steeped in musical history: the Fillmore district. Music permeates the historic area’s atmosphere and activities, draws in scores of visitors each year, and has a profound affect on the lives of its residents.

Due to development and gentrification the Fillmore may be shrinking, but the district’s lineage of jazz and blues remains proudly preserved, and can be traced in the young musicians breaking out of the scene today. One artist aware of the Fillmore’s heritage and its neighborhood influence, for better or for worse, is underground rap artist, DaVinci. A talented emcee from the ‘Moe and highly aware of his surroundings, DaVinci the rapper seems rather wise beyond his years.

2010 saw his debut album The Day The Turf Stood Still, followed by the EP Feast or Famine in 2011. His gravelly voiced rhymes have been relating the heavy issues that he sees around him, garnering much interest and praise for their insight and honesty. In anticipation of his forthcoming LP The Moena Lisa, I met with DaVinci in the heart of the Moe (Gussies Chicken & Waffles!) to hear a little more from the rising rapper himself.

What would you say your musical background is? How did you first start getting into records and how did you start rapping?
I would say I first started getting into rapping in middle-school. When I was ten/ eleven years old I was in a band and played the drums – any instrument I could pick up I would try and play back then – and I learned how to read music, so that’s my foundation in music. I started writing rhymes around that time too – when there used to be free writing sessions I would write poetry, and slowly that turned into me putting poetry on top of music.

I was listening to all kinds, and a lot of local, music around that time. Scarface and The Ghetto Boys, Tupac, Wu Tang, GLP, Too Short, Ice Cube and NWA – anything that was popular around the early/mid-nineties, I was listening to and formatting my raps around. I noticed that they were basically expressing how they felt about their environments, so I did the same. I just kept doing it – never thinking ‘Oh I’m going to grow up and be a rapper’ – it was a hobby, and I had other things. I kicked it and cut class just like everybody else around that age, got into trouble, got out of trouble – but always kept doing music, writing raps after school to keep us out of real trouble. There were local recording studios and a couple of neighbourhood cats had closet-studios, and we used to just go over there for hours and make songs for fun. Eventually those songs got better and better – people started hearing them and we got popular in this Fillmore area. It just grew and people around me started saying ‘yo – let’s put a project together and try and get it to more people’ – and that’s kind of how we got to where we are right now.

 

What’s the idea or concept behind the name Da Vinci? Is there an allusion with that?
Well, it really doesn’t have too much to do with the famous painter Da Vinci. I said it in one of my raps a long time ago, at maybe 18, something like ‘Da Vinci paint a picture vivid’ – I said it in there and then people started calling me that…and it just stuck.

I was wondering who did the artwork for your album covers, and I thought maybe you had painted them yourself??
Nah, I can’t paint! I suck at painting and drawing, but we got some talented artists on our team, on our Sweetbreads label (SWTBRDS). One of our art directors Rob Martin did the cover.

You have your second LP The Moena Lisa coming out, could you say how it is going to be different from your past works?
The beats are going to be more progressive and it’s definitely going to be a little further away from what people might think of as traditional hip hop.

Because you’ve had a lot of comparisons to that more old, East-Coast sound…
Right, which I don’t like. I don’t like that comparison, but I understand where it comes from. All of the producers I work with, and myself as a rapper, had a starting point and are naturally trying to do something that feels like the next step on from the last thing that we did. So the EP Feast or Famine I feel is a few steps ahead production-wise and conceptually than the first LP The Day The Turf Stood Still was.

We want to create a trilogy, so that when you listen to the records together you will be able to see them as one. That’s kind of hard to tell with just one project, or even with two, but after three or four people will really be able to see the steps and progression; everybody is really challenging themselves to make something sound a little more unique than the first.

There is an apparent level of consciousness to your work – are there any figures, musical or otherwise, that have inspired you in that respect?
Definitely. I always feel like at the beginning of the night I’m gonna have fun, we’re gonna drink, have a party and have a good time – but at some point I’m going to say something that I feel is important. Because I know that from a young cats perspective I always appreciated rappers who I felt I could relate to on a social level, who understood where I was coming from and weren’t too serious or preachy all the time, but who also gave me some survival tactics as far as being able to live. Not just partying and smoking and having fun, but gave me something valuable that I can take with me. I appreciated cats like Nas, Tupac and Scarface who really dropped some quotables in their rhymes.

It may not necessarily have been one hundred per cent positive all the time, because you’re not naturally coming from a positive place, but I appreciated the fact that they did give me some game to take with me, some real knowledge that I couldn’t learn in school. The teacher couldn’t relate to me and give me the types of words that Nas and Jay Z did, or NWA and Ice Cube did back in the day. The books that they made us read in middle school and high school, like Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath – books that were standard for the public school system and were good books in a literary sense – didn’t really relate to me having to go home and having no food on the table. I couldn’t really get from it how to help my Mom put groceries in the refrigerator or help her put the lights on – I got that type of knowledge from the rap albums that I was introduced to at a young age. They helped me to realise that there were other people out there with similar struggles, so I want to give that to the youth who might possibly be in the same situation I was in at eleven or twelve.

When writing your lyrics do you tend to put yourself into situations, or do you write mainly from personal experiences?
I do sometimes have to take myself back to how I felt when I was in a certain situation, one that I’m not in right now. Sometimes I find myself in the same situation that I was in when I was fifteen, just in a different way – and that inspires me to write about it. I still have young cousins, nieces and nephews, and they go through a lot of the things that I went through. It inspires me to keep writing and keep doing what I’m doing, knowing that there is an audience out there that can relate to it. Even if they can’t relate to it, I would hope that they can learn from it and just appreciate it for what it is.

In the documentary The Fillmore Story there is a point in that where you mention how really amazing music can come from situations of poverty, could you talk a bit about that and say why you think that is?
I did a little bit of my homework with that – I looked at the Harlem Renaissance in New York around the sixties and seventies when a lot of Jazz and Blues was at its height with artists like Billie Holiday, and the cities that it moved around from. It went from St Louis, to Harlem, and right here to Fillmore San Francisco, and in those times there were revolutions going on just within those neighbourhoods. Also in Los Angeles especially – they have a gang-banging culture out there and eventually brought some of the best gangster rap which spread across the world.

It wasn’t to show how bad of a neighbourhood or how hard Los Angeles is, it was to show exactly the feeling and emotion that came at the tail end of what they were experiencing. I just did my history and would sit back and think from time to time, and I realised that’s how I came to be – my pops is a blues singer, sings blues and gospel to this day, and he and a lot of the musicians that I came up with are from the same neighbourhood. They grew up in the city here and it was the same situation – I’m just the next generation of that. I was born in the eighties, so naturally my outlet is hip hop music. Blues? I was never gifted enough to learn how to sing, like how they did in the Church. I guess that skipped a generation – my kids might learn to sing or something like that.

Do you feel like the heritage of the Fillmore District influences the hip hop that comes out of the area?
Definitely, definitely. Fillmore has always been a place where people come to make music and get their music heard. I was lucky enough to be born and raised here, so I was able to absorb all of the culture from a young age when, as far as hip hop is concerned, it was at its purest form in the eighties and early nineties. Before then I remember being a young boy wondering around seeing junkies and crack-heads singing, playing trumpet and saxophone – but, they were on drugs so they would just take the change and go and get high. I was so young I couldn’t put it together like: ‘why does every crack-head around here know how to sing??’ I didn’t get it, until I did my history and realised: ‘oh…these crack-heads are retired musicians…’ Some of them didn’t make it, some of them did but got hooked on drugs, and a lot of them didn’t have family and were out on their own, but couldn’t make it on their own.

I look around and see my generation is the same thing – a lot of my peers got the negative side of this being such a musical melting pot, because where there’s good music there’s going to be people crowding around that music and…‘celebrating’ – whether celebrating with drugs or alcohol, there’s going to be celebrating around the music. I was able to see all of that; the people around it, who enjoyed it but also fell victim to not knowing when the party was over and getting themselves together, and it still goes on. I appreciate it, but I also see it for what it is.

A double-edged sword?
Right, right. Definitely.

What does your own music mean to you?
It means a lot. First and foremost it means me, where I come from and where I grew up, my beliefs. We call it Thorobred music and came up with the coin for that type of music as it’s about being true to who you are, not trying to make everybody be like you – I understand there are people who can enjoy my music who don’t come from the same walk of life as me. I just want people who are listening to it to get where I’m coming from, whether they agree with it or not. If each fan had the opportunity to tell me their story I would do my best to try to understand where they’re coming from and see things the way that they see. Even if it’s just for three minutes listening to a song.

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