Sunday, July 21, 2013

NDN Soul Festival Coming August 17th and Featuring The GROOVALOTTOS!!!

Without Question, this will be one of the best nights of live music on Cape Cod!!! The NDN Sou Festival will be a live televised concert of some of the best soul, funk and jazz acts in contemporary Native American Music; including 2013 Native American Music Awards winner, and radio personality Raphael Deas; Soul singer extrodinaire and 2010 New England Urban Music Awards Nominee, Phillip Aaron; Internationally celebrated, Spirit Wind Records recording artists, The GROOVALOTTOS; and Legendary Mashpee Drum and Singing group Wakeby Lake.

This is a show not to be missed. August 17th @ 7PM at the Cape Cod Community Media Center, 17 Shad Hole Rd, Dennis Port, MA

Monday, July 8, 2013

NDN Soul-Funk Saga Pt. 3

This is a seemingly obvious point, but every producer who is preparing to embark on a project, needs to do a few bits of prep-work... inspiration and perspiration..   

I. Never Be Afraid to Revisit The Wheel...
My first time producing a project was in 1985, it was a demo for my first songwriting partner (R.I.P. Quinn Dickerson) as we were trying to get a record deal. At that time, the producers or all producers were Quincy Jones, Full Force and Kashif. So, I not only went about trying to listen to everything they produced, but finding every possible article and interview that they were featured in to see if they gave any tips or hints on production. I knew I was on the right track when Quincy Jones said in an interview that when he was producing an a;bum, he would listen to all of the top ten albums of that year for ideas... Full Force said that a producer needs to find their instrument sounds and be consistent... Kashif talked about song textures and grooves. While the demo didn't get us signed, it did get my foot in the door of the industry. It also became the basis for my approach to producing a project for the remainder of my career.

No matter how new, unique, experimental or innovative a recording project is, I can guarantee that you will find at least ten albums that can influence your approach to producing the album. All artists and producers like to think that they are contributing something new to the music world, and in many ways we do, but in many ways our concepts, even subconsciously are composites of our past experiences and interactions, combined with new ideas and sounds we've acquired in our minds. For example, consider Parliament Funkadelic and how way out they were, but then line them up against Sun Ra, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix and hear the influential thread.

The GROOVAOTTOS are a very organic band, with a range of influences including funk, blues, r&b, jazz, Afro-Beat, Native American drumming and songs, and the soul sounds of the 1960's and '70's; as well as 1990's hip-hop. Between us we have have over 120 years of musical experience. The music
of this band experiences mood and tempo shifts within single songs as well as a bunch of other elements that were common in older recordings but are virtually unheard of with most of the contemporary recordings. The challenge here was trying to capture some of the excitement and vibe of thew band's live show in a contained environment, like a recording studio. Here, we want it tight and solid as opposed to perfect and predictable, bust still something that can be enhanced and -to an extent- manipulated.

I found myself listening to a lot of the live, funky masters: Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic, The Meters, and Curtis Mayfield. I also listened to a lot of the late 1980's and 1990's recordings that sampled these records for production influence... Ali Shahid Muhammad, DJ Supreme, Q-tip and Paradise Gray in particular demonstrate  a hearty respect for the original recordings as samples when they produced hip-hop over the breaks. I also poured through my jazz masters... Marcus Miller's work with Miles Davis... Miles Davis' stuff from the 1970's, The Crusaders, The Yellow Jackets...

One of the big issues of the modern approach is the "producer pack" sound files used when tracking live instruments. For example, a drummer goes in and lays down a drum track, then a production intern takes the track and finds the snare sound that is the new "hit" snare sound from the producer pack and cuts it in over the snare drum from the live drum. Live drummers are very, very, very rarely used in recording sessions anymore and even if they are, the drums they played are almost never what you're going to hear on the record.

I wanted to get away from the industry mold for this album. For one thing, I love the sound of E Ray J's snares and feel they are an integral part of the band's sound. For another thing, I wanted a crisp band recording,like a great, multi-tracked jazz album... The approach I chose was to get a great band take and then address each instrument and track one-by-one to bring it to speed, they way they did it in the 1970's when the 16-track was introduced.

Okay, so we went into Ron Ormsby's and laid down a bunch of my originals in the session. Just played them through like we do in a show, except everybody get's really self-conscious in a recording session no matter how many times we've played a song. We laid down some solid grooves... some stuff we can really be proud of. Now we need to fix it and get it up to level. The most solid and consistent tracks were the keyboards (no applause necessary) and the drums. A few of the keyboard parts, I'm going to re-do so that they can fit into the songs better.What we have, is the basis of a killer album.

To be continued...

Friday, July 5, 2013

NDN Soul-Funk Saga Pt. 2

From Mwalim's Producer Journal:

I was at the All Access Music Conference in August of 2012 and one of the things that struck me was
this: as a producer in a room full of music producers, why is it a novelty that I produce real bands and real band recordings? The music business migrated to an electronica, direct input production system in the 1990's. As I sat at the conference and listened to the interviews with the top producers of today, who all worked off of a single beat machine and sampler, it was proof positive that popular music had de-evolved.  As the panelists listened to my tracks, most were impressed with the fact that I had real band recordings in with my electronic works; while some felt that I was doing 'meaningless production work' and should have sampled and looped the instruments.

Fast forward to when it came time to producing a recording for The GROOVALOTTOS, it became time to throw the lessons learned from working in the music industry in New York out of the window, and make an album the actually captured the magical essence of the band, over a bland, sterile and predictable cookie-cutter record as the industry requires. To make this album I had to reach back into an older bag of tricks...  Trying to figure out how to approach recording this song is the trick. I'm going to have to skip over every rule that the industry tried to teach me ten years ago about the 'new sound'. For one thing, we're not making a pop  record. Drum machines, samplers and beat machines are not the root of this project. 

I decided to share my journal from producing the album in the hopes that it might inspire other bands and producers to return to creating recordings as opposed to making them. A basic blue-print to making a commercially viable, band recording. QuestLove, Spike Rebel and I should not be the only Soul/Urban/ R&B producers under 50 who know how to do this... Perhaps these notes will be another way for The GROOVALOTTOS to make the musical world more interesting. So now, onto the process...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

NDN Soul-Funk Saga: Catching The Sound Pt. 1

Part of the mystique of The GROOVALOTTOS has been their ability to gain gigs and a following on pure buzz, with a couple of demos floating out in the Soundcloud and Youtube universe.

The advent of the beat machine and electronic with time correction and pitch correction making music 'perfect' or perfectly sterile to be more precise; the truly organic band recording has become an extinct element. Drummers and bass players, rhythm guitars and backing vocals have become sampled a looped elements; along with sequenced keyboard parts and 'auto-tuned' leads are the stuff records are made of.

The GROOVALOTTOS being a rather self-contained musical force, with singer, sonmgwriter and keyboardist, Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor being the seasoned producer of the crew, took on the ardous task of capturing the raw, organic, funky essence of one of Native America -if not America in general's- greatest bands. This is a story that takes us into some of the best recording studios in Southeastern, Massachusetts, with some of the best soul, funk, blues and jazz players in the country, with one of the greatest producers and musical minds in the business.

To be continued...