Our Symphony Space gig on Valentine’s Day is approaching. Get tickets here.
The Du-Rites HAD to make a song called “Corinthian Leather” since I’ve been dreaming about ’70s Cadillac and Chrysler Broughams and Lincoln Continentals every night. But the new album is already done, so it’s the b-side only flip to our upcoming 7″ single, “The Mean Machine,” out in September. I had to snatch up Mr. Time Wolf from our gig in Ben Pirani’s band to come lay some greasy high cholesterol Barney Miller bass on this one. Here’s a few clips from recording sessions. There’s vocals but I’ll save those for the release. This groove is for the ghost of Frank Cannon.
Took a two month hiatus to iron out health stuff, re-focus, re-energize, re-prioritize, recycle, record, remix, etc. Here’s a peek at what’s confirmed for the first half of 2018:
- J-Zone: Guerrilla Drums (Break record) – April (Digital), May/June (Double 7″ Vinyl)
- The Du-Rites: “Gamma Ray Funk” b/w “Fish Sammich” 7″ (May)
- The Zone Identity: “Melting Pot” b/w “Soul Food” 7″ (May)
- The Du-Rites: Original score/theme song for Bobbito’s Rock Rubber 45s documentary (July)
The unexpected positive feedback to Lunch Breaks and Backyard Breaks (and some requests) inspired my third drum break series, Guerrilla Drums. Hopefully these things help bring some of the grease back to the drums in modern production – grease that has gradually grown less and less popular due to sample clearance issues and the expected cyclical changes in sound. The Du-Rites are back in business as usual, but Pablo and I have decided to focus on singles this year. After releasing two LPs in the span of a year, we’re gonna hand out hors d’oeuvres for 2018 and see what smaller portions do for our vibe. “Gamma Ray Funk” b/w “Fish Sammich” is already in production and will be out in May. Taurus season should also bring a new Zone Identity release to follow up last year’s debut on Fraternity Music Group. This go round we took a stab at the legendary “Melting Pot” by Booker T & The MGs and the lesser-known, but super heavy, “Soul Food” by Frankie Seay and The Soul Riders. Covering Booker T was daunting and I’m no Al Jackson, but the result was pretty funky. The Du-Rites also scored a chunk of the original score music for Bobbito Garcia’s Rock Rubber 45s documentary. There’s both cuts from our two LPs and original music. But the kicker is the theme song, which paired us with some jazz heavyweights and musical greats. The film will be out in July, with a June 27 screening in Central Park Summer Stage, NYC.
I’ll also continue a monthly DJ slot at Robert Bar, but I’ve put DJ life on hold to focus on my own music and craft. Jack-of-all-trades, master of none is finally beginning to take its toll.
The second half of the year…I’ll tell ya ’bout that in June.
And it continues. The death of your heroes is a part of life’s cycle, but 2017 has already taken Al Jarreau, David Axelrod, Junie Morrison and Clyde “Funky Drummer” Stubblefield. All four of these amazing musicians played a role in my musical development, but the news of losing Clyde and Junie within 48 hours was extra rough. It was also a sobering reality check that now has me both afraid to go online and reaching out to everyone I haven’t spoken with for my Give The Drummer Some column. Here’s a toast to Clyde and Junie, and how they impacted my musical journey.
I remember unearthing a tattered copy of Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm” 45 from my mother’s collection around 1987. I thought it was the freakiest, funkiest and most twisted shit I’d ever heard. I was 10 years old and getting heavy into funk, while my peers were more into Run-DMC and The Fat Boys. That meant I had nobody to share this cool record with, so I’d sit in my room and play it over and over and over until I eventually wore the 45 out. The “Granny” character on that record became the mascot of funk. There was Kool and the Gang’s “Funky Granny.” There was The Nite-Liters’ “”Do The Granny.” My real life grandmother was funky. But “Funky Worm” started it all. The character – as well as the ‘worm’ synthesizer – was created and played by none other than then 18-year-old musical prodigy Junie Morrison, and as my musical knowledge expanded, I discovered he was the main creative force behind the Ohio Players’ early Westbound Records albums, which in my opinion housed the band’s funkiest and most ambitious material.
Junie eventually went on to release a series of brilliant solo records – 1975’s Freeze is my personal fave – on which he played just about all the instruments himself with all the latest overdubbing techniques available and injected humor, skits, alter egos and other spice rack stuff generally missing from funk albums.
When Junie joined Parliament-Funkadelic, he gave them more of the same and added to an already insane musical empire overflowing with talent and quirks. Junie Morrison was a genius in a true and literal sense of the word. He embodied the multi-talented, mad scientist, multi-instrumentalist of funk aesthetic in the same the way George Clinton, Sly Stone, Ronald Bell or Prince do, but unfortunately never with the same accolades. As I work on becoming a better musician, Junie is the high water mark for all the disciplines and possibilities of funk. Thank you, Junie.
Two days later, my heart sunk hearing about Clyde Stubblefield, the original Funky Drummer who laid the groove down on some of James Brown’s greatest musical moments, both live and in the studio. But in the case of Clyde, it goes much deeper than an admiration for his playing on a few funk hits. Mr. Stubblefield changed the beat of modern music, both in 1968 when he laid it down and in 1988, when he was the go to sample source for hip-hop and dance music drums. He eventually became the source for everyone’s drums by the ’90s – and was never properly compensated, but that’s another post – and never got his due until then, as credits were never listed on albums in James Brown’s day. Clyde’s drumming was the pulse of my generation, and when I decided to learn to play drums at the tender age of 35, he was one of my biggest influences, obviously.
And it wasn’t just about (trying to) learn his break beats. I can remember watching footage of Clyde taking his routine “Cold Sweat” solo at James Brown’s Boston Garden concert one night and being floored by his left hand technique. It made me want to practice 5 hours a day in a basement with no air conditioning, and the following morning I started doing just that.
It’s a known fact Clyde didn’t read music and was entirely self-taught, so now that we’re in an era of advanced Moeller method videos, Buddy Rich technique tutorials and clinics, Whiplash-like devotion to complex solos, trolling other drummers for not having pristine technique and all the headiest of heady drum shit on YouTube, it’s pretty amazing that someone who inspired us all thought so little of formalities and was so far ahead of the rest of us who obsess over them. He didn’t know his trademark ghost notes were called ghost notes. He just grooved his ass off. By the time I discovered his solo at the Olympia/Paris gig (1967), I decided to dedicate my full attention to learning the drums.
And these videos are the reason why I use traditional grip till this day – for people who’ve inquired about why I started out using a grip that I’ve been told is only for looking cool and playing jazz or drum corps – but at the time I started doing it, I didn’t realize that stuff doesn’t really matter. I was just copying Clyde. Clyde could play matched grip (which he eventually did), traditional, missing a finger (which he also did in recent years) or handcuffed holding two spatulas. Whatever. Stop thinking and just groove. There are no rules to drumming, just groove. He showed me that…and changed my musical focus simply by watching his command on his instrument…and provided the beats behind my favorite songs, both in their original form and by way of an SP-1200. And for those reasons, I’m indebted forever. My only regret is I never got to interview him for my Red Bull drummer column. It was in the works, but never finalized. Thank you, Clyde.
Appreciate and celebrate the greats while they’re still with us!
Finally! Unfortunately/fortunately they sold out on my Bandcamp within a few hours ( I only had 100 units to spare of the 500 pressed). I couldn’t draft a post on the site in time. You can still get them at redefinitionrecords.com, UGHH.com, Fat Beats and other retailers. But once they’re gone, they’re gone!
These musical endeavors are on the way for those interested:
– Fish-n-Grits vinyl LP for sale via my Bandcamp and Redefinition Records website later this week. Will be in stores by August 1. Another short run of cassettes (with different artwork) later in August. Limited stock for both.
– The Du-Rites (my funk instrumental project with Tom Tom Club guitarist and my longtime mastering engineer, Pablo Martin). Album was finished over the weekend. Drops most likely in September. Stay tuned for previews and song leaks. Till then, check snippets and stay in the loop on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thedurites
– Superblack (with Prince Paul and Sacha Jenkins) slated for 2017 release on Mass Appeal Records.
– Haven’t done much production work lately, but did do beats for upcoming projects from Vinnie Paz and Al-Shid. Also remixed a song for DJ Moe Choi (aka Choimatic) that features Large Pro, Lil Fame from M.O.P. and Timeless Truth.
– More Red Bull Music Academy interviews with great unsung drummers.
– Zone Excursion is another funk instrumental project/ 7″ series of mine. Working with a variety of studio musicians to cover some of my favorite obscure funk songs. Early 2017 because tracking down the publishers of some of these songs is a royal pain.
– Studio drumming on a few pop, Latin and R&B records that are way out of my usual lane. More info TBA.
That’s all I’ve got. Stay tuned…
And thanks for the continued support!
Rest in peace Grandma aka Evil E, my hero, my partner in crime, the cornerstone of Old Maid Entertainment and inspiration behind all I do. Thank you for helping to raise me and being my foundation. Your influence will live on as long as I do.
Love, your grandson.