PIECES OF APRIL Adrian Younge

Dig the sound of 21st century blaxploitation music.

 

BY RON HART

 

As film editor
and music composer for the hilarious 2009 indie comedy Black Dynamite,
Adrian Younge has helped to revive the 16mm essence of ‘70s blaxploitation
cinema in the 21st century by perfectly recreating the vintage feel of classic
soundtracks by the likes of Willie Hutch, Lalo Schifrin and Isaac Hayes for the
best movie of its kind since I’m Gonna
Git You Sucka

 

For his latest
project, the Los Angeles native, who also teaches Entertainment Law and co-owns
a hair salon/record shop with his wife (how’s that for a retail hybrid!),
revisits his limited edition 2000 EP Adrian Younge Presents Venice Dawn (available
for free here:  www.waxpoetics.com/blog/free-tracks/adrian-younge-presents-venice-dawn)
with a full-length album that brings his one-man band’s psychedelic dream-funk
template to a new level of sophistication and songcraft. Entitled Something
About April
, the Venice Dawn moniker is honed to its moody perfection as
Younge levels a steady balance of his loves for Ennio Morricone, Portishead and
Marvin Gaye to tell the aural tale of the travails of a mixed race couple in
the height of the Vietnam era with the assistance of such names as singer
Rebecca Jordan, beatmaker Shawn Lee and legendary Motown guitarist Dennis
Coffey. 

 

BLURT recently
had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Younge about his latest release as well
as the development of the forthcoming animated spin-off of Black Dynamite that
will be featured on Adult Swim and working with Delfonics singer William Hart
on a forthcoming album from the legendary soul group. 

 

Something About
April
is out now on
the Wax Poetics record label. 

 

 

 

 

BLURT: How did you initially come up with the concept for Something
About April
?

 ADRIAN YOUNGE: Upon
completion of the first Venice Dawn EP (2000), I promised myself that my next
album would be an album depicting the ups and downs of an interracial
relationship (black & white couple), circa ’68.  The Black Dynamite album ended up being the follow up to Venice Dawn; hence, the follow up to Black
Dynamite
is the original interracial relationship idea. 

         Something about April represents
the female’s perspective regarding their relationship.  She represents
April, or springtime; the male character represents winter.  The entire
album explains how the seasons reflect the ups and downs of their
relationship.  Listen to the title song, and it wraps the complete story
together. 

 

 

I understand that your love for Italian film
soundtracks played a key role in the creation of this record. Which ones in
particular do you find most inspiring and why?

Actually, it’s
my love for European soundtracks.  Many people use the term “Italian
Soundtracks” but there was a lot of other similar and great music being created
in surrounding European countries.  For inspiration, I have always
followed the composers work.  Composers such as Francis Lai, Ennio
Morricone, Pierre Bachelet, Nico Fidenco, and Peter Thomas created great music.
Their music had feeling and served the purpose of enhancing the audiovisual
experience of film.  They had to make music that moved the listener and
made the films more interesting.  As great composers do, they captured the art of creating stimulating music with
mere chord changes. 

 

What is your favorite
Morricone soundtrack? 

Ennio Morricone is my favorite composer of all time.  I can’t pick
one favorite from this guy; however, I will say that I have been listening to Revolver since ’98 and have not
stopped. 

 

What is your favorite
soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin?

He has a great and vast discography.  As a record collector, I
like to search for the more forgotten soundtracks from these types of
artists.  For Schifrin, I can’t really pick one as my favorite.  I
can say that I greatly enjoy studying his compositions for Magnum Force and Bullitt

 

 

 

   

As a self-taught musician, what was the first
instrument you learned on?

  First instrument was a bass guitar, then Fender
Rhodes, then acoustic guitar, drums and so on. I just purchased
instruments and played them until I sounded like a professional player. 
By taking on the challenge of becoming a multi-instrumentalist, I had to learn
how to play like a session player.  There is no genius involved here; just
discipline.  A basketball player becomes great with practice.  Some
players innately have more talent than others, but practice is what takes great
players to the next level.  It’s the same with music. 

 

How did you come up with the
design of your own keyboard, The Selene?

I worked with Jack Waterson (band member and owner of Future Music, a
vintage instrument store in Los
Angeles) and Luke Jones (a design engineer at Ken Rich
Sound Services, a custom keyboard and repair center).  I had a vision,
regarding the utility of the instrument; Jack Waterson had a broad design
concept; Luke Jones synthesized the requests and led the crafting of the
machine. 

 

You started out producing hip-hop. Who were some of
the artists that you created beats for and how would you describe your style as
a beatmaker?

I created beats
for local artists; no one that was known.  When I was making hip-hop
beats, I aspired to be a combination of producers such as RZA, DJ Premier and
DJ Shadow.

 

 

 

 

How did the Black Dynamite cartoon series come
about and what is the primary impetus for the series in correlation with the
film?

The producers
of Black Dynamite, Ars Nova, came up with the idea to create a cartoon. 
The primary impetus for the series is to expand the Black Dynamite brand.  There are so many ideas/concepts that the team wanted to explore;
this proved as a viable format, and will debut on Cartoon Network in July of
2012.

 

 

How did you link up with Dennis Coffey?

His manager
contacted Wax Poetics about a potential collaboration with another Wax Poetics
artist; my name came up and somehow, I was fortunate enough to have him on my
album.  He played guitar on the track, “Lovely Lady.” 

 

 

What is your favorite piece of work by Mr. Coffey?

He has too many
for me to have one favorite; I will say that I love his work in general. 
I love his Motown work as well as his Sussex/solo work.  Of course songs
like “Scorpio”, but even simple guitar sounds and instrumentation
that he blessed the Motown label with fall into my favorites category. 

 

 

As someone so versed in ‘70s blaxploitation cinema,
what film from that era do you feel does not get the respect it deserves and
why?

The Mack.  That is a great film period.  The subject
matter, acting and soundtrack alone make it one of the best movies
period. 

 

 

What is your favorite scene
from The Mack?

“You better shut the fuck up
while grown folks is talkin’!”

 

It has been said that Something About April harbors
a King Crimson influence. What Crimson were you listening to that may have
filtered into the sound of April and what other prog rock acts do you
dig?

I love early King
Crimson work, especially In The Court of
the Crimson King
.  I also love the work of Bo Hansson, Gandalf,
Syrius, Felt, Iron Butterfly, etc.  I’ve been listening to this music
since the mid ‘90s, so it is just in my soul I guess.  A lot of it can be
heard on my initial Venice Dawn release.

        My first real taste of prog rock
was Bo Hansson.  In 2000, I was performing as Venice Dawn at the famous
Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. 
After my performance, an older lady approached me and said that my music
reminded her of Bo Hansson.  Thereafter, I searched and became obsessed
with Bo Hansson and prog rock; however, this wasn’t my first taste of prog
rock.

        Ironically, hip-hop heads
have been turned on to so many kinds of music (including prog rock), due to the
various sampling choices employed by many producers; however, a lot of heads
never searched for the sample.  I was the kind of guy that searched for
the sample and it greatly expanded my musical palette. 

 

 

How did you come into meeting William Hart and
producing a new Delfonics album? Can you kindly talk about the direction the
album will go sonically and how you intend to usher the Delfonics sound into
the 21st century?

William’s son,
Khalid Hart, has a friend named Bux; Bux contacted me on Twitter because I
posted a topic concerning the Delfonics.  Bux proposed the idea of hooking
us up in order to do an album.  I didn’t believe it, but a week later, I
was on the phone with William.  Three months later, I flew him out from
Philly and we recorded 7 songs together.  We are finishing the album in
March.  This Delfonics album will be my greatest artistic achievement to
date.  The depth of the music
and his vocals give me chills.  He sounds as good, if not better than he
did in the ‘60s.  The guy has a warm heart and is very musically
intelligent.  This album will synthesize the vintage tone of the Delfonics
with that of Wu-Tang, Portishead, Ennio Morricone, and Something About
April.  I can’t wait to finish this thing. 

 

 

What other legendary acts would you consider entering
the studio with? 

That list is
endless. I’d like to do a hip-hop album in the near future with someone like a
Ghostface or a GZA for sure; Also, I would love to do an album with David
Axelrod or Aretha Franklin. 

 

 

Have you been approached by any modern pop acts for
production work?

Not
really.  My fanbase is very niche and I doubt that many of these acts
would consider working with me.  However, you never know what the future
holds and I am always down for a collaboration that makes sense; not a
collaboration to merely pay the bills and tarnish my name.  I’m a big
proponent of good music, new or old….we will see what happens!

 

 

How did you get together with Wax Poetics?

Wax Poetics
served as the record label for the Black Dynamite Score.  Upon meeting, we
all became pretty close.  I love those guys and we look at each other like
a big family. 

 

 

Are you an avid reader of the magazine? Is there a
particular article or feature that sticks out in your mind?

I read every
word of Wax Poetics, without even skipping a page.  I’m not sure if you
are talking about wax poetics or Blurt; I have never read Blurt…send me a copy?
Ha. 

 

What kind of music is played
in the salon you and your wife own together?

At The Artform Studio, a record shop and salon, we play everything from
classic hip-hop to breaks.  We get new inventory every week, and we focus
on the hard to find records; the kind of records music nerds go crazy
for.  We play a lot of that kind of music.  I have a serious record
digging addiction because this is how I find “new music.”  I generally
don’t listen to brand new music; the old stuff, that I’ve never heard, serves
that purpose for me. 

 

As a professor of
Entertainment Law, what is your thought and stance on the Stop Online Piracy
Act and Protect IP Act? How far do you feel they go with regards to the
infringement on our civil liberties?

It’s stupid.  There will be one day when my grandkid will say,
“Granddad! Did you guys really pay for music when you were a kid?”  This
is an unfortunate stance, but I understand that it will be this way. 
Sampling laws are ridiculous as well because it requires the producer (using a
sample) to acquire a master use license (from the true owner), even if the use
is de minimis.

        I do believe that artists
should be paid what they are worth; however, the consequences for infringement
should not be extreme, unless the offenders are infringing on a grand
scale. 

 

Where do you stand in
regards to digital music? 
 

Everything digital sounds thin to me; the kind of soundscaping that I
appreciate encompasses a wide dynamic that only analog media captures. 
For example, I’d rather listen to a Portishead album that was recorded to tape
and pressed to vinyl, opposed to a Portishead album recorded to Pro Tools and
available as a digital download. 

 

 

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