Who are the artists you still would like to work with?
“I don’t know. Most of them are dead. Donny Hathaway, obviously… One of my favorite singers. I think I could have done a great job with Minnie Ripperton. And people that are different, like Phoebe Snow… I think we could have really helped in giving her an audience that she just didn’t have with our soulful playing. And there are even some musicians, like Miles Davis. Miles is known to do different, step out of the box. If he were to come over to Honeycomb, oh, it would have been a great marriage.
I have a problem with the attitudes of a lot of artists that are in the forefront. They’re coming with: “How much money?” They act like they don’t know that this is a struggle. We have to work together here. They hit you with: “I want $2000 just to think about it and another $2000 when I get there.” You know? No. So I’m working with mostly new artists, unheard of artists, people that are hungry, starting from scratch.”
So what do you listen to when you’re not working on your own music?
“Jazz fusion. Weather Report! I have a tattoo of Jaco Pastorius on my arm. Herbie Hancock. There’s a group called The Singers Unlimited.
That sort of artistry is almost nonexistent today. There is a new kid, Jacob Collier. He’s doing what Take 6 did, kind of what Singers Unlimited started. And he’s taking it to another level. He’s adding the young thing to the old thing. And it’s a beautiful marriage. But he’s only one cat doing that. There are some talented people in this world, but none of them are in the mainstream. You don’t see them. And it’s hard to get to them. Some of them don’t even have projects out.
It’s a rough battle, but I’m doing it. I’m listening to the influences. I mainly listen to people that are gone, dead, you know?”
I find a lot of music on Bandcamp. People that I’ve never heard of.
“There’s a guy named Claffy from Brooklyn. He’s one of these Bandcamp people. Ah amazing! I’d never heard of him. I don’t think I’ll ever see him, but his project is beautiful. He plays the bass, but in his production he’s using a lap-steel guitar, you know the Hawaiian guitar. Amazing, amazing music.”
I have a question for you from NY/NJ DJ and Honeycomb Fan Bruce Spencer. He wants to know what inspires you to write your lyrics?
“Life. My life experiences. Things I hear. When I have friends that share personal experiences with me and I’m able to articulate those things in song, you know? And it’s real stuff. Like ‘Confession’. That’s real. You can be in an a commitment with somebody you love and have a connection with somebody else. So on the one hand you have this commitment, but then you have connection.
Stevie Wonder is the master of transforming life into lyrics. He did this song called ‘The Secret Life Of Plants’. He says in his lyrics: “I can’t conceive the nucleus of all begins inside a tiny seed.” These are great lyrics. I would have never thought of that. He’s the man. He knows how to do that. So that’s how I do it.”
I now have a question from singer-songwriter, producer Jaidene Veda. She asks what do you think about the future of tangible music in this digital era that we’re in…
“That’s a nice way of putting that. It’s going to be extremely difficult to teach young people who feel that music is like air and we should just breathe it for free. It’s going to be difficult to teach them the value and the joy of record shopping when there are no more record stores. Part of the experience was the record shop. I mean, you’re in a place – Tower Records – with other people like you. You can have a conversation on the second floor for hours at a time. It was like a haven, a church. If we remove church, how many worshippers will you really have, you know?
So to answer Jaidene’s question, if we are really able to somehow teach the joy of buying music without the stores, we stand a good chance. I don’t know how we’re going to do that. Tangible music is sold at concerts. So once you do the concert, hit the lobby or hit the entrance with a table and signatures and people will buy your music because they just saw you perform and they want it. If you don’t do that it’s hard to sell records.”
So it goes hand in hand with the performance. What if there’s no performance?
“You’re not eating. So can you imagine how hard it is for artists? It’s almost inevitable that they’re going to be struggling. It’s really hard. I mean even for people that you know, people that you’re familiar with, people whose records that you buy, that you have bought. I’ll never forget TLC. They went bankrupt. You can be famous and broke. Literally no money. In our minds we’re thinking, come on it’s Toni Braxton, clearly at least she has some money saved somewhere. No, she does not! You have more money than Toni, you know? Because you have a job.”
What about health insurance?
“Health insurance, come on! Some of us are married, like myself. My wife has insurance. I can get a needle. But Colonel Abrams couldn’t!”
I know they had a benefit for him about a year ago.
“Yes. So no health insurance, and I would say that for most artists. They’re barely making enough money. I hate to make it sound like artists are just so poor, but the truth is, nobody’s doing so well. So having said that, who can afford health insurance? Very few…”
Honeycomb fan and longtime friend Ralph McNeal has a question for you. He wants to know if you consider your contributions to the House Music movement to be the New Jersey House sound of today?
“I don’t think any artist should take on that title: “My sound is this…” Because nobody has a sound. Everybody’s sound is influenced from something else. So I dare not say: “What I’m doing is so original… I’m the starter of the thing.” No. That would be stupid. To answer Ralph, I didn’t really contribute too much. My sound is influenced by Philly and Stevie Wonder. And everybody, you know?”