I recently had the wonderful opportunity to sit down to talk with my good friend Josh Milan, the CEO of the Honeycomb Music label and former member of the iconic Blaze. He wears so many hats (literally and figuratively). He donned no less than two in the course of our afternoon together! An afternoon I spent listening to this thoughts on a variety of topics. Beginning with the awaited release of his first solo album. A double pack as a matter of fact, due to see the light around end of March 2017…
Let’s go straight to the point with this new album of yours…
“Do you have about three hours? The idea of this album saw the light about four years ago. I started the process and I thought I’d been doing House Music forever. I wondered why not do something that I just love doing. Something in the vein of Sting or Pat Metheny that captures my influences. So I did this project and I called it “the Jazz album” for the longest. But it’s not really a Jazz album. It’s just influenced by Jazz. Anyway, fast forward three years, the album was complete.
Then I realized I had a problem. There was no House Music on it. And anybody who I am connected with knows me for doing House Music. So I had to go back in the studio and do some House Music. Well, fast forward four years now (laughter), I did about another 15 House-influenced songs. So now coupled with the Jazz-influenced pack, I have a double album. I called it ‘6.9.69’. It’s my birth date. It includes some covers. I did a Beatles’ classic. Just some real feel-good music. I want people to walk away feeling like there are still artists that are doing music. Live instrumentation, good lyrics, bridges, verses, endings, intros…
The world that we live in is all synthetic now. Everybody’s relying on computers to make the music. So in my music you’ll hear an element of a human touch. That’s what I’m doing. Is it OK if I ask you something?”
“In terms of music, what do you think is the responsibility of the artist. In other words, somebody like myself, who has a modest audience. Do you feel like I have a responsibility to put a little paint where it encourages folks. Or should I just do whatever I feel like doing as an artist?”
Encourage them in what way?
“Well, the world is hurting right now. Especially here in America where there is this amazing amount of contention. People are just tense. The Trump-Hillary thing has been going on. And it almost is equating to a White-Black thing. Black people hate Trump, and Trump supporters seem to not like Black people. “Heil Trump!”, I heard somebody say. So as an artist, should I just keep on dancing? Or should I at least try to put a little positivity in the world?”
You need to address it because I believe that’s the job of the artist.
“Oh, so you do feel like there’s a responsibility as an artist?”
Yes, I do.
“That’s an interesting answer. So do you frown upon artists that just keep on dancing? Never saying a word about it? Anything?”
No, I just feel like those artists are not situating themselves in reality, in what’s going on in the world today. You can’t go on as if everything is fine, when it’s not.
“When it’s not. I agree.”
As a teacher, I have to talk about politics with my high school students. I can’t ignore the politics of today because my students are affected whether they realize it or not.
“When you discuss the politics with your students, do you not feel like you’re biased?”
Yes. Of course I am. There’s a bias in everything. And I tell my students that. I explain to them that I totally have a bias. And everything that they are learning has a bias. Every textbook that they read, everything has a perspective. There’s no objectivity.
“I agree. So with that bias, are you not influencing?”
“So you are influencing children with your opinion?”
Yes! Of course.
“Holy crap! That wasn’t supposed to be this interview! (laughter) Wow! Really?!?”
“What about me as a parent? My son is your student. And let’s say I’m a Trump supporter, and my kid is in your class. Meanwhile you are a Hillary supporter. And these days, people are very passionate about their politics. And my son’s teacher is influencing him?”
“Should I not have a problem with that?”
Well, I do believe that my students are entitled to their own opinions. How do you get around it though as an artist?
“Tell you how… I ask this question because as an artist, people that support me are both Trump and Hillary supporters. And they really love the music. I don’t do the type of music where women throw their panties at me. I do music that influences people to be happy. So my message is universal love and happiness without being too far left or right. It’s a delicate balance that I have to have because I don’t want to say harsh things about either.”
I think though for me it’s different because I’m dealing with children.
“Which is worse!”
Right, but I have to influence them.
“Yes, but one-sided isn’t necessarily positive…”
I don’t tell them they have to agree with me. I have a student that doesn’t agree with me. And he came in the day after the Election showing how happy he was. I let him express himself.
“But was he gloating?”
That’s why I didn’t really address it because I feel like this student needed to express himself. But it’s also my job to show him other perspectives.
It’s a process.
“How are you doing that?”
With my high school students, I give them a lot of Op-Eds to read. A lot of argumentative writing to look at from different perspectives. They don’t really follow current events. So that’s where I come in. They don’t really know what’s going on in the world. I also give them opportunities to share their personal views through class discussion.
“So anyway, back to your questions. I’m sorry.”