Have you ever interviewed a 10-time Grammy nominee? Probably not. Well, now I have, and I'm here to tell you that it's not as easy as just walking up to them and saying "Hey, what's up, awesome person!" Since it may not be easy for you to visualize exactly what it takes to interview someone who had a #3 bit with John Mellencamp, please allow me to be like Jesus and get all parably on your ass.
Have you ever gotten a drink at a bar? Probably. I know I have. But tell me this- in pretty much every case, are you able to walk up to the bar and mix yourself a drink? Hell no. It doesn't matter how clever or well-thought out a drink you're going to make yourself, it just doesn't happen. Standing between you and the delicious aphid-infused vodka, or whatever the kids are drinking these days, is at the very least a bartender who is a buffer between you and your goal. That's their job, and we don't really begrudge them that. Of course, this is all if you're lucky, or a regular or hotshot. Most likely you're not at the bar, you're at a table, and dealing with a waitress, so there are two levels of buffer between you and what you're after. That's the system, and just how it is. Do drink orders get mixed up sometimes? Do drinks get watered down? Is he stretching the analogy to hell and back? YES!
I think that you all see where I'm going with this, and I want you to keep it in mind as you read the following interview. Also keep in mind, constant reader, the kind of blogger you know me to be. So, without further ado, please enjoy
JESS GULBRANSON'S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO
JESS- I've seen some of your bass influences listed - Jaco, and whatnot- but do you have any non-bassists who influenced your bass playing?
MESHELL- Sure I do. Of course I do. They’re too numerous to name honestly. Everyone who wrote a song I ever loved has influenced me musically, which translates to bass playing. I don’t study the bass or bass players, I absorb music.
J- Do you have a feeling that your weapon of choice, the bass, as a soul or pop singer, and as a woman in particular, makes you stand out? Ever in negative way?
M- Only because there aren’t many of us. I’ve never felt it was negative. I’ve sometimes thought it wasn’t really positive, but that’s more because people have their own ideas of what kind of person, or woman, or player I’ll be. That usually doesn’t have much to do with the instrument itself.
J- I want to share a story with you and see if you've had any similar experiences: I ended up stuck in O’Hare, in an airport bar with Les McCann, Cornell Dupree, and Chuck Rainey. I am talking with the guy about how basses feel against your body, and he's playing my shitty little Squire... it didn't fully hit me until later that this was the guy who played bass on "Aja"... Ever meet someone you thought was that awesome?....and have that delayed reaction?
M- I used to. Not so much anymore. I still think people are that impressive, but I’ve been able to humanize them for a long time I guess. I think I felt that way about Prince but that was brief.
J- So... neo-soul, I have to indulge the inner philosopher, did you welcome the label? While it might have given some energy to people already doing their thing, do you feel it distracted from you as an individual? Compartmentalized your and other people’s music?
M- That’s some bullshit. Neo-soul does not mean anything to me. I’m flattered if someone thinks I started a genre, or initiated a sound, but that’s for marketing and selling. At the time, I didn’t welcome it or not, I didn’t care. I probably should have paid more attention then since it has followed ever since.
J- I had a question about other opportunities. You auditioned for Muzz Skillings' spot in Living Colour - was not getting that a good thing?
M- I guess so. Although I wanted it and I was disappointed I didn’t get it. Life would have been way different though and I’m glad I got to make my own records.
J- Devil's Halo – how did you settle on the metaphor for the album title? Were you thinking of calling it anything else?
M- Sure, a million things. Maybe “Hair of the Dog.” Devil’s Halo just offers the contrast, the good and bad, that I felt the record was kind of featuring.
J- It's a motherfucker of an album; even the soft parts are fierce. And when there's a statement made, it doesn't feel like you're being beaten over the head with it. In your songwriting approach, is it music first? Are your lyrics crafted over a long time, or do they just flow?
M- Thank you. Music first usually. Sometimes I have a lyric I want to put in somewhere but I rarely write a tune to a line. They flow and then I tinker. Sometimes it’s a long time. Sometimes it happens fast.
J- With all your recorded output in mind, the aesthetic that you present, and the robust philosophy that seems to be behind it – do you have some advice for other musicians to approach their music, writing, and efforts?
M- Don’t be concerned about setting forth a philosophy. I’m not. I might offer commentary, opinion, questions and ideas but mine have all changed pretty drastically. Let your music show where you are, don’t worry about where you been, where they think you should go, what worked last, what works for people they say are like you. Be in it for music or be in it for stardom, but be clear about which is which.J- What are your plans after the end of your tour? Any end of tour events?
M- Go home and get some sleep! No events, but I think I’ll be working on producing another artist’s album over the winter and will tour more in 2010 for sure. I’m just going to take some time to be with my family now, my partner is expecting a baby, and then get back to work.
J- Thank you Meshell for this opportunity. I just want to let you know that in honor of this I will be sing your part from "Wild Night" next time I do karaoke.
Well, folks, there you have it. I'll be doing a review of Meshell's album "Devil's Halo" in the next installment of TURN MY HEADPHONES UP!!! along with Morrissey and Slayer, so you know that one is not to be missed.