ROCK OF AGES///BAD BRAINS INTERVIEW…
Legendary punk rastas BAD BRAINS changed the face of hardcore forever but rarely spoke publicly (or coherently) about their direction or history. Now, after the release of the group’s incredible comeback album, the Beastie Boys-produced “Build a Nation,” ALLMUSIC‘s Jason Lymangrover checks in with OG Brains bassist DARRYL JENNIFER for a serious overview of the band’s 20-plus year career…
Roots Rock Reggae: Darryl Jenifer Talks About the
Evolution of Bad Brains
By Jason Lymangrover, Source: Allmusic.com
Since the late ’70s, iconic pioneers of the D.C. hardcore punk scene Bad Brains energized and captivated crowds by bouncing effortlessly between raw, explosive punk and luscious reggae rhythms, influencing countless groups to form in their wake. This year the original lineup reunited to release their new album, Build a Nation, and reconvene on tour for a select bunch of dates. Bassist Darryl Jenifer took some time out from penning a theme song for the D.C. United soccer team to chat by phone with AMG’s Jason Lymangrover about growing up within the Brains’ dysfunctional family, cooking musical pancakes with Adam Yauch, and picking on Jean-Michel Basquiat.
I wanted to get into the evolution of the band and then talk about the new album a bit. What originally brought you guys together and influenced you to start playing hardcore?
DJ: Well…we always were musicians, from when we were kids, you know, always aspired to play music. You know, how you get some kids who are carpenters and there are other kids that are…you know what I mean? Well I was like an artistic kinda dreamy kid when I was growing up in D.C., always had fantasies of playing in a band. I kinda always knew how to play guitar. It wasn’t something I said I wanted to do and took lessons or nothing like that. I guess it was just something that I was blessed to be able to have the knack to do a little bit. I wasn’t virtuosic, but I could definitely pluck from one string to the next.
You just picked it up? You never took lessons or anything?
DJ: Naw, naw. It’s a funny thing. That’s what sort of reinforces my belief in the Great Spirit too. No one in my family…I had a cousin that played the guitar. He was in a band and he used to babysit sometimes. I was about eight or nine. He had a band and I thought that was pretty fascinating, and I remember the amps and stuff, you know, particularly the tweed and the metal flake and the sparkle, and they had those Kustom amps and stuff. And the hardware and all that stuff seemed to fascinate me, as I would sit on the staircase and watch. So I seem to remember asking him, “So if I learn how to play something, could I play in your band?” And he said, “Yeah.” So I went to school and was in the fifth grade, and I joined the band in there to play the saxophone. I figured it was the coolest thing they offered that I could get in his band with. But the funny thing about it was, I remember the music wasn’t what I was looking for. It was like “Star Spangled Banner” and shit like that.
You wanted to play rock.
DJ: Right. It was a weird thing. I never really paid attention in class and they had a recital and I wasn’t really blowing my horn, and filling my cheeks with air and kind of faking it ’cause I didn’t really pay attention to the whole reading and writing, the whole academic part of the music. So, my uncle…I think he bought me a guitar one time, and I seen it in a shop they had in D.C. called Western Auto. It’s sort of like an Advanced Auto, an auto parts stores that sells lawn mowers and shit like that.
So it wasn’t even a name-brand guitar? It was like a K-Mart model?
DJ: Yeah! It was like they have at the K-Mart or Wal-Mart. This particular guitar was in this hardware store. And I remember I said, “Uncle Andrew, can you get me that guitar?” And he said, “Boy, that guitar cost too much money.” So I never thought nothing of it. And then when Christmas came, I noticed there was a box, like a tallish guitar box, and then another little teeny box like an amp. But I remember seeing on TV they were selling this mop in a box that was like that.
[laughs] You thought you got a mop for Christmas?
DJ: Yeah! The way the box was shaped, I thought, “What in the hell?” I was about eight years old. I opened it up and it was that red guitar, and I said, “Wow, cool!” I had a little amp and I would plug it up and try to play Sly & the Family Stone at a very young age.
Then, when I was nine or ten, I put the guitar away. I didn’t care about it no more. I wanted to play football and basketball and ride my bike and all that shit. But when I got to be about 13, I was out in the hood, and this dude, his name was Bomino.
DJ: We used to call him Bomino, like the Abominable Snowman, but we would just call him “Bomino” with a B. [laughs] This kid Bomino says, “I got a guitar,” and I said, “Well, shit, I got a guitar!” So I ran in the house, ran upstairs to my room in the hood, and went to the back, back, back of the closet and pulled out all my games — ’cause I was an only child for a while so I had a lot of games and shit — and I pulled all that shit out and the guitar was back there. I brought it out and I came down and played “Get Ready” [by the Temptations] to show off.
And then from that little juncture, it started to develop into little afternoon bands up in my room. You know one cat said he played drums and he came over and played with some buckets and shit. It was just like dudes during the day who didn’t want to pop firecrackers or some shit, but, you know…I’m telling you the question you asked me but in a long, extensive thing. So it’s like, you’re a kid, you and your buddy trying to play soul music, or funk music from the ’70s. You know, Earth Wind & Fire or whatever. In my teenage years I had that guitar, but I wanted to play the bass for some reason. I got into this band called the Young Explorers. It was a cover band playing Ohio Players and ’70s funk.
I was about 15 then, and I kept asking the bass player, “Can I play your bass, can I play your bass, when you go to the store, can I play your bass?” So finally I took all the strings off my guitar and put four strings on, it was one of them guitar necks with three pegs on each side.
So, wait. You put bass strings on a guitar?
DJ: No, no. I took the middle keys out and put all four E strings on the guitar that my uncle bought me from way back and I tuned it kind of low to where it wasn’t too fucked up and had a little makeshift bass. Then as time went on, I would kind of borrow basses here and there.
So, the question you asked, what I’m showing you is you got a kid that’s just into music. I’d be in the classroom, and they’d say, “What is he doing?” I might be drawing, like, a stage or something with the amps and the drums, drawing this shit when I’m supposed to be paying attention. Like, I’m tripping on Frampton Comes Alive ’cause I can feel the liveliness of it all. Now, in any hood, it’s not just going to be one kid who’s into music that wants to play guitar; Doc was one, Earl, and HR. We all lived in the same neighborhood. So in art class there was an art teacher named Mr. Pinkney. He was kind of sadomasochistic, but he was cool. He would do wild shit to us. He would, like, try to hit us or make us stand up with books and boxes stacked up on us as punishments and shit. But then on the other hand he would let us bring records on a certain day to play while we do the art, which I thought was very cool. So what happened was, we would bring in the records and there was this white boy in our class, and where we lived there was not many white people, his name was Bob Dunn, and he would bring in these records like Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra….
Like weird prog?
DJ: Yeah! Weird prog-jazz shit from back then. We used to say, “Wow, that’s some wild shit!” Everybody else wanted to hear Chuck Brown. But we were the kids that everyone else would talk about, like, “Oh, them kids is wild, they listen to that wild shit.” So right there you got some kids that are into music, but they’re not necessarily involved in go-go music all the time. We were like thinking man’s hood kids. If you didn’t have a concept with your music other than “shake your ass,” we weren’t interested ’cause we were these kids that wanted to hear this intellectual rock. That’s why you hear people say we had a jazz fusion band and shit, but we had that for like a week or something. It wasn’t nothing that was serious; it was us trying to formulate something. We were those kids that were still in the hood, still around the way, but not a “shake your ass” band. We were like Mind Power, which was like a fusion rock band, you know?
You knew early on that you wanted to do something different.
DJ: Right. This is what I’m trying to show you. All the way back from fifth grade when I was seeing the sparkles of the amps and shit, all the way to when I put my guitar away, pulled it back out, changed it to a bass, went to art class, heard Return to Forever, thought that was cool and different then Sly and all that, went home, and got into Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and different forms of rock music.
Then my man Sid came over my crib with all these different records: Dead Boys, Ramones, No New York [the compilation], and the Sex Pistols. And he came with those four albums in his hand, knocked on my door one day with a suit jacket on with some safety pins and shit all over it, and I looked through the peephole, and I said, “What the fuck’s this motherfucker doing?” He looked like someone beat him up. He was all ripped up like a bomb blew up and shit. He was my man, but he had seen the Sex Pistols on PBS or something and ran off uptown where the white people live near the university and went to the record store and bought all these records. Then he came over my house, “Yo, check out all this shit.” And that shit! Wow! The first thing I thought was, “If these motherfuckers think they making some shit playing fast, then watch this!” So it was almost like the Beastie Boys when they first started, making fun of rap but kind of got serious. You know, it was like satire to them. Well to me, when I first heard punk rock, being a dude that was open-minded and into Return to Forever, the first thing I thought was, “If the Ramones think they’re playing fast, and if they think that they’re playing some hot shit, watch this shit that I’m going to rip, listen to this riff that I’m going to make and how fast I play this shit ’cause I got Return to Forever that I’ve been feeling that’s really technical,” and I thought, “I’ll work me some jazz riffage around this punk shit.” So it was like a sort of competitive thing I had with punk to make the Bad Brains music so fast and kind of like how on “Sailing On” ends with the jazzy thing and all that.
Yeah, it suddenly switches gears to that jazz chord.
DJ: Right! Me and Doc would try to put, like, little passages and little off-count things into punk rock. It simply comes from being teenagers, going “Watch this!” It’s like any teenager. The overall picture of it is what the Great Spirit is using us to do in a bigger picture, but to us it was just like regular teenagers. When I wrote some of those songs — “Right Brigade,” “The Big Takeover,” and stuff — I was like 18 or 19 years old. So basically you got some youth that’s blessed to love music and wanted to be inventive with the music, not just wanting to play like somebody and copying their style, we want to play like all…that’s why we play reggae.
What reggae were you listening to? Lee Perry and Bob Marley?
DJ: We were listening to mainly British reggae back in the early days, like Black Slate, In Crowd, Oswad, Mikey Dread…of course Bob Marley, but we were mainly listening to, like, Brigadeer and dancehall when we started to live the Rasta culture. We was still punk, but it’s like God gave us the ability to be all we wanted to be. I’m a Rasta, I’m a punk, I’m a dude from D.C., I’m that dude. You know what I’m saying? [laughs] I’m all those things. But it’s not something I choose to be. It’s just that.
It’s funny. With reggae and punk in the late ’70s, dub music was being played in the U.K. punk clubs in between live sets. Then the Clash recorded “Police and Thieves” and other bands like the Slits started doing a combination of the two genres. Why do you think those two styles worked so well together?
DJ: In England, they had problems with the Queen and they cooked that up with their music, punk rock. When you notice they didn’t like this, they didn’t like that, and the bands would be cryin’, “Fuck the Queen, you bloody bloody!” The U.S., during that same period, was more, like, disco dancing. No bands were saying any political shit really, except for the MC5. And then, you got the dreads in Brixton, and they were like true rebel music. The rebel music is rebel music. When you check rock, a lot of time even though Chuck Berry and all those dudes — the foundation of rock — they was like “Sweet Lucille” and all that, the rock music was this personal thing. But now, with this punk rock, it turned into “God Save the Queen” and all that. So it turned into a rebel music too, and then you got two forms of rebel music. You got the dreads, and they’re not necessarily into the punk, but they’re into the heavy rub-a-dub. Just as you got the sheerness and the seemingly violent sounds of punk rock…how about the thunderous rub-a-dub bass? People can’t even tolerate! [laughs] It’s two different forms of rebel music. That’s why they go together. So a cat with a big nappy dread down to the ground can sit next to a kid with a mohawk and go, “Yo, we both just rebel up in this piece!” That’s where that came from.
And there’s the same social uprising messages in the lyrics.
DJ: Yeah! And the squatting and the whole deal, as far as being out there against the system, like Joe Strummer chillin’ with Don Letts — the sound system run-ins.
Speaking of big bass, let’s talk about the new album. How’d you end up hooking up with Adam Yauch?
DJ: Yauch, he always been a friend of ours. The whole Beastie Boys, from when we was young.
You guys used to hang out at CBGB’s?
DJ: Back at the Rat Cage on Ninth Street. It was us and Rick Rubin, and they would all come through there. Everyone was kind of young: Russell Simmons, Basquiat…all these people walking around back in the East Village. I remember Basquiat, the famous artist. I used to see him and kind of want to beat his ass all the time. [laughs]
DJ: Because I was a Rasta youth with dreads, I was a Rasta youth. When I’d see him, he looked like a perpetrator. When I see dread, I want to see Rasta! I don’t want to see some cat walking around in a daze like he on some weirdo shit. But I didn’t know. I was young. I was like 22, 21. I used to see this cat all the time, and I would go [in Jamaican accent] “Fireball! Fire!” I used to say all sorts of aggressive Jamaican shit to him. [laughs] That’s some weird shit right there.
[Laughs] Did he ever react?
DJ: No! He always used to be scared of me. He would always go to the other side of the street. He knew when he saw me that it was trouble. I used to be, like, “Fire!” and saying shit like that to him. But I used to do the same shit to Mike D when we were young. [laughs]
It seems like Mike D always got picked on from the other guys in the Beastie Boys when they were younger.
DJ: Yeah! But Mike D used to…Mike D is cool, Mike’s my man. He used to hang out with these little girls. One of them was my girl, Tanya. They were Luscious Jackson. That’s who Mike D used to hang out with all the time on the stoops and shit. But Yauch, he used to come through, little Ad Rock, but this was before they were all that. They were little punkers.
Yeah, that’s when they were trying to be like Minor Threat.
DJ: Yeah. Yeah. We used to hang out at this spot, the Rat Cage. Rick Rubin used to come through, and he was kind of scared of me too. He didn’t really like the Bad Brains, Rick Rubin. Everybody used to be trippin’ on us, and he wasn’t feelin’ us. He was into…
DJ: Yeah! Slayer. [laughs]
So how did MCA end up on this project?
DJ: It’s an odd thing. See, me and Yauch are friends, we talk. I remember I was up in my bed, it was hot, and I was watching TV. The phone rang and it was him. At the time, we had just did some shows, and I said, “Yo, I’m thinking about making another record, kid.” I think I was trying to talk to Lakeshore or somebody about doing this record. I don’t know who. I can’t remember. But he called and I was like, “Yo, I’m ’bout to bust this Brains record!” And he was all like, “You oughta let me! I know how ya’ll are supposed to sound.” And I was like, “Yeah, if you want to produce this record you better have some cheddar, cause we ain’t got none.” [laughs] “You better put up some studio time, fly my man Earl in.” He was like, “I’ma hook it up.” So from a conversation like that we kind of worked our way into when we was gonna get together. Me and Doc got together first and riffed up how we wanted to approach the music while HR was in L.A. Like I always say, the Brains have a life of their own, so I guess it was just in the air and in the wind for us to swing back together again and do this.
What was the studio vibe like?
DJ: We always cool. Our whole problem is trying to tour and trying to maintain a realistic career. It’s not in it for us. HR is a little eccentric and has things he wants to do. I got things I want to do. It’s like a family. We’re dysfunctional as a family, but not as brothers! One thing people gotta always remember, we’re like any family. When you have a family and you guys are all in the house — Billy, Tommy, and Jimmy — and Billy always eats up all the cereal and Tommy stinks. You know what I mean? So that’s how it is with us. We don’t ever go, “Fuck you, I don’t ever want to see you again!” Just like brothers. Sometimes we don’t work together, sometimes we do, but we know that we’re all brothers and that’s from way back before Bad Brains. Bad Brains was the union of ours that became popular, but really, our union as brethren goes beyond Bad Brains, before doing music and walking the streets together and rehearsing. Before we even knew we was gonna be in Bad Brains, we was doing shit together.
And then when you’re on a bus all day together…
DJ: Yeah, on the bus, HR may be getting restless, Earl’s smoking cigarettes, I don’t like the smell of cigarettes, so I might be in the back lounge, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m King Dick Darryl. [laughs] Imagine traveling in a one-bedroom apartment day after day after day with all your brothers. They’re all different. But that’s all. There’s no hiding our dysfunction. People want to blame HR, “HR’s crazy!” But really we all take part in our, whatever we’re going through. We all take part in what it is and how it goes.
When you split up the first time, did you mainly want to take a break because you were just tired of constantly being around each other?
DJ: The first time was when HR and Earl had stronger aspirations of creating more of a realistic reggae band, where me and Doc were still into our rock and the excitement that was going on with Bad Brains. That’s all there is to it. It’s all about how everyone grows. It’s all about family dysfunction, really. It’s common shit, but ours gets out there because of the popularity of the band. The people that talk shit and criticize us and all that shit, they need to look at what a band really meant in their being around, what their real deal was. The real positive message of Bad Brains was peace and love and uniting black and white in the form of rock music. That’s what we’re known for and should be known for. Not for making a mistake or calling somebody a “batti boy” or something like that. My message to those that want to judge people in the public eye is, judge the true essence of a man — the content of what his life really meant and what the situation really meant, not the inner workings… [phone clicks] Hold up a sec, I’m supposed to do another interview and I think this might be him. [clicks back] Hey man, when you do an interview with someone and they say they have an interview with someone else, does that make you feel slighted?
No, not at all. You gotta do it.
DJ: You gotta do it, right? The whole thing with the interviews that I don’t like…you’re, you’re…I like talking to you for some reason. But you’re not making me say things that I have on stock to say when I’m being interviewed.
Like, “What led to you guys being banned in D.C.?” That kind of stuff?
DJ: We wasn’t really banned in D.C.! We could do anything we wanted in D.C. We played in a club one time up in Logan’s Circle, like a club where jock-type people went, and they never heard punk rock. All the kids came and were pogoing and jumping around. The bar owner was all, “We ain’t having no more punk in this club, and especially no black punks!” And then we went home and said, “We’re banned in D.C.” But you couldn’t stop the Bad Brains. It was just like a concept we put on ourselves. [laughs]
Well, let’s get back to talking about the new record, rather then going with all the old standard questions that you’ve heard a billion times.
One thing I noticed is that Yauch added some meat to the band. There’s a lot more bass then I’ve heard on the other albums, especially the Ric Ocasek album. That was a little…
DJ: Thin! Yeah. What happens is, where you’re recording, what type of producer you’re working with, what the Great Spirit is making happen in an overall session. Sometimes it’s not in the hands of the band. Sometimes it’s a cosmic thing. So we were with Ric Ocasek in Electric Ladyland. Now, with this record, we’re in Yauch’s apartment on Canal Street with a big-ass console. It’s a thicker union of individuals. The vibe was cool at Ric’s sessions and Ron St. Germain did good work with us. It’s just the time we’re living in, where we’re at, what the equipment is like. Yauch got us at a good time where me and Doc were wanting to suggest some of our riffs from the old days. [Yauch] had a ROIR cassette concept going in his head, and he’s got great equipment in his studio, and that’s why this record sounds the way it does.
It sounds like you guys were experimenting with some of the instruments in his studio — like it might have been Money Mark’s keyboard on some tracks.
DJ: Yeah, on some of the reggae joints we got some things going, some additional musicians: a keyboard player and horn player, my man Keenan in there from Urban Blight, and Jamie Staff. On keyboards we got some friends in. Yauch’s playing a couple things here and there. I’m playing drums and keyboards on some tracks. It was like a big experimental thing in these sessions. But mainly it was, like, since we’re all the same age, there wasn’t no overseer. Nothing against Ric and Ron; they’re my big brothers. It’s like this is how they do. With us, it’s like the kids got loose in there. [laughs] So that’s what Yauch did that was good. We’re kind of lazy in the studio. I don’t know why, but we don’t like to play that much. I don’t know what it is, but he definitely got us to play more songs. He even took out a skit that he should’ve left in. He came in the studio and was goin’, “Come on, play one more, man. That’s it. You got it, man.”
Is that Yauch doing the scientific spiel at the end of “Send You No Flowers”?
DJ: That’s HR doing that. HR’s a wild dude. [laughs] But that’s the thing: people in the Bad Brains got a sense of humor. The cat’s being funny, having a good time singing or saying what he’s saying. Not everything is “destroy Babylon.” Even with “Don’t Blow No Bubbles,” we got a lot of flack on some anti-gay shit, but we’re not anti-gay. The song is about Michael Jackson and his monkey. It’s a joke. That’s why I think it’s racial sometimes, ’cause I know if the Sex Pistols said some shit like that, no one would be on them like they’re on us, saying we’re so politically incorrect and wrong for our jokes and shit. People are starting to do all sorts of jokes in songs these days, I noticed, but people still point the finger of homophobia at us for a song we wrote on Quickness. That stigmatized us, but I don’t think it would’ve stigmatized like…Cockney Rejects or somebody. [laughs]
Why do you think it stuck to you guys?
DJ: Because I think that, not being a conspiratorial type of cat, but we’re black in an alleged white world with this rock shit. There’s always going to be people that want to find something wrong with that. I’ll give you an example. When Led Zeppelin and those bands would come to your town back in the day and throw TVs out, get your girl, break bottles, throw liquor everywhere, that shit was rock & roll lore. But Bad Brains comes to town, smokes weed, got your girlfriend down there, burns a couple spliffs, spills Guinness, then that’s not rock lore anymore, that’s like, “niggas is up in here.” We’re getting people saying, “These guys are vandals, these guys are all that could possibly be wrong.” I believe it’s because we’re black. We do less rock & roll shit than white bands, and with white bands, they don’t say shit! A white band could come to your town and completely destroy the hotel room, and they’d be like, “Oh, that fuckin’ rock band,” like no big deal. But if the Bad Brains come to your town and do anything out of line, it ain’t, “Oh, that fucking rock band.” It’s like with the Big Boys! People think we’re suspicious because they say we stole from them.
Wait, who are you talking about?
DJ: I’m talking about the Big Boys. It’s a gay band back in Texas, back in the ’80s. That’s where a lot of this negative shit about us came from. The Big Boys let us stay at their house, and we didn’t really know that they were gay. Everyone knows, but we didn’t. So they picked on us and fucked with us so much, ’cause they knew we were young Rastas and it would be funny for them to try and engage us. They would try to rub up on us and just do wild shit, hazing us like frat boys or something to see how we would react. HR got in some shit with them and told them that God was gonna condemn them for their acts and for treating us this way. They had gotten us weed prior to that, so when we left, instead of paying for it, HR put a little note into an envelope saying, “God’s gonna be looking after you,” or whatever — which he shouldn’t have been saying either, but we were all young! He should’ve been saying the Great Spirit will be looking out for you and God bless, and hopefully we can all come together, but at the time it was like a battle! We’re going, “You’re wrong and God’s gonna get you” like most ignorant evangelists, and they’re going, “Ha ha, you guys are so funny the way you’re tripping out on us, and we’re just gonna fuck with you until your heads blow off.” You see, so no one is telling that part of the story. The only story the Bad Boys tell is, “Bad Brains came to town, called everyone faggots. They’re homophobes, so don’t like them because they’re thieves and they took our weed.” They didn’t even say weed; they said we stole from them.
Did you take their weed though?
DJ: Yes!!! [laughs] It was forty dollars. You’re talking about some 20-year-old dudes. But it doesn’t have to still be in our life! Now why, after all this time, I got to hear…that’s why I’m saying it could be racial, ’cause I know if the Meatmen or Black Flag came to your town and did worse than that — took all your shit from your house — it’s not still going to be on for like ten years, like they’re some kind of social criminals and all that shit. I guess you’re dealt a different hand when you’re adverse as we are. There it is…ain’t no big deal.
If that’s the worst of it, it’s not so bad. You guys are still making great music and people know it. This new album is one of the best you’ve put out since the ’80s.
DJ: To us too. The music is fresh to us when we’re creating it. After it comes off the skillet, it’s like we’re a chef, like a pancake or some shit. I make the batter, we put the batter in, put it in the pan, get it golden brown on one side, flip the motherfucker over and throw it on the plate, and it’s gone. It’s only mine in the skillet. After that, people either like it or they don’t like it. I don’t even listen to it.
Then you start making the next meal.
DJ: Start making other music, doing other things with my life as an artist. Hopefully, later on, in a year or two years, I can put it on and say, “That’s some dope shit.” I can enjoy it from a different perspective. Once it’s fresh out, all I can do is just throw it on a plate, you know, “Here it is.”
Are you guys going to stick around together?
DJ: We always together, it’s just are we doing it as the Brains? I’d love for us to keep doing some shows, maybe conjure up another record, but it’s not for me…we have to let the Great Spirit see if it’s done with us. It’s a very spiritual group. We’ve been moved by the Spirit for all these years, so I can’t predict where we’re going with this. I hope so. I hope it can be cool. The older songs that we’re playing in concert are kind of boring us, I guess. We’re starting to roll our eyes every night. When we go to practice, it’s like we got songs like “Sailing On” and “Attitude,” “I Against I,” and all these songs we don’t even rehearse. It’s like, “OK, I know that one, I know that one.” But we still kick ’em off live.
At this point you probably don’t need to practice them too much. They’re so embedded in your brain.
DJ: It’s just for your muscles. Your memory is cool. A lot of times you just do it by reflex. Sometimes I’m playing out, I’m thinking, “Oh shit, where’s this bridge? And my hand will just go there. There it is.” [laughs]
When you’re not touring, what are you working on? Are you producing a lot of other stuff?
DJ: I produced Bedouin Soundclash. It’s weird. We’re opening for them at the Rogers Picnic [in Toronto]. I’m like, “Get the hell outta here.” They’re like kids, but they sold a lot of records in the U.K. and Canada…mainly that. What else did I do? Shit. I got the D.C. United thing. I got my solo thing. I’ve been working with Lil Jon here and there with little rock ideas.
Is he coming out with a rock album?
DJ: Yeah, he’s trying to do a rock album. I keep trying to make him make it raw, but it seems as though he has more of a commercial approach to what he wants to do with it. I don’t blame him! I’m like, “You need to come out with some real raw rock shit.” But sometimes cats know what’s good for them.
What kind of stuff are you listening to right now?
DJ: I listen mainly to old stuff. I don’t listen to new stuff, really. I listen to like Jah Shaka, Lonnie Liston Smith, Black Ivory, Black Slate, the same reggae bands I was telling you about. I was putting together this show for Sirius Radio and brought out a lot of my old music. I played some Germs, some old BDP, some Schoolly D-type shit from back in the day, some Plasmatics…the Mad! [laughs] I’ll put on some like Celtic Frost and shit. [laughs] I listen to a lot of wild shit, but it’s gotta be like old classic shit. I’ll listen to some, like, Budgie. You ever heard of them?
DJ: Never? Go ask somebody. That’s like an old English metal band. The old English shit, man. [laughs] English heavy metal! You would love it. All their records got parrots!
Parrots, you said?
DJ: Pictures of parrots on ’em.
[Laughs] I was just reading about a death metal band called Hatebeak, where the lead singer is a parrot. An actual bird.
DJ: Really? It really is a parrot, huh? It goes “chirp chirp chirp”?
It squawks to the music. Like a growl.
DJ: Crazy…what’s gonna happen when that bird dies?
Then the band’s over.
DJ: [laughs] Sheee… [phone clicks] Uh oh. That must be that dude.
Alright then, I’ll let you get going, but it’s been good talking with you.
DJ: Yeah, man! Positive and peace and love! Peace, brotha!
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