An Interview with Brian Jackson – By Julian Brimmers

Brian Jackson – Survival Kits on Wax

Brian Jackson (Photo: Fabien Brennecke)

Brian Jackson is a pianist, flautist, educator and activist from Brooklyn, New York. As one of half of the duo Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson, he has composed and recorded some of the most iconoclastic, radical, and most sampled music of the 1970s. Stylistically occupying a space between jazz, soul and the revolutionary proto-rap of the Last Poets, Scott-Heron & Jackson recorded a decade worth of material that continues to provide meaningful sociopolitical commentary relevant to our times.

The duo split up in the early 1980s and only sporadically performed together in the decades to come. While Brian Jackson took on a job with the City of New York and continued to record with the likes of Roy Ayers, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind & Fire, Gil Scott-Heron famously battled the pitfalls of addiction he has written about so beautifully and empathically throughout his life. Gil Scott-Heron passed away in 2011.

Since then, Brian Jackson has continued their legacy by touring the world with his Rhodes piano, a song book full of classic material, and a message of Good Trouble, as Civil Rights icon John Lewis would have put it. Jackson’s most current project in this lineage of cultural activism is the “Pieces of A Man” podcast, in which he discusses art, survival, and politics with co-host Keith LaMar, who has been in solitary confinement on Death Row in Ohio for 28 years now. If you’d like to learn more about LaMar’s case, you can order his book Condemned or read up on the details here.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson’s seminal debut album “Pieces of A Man”, we’ve called up Brian Jackson for a career-spanning chat about literature, songwriting, his times with Gil and making peace with lost opportunities, as well as his podcasting and upcoming musical endeavours.

A radio version of this interview can be heard on Dublab.de.

Brian, thank you so much for doing this.

Hi Julian, thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.

You’ve been a lifelong New Yorker, but I catch you on the West Coast right now. I guess that’s where you’ve been holing up for the past couple of months?

Yes, my family and I moved to Portland in September of 2019. So we’ve been in Oregon, for one and a half years now. Yeah, we’re enjoying it.

I talked to a lot of people about the way that their perception of music has changed during this 12+ months. Some start to get deep into catalogues they’ve never explored before, others were looking for music as a form of comfort food, going back to stuff they’ve been listening to with a notion of nostalgia. Have you experienced any changes in the way that you perceive or interact with music?

I think that it has inspired me to do more music myself, to get more involved in creating again. Just having all of this time to spend with my family and consequently being here and being around my instruments has inspired me to do more music. But I still listen to the same things, the same old stuff that I used to listen to – maybe a little bit more.

What’s a record that regularly lands on your record player or in your playlist?

Well, there’s always Miles, there’s always Coltrane. Since McCoy Tyner passed away, I’m reminded of him and I am reminded of the deep influence that he had on me. As well as Ahmad Jamal, who is still with us at 91, I think. These are people that I grew up listening to, especially Ahmad. I remember hearing him as an eight or nine-year old. Ahmad Jamal, Horace Silver, these are the kind of people who keep me fired up and powered up.

I know that your parents were jazz heads and that there was a lot of music in your house, so it’s obvious where that aspect of your art came from. On the other hand, I was wondering, how and when did you develop a social conscience?

I think they came together simultaneously. Obviously, when I was a young child, I wasn’t aware of some of the civil unrest that was happening and the struggle of black people in America. But it didn’t take me long.

I was bussed. I was one of the first school children to be bussed away from the neighborhood into another neighborhood in order to break up the problem of segregation in the United States. Living in Brooklyn, I had a school right across the street, which I enjoyed, but the next year I found out that I was gonna have to stand across the street of that school to wait for a bus to take me miles away. 45 minutes away from where I lived to go to school, for the purpose of integration. So that was my first awareness of it.

Around the age of eleven, I was coming home from school and I saw somebody with a button that said “End Segregation Now!”. Although I was able to read that word, which I guess that’s good {laughs}, I didn’t know what it meant. So, when I got home I asked my mother. I still remember the sinking feeling look on her face when I asked her that question. Obviously, as a parent, I know now, what that look was. It was a total reluctance to make their young innocent child aware of some of the social pressures and the hatred and the injustice they were going to have to confront sooner rather than later. And she explained to me that segregation was a word that meant that some people didn’t like the way other people looked, that some people didn’t like the fact that there were brown people and black people and that they wanted to keep them separate. My mother was a librarian, she worked at the Ford Foundation, so whenever she couldn’t tell me something, she brought home books for me to read about. I began to read about civil rights and began to read about people like Langston Hughes and W.E.B DuBois, Martin Luther King.

As I began to read, I began to be more aware, I had already been seeing people being hosed and bitten by dogs. Civil rights protestors down south, who were just fighting for the right to vote. Once I had a context for it, it started to really galvanize me. When I watched the news at night, I was focused on what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement. And boy, did I find out. I found out that, when I was twelve, three girls where murdered in a church that was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama. I found out that people had the crap beaten out of them for just walking across a bridge. It began to make me angry. I had really no way of expressing this anger, until I realized I could maybe do it through my music. And I began to write a lot of music and I began to write a lot of poems. But I never thought to actually combine them {laughs}.

Your parents must have been delighted, having the kind of wondrous child that wants to play the piano and read all these books.

Yeah, I guess that’s kind of the dream, isn’t it? {laughs}

You just referenced the Selma March, John Lewis and Martin Luther King and all these people crossing the bridge to get beaten up by police. In a way, John Lewis’s concept of Good Trouble is the perfect description of what you’ve done musically all your life, isn’t it?

It is. I really loved that phrase Good Trouble, because civil disobedience as a political tactic and a means towards a more just end. I think it’s a good way to frame the arrests and the targeting as being a problem. There are times when being troublesome is heroic and right.

A couple of weeks back, when these terrorists stormed the Capitol, I saw your and Gil’s “Winter in America” pop up on social media numerous times. People felt inclined to post that song from the mid-70s as a relevant political statement for our times. You must have experienced over and over again, that music you had created for a specific moment in time, resurfaced and felt applicable to the times. Is that in a way frustrating? Because you didn’t mean to be prophetic with this.

Not at all. A lot of people say to me: how did you know that that song would be so relevant today? And I said: look, we didn’t know, we didn’t want it to be. We were talking about this 50 years ago. It’s probably one of the banes of my life that it still is as relevant as it is. It’s very upsetting. We thought that we were addressing an issue that might have some possibility of being corrected at some point. But, no, apparently.

You, as a literary child, a musical child, found a literary friend at Lincoln University in the late ’60s. You were in the room when Gil Scott-Heron was writing his first novel, The Vulture. What did you think of him as a literary mind?

Oh, I thought he was great writer. I couldn’t believe that somebody so young could write with such wisdom and maturity. It blew me away. It absolutely just destroyed me that he could have that type of perspective. But that was one of Gil’s unique talents. To be able of entering the soul or the spirit of a situation, or even of an individual, and tell you what he sees without actually having been that or there.

Gil first published a poetry collection performed over congas that you both recorded with your friends. This brought you your first record deal with Flying Dutchman for Pieces of A Man, which incredibly turns 50 in April.

Insane.

Completely insane. Because that means you guys were really, really young recording the album.

And that also means that I am really, really old (laughs).

I didn’t mean to say that and you don’t come across like that at all!

I know {laughs}. But it does remind me, when I look at my oldest son, who is 30 and who will be 31 this year, and I think WOW {laughs}. But I’m actually happy to be old. I’m happy because I’ve had the chance to see some good changes and I’ve got to see some… movement. Let’s put it that way.

You were 19 recording “Pieces of a Man”. Gil was only slightly older. There’s a bit of a generational clash in the group that recorded this album. You and Gil being very young and unpolished in a good way, but you were surrounded by these seasoned veterans: Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, and Bernard “Pretty” Purdie.

Exactly, terrifying. I’ve probably never been this scared in my life as going to my first ever recording session. Not only going to a professional recording studio to do a record that God knows how many people will hear, possibly having your feelings of inadequacy documented for all time, as you struggle to deal with all of that within the context of these superpowers. You are supposed to play with Ron Carter, Bernard Purdie and Hubert Laws as if you’re on their level {laughs}. Well, of course, there’s no way that I felt I was up to the task. When they talk about trial by fire, I know what that means.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Carter once at Blue Note a few years back and he’s clearly a person that exudes a certain authority. A very elegant and friendly man but with an aura that tells you to better bring your a-game and not waste his time. Was it the same back then?

Oh my God, yeah, it was just like that. Nicest guy, very soft-spoken, very gentile, all of that, what a gentleman. But: at the end of the day he is looking at you and he is thinking “what am I here for? And do YOU know what I am here for?” {laughs}. Bob Thiel (of Flying Dutchman Records} had also hired another person to the band, Johnny Pate, the great arranger, who did a lot of work with Curtis Mayfield and several other soul artists. Bob had brought Johnny on to manage the session — just in case I didn’t know what I was doing. And reasonably so! A 19-year-old kid who had never really been in a studio before, who had never really had any proven track record. I wasn’t offended by that in the least, but Ron, for instance, wanted to know for himself, if I knew what I wanted. He didn’t want to hear it from Johnny, he did want to hear from me.

I have a kind of humorous story as an example: We were doing a song, I think it was “Pieces of A Man,” the title track, and he asked me about a particular chord. “You have here written on the page a C-11.” And I said, “yes.” And he said “well, do you want me to play it like C-11 or do you want me to play it like a C-9, because one has a dominant flavor and the other one has a kinda suspended flavor.” And I said “No, I’m looking for the suspended flavor”. “Ok,” and then he pauses for a second, “but are you sure it’s not the dominant flavor?”. And I said “No, actually I want to have that”. And then I thought to myself “I’m not about to get into a musical debate with Ron Carter, am I?” And I looked at him very humbly and said, “what do you think it should be, Sir?” {laughs} Obviously I was quaking in my boots. And he just broke and looked at Bernard Purdie and he looked at Hubert Laws and they all started laughing. “Nah man, I’m just kidding, I’m playing whatever you want me to play. Its ok.”

On that note: you are the musical director, you are 19 years old, you have to make sure that the sounds that you and Gil came up with are transferred onto a record. I’m saying this with the greatest respect but Gil was an unorthodox singer. At this point, he was a poet, a novelist, the proto-rapper, if you will. He has this incredible voice, but he’s not Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. Did that ever occur to you as something that might cause a problem in a session of that caliber?

No, it didn’t, because Gil’s voice was so unique and so sincere that I think that anybody, even those guys, could listen to this 22-year old sounding like a 40-year-old man with the resonance in his tone and think “ok, this is going to work”. Clearly it was going to work regardless of experience or his roughness around the edges, given that it was also his first album. It was his first attempt at singing in the studio, at being a singer period. My hats off to him, he did a fantastic job and he only got better from there.

The bravery is astonishing. Listening back to it now, you have a song like “I Think I’ll Call it Morning,” which goes very low at some points and then breaks free at the end. You’re not holding back at all. Neither from your composition nor from the way that he performed it.

That’s it. You know those weren’t the days when you had Pro Tools and Autotune and all of that stuff where you could go back and overdub one phrase a thousand times until you got it right. So it was even more of an accomplishment when you look at it in those terms.

Brian Jackson & Malcolm Cecil

I’m glad you’re bringing up Autotune and all these different technical developments, because what you did personally, by embracing the Rhodes, which is in-between a synthesizer and a piano, and by embracing synthesizers, that also lead to this iconoclastic music you made as a duo. When I asked you to send over some press photos you sent me one of you and Malcom Cecil using the TONTO system. You championed these technical developments and a certain futurism, didn’t you?

Surprisingly, yes. The thing is, being a pianist the one thing that always eluded me was the ability to bend a note like a guitarist {mimics guitar sounds}. How could you do that on a piano? I always wanted that ability. And when synthesizers came out, there it was, right there on the left, a pitch wheel. And I used it to the fullest extent. Even before I got into the studio with Malcom Cecil in this big room of marvelous synthesizers that he had called TONTO, which stood for The Original New Timbral Orchestra, I had already bought myself a Minimoog and had employed it on songs like “Possum Slim” and “Johannesburg.” I think it was definitely a surprise to Clive Davis that I took to this, he always saw me as the jazz head of the band. I was also was very impressed with the work of Stevie or Joe Zawinul from Weather Report, Billy Preston, Chris Jasper from the Isleys. I’ve been up on all of that stuff and really was in my element to be honest.

On “We almost lost Detroit” you start with this wobbly Rhodes intro, but there’s also this piercing sound that could be a guitar, but that’s also a synthesizer?

It is a synthesizer. It was indented to emulate the feeling of a soprano saxophone. But when you’re working with synthesis, it’s wise to not always go and try to replicate every nuance of an actual instrument. We just went for what felt right and that’s what we came up with. In the beginning, I play the Rhodes with the echoplex, to create this kind of infinite delay. I am surprised how many times that has actually been sampled, man. It’s crazy.

How do you feel about that by the way? You are clearly a very sampled person. I know that you appreciate the continuation from bebop to hip-hop so to speak, but in the beginning it might be like “hey, this is my shit…”

Exactly. I’ve always been into new technology that helps people make music. And there are two ways to do it. There are ways that you can consider tasteful and that you consider musical and there are other ways that are not. So, when I started to hear how sampling was used in a musical context and as something that for me felt musical, I’ve been ok with that, and I am ok with that.

The first time you and I sat together in the same room was 2015 in Paris for your RBMA lecture with Chairman Jefferson Mao. One of the most memorable parts of this conversation was at the end, when there was a gentleman who had a couple of questions for you…

Mad Mike, from Detroit. Underground Resistance.

Yes, Mad Mike Banks, techno pioneer. He thanked you for making “We Almost Lost Detroit” but he also asked you, how you felt, despite talking about subjects so close to your direct community, having such success the world over. Which is something he also experienced of course, while really intending to create change in your respective neighborhoods.

I’m still overwhelmed by that, although we never did it for that. We never expected that so many people would take notice for so long. This is going on three generations now. And I still have people approaching me and talking about how this music has influenced their own work. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

All I was trying to do was pass on a tradition. I previously mentioned the people that I was listening too. Obviously, I couldn’t do what they did, although I tried, but it came through the filter of my life and my spirit. And it came out the way it did. I’m just happy if it has some form of personal value to listeners and if it helps them go on with their lives. Gil liked to call our albums “survival kits on wax.” I think that pretty good describes of what our goal, our intention was.

A song that illustrates the oddness of having fans oversees and coming in contact with all these people is “Race Track in France.” Can you please tell me a little bit about that song, especially about the journey from Union Station to this particular destination?

Most of our tours started out at Union Station, and this trip was a lot different because we actually toured outside of the United States. We were asked to perform at a festival in a small town outside of Marseilles at the Paul Ricard Race Track. I don’t think they use it as a race track anymore. This was for a festival, Riviera ’76 and a bunch of musicians were invited to hop on a charter plane, to ride over there. I’m just thinking of the wild scene it was, man. The Brecker Brothers, Larry Coryell, Ray Barreto, all these great musicians that were there. And the whole plane was just on fire with music. We just had the best time. When we landed, I looked around and there was nothing. Where are we going to play actually? And then we hopped on a bus and they drove us a few miles and there it was. A huge stage in the middle of this race track and there were so many people. It was amazing. I think we never played for that many people before. We just had one of the greatest times. Thinking of the plane ride back, I’m trying to remember if it was as animated as it was on the way there, but I think I have to tell you that everybody was asleep for the whole ride. It was dead silent on the way back. Everybody had given it everything they had. {laughs}

This decade that you and Gil made music together was very prolific. You made a lot of records, you were touring constantly. And now you have all these beautiful memories, like the one captured on “Race Track in France.” But by 1980, when you guys split apart, it is known that Gil fell on hard times for many years. Given that this decade and this brotherhood, this musical partnership, is also attached to a tragic arch and to the sad story of a good friend of yours — were you able to make your peace with that?

Well, you know, when someone close to you passes away, you kind of suspend whatever the situation or whatever status the relationship had when that person passed away. Although we still remained close, we didn’t speak a lot for the last few years. Only a few times in the 2000s and that was primarily because of the business problems that I had with Gil. We ran into some conflict about publishing and how and where what was supposed to be distributed, and I obviously lost out on a lot of publishing for whatever reason. But I try to look passed that.

I hadn’t really been in touch with Gil since we broke up in 1980, until I got a call out of the blue in about 1994 and he asked me to appear with him at a show at S.O.B.’s, which I was happy to do. Four years passed by and I got another call from him; apparently, his girlfriend at the time had convinced him that a lot of people were interested in seeing a reunion. So he gave me a call and even with our publishing issues and everything I thought, maybe it would be a good idea to go down there and at least have a dialogue with him about it all. I went down there specifically to talk with him. But he had told me “bring your flute,” and so I brought my flute. At some point, he called me on the stage and I jumped up and we did “Your Daddy Loves You” and the place exploded. Afterwards he said, “man, listen, if you wanna go and travel with me and go some other places, you know I’d be happy if you wanna to do that.” And so I did as much as I could — I mean, I was working. I’ve been working for the City of New York for 35 years. But whenever I could get away, I did.

Where did you go?

We famously did a tour on the West Coast in 1998. We went over to South Africa, too. First time either of us had ever been there. We did a great show. And it got to the point when we we were actually discussing maybe doing some more music together. And then, on our way to a show in Chicago, Gil was apprehended at the airport on a drug charge. He did some time in prison. And when he got out, we didn’t speak for a while and things kind of went in a bad direction, because we weren’t able to resolve any of those business issues.

The biggest problem was, you know, that I wasn’t able to do the work I thought that we were able to do together. It just didn’t materialize and I did see that Gil was kind of losing his focus, losing his will to even create anymore music, along with his growing paranoia and distrust of those people around him, even the ones who loved him. He just began to push everybody away — his brother, his ex, everybody. I kind of understood that given his aversion to abandonment. If you know anything about his life, he had had a hard time with abandonment issues. He didn’t meet his father until he was 26. He had gotten shuffled around a little bit as a young boy, eventually landing in Jackson, Tennessee, with his grandmother, who passed away not long ago after he got there. He found her on the living room floor. You have to look at all the things that people do through the lens of their own experiences. This is one of the things that I learned to do with Gil. And I understood that he began to push people away the more he feared them pushing him away.

But how beautiful that you both got to play “Johannesburg” in South Africa…

Oh, I can tell you a story about that one. We were in Johannesburg and naturally we were going to do that song. Just to give you an example of how emotional it was to actually be there: when I got off the plane, I got down on my knees and I kissed the ground at the airport. You know, it’s the first time I’d ever been to Africa to meet the motherland. That “I’m home” kind of thing. The people there were just as welcoming.

So we were on stage and got ready to do “Johannesburg” as our finale. We’re up on stage and tears practically started to stream down my face as we say “what’s the word?” and I pumped my fist in the air. And then I saw the crowd, everybody looking at each other like “what are we supposed to say? What is the word?” {laughs}. A couple of people in the back went “Johannesburg”, but, you know, very meekly. I was like “what the…?”. After the show I talked to a couple other people from the audience, “hey guys, you were supposed to… you know… that was your chance {to participate}! We wrote that song for you all.” One of my friends explained to me, “listen, when that song came out it was banned here in this country. If we heard it, we weren’t supposed to hear it. You could have been put in jail for listening to it.” The majority of people in Johannesburg never even heard that song before.

During those few years in the 1990s that you stepped away from music and basically went on hiatus… do you think you would have picked up podcasting already had it been around back then?

You know what, I don’t think so. I’ve always had opinions and my own view of what was going on in the world, but I wasn’t too keen on sharing them. I’ve never felt like I’m the guy. That was why I always was so happy to work with Gil, because Gil would have no problems of just opening his mouth and talking about whatever it is that he had on his mind, very unfiltered at that. For me that really worked. He said all the things that I wanted him so say. When Gil passed, it became more obvious to me that I now was the representative of our legacy. And that legacy involved speaking out, that legacy involved letting people in on your view and your vision. Although Gils and my vision were not exactly the same, we definitely agreed on the overall shape of what was going on. And so I began to talk a little bit.

I was really reluctant at first but my friends and my wife convinced me of getting on Instagram and making a couple of comments and stuff, you know. That just didn’t seem good enough for me. And my wife said “why don’t you do a podcast? Not only can you talk, but you can talk with other people.” And it was around that time that I met Keith LaMar.

Who is your co-host on the “Pieces of A Man” podcast. It is such an interesting and intense experience listening to your conversations with him. I had no idea who Keith LaMar was and then I learned about him living on death row through the podcast. Maybe you can tell the story of how you got in touch with him because he is a fairly new acquaintance to you as well.

Exactly. During the confinement due to Covid-19 my wife and I would spend a lot of time at home. At some point you start to wonder, what can you do to keep you from losing your mind? She came across this article by a man who was in solitary confinement in prison for over 27 years. And she thought to herself “well, if anybody knows how to survive confinement than it is this guy”. The article was in Mother Jones magazine. She was so impressed by this writer’s style that she ordered the book he had written, which is called Condemned, for anybody who’s interested. She ordered the book, she read the book, actually, we lost my wife for about 24 hours. She just holed herself up in a room and read the book in one sitting. After she emerged she handed me the book and said “you have to read this NOW.” Eventually with her continued insistence I did, and 24 hours later I emerged from my room and I put the book on the table and I said to her “we have to do something.”

First, we decided to reach out to Keith, and when I did, it felt like we had known each other for years. We had such great time. If you listen to the podcast, you can hear how it goes when we talk, you know. We talk about very serious things, but we also laugh a lot. Keith is a brilliant thinker, so well-read and wise. I realized, this should be our podcast. And this can also be the thing that I do for him, to maybe expose him to as many as I possibly can. Since then he followed my lead and got himself an Instagram account. It just felt that the podcast was the one thing that I can possibly do to expose more people to his case, being as unjust a case as it is. There’s a man who is completely innocent of what he was charged for. He can proof it. Although the data and information that he needed to proof his innocence during the time of his trial were held by the prosecution. Even given all of that he was sentenced to death. So now, at this point, he has less than 4 years to defend himself adequately and get himself proper legal representation so that he can get out of this horrendous situation he’s been in now for 28 years. So whatever I can do towards that end, is what I was going to be doing. And we found that the podcast was one of the better things.

I’m glad you decided to do it as a podcast. I mean, you can read Elridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice,” Mumia Abu-Jamal’s books, the stories of Nelson Mandela or Eddie Conway and other people who have been in confinement for a long time. But to hear yourself and Keith have an engaging discussion about art and politics, and there’s laughter — and suddenly there will be this automated voice saying “this is recorded from a correctional facility, you have one minute left,” it’s just different. It throws you right back to an understanding of how this is not normal at all. And that is extremely harrowing and intense to listen to. It really gives you another experience and I hope that it will wake up a lot of people to the situation that Keith LaMar and many others endure.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about it, Julian.

At one point, Keith LaMar talks about how he re-read “Native Son” by Richard Wright over and over again, every day for weeks, and the narrative kind of expanded every time he got back to the book. So, I just wanna thank you for also creating a body of work that does the same to many people, including myself, a collection of songs that expand every time you revisit them.

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

The best thing about it, though, is, it hasn’t stopped. You just downplayed your Instagram-game, but I’ve seen you casually interact with Erykah Badu on there, for example.

Yeah! She just pops up from time to time. Mostly she’ll just go to one of my posts and put a comment like “B!” and I write back and say “E!”. You know, we’ve been doing this for years now {laughs}. At some point, maybe I’ll get up the courage to say a bit more to her. And maybe that’s the same thing happening to her, I don’t know.

In fact, you have new music on the horizon. More than just one project and I don’t know if your able discuss any of them yet.

Yeah, we can. A friend asked me recently “who is your favorite hip-hop artist.” And from the top of my head I said, “A Tribe Called Quest.” Because first of all, I love Phife Dawg, Malik Taylor. I loved that guy, his humor, his timing to me was just the best. I always ended up pumping my fist and laughing. This guy, he was the greatest to me. I met him in New York. He came to a show of mine in Brooklyn with his mother, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. I think he was living in Atlanta at that point and I just always wanted to work with him. And it didn’t happen unfortunately, but I did meet him. I met Q-Tip also at a couple of Rich Medina DJ sets. And then, in 2019 I believe it was, I ran into Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge at Adrian’s studio in Los Angeles, where I had been invited to do some recording. It came out pretty well, I would say. One of the songs actually came out on a compilation on the Jazz Is Dead label. A song by the three of us called “Nancy Wilson.”

That’s you on flute, right?

That’s me on flute, yeah.

It turned out we had an album worth of material and that’s gonna be released sometime this summer. Probably around end of August, possibly a bit earlier. That’s one. There’s another one I worked on with Daniel Collàs, who is the producer of Phenomenal Handclap Band. One of the last albums he recorded was with Joe Bataan. Great producer. We got along very well and decided “hey, lets try and put an album together of original material”. So we did that. Peter Adarkwah from BBE was interested in it and so we stuck up a deal with Pete. That’s an album that should be coming out this year too, I’m not exactly sure when.

So there’s a few things in the works. A couple other things going on I can’t talk about right now. Let’s just put it that way. Also, The Archives is a reggae band out of DC that did a cover album of Gil’s and my material, which is probably one of the most beautiful cover albums of any kind that I’ve ever heard. I got along with these guys very well, so we did an album, too. That’s something we can be looking for in the near future as well.

So, yes. From a silence of almost a decade, here I am again.

It’s great to have you back. I have one final question. Whether in your work with Gil or in the podcast you’ve done with Keith LaMar, it seems that no matter how harsh and terrible these issues are that you are tackling there’s always space for humor and warmth and empathy. Being in the times that we are in right now, do you see any glimmers of hope in your day-to-day that you can share?
Well, I feel great, I feel good right here in this room {laughs}. In my bunker, with this studio. You know there is always hope. They say “you have to laugh to keep from crying” and, you know, I guess that is true. But there’s always beauty around and there’s always humor. If you don’t keep humor with you, then you really can’t enjoy life. Life is full of positives and negatives, everything is pros and cons, good and bads, highs and lows. What a life it would be if everything just went your way. What a boring life. Part of life is the journey and sometimes not even knowing where you’re going. But knowing that you wanna get there. That’s where we are and that’s where we always be. And that’s ok with me.

Word.
{laughs}
Thank you, Julian, I appreciate it man.

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