Mundovibes: I’m sure you’ve got a lot going on right now?
J. Boogie: I do, but it’s all good. I’m having fun with it. I’m trying to stay up, getting ready for this record release party on Saturday and an Amoeba (records) in-store. I’m really excited.
MV: Well, you have very good reason to be. This recording is just brilliant.
JB: Cool, thank you. I’m glad you like it.
MV: I can’t believe 17 tracks of all straight up fat shit!
JB: Right on, cool. I appreciate that.
MV: You know I lived in San Francisco back in the ‘80s and it’s interesting because I listened to radio a lot and hip hop radio was pretty strong in the city then. Did you come up with radio in a big way?
JB: In a big way. I moved here in ‘91 and went to U.S.F. (University of San Francisco) and started at the radio station there, KUSF. And I was engineering for a hip hop show and doing a graveyard shift myself. And I’ve been on the air there for longer than 10 years. We have the 10th Anniversary of our hip hop (‘Beatsauce’) show this year.
MV: Would you say your foundations are hip hop?
JB: Yeah, definitely. I’m into all kinds of music—my foundations are definitely hip hop, reggae, and soul. That’s what I listen to the most, hip hop and reggae. But it can’t just be that. I’m really into all different types of music and experiencing new types of music.
MV: What made you as open-eared as you are? Did you grow up in a musical environment?
JB: Not really. Most of it was listening to a lot of independent radio. I grew up in Portland and there’s a station there called KBOO. It was another non-commercial station and it’s one of those stations where you’d be listening and you’d hear a couple hours of jazz and then a couple hours of punk. Then a couple hours of blues and a couple hours of reggae, you know? So, being exposed to that keeps you open and having a kind of a small attention span you always want to hear something new and different. It’s like ‘OK, that’s cool, what’s next?’ But just being exposed to all types of music and wanting to hear more is what spawned that open-mind music style.
MV: It’s interesting, because today commercial radio is completely segmented. Radio used to be such a great experience and in a non-commercial way, I guess it still is.
JB: Those stations are struggling and a lot times they lose the quality people that make it happen because there’s not much support in that arena. Everybody would rather hear the new (fill in the blank).
MV: In terms of what you’re producing it’s very accessible but…
JB: It doesn’t really fit in a box does it? (laughs)
MV: Yeah, exactly.
JB: It’s catch-22, because to sell music and to get it out there and to promote it and to share it with others it’s easier and more convenient if you can say ‘oh, yeah, this fits in this little box over here.’ We’re trying to figure out what section to put this in. We could put it in hip-hip, we could put it in electronic, we could put it in soul, we could put it in jazz.
MV: Well, that’s saying a lot. It’s pretty amazing that you’re able to pull that all together.
JB: It’s a blessing and a killing. Some people get it, some people don’t.
MV: In general, what is your philosophy with music?
JB: It definitely would be diversity among music styles and I like to combine a lot of different elements, kind of like cooking or like taking things from all these different places and throwing it all together into one congruent piece. So, combining some world instruments and some fat drum sounds and maybe a live session player and a drum machine or a vocalist. Diversity and just like a stew: bringing everything together in different styles, but for me it’s mostly about combining programmed elements with live musicians, for a more organic feel.
MV: And what is the challenge of that for you?
JB: Making it sound good, making it all come together so it doesn’t sound like ‘oh, that guy just played over a drumbeat’. Having it be congruent. When you program a beat on the MPC it’s got a particular swing to it, it’s got a particular sound to it; it’s going to sound like a drum machine. If you have a drummer or a congo player or someone else play over the top of that, they’re going to give it a certain feel, so you don’t want it to sound “off”, like there’s this over here and this over there. You want it to kind of meld together and sound like they’re happening in the same space, like a band but it’s not.
MV: To me, one of the downfalls of the whole “trip hop” thing was that in a lot of cases it came off disjointed.
JB: Yeah. It’s like grabbing things from different places but it doesn’t quite fit together. And some people can do it really well. But that was definitely one of the biggest challenges, getting that to work. And you’re always learning little things that you can do to make it sound better or work better together.
MV: You’ve been producing since the late ‘90s, and this debut is the culmination of all of your years.
JB: It’s been a long time coming (laughs). A lot of people didn’t even believe we were going to do it. A lot of times I wasn’t sure it would happen. I didn’t believe it until I actually had the CD in my hand, it was like ‘OK, this is really happening’. I was DJing a lot, also, and I had a day job and I do radio and do mix CDs and a lot of different things, so to maintain focus and really make the album come together was difficult. And bringing so many musicians—thirteen people—to bring all these people together to make it happen. A couple of the songs are pretty old (laughs). But I think the way they all came together sounds cool.
MV: In terms of all the people you’ve worked with, is this an extended family of yours?
JB: There’s a lot of musician and vocalist talent in the bay area and beyond. In the underground that a lot of that don’t get a chance to get exposure. Some do, and they make it out of the Bay Area box. It’s really hard for people to come up in San Francisco, because it’s not L. A. and it’s not New York. And you always kind of reach a certain point and you either move or nothing really happens. So, for me it was important to have some local love and have a lot of local artists.
MV: What is it that is different about San Francisco that it doesn’t seem to get the credit it deserves?
JB: I think a lot of people in the music industry just don’t pay attention to San Francisco. If you think of San Francisco in an urban sense, maybe you think of Tony Toni Tone, Digital Underground, Too Short. That was a long time ago, you know? Nobody else has hand picked people from here, although Goapele is blowing up and she’s fantastic and she’s really talented. I’m really happy to have her on the record and I really think that she’s the one that’s going to break through for the bay area. Once people realize what Goapele’s doing then maybe the industry will pay more attention. Because musicians know it already, when groups to the bay area they get a lot of love, you know? And people love it here to come check out music and people are really into music. There’s tons of talent here, it’s just people know if more for being an internet town.
“Everything always has the roots of the drum and the bass, in a dub sense. You’ve got to have good drums and good bass— that’s the rule of reggae. And for me that’s the most important and then whatever comes on top ends up being some mystical, dreamy, sexy, freaky stuff.”
MV: Or they’re still thinking about the ‘60s.
JB: (laughs) Exactly. People have their preconceptions about San Francisco and it’s not just San Francisco, it’s the whole bay area—places like Oakland, Richmond, San Jose, Vallejo all have been building music scenes. But it’s more of a bay are thing.
MV: Om records seems to be representing San Francisco in a lot of ways.
JB: Yeah, definitely. They’ve put out a lot of bay area artists and I think they’ve done a good job promoting that. They have a really diverse sound, which is why I wanted to work with them. They do stuff from hip hop to house to two-step to experimental stuff—they’re all over the place.
MV: So, it was a good match. In general the recording is on the mellow tip, but it’s definitely got a fat beat structure. Did you design it or think of it as a chill kind of thing?
JB: That’s always been the way my music came out in the past. I think mostly because I’m usually making music at night and it’s usually late and you’re by yourself so that vibe comes through. I definitely made an effort to keep the BPM (beats per minute) a little bit diverse and throw things in there so it wasn’t all 90 BPM head-nodders. I wanted to change it up and have a couple things above 100. I think that’s definitely been the mellow vibe that pulls through but I’m trying to diversify. Everything always has the roots of the drum and the bass, in a dub sense. You’ve got to have good drums and good bass—that’s the rule of reggae. And for me that’s the most important and then whatever comes on top ends up being some mystical, dreamy, sexy, freaky stuff, you know?
MV: You switch very comfortably between vocals and instrumentals.
JB: That was a balance I wanted to have. I wanted to have a balance of vocals and instrumentals on the record. I wanted to have a balance of male and female energy—to have that is very important. You can’t have all vocals and you can’t appreciate the instrumental side if you have all instrumentals you’re yearning for something.
MV: Plus you’ve got some nice hip hop tracks on there with People Under the Stairs.
JB: Yeah, they blessed it—that was a fun track to do.
MV: There’s also a pretty strong latin flavor flowing through the CD, including some of the song names. Do you have a latin background?
JB: No, I just really enjoy latin music, food and women (laughs). I have a couple of musicians that I work with which have definitely influenced me on that tip, and just discovering latin rhythms, the polyrhythmic quality that latin music has just blows my mind. I can never get sick of hearing it. Latin culture to me is interesting. Music gets way more respect and love in latin culture than it does in our culture.
MV: It’s more integrated with life.
JB: That’s important. If you’re that kind of person and you recognize that, you’re like ‘wow, it is integrated’ you know? It’s too bad that other people can’t be that way.
MV: What is the track that will be out first?
JB: ‘Try Me’, which is the single with Goapele and Capitol A. That single is out now and there’s a King Kooba remix and a People Under the Stairs remix. That was the first single and we’ve gotten great response, partly because I think Goapele is really hot right now, so people are really checking for her. Having her on that track is really good. We’re going to do another single with ‘Moving to My Beat’ (featuring People Under the Stairs), and do some remixes.
MV: It’s incredible that you’re also a live show.
JB: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been getting ready for. It’s definitely unique, taking a different approach where as a DJ I set the pace with records and we have a drummer and percussionist to play along with us and a rotating group of musicians. For this week’s performance I’ll have drums, conga, sitar, flute, sax and some vocalists. And they’re all performing on top of a DJ set, so it’s not like ‘we’re a band, we’re playing songs’. It’s more like, ‘wow, this is a DJ experience, enhanced three-fold by this huge group performing with the DJ. And doing things in tune with the records that I’m playing. Doing breakdowns with the records and then I’ll work it out with the drummer where we’ll go back and back or I’ll scratch in with him and drop a beat with him, or I’ll drop a beat out and he takes it. It’s really fun—it’s challenging, it’s almost always improvisational because it changes each time, the speed of the records change, the keys changes, everything changes. But it’s been a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
MV: Would you do this on tour?
JB: I’ll be doing a scaled down version, with a drummer and percussionist. Taking that many people on the road gets a little expensive. But if the financial means are there, we will definitely be taking five people on the road.
MV: Since you have so many roles it must be very difficult at times just wearing the different hats?
JB: It is, but at the same time it keeps things exciting. And if I was just DJing all of the time, every night in a club, I wouldn’t last very long at all. I definitely wouldn’t have lasted this long. I’ve seen it happen to some DJ friends of mine, if you’re DJing for a living it’s really easy to get burnt out. Scenes don’t change as much as you think they do and it can get boring. So, the next step is to try different things, get out there, make some music, work with musicians. Work in in different areas of music that makes you happy. Because it all feeds off each other, it’s complimentary.