JUNIE MORRISON – RED BULL MUSIC ACADEMY INTERVIEW
BY JEFFERSON MAOUncut Version of the Red Bull Music Academy Interview
Q: What was growing up in Dayton like & how did you decide to pursue a career in music? Who were your main influences?
A: Growing up in Dayton was full of wonder. The area had many reminders and indications that something great was at one’s fingertips. For instance, we were constantly reminded of the Wright brothers and would inevitably stroll by their bicycle shop on a daily basis. We believed we could fly!
As far as the music career is concerned, I can’t ever remember a time when I was not working in music. From my earliest recollections as a very young church pianist onward, I was always heavily involved with music in some capacity or another.
Like a lot of kids in those days, my folks would always ask me to perform for their friends and other family members. Try singing the bass part on “Duke of Earl” at 3 years old and see what you sound like! I thought the Platters were interesting but since I was not able to read at that time, I thought I was listening to Pat Boone. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles, was a big favorite because I loved the sound of his voice as it interplayed with the orchestral arrangements.
Little Richard was another genius ground-breaker that I paid attention to, as well as great talents like, Chuck Berry, Patti LaBelle and obviously Aretha Franklin and Stevland Morris a.k.a., Stevie Wonder. I still listen to Stevie and Aretha’s duet, “Until You Come Back To Me”. Of course, I, like most everyone else, was very impressed by Mr. James Brown a.k.a., soul brother #1 and the mega talented Sly Stone.
Q: What was the music scene in Dayton like in those days? How & why do you think it became such an important place in the development of funk?
A: In the very early days, the music scene in Dayton was reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album cover for “I Want You”. You had your churches, schools, radio stations and nightclubs just like most other places. I think one of the most important influences for me though, was the school system. We had very inspirational teachers, like Charles Spencer at Roosevelt High. Teachers like Mr. Spencer had a way of helping us to want to learn and be impeccable with our music studies. The super talented indie artist and producer Bernard Alexander a.k.a., Skip McDonald a.k.a., Little Axe was also in Mr. Spencer’s class, at least a year or two before I came in.
Over time, I managed to become student choir director and orchestra conductor at Roosevelt, thanks to the kind of guidance and motivation we all received from our teachers while going there. As a result, most of the 13 or so bands from Dayton signed to major labels were inspired by the creative opportunities offered by schools like Roosevelt and other fine schools in the city.
Having said that, my own personal feel for the Funk had to have grown out of my experiences in church. At around 4 years old, I remember playing piano for a baby church choir. My feet could barely touch the floor. My only option was to stamp out the Funk using the sustain pedal of the piano, just to give myself some ballast. The resulting Funk groove was awesome.
That same baby choir, was also comprised of Thomas and William Shelby, future members of Lakeside and Dynasty with Solar Records and eventually, Johnnie and Keith Wilder, who went on to form the mega group Heatwave, signed to Epic Records. In other words, the Funk from our area had a strong connection to gospel music from the beginning.
Q: You became proficient as a multi-instrumentalist, playing keyboards, drums and guitar. What were your early professional gigs like? And how did you get your stage name, Junie?
A: You may not be able to call my earliest gigs “professional” but you can certainly call them constant. In other words, if a hat dropped, I was there singing or playing one instrument or another. I think anyone who wants to become proficient at anything, has to work constantly to achieve that goal. If you do, chance has a way of intervening to offer you a way to make your dreams happen. All it takes, in most cases, is for one to put in the work. You can imagine how much work, dedication and persistence goes into learning to play those instruments well enough to not embarrass one’s self, let alone to make a living.
As far as the nickname, Junie is concerned, it was given to me by the elders of Ohio Players. It took quite a while before they let me forget my age and lack of experience in the “ways of the world.”
Q: When and how did you meet & join the Ohio Players?
A: Before I became a part of the group, Ohio Players played mostly small nightclubs and high schools. Obviously, that practice changed before long. As a result, I first saw Ohio Players when they performed a concert at my high school. At that time, I was always in the process of forming groups of musicians in some form or another; a drum squad here, a band or choir octet there and anything in between. I thought that if a bee had a knee, I was it. That being said, Ohio Players were spectacular and by far the most progressive band I had ever seen and as a result, they made a big impact on my musical awareness of the possibilities.
Strangely enough though, it was only through chance that I attended the concert in the first place. Since it was a school requirement for us to attend theatrical plays from time to time, I remember telling a friend that I was in no way interested in seeing some “lame” theatrical play and would definitely not attend the event. However, to make a short story long, when the concert was over, I was still sat there a day or two later, in a state of shock. Eventually, the janitor came by and said, “You alright son?” I was like…”Knuba-tereg bag throwf!”
That being the case, a couple years after first seeing Ohio Players, I had agreed to play piano for some school friends of mine at a local battle of the bands television broadcast. To my surprise, Ohio Players were booked to play the same show. I was shocked to realize that I would have to rock a grand piano, in a battle, against the group that had impressed me the most; guitars, amps, horns, drums and all. Somebody was going to get their ass handed to them on a plate that day and I was determined that it wasn’t going to be mine. (ha!).
Q: You became the group’s lead singer upon joining the group. Besides your vocals, what qualities do you think you brought to the band?
A: My original duty was as a piano player and eventually, musical director, arranger-producer. Vocals were a part of the mix, as well.
Ohio Players were comprised of a rhythm section with two horn players. They had never worked with a keyboard player before I joined, so this was a groundbreaking event. Strangely enough though, I began by playing trumpet with the band until I could afford one of those “new fangled” electric pianos. I also went on to play guitar and bass on many of the recordings including “Ecstasy” and “Funky Worm”. As producer, I was also responsible for supervising all final mixing and mastering sessions of the material.
Aside from penning Ohio Players’ first gold record in the form of “Funky Worm”, if you could call that a quality, I would like to think that I added more of a sense that “the possibilities are before us” to the mix. I would often work through the night to be ready to teach the live show arrangements the following day. I was always at someone’s door, “Hey Foots (Leroy Bonner), I need to use your guitar so I can learn and show you this part tomorrow!” or “Hey Rock, (Marshall Jones) I need to borrow your bass, got to work out this part for you.”
Obviously, doing things that way also helped me improve my chops on those instruments, as well. “What goes around.”
Having said that, I believe they trusted that things would be ready no matter what. I worked as hard as I could and as a result, the Players seemed to be inspired to take things more seriously, more aggressively, if that was even possible for such a dynamic group. Together, we formed a great relationship and during the process, I was also able to learn a great deal from my association with them, as well.
Q: How did the Ohio Players work out material in the studio? The quality to classics like “Pain” and “Ecstasy” is so incredibly loose, almost improvisational in nature, especially vocally.
A: How right you are. “Pain” was indeed an improvisational work. We were on our way to a gig in Memphis when suddenly, the bus pulled over and it was announced that we were going to test out a studio we had heard about. I was very young then and “sleepy” at the time but it fell to me, as the band’s musical director, to instantly come up with a song idea for us to record.
My idea was simple. Since I had the good fortune to be in a band with awesome musicians like Sugarfoot (Leroy Bonner), Marshall Jones, Satch (Clarence Satchell), Pee Wee (Ralph Middlebrooks) and band leader, Greg Webster, it was very easy to “think the musical changes” of the song to them in real-time. All I had to do was immediately create a hook and call on each of the individuals to solo from time to time. The track was done in one take, vocals and all. No problem. Done deal.
“Ecstasy” was another one of my tracks. We were still able to maintain the loose groove we had with “Pain”. The difference in feel was because I added a bit of my gospel roots to the vibe on this one.
As far as the main working process is concerned, it became my job to make sure we knew the arrangements beforehand, in order to cut costs and to alleviate any “time wasting.” Again, it was a matter of utilizing the diverse abilities that were present within the group. Ohio Players were very professional, so all of this was the norm for us.
From time to time, we would take turns performing tracks that another of us would write. The effect of my singing a track that Sugarfoot wrote for himself and him singing one that I would write for myself, would always have very interesting outcomes. Creating can be virtually effortless when you have a group of super talented and like-minded people all working together. Ohio Players fit into that category in every way.
Q: The band became in some ways just as renowned for its album covers featuring model, Pat Evans, as its music. How did you guys settle on the bondage imagery that accompanied these LPs?
A: I think the idea of “Pain” as it was conceived by me in that particular instant, was taken a bit out of context by others with different life experiences. To me, it had to do with a love affair gone wrong, something that most teenaged people can attest to from time to time. That being the case, my limited experience was translated by New York photographer Joel Brodsky, into something a young man from the early ’70s mid-west would never have imagined. Pat’s incredible presence was carried forth through the remaining Westbound/Ohio Players offerings and to some extent, to their Mercury albums, as well.
Q: How did the character of Granny come into being?
A: Early in my career with Ohio Players, we played a lot of nightclubs and had a closer interaction with the audience. As a result, we would do skits to bring ourselves even closer to the people in that setting. One of these so-called “skits” involved the character I created of a young boy with a very “dirty mouth.” That “boy” character was using what later became the “Granny” voice on “Funky Worm”. From young to old in an instant!
Q: What kind of synth was used on”Funky Worm”? What do you recall about how the song came to be? It’s certainly been sampled quite a bit over the years, why do you think it’s had such longevity?
A: That particular song was entirely of my creation. I would travel all over the world looking for tech to use on our tracks. As time would have it, I found an Arp Soloist in a shop somewhere in NYC. Immediately, it sung to me and I heard an Arabian style riff that had “worm” written all over it. I bought this synth and went into the studio with it. During the session, I remember everyone staring through the control room glass with puzzled looks on their faces, that was, until I recorded the Granny voice to cement the track together. It was lots of fun and the rest is history.
Q: Why did you leave the Ohio Players?
A: Actually, I never “left” Ohio Players. Most people don’t know that Ohio Players and I continued to work on projects together; most of which were never presented to the public. Some of them had great potential though. Certain members of Ohio Players also performed on my Columbia projects.
Q: In the liner notes to “When We Do”, you expressed how you didn’t want to be pigeonholed by genres. What did you try to do musically w/ your solo albums for Westbound that differed from your work w/ the Ohio Players?
A: “When We Do” was a chance to begin creating any form of music I wished. The material with Ohio Players was already a bit esoteric, but I think one major difference with the solo aspect was that it provided a bit of a wake-up call for me, at first anyway. Thankfully, playing multiple instruments came as second nature to me by then. However, there was no MIDI, so I had to devise a way to record without a band to help.
Although I was still a very young producer at that time, I was afforded by Westbound Records, the opportunity to do “When We Do” with a 50 piece orchestra, which may have been a first for an avant-garde Funk musician and harkened back to my days as orchestra leader in school. That being said, the project immediately pushed me into uncharted territory and the pressure on me to make “When We Do” a successful project, was great.
Q: You addressed a lot of provocative topics on your Westbound solo projects, from cocaine (“Freeze”) to groupies (the “Suzie Super Groupie” LP) to abortion (“World of Woe”). What was your mindset in tackling these topics?
A: Some topics are to be treated seriously and once you’ve done that, other topics are there to pick you up after you’ve cried into your beer. These topics may have been shocking at the time but compared to what you see on “the internets” today… Back in the day, for instance, you had Studio 54 rocking the “good times” and I doubt if the people who rocked the house had cream soda in their shot glasses and pushed decongestant spray up their noses. What else was I to talk about for social commentary? It came kind of naturally as a recourse of the times.
Q: You’ve also long injected playfulness & humor into your music (as on songs like “Cookies” and the album cover to “Bread Alone”). Why do you think a sense of playfulness and funk are so intertwined?
A: At that time, there was a broader palette to paint from in reference to the public’s perception and personally, I don’t like the idea of merely focusing on stress and strife. I know that the world has plenty of it to go around, but that is not the only thing the world has to offer. To me though, Funk is an excellent platform for moving or removing the ills that may be present in our lives.
Even hip-hop/rap, in its early beginnings, delivered a very positive (and sometimes playful) message to the people. Take for instance, popular recording artists of that era like, the socially conscious, Queen Latifah and of course, the playfulness of Will Smith a.k.a., Fresh Prince with Jazzy Jeff. We also have to remember that community awareness was one of the ideas rap music supported back then. Nowadays, perhaps, not so much, since the concept of life imitating art continues to be prevalent, when it comes to hip-hop.
Nevertheless, I think that mainstream rap, in particular, may have lost its social edge, for the most part. I think a lot of hip-hop/rap artists are passing up an opportunity to address the current social issues, which may have increased in severity since that genre’s inception.
However, the pendulum does shift from time to time and a change can show up when you need it to. Sometimes, we as artists have a tendency to forget that we also have an audience of youngsters to contend with. There’s nothing like hearing one of your riffs as sung or rapped by a 5 year old. As a result, we should remember that our music still has the ability to mold the world in which we live.
Having said that, the Bread Alone album cover was not so much humorous as it was a feast for the birds in NYC after the photo session was over. “Waste not, want not.”
Q: What prompted your move to join Parliament-Funkadelic?
A: I don’t know if “join” is the right way to describe it. I think “starting to work with them” would be more accurate. I would often meet the members of P-Funk on tours we would all be a part of, so the idea of working with them was not that far-fetched. Whenever I would run into Bootsy Collins during a recording session in Detroit, he would always say… “Yabba dabba doosie Junie Baba!!! You should come and do some tracks with P-Funk!” There was also Mallia Franklin, whom I had known since early Ohio Players days, who thought it would be a good idea. Garry Shider and I had also become good friends and would meet from time to time. However, I’d have to say Garry was most responsible for my initial involvement in working with the group.
Q: George Clinton has said that “One Nation Under a Groove” was in fact the first session you did w/ P-Funk, is that correct?
A: Yes. George is correct on that one. The “track” for “One Nation (Under A Groove)” was in fact the first project I co-wrote and arranged for P-Funk. However, as I recall, George was not present at the inception of the track. Thankfully, Garry Shider was there and very supportive during the process. Garry helped to ease the tension between myself and the members that I did not yet know personally, which made my arrangement easier for the band to handle. Bootsy Collins added his drums at a later date.
Bernie Worrell was not present at the track’s inception either. Bernie was waiting on his awesome Moog Modular to arrive, which took a bit longer than expected. However, once Bernie and Bootsy added their vibes to the track, “One Nation Under a Groove” became unstoppable. The awesome vocal aspects of the track were also added some time later, as well. So in spite of what you may have heard to the contrary, this is the way it really happened.
Q: What was the process of working w/in P-Funk like? As a multi-instrumentalist did you record a lot of stuff individually and overdub parts, or were sessions generally done live with a group?
A: Aside from anything that I wrote and recorded for them myself, usually, I would work as a “specialist” on specific problems they might have with a track or song in general. Many of my tracks were used as I recorded them, however, occasionally I would pass through a session and add a part to a track that I liked. Very seldom was the group, as a whole, involved in a track at the same time. There were just too many musicians and vocalists to constantly be in the same place at the same time.
Q: What do you recall about the process of making “One Nation Under a Groove”, both the song & album?
A: My contributions to the album “One Nation (Under a Groove)” album included the work I did on the title track. I also worked on “Into You”, “Groovallegiance”, “Who Says A Funk Band” and “Cholly”. The bulk of my contributions on these tracks were in writing and lead vocals. A couple of the tracks I worked on from that “session” also went to Bernie Worrell’s “All The Woo In The World”, where I wrote the lyrics and performed lead vocal on the song “I’ll Be With You” for his album project.
As far as the “One Nation (Under a Groove)” album is concerned, P-Funk had many tracks at the time that were in ‘music only’ form so it was easy for me to act as a writer. These tracks were blank slates and needed lyrical/vocal ideas to make them work. The tracks were given to me and I listened to them and matched those tracks to members of the group i.e. Ray Davis and Ron Ford with “Into You” and Garry Shider with “Cholly”. I also liked the work that Michael Hampton did on “Who Says A Funk Band” and decided that it needed something different for the vocals, this track was a good fit for one of my alter egos, so I performed the lead vocals on “Funk Band” and “Groovallegiance”.
I do recall that one of the sticky points with “Groovallegiance” was my use of the word “Funkadelica”. I found out later that they had used the word “Funkadelia” in another of their concepts. However, I thought “Funkadelica” had a better flow to it and it stuck! Having said that, I wrote the lyrics for the above-mentioned tracks and produced the vocal sessions but in the end, I have to say, there were as many wonderful talents on the vocal side of P-Funk as there were on the musician front.
Just the same, everyone was buzzing at that time. It was really amazing to see all of the highly professional musicians and vocalists in P-Funk working together. There was a great deal of movement and creativity around because many other projects (iterations) were being developed at the same time. Without this movement, borne by the tremendous talents involved, we would be telling a different story now.
Q: What are your memories of making “(Not Just) Knee Deep?” (which George Clinton once explained was originally written in a different time signature)? How did you do the arrangement & how was the song’s signature keyboard riff created? (I’ve read that Bootsy in fact played drums on the record, is that correct?) And most importantly why are you not credited on that track on the “Uncle Jam Wants You” album?
A: Acting as a music producer, which is my primary function within most of my collaborations, means being able to help to bring an idea into physical form, so that it can be shared not as a concept but as a physical event. A group of people would have a hard time dancing to a concept unless it existed in physical form. Case in point, most of us, as creators, are not creating for mind readers, so when we create we need to have our ideas stepped down to a lower vibration and affixed to some medium or another in order for those ideas to be shared. Simply put, the trick on Knee Deep was to physically take George’s 3/4 lyrical idea and mesh it into my 4/4 Funk anthem.
As far as the arrangement is concerned, I always create a catalog of music, some with lyrics and others with music only. The track for “(Not Just) Knee Deep” was one of the musical events in my catalog. It was at least a few years old before I used it for what was to become “(Not Just) Knee Deep”.
My side of the production also involved setting the framework for the rest of the musicians to fit into. A lot of my work for the group was done at a remote studio in north Detroit where generally, I would set up a track with drum machine, any keyboards, bass and guitars. “(Not Just) Knee Deep” was no exception.
I also worked with a team of vocalists to set the bedrock of backing vocals for the tracks. This would mostly be with Lynn Mabry and Dawn Silva. For Knee Deep the main background vocal foundation was done with Lynn, Shirley Haden and Cheryl James.
I created Knee Deep using a drum machine, Fender Rhodes, Steinway Grand, Mini-Moog for the lead and bass lines and a Gibson L6S for my jazzy guitar solo. Bootsy added his drums at a later date. In fact, Bootsy was also the drummer on “One Nation (Under A Groove)”. Michael Hampton added his monumental guitar solo to the Knee Deep mix some time later, as well. Although Bernie Worrell is a phenomenal musician, contrary to popular belief, he did not perform on “(Not Just) Knee Deep”.
Yeah, missing credits. Let me start by saying that although George is a great ideas man, a master showman and a super genius at upstaging, it is blatantly obvious that he is not an arranger, nor does he play any instruments on the projects we’ve spoken of so far. What George does and does well, is only part of the equation.
To be honest with you, without the enormous creative power of the members of P-Funk (most unsung and many who are no longer around to speak for themselves) George would, at times, have been hard pressed to write himself out of a paper bag. This would go a long way toward explaining the random nature or lyrical style of most of the tracks produced by George.
What used to crack me up, for instance, was one of the things I would see whenever I would pass through United Sound during the P-Funk’s sessions in the late ’70s. Just being there, witnessing the sheer amount of input from the magnificent members of the group caused me to marvel at George’s phrase: “Oooooh, write that down!” Again, this aspect would account for the random nature of most of the lyrical content contained within the P-Funk tracks.
Unfortunately, many of the members who provided that input were never credited for it. Having said all of that, it was obvious that George had a certain feel for the groove and for recognizing the talent in others, so once those massive talents were put together, the sky was the limit. That much, you can’t take away from him.
Seriously though, I am surprised that people aren’t more conversant about the incredibly talented original members of Parliament and Funkadelic who were integral throughout the P-Funk phenomenon and contributed untold amounts of material to the P-Funk legacy as a whole.
This being the case, one can easily surmise that without my having created, produced, arranged and recorded the music side of the project, “(Not Just) Knee Deep” would not exist as we know it today, if at all.
As, a consequence, those who were entrusted to insure the proper credits were posted, were either misinformed, misunderstood or completely unprofessional in failing to do so. Who is to say for sure. At any rate, once I saw that the records had already been pressed and distributed with errors, there was no way to say, “Hey! Call back all those records that were pressed and put the right credits on them, yo!”
Q: In the 80s you left P-Funk to focus on your solo career once again. How, if at all, did your approach change on your Columbia Records albums?
A: First, let me say, I think it would be more accurate to say that George left P-Funk in the ’80s. By then, P-Funk had all but disbanded and George’s personal projects started to take precedence. So it was for me again, just moving from one project to another as opposed to “leaving.” As a result, I wrote and produced many tracks on George Clinton’s albums for his solo Capitol Records projects. After all, it’s what I do.
That aside, my work with Columbia was indeed an extension of my solo work; a flow of sorts, that was always present with my creations. I always had plenty of music to share with the listeners and never stopped developing my own projects, regardless of what project I was producing on others at the time.
Musically speaking, I continued to go solo with instrumentation and vocals while adding more tech to the mix. Most of the tracks for Columbia Records were as esoteric as always but great fun to produce.
Q: Rap music obviously had a huge effect on the landscape of popular music in the 80s. Some musicians of the time appeared threatened by it as it grew in popularity. How did you view it? Were songs like “Rappin About Rappin” spoofs or appreciations of hip-hop?
A: Early on, I could clearly see that hip-hop, in its infancy, would become popular within the industry. I remember seeing children riding by in their folk’s cars, as they were rapping along with the lyrics of the early hip-hop tracks playing on the radio. We would be listening to the same station so it was obvious to me that these kids knew every lyric of every rap song that played. It was very impressive.
Not to be one to ignore a trend of that magnitude, I created “Rappin About Rappin” as a salute to the genre. Of course by being a vocalist and musician, I had to add a bit of cheek and some melodic contributions to my “rap.” I was also a bit surprised at how well “Rappin about Rappin” was received.
Later on, I began to discover that many of my musical creations were being sampled by some of the greatest hip-hop artists we know of today including, “Ecstasy” as used by Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls on “Brooklyn’s Finest”, “Funky Worm” on “Jump Jump” by Kris Kross and Digital Underground’s hit, “Humpty Dance” which used Parliament’s “Let’s Play House”, not to mention, J Dilla’s awesome track, “So Far To Go” featuring Common and D’Angelo which was a cover based on my first solo single “Tightrope”. It was also interesting to hear that my “Worm Sign” was powering a lot of the West Coast Rap scene’s vibe. So at the end of the day, my groove seemed to fit right in.
Q: How did you deal w/ the changes in recording technology through the 80s? On “Techno Freqs” you warned against the dehumanizing effect of making music with machines.
A: For me, creating in the ’80s was more or less the same, since I had used synthetic instruments during the Funky Worm days in the ’70s on. Plus, both of my Columbia albums were synth-based projects, as well. However, I did keep my analog chops in the mix by playing live drums, bass and guitar on those projects.
“Techno-Freqs”, however, was created on the cusp of the tech movement. Sure, drum machines existed at that time but a sampler with 3 seconds of memory was costing thousands of dollars. For “Techno-Freqs”, I used a shit-load of those things. MIDI was also still in its infancy at that time so most of the tracks were still played by hand.
For example, I recorded the complete “Evacuate Your Seats” album at least 3 times; once in my home studio, another time in Detroit and finally, NYC. These recordings were done in pseudo-techno style because the tech needed to do it purely, did not yet exist. So, each time I would have to re-record the project from scratch. Obviously, tech had some early teething problems, for instance, once you turned off a sampler, the sampled material was lost forever. Even my super expensive Synclavier computerized keyboard was so new that it had no MIDI connections at all so using it with a sequencer was out of the question.
To be truthful though, being one of the early advocates of Techno was a rough nut to crack but totally worth it.
As far as my statement about the effects of tech being dehumanizing, we could have considered it less of a warning; more of a speculative prophecy, perhaps. As a result, it was easy for me to envision and to be a part of the movement toward a music-technology mix. So far, you’ve needed humans to make tech. How long that will be the case, is up for grabs.
I think the challenges faced with the use of synthetics today have forced many into a “one-groove-fits-all-no-particular-music-skills-required, format.” Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, because it also provides more scope to individuals who do have a more formalized music background or experience. I mean, if you think about it, going to a concert these days is more about selfies and filming stage performances on smart phones than it is about the “groove.” It seems as though no one is actively “listening” to the music that tech makes; in the way that it could be said that no one is “dancing” to the music that tech makes. On “Techno Freqs”, I wrote of the trance being simulated even before there was “trance-music.” I know that it seems like I’m speaking in absolutes but I am only attempting to further a point.
Q: How aware were you of Detroit’s techno scene of the 80s – which was also hugely influenced by P-Funk and the records you made?
A: Strangely enough, I actually began recording “Evacuate Your Seats” in Detroit around ’82, which was to be my pure Techno-Funk experiment using the Synclavier and other early pre-MIDI instruments. “Techno-Freqs” was the first single from the “Evacuate Your Seats” L.P.
I had also co-produced the title track, and others, on George Clinton’s “Computer Games” around that time, as well. For instance, it was quite challenging to create, from scratch, the computer game sounds of the title track. Obviously, there was no preset at that time which would have helped me to accomplish that feat. Having said that, I did stretch out a bit by playing marimbas on “Pot Sharing Tots” just to get my own back. Aside from that, I was unaware of any other projects incorporating so-called, “Pure Techno” and “Pure Funk” together before then.
In fact, I was a bit shocked when the second single from the “Evacuate Your Seats” album entitled, “Stick It In” was reported as being a big techno hit in Detroit. Having said that, during the recording process of the album I did allow a couple local musicians/DJs in Detroit to see a bit of my production as it was taking place at United Sound Studios. So, it is possible that Detroit Techno may have been further influenced, to some degree, by the material I was creating at that time. Who is to say for sure?
Q: What do you make of the modern funk movement these days, with the music of folks like Dam-Funk and others?
A: It is good to see the Funk movement continuing. In fact, I believe that Dam-Funk is one of those at the forefront of this Modern Funk movement. Aside from reminding me of myself in a lot of ways, he embodies the true spirit of Funk and is a very dedicated musician and true Funk ambassador. I have actually contributed a bit of vibe to Dam-Funk’s new album and also performed an hour-long electronic set from my BoyInSea project at one of his events. I had a great time playing my electronic music live, for a new generation of Funk fans and the response was excellent.
Q: When I’ve spoken to Dam-Funk, he’s said that in the full 15-minute version of “(Not Just) Knee Deep” you can hear almost a whole story of an era – how it’s both so celebratory and somber at different points. Was that at all your intent when making it?
A: Hmmm. Yes. As I’ve mentioned before, the track, “formerly not known as (Not Just) Knee Deep” existed as a groove that I would play for my closest friends. Whenever they would visit, that particular “Funk” was high on the request list. I guess in the same way that George’s melody, formerly referred to as “George’s fishing song” went over big out on the high seas.
As far as the dichotomy of sensations that one might experience from hearing the track is concerned, it would have to be put down to the vibe of the music formerly called, Soul, which is always going to tell that underlying story. The listener only has to be intuitive enough to channel it from the vibes they hear and I believe that that is what happened.
If anything, the somber aspects that Dam-Funk may be referencing could be attributed to the fact that most of the so-called Funk you’re hearing these days has been copied, diluted or “smudged,” as young Azealia Banks puts it, by so many non-funky artists that it has practically become a lost art form. One could lament the fact that Funk is no longer evolving in the way that one knows that it can.
Personally though, I’ve never been into the idea of a one-size-fits-all aspect of Funk. People have a way of creating their own idea of what Funk is. However, Funk has always been progressive, whether it was being expressed by Elvis’ channeling of Chuck Berry, The Beatles with Billy Preston, (who never seems to be noted as being associated with the group, by the way) or even Jerry Lee Lewis and his passion for Little Richard’s artistry. Funk has always been very popular with recording artists of all types.
Having said that, Dam-Funk may be feeling that in most cases, the genre has evolved into something that is a shadow of its former self. I know that that is what I feel. If one were to listen to modern methods, say for instance on Soundcloud’s most recommended list, one could hear that some aspects of the Funk still exist. However, what is missing is the content represented inside the Funk’s overall concept. What I mean to say is that the essence of the Funk has always had a tendency to speak of bringing people together. Now however, most tracks that include some facet of the roots of the Funk, communicate an anti-social idea, which of course, is contrary to the core of what the Funk has always been about. -JM
Read the edited interview b
posted to Red Bull Music Academy : http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2015/04/junie-morrison-interview
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