Friday, March 27, 2009

An Interview with The Dynamites' Leo Black

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 11:15 AM

click to enlarge Bootsy and Lundy: The Wonder Twins of product endorsement. Anna turned into a bucket of water shortly after this was taken
  • Bootsy and Lundy: The Wonder Twins of product endorsement. Anna turned into a bucket of water shortly after this was taken

Have you ever had one of those nights where you go out to the bar, get really drunk, then go home and start cleaning your house? I went to Funky Good Time last night and had this overwhelming need to wash dishes when I got home, even though I was three (if not four) sheets to the wind. Obviously I wasn't following the my usual "never do drunk what you wouldn't do sober" maxim.

One thing that I love to do--drunk or sober--is get my groove on to Charles Walker and the Dynamites' deep, deep funk. The boys are bringing new tunes to the Mercy Lounge on Saturday and bandleader Bill "Leo Black" Elder was kind enough to chat with me about future plans, giant crowds and juicy, juicy gossip. Peep it after the jump.

Nashville Cream: When I talked to you earlier you said that this might be your last show until September. What do you have on your agenda between now and then?

Leo Black: The big priority at the moment is finishing the new record. So that's mostly what's going on for the next couple of months. With the exception of a bunch of shows in New Orleans during Jazz Fest....that's kind of our big spring thing (and well worth the road trip, by the way). Then several club dates around the midwest and southeast as well as a few festivals through June. Also a big show in Atlanta with Betty Harris as our special guest on May 7 at The Earl. We go back to Europe for a month on July 1 to lay the groundwork for the upcoming release across the pond. Also happening between now and September is me putting two more bands together for Outta Sight Records which I'm really psyched about, as well.

NC: Over the last couple of years the Dynamites have been on some stellar out-of-town bills. What has been the highlight so far?

LB: Montreal Jazz Festival we played for two hours in front of 40,000+ people. That stands out a lot. Playing two nights at The Staples Center in L.A. with The Dave Matthews Band was a gas. Just outside of Montpellier, France, we did a show at an outdoor amphitheater that was on top of a cliff on the Mediterranean Sea with Candi Staton and Gwen McRae. That was absolutely surreal in every way. And we played Tipitina's in New Orleans a couple of times. And that is just my favorite place to play music, period. That's where I grew up and being on that stage with Fess looking down at you is a most sacred experience for a funk and soul musician from that town.

NC: Who are the Junkyard Horns, and what can I expect from their set on Saturday?

LB: The Junkyard Horns is a new project that our lead horn player, Chris West, has put together. Anything he puts together is deep, deep, deep and reeeeal funky, so fusing a bit of acid jazz into the whole deep funk world is going to be a nice combination. Killer band name, too.

NC: How did you hook up with Betty Harris?

LB: Man that is a crazy story. She's one of my idols, and on a whim of sorts last fall, I started checking around to see what she was up to these days. I sent her myspace page a message to see if she would be up for being on a southern soul revue we're putting together. I didn't mention The Dynamites at all. I didn't expect to hear back actually, but the next day I got an email from her with her contact info. and we got to talking. In that context, Charles and The Dynamites came up and she checked us out a bit. Then I got a phone call from her one day and I'll never forget it. She said "I hadn't heard music played like this since 1967! And I will BE there New Year's Eve." So entirely by her own volition, she drove up to Nashville for our New Year's show at Exit/In. I made sure we had "Break In The Road" ready, just in case (wink, wink). And the planets aligned and we all jumped on cloud 9 and got to do the tune with the lost soul queen of New Orleans. I think I'm still smiling from that night.

NC: Is there any truth to the Bettye Lavette rumor I've heard?

LB: I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor. ; ) Assuming you're talking about her singing a duet with Charles on the next Dynamites record. We're writing a couple tunes with that in mind and if the planets align again and we can work out everyone's schedules, I'd say there's a good chance of that. She and Charles are very close. They were in the Small's Paradise heyday in New York in the '60s together.

NC: And, most importantly, is there anyway you could talk them into a how around here?

LB: Well Bettye has played here a couple of times over the last few years. So it's certainly possible.

Creamy Bonus:

Here's Betty Harris doing "There's a Break In The Road" on Nashville's own SSS International Records. If you ever need a definition of "bad ass," this'll do ya alright. The feedback on this track makes my heart flutter every time.

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