- Posted on Mar 14th 2011 4:00PM by Joe Tacopino
How did the collaboration with Charles Bradley start? I know the guys at Daptone sort of discovered him doing James Brown covers.
We had a group called Dirt Rifle and the Funky Bullets. We had given Daptone the demos and finally got their attention. They had found Charles Bradley but didn't really have any luck recording him.
They put him on a Sugarman 3 song, but they weren't really collaborating with him on a songwriting level. So, Gabe [Roth, Daptone founder] brought him over to Staten Island and we met at a rehearsal and wrote our first couple songs together and did our first couple singles together for Daptone as Charles Bradley and the Bullets.
What did you think about his voice when he first came to the studio?
It was phenomenal. We were playing James Brown songs as instrumentals so when Charles came for that rehearsal and starting singing it was pretty unbelievable, man. It was the real deal. We had been emulating this music that we loved but when Charles came and started singing then all of a sudden we felt like what we were doing was bona fide because if Charles was feeling it then we must be doing something right
His voice is a little raw and sort of rough around the edges. It's not something you find every day.
Oh definitely. That just suits the music, for the voice to be raw like that. You can't fake a voice like that.
So from those early days, how did you mold this project into what it is today?
It was a slow evolution from that whole Dirt Rifle and Charles Bradley thing. Dirt Rifle kind of evolved into the Budos Band. I didn't work with Charles for about four years and then right around the time of Sharon Jones' 50th birthday party, we did a big show at Irving Plaza and Daptone had asked everyone to play: Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, the Mighty Imperials, Dirt Rifle, Charles Bradley, Budos Band, Antibalas, and Sharon Jones. Probably the only way, at the time, that we could fill Irving Plaza was to put every freakin' band on the bill.
So we did. That was the first time we had worked with Charles in a couple of years, and in those four years I had started a new project called the Menahan Street Band. Once we reunited to do that show, it was just like a bell went off in my head and I was like, "Oh my God, I gotta get Charles to sing on top of this Menahan s---.
How was this new Menahan stuff different? What made it a good match for Charles?
Back in the day we did the Dirt Rifle stuff and it was real funky, so he couldn't really shine because it kind of kept him confined into the James Brown thing. This new stuff was much darker, much more sophisticated, still real soulful, but a little more modern, a little more interesting and unique.
I invited Charles to my apartment where I had been recording this music and we had recorded two songs in one night. They are both on the record: One is 'The World Is Going Up in Flames' and the other one is 'In You I Found a Love.' Man, once we did 'The World Is Going Up in Flames' I knew that there was something incredibly special going on there. Out of all the music that I've been working on my entire life I was like, "This is the most beautiful thing ever." And it was definitely because of Charles just opening his mouth. What a voice, man.
The songs that we had done early on, Charles wasn't really writing the lyrics. This was the first time that Charles got to really start putting his stories to music. That was another door opening up to songwriting where Charles as an artist was sort of getting deeper. It separates him from other artists too, where he wasn't just singing other people's songs soulfully, but he was singing his own songs with incredible sincerity. That's what I think makes the record affect other people. Hearing a songwriter sing their own songs is something special. The combination of that with this new band, and this new sound I've been working on: there was just a win-win situation, man. It was just like a match made in heaven.
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