featured interview

Mumbles Spirit evolution via awareness Rewind to 1996; as a youngster still, Mumbles breaks into the hip-hop scene as the much talented producer for Aceyalone?s classic ?A Book Of Human Language?. After its 1998 release it remains however surprisingly quiet around the open-minded producer. Mumbles travels to India, moves out to Santa Fe, works a bit and acquires him some spiritual wellness in order to get even more open-minded. Then, by 2004, he?s ready with the recordings of his first debut album ?Transformations/Illuminations? (featuring...Aceyalone) only to be released by Sound In Color this August through iTunes (the actual CD release follows a bit later). An excellent opportunity for us to talk to this music adept and multi-skilled producer out of LA?...

How much of an influence has your trip to India been on the making of this album?

I must first say that the reports of me leaving on a long hiatus in India have been greatly exaggerated. I took a short trip to India for about 4 months in 1998, and have been back consistently in the US since then. So this album is not a direct result of having taken a trip to India or of turning to Hinduism or spirituality per se. I'd like to make that point clear. The album is a direct expression from my soul, and encompasses a wide range of musical influences from all genres that I've studied. Woven into the fabric of my production, you can hear classic hip-hop samples, breaks and loops, funk, jazz, classical, R&B, Eastern and Western influences. It has all become a part of who I am and the way in which I express through this medium. Being in India for a short time certainly opened my eyes and ears to a whole new world of music and the spiritual essence in world music, and I hope I have faithfully captured elements of that on my new album.``

Can you explain the intriguing cover of the album?

I gave a few ideas to our design partner, and he came up with the rest. I think it was created with the single ?Freedom Now? in mind, and so has a political rally kind of feel to it with some interesting shapes and figures in the background. There is a figure in the background who looks kind of like an alien with his chakras all lit up. I kind of like the look of it personally.

After ?A Book Of Human Language?, you kinda disappeared from the earth, what were you up to in that period?

Aceyalone and I finished the ?Book of Human Language? in 1996, and it wasn't mixed until 1997, then released finally in 1998, the year after I graduated from college at UCSD. I lived in the Bay Area for some time, worked, travelled a little, then settled in Santa Fe for a few years. I always made beats, but kept expanding my horizons as a producer to encompass a richer, vaster and deeper feel to the music.

I spent a lot of time with Ammachi when she travelled to the United States, and this meeting turned me more toward the spiritual essence of music and living a more conscious life. It was in Santa Fe that I met fellow producer Gone Beyond. I moved back to Los Angeles in 2003 and started working on two albums simultaneously. Gone Beyond and I had similar tastes and interests in music and got down on some tracks, which ultimately led to our release of ?S.E.V.A.? on Mush records in 2005. The work on ?Transformations...? was done mostly in 2003, with the finishing touches added in the early part of 2004. This album was originally supposed to come out before ?S.E.V.A.?, but due to a number of circumstances, it wasn't able to be released until now.

Many people considered ?A Book Of Human Language? to be a classic?...do you think it?s a classic yourself?

Let the people form their own opinions. I think Aceyalone wrote one of the most poetically, meaningful and significant contributions to hip-hop to date, and it was a good collection of my early beats. He was inspired by the music to delve more deeply into himself and his own philosophy, and the results were appreciated by many. There were a few things I would have done differently at the time, but Acey was a little tough to convince when it came to my avant-Garde suggestions, but all in all, I think it is a good album.

So how was working with Acey after all these years? Did you have the same exact click again like you had for your first recordings?

We recorded the tracks in 2004, so only 6 years had passed since our last project. We had a similar connection... he can read into my beats and find the spirit and power in them, translate it into poetry and do his magic on the track.

Do you think it was the best moment to release a solo album right now, rather than ten years ago?

I would have been happy if it had been released back in 2004, but I am still happy and grateful that it is finally coming out. I wanted to release another project before this one called ?Crossing the Ocean of Transmigration? but it was a little too esoteric for the record labels to bite into.

That project may still come out at some point in the future. Has making a solo album satisfied you more than making a collaboration?

It's safe to say that I have enjoyed being the artistic director of this project, whereas I had only a supporting role in the last. The ?Transformations...? album carries more of my energy, intent, and direction than the collaboration did. However, each project has its strong points and merits and in truth, they can't really be compared.

So how did you decide to roll with Sound In Color for this?

I was approached by a cat named Jon Ancheta, who was an intern at Ubiquity records for some time, and was starting a new label called Sound In Color. Jon had a lot of enthusiasm and creative ideas for the album and the label in general, and helped bring it all together in the initial stages of development. The CEO of Sound in Color also happened to be one of my homies from back in my college days in San Diego, Louis Yakich. So it all came together nicely.

Who decided to release the instrumental version of ?A Book Of Human Languages??

A few copies of the book were pressed up by me originally, but Sound In Color decided to release it on a larger scale with new artwork, artist notes, and a bonus track.

Are there anymore S.E.V.A. albums in the making?

S.E.V.A. was truly meant to be just the name of the one project, not our group name. The label Mush records didn't want to step on Sound In Color's toes at all by putting out a Mumbles release ahead of the ?Transformations..? album, so they decided to just name the whole record and group ?S.E.V.A.?. Of course, we didn't get the publicity and name recognition from releasing the project in that way, and as a result, it didn't really catch on or sell very well. It still had pretty sick production, though. Instrumental hip-hop hasn't been very active since the 90's. Gone Beyond and I are working on putting a production company together, to produce beats for artists, for films, commercials, and other projects we have in mind. We are currently putting together a new album with a few tracks from Cut Chemist, called ?Notes from the Underground?. The project got started after we all performed together at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, remixing Russian Classical music of the 20th century. We had so many sick tracks from the occasion, that we decided to expand on it and turn it into a full length LP with a host of MC's on board. Look for it to drop in the 2008-09 era. We are also working on a project called ?Direct Transmission? which will be mostly live, but with some samples and MC's as well. Gone Beyond will also likely drop a solo joint as well in the near future, introducing himself as a solo producer to the hip-hop world.

Could you explain S.E.V.A. and the role of Ammah in all of this?

S.E.V.A. is an acronym for ?Spirit Evolution Via Awareness? and is also a Sanskrit word ?seva? for selfless service or ?karma yoga?. See www.seva-music.com for more information. Proceeds from the album go to charitable organizations. The basic intention of the album was to spread good will, and peace for all beings through music and the spirit of oneness, especially into the hip-hop community which is not renowned for its spirituality. In this way, it probably would do well side by side with The Grateful Dead, Santana, Rainbow Tribe gatherings, and Burning Man. It has a more mellow, down-tempo feeling than my album and is interspersed with quotes from spiritual teachers of different traditions.

You started producing under the influence of DJ Marvski and DJ Cut Chemist we suppose? Did they take you on a record-digging-tour, did they tell you how to make a song, how did all of that happen?

Marvski first sent me off to look for rare records for him in the San Francisco Bay Area where I went to high school. As I started digging for the breaks, I quickly discovered that I couldn't bear to turn them over to him, and ended up starting my own collection. He and Cut had formed the Unity Committee and were busy making really tight tracks with Chali 2na and Marc7, and their work inspired me to start sampling the records I was finding. I had a natural knack for it, plus had the strong tradition of music in our family to back me up, so putting tracks together came very easily for me. It always seemed like magic, as if some unseen force was guiding me to put just the right break with just the right loops, and find all of the naturally blending parts from a variety of different records. This grabbed Cut's and Marvski's attention real fast, and they were like , ?Damn, he's kicking our ass!?. This inspired lots of phone battles between Cut Chemist and I, spending sometimes up to 4 hours on the phone playing beats and samples to each other, until my parents got the phone bill (I was still only 16-17).

Not too long after that I met MCA of the Beastie Boys and one of his intern employees for Grand Royal Records, who was a friend of Marvski, played them my beats, and they were hyped on it. The intern played the same tape for Aceyalone, who was signed to Capitol records at the time, and from there, we recorded our first tracks in 1994. I had been a fan of his ?Inner City Griots LP? with the Freestyle Fellowship, and we hit it off quickly and decided to produce some tracks together. That's how it all went down.

In the meantime your brother was with Unity Committee (pre-Jurassic 5 band), did you follow your brother to performances?

No.

Any anecdotes of that period?

Cut Chemist, Marvski and I used to go digging at the PCC record convention at 4 or 5 in the morning, with flashlights. One day it was raining and the fair was outdoors, but we weren't deterred. We found that our favourite vendor had left a sign to come to his hotel room to dig through his stack. So there we were, knocking on some dudes room at 5 in the morning with flashlights. He answered in his Pj's and we came to find out that 2-3 more people were still sleeping in the hotel beds. Meanwhile, we started pulling out sick gems from his stacks of wax, trying to be quiet, but excited by the rare finds. That was one to remember, we always laugh about it.

What?s your brother doing now?

Marvski has always been involved in the hip-hop game in one way or another. He still DJ's around LA a lot, works with a few local cats on small projects, and hopes to start producing tracks for people in the near future. He may join Gone Beyond and I in starting the production company. He is very talented as a musician, singer, DJ and producer.

Shostakovich is one of your influences, what do you like about his work and/or personality?

Actually, amongst classical composers, I'd say he is one of five who have influenced me. My favourites are Beethoven, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. I think I've learned a lot about the depth of feeling and musical progression from studying the classical composers. It has a richness that is missing in most other forms of music, a landscape of feeling and imagination that has yet to be paralleled in most modern urban forms of music.

One can understand a lot about a composer through his/her music. Their thoughts, feelings, and consciousness is imprinted in it like a stamp, and that is how direct communication can take place. Another dimension opens up, and a non-linear transmission takes place connecting you deeply to the soul/mind of the artist, at a foundational level of being where we are all one. I try to tap into that dimension as well when producing beats, so there is often a depth to them, that you have to sit with for a while to fully realize. They are like meditations designed to take you deeper into your own consciousness, feelings and awareness. There is a yin essence that is unusual in such a traditionally yang dominated art form.

Flora Purim is on the album, how did you get to work with his Brasilian jazz singer?

I sampled one of her tracks, then had it replayed for the album. The original version is on my myspace page. (www.myspace.com/mumbles2007 ). We contacted her manager to sing on the track and she was down with the whole thing. She came into the studio with Airto and they recorded a track for another SIC artist named GB, then followed with my track. It was a great honor to meet her, and work with her in the studio. It was a trip giving her directions from behind the glass in the recording studio, on how to sing when she was already such a legend. I've always been a fan of the CTI and Kudu labels in the 1970's where Airto had done so much recording.

What other Brazilian artists are you into?

I'm a fan of Bebel Gilberto, Rebecca Kleinmann, Guinga, and Hermeto Pascoal.

You?re the son of jazz musician Steven Fowler, did he introduce you to other genres other than jazz?

Steve and the Fowler Brothers were part of Frank Zappa's Mother's of Invention in the 1970's and a jazz fusion bank called Airpocket. He was also the band director for the Brian Setzer Orchestra before he came down with ALS, which brought an end to his playing career. He played classical, jazz, rock & roll, and Latin styles around the house. I am grateful for his rich musicianship and his deep absorption into his art form that he shared with Marvski and I growing up in Los Angeles. He often practiced flute and sax every day for about 4-5 hours around the house, and that kind of discipline and routine tuned our ears early on to the complexities of melody, rhythm and harmony. He also set a good example of how to succeed at your craft, your love and your life with music, which we were both grateful for.

Did he buy you your first hip-hop record?

Marvski was a DJ and brought all of the hip-hop into the house and we were both big fans since 1980 or so. We used to gather around the radio to listen to K-DAY in LA, playing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Zulu Nation Throwdown, ?The Show? by Doug-E Fresh, then later the Fatboys, Run-Dmc, Whodini, etc. Marvski grew up in Providence, RI and brought the East Coast flavor back with him when he moved to Los Angeles. We always loved the East Coast style of production over the west, even though we lived in California. DJ Mark the 45 King, Marley Marl, The Bomb Squad, The Native Tongue Posse, and DITC were our favourite producers at the time and that's ultimately what shaped us into the kind of DJ?s and producers that we are today. When producers started fitting samples together from different records in the late 80's, a style was born that I took, developed and brought to new heights, along with other producers like Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow.

Could you handle the difficult task of summing up the jazz records that influenced your work the most?

I liked the jazz fusion era of the 1970's the most, and the jazz-funk/ rare groove style as well. Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, David Axelrod, Dorothy Ashby, Kook and the Gang, Nathan Davis, the list goes on and on. I just create what moves me and what I feel deeply, it could start from anything, or any kind of record. Realistically, I think I was more influenced by Pete Rock, Showbiz, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Large Professor, De La Soul, and The Jungle Bros. The way that they used jazz samples opened the door for the way that I started digging in the crates. It was a popular sound in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

When did you make your first beat? Do you still have it / listen to it?

I think I put my first full beat together over at Cut Chemist's house in 1990 or 1991. He had a 4-track reel-to-reel machine and a Roland keyboard sampler with about a 4 second-time-limit. I picked out all of the samples, records and we put the beat together. It was pretty sick for the first time around. It used a sample from Rufus Thomas and drums from Ike and Tina Turner's ?Funky Mule?, and some loop from an ill 45?? I had. I don't have a copy of it anymore, but that would definitely be fat to hear it again. Later, my step dad brought an EPS-16+ into the house, and I went to work from then on out, digging for breaks, sampling to my hearts? delight, working with Bay Area rap groups and the like.

How much has your production equipment changed in, say, ten years?

I added the ASR-10, Pro-Tools and a variety of other computer programs. I like using some of the newer keyboards like the Motif, the Phantom, however I don't own of those yet. The big difference in my set-up came when I added Pro-Tools to the game, that changed everything. I never really got into Logic, Cubase or Cakewalk.

What else besides the album can we expect from you in the near future?

Keep an eye out for the "Notes from the Underground" project featuring production by me, Gone Beyond and Cut Chemist. There has been some talk with Aceyalone about doing the "Book of Human Language Vol. 2", but it's in speculation right now. Gone Beyond and I are in the early stages of planning for a live project with all kinds of guest artists called "Direct Transmission", but that may be in the future somewhere down the line. I'd like to get back to just making sick beats for people and producing some tracks on their upcoming projects.

Shout-outs?

I'd like to say peace and respect to all those in the world who live with integrity, truth, peace, awareness and goodwill for all people. Let's work together to overcome our so-called differences and come together as a one-world community, building, healing, forgiving, and forging new allies and mutual understanding, and leave behind all war and intolerance. Let us celebrate our differences as different facets of the one Diamond of Life, different pearls strung on the one thread of Life. We are all deserving of the highest love, peace, respect and recognition.

 

POSTED 08|01|2007
conducted by cpf

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