31 January 2012

Interview: Mayer Hawthorne


The story of the beginnings of Mayer Hawthorne is a good one: performing hip hop music as DJ Haircut, he gave a couple of blue-eyed soul sounding tracks "as a joke" to Stones Throw Records boss Peanut Butter Wolf - who then asked Hawthorne to record a whole album in that style. On the eve of his world tour, VOLUME magazine spoke with the man born Andrew Cohen about being Mayer.

"It was a little daunting at first, for sure," says Cohen, speaking about recording his debut, "But people are really smart and they can sense when something is real and something is fake, so I knew I had to just really be myself."

I'm really glad he brought it up. One of the peculiar things about using different aliases when making music is when only one of the aliases is lauded. The idea of the wonky-angled baseball-cap wearing hip hop DJ Haircut becoming the sharp-dressed ladies man Mayer Hawthorne - essentially overnight - is fascinating, but has seen Cohen's authenticity come into question. "If I was playing a character, well, I'm not a good actor, so I think people would've seen through that and it wouldn't have worked like it did."

Beyond the challenge of writing an albums' worth of material in one defined style, there was also the small matter of fronting a band for the first time. "It was something I'd never really done! I'd never been the lead singer of any group." Cohen had been the bass player, the beatmaker, the one who provided a canvas for the frontmen to paint over. "It was definitely something that took a lot of getting used to, but I had to bite the bullet, dive in to the deep end head first and say 'Am I gonna do this or not?'"

There's little doubt he did it. The first track Cohen wrote as Mayer Hawthorne was also his lead single and an absolute gem.  Just Ain't Gonna Work Out was part-Dilla, part-Smokey Robinson, yet all fresh. The door opened to considerable success - and this is where it gets interesting: is it possible for someone who has found such success in one style to progress that sound without losing their fanbase? Cohen thinks so: "That was kind of the main focus for the new album. I thought to myself why am I making this music with just one style, when I grew up listening to every style of music? I was really proud of the new record, I felt like it wasn't retro-soul, it wasn't throwback-soul, it wasn't new-soul - it was Mayer Hawthorne. I felt like I found my own sound on this record."

That Mayer Hawthorne sound is rooted in his upbringing. "Detroit is the shit, man! It's a beautiful place with a lot of creativity, and a lot of amazing culture. It's also a really hard-working, blue-collar place to live, so I'm really grateful for that work ethic that was instilled in me early on."

Cohen grew up in Ann Arbour, Michigan, with an incredibly supportive family."I was really blessed to grow up in a musical household. My Pops taught me to play bass when I was six years old and he still plays in a band in the Detroit area to this day. My Pops was a huge influence on me, of course, he still is!" There's a great piece of footage on YouTube of Mayer Hawthorne and band performing in the Cohen family basement at halftime during the SuperBowl final (there was a massive uproar in the US when Nickelback were announced as the official halftime "entertainment"), with "Pops" on bass.

From a tight family unit growing up to signing with Stones Throw for his debut album, Cohen has had great support as he has become Mayer Hawthorne. "I still talk to Peanut Butter Wolf almost every day, man! Stones Throw are like a family, and I think that's part of the magic of it, you know, that Dam-Funk and Wolf and James Pants and I can go to the record store together and dig for records, and it has nothing to do with releasing our music or performing, it's about our shared love for music."

Ever the gentleman, Cohen has convincingly - and with considerable class - let me know that Mayer Hawthorne is as real as it gets. How do you do?

Interview by David Carroll


Earth, Wind & Fire 'Let's Groove' (1981)
"That was a huge record for me as a kid."

The Police 'Synchronicity' (1983)
"I remember that was the first record that I actually bought with my own money. It was on cassette tape and because it was my Dad's cassette, and I'd played it so much I wore it out and it snapped, and he made me buy him another one!"

The Beatles 'Rubber Soul' (1965) and 'Help!' (1965)
"My Dad's favourite is definitely 'Rubber Soul' so that was probably the first one that he put me onto; but I remember the 'Help!' soundtrack too. I really loved that one as a kid. There was just something about those tunes that just really connected with me as a little shorty."

The Doobie Brothers 'Minute By Minute' (1978)
"That was a big record for me growing up."

Steely Dan 'Aja' (1977)
"Steely Dan are one of my favourite groups of all time. Man, I got a chance to see Donald Fagen play with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs out here, and that was one of the most epic moments of my life, seeing them all play together!"

Original interview and sidebar appeared in Volume magazine issue #20
Go check out the whole issue here.
For more on Mayer Hawthorne, try here.
For more about the New Zealand shows, click here.

29 January 2012

Review: Frank Booker Boogie Tape

Various Artists
Compiled and Mixed by Frank Booker

SoundCloud really is a bloody marvellous thing. DJs, producers and musicians can upload their tunes, edits and mixes onto their own page on the site for Joe Blow to listen to in his/her own time. Perhaps it's the simplicity which makes it so attractive. Whatevers. The reason I'm blathering on about this (and I probably should acknowledge that if you've made it as far as reading my blog, you inevitably already know wtf SoundCloud is...) is that I've recently been spending a lot more time on the site, and would like to begin sharing some of the goodness I regularly stumble upon. Starting right here: the Frank Booker Boogie Tape is a 50+min "pause tape" of classics soul and boogie tunes from the likes of The Jones Girls, Deodato, Chanson, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, Unlimited Touch, Central Line and many, many others - there's even an MJ tune (in the form of the classy, understated Todd Terje edit), all lovingly put together by Mr Booker himself. I can't fault a single selection, as they're all top drawer stuff. Get amongst this mix and cop his vinyl releases on Wonderful Noise, Untracked, Fine Art and Sleazy Beats.

4 stars from 5

Check out the whole tape here and you can even download it for free.
Also worth a gander is the Hit It and Quit It Radio Revue Vol. 1, compiled and mixed by Recloose and Frank Booker.

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 29 Jan

No Requests & MFKH | Jonesin' For You
Crazy Penis | A Night On Earth
Gazebo | Dirty Jazzy Jointz
One Funky Soul | Bless You
Mark de Clive-Lowe with Nia Andrews | Hooligan
Duff Disco | Sister Wha
Tweet | Boogie II Night
Ooft! | Mazin'
Chris Awesome | Happy Times
Rayko | Come & Get Your Loving
Mashed Up Funk | Weekend Boogie
New Edition | Once In A Lifetime Groove (Ooft! edit)
Homework | Lenny
Daniel Lucas | After Dark
Led Zeppelin | All Of My Love (Slow Hands re-do)
Late Nite Tuff Guy | Pull Us Apart (LNTG rework)
Pumpkin Patch | Blueberry Jam
Queen | Another One Bites The Dust (La Royale edit)
Lewis McCallum with Cherie Mathieson v MJ | Deviate v PYT

24 January 2012

Review: Jonti 'Sine & Moon'

Sine & Moon
[Stones Throw]

Sine & Moon was first made available as a Stones Throw podcast when promoting new signing, South African-born, Australian-resident Jonti Danilewitz, and his debut album Twirligig. The response was so good that Jonti stretched it into a full-length album - with extras and new mixes - which he's now giving away for free. Which is definitely not a sign of the quality found within. While ostensibly a collection of unused tracks and remixes of early songs, Sine & Moon is a coherent and completely engaging album, which blends Madlib, Panda Bear, Stereolab and The Beach Boys into a South Pacific beat stew. Originally recorded on 4-track, the song structures are anything but lo-fi, with a subtlety of arrangement that hints at remarkable things to come. Fans of those musicians mentioned above - along with Savath + Savalas, Julien Dyne and The Avalanches - will find much to enjoy here. Experimental, yet entirely accessible. The kid's done good.

4 stars from 5

"When I think of how to write about Jonti's music, I don't feel like writing at all. I feel like drawing a picture, with watercolours and maybe crayon - colourful, abstract, youthfully curiuos and open to interpretation. Maybe then I'd staple, glue or nail some found objects to it, recontextualising their intended purpose into something strange and beautiful." Jeremy Sole (Radio Host, KCRW, L.A.)

Check out Jonti performing live in the Stones Throw warehouse here.
Download Sine & Moon for free here. Thanks Stones Throw!

22 January 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 22 Jan

Erykah Badu | Bump It
Lewis McCallum | Fly Or Die
Ty | Music 2 Fly 2
Trinity Roots | Call To You
Electric Wire Hustle | Experience
I, Ced with Coultrain | Love... Meaning
Al Green | I'm Glad You're Mine
Crazy P | Open Your Service
Michael Soward | He's Alive (Kon edit)
Aeroplane | Save Me Now
Tiger & Woods | Kissmetellme
Boogie Culture | Hino
Lindstrom & Christabelle | Baby Can't Stop
Stars On 33 | Something You Can Feel
Drop Out City Rockers | Man On The Run
Erma Franklin | I Get The Sweetest Feeling
Groove Collective | Everything Is Changed (Jay Jeffrey 'Naked' edit)
Etta James | Let's Straighten It Out

16 January 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 15 Jan

Mark Ronson with Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def & Zigaboo Modeliste | A La Modeliste
Average White Band | Pick Up The Pieces
Jimmy Smith | Root Down (And Get It)
Philly Blunt | Funky Music
The Lafayette Afro Rock Band | Darkest Light
No Requests with Matthew Kyle | Jonesin' For You
Latyrx | Lady Don't Tek No
Sola Rosa with Iva Lamkum | Turn Around (TM Juke remix)
Rhyze | How Sweet Is Your Love?
Dexter Wansel | Life On Mars
Phreek | Much Too Much
Jean Claude Gavri | A Jazzy Journey
The Salsoul Orchestra | 212 North & 12th
Odyssey | Use It Up & Wear It Out (Ray Mang remix)
Jacques Renault | Main Line
2 Guys In Venice | Freeze
Leg Jazz | Disco Two (original mix)

13 January 2012

Review: Dub Asylum 'Stereo Freeze'

Stereo Freeze
[Loopy Fruit Recordings]

Dub Asylum is the nom de produceur for Peter McLennan (of noted '90s NZ noisesters Hallelujah Picassos). Stereo Freeze gathers six tracks, old and new, which were recently threatened with permanent deletion thanks to a manky old hard drive. Freed of their former confines, they each stack up very nicely against Dub Asylum's past work. Melodica features heavily on opener Jumping Jack Skank (amid spacious echoes and a bouncing reggae beat) and on the dark, heavily percussive Get It Together (sounding like the theme music for a Jamaican version of James Bond); and the instrumental EP features appearances from Chip Matthews (Opensouls, Anika Moa) and Olly Harris (WBC/Kolab). McLennan belies his Picassos roots with plenty of genres peeking out from between the sweet reggae grooves - Skatta lays down slow-motion Afrobeat grooves for a horn-heavy skank to drape itself over - but dub really is the glue holding this excellent release together.

4 stars from 5
David Carroll

10 January 2012

Bumps: Fat Freddy's Drop 'Shiverman' (Soane remix)

Gee, I hope I don't get in trouble for this! The hard-to-find Soane remix of Fat Freddy's Drop's scorcher Shiverman is a masterclass in tension and release - and a track I seem to get asked about both on radio and live quite often. Apparently it's a tough one to locate, so feast your ears here and enjoy!

And to Soane: get better soon, bro, our thoughts and wishes are with you and yours...

08 January 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 8 Jan

Anthony Hamilton v Groove Corp | Where I'm From (Hammy's Theme)
Erykah Badu | Honey (Grant Phabao remix)
Etta James | Let's Straighten It Out
Choklate | Bigger Than You
Marvin Gaye | Let's Get It On (Bost & Bim remix)
Dawn Penn | You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)
Erykah Badu | On & On (Taggy Matcher remix)
Biggie Smalls | Hypnotize (Taggy Matcher remix)
Rayko | Broadway (Rayko edit)
Late Night Tuff Guy | Come Inside Me (Late Night Tuff Guy rework)
Chet Faker | No Diggity
Up, Bustle & Out | Hip Hop Barrio
Butch Cassidy Sound System | Cissy Strut
The Odd Couple | Sunshine
Gazeebo | Moneybags
Slynk | Everyday Poppa
Kon & The Gang | Sunshine

04 January 2012

Playlist: George FM 'All 45s Drive' Tue 3 Jan

There's been a little interest in the "All 45s" Drive Show from Tuesday evening on George FM, with a few folks asking if I could post a playlist up. Well, as it so happens... yes, I can. The afternoon developed into quite the epic when the following DJ cancelled at the last minute, meaning my 3hr Drive Show turned into a full-on 5hr extravaganza - of nothing but 7" vinyl records. No CDs. No USBs. No Serato. Not even any LPs or 12"s. Only 7" vinyl. For 5hrs. And I loved every minute of it...

Sly & The Family Stone | Hot Fun In The Summertime
Sugarhill Gang | Rapper's Delight
Queen | Another One Bites The Dust
Patchworks & Mr Day | Brothers On The Slide (The Dynamics edit)
Quantic with Alice Russell | The Sound Of Everything (Watch TV & Senorlobo reprise)
Sunlightsquare Latin Combo | I Believe In Miracles
Hector Riviera | I Want A Chance For Romance
Nostalgia 77 with The Fiction Trio | My Name Is...
Nina Simone | Young, Gifted Black
D'Angelo | Use Me (live)
Rufus with Chaka Khan | Tell Me Something Good
Breakout | Planet Rock (Pt. 1)
This Kid Named Miles | Ring Of Fire
Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno | Ciudad Del Swing
Willie Bobo | Broasted Or Fried
Kool & The Gang | Dujii
Ben Westbeech | Hang Around
Tuomo | Don't Take It Too Hard
Breakage with Roots Manuva | Run 'Em Out
J Rawls Presents Liquid Crystal Project | A Tribute To Dilla
Dam-Funk | When 80mph Feels Like 20
Dub Asylum | Ba Ba Boom!
Red The Man Without The Machine | I Should Tell Yo Mama On Ya (Dam-Funk remix)
Black Cow | Rotation No. 5
Mayer Hawthorne | Just Ain't Gonna Work Out
Erykah Badu | Honey (DJ Day remix)
Gladys Knight & The Pips | I Can See Clearly Now
Desmond Dekker | You Can Get It If You Really Want
J Dilla | Crushin'
Tone Loc | Funky Cold Medina
Habitual Parking Violators | One To Twelve
Rod Derrett | Puha & Pakeha
Althea & Donna | Uptown Top Ranking
Kinny with Diesler | Enough Said
Quantic & His Combo Barbaro | Linda Morena
Santana | Wham!
Cymande | Bra
Elton John | Benny & The Jets
Roots Manuva | Witness (Drums Of Death remix)
La Sphere | Pas de Stress
Marvin Gaye | What's Going On (Truth & Rights remix)
Opensouls | Turn It Up (Submariner Meets Killamanraro Uptown)
Ota | Nunui
DJ Spinna | Dilla Is The G.O.A.T.
Soul II Soul | Jazzie's Groove
The Diversions | But Is It Funky?
Stevie Wonder | All Day Sucker
Paul Weller | No Tears To Cry (Leo Zero remix)
Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators | Feeling Free (The Dynamics version)
The Brothers Johnson | Strawberry Letter 23
Johnnie Taylor | Love Is Better In The A.M.
Billy Paul | Am I Black Enough For You?
Sly & The Family Stone | Family Affair
Stevie Wonder | Too High
Harry Belafonte | Banana Boat Song
Son Of Dave with Martina Topley-Bird | Devil Take My Soul
Tommy James | Draggin' The Line
Commodores | Brick House
The Brothers Johnson | Light Up The Night
Marvin Gaye | Got To Give It Up (Pts. 1 & 2)
The Dynamics | Seven Nation Army

01 January 2012

Radio: George FM Drive Show

George 96.6FM
Drive Show Special Guest Host:
From 3pm 'til 6pm
Mon 2 - Fri 6 Jan
Local frequency 96.6FM
Streaming live here...
Text the DJ: 966
Email the studio: studio@georgefm.co.nz

I'd love to have your ears!