Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Arel James
Exclusive Inside Interview with ‘The Blunt Brothers’ Dave Aron & Willie Waldman.
Dave & Willie have been working with Death Row Records since the beginning and are a part of some of the biggest hiphop released.
To set the mood in which this amusing interview took place, it was early in the morning for Willie and Dave, during one of the many long recording sessions of the Blunt Brothers Productions. I started the skype call and I was asked by Willie “Do you have Questions?” to which Dave responded, “As interviews go, its kinda good to have questions“, a lot of laughter then broke the ice. Willie then went on to explain that he felt “No questions were good, where do we go, where do we start, where are we right now? I like the freedom that gives“
However, I did have questions… Firstly I have to say I’m honoured to have spent some time with Willie learning and jamming out, especially now knowing his calibre of talent. Willie has extensively worked with a lot of the greats and I’m equally honoured to know Dave with his experience, knowledge and accomplishments and an impressive long list of artists he has worked with. Until recently, I was unaware of Dave’s talent on the Clarinet also. Together they are The Blunt Brothers and they are very impressive musicians.
So now for the questions;
AJ: Willie, I’d like to tell our readers about my experience with you briefly: our SKAT session where you taught me something I will never forget – The Alabama Conversation. Could you explain what I am talking about for our readers?
Willie: Well it’s a conversation, I listen to you, its like any fractal, you say ba ba da ba di ba dap and I answer you with be bo do boo bee boo doop and then you say ba ba ba da ba da.. (At this point Dave and I started laughing). Willie got it back on track explaining “its an answer call thing, very simple, you listen to what people play and you answer them” (with notes).
Dave: You feed off of it and you answer it, it’s an universal language.
AJ : Now I know you are currently recording and finalizing your new project, could you tell us about that and what it involves?
Dave: Well The Blunt Brothers have been doing productions for years you know, we just grab local bands from different places and bring them to the studio and do some cool jam band recordings..
Willie: I played in Denver for a long time and I spotted a band with some decent songs and I literally picked them up at 4am..
Dave: Thats what we are working on now.
Willie: Funny thing is I talked them into coming here at 4am and of course, a couple of the guys didn’t believe me, I like kinda doing that cause I liked the songs and they were getting player hated in the scene, which is ok, there was this one kid getting hated in the scene cause he gave someone a funny handshake. So the basic Blunt Brothers Productions – find them at 4am and sure enough they come and give us a little deposit and it’s on..
Dave: This is how we been doing it for a long time. It’s how we did the Banyan gig and Willies Contracts. We do a couple of these every year.
Arel: So basically when it comes to The Blunt Brothers, there are NO RULES?
Willie: Dave is way cool like this, Dave hits some of these guys real hard but hippies get a real real big break round here, they get to camp out, they get to cook, thats the break! Camp David is what we call it (laughter)
From the background (by the real Harold Hankle) the question was asked – what’s Willie’s Fav Recipe?
Willie: Stir Fry or Pork Chops. Chuck Wagon Style, short order cook, I get $20 and feed the whole team. (I had the pleasure of being cooked Pork Chops by Willie at the studio, he is quite the camp style cook)
AJ: I know you spend a lot of time working with Dave at Hollywoodway Studios, could you tell me about the first time Dave got you to come to a hiphop session and who it was with and your experience of that session?
Willie: It starts with, we did this frat party at Tuscaloosa, Dave says he wants to go to LA, so I said here’s $500 bucks to go and whatever happens hit me up, so literally that was like 1991, 1995, I get in some trouble and Dave calls me up and says they’re doing horns, jump on a greyhound bus.
Dave: Nah, Willie you missed a big part of the story – Willie Gave me $500 bucks and said here use this to go out there to LA and Willie said to me, man you’re going to be THE KING OF RAP, I was like what are you talking about? Because we were doing other stuff at the time and you know he’s real prophetic man, next thing you know, I was doing rap music.
Willie: Nah, we always called him “Disco Dave”, (laughter) no seriously we did, his nickname in memphis days was Disco Dave because of the music he liked to listen to.
Dave: So when I got out here and I started working with the Death Row guys and Snoop and everything, Snoop was bringing in a horn here and there and I said hey Willie you should come out, he was like I’ll be out there tomorrow, so he jumped on a greyhound bus and comes to my house, there was no cell phones back then, Willie simply arrived the next day. The first day he was here I needed a horn and I got Willie to come on in and they said all white boys look alike and so they nicknamed him after Howard Hankle.
Willie: The funny thing is I never checked anybody on the nickname cause around the brothers it was cool to get a nickname, to just get a nickname, so I left that alone, I let that go..
Dave: Snoop knows him, Rappers know him – “IT AINT WHO YOU KNOW, ITS WHO KNOWS YOU”
Willie: I’ll tell you a funny one, we were at Sundance Film festival and Dave gives me a full blown backstage pass and the security wouldn’t let me in, I pissed them off really bad, I called them Gastapo, after which they had pretty much kicked me out. There was no way was I was getting in, I was sitting in the alley and Snoop pulls up and gets out and was like “Oh Howard Henkel”, I was sitting there with a whole crew of white boys I’d been doing gigs with, the security was like there is no way I’m letting these guys in and Snoop said “Well if Howard Henkel ain’t getting in I aint playing”. Snoop pulled rank and that was a huge deal and he made them let me and all my homeboys in. They were great times.
So back to recording, I’d hang out with Dave with my Trumpet on the side lines. I’m bad these days but back then I was kinda well behaved, so I’d hang with Dave and every couple of days they’d get curious, you know what I mean, and I’d sneak little horn parts in.
There’s a cool CD out, The Lost Sessions of Death Row, and there’s a song Soldier Story, just me and Snoop. It’s the best song I ever did at the old Larrabee Studios in LA, it almost made the Doggfather record, got so close. We never stole tapes, so we never had a copy, so it came out on the Lost Death Row Recording, that’s what was interesting about that time, everyone did so many songs that never came out, so many songs.
Click here to check out the Death Row Lost Sessions, with Willie & Snoop on the intro “Soldier Story”.
The Real Harold Henkel jumped into the interview at this point and also said Death Row the Christmas album was worth a listen.
Willie: So you are looking at ‘The White Boys Of Death Row’ (AJ: I did say I’d quote you!)
Dave: (in his refreshing Blunt Brothers, no bullshit manner, asked me) SO.. NOW WHAT?
AJ: I notice you mix a lot of different genres into an explosive improv musical scape, I am very curious what goes through your mind as you put your fingers to your trumpet to play?
Willie: It’s like an infinite tornado. (Laughter from all) I kinda learnt it from Tupac. My big lesson from the guys that played with John Coltrane was NOT TO THINK. FREE YOUR MIND, DONT THINK AND LET IT BE AN INFINITE FRACTAL. Don’t think of anything and then you start a tornado, once it starts you follow it, cause then you’ve started a story, a theme, build on that story, get a nice simple melody going, like a mode and then do variations on the theme, then we do the Persian scale and Augmented and the Major 7th but they gotta connect to the melody, so we’re really on some Memphis Coltrane stuff, we were taught by Herman Green and Calvin Newborn.
Dave: The centre, of the spiral, of the fractal, that we call music, is the key.
If you’d like to learn more about John Coltrane.
(At this point Willie ran out of the room momentarily.. Dave kindly called him back in so I could continue the interview, amidst laughter from us all)
AJ: When you are preparing yourself to perform or record is there anything you religiously do, a saying, a substance, a drink that brings you into the headspace where your creative juices flow?
Willie: We are old school and we have a good time but I say a prayer, I do. I pray to God and then I get into a Yoga zone where I take two breaths in with my heart beat and two breaths out with my heart beat and I centre with the Holy Ghost and the universe and I do say a prayer. So it don’t matter what state of mind I’m in, I centre myself with God and the Universe and my taking on that, which is infinity, which is not thinking, again from the Coltrane masters. When I loose it, I’ll stop playing, you’ll see me do it. I drink whisky also, particularly Makers Mark.
Dave: Feel free to buy him a drink when you see him at gigs… He will always happily accept a drink.
Willie: This is Memphis 101, this is blues man, I’m a real blues mother fucker.
Dave: A REAL BLUES MOTHER FUCKER, GOT THAT? (laughter)
Willie: We are soldiers man, Be Bop stems from Blues and we come from blues and learnt it on Beale Street, we are Bluesman.
(Click here for Beale Street Information)
AJ: Is there a different in your approach to working with different artists from the likes of hiphop legends to the rock an roll legends you have worked with?
Willie: Yeah of course, different games, like a camelion. You gotta know what your role is and you stick to that.
Dave: Adapt. That’s how you go from doing hiphop to doing jam bands to doing church gigs to doing whatever you gotta do, ADAPT, to what the gig calls for. Thats why I personally like the rappers, cause you don’t normally have to behave. Sometimes you do but normally no. Thats why its my kinda thing.
AJ: Is there a favourite hiphop artist you have worked with or favourite memory of a hiphop track you have done?
Willie: Yeah some of the Tupac & Snoop stuff cause it was freeform, Like Daz would start the day off with an MPC60 and like a tornado, just start coming up with a beat. Next thing you know Snoop or Tupac were the best for just free forming, they would just come up with a story, I’ve seen it when Snoop just freestyled 3 whole sections and then doubled and tripled it, he remembered everything he did. It was amazing.
Dave: Then Willie would end up in the booth laying horns down.
Willie: I always stayed at Daves apartment and he took care of me, my $500 was the best investment I ever made. He always took care of me, my homeboy had my back so many times I can’t even say. I love my brother, I can’t thank him enough, seriously, none of this would have happened without him.
Dave: We are Blunt Brothers.
AJ: What is your favourite artist?
Dave & Willie: Probably, The Grateful Dead
AJ: What inspires you to keep bringing music to the world?
Dave: It’s a life long quest. A battle to do what no one has done before. There are warriors throughout all types of battles and we will never give up, we are still in the game and it is our quest.
Our new label Memphodelia Music, have distribution thru Sony, we have the freedom to do what we want. We have some very cool stuff coming out soon, featuring underdogs we meet at 4 in the morning and awesome artists like Willie, Mike Watt & Lucy Morning Star.
If you would like to contact Dave, you can click here to find him on Twitter. Make sure you come correct!
Arel: Big Thanks to both Dave Aron & Willie Waldman for taking the time to talk to me on behalf of The Tika.