Ladies & Gents...?

A Conversation with :

"Legendary" Drummer / Composer / Producer )

  "LENNY WHITE" 

          

             

                    photo : Silva screen records

 

 What’s cracking?   

LENNY WHITE :   Hey......

 

What’s going on maynnnnnne ?

LENNY WHITE :  Aaaaay… it’s rough out here. Just to be able to play some creative music ..... ain’t Nobody feeling THAT, right now!

 

No, they’re not.   ( well , maybe.... DEPENDS on WHO it is )

I don’t think they ever have, actually.

It’s a matter of the ARTIST giving em'  some new shit,  if the artist is pushing hard enough.

 

LENNY WHITE : Yeah… but… if you’re pushing for a long time & people don’t really hear it.....I guess that means..... that they weren’t in IT , like you said.   And there’s a different kind of agenda out there, it's especially prevalent right now.... cause, I mean....the music industry is dumbing down.

 

Yeah,  But....      "Everything" is dumbed down.

"Color-Coded"   if U will....

LENNY WHITE : Yeah , all the heart & soul is just taken out of the music. You know… It’s a fine line you have to acquire a taste for it and some of what people are feeling right now,  But that’s what makes people push – they want to listen to some new stuff.   But it ain’t happening, man.

 

I know man.  But,  I blame everything on musicians for not pushing hard enough to make them want quality shit.

So, it goes both ways.

LENNY  : Yeah , I can feel U that.... BUT..... yeah , everybody gotta take their own responsibility.

 

 

Ya Heard ?

LENNY WHITE : See.... what happens is..... you have a lot of Kats who are/were forward thinking musicians and… then they see their friends making money doing "okey dokey" music & then they think “damn, I don’t want to bust my nuts doing THIS for the rest of my life”.  I mean, now I got a mortgage, house payments,  kids, alimony… I have to pay for!      Then , the artist sells out!

 

Yeah....Most Times !

LENNY WHITE : I’m not saying that WE do that.....

                        but,   that’s kinda what people have been doing.

 

That’s too bad man ,  cause you never know what someone’s personal shit is.... other than your own.

LENNY  : Exactly… exactly!   That’s called  empathy.. 

Or  Sympathy.....

 

LENNY  : Ya know,  put your feet in somebody else’s shoes and walk their walk.   It’s kinda hard.

 

Yeah, very hard.

LENNY  : But that’s the reality of what that is, but some kats are not strong enough, that’s all.

 

"Return to Forever"

Dude… you gotta feel pretty good about that,  because, not only did it make the books.....

 but, it’s a substantial piece of music history.... regardless.    And, that’s when "making the books" is fun.... I guess.

LENNY WHITE : It’s kinda interesting that you mention that.... because I was talking with some people the other day and they were talking that "Romantic Warrior"  …that was some great record and… but what was great about it was the sound on the drums was amazing.  Y’know, I mixed that record and they were like… man.. you mixed that ?!?!   You’re responsible for that sound ?!?!   But what had happened was… Chick [Corea]  had made a mix and they didn’t like it ....and it was rejected so they asked me to go to London and remix the record .....so I went and remixed!

Wow.

So that’s the mix that we know today, right?

LENNY WHITE : Yeah, that’s the mix.

 

Did you get your credit for it on the album?

LENNY WHITE : Yeah… I mean it got co-producers’ credit.

But, sometimes it encompasses more than what you read.... I guess.

 

LENNY WHITE : Yeah, I didn’t even go look at that.

    But that’s from my mouth… everybody knows I did remix that record.      Me and Dennis mixed that.

 Dennis McKay?

LENNY : Yes.

 

That’s interesting man.

LENNY  : I was in Italy over this summer in Perugia.... I hung out with him Chick [Corea] for a couple of days and we kinda cleared the air of whatever problems we had in the past and we actually talked about doing it again next year.

 

That’s very cool. I hope all that happens, man.

LENNY : I think it would be cool ....cause of the fact that people know that music for music's sake....

                 playing "Good Music" can be viable, again.

It would be nice to have "Good Music" become the style again.

 

LENNY  : I’m not saying it’s going to change anybody’s minds.... but , at least have them say :

                “Damn… those kats really do know how to play and instrument!”

 

Yeah… or “they still can!”

LENNY WHITE : Yeah !!

 

I’m sure that would be kinda cool man.

LENNY WHITE : I’m feeling like … some kats in the hip hop community are feeling that.  See, I thought it was interesting when D’Angelo came out and everybody was feeling him and naturally so because it was great, but that ain’t nothing that kats haven’t done before!  Kats have been playing like that forever.

 

I’m soooooo glad that he got it out,  to the mainstream ....

LENNY WHITE :Yeah..I understand.    See , I think that it’s good because they let one kat represent THAT and it’s put in the marketplace so that people start to feel that and go in that direction. And if YOU had been picked to do that, it would have been YOU!

 

Nah, Nah...D'Angelo was supposed to be THAT one !!

 

But, my shit's gonna change perception on what U can actually get away with...

I wouldn’t  play the game..... they way that folks wanted me to !

 

LENNY WHITE : Of course not ....but , the point is that they need somebody to stick out there!

And everybody doesn’t get that opportunity to get their stuff off ....so people can hear exactly what it is,  that they can do!

Yep !

cause,  the stuff I’m doing now?    It's   so unlike what ANYBODY is doing –  And, it’s MY SHIT  this time !!

I can’t wait for everybody to "See & Hear" this new stuff !!

 

I've giving folks a taste here & there when I can ....

( like what happened in Dallas a few months back,  with Erykah & Prince )

LENNY WHITE :  I Know !!    but it’s hard to hear that, that’s the problem.

So much…down in the middle, mainstream stuff that everybody is feeling right now. But actually, I’m not saying that’s what people are feeling – just what they hear!    But until somebody gets them to hear some other stuff – but they are not given that choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it’s crazy out there. It’s so driven by other things other than art. And that’s OK…

 

But,  it’s  too bad when it becomes "Harmful to ART"

THEN .....it becomes a fucking problem!       

 

And, that’s what’s really wrong.

 

LENNY WHITE : Yeah, I definitely feel that.

The urge to make a dollar over,  the urge to making people "Think &Feel"

 

LENNY WHITE : Yes…  the urge to make people think !

 

Well… that’s too dangerous! 

So at least you can make them smile and that ain’t even cool no more.

It’s about making them give you a dollar!

And that’s okay I guess if you’re into taking money from people without giving them something back for it.

 

But... Hey man, it’s the American way!

LENNY WHITE : That’s right!    That’s right!

"THINK !!  It ain't Illegal Yet " -------George Clinton

 

 Man, so what in the hell… you’ve done so much stuff though that I hear people are just now getting to!

Just like something like the song: "Perfect Match" of the film "School Daze"

If people really listen to that, they’ll hear that’s where shit is NOW !

And that was what – like 1986?!

LENNY WHITE : Yeah… I had done it before that.

 

That’s crazy man

LENNY WHITE : What happened was one of the first thing on the original track… he had done that in Brooklyn. I was vibing that it would be a sound track for a movie that would never be done. The point is people should give stuff that is available. Like this time an audio soundtrack, this is a movie in itself – if you listen to the words and you get the vibe of what’s going one with the music, it’s a movie! So he called me and I’d never met him… and he said “This is Spike Lee…” and he I said “what’s going on man!”, and he said “yeah… (someone) told me that you have a track that should be in my movie and I want to come and check it out!” and I said, “alright… it’s going to be in somebody’s movie… so come on !”

 

 Damn!

LENNY WHITE : Spike[Lee] came down and listened to it & said “yeah… I like that, I’d like to put it in my movie.” So I said “cool, no problem!”. And that’s how actually Terrance Blanchard was introduced to Spike. Terrance has all Spike’s stuff & was playing on the track so that’s how he got to do all Spike’s soundtracks.

 

Are you ready for this one?   Man…

LENNY WHITE :   Don’t pull any punches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           Aiiiiiight ..... So, I'm gonna ask ya

 

     The "SMARTALECMUSIC" Burning Question :

 

"Record Producers"

    Omni Important ?   or  "Necessary Evil"  ?

 

 

 

LENNY WHITE :  It depends upon how you look at it.   I mean I would think that anybody who is conscious artists… anybody who is a substantial artist… meaning that they steer their product from conception to the art, they hear what’s supposed to happen, they hear how they want the vocals, any artist just like that – they don’t need a producer. See what they do is they produce the music. A lot of artists fall into the trap of feeling as though they can’t do it themselves so they find a producer or they go sign with a label and the label has a producer that comes and makes what they do right or what they do palatable for the public. And… that’s what they do – they produce !!

 

 

 

 

It’s being able to see a vision through and get it out.

LENNY WHITE :Right… you don’t need a producer.

You hear the stuff in your head and BAM!       

 

"Stevie Wonder" didn’t have a producer!

 

 

Yeah, And....he Battled that shit  & WON !!!!!

But, his first production was :  "It’s a Shame"   by the Spinners…

AND,  he played drums on that shit !!!

LENNY WHITE : Yeah....

18 yrs old ?!?!?    *Damn*

 

LENNY WHITE :And people like that don’t really need producers. Now on the other hand, there are artists or there are recording artists who… a true artist is in totality. And recording artists (who don’t have potential) needs somebody who can get stuff out and people can hear it.

 

Yeah… I was just laughing, that word is so funny.

LENNY WHITE :    Which word?

 

Potential. 

It’s just such a cool word for "Lazy".

It’s the coolest word in the world for lazy to me.

Just like “talented” – it means you prolly ain’t pushing hard enough.

LENNY WHITE :  Right.   So what happens is that the record label owners call top flight "quote on quote" producers of the day to come and make this artist a big star. And they go into the studio and they get a track for the artists and he/she sings what the producer tell him/she to sing and then they make an artist !

 

 

The Idol maker!     The "American Idol" Maker.

LENNY WHITE :   Yeah… And they had ‘Making the Band”… and they had these singers and none of them played an instrument?

 

Yeah.... that’s interesting.

LENNY WHITE : None of them played an instrument!

 

The making of a "Fake" band.

LENNY WHITE : So you have these mass produced artists that starve an industry… and just like any industry, they produce a particular product. They manufacture a product. And a lot of these artists are manufactured by a quote on quote producers.

 

wow.

LENNY WHITE :Then again you’ve got great producers. You’ve got people like George Martin. You’ve got people that take a bona fide artist and make them appear as other things. Or the inclusion of what it is that a guy like George Martin hears bring to a particular artists and make the new stuff come out of that artist. It’s a yin yan question. There have been situations where a great collaboration between producers and artists! But what we’re talking about when I say that is music that is like 20, 30, 40 yrs old. And the music today… oh… there’s good stuff out there… I’m not saying that all the stuff is bad… I just think that the sound of it being manufactured! I can’t say that it is cursed… my answer… I don’t know that I have an answer to that.

 

It’s pretty open then ?

LENNY WHITE :  There are exceptions to both sides.

Yes, it is !!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aiiiiiiight.

I’m gonna throw some "Names" at you .....

( respond however U want )

 

 

LENNY  :OK

 

You ready for this?

LENNY :Yep !

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allen White   photo : Drummerworld .com

LENNY WHITE :  Yes… I know him.

"Damn"

Anything else U want to say?  

 

LENNY WHITE :  He’s a good guy.   I think that he works great with what he has.

I think that BILL BRUFORD had another vibe than Allen White did.....

but , they both served great purposes, which created whatever sound they had.

Okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernand Wright     photo : Arista

LENNY WHITE :  Oh… that’s a whole other thing entirely.

Genius.    And,   I’ve only used that word a few times.

Yeah, I try not to use it myself.      But, I agree....

LENNY WHITE :  I think that people have… a lot of artists have genius within what it is they do. But like a kat like Tony Williams.. he was a genius, and a kat like Bernand Wright was/is a genius. There wasn’t any kind of music they couldn’t do and make their own.

Yes, Yes ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miles Davis  Photo : Jeff Sedik

LENNY WHITE :  Miles Davis is/was a Genius !!

I think that Miles had (just like Coltrane) genius in what they did and they managed to take music from their perspective to last some time indefinite. But, I think what they were really adapt at doing was finding what their genius was, finding their style within a particular kind of music and finding people that make them hear other kinds of things.  I think that when you talk about Tony Williams or a  Bernard White – these guys come in and totally change what the perspective of what the record game is.   Because of the fact that this is just what they do, and how they hear music, how they process what it is that they do is different from anybody else.    And,  they don’t practice (but ,Tony practiced all the time)   it came natural for those guys. They didn’t have to practice skills, practice this and practice that. They were able to really hear what it is that they heard. They practiced to just help raise the bar of what it is THEY were doing.   You put them in any kind of situation, you ask them to do this, country music or this or that ?   And, they would Kill it and they would add this sound to it  and make the music elevate to another level.

Yeah man! 

Here’s one for you ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stanley Crouch Photo: Columbia University

LENNY WHITE :Ha ha ha.... Opinionated… ummmm… yeah, opinionated..... that’s how I’d describe him.

Whatever agenda he’s pushing at the time, that’s how he’s gonna feel about whatever he’s talking about.

I think he’s an intellectual and most intellectuals are very very opinionated.

 

Right ?

 

 

 

 

Stanley Clarke photo : Allthatjazz.com

LENNY WHITE :Clark is a whole other situation. We grew up together musically and he’s an enigma with the bass. I mean I’ve seen him do things with the bass that I haven’t seen anyone else do. And again, this is a situation where somebody takes an instrument and kindof makes the most of what you can do with that instrument. I mean when you think about it… a guy like Jacol, I mean Jacol was a fantastic player but before Jacol there was Stanley, y'know? And he heard what Tony Williams did with the drums and he was like “damn!”. These guys are… Charlie Parker did to the saxophone, what John Coltrane did to the saxophone… I mean he made the bass become something else.

Yeah – they’re something man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Clinton   photo D.King

LENNY WHITE : George Clinton .    I’ve always loved George Clinton, always loved what he’s done and I think he’s a genius at what he does – BUT all of that, I think it started with James Brown.

James Brown .... to me,  man…he’s the Godfather of Soul, but man… anyplace I’m at in the world at anytime, anywhere – when I hear (something) played back, I have to just bow down and give reverence ....because that is one of the baddest musicians I’ve EVER heard in my life.

Yeah, he’s got it.   He’s got many REASONS to chose from.

 

LENNY WHITE : Yeah I know.   You can pick one – everybody can pick their personal favorites. And I think that George took what James did and what Jimi was doing and combined that with what Sly was doing and took it to the next level.

 

Yeah but can you imagine how hard it was to take all them motherfuckers and meld them together? That’s why I had to ask you about him because, Knee Deep is another one of those songs.

LENNY  : Oh ,Knee Deep… you just couldn’t put in ANY catagory....

Only "George"

 

LENNY  : Now ?     Funk is in "another" stage now.

Stage ....Left ?

 

LENNY :  Ha ha ha ha.....No longer just some really basic, y’know, in the pocket blues stuff and one chord stuff – there’s no longer that anymore. Now.. there’s a whole other thing, now the bar has been raised. Knee Deep is one of those tunes that is so hard to pinpoint.

Knee Deep is… KNEE DEEP !!

That’s why I had to ask you about him, man.

Alright, what about my Kat :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prince        photo : WB
LENNY WHITE : See… that’s another kat. He raised the bar. He listened to every kind of music that he could and he incorporated that into everything that he did.

Well , I know you’ve got a soft spot for him

‘cause..... he looked out for you,  when U were opening for him on your "TWENNYNINE"  tour  !

LENNY  : Yeah but you know… but, I know that he listened to me play things , tho !

On the RTF stuff ?

LENNY :*playing a beat with his mouth*   Every night he was there on stage when I was playing.

ha ha ha....I'm sure he'salways tryin'to hear somethin' (I ain't Madd @ him )

LENNY  : I just saw him !!   it was a year and half ago in Montreal… he’s a Great Kat, man.

Yeah,  he’s not playin' wit peoples....

LENNY  : I saw him when he was 16 yrs old in Minneapolis – we played and afterwards, &  we went up to this club and there was "Bobby Lyles" and he asked him to come up and play and HE DID !!

 

What did he play?

LENNY WHITE : He played the keyboard. At that time, he was playing the keyboard.

Wit da big 'fro & shit?

LENNY :Yeah… he was killing it !!!

That's  too funny man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chaka Khan 

LENNY WHITE :  That’s another one – I mean, you’re picking the right ones!   

There’s a person who like… in terms of R&B… her singing raised the bar.

I think she raised the bar on  "Voice"  period.

 

 

LENNY WHITE :Just listening to her man, and listening to her phrases – she can listen to any kind of music she wants and do it. You hear how an artists comes on the scene and they doing R&B or this and that… they staple them as doing that and that’s all that they can do. But she’s a confident musician – she can sing whatever she wants to sing.

 

I know man, CHAKA  IS THE TRUTH !!!

LENNY WHITE : Yeah… she’s bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Miller 

LENNY WHITE : He’s another natural. Now he’s one of the best musicians that I know. I mean, Marcus can play any instrument and… just going back to producers – when a guy writes a song and he hears everything that should happen when he’s writing that song, you shouldn’t give it to nobody else to produce it. He hears the whole thing in totality. And Marcus has been a winner in so many arenas, so many different levels and he is a natural musician. He just GIVES the stuff – he’s got great time, he’s got great harmonic sense, and… he can do it all!

 

Yes, Indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's time to play the "Either or Game"

    You Ready ?

LENNY WHITE :   Aiiiiiiiiight.

 

 

 

 

 

Indies  or  Majors ?

LENNY WHITE : For today, speaking for today, I’ll say Indies. I say if you’re fortunate enough to make a deal with a major or an indie, where you do the joint venture as the artist… if you make a deal with J Records and you do a joint venture, you put up 50% and they put up 50% - you own 50 and they own 50 – that’s fine!

 

 

 

So, it just  about ownership ?

 

LENNY WHITE : Ownership. I don’t care who it is – if it’s indie or major, I don’t care. If you can do a deal with a major where after 10 years, you get your masters back, that’s fine. If you can do a deal with an indie, where after 5 years you get your masters back, that’s fine. If you can do a deal with a major where you own half of the product yourself, that’s fine!! But I think the real deal is ownership.

*snicker*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5a's  or  7a's ?

LENNY WHITE :Well, it depends again. Five As… I mean, I’ve used seven As for years. But when I started playing… the plastic thing didn’t work for me…I had needed to feel the wood, I needed to hear that sound..the natural sound on my symbols. Playing jazz… playing the music that we play… which is a combination of everything, some of it is touch and feel music. You have to feel and have a touch that sometimes it’s hard. And that depends upon what you se stick wise and how you shape things. Right now, I’ve been using (something)… and I do have some five As plastic stick that I use also.

Aiiiiiight.

lennywhite.jpg (18015 bytes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CDs or Vinyl ?

LENNY WHITE : Vinyl.

Hahaha !   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘70s or ‘90s?

LENNY WHITE : There’s no hesitation with that one.

I know – that’s why I was like:  NEXT QUESTION !

 

 

LENNY WHITE :  But y’know, analog has this sound – how you gonna say what is better when you’ve listened to something for like 40 years and then something new comes along and people are like “this is going to be great great great..”  But when you compare the two, you go back to vinyl. You take the vinyl and make CDs!

That’s crazy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel  or Metal?

LENNY WHITE :For me… it depends on how I’m feeling that day. I think that across the board I would say gospel ‘cause,  I ain’t feeling all the metal .....all the time.

I’m not feeling what metal represents a lot of the time.

Sometimes what it represents, I don’t like.

I hear U.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tape  or  Disc?

LENNY WHITE : Disc.

Okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash  or  Credit ?

LENNY WHITE : Cash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound Check   or  "Line Check"  ?

LENNY WHITE : Hahaha!     That’s a good one!    

Aahhh… sound check.

 

Ha ha ha ha.....Are you sure about that now?

LENNY WHITE :Yeah....cause sometimes line check… ah, remember what happened to us when we played at North Sea  ?

The point is that... if we did have a sound check –

 

It could have been different ?

LENNY WHITE : It could have been "Legendary".

 

It could have been madness!    

[ cause, we actually KILLED without one,  that nite ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTV  or  BET ?

LENNY WHITE :   Damn… I ain’t feeling neither one of them.   

                       I feelin' ESPN !

 

Ha! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Echos of an Era"

Tell me about those sessions with Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley, Chick and Chaka.

LENNY WHITE :We did two records – we did the studio album with Chaka and we did the rest without Chaka –

'' Echoes of an ERA''.jpg (376846 bytes) Photo : Elektra records

 

Which,  I couldn’t understand that..... but go ahead!

LENNY WHITE : What happened was that we rehearsed – well, it was not an actual rehearsal – Chaka and I went over to (someone’s) house and that was the first time she sung "Spring can hang U up  the most" and they kinda did a few sketches and I asked her to pick a few tunes, some simple tunes.   My intention was to re-create the "Lady Day" sessions with some contemporary musicians.  I took that record from Columbia which was good ... and I asked Chaka to pick some tunes from there and she picked "Them there Eyes" and some other tunes that’s part of my childhood.   So, we came up with a great arrangement for "A Train" and then we did "I Mean You" & Chick suggested to Chaka that she write the lyrics of course,  so she wrote it.

 

 

 

Nice......

LENNY WHITE : And Chick had a tune that he was going to do called "High Wire"   ummmm… what else is one there?   oh yeah, "I Love You Porgy"… Chick wrote a great arrangement on that  !  I mean he did those arrangements in a day –it was the first time two of them were working in a studio. My intention was to go into the studio and… do it the way the old records were done.   Y’know, everybody go in at the same time,  no over dubs or nothing like that… and that’s what we did!

 

 

 

 

Damn… that’s cool.

Tell me about the future of  "Lenny White" music?

LENNY WHITE : For the past 10 years, I’ve been working on an album (opera) and I have a whole bunch of music that I’ve been writing the past 10 years – it’s totally a different kind of music, there hasn’t been any kind of fusion or nothing like that… although, I’ve got some adjustment friends and we’ve got a production team called "Orchestra Earthquake Music" and we’re doing some hip hop tracks for people. But what I’ve been doing mostly is (symphonic music) – MY version..... of symphonic music.

 

 

 

 

 That’s cool.

Well , shit… I appreciate you sitting down with me , Dogg !!

Cause,  you KNOW..... I KNOW whereYOU’RE at!

 

People want to know what you’re doing & What's da goin's on !

LENNY WHITE : Well… I’m always up!   Whatever experiences you’ve gone through kinda shape how you deal with the moment that you’re in right now. And we’ve done a whole bunch of things and for us to go back and go “what about this… what about that?..” – there’s so many things!

Yes, Lawd !!

 

 

 

It’s all going to happen man… it’s all going to happen.

Thanks, Lenny !

 LENNY WHITE : Yeah......Mannnnnnnnnnnnnn  !!!

Ha ha ha....

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Many thanks to Esé Akopfuré for the transript]

 

 

       

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