'The Night Moves in Mysterious Ways!'
Michael Bradford was born and raised in Detroit. Now based in Los Angeles, Michael works out of his own studio, Chunky Style Music, as well as traveling to major studios around the world.
Although known for rock albums, Michael has worked with artists from all ends of the musical spectrum, including Anita Baker, Kid Rock, Stevie Nicks, Butthole Surfers, Dave Stewart and Jem.
In Sound on Sound magazine, Michael summed up his philosophy this way: ďFor me itís really crucial to understand what the artist is basically trying to say through the record,Ē Bradford explains. ďI think itís really important to listen to what the artist is trying to say. You can be of maximum use by just helping him or her to bring that out and get their point across.Ē
Just released, THE LONG NIGHT is Michael Bradford's brand new debut solo album. It has elements of rock, trip-hop and psychedelia, and features Jem, Big B, Liz Primo, Ko and Samantha Stollenwerck.
Chatting recently with the man himself, Michael Bradford, I first wondered, being that he was born and raised right here in our fair city of Detroit, had it always been a musical upbringing from the start? "I was always interested in music. Detroit in the 60s was a musical Mecca. Not only were the musicians top-notch, but the audiences were extremely savvy, musically speaking. The audience knew their stuff, and they expected you to have your thing together, too. Also, Free-Form Radio was the norm in the 60s and 70s, so radio DJs would play a wide range of music. You could hear Hendrix, Miles, Santana, Zappa and Sly Stone, all on the same station. Formats didnít exist yet, at least not in the way we know them today. Music was everywhere."
At what age were you when you first knew that music was to be your profession? "I got my first guitar when I was six years old. I had perfect pitch, and so I could play it almost immediately. Itís all Iíve ever really done. Funny thing is, my dad got me the guitar to keep me off the streets, as this was 1967. Iím sure you know what I mean."
Did it all go according to plan back in those early days? "There is no plan. Well, I did play music every day. Eventually, I got into local bands, and one gig led to another. It was a process of years. I got to play mainly with musicians who were older than me, and that really helped me get better. You rise to the level of those around you. I suppose that goes for falling too."
Who was someone famous in our Detroit area that gave you some inspirational words of wisdom? "Earl Klugh was great about helping me understand melody, especially the economy of notes in a good tune. Take Jobim, for instance. He would often repeat a melody, while changing the harmony around it. Very effective."
"Anita Baker taught me the importance of listening to the artist and delivering on what was expected of me. From Kid Rock, I saw the value of the non-stop hustle. But my best advice came from Grant Green. He said ďYou canít just be good for your age. Youíve got to be good enough to play with usĒ. Young people get a lot of praise just for showing up, but the heavy cats only want gunslingers up there on the bandstand, or on the studio session. Youíre competing with other great artists, You canít have any weak spots, or youíre out."
At what age did you move to where you live now re: LA and was it a cultural shock compared to Detroit? "I moved to L.A. when I was in my early 30s. It was a real cultural shift. Housing was way more expensive than I had expected it to be. Also, there were a lot more ethic groups of people than I saw in Detroit. Koreans, Persians, Russians, and of course, Hispanics, Whites and Blacks. The other shock was how few good venues there were for live music."
"I really expected to see great music everywhere, but L.A. is an industry town. People go home early. And the audiences can be so jaded, that they donít really let themselves get into the music. Sometimes they can be a little too cool for the room. On the other hand, itís sunny and warm a lot of the time, and I work at home."
Although known for rock albums, and working alongside Kid Rock, Dave Stewart, Butthole Surfers, etc. this is your debut solo album. Why here, why now? "Iíve made a whole career of making records with my name on the back. It seemed like it would be nice to see it on the front for a change. Iíve helped a lot of artists make their musical dreams come true, so I wanted to do the same for myself. Plus, I had a collection of songs that I felt were so personal that nobody else could really sing them but me."
And knowing your work from before I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised to hear your debut solo album was a soul/funk collection. How long did it take to bring all the artists and songs together? "The album too a couple of years, off and on, between other projects. The guest artists were people whom I had produced in the past, so they were kind enough to return the favor, so to speak. You canít be from Detroit and not have the funk come creeping in, but the guest artists were so eclectic that they definitely added to the vibe."
"Jem is from Wales, UK; Samantha Stollenwerck lives in Germany; Ko is Canadian; Liz Primo is from the world of EDM; and Big B is a hip-hop head with a strong love for country music. My voice is probably somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Ken Nordine, so keeping things downtempo and subtle worked out for me."
Was there an actual stand out long night of recording that went on whilst making this album, perhaps? "I work best at night. I think better at night. Fewer distractions, more muses. Iíve been a musician all my life, so my whole existence has been gigs, studios and hanging with other creative types. I get my office work done in the day. My music day usually starts around 5 in the afternoon, and easily goes past midnight. But the true ďLong NightĒ experience for this album was how often Iíd wake up at 3 or 4 am with a really strong musical or lyrical idea, almost fully formed. I think thatís when God taps me on the head and says ďHey Michael, hereís a little something for ya!Ē"
Although a soul/funk album it is also very dark in its context. Influenced by the night, those wee small hours where we face our biggest challenges, you mention reflecting on our mistakes, but never fixing them. So, the question is: What one mistake that you've made would you dearly wish to fix today? "Career-wise, there are a couple of situations that I didnít jump on, because they seemed too good to be true. Sometimes I didnít trust my blessing, and so the train went on without me. On a personal note, I wish I had been home more when my kids were little. I toured a lot during the early days of Kid Rockís big breakthrough, and although it was really gratifying, I now see those years as time with my kids that Iíll never get back. But thatís rock and roll. The people you love often pay the price for your obsessions."
You perform ALL the instruments we here on The Long Night, but which one is really your go-to for true love and musical devotion? "Iím a bass player. Everything starts with the bass and with rhythm. If you have a good groove with a good feel, you have a strong foundation for any music. I play a lot of instruments, but Iíll stop your heart on the bass."
The Long Night has to be my favorite album of 2014, it's just as simple as that! So I just wanted to say thank you for an incredible piece of musical work, my friend "Wow, thanks bro! Now, if we can get a couple million people to agree with you, weíll be in business. Seriously, I do hope the record reaches people. I really wanted something you could listen to all the way through, like the albums I grew up on. There are some interesting messages mixed in there with the grooves. As my mother used to say, "Nothing good happens after midnight". But making it through the long night is how we learn to survive."
You own your own recording studio, Chunky Style Music so what other artists have you signed that we should watch out for this year? "There is an incredible singer from China, called Bai Yu. I really believe in his talent. I donít have anyone else yet. I meet a lot of people who want to sound like someone, but not many who sound like themselves. I also meet people who want to be famous, but donít really care if theyíre good."
"I do have a big film project in development. Ask me about it in a few months. It will be a mind-blower!"
Finally, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE penguins (the birds) so we were wondering if you did also; or even had a personal story, perhaps? "I love birds too. 2 stories. First, I have a Koi Pond at home, and the back garden has developed into a real ecosystem, with plants, bees and dragonflies. But the coolest thing is the hummingbird family that is always around the pond, enjoying the waterfall and the flowers."
"Second story: Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart were hanging around my studio, and Dave pulled out a small camera. Mick was admiring it, and then he started talking about how useful it would be for bird-watching. I did not see that one coming!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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