'The New Colour of The Land'
Will Calhoun, the widely acclaimed drummer from the Bronx, New York, graduated from the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he received a Bachelors degree in Music Production and engineering. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Buddy Rich Jazz Masters Award for outstanding performance by a drummer.
Will Calhoun's unique blend of improvisational and hard rock drumming can be found on each of Living Colour's four Epic releases: the ground breaking multi-platinum debut, 'Vivid,' the critically acclaimed sophomore LP, 'Time's Up,' the 1991 EP, 'Biscuits,' 1993's 'Stain,' and their latest release on Sanctuary Records, 'CollideØscope.'
A prolific song writer, Will has co-written many Living Colour compositions and wrote the critically acclaimed song, "Pride," on the 'Time's Up' album and "Nothingness" on the 'Stain' album. As a member of Living Colour, Will received a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Hard Rock Performance by a group and another Grammy in 1990 for Best Hard Rock Performance. Living Colour also won an International Rock Award In 1991 for Best Rock Band.
In addition to his work with Living Colour, Will has recorded and/or toured with diverse artists including B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jaco Pastorious, Harry Belafonte, Pharoah Sanders, Jack Dejohnette, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Marcus Miller, Dr.John, Carly Simon, Herb Alpert, Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, Wayne Shorter (on the Grammy-winning CD "High Life"), and recorded with rappers Run-DMC and Public Enemy. As a producer, player, and songwriter, Will has worked on Herb Alpert's Grammy-nominated CD, 'Colors.'
Will's latest creation is his follow-up release to 'Drum Wave' on the Halfnote label: 'Native Lands,'. Native Lands can be described as Jazz meets World, meets trance-inducing Urban music. This is a double package - CD/DVD in which Calhoun marries his far reaching interests in a genre-bending collection that taps key expressionists from various backgrounds.
Chatting recently with Will, I first wondered just where and when had his passion for the drums first come to light? "My older Brother was a prodigy on the instrument since the age of 3. He changed careers in his early 20's, however he played with many different groups, FUNK, JAZZ, SALSA, etc. My Brother, Sister and I were raised in 2-family home. My Mother decided early on to convert the basment apartment into the neighborhood rehearsal room. Many musicians visited my home to rehearse, hang out, audition, etc. I was always surrounded by great music,and fantastic musicians. Although I was not interested in music as a life-style until I was 16 years old, I enjoyed being in the company of musicians. My Parents and older siblings record collections also contributed to my attraction to the drums. Hip-Hop Guru PUMPKIN-ERROLL BEDWOOD lived around th e corner from me ... he is 95% responsible for the Art Form. His was a tremendous musician; classically trained pianist, with a Gift from GOD when it came to playing/programming drums. At a time when no individual person owned a drum machine PUMPKIN was creating and selling beats to artist and labels in 1979. He told me in 1975 that Hip-Hop will change the World. Producer drummer extrodinaire Steve Jordan lived three streets away. I use to listen to him practice in his garage. He was the house drummer for Saturday Night Live T.V show at the age of 19. These are major influences with drumming and Music."
Your album title suggests a shout out to a sound that might not necessarily be a common-heard spirit. Did you feel making this album that you were perhaps encouraging the boy from the Bronx to spread the beliefs of his musical wings? "The youth from the Bronx, The Boy from the Bronx, the The young Man from the Bronx, The Man from the Bronx, all inclusive - Absolutely ... however I wanted to include many of the people, places, music, and Spiritual influences, this Bronx Native has experienced in and outside of the Bronx."
As this album was co-produced by Mos Def, please tell us what he brought to that particular table "I worked with Mos as a musical director on 2 of his solo projects. His Jazz Big Band and Black Jack Johnson-his Rock group. We work well together and understand the styles, sounds, and History of most genres. Mos was a partner in the production aspects of the CD. I basically wanted him to hear and watch the entire product, and make certain the loops, beats, styles, and combinations of the old school, the street, and The Jazz Masters were convincing to his ears."
"This is the way Mos and I work ... we discuss a few short ideas, then we assemble the players, and listen to the result, before cancelling out ideas. If we like what we hear, we either build on the ideas, or let them become their own statement. I was already convinced Native Lands was making the statements I predicted ... however it's always helpful to have a professional, concerned, and respectful outside opinion."
What has being labeled a 'Grammy-nominated Artist' done for your music within the confines of the industry? "The Grammy's hold a Standard of excellence in the music business. You're recognized and rewarded by the industry when you receive this award. Being titled a Grammy Nominated artist brings attention to your artistic creations. Journalist, editors, booking agencies, T.V./Film producers, Festival buyers, etc. Personally it has created a level of International respect for my music."
Out of the 15 songs on this new album which one truly stands out to be your go-to favorite when recommending it to first time listeners ... and why? "'UMOJA' - it captures what Native Lands represents ... Indigenous cultures, Jazz-(Buster Williams Bass), the street/DJ-vibe(the loop), and the Gospel-(the horn melody). The definition of UMOJA is Unity. Although there are different styles of music on this CD it's based from one source ... AFRICA ... Unifying the street, the clubs, the concert halls, the village, and more."
Please tell us more about your project band, AZA "The band is "present" ... it's a combination of Jazz music, with Hip-Hop, energy, World Music freedom, electronic Machine influenced grooves, total improvisation,interactive visual imagery ... (when available) and the fearlessness to be ... the industry has changed ... with technology creating most of the changes ... the younger music listeners, buyers have the Internet. Videos and music are downloadable, along with many other things. Laptops playing DVD's, ipods, Cell phones with camera's, MP3 players, etc. These are new audiences I want to reach, as well as the Jazz, World Music,Hip-Hoppers, rappers, clubbers,generic punters, D.J.'s, underground visual- electronic heads, and more. AZA/Native Lands is musical experience for Anyone to experience."
With regard Living Colour, is it true that Mick Jagger got you your first break ...? "There were many first breaks, Jagger's was the most significant at that time. Mick Jagger was the first artist who really put himself on the line to assist Living Colour. He was informed by respectable artist to see Living Colour at CBGB's. Mic's involvement propelled the attention of the band to then Epic records, Rolling Stone Magazine, and others."
... and what was the inspiration for that strikingly-colorful video for your anthem, 'Cult of Personality'?! "The title of the Band, the sound of our music, and-the sign of the times."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "'JUST WHAT I NEEDED' - by The Cars because the lyrics are great and it's one of those tunes that states what people think and don't say ... and should say."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "Yes ... The Macaroni Penguin is my favorite."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Will's brand new CD, just answer this easy question: In which year did Will receive the Best Drummer Of 19** Award from Rolling Stone Magazine's Critics Poll?
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before May 15th with your answer and the subject title 'WILL CALHOUN SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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