'Eyes Wide Open!'
From Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles (the sweethearts of The Apollo), inducted into The Rhythm & Blues Foundations’ Hall of Fame in l999, to the ground breaking glam funk band of the 70s, Labelle (with Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash) to a stunning solo career, Nona Hendryx has always been on the cutting edge of music.
Her songs are edgy, provocative, political and full of double entendres and empowering messages which enabled the trio to break the traditional girl group mold. Their stage show was the forerunner of the epic productions we expect today and they were the only contemporary black group to take their ‘Wear Something Silver’ show to NY’s prestigious Metropolitan Opera House and to major theatres and Opera Houses across the world. Labelle racked up three gold albums and a No. l world wide hit with “Lady Marmalade (Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi Ce Soir?).”
Her solo efforts have been equally challenging. From heavy metal (Nona 1977) to funk (Female Trouble) to New Age (SkinDiver) with top ten hits Bustin’ Out, Keep It Confidential, Transformation, Why Sould I Cry?, I Sweat (Goin’ Thru the Motions) and Winds of Change, and fruitful collaborations with MATERIAL, ARTHUR BAKER, PRINCE, PETER GABRIEL, DAN HARTMAN and TALKING HEADS sandwiched in-between.
Hendryx is a Grammy Nominee for “Rock This House”(featuring Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on guitar) and an Emmy Nominee for her collaboration with Jason Miles on the composition “Children of the World” recorded by Sounds of Blackness for “People”, a Disney animated, children’s special.
Most recently Hendryx contrubuted to Showtime's original series soundtrack release 'Sleeper Cell.'This CD highlights the most explosive and defining music from the series, celebrating critically acclaimed artists such as Hendryx, Faithless, Tricky, Sufjan Stevens, and Citizen Cope.
Chatting recently with vocalist Nona, and I first wondered what had it meant to her to have been one-third of the pop/soul act Labelle? "It was an amazing time of freedom, growth and exploring a mixture of musical genres with no contrived idea of where it would lead. We never gave a thought to how many records we would sell! Foolishly or not, it was more important what the music was, how it sound, what we were saying and if it work as a live performance. The audience was our A&R and producers!"
When your big hit 'Lady Marmalade' gets played today at Weddings and such, do you get up and dance?! "Hell yeah! It’s an infectious, funky song. Alan Toussaint, The Meters, Ziggaboo on drums, George Porter, James (?) on the organ and other names I can’t recall. But that’s why God made liner notes! Seek and ye shall find!"
From those heady days back in the early '70s on through till now, it seems like you've always chosen to musically take the road less traveled. Was this a self-driven path, perhaps? "I’m a grazer…I graze my way through life which may not make much sense for others but 90% of my life it has worked for me. Worrying about tomorrow or my next gig was never a priority in my life because my creativity doesn’t flow from how much I stand to make from writing music. I’m a songwriter. I’m a singer of songs. As a performer which I’ve developed into I am concerned with what I earn from gigs or recordings because it not only effects me but it effects the people, musicians, other singers, managers, agents, tour managers, roadies (God bless roadies) sound people, lighting people and their families, etc. I feel a responsibility to the people who work and create with me. If I lose a gig it has ramifications beyond me."
Coming straight back up to date and your work on the "Sleeper Cell" soundtrack means that we at last get to hear your first new music since 1995. What was it like to record new music after a decade away from doing so? "I adore Paul Haslinger and his music. He and I work together seamlessly and in a sort of other worldly space. No need for lots of talking or words so it was a very, very cool vibe to make music in. I’ve been writing and recording but not releasing any of the music because I’ve been waiting for the right conditions."
Just how did your production company Rhythmbank Ent. get involved in this project? "Rhythmbank became involved when Paul suggested that the producers of the Showtime series ‘Sleeper Cell’ were big music fans and were talking about the possibility of a soundtrack album. We met with Showtime’s representatives and the producers and they all felt Rhythmbank would make a good home because of my involvement with the project."
For fun, and taking the titles of a few of your prior album tracks, please let us know:
'Revolutionary Dance' (The Heat, 1985) - Has there ever been a dance move that you've performed that could now be labeled "Revolutionary Dance"?! "I would think the dance in ‘I Sweat’ could be labeled Revolutionary! It’s been copied and that’s flattering."
'Female Trouble' (Female Trouble, 1987) - When was the last time you got yourself into any kind of trouble ... and how did you get out of it?! "Recently, flirting with someone half my age, kind of a ‘Sex in the City’ moment and having to fess up that it wasn’t going anywhere! Ouch! Not a good moment!"
'6th Sense' (Skin Diver, 1989) - Have you ever had a sixth sense about anything in your life and if so, did it have a better outcome due to your "feeling"?! "My earliest memory of being intuitive or sensing the outcome of an event was at the age of five or six. I told my mother three numbers she should play to win on the then illegal betting system. She played the numbers I gave her (can’t remember what they were now) and won!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "This one’s not cheesy by any means but ‘Burning Down The House’ by the Talking Heads. Also the GoGo’s hits."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "I’ve never met one or spent much time with one or dated one so it’s a little difficult to say except I think they're intriguing and would probably be really cool to hang out with. My reservation would be their hygiene, the cold and the fact that I preferred another species over my own! A sad statement on me and my kind."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of the new 'Sleeper cell' soundtrack CD, just answer this easy question: Nona recently scored and wrote original songs for which first motion picture directed by Charles Randolph-Wright?!
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 August 1st with your answer and the subject title 'NONA HENDRYX SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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