Future Jazz Project interview with Dameion Hines, Ben Hadwen.
What exactly is Future Jazz Project, because it
seems so much bigger and so much more than just a band
Dameion: The way it started is we were actually a three piece group and we used to take whatever gig we could get. So, if we needed to do a blues or funk or acid jazz gig...whatever style of music...we'd adapt to it, and it's been that way since.
Would you use your own songs?
Ben: A bunch of original stuff and some covers.
Dameion: Lots of improvisation. Just kind of a mix of everything...all of the music we like to listen to, we play. The jazz part is improvisation and we just try to stay on top of things and make sure we're cutting edge and play what's next.So, it started off as a three-piece. How did it evolve into what it is now?
Ben: And then we added keys and guitar and percusion and Venus Cruz on vocals and Paas, the MC kinda as we went along. We were working with Paz and the Hip Hop group before the FJP got started. For the most part, all of the people that are part of the Future Jazz Project were part of the larger community of musicians that we were working with, but because it was something that started as something that adapted to gigs, the players kind of switched in and out and over time it's become more fixed. We've been working with the vocalists part time for a couple of years, but we've only really brought them on officially as members of the group within the last four months
Dameion: It seemed like every time we got a raise... We had a three-piece band and then we got a raise and we brought on one more person and we got another raise and we got another person...
A raise from...
Dameion: We had regular gigs...A big regular gig that kinda gave us our start was Blues 67, and we would get a raise and a new member would pop up and then we moved over to Dazzle every Thursday and that's our current resident gig which we've been at for about a year. Now it's an eight-piece with a DJ. We've worked with so many people in the music community that if we get a higher paying gig, we can have up to a twelve-piece.
Ben: Essentially, because we're involved in a larger music community, like we have a lot of different spoken word artists like Lady Speech who will come in and join us for a song. Or Spellbinder..
Dameion: and that's pretty much how the Soul Circus came about. I wanted to extend that...I was working just with musicians and I wanted to start getting artists and ...we used to work with a guy, Joshua Mays
He's an artist?
Dameion: Yeah, an amazing artist and if he was still in town, he would be part of the band. He moved to Philly and is doing some great things out there, but I wanted to kinda bring that back.
Ben: He would bring in an easle and paint on stage with us to make it more than just a musical experience and (to Dameion) and you said that sort of inspired Soul Circus?
Dameion: Yeah, I wanted to have different types of stimulation happening, kind of like a circus: the band in the middle, the sculptors and painters, breakdancers, graffiti artists, once had wine tasting and cigar tasting...
How did that go?
Ben: Kinda like a big pudding.
Dameion: [laughs] I don't know, I was just trying to see how many things we could fit in this night. There are a lot of things in the works that are going to be part of the circus and eventually we would like to make it a touring act.
What other ideas do you have for it.
Dameion: There's a digital artist who's going to come down and he's going to have a projector coming from his computer and he's going to take pictures throughout the night and put the pictures into his computer and make a collage right behind the band. All of the dancers and everything that happens gets edited in Photoshop and is on the back screen as creative art done live.
There's also a film crew that might come out to film each night and make a DVD available to purchase, you know, of the party you were at and everything that happened.
This is something that you'd like to take on national
and international tours?
Dameion: I guess since we play a lot; a couple of times a week, we have to make every night different, so you have a reason to come out and see us.
Ben: Which is where improvisation comes in.
Dameion: We have another night called, "Create a Jam."
Dameion: We take suggestions from the crowd. So we take a vocal idea or any song idea...we'll take two of them and try to put them together into a song.
We also have another group called the Break Mechanics which is a hip hop group. I have a group called, Dragonfly, which is 'neo-soul.'
Ben has a group called the Ben Hadwen trio which is Jazz
Ben: So we've got all kinds of tentacles out there.
So you play like every night, then?
Dameion: Someone of the group is playing some night of the week, somewhere.
What are your inspirations?
Ben: Everything from Fela Kuti, the afro-beat master, he's from Nigeria and he's basically set up his own government. He's got his own state in Nigeria, he's kind of a revolutionary. And brazilian stuff, contemporary dance music to live hip-hop groups like The Roots or Music Soul Child. I've got to say that Gilles Peterson is a big influence. He has a radio show broadcast every week from the UK. LIke, super cutting-edge music six months before it gets released.
Dameion: JD, he's a producer, is a huge influence. He was the producer for Common Sense, Erika Badu. He's done a lot of work. He's even done work with Janet Jackson, Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes...tons of groups. And his sound and style are so original.
Have you ever met any of these people or worked
Ben: Not yet. When our cd comes out we will certainly shop it to those labels associated with those people like Stones Throw records..
You're working on a cd now?
Ben: Mmm hmm. Coming out in March [out now..check it out on their website, www.futurejazzproject.com, ed.]
And you're producing it all yourself?
Ben: Essentially, yeah.
Dameion: We also have another album out called, Kids are Funky, Too.
You've already produced it?
Ben: Yeah, over a year ago, last Thanksgiving.
Dameion: We have songs like, "Wheels on the Bus" and "Three Blind Mice" as reggae tunes. ABCs are in spanish like a Salsa tune.
Are you selling it on your website or is it in stores?
Ben: It's on vibesquad.com and at Twist and Shout in Denver and Bart's CD Cellar in Boulder.
Dameion: There's a lot of really cute stories from that album.
Dameion: I heard a story about a daycare where all of the kids are required to come in and put their head down on their desk and the lights are out. And they start every morning with the song called, "Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes" and they begin every morning with that song as exercise. Stuff like that. There are lots of kids that love it.
Why did you guys decide to do a kids album?
Ben: Well, Aaron Holstein, our guitar player is the only member of the group who has a kid. We were playing at a wedding and kind of as a joke we played "Old McDonald" and the kids were jumping up and down and that was the inspiration, essentially for that.
What's your day job, Ben?
[Dameion and I talked before the interview about his day job: massage therapy]
Ben: I'm a web developer I mostly just play music and I have some saxophone students.
What's the wildest thing that's happened to you
Dameion: We've had a lot of things happen, but I don't think we want it written down...
OK, then...why do you make music? Or, what in your
life has driven you to do what you are doing?
Dameion: I think that everyone in the band is just such a lover of music and especially what's happening now that why I do it, in particular, is to contribute to the artform of music; to make my statement and leave my fingerprint on some of these styles of music. I guess since we all have such a high respect for music, we do it to say something.
Ben: Music is the reason for life for me. My dad was an artist and I've always hungered to be creative and music is the outlet for that and I just like to be constantly writing and recording and playing and sharing that with other people.
What is your advice to some 15 or 12 year-old kid
who is just getting into music?
Dameion: I would say that there is no such thing as good enough. There's always tons more to learn. It's all about listening and finding what more there is out there.
Ben: I think it's important for kids to play the music that inspires them and not necessarily worry too much about what other people do.