Occupying a space many light years away Madd Galaxy blasts a sound through the instrument of choice, the trumpet and calls for earth to take up this new wave jazz blustering. It’s a sound that threatens to travel faster than light-a creation from the very pits of a black hole. It’s an ironic creation from deconstruction and destruction.
A debut sound as a self-titled project resounds and announces that the musician, music engineer and collaborator with the likes of Kamasi Washington and Mac Miller is ready to take control of this section of the infinite vastness of the jazz galaxy. A product of the West Coast Jazz space confederation, Madd Galaxy brings deft production, without losing improvisation, while maintaining a bed rock of infinite streams of jazz, funk, electronica and experimental esoteric wanderings.
It’s in Madd Galaxy that you will find the star constellation #itchysilk.
Where did Madd Galaxy attain the energy for creation?
My step-dad was a club dj in the 80’s and really put music on a platter so I could dig into it. His knowledge for music from the 50’s through to the 80’s was vast. He used to mess around with VHS and put special efx on his videos. I find myself doing pretty much the same thing now but using and combining applications on my phone and posting them on Instagram.
Jazz is your playground-who inspired you?
As I have matured and become more honest with myself I can see a fusion of all this history in the air as I play and write. As a child, the record that forever changed my life was Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca (1947). It made me want to dance and jam along with him. John Coltrane’s After The Rain (1963) and Miles Davis’ Stella By Starlight (1958) also had a big impact on me. They showed me how music can tell a story. It can inspire the imagination to go on a journey while time can be manipulated and frozen.
Tell us about the appeal of jazz-what is it about your character that draws you to jazz?
Interesting question-I don’t know. I think it’s the swing and the freedom to expand and not be afraid of dissonance, instead one must embrace it and speak out with honesty. Music has always been a spiritual thing for me and jazz is spiritual. Jazz motivates me to be genuine.
Mac Miller, Malcolm, was the nicest guy. He was a warm hearted, genuine, brother.
And what was the draw to one of the most iconic instruments in jazz?
I would rather call myself an artist…or better yet, a human. The trumpet is a handy tool and it is a tool that teaches me more about myself through perseverance, diligence, and patience. I love making music with other instruments like synthesizers and guitar, but I would not call myself a keyboard player or a guitar player, however, I do have fun discovering new sounds with them. But to answer your question. What drew me to trumpet? Simply said, Dizzy Gillespie.
Before we get onto the album your credentials as a song writer and producer are clear.
I’ve always been writing things and recording myself. What has changed is that I feel I have lived life and am happy to share. There is a life frequency that I have resonated with that demands sharing and going out into the world. It’s a smile, a non-judgmental look into someone’s eyes with respect. It is a hug to a homeless man who just wants to connect as a human. It’s being quiet and giving space to someone to express their self. It is organizing people to come together to simply talk.
I have become involved with doing community work in Long Beach. It’s so incredible to realize that change begins with the simple act of organizing a few people to get together to talk. I’ve had the honor to hang out with Dorothy Pitman Hughes on a couple of occasions. She is an American legend. She taught me that change and solidarity begin with us coming together in small groups. Dinner at the house or meeting up at the coffee shop for a subject matter is powerful.
We know you have collaborated with several well-known names-notably Mac Miller. A huge loss to hip-hop.
Mac Miller, Malcolm, was the nicest guy. He was a warm hearted, genuine, brother. I think his passing has reminded his fans and the legends he has worked with, that life is fragile. Mac was real, honest, and kind. He was not one to judge. That is something to admire and be inspired from.
My objective when making the record was to show where I come from and achieve the goal of finishing a thought.
The album has a real experimental edge but also seems free. Tell us about the direction you wanted to take and what helped to forge that direction?
It is a journal of some moments and feelings I’ve experienced. A couple of years ago I was standing in the middle of a music festival (Electric Forest) and I realized that hearing all the different stages firing off at the same time is exactly what it feels like for me to be alone in a quiet environment. I hear funk, jazz, oldies and electronic music pretty much all the time bouncing around in my head. This first record is pretty much that. It also touches on each of the genres that I have grown up with. My objective when making the record was to show where I come from and achieve the goal of finishing a thought. It is important for me to work steadily and finish a cohesive thought.
How improvised was the album?
The only completely improvised track is Make Believe. The others have the original improvised parts tucked in but are more produced. I have an omni mic set up in my studio so that I can record my musings. I love to take the original inspirations and at the very least have them tucked in the track, so the original vibe is there. First takes are often it. Most of the tracks have the original take of me realizing the song. I don’t use a click when I’m musing around. If I need to lock it in to a click, I’ll use Ableton to massage the audio around into something.
When you say “completely improvised” to what extent?
It was recorded at Seven Grand in downtown LA in front of an audience. We didn’t discuss anything, we just played, listened, and let the story unfold. Afterwards I wrote a Poem and then recorded Mary Akpa improvising melodic phrases while reading the poem. Progenesis was fun to make. I knew exactly who was coming over to record. So, I pulled out the manuscript paper and imagined each of them in the room with me playing. It was gratifying to write the whole arrangement in one sitting, hours before the musicians showed up. There are two lines happening simultaneously and my goal was to make each line a fun melody. Essentially, I just improvised each line in my head and wrote them out. Kamasi improvised his solo. It Takes Heart was super fun! Once again, I imagined who I wanted on the record and recorded each part. I finished the song in an hour. My trumpet and some of the keys are from that original moment.
You touched on the technical aspects of the production you seem to revel in that technicality.
I love making music with different mediums. I use the octatrack to mangle samples and create vibes to play with. Ableton is an excellent “swiss army knife”. It’s quick and easy to achieve a musical goal while in the moment. Sounds often inspire my compositions. I’ll think to myself, “patch that Dave Smith synth into that pedal then into the tape machine and then sample it in the octatrack”. I’ll then do the work to carry out the goal and then explore the results. The aesthetic of the sounds I work with inspire the melody and harmony for me. I like to be a scientist in the studio and experiment with different tools.
Talk to us about this statement- “Exploration of the intense moods and experiences I’ve had in the last two years.”
Music is a wonderful way to express the many things we know of and sense of in this universe. Eric Dolphy said something along these lines. My life has brought me to incredible highs and lows. Learning to stand in love rather than fall into it, breaking my front teeth in a car accident and facing the fear of not being able to play trumpet again, a new baby nephew, mixing Kamasi Washington on tour since the “Epic” was released, and traveling extensively all around the planet meeting all sorts of wonderful people for the last 17 years while touring all of the continents as a musician or an audio engineer.
And the personnel on the album, we know Kamasi Washington among many feature.
I’ve read about how Duke Ellington would write his charts with specific people in mind playing each of the parts. Each person has a personality and a style. Duke would tailor his compositions to showcase this. This way of putting music together inspires me and I love that moment of opportunity when I can put the musician and the music together as intended.
Growing up I’ve been a part of a few musical scenes that are incredibly vibrant. Specifically, I’ve been involved in the west coast jazz, rock, dub, and pop. I wanted to show bits of each of them and mash them together as well. Kamasi, Cameron Graves, Ronald Bruner, and the other gentlemen associated with the West Coast Get Down are all old friends since I was about sixteen. They brought the essence of what has always inspired me about jazz. We don’t need to talk much. They get it because they are it.
This next record is a living journal of my experiences touring with Kamasi Washington as his sound engineer.
Likewise, Matt Embree (RxB, Sound of Animals Fighting) rocked out on Who Are You. He listened to it twice and then knocked it out on the first take. My friend Christian Wunderlich (Mayer Hawthorne, Tuxedo Funk) has been in and out of my musical endeavors just as long as all the others.
Can you talk a bit about your sophomore project which you have already laid down tracks for?
I am focusing on creating vehicle pieces that I can build and mangle on the fly with my sampler. I have also been really inspired by the electronic scene in Berlin, Germany. This next record is a mash-up of the LA/Long Beach musical environment I come from and some of the electronic philosophies I am resonating with which are happening in Europe. I love to play my trumpet as a lyrical instrument, but I also love to make music with noise and have the two dance together. This next record is a living journal of my experiences touring with Kamasi Washington as his sound engineer. Each city we go to I meet new people, go to the clubs, see the history, feel the pulse.
How far will Madd Galaxy travel?
I guess the only thing for me would be to finish a thought I started while answering the last question. Becoming aware of intention is becoming more valuable to me every day. Why am I saying this or that or playing this or that? This awareness is encouraging me to step out more confidently as I create the world of Madd Galaxy.