Listing posts tagged with Berlin

Back to the blog start page

Zam Johnson: '' - Zam, you like everything!''




 I grew up in LOS ANGELES with R&B and soul music. In my neighborhood the PLATTERS lived on the corner, AL McKAY from Earth, Wind & Fire lived across the street, my aunt was a good friend of HAROLD LAND and CHICO HAMILTON,. and many more of the famous and not so famous. But a lot of great musicians also lived in the hood.


In my early teens me and my buddies used to go to CONCERTS BY THE SEA. We could get in because they served food.  We were lucky to see all the greats: ELVIN JONES; PHAROAH SANDERS; LES MACAN; EDDIE HARRIS…and, and, and everybody!!
There was a club that RED HOLLOWAY owned, an old post office where the greats also played, but you had to be 21 to get in because of alcohol.  Me and my buddies were hanging by the door listening to ART BLAKEY. The music stopped and the door opened. It was ART. He said “you kids want to come in?”. We said “ya!”. Art said “follow me”, and put us next to the bandstand. They started playing and the club owner came to throw us out! ART was playing his ass off and yelled “IT’S COOL!” at the owner. They didn’t kick us out.





At this time a lot of rock music started happening: JIMI HENDRIX; CREAM; VANILLA FUGE; LED ZEPPELIN, CHICAGO -- also MOTOWN and JAMES BROWN. And I started playing in bands. In those days you HAD to play everything IF you wanted to work!!!


I was always interested in playing all styles of music, and L . A .  is good for every style because of the film- and television-industry.  I worked my way into being a touring studio drummer and percussionist from the mid 70s to the early 8os.

Panic in 1981


Around -78 I got involved with synthesizers, drum machines and samplers. I was already playing in avant-garde groups, but with the synths, drum machines, acoustic drums and percussion I was composing, and I put the group PANIC together with NORTON WISDOM painting live and SNAKEPIT EDDIE EDWARDS on horns and electronics. At this time punk bands, free jazz, rock and soul bands all played on the same stage!! The same thing was happening in NEW YORK ! A REALLY great time for experimental music, and a lot aggression an energy!!!






84 to 85 I was on tour a lot going back and forth to NEW YORK from everywhere! And spent a lot of time in recording studios playing on records. Producers started calling me to do the electronic thing. At this time I was composing a lot and trying to get into film composing or sound effect design.  The commercial industry just didn’t get what I was doing!! ORNETTE COLEMAN told me he had the same problem. “Go to Europe!” he told me!


In 1987 I got hired to compose a movie score and came to BERLIN to work on the film for a year. I shipped 38.ooo dollars’ worth of equipment, which took 3 months to get to BERLIN. But then the customs took it, tied me up for another month and wanted 28,ooo D MARK from me. Anyway, it all worked out when I met a judge that played boogie piano. He got my shit!! But after that the film production went bankrupt! They gave me 3 month to check BERLIN out, and after that I was on my own. I went to all the jam session at that time. I hadn’t really played drums for 4 years. BERLIN was clicks at that time. The jazz guys didn’t play with the latin guys, rock guys didn’t play with the blues guys, an there was no funk or groove music happening. I came and played with everybody, and my phone was ringing off the hook. I was working 7 days a week and didn’t even own a drum set. So I said “SHIT!  I can make money here”, and I really didn’t want to go back to LOS ANGLESES because L . A. is like a police state. I felt like I could end up in jail for a parking ticket there!

 

Zam and Saqid in Berlin 1


But I didn’t come to EUROPE to play drums and percussion. I came to compose and do my electronic thing. I got lucky. A theater needed musicians to play an international Butoh festival . I was hired to play sampler and keyboards, but we had guitar, sax, trumpet, bass, percussion and drums in that band. We played every day for a month. It was sold out every night.  Most of the musicians were punks and free jazz musicians and didn’t give a fuck, and just wouldn’t show up at times!! So I ended up playing all the instruments. They would just leave them on stage. I showed up early and practiced on all the instruments. When someone didn’t show up I could play it. I was the only one who did all the shows.

I was asked to do a duet with a famous dancer from JAPAN. He asked me to compose something for him. The night we performed, MINAKO SEKI, whom I have been working with for 28 years, was just starting her company. She asked me if I had any music for her. I said that I had tons. She said that she didn’t have any money but that she wanted me to be her composer! “The only thing I can do for you is put your name on a poster as composer!”, she said. I said cool. I was running all around berlin and saw beautiful posters. A friend said to me “Hey look at that poster. Isn’t that your name?” We worked for about 2 years. We produced everything ourselves and got very popular. Our shows were sold out, and we did 6 or 7 production a year. Then one year we finally got 60.ooo  DM to produce a big show. MINAKO said “We can pay you now”. I’ve been blessed. I’ve done over 6o multimedia and theater productions with a lot of different artist.  I am also am co- founder of TEN-PEN-CHII, a multimedia dance group, with JOAX MANGER and YOMIKO YOSHIKO. 2015 is our 20th year aniversary.

 

TEN PEN CHii ART LABOUR ''iki'' an Interactive Dance Machine


I’ve been painting for 12 years. I had painted in the early 80s for about 6 months. Then I was always on tour. I was painting for about a year and a half, and a good painter/musician from Boston, DANIEL, came to see me. It all happened very quickly. He brought a gallery owner, he gave me a show. I said “Well, I’ll make a website”. NORTON was on his way to Casablanca Morocco to a gallery. NORTON  showed the gallery my website. The gallery owner called and gave me a show. It was really happening for 4 years. Then the world money crashed !! And now the art business is like the music business. If ya ain’t a kid they don’t want to deal with ya !





Zam Johnson painting

I don’t plan to move back to AMERICA. The last time I went through customs they asked me what I was coming to the U S A for – and I am part NATIVE AMERICAN and have a US passport. I love AMERICA but the government is out of control!!!

 

Zam and Sadiq in Berlin 2

 

 

 I was asked what music and art IS to me. Well, a lot of my friends say “Oh ZAM, you like everything”,  and that’s kind of true. I see the good and bad in everything!!!  I have to laugh sometimes, it’s so bad it’s just great in a funny way!! I like things that are progressive and thought out, very open and innovative!!  I like creating and inventing things !! I started playing guitar year ago !!   Hey, I’m a  67 year old noise punk guitar-player !! IT MAKES ME HAPPY!!! ZIGGY, my wife, says that I am like a kid !! FULL OF SURPRIZES !!

 

Zam and Sadiq in Berlin 3

 

 


 

 

Zam Johnson drumsolo

 

Zam Johnson ''Taboo''

Zam Johnson ''Just Repair Nancy''


Zam Johnson is an American artist, composer and painter. After work with numerous acts in the US, such as Iron Butterfly, Brian Wilson and Barry White, Johnson relocated to Europe in the 80'ies, where he has continued his work with the music and added visual arts to his output. Find out more HERE.

MFA Kera: Interview


 

Mahalia Jackson in Senegal

A talk with MFA Kera

 

 

Sadiq Bey's interview with MFA Kera part 1

Black Heritage at Free Blues Club

Sadiq Bey's interview with MFA Kera part 2

MFA Kera and Mike Russell's Black Heritage Nelson Mandela tribute

Black Heritage afro soul retrospective

 


MFA Kera is a singer, composer, writer and painter, who spent her childhood years in Madagascar and Senegal. After a move to Paris she began her music career, inspired not in the least by Mahalia Jackson. Working with many greats along the way, such as John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Mickey Baker and Milt Buckner, and after spending a few years in Los Angeles, Kera is now based in Berlin, where she continues to fuse ethnic African music with a myriad of musical elements, while working with her Black Heritage Orchestra.

Find out more HERE.

The supervising editor at Musicians' Corner's pick: MFA Kera europe remix 3 by Sadiq Bey >green_man/

0 comments | Post a comment | Comments RSS

Kelvin Sholar: Interview



 

Kelvin Sholar:

Above and Below

the Continuum

 

 

The Kelvin Sholar Interview part 1

Kelvin Sholar Group feat Esther Ambrosino: Blue-Indigo

 

The Kelvin Sholar Interview part 2

Kelvin Sholar Solo Michela "Orange" Kelvin Sholar Group Kalavan Suite

The Kelvin Sholar Interview part 3 


Kelvin Sholar Group feat. Wendell Harrison- "Tons"

The Kelvin Sholar Interview part 4

"Orange Yellow" New Detroit Kelvin Sholar


The Kelvin Sholar Interview part 5

 

 


Kelvin Sholar is an award-winning and Grammy-nominated pianist, composer, producer and writer, who has collaborated with a long list of greats, bringing cutting edge ideas to boundary-crossing music. He appears on countless recordings, has written music for films, and given masterclasses all over the world. Originally from Detroit Sholar is currently based in Berlin. Find out more HERE

 

Sadiq Bey is a poet, performance artist, percussionist and composer. Bey is originally from Detroit and is now based in Berlin, where he releases music as >green_man/ and schwartzegeist. Find out more HERE

 

The music in the interview is ''Continuum'' from the Kelvin Sholar recording Between Worlds.

 

0 comments | Post a comment | Comments RSS

Musician/producer Niko Stoessl shares his views


Being a producer/musician and running a studio, there are a lot of aspects to be considered before taking on a project. Talent alone is definitely not enough. An act also needs, a strong vision and some kind of infrastructure/fanbase. It costs money to run a studio and budgets are tight these days, so often the only way to take on projects is to be somehow included in the sales and performance revenues and writing royalties. That’s a high risk though because you never know if the project will be a success.  It takes years of work, promoting and performing to break even financially.

I ran a commercial studio for a long time and gave it up last year in order to have more headroom for projects that require development. I have so many friends with great studios that I can use, and that way I support them without the responsibilities involved in running my own place. Of course I still have all my gear and a nice working space, but I’m far more flexible this way


Let Me Down, by Opien, Niko Stoessl and Christian Eigner in 2013


A lot of people have their own studio setups now. I see more and more musicians building their own places to record and produce. Cheap gear makes it possible but with the blessing also comes the curse. They might have the vision but often not the experience or the skills to bring their productions to a level that satisfies them or even cut the industry standards. Acquiring these skills takes many years and before you know it you don´t make music anymore!

There’s a lot of stuff out there, loads of good acts and many of bad ones. The Internet/social media gives everybody a chance, one might think, to promote themselves. Truth is that it actually makes it harder for many people to know what to do with their music because the “old” structures don’t really exist, respectively don’t work anymore like they used to. Having said all this, I also wanna point out how exciting these times are right now and how much I love all these new opportunities. It’s just that one can get easily lost in them.


Superlastic (Too Bad), with Bourne, Alex Bourne and Niko Stoessl


One big problem is that people need to realize that recorded music is not a “free product” that produces itself and that it can be consumed without being paid for. I think that everything’s getting better though and that the music business will restructure itself again eventually, creating new sources of income for musicians who are willing to move forward.

I play guitar, create beat and sound effect programmings, and play some drums and bass. I like combining all kinds of raw and analogue elements, and use my skills as an engineer/producer to morph them into something new which keeps me excited. Usually artists approach me with their vision and I work on it with them, starting by playing most of the music instrumentation guitars, programmings or synths myself. Sometimes, depending on the project, I book session players.

If I need drums for example I am blessed with the best! So for me there’s no need to use prerecorded stuff.  As a matter of fact, if there’s something I really don’t like, it´s productions based on presets/loops etc.
For example, with drummer Christian Eigner on our recordings for Opien, all the drum sounds are created from his very own drums, all the signals are organic. Some might be heavily processed but the source material is always a real instrument, everything is played, arranged and edited in a way that represents the vision. I’m very much into electronic sounds as well, and for me, music is creating, so create! If you want a loop, record it, process it, cut it –whatever, but do it yourself and stay true to your vision. In my mind, that’s art.  

Niko Stoessl



Grau EP 2014


Niko Stoessl is from Austria, and currently lives in Berlin, where he until recently ran Birthmark Studio Berlin. He is a musician, his main instrument the guitar. He has among other things played guitar and sang backing vocals on Dave Gahan´s solo album “Hourglass”. He has also worked with artists Motoboy and Crystal Castles.

He recorded his first album at the age of 16 and has since been involved in many other projects as a composer/producer, out of which Opien and Bourne, two of his current undertakings, are in further development, while his new project Grau is about to release its first EP.

LISTEN HERE and

FIND OUT MORE HERE

For further information on Birthmark Studio take a look HERE.

0 comments | Post a comment | Comments RSS