Whatsss happenin beautiful groovy people! Today we bring you a couple words with John Heintz- producer, chief ring leader, and bassist of The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown. The name could not be a more perfect reflection of what this collective group is doing and the music and experience they are creating for the people. At least 150 artists have played a part in collaborating with The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown. Each track they produce has been passed through the minds and touched by the hands of so many professional artists in their respected fields that quality is really the only option for their music. This project has and continues to bring together the best of the best, from honored time tested old school funk legends like George Clinton and members of Sly and the Family Stone to the next generation of artists who are carrying on the flame of making funky power music – and everything in between.
While The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown and the music they have made so far are timeless already, they are still pretty fresh on the scene considering the group is about five years strong, with one album released and not having toured extensively yet. Their first album, titled Volume 1 is very groove oriented and flows beautifully through so many styles of funk. There are elements of jazz and soul mixed in with some slow tunes. With such a diverse collection of inputs working together on every song, each track carries the unique essence and style of a number of different bands.
John, thank you for taking time to do this interview with us! Where was the seed first planted to coordinate and collaborate with so many artists and form The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown, and where did things go from there?
Awesome! And in the very beginning once the flag was planted, how did you first start rallying up troops? Who were the first people to get on board and how did that movement spread?
Well, The Lee Boys being the amazing musicians they are, attracted a lot of different players to come sit in with them. During that time I was meeting some of the best players in the circuit! Coming from a business background I always learned to get numbers and build your network as big as you can. I started asking people casually “If a project like this were to be put together, would you be interested in getting involved?” And the common response was “Sure!, but that won’t happen. Sounds impossible. How are you going to get all of these people together then make something that works?” And to some degree they had a point. Logistically and on paper is was very difficult to make happen. Around July of 07 I asked Derek Johnson from Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band if he was down to get involved. He was not only down, but he also had interest in helping me organize the whole thing! The Booty Band is very much a band about people sitting in and also sitting in with others so this was really in their wheelhouse. In early Nov. of 07 I approached John Paul Miller, also of the Booty Band to get involved on the business side of things with us. J.P. and I ultimately got it off the ground Dec 07. We brought in one of J.P.’s high school friends Frank Mapstone who is an unbelievable producer to help us produce the project. And that is really how it started. I asked Rob Mercurio from Galactic and Terence Higgins from Dirty Dozen Brass Band if they wanted to participate and they were all about it. From there it just snowballed and more and more folks started getting officially involved.
Nice! So Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band was your pretty much your first solid partner in creating The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown?
Would you consider those guys, along with you to be more permanent members of the project? Is there a core group or is the whole thing more fluid?
Okay, so, the way The Getdown is structured is as a morphing unit. Because we have so many players and so many more that would like to participate we change the lineup quite a bit in a studio setting. As a live band we have a primary core of players that for the most part will be at a good amount of the shows. Then we also have a bunch of players that we mix in and out of the lineup during the live shows. But we keep a pretty consistent set. So one night the band could be made up of guys from Fishbone, P. Funk, Mike Dillon Band, Dumpstaphunk and the Booty Band and the next night maybe Dumpstaphunk has some shows so we might bring in players from Morris Day and the Time to fill that spot. We just keep it rotating because everybody has tour schedules which can make it logistically crazy. At this point we have over 150 musicians from 90 touring bands that are part of the project, and growing so finding that common thread schedule wise amongst a solid core of about 15-20 of those players becomes the most interesting part of the task because schedules are changing by the moment. It is always going to be the same kind of ridiculous show regardless of who is there, but we may not know sometimes until a couple weeks beforehand that someone has a world tour that they can’t pass up and we may just have to bring in somebody different last minute. It is an interesting scenario- a lot of moving parts and a lot to keep up with!
Yea man, that is definitely keeping things interesting for The Getdown and your audience!
Yea, one of the big questions for us has been “Who is going to be there?” For the most part we know who is going to be there but again with the schedules rapidly changing it’s hard to know exactly who is going to be on the road with us from tour to tour. If you look at the list of players involved it should not necessarily matter because if someone from, say, Sly and the Family Stone is not there, it might be someone from Earth, Wind & Fire. If it’s not Earth, Wind & Fire it might be someone from Kool and the Gang or The James Brown Band. I mean there are a lot of combinations, but it will Always be some significant players from the history of the Funk genre. We are also traveling in to some other genres as well. We have Mudvayne’s bassist Ryan Martinie, Taylor Dayne who is an 80′s pop star and Speech, from Arrested Development all on Volume 2 [to name a few] who all come from entirely different genres. It is a really eclectic group of musicians and vocalists which keeps things interesting!
I can imagine! Do you see The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown really getting out and getting down on a lot of touring or being more of a studio group with fewer but much bigger tours? In theory you guys could be playing more than one show, festival, or city on the same night!
I am looking forward to the tours- make sure to visit the East Coast as much as possible! So the Limited Edition Purple Volume 1 Vinyl was just released. I know you all are excited about that!
Wow, that is quite interesting! Another testament to The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown’s dedication and labors of love.
So what was it like actually recording Volume 1? How and where did that go down?
Damn man that is Epic! So did you all already have some or most of the album written or at least in mind? What does your songwriting process look like from a song first being initiated to being worked on and opened up for collaboration?
Sounds like a party I would love to be a part of, I wish I would have known when you all were in Tallahassee! Maybe I could of sneaked in the house haha. Yea man, with every single one of the tracks produced by The Getdown being passed through the minds and touched by the hands of so many different professional artists in their respected fields, quality is really the only option for the outcome of your music! So I was really excited to see Ralph [Ralph Roddenbery Band] was a part of the group because I grew up and still live in the small South Georgia town of Cairo that he is from! I am curious how you two linked up and how he became part of the project?
Wow man, that is very special!
And Ralph brings such an unbelievable energy to any environment. He is one of the sweetest people that we’ve known. We are really thankful to have him come out and be part of that with us!
I definitely agree! Do you see BONG producing a Hip Hop album in the future?
Oh definitely. Hip Hop and Funk has such a commonality in a lot of ways. The roots of Hip Hop came out of the Funk, ultimately. Sampling George Clinton, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone was such a common practice in early Hip Hop. With the project we have always liked to include elements of Hip Hop in the mix. On the first album we have a track that Agent 23 Skidoo did, called “Amplify” which is actually Platinum, song 6 on the album that was remixed in to a fresh beat. George Clinton did a little something on the beginning of it and then Skidoo laid the track down vocally and there is a guest verse by The Gift of Gab from Blackalicious. 23 Skidoo actually does children’s Hip Hop as well. He was nominated by the Grammy’s this year for best children’s album. It was cool seeing him get that spotlight. But moving forward, we have tracks that Tech N9ne is interested in collaborating on, we have tracks that Doug E. Fresh has had his ears on, Speech from Arrested Development is on the new album, let’s see.. we’ve talked to Shock G and several other folks as well. We’re tied pretty thick in to the Hip Hop and Rap world so it’s going to grow. Frank and I are just generally huge fans of music so there are a lot of people in Hip Hop and Punk, R&B and Soul, and Pop that we have always respected and would like to work with moving forward. I think Hip Hop is going to be one of those things that people will see quite a bit of coming from our camp soon.
Definitely dude! We were thinking Jay Prince from Soulection and Chali 2na, with the message he speaks through his music and personality would be awesome people to work with!
For Sure, I’m going to project in to the future here a little bit and say I can see a festival called The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown, bringing together the artists and bands that are a part of the project in one spot and throwing a Getdown! That would be epic!
It would be. We’ve kind of always tossed that idea around as part of the original plan for the project and its original design. The project was intended to be able to create a massive multi-band touring situation, or even as a static festival. It’s a way to be able to just bring everybody together and do the thing because there are so many great bands that have members that are part of the project and we want to encourage everybody to check out those bands out. The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown is one thing, but there is also a lot of unbelievably talented folks that are attached the project and their primary bands definitely need to be slung in to the spotlight if they are not already. Another part of the projects design was to create a situation where the living legends and the up and coming local and regional bad asses could all share a stage together and everybody’s voice be heard. It was also intended to be a platform that creates visibility for some of these really talented folks that may not have the wherewithal to be able to put themselves in a spotlight because the music industry is unbelievably expensive to fuck with, straight up! To do things on a level that gets a lot of visibility takes a lot of time, a lot of different components. Most independent bands do not have the resources to make that happen. With The Getdown, we are a grassroots independent project doing our thing making masterpieces on a shoestring budget and a shoestring is still an enormous expense with out a label backing us. My mission with the project has been to get the best possible resources for us. That includes booking agents, music licensing agents, and so forth. To me it only made sense that these resources be opened up to people that are part of the project so that we can all gain from it. With many the players moving in the same direction, building that momentum and creating a hub to be able to find out resources we can now help if someone asks “if I want to get my music licensed to be in a movie, or I want to get radio play, or I want to see if I can get on tour with this band…” chances are we have connections to all of that and can at least open up the door to a conversation. We cannot guarantee that things are going to happen obviously, but we at least have the ability to put someone in a situation to utilize the resources we have built for this project.
Damn man I definitely dig that! That is a very solid and noble intention and driving force behind the make up of this project! Another thing we really dig is Volume 1 album art! I remember thinking how awesome it would be to have The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown at Purple Hatters Ball this year. Really taking notice to the purple hat worn by the man behind the get down happening on the cover of Volume 1 definitely confirmed that for me haha. So I would like to take this time to give some love to that intent and keep my fingers crossed for 2016! Or even Bear Creek this year, they just announced round 1 lineup that includes Galactic ft. Macy Gray, Soulive x 2, Dumpstaphunk x 2, Victor Wooten, The Motet x 2, Pee Wee Ellis and the Assembly, Khris Royal and Dark Matter, Freekbass, and London Souls so having The Gedown would be great! But back to the question I was leading with, who is the artists doing your album art?
Funk yea man! Well John, this has been great! I’ll open it up for any shout outs or additional things you may like to throw in the mix![Here, John described and shared with me the his mothers bomb top secret potato casserole recipe! Unfortunately for the readers of this interview, the recipe had to remain a secret. He only told me the recipe in confidence that his mom does not read this interview and find out he gave it to me!]
There are a few side notes I would definitely like to include. There are bands and solo artists that are part of this project who are spectacular and have amazing individual careers. One of them is Laura Reed- she is an incredible solo artist out of Raleigh, North Carolina. She has a new album out called The Awakening. There’s another band called The Fritz out of Asheville, North Carolina. Jamar Woods their keyboard player is a very big part of Volume 2 . RonKat Spearman of P-Funk’s has his solo project called Katdelic. They dropped an album called Dance on the Mothership that is just fucking mind-blowing. It is such a killer album! Let’s see, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band also has a new album they are dropping in a couple months. Also, Kendra Foster, she is absolutely killing it right now! She’s one of our vocalists who wrote about half of D’angelo’s new album and is his vocal director. She was just here [in L.A.] last week laying down some tracks. Check her stuff out too! It is important for us to make sure we shine some light on people that have helped make this happen because it’s these musicians and their bands that inspired us to do what we do, so it is definitely a thing to try to make sure they get light shined on them.
All hail to the Funk! I look forward to checking out that music. Can’t wait to see what Volume 2 has in store for us!