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ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS JOHN BiGHAM

SOUL MAN
JOHN BIGHAM TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS LATEST CD 'BLACK JOHN'
HiS MUSiCAL ALTER-EGO
AND LiViNG AND BREATHiNG THE MUSiC
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iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
After spending a lifetime helping to lay down the musical foundations for industry luminaries such as MILES DAVIS, EMINEM, DR. DRE, BRUCE HORNSBY and NIKKA COSTA (and lets not forget his tenure as the guitarist/keyboardist for FISHBONE), JOHN BIGHAM has stepped out into the light with the curious moniker THE SOUL OF JOHN BLACK. With the release of his debut CD 'BLACK JOHN' (ECLECTO GROOVE), BLACK brings black music back to the blues and throws in some gospel, funk, and hip-hop chops for good measure. One would expect such a finely crafted hommage such as 'BLACK JOHN' to be a decidedly studied affair but BLACK and his stellar cast of ace musicians (BILL BOTRELL on guitars, SCOTT SEIVER on drums and SHAWN DAVIS on bass) keep it real.

ROCKWIRED spoke with JOHN BIGHAM over the phone. Here is how it went.

How do you feel about the response to the CD so far?
I feel great.

Was it everything that you expected?
You can never expect anything. You can only hope for the best. I thought I did a pretty good a job and I did all that I could do to make it happen and I think people are really responding to the honesty of it.

Why the name THE SOUL OF JOHN BLACK? Where does that come from?
JOHN BLACK is just my alter-ego. That is the guy that sings all of the music. Kind of like SASHA FIERCE.

Why the need for an alter-ego?

It's always good to put a name on something. It's a name for the part of me that sings. I didn't always sing and I thought this was something new and different that I had discovered by myself. so I thought it would be interesting to name it something else. If you met me you'd know that I'm not the life of the party or anything like that, but if I'm playing I'm definitely going to be the life of the party.

And it sounds like that on the CD.
Yes.

What drew you to music in the first place?
I think that music was my destiny. It was my Dharma. When I was a kid, there was music all around and I just took to it. I had stopped playing for a while in my early twenties but I started again. Then there was another time I had stopped playing. This was when I moved to L.A. I was just writing. I was only playing the guitar in order to lay down a track or two on my songs. Music always kept coming back to me, naturally. I didn't really have a choice that is what I'm here for.

What music spoke to you specifically.
Well, right now, I'm listening to JEFF BECK. I'm listening to my i-TUNES on random and GANGSTA-R just went off and now it's JEFF BECK with JENNIFER BADDEN going nuts on guitar. Before that it was MILES DAVIS and before that it was M.I.A. I'm just a music lover. I'm influenced and inspired people who do what I do which is play music. It feels good!

How does a song get written for you?

The ideas just come to me. I'm doing nothing and all of a sudden I'm doing something. A light bulb comes on and you just capture the moment. Like a lot of people say, I'm just a conduit for the music. It just comes to me through my everyday life experiences.

You've amassed quite the roster in putting this CD together.
There is a whole list of musicians that came together for this project and everyone brought great energy to it. It's like the QUINCY JONES method where you bring in good people and you give them your map and they turn it into something beautiful. You just capture a moment and that is what it's all about. You bring in someone who you know can interpret your song and you let them go and record it. You make way for the imagination.

Off of this album, what tracks stand out for you the most at the moment and why?
BOTTOM CHICK and NEVEER GIVIN' UP are my two favorite songs. BOTTOM CHICK is a good party song. it gets everybody going. It's just a good fun song. NEVER GIVING Up is a personal song for me. It is a story about two friends. It touches my heart and I think a lot of other people get it's message as well. So those are the stand out tracks for me.

A stand out track for me is BETTY JEAN. Would you like to talk about it?
BETTY JEAN is a track in the vein of AL GREEN. It was a song that I was kicking around for a long time. I didn't have any lyrics for it for quite a while and I was just sitting there looking at the computer screen and I looked down and right next to me were a couple of BETTY DAVIS albums that I had been listening to for the last couple of months. They had just been re-issued on LIGHT IN THE ATTIC MUSIC. That label had contacted me about making a comment on the record so they sent me the record and it reminded me when I used to listen to her albums on cassette. She had about three albums but I had two of them on a cassette and I used to listen to them over and over. I already new that this song that I was working on was going to be about a girl so BETTY DAVIS fit the bill. The song is about any woman that you would want to get to know and you end up marrying her. It was one of things where the light gets turned on and you want to know more.

After hearing the track I read up on BETTY DAVIS. She was muse for a lot of people.
Exactly. I haven't heard anything like her music before or since. It's its own thing. The only person that I have heard song that way that wasn't doing heavy,heavy rock was JANIS JOPLIN. It was and she sang it like she wanted to sing it which was from the top of her lungs. It sounded like it would just rip your throat out. BETTY's music was very raw. Purposefully raw. BETTY had that vibe.

How long did it take to put the album together?
It took about a year. I started working on it at the beginning of last year. I had ideas all over the place and i got signed to ECLECTO GROOVE RECORDS based off of the demo that I had. I was going to work on the record regardless no matter who released it. I had a previous record out so I was working that record and between that I was working with NIKKA COSTA so with all of that the record took shape. I got he deal with ECLECTO GROOVE and I really started putting all of my time and effort into it. It was definitely a 24-hour-a-day job. It was a lot of work for one person to orchestrate but somehow I got it done, and it's great when you finish.

Was there ever a moment with any of the songs where you felt that it wasn't going to come together
BLACK JOHN and I KNEW LADY were two tracks that took a while. BLACK JOHN sounds like a very simple song but itís actually very intricate. Itís got some very intricate rhythms. I KNEW A LADY originally started as a party chant. There were no lyrics at first. In the beginning my record label didnít think that the party chant would work so I got them to come to one of my shows and I showed them that the party chant worked and that it was awesome. They wanted me to write some lyrics to it so I just sat down and came up with the idea about young women living in L.A. who are partying it up and havinga good time

Describe your relationship with ECLECTO GROOVE.
Itís good. They let me do what I want to do for the most part. They gave me constructive criticism and helped me to really make the album that I wanted to make without being negative in anyway. They were very open. The name ECLECTO GROOVE says it all. They totally understood what I was bringing to the table.

Youíve worked with tons of people throughout your career. Youíve worked with FISHBONE,EMINEM, DR. DRE and NIKKA COSTA. What is it like being on your own?
Itís very lonely. Itís a lot of decision making and itís all on you pretty much. Youíve got keep it going and keep it moving. Itís hard work - hard mental work - but I wouldnít have it any other way.

How do these songs work onstage?
Pretty much all of this stuff was played onstage before they made their way to the record. Thatís how I always do it. I play it on stage to see if it will work before I record it. A lot of these songs got played at the CAF… BOOGALOO in Los Angeles which is where we play once a month.

What songs did audiences react to the most?
BOTTOM CHICK, BETTY JEAN and EMOTION. It was those three songs.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
With a feeling of joy. I would hope that they enjoyed coming into my world for a second. This album is not LENNY KRAVITZ and its not KANYE WEST. Its somewhere in there. Itís different. I understand that people need the chance to soak it all in but I think that one can get the idea that Iím having fun and that Iím not trying to make it complicated. Iím trying to bring you in on the fun. I donít feel like Iíve got to put a lyric sheet even though you canít understand every little word but I think people can understand enough to get it. Itís fun music, itís good music, and if you came to see me live, you would enjoy it. That is what I would want people to come away with. Itís a good party record.