HOME PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS CONTACT US
MESSAGE BOARD ABOUT BRIAN LUSH LINKS



 
 

AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY
ERIC KAMEN TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT SEEING THE WORLD
THIS CD NATIVE UNIT
AND GETTING AROUND IN A 2 1/2 MINUTE WORLD

http://www.rockwired.com/nativeunit.jpg
WRITTEN BY BRIAN LUSH

Music has that undeniable power to bring people together and in a world world where there seems to be more strife and conflict than ever, music has become one of our most treasured commodities. No one understands that better than ERIC KAMEN, a music producer based in New York City. His CD NATIVE UNIT is a rich instrumental recording that combines R&B and Hip Hop elements with various world music textures, The sound is sensuous enough to make you want to celebrate the world we live in  and beautiful enough to make you wonder why the hell everybody's fighting.

LAURA LYNCH from KWEEVAK.COM calls NATIVE UNIT '... a magical blend ... melding the edge of hip-hop with the soul of R&B ' and GIAN FIERO of MUSESMUSE.COM calls it ''... musically captivating ... nothing short of phenomenal' . You'll be singing it's praises as well and thanking ROCKWIRED for the experience.

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

So you're from New York?
Born and bred in New York. Yes.

Where exactly? Brooklyn or - ?
Brooklyn actually. I was born in Brownsville which is now considered the heart of hip-hop so I think I got a little of myself from their and when I was a little bit older my family moved to Queens. When I became an adult, my wife and I moved into Manhattan and I've lived there for my entire adult life.

Growing up in the birthplace of hip-hop, did that rub off on you as a youth at all?
I definitely believe so. Not so much when I lived Brooklyn because I was just a child, but pretty much throughout my school years. I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. Even though I'm not black, all of my friends were black and all of the music I listened to was black. I think you can't help but pick up the influence.

How many instruments do you play?
Well, just to give you a little background I am predominantly an R&B producer. That's my meat and potatoes. I spend my days working with seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year old R&B singers or rappers. I've been an instrumentalist since I was a child. I'm a pretty accomplished instrumentalist because I've played everything on this CD NATIVE UNIT. I play piano, I play guitar obviously. That's the predominant instrument on this project.  I also do a lot of the drum programming.

Because of your last name I was about to ask if there was a relation between you and MICHAEL KAMEN.
I wish. God rest his soul, he's not with us anymore. He was an incredibly gifted guy. Like most European immigrants, it is possible I'm related but I don't know that I am. The history of Europe in that time frame was so chaotic that records were lost. It's possible that he was a third cousin.

During you're high school years you apprenticed as a musician.
Yes. I started to play porfessionally at an illegally young age. At the age of 13 I was already playing in clubs and getting money for it.

What did the parents have to say about that?
My parents were both musicians oddly enough. My mother was a piano player and my father was a guitar player. They were pretty impressed.

It didn't interfere with your schoolwork did it?
Their aspiration for me was to be a doctor but, they weren't intimidated by the background nature of my involvement in music. They were always very supportive and very impressed with me being able to pick the stuff up.  As I got into high school and into college, it got a lot more serious and I was a proffessioanl musician all the way up until I was nearly 30 years old.

What did you study in college? Music?
No. Oddly enough, it was Math. I majored in Math which a lot of people say is related to  music.

They say that.
In some ways it is. But I was ambivalaent about it and I certainly considered majoring in music but it (majoring in Math) seemed more secure. My college years were made up of majoring in Math and playing in crazy rock bands. It was a lot of fun.

After college you spent a year travelling around the Mediterranean. What was that like?
It was the best year of my life. I graduated college and a few weeks later, I put on a back pack and I flew into London and spent a few weeks there and wound up living in Paris for a better part of the year. I got very familiar with the culture and the language and I travelled all around the Mediterranean in places like Spain, Greece and moved up to Yugoslavia. It was a pleasure. It's a totally great thing for a young 20 year old to do. I would have to to say that the whole experience and the exposure I got to the young musicians that I was meeting in Europe was very formative for me - a very impressionable experience. They didn't play American blues they way I was playing. They were playing their own Native music which was North African stuff from the migrant workers or the young spanish guys would play Flamenco. It was a big shock to realize that not only Americans have soul. A lot of these players were immensely soulful. There's a style of music from Greece that goes back a hundred years. It's the equivalent to them what the blues is to Americans and it's called Rembetika and it's played  with a bouzouki which is their national instrument. Boy can they play! Some of these kids can just wail.

What does the title of your CD NATIVE UNIT, what does it mean?
Can I be honest with you? I originally wanted to call it NATIVE TONGUE but I noticed there was another internet site called NATIVE TONGUE. I liked the word NATIVE because to me the music feels raw and primitive and it's obviously a style of world music so I didn't want to drop the native . The UNIT, I picked up from 50 CENT's G-UNIT group. I figured that Units sort of a modern name, so I merged both NATIVE and UNIT together. NATIVE alludes to the world music aspect of it and UNIT alludes to the hip-hop aspect of it.

What made you decide to make the CD?
I would say my primary motivation is this. Working as a producer is something I love. It's really close to my heart and It's something that I've been doing since I was a kid but one limitation to being a producer, especially when you're working in a very contemporary vein and focused on top ten radio is the music is very formulaic. It's all about coming up with some sort of chicken scratch loop and looping it over and over again. A lot of people complain that music is so repetitive now at this point. To some extent, I find that to be true and being an instrumentalist and a very strong instrumentalist, I kind of crave the opportunity to pick up my guitar and let her rip. You can't do that in an R&B or a hip hop context because everything there is very formulaic and tailored.

And very timed.
It's very very timed. In the years that I grew up, the concept of having a sax solo or a wailing guitar solo had existed but you really couldn't pull that off today. It's just not part of the current modern formula. So I just had a hankering to just let it rip. What I did was I pulled up some tracks that I had developed with some of the young artists that I was working with and instead recording their voices or their lines, I just started playing my spanish guitar and it took me by surprise how cool it sounded. Little by little I got feedback from other people who also though it sounded cool and that was how the project was born.

A couple hours before I got on the phone with you, I was thinking about how compressed music is now and It's not just R&B. A lot of pop/rock music is that way. I can't name a lead guitarist from any of these new bands out ther now. No one stands out.
Honestly, these day I don't listen to a lot of pop rock. I grew up with it and now I'm so deeply involved in the R&B and hip-hop scene. That's all I really listen to at this point but i have no dopubt that what you're saying is true. It's very 2 1/2 minute kind of world.

There's something in your artist bio that struck me "...In retrospect, I can see that the beautiful effect of mixing various world music themes actually makes a poignant statement about the sadness of the current state of the world. I think it was my subconsious way of coping with what was going on in the world today." I din't read that until after I had listened to the CD. You're right, we are in a  world where people are coming apart in record numbers. It's all over the world now.
It's certainly true. I did not set out consciously with the intention of melding together various forms of music from around the world as a political statement. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I was just doing it because it the elements of stuff that I know. When it was done and the smoke had settled, people sstarted commenting that it was such and interesting fusion of American beats and spanish musical motifs and Greek musical motifs. In retrospect, I can see that it hangs together juxtaposed to the crazy state of the world. It's an irony that the music of all of these cultures works so beautifully together. Can't we all just get along!

I wanted to ask you about the CD cover itself. It's really striking. Can you explain it?
It's a photo of my wife. There's a story behind it. The photo was ripped up.

In a fight?
In a fight. Not with me. I was actually ripped up in a state of rage. I have the original hanging in my studio. One day I was looking at it and was thinking "This is such an incredible statement. The beauty of th woman and the rage that's captured and the emotionthat's captured in the rips. I chose to scan it in and use it as the cover.

It's beautiful cover! What do you want a listener to walk away with after hearing your music?
I'd like for the beats to capture people's attention. In today's world, a good funky beat is going to get peoples attention. Beyond that I considerthe beat a trojan horse. What I really want them to hear is serious music. These days , I don't think you hear a lot of serious music, especially kids. It's just the nature of American culture. What I'd like people to walk away with is sense of having enjoyed the music and hopefully an introduction to the fact that there are musicians out there in the world who are quite skilled and that music can be realy beatiful on it's own.