In discussion with Trusme on “Forevernevermore” by Moodymann (2000).
I doubt that „Forevernevermore“ was your first encounter with Moodymann. Did you eagerly await his third album, and how did it grab you?
100% I didn’t know who Kenny was till I found a copy of “Forevernevermore” in my friend’s record bag. He had left his records at my house and I was doing the usual noseying though the records when I found this CD. I was completely into Slum Village, MadLib and Jaydee collecting the samples from Jazz to Disco. When I first played this CD, everything just became clear in my mind. This is the sound I was looking for, from Hip Hop, House, Jazz, Soul and Disco all rolled into one. I became obsessed, wanting to understand the production techniques and went on to discover the whole world of Detroit right after this. Three years on, Moodymann was playing my first LP launch in a pub on Oldham street, home to where I had been buying his records for the past few years. KDJ and Theo were just No.1 at that time in Manchester and I couldn’t help but be influenced by the whole sound.
It seems that Moodymann matured up to the release „Forevernevermore“ in terms of the album format. „Silent Introduction“ felt like an anthology of 12“ material, even though it worked as an album. But with „Mahogany Brown“ he already aimed at a listening experience more true to the format. Would you say he topped this with „Forevernevermore“?
Yes, for sure. The whole LP worked as a cohesive hour of music yet there was something at every turn that was unique and compelling to me as a listener. I related to this LP in more ways than one, due to it’s almost Hip Hop nature with intros and outros connecting the tracks and glueing the whole piece together. There are so many seminal tracks on the LP that are still played out in the clubs today, yet they are tracks that remain LP cuts and for home listening only. This ideology is what I have embraced in all four LPs that I have produced over the last 8-9 years, with something for the dancefloor, something for the car and wherever else that one listens to LPs these days.
You told me that you wanted to talk about the CD version of „Forevernevermore“, which has lots of interludes and skits, and hidden tracks. Do they form an alliance with the music that almost works like a radio play? What is the special appeal of it?
When I think of an LP, I think of A Tribe Called Quest, Marvin Gaye or The Verve even. All these LPs are constructed to be a continuous piece of music, in which the listener is taken on a journey from the beginning to the end. With the CD format, there is extra playtime in which intros and outros can give a context to the background and making of the LP. On the “Forevernevermore” CD you are taken into the home of KDJ, as he sits playing with ideas on the piano with his child, to the studio discussions and even to listening to his local radio for inspiration. Hidden right at the end of the CD is a live recording of three hard-to-find cuts from the KDJ label, mixed together after 2 mins of silence. In many ways the CD provides the platform for further expression as an artist in the format of an LP.
I think the sound of „Forevernevermore“ was a step forward in terms of his distinctive sound. It was still dense and immersive, but also more refined. Do you think Moodymann’s sound evolved on „Forevernevermore“ in comparison to earlier works? And was it for the better?
This was for sure in an LP sense his best work. It is what most people say as their favourite work, when talking about Moodymann. He carved a sound out all for himself and also derived a unique long player format that until then was not seen in the dance scene. Most underground dance LPs were merely a collection of 12” tracks but this felt more like a well thought-out process, something like Daft Punk would execute. I believe Peacefrog Records also helped in this process and pushed KDJ, as they did all their artists to reach even further. In many ways, earlier LPs were a collection of his previous works but “Forevernevermore” was an LP made from beginning to end with a single LP idea and it feels very much that way.
Tracks like the Disco led „Don’t You Want My Love“ display a confidence to transcend mere club credentials for traditional songwriting, a path he followed ever since. Is there a side to Moodymann the producer you prefer to others, or is it not necessary to differentiate his persona as an artist?
The marriage between your typical MPC studio production and live instrumentation was what set out Kenny on his own. Working with local artists like the percussionist Andres, bass with Paul Randolph and keyboards by Amp Fiddler, on top of that raw production sound was just so unique. The juxtaposition of quantised groove and loose musicianship created a genre of its own and is still being replicated today. This LP was the beginning of that sound and Kenny is still using this formula very much in his productions today.
How do you rate the albums Moodymann released since „Forevernevermore“? Were they up to par with your expectations?
“Black Mahogani” is on par for me if not more refined than “Forevernevermore” but maybe it’s the rawness of the LP that better relates to me. With the following LPs I have enjoyed the productions but felt slightly less connection to the music I listen to and make today. Not that it’s not great music, but I started to feel that the tracks in the EP releases didn’t have that Peacefrog touch of which I’m such an admirer. The LP process began to evolve towards the creation of a new sound where he begins to sing and perform more as an artist and less in the background as a producer.
Did „Forevernevermore“ inspire your own initial steps as a producer?
110% it was what kickstarted everything. When I read the notes and credits at the back of the “Forevernevermore” cover, it was like joining all the dots together for the first time. I was huge into Dwele and Jay Dee at the time and had seen Amp Fiddler and Paul Randolph perform with Dwele in Leeds where I was at University. I had seen Andres perform with Slum Village as DJ Dez and to see all those guys having worked with Kenny, well lets just say I was flipping out. I could marry all these worlds into one that I loved and which before this had never crossed mind nor seemed possible. I was ready to make the music which I guess was inside me the whole time, but now I had an outlet and platform in which to do it.
You are an album artist yourself. Is the format still superior to others, especially in times of streaming and files?
In a sense of promoting yourself as an artist, the LP gives a solid indication of you as an musician and your musical style. An EP can only in reality can provide a snapshot of your style, whereas an LP showcases many sounds and direction that can be represented to an audience. In an LP, the listener can be submerged into the music and take it into the car, bathroom or the living room sat with their friends etc. That’s the power of the LP, it can be shared to your audience with both a visual and musical concept that stretches that much further than any single track can do.
A lot of European club music producers who integrate black music elements into their music consequently are confronted with comparisons to the Detroit school of House represented by Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite and others. How can you emancipate yourself from such contextualisations?
I don’t try to, I am very much a by-product of growing up in Manchester where both Detroit, Chicago and NY music was populated by the key record shops such as Fat City and Piccadilly records. They actually coined the term ‘Detroit child’, we were the by-product of a decade of parties such as Eyes Down, Electric Chair and Friends & Family. You can hear it in my style as a DJ and as a producer, that Detroit is thick with me but there is an undeniable UK twist to everything that I do.
Said Detroit producers were also often critical in public about the way their music and the black music traditions they incorporated were interpreted in other contexts. How can you treat your own love for the music without being disrespectful? Can you even draw conclusions from the very source?
From Day One, I have tried to support Detroit by buying records from Emporium 50, straight from the source. That was a rudimentary site run by Mike Grant but the money went straight to the artists such as Theo, etc with no middle man. I have released and worked with Andres, Amp Fiddler, Paul Randolph, Buzz Fiddler and Piranhahead, who were all well respected Detroit artists within the core of that scene. I have supported and pushed the Detroit scene from my first solo releases and on my imprint Prime Numbers, and will continue to do so, as the sound of Detroit is very much the sound that fits with me as an artiste most.