Q&A: Al Young
Al Young made his name as the front man for groundbreaking Sydney hiphop outfit Good Buddha, who got ready for ‘The Takeoff‘ (a local classic), yet never quite did. Through a combination of poor timing (way to early to the game!), lineup/label changes, lack of marketing muscle, and maybe too many cooks, they never quite achieved the level of success that they deserved, instead seeing contemporaries The Herd and Hilltop Hoods take the plaudits. But clearly Al isn’t one to give up, taking the trials and tribulations in his stride, and set to work on a solo record, which you can find below, chock full of quality production and solid songwriting. We passed him our Q&A and here’s what he had to say…
Tell us in your own words what your sound is.
Soul music from the near future.. It’s kind of like stepping out of a U.F.O. and walking down a dark country road to arrive at a space age city, where you walk into a strangely familiar bar, which has a rocking live band playing Soul/Hip hop. Or something like that.
Who makes up your band?
I make up my band. Somehow I’ve ended up producing, writing, singing and playing it all, with a little help from my friends. I met myself a few years back but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to make music with me. Live, I’ll be collaborating with several freakishly talented musicians to bring something more to the stage. Plenty of groove and improvisation, moving around these songs and twisting ’em up a bit.
What were your influences when you first started writing music? And what are your influences now?
Wow, I don’t know where to begin! Probably with James Brown, A Tribe Called Quest, Funkadelic, Shuggie Otis and D’Angelo. Along with Booker T & the MG’s, The Meters and Donny Hathaway. Tonnes of glorious ’90s Hiphop and Neptunes/Timbaland era R’n’B. Now I have been totally obsessed with J-Dilla, Marvin Gaye, Erykah Badu, Quakers and Queen. I’ve been lucky enough to play in Space Invadas with Katalyst and Steve Spacek, and really they are some of my heroes. Every time I see a special moment live, or hear a great melody? I’m influenced.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on a couple of projects. A full length album of more original, spaced out 808 folk tunes and a heap of beats that I’m hoping I can make into a collaborative hip hop record with a whole bunch of different M.C.’s. And the live show!
Do you have a procedure for writing music?
Not really, but kind of.. I like to start with a sample and build up on it, often trying to avoid getting caught up in the drums and working on a melody or bass line. Or just recording take after take of fairly badly played synth until I catch something. Same with the vocals, I mumble and scream and harmonise until it starts to take form! By the end of the process the original sample maybe gone..Other times I start with a drum beat and find a hastily scrawled phrase or even a bit of another song I’ve been working on and suddenly it all makes total sense.
If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would you collaborate with, and why?
I’d love to collaborate with one of the old Blues guys- Buddy Guy, for example- I’d sit back, shut up and learn from one of the masters. They may not be around much longer and I freakin’ LOVE dirty, heavy blues. There is a level of class and style in all those Soul and Blues singers (Sharon Jones, Bobby Womack etc) that can only come with experience, good and bad, both on the stage and in life. It would be incredible to be in the same room playing along.
What do you think about Sydney’s music scene? And if you could play anywhere, where would you love to perform?
I’m living somewhere in between Sydney and Wollongong, so I’ve been checking out two pretty different scenes! The Gong has heaps of incredible bands, but it is a little bit sleepy too. In Sydney it feels like there is much more happening, lots of cool little gigs and warehouses and some really exciting bands.
Seen any good acts lately? Who are you digging?
I’m digging Spirit Valley, Ngaiire, Declan Kelly, Moonbase Commander, Little Scale, Future Love Hangover, Horrorshow, and a heap of funky little combo’s with ridiculously good local cats like Ray Beadle, Lachy Doley and Declan Kelly.
Any interesting stories?
Recently I’ve had the incredible pleasure of raising my young son, what a random legend he is. Plenty of embarrassing incidents too. Looking forward to getting back out there, rocking some fresh shows and meeting new people. I miss it.
Where are you playing next?
I’m in the middle of booking some shows around the place. Stay tuned!