The Negrocity Follies

(In which The Ionman aggressively mis-conducts himself during another absurdly onanistic self-interview….)

So the new Burnt Sugar record is called ALL YA NEEDS THAT NEGROCITY. Any explanations of ‘Negrocity’ forthcoming?

Naw, not really. Be kinda redundant. Self-explanatory in a world where Three Six Mafia is winning Oscars and Rick Ross is a sex god. Negrocity has become a global necessity. It may have even joined the four essential food groups. Thing is, Burnt Sugar’s Negrocity is more like Ralph Ellison’s lead character. Hidden in plain sight but most likely to kickstart a musical race riot at a moment’s notice.

You’re frequently asked to label or describe Burnt Sugar’s music. After ten years of such maddening inquiries what have you boiled your answer down to?

Never smooth jass just hella bumpy’’. Really still just Black Music since black is still all the colors smutted together. All kidding and kibitzing aside, we simply play the game of Conduction. As we are forever giving thanks to Butch Morris for showing us The Way.

There’s a James Brown song on NEGROCITY which sounds quite ‘bumpy’

The Cold Sweat Variations’’. Yes, I agree. Mad hella-bumpy for real. Features our trumpeter Lewis Flip Barnes. Who many of your readers know from his work with various Williams Parker projects.. We’ve been knowing Flip for about 35 years now. Met him on The Yard at Howard University,The Capstone of Negro Education. He was always cross campus to class carrying around a trumpet case though he played in no school band. Meanwhile we were rocking our first instrument, this lil Panasonic boom-box upon which we’d only blast the John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders Live In Seattle version of ‘Out of This World’’’. We bonded over our mutually abstract and highly conceptual relationship to avant-garde musicality. BTW Please note that on The Cold Sweat Variations’’ our drummer Qasim Naqvi gives you a vine like Zakair Hussein duking it out with Elvin Jones. Bent and slightly spastic head arrangement by our departing Utah bound pianist Myles Reilly.

Might be the first arrangement of a James Brown song we’ve heard with not only no bass, no voice and no guitar but no discernible downbeat.

Such a light and happy beginning for such a darkling album. For the record, Flip kinda hates it — a lil too avant-garde even for him. But he knows the deal: the game of Conduction has never claimed to be democratic. Band knows the deal. You don’t want to hear it on a record, don’t play it in the studio. Unless you’re Lisala. She’s The Queen Bee and we’’re all the drones a bit scared of her. Sister does these wicked impressions of everybody in the band that can make your gonads snap off.

Well alrighty now. Lisala sings on NEGROCITY’s version of Astor Piazzola’s “Libertango”.

With some adroit spoken word there provided by the wonderful avant-soul artist Maya Azucena. The violin of Mazz Swift is also a major mood factor in our interpretation of this very moody song. Maybe the best tune we know about a free woman being chased by her own shadow through the streets of Paris.

There tend to be a lot of free women in Burnt Sugar. More than usual for a a band that traffics in the freer side of improvised music. La Frae Sci, Shelley Nicole, Lisala, Moist Paula Henderson, Mazz Swift, Karma Mayet Johnson, Latasha Nevada Diggs, Imani Uzuri and Maya Azucena from time to time–and now the great Abby Dobson too.

I’d like to say it was some enlightened act of gender-balancing to insure the chromosomal array of the music. But we’re not that scientifically advanced. Its just when Nubian goddesses show up on your bandstand what else can you but get the eff out way and say; ‘’Gwaan gyall gwaan and do that stuff’’.

Abby Dobson kills on ‘’Burning Crosses’’. Some dense lyrics there. Inspired we take it by the link between the Civil Rights Movement, Abu Ghrabe, The Chicago Eight, and the Arab Spring.

Abby strafes that track like a horde of Kamikaze Valkyries.

On the medley of ‘’The Gurus Lover/Claudine’’ the album makes a shift from vocal-feature material to the long form improv you’ guys are better known for. Is this because you guys have spent the last two years being more of a glorified James Brown Melvin Van Peebles Miles Davis David Bowie cover band than playing the game of Conduction.

Pretty much. All the more reason to come back with an album that had several excessive torturing minutes of that freeform funkdafied filth our instrumentalists do so wildly. Cats stretching out long and strong on their axes without a parachute, a compass or a chainsaw in sight

You say instrumentalists but Lisala turns up on the appropriately named “Whut Rough Beast”.

Funny that. We consider OUR vocalists to be instrumentalists too. Especially when they make up lyrics, melodies and sound effects on the spot, in the bloody moment, when all about them are losing their heads and morphing quite like mad. There’s another good description of our music: Xenomorphic. Like The Alien that Nigerian brother Bolaji Badejo played in the original Ridley Scott flick. Also check the “Whut Rough Beast” bass line, where Jared Michael Nickerson is the tether AND mad pumping the low rider-nuss in that joint!

The magnificence that is pianist Vijay Iyer appears on one cut too. As does Yale Professor Michael Veal who wrote those great books on Fela and dub music.

Mike plays quite a mean bass and just ridiculous soprano saxophone on the album. He’ll kick your ass on guitar, traps, gamelan tanned bata drums if you let him as well. Some heads don’t know Vijay is an original Burnt Sugar. Going back to those first studio jam sessions we did on 26th Street at CountDown Studios in the summer of ‘99. Jared on bass, Bruce Mack on synth, Trevor Holder on drums and our original 3 guitar line-up with Rene Akan, Morgan Craft, Ronny Drayton and that badass mofo Kirk Douglas who left us and ran off with The Roots.

Has Garage Band officially joined Burnt Sugar? How much did Steve Jobs pay y’all for that?

Naught but a pittance and penny farthing. We’ve been struggling for three years to get the combination of GB loops and live sound mad-organic. Finally seems to have together on that track Vijay gets down on, “Bliques Haff Moor Funn”. Ditto “Throne of Blood 33 1/3 (Encrypted Vernacular)” which was just Garage Band, Mikel Banks on Freak-a-Phone and those torrid twin guitar tyros Rene Akan and Andre Lassalle. “Throne” is also a homage to many a 90’s night spent lost in the groove at these gone but not forgotten New York House Music clubs: Nells, The Shelter, Palladium, Limelight, Sound Factory. That’s when and where we came to realize the Beethovens, Brahms and (James) Brown of today are all the true DJs –all the ones who respect and twerk The Mix at that masterclass level.

One more thing. About the ghost track, ‘Start Thinking Like An African’’ –who’s that trying to sing on that joint in that crazy WTF pseudoAfrican Caribbean accent?

We don’t know what you talking about Willis.

ALL YA NEEDS THAT NEGROCITY. Release Date: November 5, 2011