Timeless Funk Band Plans to “Let It Whip” at Anthology

Friday, December 2, 2011 13:04

An Interview With The Dazz Band

by: Casey Pukl

I don’t think words can adequately express the level of excitement I feel about today’s blog. I think I’ll just have to open with this video to set the mood.

In a word, the Dazz Band is awesome. Yup, I said it. They’ve been groovin’ since the late 1970’s, and landed their biggest hits with Motown in the mid 1980’s. Throughout the years, the band has continued to record and extensively tour, bringing their danceable jazz around the world. This month, the band is bringing their show to Anthology, and we couldn’t be more excited. I got the chance to speak with these fantastic guys yesterday morning about what they’ve been up to, who they’re listening to these days, and if there’s a new record in the works!

Since there are a lot of characters in this interview, here’s the run down of who we’ve got! As always, I’m CP, but you knew that.

BH: Bobby Harris (Sax, Clarinet, Background Vocals)
SM: Skip Martin (Trumpet, Vocals)
MM: Marlon McClain (Vocals, Guitar)

CP: Tell me a little bit about what you guys have been up to this year?

BH: We’ve had a really great year. We’ve been traveling and touring a lot of Dazz Band dates. We’ve been touring in the Legends of Funk show with a lot of great acts. We’ve been playing with The Bar-kays, Con Funk Shun, Slave, P-Funk, lots of acts on that tour. And then we spent some time in Kuwait and Iraq playing for the troops.

CP: Sounds like a busy year!

BH: Yeah, but it’s been great. Great tours with some really great acts.

CP: Is there any talk of recording a new record anytime soon?

MM: You know, it’s so funny that you just said that. We were literally JUST talking about that before you called in.

CP: Oh yeah?

MM: Yes.

CP: And will there be another Dazz Band record on the horizon?

MM: Oh yes. We’re talking about it in the near future.

CP: That’s excellent! Tell me about your writing process for records. Do you all collaborate to write, or do you bring in outside writers?

SM: Now it’s all in the band. It’s really changed over the years. You know, over the time you grow up and you learn a lot more as you go. We know a lot more than we knew then.

CP: Do you feel like technology has changed the way you guys write and do business?

MM: Oh definitely. I think in a lot of ways it’s made things much easier. It’s really easy to use the technology to your advantage now as an artist. Now we don’t have to go into some huge studio, there’s the luxury of having a great home studio, or friends with a great home studio. We can do things independently now, which is great for artists.

CP: Are you guys releasing material independently now?

MM: Yes, we’ve been doing that for a while now actually. We released our album Time Traveler on our own label, Major Hits Records, as well as Charlie Wilson’s album. The shift has really made the playing field easier.

SM: The path to independent music has really made the market more advantageous to the artist. We have a lot more control over what happens, and you’re not giving all of your money up.

MM: To expand on that, music is really going back to the genre of our era. Rap has been steadily expanding, now the bigger bands with horns are coming back. It’s enabled us to keep on working. The direction really reminds me of the 70’s. You know, we’re seeing a lot more retro music and the retro cars and all of that. It’s going back to what we came from.

CP: It’s true- there’s such return to that era now in pop culture. I mean, I’ve known “Let It Whip” for a long time just from my parents and oldies radio, but it does have that staying quality. It’s still such a fun song so many years later, and the show is still something younger people will want to see.

SM: Absolutely. I think it appeals to the older folks because they remember it from growing up. It’s the music they know the words to, and it’s also something that’s easy to learn. It’s important for our show that people participate, and our music is easy to sing and dance to. 

BH: We used to play these huge shows with anywhere from 10,000 to 18,000 people per night at Disney for the grad nights, and people remember us from those shows. There would be 20 different high schools all there for these weekend shows. It was huge. 

CP: How different is it going from playing huge venues and outdoor shows for thousands of people to playing clubs for a few hundred? Do you have a preference of which you enjoy more?

BH: For me, I really love the intimacy of a small venue. You can really just feel the energy of a small room. You look out and you can actually see the crowd instead of playing to the first 20 rows of an arena. All of us started off in small clubs. I started in Cleveland and played every small club from the East side to the West side. That’s how I cut my teeth. It’s just more up close and personal.

SM: I also really like the smaller audience. I love larger venues too, but it’s just different. We’d play “Let It Whip” in a large venue, and when it ends, for a second there’s crickets. It’s silent, and then all of a sudden there’s this huge roar! (Laughs), it’s cool, but in the small clubs you see people dancing the whole time on the tables dancing in front of your face and crazy things, and there’s singing. You can hear the people singing and clapping, you can touch them, smell ‘em. It’s just different, the connection.

MM: I’m really excited, well, all of us are, about Anthology. We’ve heard such incredible things about it from other people who have been there and played there, that I think it’s going to be great place for us. I also really like small venues because you can really get down and dirty (laughs). I think sometimes the small room really inspires musicians more because you can see everyone. You let the music out more. The huge venues have an energy, it’s just different. It doesn’t feel the same.

CP: Tell me, who have you guys been listening to lately? 

BH: Oh wow. There’s a lot that I listen to, just not religiously. If I catch it, I like it. I love Incognito, they’ve got a really cool vibe. And then there’s that female singer- oh man, what is her name? She is bad! She covers “What Is Hip”, and the band is kickin’. Her arrangements are really unique. I can’t think of her name, but she’s definitely someone I like when I catch her.

SM: Having a great concept and a great unique sound leads to legacy. I think there’s a few things out there that really fit that. Mint Condition is one group that I love. They’re still making new debuts. I like their vibe, and Stokley Williams has a unique voice. I also absolutely love Esperanza Spaulding. She’s such a great package. She’s a great player, singer, the whole thing. I really appreciate artists who can just be themselves. You know? I have to give big kudos to Taylor Swift. She’s unique. She is who she is, and she’s made a career of just being who she is. I like the way she’s delivering it. And there’s always Cee-Lo. That man has a voice. When he sings, people listen.

MM: I have to give props to Adele. That girl is incredible, and I wish her well and hope she sings again soon. Her record is, from start to finish, just incredible. The writing, the playing. Everything.

CP: Well, thank you all so much for your time! I’m really looking forward to the show!

MM: Thanks, Casey! We’re excited to come play!

You do not want to miss out on this show! There will be some seriously funky grooves, kickin’ dance moves, and maybe if we’re lucky, some of those rad sunglasses. Special thanks to Marlon McClain, Skip Martin, and Bobby Harris for taking the time out to chat with me! Be sure to listen to my Spotify playlist of Dazz Band favorites! It’s sure to make your Friday the best one yet!

The Dazz Band

WHAT: The Dazz Band
WHEN: Friday, December 30, 2011, 7:30 & 9:30pm
TICKETS: $10-$49 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile