Living Colour’s Doug Wimbish: The 13th Floor Interview Pt.2

Last week we brought you the first part of our interview with Doug Wimbish, the groundbreaking bass player for Living Colour. (Click here to check out part 1)

Now, here is the remainder of that conversation that The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda had with Mr Wimbish. As we pick it up, Doug is is the process of explaining how their soon-to-be-released new album, Shade, was put together.

Click here to listen to part two of the 13th Floor interview with Doug Wimbish:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:

DW: We realised that the more opportunities we have, and we get ourselves structured, we have place to work out of, and we have good focus that will give us some honest evaluation, then we’ll be alright; it’s just whether we can take the advice that some people are giving us, because it’s easy to fall back into our comfort zone.

So, the band came here. I have a studio out in Connecticut. Then we started working out of Dre’s studio in Hackensack, New Jersey, and we kind of tethered between a little bit of both of them, at some particular point where there’s Will coming up here, working with me or Corey, or me and Corey are trying together, trying to come up with some content, and stuff; this went on for a while.

And then we settled into Dre’s studio, Universal Music Production Centre in Hackensack, and then, after… kind of like false starts – somebody goes on tour, you start in January, then you’re back at it in June; somebody else goes out, next thing you know, it’s September – after a couple of years of that – you know what I mean? – and like, “Okay, we’re going to do the record ourselves, well, that’s what we did. But then, each time, as a year goes on, you’re like, “Hmm, we don’t have it right. Now we got to keep doing this.”

All bands do the bottom, some bands are more fluid, but with us, we kind of had to start and stop. But then we started to get on a roll, and then when the roll started to come, I’m like, “Let’s stay on the roll.” So, now we create the record – after four years of trying to do it, of trying to make this, and starting and stopping – now we have the content, and we have a conversation, and we have everybody’s input – we have everybody’s had an opportunity to voice your opinions; sometimes those opinions come out in somebody coming back with a new song, or a new idea, or something – so, we just managed to get this record done, that was sparked from Robert Johnson, and it ended up being a combination of all things Living Colour, with… some things that have a nice blues kind of vibe to it.

But we’re not trying to move to Memphis, and kit out a grave yard, and we’d put a microphone next to some real blues cat, and hopefully, the spirit will hit us; no! It’s like our vibe is like ‘things happen naturally’; either the record’s right – it sounds right to everybody – or it’s not. So, it’s up to us to say when it’s right and when it’s not right; and that’s the process of what it took.

It was a very long process, but when I look at the time that we actually had to make the record; it wasn’t a vast amount of time. A lot of the time, it was broken up – scheduling and stuff like that…. But at the end of the day, when we look at the detail of time, it didn’t really take – by the time we got everything in place – it didn’t take us a long time – it was just the starting and stopping – but we got a product, that I’m very proud of. And I think it’s something that is, in my opinion, very Living Colour, but also has an invitation for new ears as well; so, hopefully, our fans will still be, hopefully, engaged in what’s going on. We definitely kept the blues frequency, and we were able to move the dial a little bit.

Sorry about the long story, but it took a long time. It took years to make it; and so, you can understand the inspiration, the reality – we’re human beings – the life – you know? Life get’s in the way; cat’s got kids now – but there’s no excuse: at the end of the day, if you’re going to make a record, you roll your sleeves up, and you don’t expect to get it banged out the door on some urgency stuff. We’re not looking to come out with a frigging full on, five hundred dancers and midgets, and stuff like that – lights and mirrors and smoke, and all that stuff – we’re going to hit you, you know?

And I’m not saying that you may not see that – that’s not going to be coming in the future anytime soon, hopefully, but if it does, fair enough – but the reality of it is, it’s organic – Living Colour still is organic – and raw as ever, and we’ve managed to get to this point in life where we’re like, “You know? We’ve still got something to say,” and when we play the record for people, people are like, “Damn! That’s you guys? I ain’t think ya’ll were going to sound like that comin’ out!” That’s what I want.

And that’s coming from young kids – because we played it for young kids – and elders. And we took our time, and we played stuff for folks, and did like a chef: you play something for somebody when you have twenty songs, “What do you think?” And filmed it. And guys like, “Aw, this song sucks! I don’t like this song.” We brought random people that don’t know Living Colour; brought them in the room in a blind fold test, and did “let’s do things differently, so we can see where things are at.” So, we got some people like, “Okay, I like this song, but I wish ya’ll didn’t have that song in there,” but then there’s the folks who are like, “I’m thankful you got that song on there. Maybe I may not be feeling that song, but I’ll give it a listen.”

This is… the most interesting album I’ve ever done with Living Colour, because of the time frame, and everything that we’ve done has always been great. Some people like some stuff more than others…. I think this is kind of closer to some of the stuff that the band did in its earlier days, and also has a graduate school – somebody just gone for their double masters – kind of vibe going on; kind of got all of that dialled in with a history lesson as well, and it still sounds as fresh.

The gigs live are better than ever. So, we’re strengthening up the records, we’re trying to roll stuff out right now. I hope you like it, hope that you’ll be getting sooner rather than later, and I like the honest opinion of what’s going on; it doesn’t  faze me one bit. I like hearing. Tell me what you don’t like, I get it. Is there anything you do like? Now we’re having a conversation; that’s it.

MD: I can’t wait to hear it now! The one thing that – I had a chance to speak to Vernon Reid yesterday – and talking to him, there was quite a bit of political discussion involved – and you’ve done a great job of explaining, especially musically, what to kind of expect from the record. How much of the political seeps into that and how does that affect – I assume you have four very strong personalities… – are you all on the same page, as far as that goes, and what is the lyrical content like?

DW: At any particular time, we could have a conversation – there’s things we agree on, there’s things we don’t agree on – our whole vibe is “how do you still keep things moving and not get stuck in pause”; and we’re – like any other band – we’re a genius band at getting stuck in pause on things: you’ll have a conversation, nobody can agree, then everybody goes into their four corners and hopes the problem’s going to go away. It doesn’t go away, it’s got dust on it, you got to get back into it right now and take some bloody, doggone coconut oil to keep your joints moving, or whatever; it’s not going to go away.

So, politically… there’s internal politics that goes on with all bands, and then there’s the nature of the world that we’re living in, that’s changed since the last record we put out; it’s a completely different kind of, with all the things that have gone on. I think, honestly, as far as what’s going on with some of the governments, where some of the things have transitioned: I think Living Colour couldn’t have come out at a better time right now.

We don’t hold back, man. We’re not the kind of band that’s like, “Oh, you know, if we put this song out, it’s going to mess up our blah, blah!” No, man! You know what I mean? We’ve always been a band that has been daring, and said certain things, and maybe people’s faces have got bunched up, whether they’re black, white, blue, green, or Puerto Rican, or whatever; but we’re a band with a voice, and we’re not trying to wave a flag, or anything, we’re just audibly having a conversation about the world that we live in from New York City, man; and every city has its own frequency of what’s going on….

Anyway, I’ll wrap it up. Record sounds good, we’re looking to roll it out. Living Colour will be coming. We’ll be playing some of the new music down there when we come to New Zealand. We’ll also be playing some of the classics, and I think we got a nice, fresh look, and a nice, fresh vibe. We’re really looking forward to cracking that cork open, because I believe Living Colour’s like a fine bottle of New Zealand red wine right about now… we’ll come and crack that cork, and let’s let us all celebrate.

Living Colour will perform at Auckland’s Powerstation on Thursday, May 11th. Click here for more information and tickets.