Jason Miles has been around for a long time, programming synths for and jamming with the likes of Miles Davis and Luther Vandross, let alone producing other side projects over the years. DJ Logic has been around, too, working with ?uestlove, Vernon Reid, Marcus Miller and many more. The two have been through a lot together, traveling the world from Japan to Marrakech before finally releasing the first Global Noize album in 2008, later joined permanently by Indian vocalist Falu on their latest, A Prayer For The Planet (Lightyear/EMI). Global Noize will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. We recently caught up with Logic and Miles.
“Viva La Femme” (download):
MAGNET: Where did you grow up, and how has that affected your music?
Logic: I grew up in New York City, in the Bronx, and basically, it’s a made up of multicultural ethnicities, and I grew up around another culture, and I was always influenced, always curious about all types of culture. I always had friends from all ethnicities, you know Caribbean and Latin, you name it. I was just an open-minded individual, and I loved music from all genres, and to this day I’m still collecting records from all genres, and all other places on tour. I grew up in the Bronx, so hip hop was one of my first loves, and my mom was playing jazz and soul, stuff like that. That’s what got me into DJing, collecting records, stuff like that.
Miles: I grew up in Brooklyn. It’s affected my playing where I got to go and see and study with amazing musicians, and see amazing people perform that influenced my way of thinking in music, that got me kind of my start. It’s not something I’ve held onto my whole life, because you’re too young to realize what’s going on in a lot of ways, but you were given a huge palate of music, and the music that you really, really loved and got into was the music that stuck with you, and that’s been a big influence.
Not Williamsburg, right?
Miles: No, not Williamsburg. Lemme tell you something. How old are you?
Miles: You’re 20 years old. Hooooly shit. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, there would be no way my parents would ever let me go to Williamsburg. You know that big huge building, the tallest building in Brooklyn—which used to be the tallest building in Brooklyn—the Williamsburg Bank over there, you know? You couldn’t go to that. The neighborhood around there was just very difficult, it was very racially divided, and New York was not the same place it is now. Brooklyn the way it is now is not Brooklyn when I was growing up.
You mentioned seeing and playing with some great musicians. Who did you get to see?
Miles: Well, there were different musicians. I used to go into the city; I used to go to the Fillmore East,. I used to see all the best rock bands. I used to go to the clubs in New York. I saw Miles Davis and Theolonius Monk, John Coltrane. I studied with this great piano teacher, Rector Bailey, and a couple of other people, then came back and studied classical music in New York with this other woman, Lucy Green. The talent and the knowledge was here for you to get. It’s why I’m still here, because I had an open mind, and that’s half of it in life: to have an open mind.
So, both personally and musically, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Logic: From the things around me? I draw inspiration from things all around me. I just take a walk outside, get a vibe from things all around me, just waking up. Going to sleep. That’s how I get inspiration. Things that happen around me, I fall asleep and wake up.
So you just take things in, then just put them back out.
Logic: Yeah, it’s just like, “Oh that’d be a good idea.” See how that’d sound. Or I might be playing some records and something accidentally catches my ear, or something on another turntable and play something on another turntable and it’ll morph and I’ll think that’s a good sound, you know?
What is it like working with the rotating band you have? Does it ever make producing more difficult, or are you always on the same wavelength?
Logic: To me, it’s fun, because I love making music. I love creating music. I always love coming into the first idea. I always love receiving the first idea and getting together with different musicians because they all have a different approach to playing or sound, and I’m always curious to what the next person who I’m going to work with and being able to switch it up and it’s kind of cool. And you know, working on stuff that’s cool, fresh new music.
And you get a lot of collaborators from these various locales, right?
Logic: Yeah, we’re fortunate to work with so many wonderful artists, and we just try to make music. Sometimes working with a collaborator, you don’t know what’s going to turn out, but it’s always something beautiful. There’s just something about music, you just vibe off each other in a certain way, and everyone listens to each other and brings something to table, like passing the ball around, you know?
Do you think modern music is slowly trending toward experimental sounds?
Miles: No. I think the sounds are there already, the music isn’t. In the ’80s, when you listen to synth pop, and you listen to stuff like Falco, Human League and all of this cool stuff, what you had was very, very professional musicians that understood the craft of songwriting, that didn’t have Pro Tools, that had limited access to the instruments and to really work to create something for themselves with it. Now you had the ability to create all the sounds you want to, loops, Auto-Tunes, all this shit, but do you have the ability to write a great song? That’s what Global Noize is about; it’s about bringing all of this stuff together in a global environment and still around very strong material, where you can take advantage of how good the artists and the musicians are. People have to understand how to write songs. The art of songwriting is gone right now. There used to be songs with incredible hooks and everything, and now we don’t get that.
Logic: I think it’s like a 360; it’s moving in a direction that just sort of moves gradually, stuff from the ’80s and ’90s, or stuff from the ’70s. It’s just eclectic. If I’m on the plane or something like that, I’m just like, “Wow, look at that, what’s this?” There’s always questions. [Laughs] I would just say 360, things just pop up. It’s like putting your iTunes on shuffle.
So are we going to see resurgence in Sinatra-style lounge music?
Logic: I don’t know about that, but you never know. That’s the thing. You got Michael Buble, and you have uh, Susan Boyle. Music is out there; it’s so open that you don’t know where the genre is going to go. Hip hop as well—everything just kind of goes around. It’s interesting; it’s like a shuffle. I like to listen to albums from beginning to end, without skipping, you know. If I see something on iTunes, I don’t like to judge based on like, ratings of four stars, and I just want to see people downloading the whole record.
How do you feel then about Spotify, let alone the move toward playlists in general—people deconstructing albums?
Logic: That’s cool, I like Spotify, think it’s great. And people constructing their own playlists, I think that’s cool, too. We’re DJs ourselves. Some of the stuff on SoundCloud, it’s amazing. I think all of that stuff is OK.
What does Prayer For The Planet mean to you as a whole?
Logic: Just kind of what’s been going on, happening to our planet and how much we’ve been hurting our planet. So the balance is a little low, and you know, it’s just being aware and opening our eyes to see what’s going on. We were the ones that recently put this planet together, and we could be the ones to get rid of the whole planet. We’re just opening our eyes and seeing what’s going on around us, taking care of the planet cause the planet has been taking care of us. Acknowledge the planet in a different way, and I think a logical way, too. Pray for the best.
Miles: We had gotten done in New Orleans, we played a jazz fest and went back to New York, and we got with a photographer to take these pictures with us, and Falu told us she was pregnant. And so that was the end of Global Noize for six months or something like that, but I had been in Japan. Before I went to Japan, this guy was supposed to come from CNN to see us in New Orleans, and he never showed up, because I thought maybe he was pissed off at me. But right before I left for Japan, I got an email from him saying that he was down in Gulf of Mexico covering the BP oil spill, and that’s why he couldn’t cover us. When I went to Japan, I was in my hotel room and started seeing the view of the BP spill over here, from the international, and it was appalling to me. And I heard about shit going on in New Zealand, and this earthquake here and that there, and I was in my hotel room and just said, “Holy shit, man. This freaking planet, man. We need a fucking prayer for the planet.” My wife always said when you think of something good, write it down, and I thought of it: a prayer for the planet. That fits in really good with what Global Noize does, so I called up Logic and Falu and told them, and we decided to move ahead and try to make this album and everything.
So do you believe in the Mayan end of the world then?
Miles: That’s a good question. I just saw this movie yesterday, cause on Christmas day you can’t see a super-heavy movie, so we went and saw a “fuck you” movie yesterday, it was Mission Impossible, which is a “fuck you” movie, it’s like, you know what man? Just take me away for a couple of hours. Take me, you got me. And it did, and it worked. But the premise of someone stealing a nuclear bomb is very interesting to me, because I think that it’s a thing; it could happen at any moment. We’ve had earthquakes now, tremendous repositioning of the earth and what’s happening inside the earth and the planet and the environment, and in reality is that a possibility? Yeah it’s a possibility. Do I believe in it? No, I don’t believe in it. I believe that, maybe not around this time, but who knows when anything can happen? Look what happened here in the northeast. We had a freakin’ hurricane, earthquake, snowstorm, all of this time it’s ridiculous. The tsunami in Japan, and all of this other shit, what are we doing? What are we doing, what is going on, we’re not paying attention to anything, because I’m sorry, one of the parties in this country is hell-bent on destruction, and just making it so businesses and corporations matter. That’s how I feel about the vibe. Anything is a possibility, and it certainly is something to look at, but do we want to live like this? What happened at the millennium? All the computers were supposed to shutdown, and the closer that came I realized this doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is your flow through life. That’s what matters, because we’re all flowing through a different time together, time isn’t the same for everybody, but it is a constant and it does move.
You’ve traveled a lot. Where is the most interesting place?
Miles: I would have to say Morocco. I love Italy, Japan is amazing, Brazil is freakin’ incredible. I haven’t traveled as much as Logic, but I love many different places. I love Northern California, but Morocco, Marrakesh, made me understand a lot of things about a culture that people don’t want to understand. Not everyone wants to be like the United States of America, and I love the U.S. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just the country I live in, but you can’t go to other countries and try to make them like us. But you go there, and the whole thing is that there is a lot of stuff they love about us. They want sneakers, jeans—I turned on TV and there was an Arabian Idol, with the contestants, and the panel, some guy with a Simon Cowell beat, and it was funny. I said, “This is what they want from us: They don’t want us to tell them how to run their government or how to do this or that.” We hope that where people live, or at least Global Noize does, we hope that they are able to go and live the life that they are supposed to live within their culture. All we’re trying to do is spread the word that we are a global society now, and if we weren’t, why would the European stock market be affecting our country so much right now? Because of the debt, we are all tied together; that’s what it’s about. We are in a global community right now, and if you don’t embrace that you’re going to be on the back end of it.
Logic: I would say the most interesting places I’ve been to so far would be Morocco, Marrakesh, China, India, Mumbai, Japan, Turkey, Istanbul.
What led to you teaming up?
Miles: Logic did some stuff for me eight years ago on an album called Miles To Miles: In The Spirit Of Miles Davis, and we kept in touch, worked on a Marvin Gaye project of mine. I brought him in on that, and we did some gigs together on some stuff, got on the West Coast with this other project. And one night Logic called me to do this gig with him at the Blue Note in New York on a really fucked up day for me. My aunt died, I had a root canal, another friend of mine was really sick, and I had a really bad business proposition. So I went in, and we started playing at one in the morning, and it was really cool, really kind of Milesy, Bitches Brew vibe, different you know? And I walked off stage and my wife said, “You guys have to do something together with this,” and so one day I was in the car, talking to a friend of mine about “This thing I did with Logic, at the Blue Note, man, it was really interesting, it went to a lot of different places. It almost had a global feel to it, but it was another thing, almost like global noise.” And Cathy goes, “Well there’s the name of your band.” And I go, “What?” “Global Noize!” And I go, “Oh, I said that?” And that was it. Then we just decided, and because I had done a live album with all these major artists on it called Soul Summit: Live At The Berks Jazz Festival, I told this label that if they wanted this album, what they had to do also was give me a deal for this Global Noize project, and without even a note being put down they gave me a deal for our first album. That’s what the story is. Now it’s been four years, and it’s been a struggle, but now we’re set up, we have the plan in place, and we have the people there, and for the next seven or 10 years, whatever, I’m ready to go and do this thing, because the business has changed. Just producing a few little projects here and there with different artists is not the same that it was. No one wants to pay you either.
Logic: I’m a big fan of world music, so you know, just by travels and touring around the world to see people accept music even if you don’t speak their language, the music kind of communicates in a social way, in a political way, and you get to the smiles on people’s faces. You give them some type of soundtrack to their life, and you get to know what’s going on in their life. So it was just a bunch of different combinations, me traveling around the world, and what was going on in the world today, you know global warming, and all these different events happening. And, you know, I just kind of got together with Jason; we just talked about it, and it all seemed like it was kind of noise, coming from everywhere. And we just kind of talked about trying to give an example, musically, of what was going on around the world.