Interview by Marc Kets
Born in Philadelphia, Randolph began his musical journey in Sao Paolo, Brasil at age six where his father, also a musician, was living and working as an engineer. He spent his teenage years in Detroit where his ability to play a wide-range of music from jazz to funk to folk and all points in between lead to Paul sitting in on sessions with artists as varied and esteemed as P-Funk, War, Brian Setzer and Buddy Guy. He has since gone on to lend his undeniably slick bass grooves and deep baritone tones to projects with Detroit luminaries such as Kenny Dixon Jr., 'Mad' Mike Banks, Recloose and Kevin Saunderson, while at the same time finding the time to produce one of the standout records of 2005, the superb 'This Is…What It Is' on Mahogani. His new record, 'Lonely Eden' is due out soon on Chicago's Still Music and is filled with stand-out tracks such as the sublime 'Believer' and the mesmerizing 'Earth 2 God'. It looks like 'Lonely Eden' will firmly cement Randolph as one of the great talents of our time.
You're from Detroit, as is my wife, what do you think it is about the city that has produced some of the sweetest soul music from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Moodymann?
Detroit’s music history is rich and varied. I would assume due to migration from southern states that Jazz, Blues, Funk, Gospel and Rock, specifically, benefited.
Detroit is a strange city in that even as empty as the streets may be during the day there is still an energy that lurks within it from the People Mover to Buddy's. What is your take on the current state of Detroit? Do you think things are improving or getting worse?
Outsiders have this impression of Detroit as some dark, depressed, empty, desolate Gotham-like city, which is far from the truth. Come visit and hang out with people who can show you the real Detroit. Yes, there have been some cosmetic changes, but the energies that influence art and music are as strong as ever.
You were inspired by the sadly departed Jaco Pastorius to play the bass. What was it about the man and his playing that inspired you to switch from the guitar? Are there any particular tracks by the man that particularly inspired you?
'Teen Town', his solo records, but mainly his performances. He gave me permission to experiment and find my own voice - there were no rules other than a dedication to the instrument.
You've worked with everyone from Recloose to Hugh Masakela to War. All of these collaborations must have been special, but have there been any particular collaborations that have stood out for you and have been particular highlights of your career?
They have all have enriched me in different ways.
How did you get involved with Mahogani and the enigmatic Kenny Dixon Jr.?
Kenny was this enigma I had never crossed paths with, but was aware of his work. He saw I was struggling and he offered his assistance.
Your previous album 'This is. . . What it is' got serious rotation from some of the world's greatest taste-makers, were you happy by the way how it was received? Also at only 6 tracks it is rare in that it is an album that has you wishing for more. Was it meant to be so short initially? What was the inspiration behind the album?
After collaborating with so many artists/producers it was time for me to stand on my own two feet. I had just started touring with Amp and knew that I needed something out there to introduce myself as more than just a sideman or session guy. As for the length of the CD I kept it short and specific because I knew I couldn’t express myself completely in one record as it would have ended up sounding like a compilation.
When someone listens to your records there is a definite Brasilian influence in there at times? How do you see the influence that the music and culture of Brasil has on your music? Well, my father is a huge Brasilian music head so I grew up listening to Jobim, Elise Regina and others. Undoubtedly, the most profound influence was living in Sao Paulo and experiencing the culture and music firsthand.
You've said that you'd love to work with the great Milton Nascimento, whose record 'Para Lennon e Mccartney' is easily one of my favourite records of all time, what is it about the man and his music that has drawn you to his work so much?
Great chords, melodies, unique progressions and arrangements peppered with honesty and emotion. He makes you feel as though the song was written just for you.
Your father was a blues performer. What sort of influence did he have on your career?
My dad was actually a Jazz trombonist. Nowadays he plays harmonica and mostly sits in at jam sessions - he is really quite good.
Tell us about Mudpuppy.
Mudpuppy was a 5 piece high octane New Orleans style Funk and Blues band I fronted. We released 3 CD’s, opened for some wonderful shows, and had a strong Detroit following. I have been thinking about remixing some of our originals.
Your new record, 'Lonely Eden', is about to drop on Still Music. What was the inspiration behind the title and the album itself?
Lonely Eden conceptually reflects a sub-total of my inner thoughts over the last 3 years and my wish to contribute music that can be both entertaining and thought provoking. It represents a visualization of how we as individuals spend a lifetime constructing and reconstructing our own ideal Eden within an ever-changing world, which often leads to the development of triggers that help bring us back to center. Musically, it combines and cross-pollinates many (not all) of my influences. It is ME in every sense of the word!
You've worked with the great 'Mad' Mike Banks on the album, what sort of influence has he had over your career? What does he bring to the project?
Mike is a very close personal friend. We grew up together and played in bands, etc. He was my introduction to Detroit Electronic Music and its innovators. As I was mixing tracks for Lonely Eden I would take them to his studio to A/B and he insisted on doing some remixes for me.
Who else have you collaborated with on the album?
Waajeed is really the only collaboration. Amp plays on Claim and Dez Andres remixed Soul Brutha.
Jazzanova remixed 'Believer' to tremendous results. What did you think of their reworking? It is one of those records that seems to generate moments when you're out on a dancefloor.
I was honored - they did a great job. I am also going to be appearing on the two tracks for the upcoming Jazzanova CD.
Paul Randolph will release collaborations with Jazzanova, Wahoo, Upperground Orchestra and Waajeed later this year. www.paulrandolph.info
Marc Kets, Sep 2007
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