Thanks to albums from Cap D, Primeridian, The Pacifics and Iomos Marad, the All Natural label has built a solid reputation around its ability to produce uncompromising Chicago hip-hop. So when news broke that it was going to release a funk/disco fusion album, many idealists were left scratching their heads, wondering if this was the beginning of the end. But label co-founder Tone B. Nimble has always had a fondness for the city's house scene.
Early on, Tone's eclectic tastes in music opened doors for various collaborations including one with longtime friend and founder of the Black Stone Theatre Collective, Andy C. The BSTC is one of the most formidable groups to emerge from the underground dance scene, and with All Natural's stamp of approval, it's no wonder that the collective is in such high demand. Centerstage had the opportunity to catch up with Andy C. and talk about everything from the band's early beginnings to house chores.
Who makes up BSTC and what are your respective talents?
The main people behind the music are myself [Andy C.] and Tunji. The touring band consists of: Tunji-guitar, Myron Cherry-drums, Will Bagget-bass, Sticko-bass, Chris Paquette-percussion, Fred Jackson-sax, Shaun Johnson-trumpet, myself-keyboards and the lead vocalists are Keanna Johnson aka KeeKee Rose, JL, Yaw and Jamice, with Dejuan on background vocals.
Other contributing members to the studio project were James "cuz" Thomas-drums (Soul People), Shawn Wallace-keyboards [Soul People], CJ Tucker-drums, Frayne Lewis-bass (Urban Knights), Marshall Knight-bass, Zzaje-various, Low Down Brass Band-horns, Steve "Funkworm" Butler-guitar, Kenny Keys-keyboards, Corey Wilkes-trumpet, and guest vocalists Russoul and Maggie Brown, and last but not least, my father Wallace "Corkey" Arvinger, my personal music historian!
Wow. Now your name is derived from the Blackstone Theatre. How did that scene help inspire you? ,br> The unity of the scene around that time inspired me to create the collective. During the '50s and '60s Chicago was the center of the music world, and when the who's who of the world-music scene were in town, they would all hook up and jam at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase that was in the front of the Hotel and Theatre building. The beauty and spontaneity of great musicians jamming together, locking on a groove, there is nothing like that type of experience. BSTC was created to bring that experience back to the forefront, because it is badly needed.
So when BSTC sits down to lay out a song, what goes into that creative process?
Well, most of the time I will start with an idea for a song, and then I will flesh out the basic parts. Then I will go into the studio with Tunji, and we will add additional instrumentation, and/or vocals if needed. From there the song will go through many stages of completion till it feels right. In fact "Fly Away," a song off the Music for a Saturday Evening album, was built around a vocal melody Keanna sang on my voice mail. I recorded it into Pro Tools and we fleshed the song out around her melody.
Does anyone in particular emerge as a leader or is it more organic?
I would be the leader of the band, but in a live situation, it is definitely organic; everyone feeds off of each other and the energy from the room.
How did you link up with the All Natural label?
Well Tone B. Nimble and myself grew up together. So basically this is an extension of us working on music from our high school and college days. We had just finished the first two records of the project [Jazz In Outerspace], and I asked Tone to take a listen and tell me what he thought. He loved it, and called me back right away and we started to put it together from there. So far so good!
Tell me about Music for a Saturday Evening and what went into that album.
A whole lot of hard work! The album is four years in the making and basically a window into the many modes and moods of Chicago music. In putting this record together I wanted to make a record that reminded me of some of the best Saturdays of my life, as well as highlighting what I think are some of the best talents in the city of Chicago and beyond. Growing up listening to incredible music while doing my chores, that seemed to make time pass so fast, it almost felt like I wasn't working at all, and at the same time it inspired me to finish so I could enjoy Saturday evenings. With this record I wanted to bring back that feeling, so younger generations would have an opportunity to experience what inspired me to take this journey!
Any favorite venues in Chicago to perform at?
We haven't performed at too many venues in Chicago, but I would have to say out of the venues we have performed at I personally liked the darkroom. Just big enough to feel like a rock star and small enough for the reality of bad attendance to sink in-not to deter you though-and a great sound system, and as a performer that's the best of both worlds! Secondly the Double Door, its stage space is wonderful when you have seven musicians, and four singers.
What about Chicago inspires you?
The weather actually, you only really get three or four months of really pleasant weather here. For me that alone reminds me to focus and stay grinding, because unfortunately nothing stays the same, so you must always be as prepared as you can. If you have lived in Chicago for any amount of time you know what I mean.
Upcoming projects for 2009?
Summer 2009: The BSTC Experience EP. This project is for all of our house and disco fans who helped introduce the BSTC on a global scale-shouts out to Leonard Part 6 for putting the house scene up on Jazz In Outerspace, and to Vic Lavender for the ill remix. It's seven dance-floor joints inspired by the '80s and '90s Chicago club scene at venues like Warehouse, Music Box, Power Plant, Powerhouse and Bismark Pavilion; it's basically a thank you to all of our fans that wanted to hear us go there. We are also working on a summer and fall tour, check our MySpace, or our blog for upcoming show dates and more info on the tour.
Check out BSTC on Friday, March 27 at the Double Door.