Interview with Doug Wimbish, Living Colour
He’s a Grammy Award winner. He’s a legendary bass player. He’s played in multi-genre bands like Living Colour and Tack>>Head. He’s the heartbeat behind memorable songs like “White Lines” by Grand Master Flash and Melle Mel (you know you just heard it in your head!) and “New York, New York” by Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five. And he’s played with some of the most famous musicians in the world: Madonna, The Stones, George Clinton, and Jeff Beck…and the list goes on. But what I found fascinating (if that wasn’t enough) about Doug Wimbish as I sat down with him for a long discussion (Manager and partner, Diane Nilsson, laughed when I said my interviews were “15-20 minutes”), is his big heart and desire and drive to see others succeed as well. Yes, we talked shop: new music, tours, etc., but the main focus of our discussion centered on CT’s local music scene, his WimBash events, and his affiliation with various School of Rock groups.
Doug has settled into residence here in Hartford, where his studio, Nova Sound Studios, is located after living pretty much all over the world. His studio is where the new Living Colour record is being created. The other members of Living Colour are often mainstays at the studio now that they are working on a new project. When I asked how it came to be that they were making a new record, Doug said, “More or less, we found each other again at The Apollo Theater at a Robert Johnson 100th birthday celebration where we performed “Preachin Blues”. It was really, really spiritual. A very deep performance. One of our most haunting of all time. In a good way. Thank God it was at The Apollo. We got a standing ovation and something just spiritually connected at that place at that moment. It was a reassurance of why we were together and what we still have in the tank to be able to make more records. It was like being hit by lightning, but you’re in a car and grounded, with your mates. Your hair stands up. We kind of looked at each other and said ‘Your hair’s sticking out from that gig, isn’t it?’ Once that took place, we were like ‘Shit. OK. Here we go. Let’s look at this as a blessing’. So, we’re making another record.” The band currently expects to have the new record released by spring 2013 and will follow that up with a tour. In addition to the new record, you can also look forward to a 25th anniversary re-release of the band’s ground-breaking debut album, “Vivid”.
In addition to his activities with Living Colour, I also asked him about any potential new music from Tack>>Head (prompted by fan, Derek). As it happened, “Funny enough, we have a new record together” said Wimbish. “The record is done. The thing is, we did a record of covers. It’s a wicked, wicked record. What we’re dealing with now is trying to get record clearance.” (They are still working on acquiring rights to record all of the songs). “We did ‘For The Love of Money’ by The O’Jays, ‘Fire’ by The Ohio Players, ‘War’ by Bob Marley, and ‘Black Cinderella’ another obscure reggae track..It’s killer.” And, indeed it is. Lucky for me, I have listened to the CD. Hopefully, they’ll get it out there to the masses soon.
When I sat down, Doug immediately wanted to know my story. Where was I writing from and what do we do? As I gave him my Local Band Review spiel, I included my thought that the local Connecticut music scene had just exploded over the last 2 years or so. To which, he leaned forward in his chair and asked, “Why do you think that is”? (Um. Crap. Way to put the interviewer on the spot!) This lead to a lively discussion about CT music and bands and venues. Seriously, this man wants to know what’s going on in his home state. He’s got some opinions about the business in general, outspoken as he truly is, but took mental note of what was going on in his hometown because, well, he really does care. As an example, he keeps his WimBash show at local watering hole, Sully’s Pub. When I asked him why, when he could easily hold it at a bigger, more high-profile venue, he said, “It’s really about the symbolic side of what Sully’s represents. It’s that old, not even old, it’s that neighborhood establishment that’s been there for generations. And I lived right down the street from Sully’s. Sully’s represents America real time.”
And that really brings us right to the true focal point of my interview with him…WimBash and his many other efforts to expand the musical horizons of young people who may not have the advantages of robust arts programs in their schools, cities, or even in their countries. He started it about nine years ago as a homecoming for a friend. In the subsequent years that have followed, he’s continued to make it an annual event in CT but he’s also expanded it to other cities and countries. In 2010, they were contacted by a group called The DREAM (Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring) Program. They traveled to the DR and took a look at what they were doing and wanted to be part of their efforts to educate the island’s children. For the past 2 years, they have held DREAMin’Live WimBash Cabarete in order to raise money and awareness. Lauryn Hill performed in the show in 2012. He’s also held WimBash shows in Anaheim, Miami Beach, and Los Angeles.
Additionally, they have been working with various School of Rock (Fort Washington, PA children will be participating in Hartford WimBash) organizations in an effort to develop a musical exchange program with The Dominican Republic. “There’s damn near as many School of Rocks as Starbucks! We befriended the Fort Washington chapter and have plans to work with others. I want to show these kids how this stuff can be done. Old school.”
Although it’s evolved into a fundraiser (the funds are distributed as needed on a case by case basis), WinBash CT really remains a vehicle to get family and friends together in one place annually and play music. “We’re nine years into it now so it’s not something that’s just came and left. And it keeps getting better. And the purity and honesty of it has stayed. It hasn’t been pimped and played out. And the thing is, you have to experience it. And once you experience it, it’s like being at an old family reunion. ”
This year’s line-up will include Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun (as well as Wimbish), Vinx, Keith LeBlanc, Persia Sound, Evan Wimbish and many more. He even told me I could start the rumor that Lauryn Hill herself would be in attendance as a “special guest” (she has been here before). So, rumor started. As well, there will be music workshops throughout the day for those interested.
As we wrapped up our conversation, he graciously asked if there were any bands in the area that I thought he should listen to and perhaps add to a lineup at WimBash. Did he ask the right person! He also expressed interest in more information about Indie Nights at The Charter Oak Cultural Center, another topic of discussion, so he could attend one. And with anyone else, I might have thought it was a simple nicety. But, Doug Wimbish is the real deal.
WimBash 2012 will be held on Saturday, August 18 at Sully’s Pub in Hartford. A $10 dollar suggested donation at the door. Show starts at 2:00 pm.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W9Kl1lYWWM – Apollo Theater performance of “Preachin’ Blues”
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.424829040871520.90205.407905989230492&type=3 Facebook DREAMin Live photo gallery