Tan Sleeve

Songwriting is a mysterious and wondrous skill. The gift of intelligent yet soulful songwriting is possessed by few. These few gifted songwriters usually do not get their deserved credit. Lane Steinberg and Steve Barry are a magnificent songwriting team. Members of the 80'€™s band The Wind, both earned a cult following due to their powerful songwriting. The Wind's albums (which are now hard to find) remain powerful over a somewhat dated sound. The power remained because of the intelligent songwriting.

Originally from Florida, the group moved to New York City but eventually disbanded. As time marched on, the two Jewish men settled down, got married, had kids, worked hard, and were almost forgotten. In the late 90'€™s, The Bus Stop Label released 2 EPs that reminded the music world of insightful lyrics and addictive melodies. Wall Of Orchids was Lane'€™s small but potent solo project. '€œFall Love'€ by Tan Sleeve was a magnificent 4 song EP overflowing with romance. Their influences shined through their music. Without stealing, they gave a nod to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc. Tan Sleeve consisted of Steve Barry and Lane Steinberg. The team had returned. Their small cult following soon realized that they had been releasing CD-R albums through their website. The '€œFall Love'€ EP was their first official release as Tan Sleeve. The Bus Stop Label made us wait, but eventually released their official debut '€œBad On Both Sides'€ LP. More upbeat and irreverent than the previous EP, '€œBad On Both Sides'€ maintained a delicate balance between romance and humor. Romantic songs like '€œYou'€™ll Thank Me For This One Day'€, '€œTake A Peace While It Lasts'€, and '€œIt Doesn'€™t Snow In New York Anymore'€ were perfect little gems that could be on a soundtrack for any film. The humorous tracks were clever enough to not be silly or debase the album'€™s quality. '€œPuffy'€™s Gun'€ was a country tune remarking about Puff Daddy'€™s arrest. '€œBest Behind'€ was a tribute to a woman'€™s butt. Eventually, Tan Sleeve soldiered on as they started Cheft Records. With little warning, their sophomore album '€œAmerican Blood'€ was released in the Spring of 2005. Different in both sound and theme, '€œAmerican Blood'€ retained the Tan Sleeve feel but traveled to new territory. Their political songs earned them some publicity. The title track was played on CNN. Their ode to African-American female power, '€œCondoleeza Will Lead Us'€ was mentioned on The Howard Stern Radio Show and various television news programs. Humor remained in Tan Sleeve'€™s songs too. With a strong influence from Simon & Garfunkel, '€œMr. Combover'€ was a wicked track about a man who imagines his neighbor to be child molester. While fame never caught up with Lane and Steve, middle age certainly did. These days, they have creative control. They simply love songwriting! Tan Sleeve is an undiscovered jewel in a bucket of worthless rocks. On a humid Spring day in 2005, I spoke to both Steve Barry and Lane Steinberg. As their American Blood pumps through their veins, Tan Sleeve'€™s intelligent songwriting will remain.

T.JONES: "What goes on?"
LANE: "Trying to get this CD off the ground. It's our own label. So, we do everything."
STEVE: '€œNew album, new baby! Hey, isn't that the name of a John Mayall record?'€

T.JONES: "The new Tan Sleeve album is titled 'American Blood'. Tell us about the LP."
LANE: "Wow, big question! Musically, we just work and work until we have enough songs for a CD. This one was a bit more humorous, sarcastic, and topical. I guess that's the direction we're traveling in."
STEVE: '€œIt's our second full length CD after Lane and I reunited back in 1998. We're just taking our time, making music at our own pace, and trying to enjoy ourselves.'€

T.JONES: '€œHow is 'American Blood' different from the 'Bad On Both Sides' LP?'€
STEVE: '€œOn '€˜Bad From Both Sides'€™, we were just getting acquainted with the idea of working as duo in a home studio setting. We were trying stuff in different formats. Some songs were acoustic-based. Some had Lane playing drums. Some had basic tracks that were recorded in Miami, with ex-Wind drummer, Steve Burdick. The last few tracks we recorded, had drum loops and samples. On the new CD, I think that you can hear that we're more familiar and comfortable with the luxuries and possibilities of making records in this setting. It is certainly a far cry from the old days of booking time in some sub-standard studio with a $50 an hour engineer and having to keep one eye on the clock while laying down tracks.'€
LANE: '€œThe '€˜Bad From Both Sides'€™ LP followed two CDs of mostly acoustic covers. We're really into songs of the classic era. Our first one had a bunch of songs that Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Ella sang. The second consisted of half covers and half originals. '€˜Bad From Both Sides'€™ was more of a full-fledged step back into contemporary pop. We did manage to get a Mancini cover on it. '€˜American Blood'€™ seems like a natural progression, a synthesis of our many influences. We crack each other up, trying to juxtapose unlikely sources.'€

T.JONES: '€œDo you have a favorite song on '€˜American Blood'€™?'€
LANE: '€œThe title track was pretty important to me. I love Steve's '€˜Walk Me Through It'€™. It gave me chills for weeks.'€
STEVE: '€œIt's a toss up between '€˜Party Girl, Portly Boy'€™ and '€˜When Lindsey Buckingham Shaved His Beard'€™. What I like about '€˜Party'€™ is that it's so out-there. It really sounds like we're having fun, which is quite an accomplishment for two struggling musicians in their 40's. As far as '€˜Lindsey'€™ goes, it's probably my favorite song that I've ever written.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat does the title '€˜American Blood'€™ mean to you?'€
STEVE: '€œI wanted to write an '€˜American Pie'€™ for my generation. We are people who were born in the early 60's, grew up listening to classic pop/rock, were disappointed by the bland mediocrity of corporate rock, and encouraged by the new wave scene. But, something happened after the turn of the decade. The excitement and freshness of artists like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe was replaced by the cold, smug, pretentiousness of bands like The Smiths and The Cure. Given the choice, I'd rather listen to Foreigner or Bob Seger. So, I wanted to write something that expressed my own personal feelings about the evolution of rock music during my youth, as Don McLean did before.'€
LANE: '€œWell, as the lyrics sort of allude to, you can be of any particular political stripe or even color, but once you step on foreign soil it's like, '€˜There goes an American'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œEach song on each Tan Sleeve album goes back and forth from a song Lane wrote to a song that Steve wrote. Is this done on purpose?'€
STEVE: '€œNot really, it just seems to work out that way. The Beatles'€™ '€˜White Album'€™ is the model for our approach to making CD's. It is just a bunch of songs that cover a bunch of styles thrown together. It seems logical to us, but there doesn't seem to be too many other artists who take that same approach.'€
LANE: '€œActually, it just sort of fell that way. It's usually pretty close though. We're each represent one half of a full picture. To us, it's kind of blurry where one writer leaves off. We usually take a very liberal hand in shaping each other's final song. The actual written, bare bones song may have belonged to one of us, but the finished recording is very much a joint effort.'€

T.JONES: '€œCan you describe the creative process? How is a song born? Out of improvisation? Are the lyrics written first, or is the melody?'€
LANE: '€œI write almost exclusively in my head. I sing things into a tape recorder. I put it down, sometimes for a day, or sometimes for five years. When the song finishes itself, I actually sit down with a guitar and a notepad to finish it. I had '€˜I'll Know It's Spring'€™ in my head for years, until the middle eight came to me one morning. Steve writes like this as well, but he also writes on the piano. I'd like to start writing together again. We haven't done it in a while and that's always fun.'€
STEVE: '€œLane and I started out, wanting to be a legitimate songwriting team. In the end, we tend to like to complete our own songs. The creative synergy is more in the recording and arranging process. We both add a lot to each other's songs. On our own, we'd both be a lot more boring and predictable. As far as my own songwriting goes, I like to start out with a song title and a lyrical idea. I'll usually start a melody in my head and take it as far as I can go, before sitting down at a piano and fleshing it out.'€

T.JONES: '€œHow did you guys meet and eventually form The Wind?'€
LANE: '€œIn High School, I moved from New York to Miami. I met Steve in a music class. He had a Frank Zappa songbook. We struck up a conversation and that was the beginning. The Wind was basically Me, Steve, and an ass-kicking drummer from the neighborhood, Steve Burdick. We were playing this Big Star and Beatles stuff in Miami, back when Journey & Survivor were the hot thing. I remember thinking after one night, playing to six drunks, '€˜It's too bad no one's here. We sound amazing'€™. But, we cooked our own goose. We had over three hundred originals and we'd never play the same set twice. We were, and still are, songwriting nuts. It's pretty much an obsession that's never abated.'€

T.JONES: '€œWith The Wind, some songs were purposely recorded on Mono. Did you agree to this? Why was this done? Looking back, do you wish you recorded the music in stereo, or are you proud of the mono recordings?'€
LANE: '€œWe were misguided purists. In mono, you have to make things really perfect. There's a real art to mixing a record in mono. It has more impact and depth. It has mystery. But it's also a novelty. It's analogous to making a black and white movie when there already is color. People are used to color, as they're used to stereo. As in black and white, much is implied and left to the imagination to fill in the blanks. Making a mono record is no easy trick.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat are your favorite songs from The Wind period?'€
LANE: '€œWell, what's left on record is just a tiny portion of what we wrote, and by no means the best. '€˜House on Fire'€™ was a regional hit. People seemed to really respond to that one. Everyone always asked me if the lyric was a metaphor for something else. Steve's song, '€˜You Changed'€™ on the first LP always reminds me of some great Young Rascals'€™ song. We were, and still are, really into old R&B stuff. That song really felt the authentic article, as opposed to a song that was influenced by the stuff we loved.'€
STEVE: '€œThere were a lot of great throwaways and some really fine songs. '€˜What's The Fun'€™ and '€˜You Changed'€™ have held up well. '€˜Hey Mister'€™ is a personal favorite. '€˜Stuck'€™ was probably the best track that we did with the '€˜Donny and Roy'€™ line-up.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat is going on with The Wind now? Will there ever be a reunion? I heard something about a tour in Japan. Is that true?'€
LANE: '€œThere were two Wind re-issues. One here. One in Japan, on EM records, who also put out a compilation of my solo stuff. There was some talk about a year and a half ago, but the money end didn't come together. Tan Sleeve is really The Wind anyway. Steve Burdick plays drums on almost half the new record.'€

T.JONES: '€œLane, you had a solo project called Wall Of Orchids. Tell us about Wall Of Orchids.'€
LANE: '€œIn the late-eighties, I managed a recording studio called Water Music. It was in Hoboken, New Jersey. One perk I had was that I was able to record on the studio's downtime. I cut about six songs by myself. They were these big 24-track extravaganzas with tons of vocals. Chris Stamey played lead on one track. Besides that, it was all me. Bus Stop released a single of the two best songs, '€˜Life Must Go On'€™ and '€˜Come Back To Me'€™. It became a sort of cult hit, very popular in Japan. The Japanese seem to have a nose for stuff that Americans mostly ignore. After that, I cut a CD called '€˜Peyote Marching Songs'€™ under the name Noel Coward's Ghost. It's very strange, but I like it.'€

T.JONES: '€œLane, what did you do between The Wind and Tan Sleeve / Wall Of Orchids?'€
LANE: '€œI spent a few years writing a crazy musical called, '€˜Heads Off'€™ with a writer friend of mine, David Breitkopf. I became really tired of guitar-pop music. It reached a point where anything with two guitars, bass, and drums made me physically ill. Working in the recording studio and listening to bands make records day in and day out, was what did it to me.'€

T.JONES: '€œThe new '€˜American Blood'€™ LP was released on your own label, Cheft Records, but '€˜Bad On Both Sides'€™ was released on The Bus Stop Label. Why did you not continue to work with The Bus Stop Label?'€
LANE: '€œBus Stop is run by Brian Kirk, who's a super nice guy. Unfortunately, his heart doesn't seem to be in it right now. He'd be the first to tell you that. '€˜Bad From Both Sides'€™ wasn't promoted properly for a variety of reasons. I enjoy putting out our own records. The more control we retain, the better.'€

T.JONES: '€œTell us about Cheft Records. When did you start this label? How did you do it? What else do you plan to release on Cheft? What does Cheft mean?'€
LANE: '€œThe original Wind records were on Cheft. It means nothing. Cheft just sounds like one of those weird sixties labels that would be named after someone'€™s family. There will certainly be more Tan Sleeve records - not very soon, though. I have enough for a solo CD that might come out. I'd love to produce other artists as well. The main focus right now is getting Tan Sleeve running at full speed.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat does the name Tan Sleeve mean to you? Why did you choose that name for the group?'€
LANE: '€œOriginally the group was Teen Slave, which is an anagram of '€˜Lane'€™ and '€˜Steve'€™. We got sick of that after a bit. It became a bit of the Hawaiian shirt, so we went to another anagram which was Tan Sleeve. It sort of reminds us of those seventies name-bands like Jethro Tull & Steely Dan.'€
STEVE: '€œYeah, it's an anagram of Lane & Steve. I liked it because it's like an old record sleeve, or a manila envelope that could contain anything.'€

T.JONES: '€œDoes sharing the creative process ever become difficult? What do you argue about? Do you usually get along or do you sometimes seriously disagree?'€
STEVE: '€œI think that we get along great. We've known each other since high school. We're married with kids, jobs, etc. We each have our own lives. So, when it comes to music, we just want to escape into our own world and enjoy ourselves. We're very much on the same wavelength and trust each other's opinions. Whoever is playing a particular instrument on a particular track, the other guy plays the role of producer. So, all of Lane's guitar parts are going to have a few notes changed, according to my request. The same thing applies to my bass lines and keyboard parts.'€
LANE: '€œWhen one of us feels strong about something, we usually cede to it. My tendency is to get a bit flighty while Steve tends to cling to normalcy. We balance each other out nicely. I think it's a mutual aesthetic trust that we both share.'€

T.JONES: '€œLane, you have a love for wine. What are your top 3 favorite wines?'€
LANE: '€œOh, man, that's a real tough one. The best values I've had recently? Veramonte Primus Cabernet and Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet, both from Chile. These are deep, thick, serious wines that you can get for under $14. California's Rancho Zabacco Reserve Zinfandel is widely available for around the same price. That packs a lot of flavor as well. I could go on for hours. South America has lots of great bargains.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat has been in your CD player or on your turntable recently?'€
LANE: '€œLet's see...on my CD stack is the new Quasimoto, the first Lewis Taylor CD from 1996, the first Lo Borges album from '72, and a box set of the complete Schubert piano sonatas. My listening is mostly classical music and older Brazilian music. On my turntable, Liszt's piano concertos, performed by Alfred Brendel.'€
STEVE: '€œLast Winter, I was getting into all these obscure jazz organists like Big John Patton and Freddie Roach. I've also gotten into Isaac Hayes' first two albums The guy's a genius. Right now, I've been listening to Roger Nichols and the Small Circle Of Friends. Lane gave me a copy. My wife just had a baby, so it's great baby music. It reminds me of my childhood, when we'd put on Herb Alpert, The Mamas & Papas, and Sergio Mendes on Sunday afternoons.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat was the last incident of anti-Semitism you experienced?'€
LANE: '€œI live in New York, so anti-Semitism rarely enters my world. I did see a swastika on a building site the other day. It was probably some kid. You can walk down my block and hear twelve different languages. I feel privileged to live in such an integrated environment. I must say, upon reflection, I run into very little racism of any kind. I think people are mostly past it right now. But, those things always have a way of turning on a dime, don't they?'€
STEVE: '€œNone for a long time. When I first moved to New York, at my first job, a Haitian guy that I worked with said '€˜Jews are cheap'€™. He also said that he '€˜Knew all about Jews'€™ because he works in Manhattan and there are Jews everywhere'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œAs New Yorkers, how did you deal with September 11th?'€
LANE: '€œIt was one of the worst days of my life. It was the worst day, horrible. My family and I had just gotten back from visiting London, a week before. I woke up, went to the computer, and read the news of the first plane on Yahoo! Then, I went to the television and watched the first tower crumble. Six weeks before, I had been down there to see The Box Tops perform. It was still fresh in my mind, the massiveness of those two buildings. It was really like nothing else. I didn't lose anyone, but it was like a nightmare that you couldn't wake up from. The smell of burnt electricity was everywhere. You couldn't escape it. I had a non-stop headache for three weeks. I couldn't wrap my mind around the act. I still can't. It's still very fresh for me. It's still hard.'€
STEVE: '€œIt completely changed my political views, though I don't think that had anything to do with living in New York. I do think that it's ironic that Ground Zero borders on some of the most left wing neighborhoods in America. I see all these lefties in Soho, the Village. I feel like saying, '€˜Look up, you fools! The World Trade Center is gone! Do you think these terrorists did this because they don't like right wingers? Wake up! They hate gay rights! They hate feminism! They want to bring us back to the dark ages!'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œTell us about the song '€˜Time Poor'€™.'€
LANE: '€œThe song '€˜Time Poor'€™ is like an old Calypso number. I'm a huge calypso fan. The Mighty Sparrow, who's basically the Bob Dylan of contemporary calypso, has a place here in Queens. I'm still working up the nerve to contact him.'€

T.JONES: '€œwhose butt are you singing about in '€˜More Than Best Behind'€™?'€
LANE: '€œOh this is funny, from bombs to butts. My wife, I suppose. She's got a great ass.'€

T.JONES: '€œWord association. I am going to say a name of a person / group and you say the first thing that pops into your head. So, if I said '€˜The Beatles'€™, you may say '€˜Apple'€™ or '€˜Revolution'€™. If I said '€˜Rick James'€™, you may say '€˜Superfreak'€™, '€˜MC Hammer'€™, or '€˜Crack.'€™ Okay?'€
LANE: '€œPsychotherapy time. Okay.'€

T.JONES: '€œThe Beatles.'€
LANE: '€œThe best.'€
STEVE: '€œMagic.'€

T.JONES: '€œHappy Mondays.'€
LANE: '€œLong weekends.'€
STEVE: '€œI'€™m honestly not familiar with their music.'€

T.JONES: '€œPublic Enemy.'€
LANE: '€œJohn Gotti.'€
STEVE: '€œGreat lyrics, wild sound, but not something that I'd listen to.'€

T.JONES: '€œNeil Young.'€
LANE: '€œShaggy Dog.'€
STEVE: '€œLove his music, hate his politics.'€

T.JONES: '€œCurtis Mayfield.'€
LANE: '€œTop soul.'€
STEVE: '€œWithout him, there'd be no Bob Marley.'€

T.JONES: '€œSmokey Robinson.'€
STEVE: '€œAnother great lyricist. Along with McCartney, one of the most important ballad writers of the 60's.'€

T.JONES: '€œJohn Lee Hooker.'€
LANE: '€œBigfoot.'€
STEVE: '€œHot weather music.'€

T.JONES: '€œDavid Bowie.'€
LANE: '€œOrange hair.'€
STEVE: '€œDylan + The Stones + Lennon = Bowie.'€

T.JONES: '€œPaul Simon.'€
LANE: '€œForest Hills.'€
STEVE: '€œYet another great lyricist, bad teeth.'€

T.JONES: '€œAretha Franklin.'€
LANE: '€œFat lady sings!'€
STEVE: '€œI'm not into '€˜belters'€™, but she's the best of em.'€

T.JONES: '€œThe Fall.'€
LANE: '€œRowche Rumble.'€
STEVE: '€œInteresting punk band.'€

T.JONES: '€œGil-Scott Heron.'€
LANE: '€œWordy cocaine abuser.'€
STEVE: '€œI'd like to play him '€˜Condoleezza Will Lead Us'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œGeorge Bush.'€
LANE: '€œAw shucks!'€
STEVE: '€œOne of the greatest Presidents in U.S. history.'€

T.JONES: "One of my favorite songs is 'You'll Thank Me For This Someday' from the '€˜Bad From Both Sides'€™ LP. Was this based on a true incident?'€
STEVE: '€œIt's actually about the War On Terror. It's America telling the whiny international community, '€˜step aside little ones, and let us do what needs to be done.'€™ Sorry if that upsets you.'€

T.JONES: '€œAs a younger men just starting out, did you have big dreams of being rock stars? Since your following is smaller, but still very loyal, did you have to wrestle with emotions about fame or accept your place as good songwriters instead of huge stars?'€
STEVE: '€œAbsolutely! It took me a long time to realize that the most important thing, for me, is trying to write good songs and make the kind of music that I want to make. The music industry is so fickle and corrupt. I can't control what kind of success we have, but I can control the quality of what we produce.'€
LANE: '€œThis is the subject of a book I sometimes think of writing. I have to keep my eye on the target. That target is to be able to look in the mirror and know that I'm living up to my potential. Everything else is bullshit.'€

T.JONES: "What do you do besides music?"
STEVE: '€œI sell co-op apartments in Forest Hills, New York. They call me '€˜Mr. Forest Hills'€™.'€

T.JONES: "Tell us about the song 'Condoleeza Will Lead Us'. Why did
You write this? I heard it achieved some publicity. I even heard
Howard Stern talk about it once.'€
STEVE: '€œWhen I was a kid, there were all these songs about female and Black empowerment, like '€˜I Am Woman'€™ and '€˜Say It Loud I'm Black And I'€™m Proud'€™. To me, Condoleezza Rice is the embodiment of these songs'€™ messages. It bothered me that she's not considered a role model just because she's a Republican. So I figured, if no Black or female songwriters are going to pay tribute to her, I'll have to do it myself. I wanted to sound like '€˜Philadelphia Freedom'€™. Really kitschy, but sincere.'€

T.JONES: '€œWill other bands have albums released on Cheft?'€
LANE: '€œTwo acts were talking with are Uncle Mint and The Mojo Makers, which are sort of a voodoo swamp rock act. Also, Drew Farmer, who's a great singer-songwriter from Florida. I've also been informally doing some e-mail recording with R. Stevie Moore, which might see the light of day.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat were the biggest mistakes both of you have made in your career?'€
LANE: '€œWaiting for success.'€
STEVE: '€œNot getting a decent day job years ago, so I could stop worrying about making it in music.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat is in the future for Tan Sleeve?'€
STEVE: '€œMaking it in music.'€
LANE: '€œI have a pile of songs. A few of them are really good. Steve just had a baby, so we're a little disjointed right now. I know he's got his pile as well. We'll get together and start chipping away until the next record is done. But right now, we're doing Cheft business like interviews, mailings, phone work, etc. We need a staff, but right now we're it.'€

T.JONES: '€œAny final words for the people reading this?'€
STEVE: '€œI'd rather you love our music and hate our politics, than the other way around. Thanks.'€
LANE: '€œJust because the pumpkin isn't ripe, doesn't mean it's not Halloween.'€
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The Likwit Junkies

Like an opiate, the euphoric effects of music are extremely addictive. Music addicts are genuine zealots with an incessant need to have, to hear, to keep up, and to experience the art form. The various styles and genres within music mimic the valleys and peaks of addiction. Listening to heartfelt music becomes a powerful habit. Eventually, we become dependant on music.

How many times have you freaked out because your car because the radio did not work, a CD was scratched, a tape got eaten, or a new album was unattainable because the local record stores were sold out? The human heart beats to a rhythm. Do you honestly think that you do not need music? Like any other music junkie, Defari is an emcee who cannot live without rhythm. Hailing from Los Angeles, Defari first gained critical acclaim with the single, '€œBionic'€ along with various collaborations with The Alkaholiks and Dilated Peoples. His debut album, '€œFocused Daily'€ was an underground gem with more than just a West coast vibe. Though he represented the West Coast, his style was more down-to-earth because his love of hip-hop ran deep within his veins. While heroin addicts put needles in their veins, Defari injects music into his soul via his ears. His heroin is a 12'€ vinyl record. His syringes are 2 turntables and a mixer. Classic collaborations gained him more fame. From his standout verse on '€œSome L.A. N*ggas'€ (from Dr. Dre'€™s '€œ2001'€ LP) to countless other collaborations, Defari always left a strong impression. His equally powerful live show also earned him a solid following. Released on High Times Records, his sophomore album, '€œOdds And Evens'€ faces obstacles due to problems within label. Some fans never even found a copy. With his business sense intact, he co-founded ABB Records. Artists like Little Brother and The Sound Providers helped to give ABB both respect and credibility. These groups are also addicted to the opiate of music. Meanwhile, Defari wrote songs over DJ Babu'€™s production. The chemistry between Defari and DJ Babu (from Dilated Peoples and The Beat Junkies) was so special, they decided to form a group together, Likwit Junkies. One member from The Likwit Crew and one member from The Beat Junkies formed a whole new musical drug. Their debut album, '€œThe L.J.'€™s'€ (released on ABB Records) is filled with soulful samples, varied emotional themes, and a deep love of music. While Babu produced and mixed the entire LP, Defari stood strong at the lyrical helm. The prodigious musicians stood their ground. Together, they follow the footsteps of hip-hop'€™s legendary duos like Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Eric B. & Rakim, and Gangstarr (Guru & DJ Premier). As an emcee and songwriter, Defari has come full circle. While his solo albums have a West Coast sound with a gritty attitude, Defari'€™s maturity shines on '€œThe L.J.'€™s'€ LP. Maturity has not slowed him down. He can still have fun, move a crowd, and rock a microphone. On a sweltering Spring day in 2005, I spoke to the legendary emcee. Both of us are so addicted to music, we could not stop talking about the industry, recording, songwriting, live performances, etc. Our conversation was so in-depth, the tape actually ran out. We were just two music junkies on the phone, jonsing for a fix of rhythm.

T.JONES: '€œWhat goes on?'€
DEFARI: '€œSh*t, man, just chilling after a long day.'€

T.JONES: '€œYou formed a new group with DJ Babu named The Likwit Junkies. The album is called '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™. Tell us about both.'€
DEFARI: '€œPretty much, it is myself and DJ Babu. Due to the success of the previous songs we did, we felt that we needed to collaborate and make an album or something. Now, we have a group. Here we are.'€

T.JONES: '€œSince DJ Babu produced the entire album, did you have a different approach to creating the LP, as opposed to other albums with different producers producing different songs?'€
DEFARI: '€œIt'€™s definitely different, because we had a group element going on. Production was Babu'€™s job. My job was to write and hold down the vocals. Basically, we took the Gangstarr approach, with the influences of great superheroes like Gangstarr, Slick Rick and Dougie Fresh, Eric B and Rakim, and Pete Rock and CL Smooth. We basically took that aura and did our own thing. We used that same framework of the super duos of the past.'€

T.JONES: '€œDo you have a favorite song on '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™ LP?'€
DEFARI: '€œIt changes all the time. '€˜Change'€™ is one of my favorites, but I think '€˜Ghetto'€™ is also one of my favorites.'€

T.JONES: '€œHow is Babu different from the other producers you have worked with?'€
DEFARI: '€œHe is a lot more soulful than most producers I have worked with. His background in soul music is very similar to mine. That'€™s why we clicked. He has a real soul bone in his body. He can take any type of loop, that I may think of, and can make it a beat, in a heartbeat. Other producers may try to chop it up, rip it, and only do a certain part. Babs has no qualms about doing any idea that I have. At the same time, the beats like '€˜Keep Doin It'€™ and '€˜One Day'€™ are different. 9 out of 10 emcees can'€™t ride those beats. Those beats prove very difficult for any other rapper. For me, it'€™s nothing. I can kill any beat.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhen dealing with breath control, flow, or riding beats, how do you prepare or strategize?'€
DEFARI: '€œI have this new song I did with Fred Wreck on '€˜Street Music'€™. The style that I'€™m using on there is like, there is no breath. I can only describe it in melody. (Defari hums the melody) The style is like a waterfall. To perform live, it is very difficult. There is literally no breath in it.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhen recording a song, do you go into the studio with pre-written lyrics, or themes, or do you hear the beat first and then, write to the beat?'€
DEFARI: '€œI wrote most of the songs to the beat. I get the beat from the producer and ride with it. I just beat a block with it and punch in the lyrics into my Trio. That'€™s pretty much how I do it. I go into the booth with my Trio. I used to go into the booth with my 2-Way, like 5 years ago. If the only thing I have available is the pen and pad, of course. I rarely use the pen and pad.'€

T.JONES: '€œYou started out as a DJ. How did you make that transition from DJ to emcee?'€
DEFARI: '€œIt was a natural metamorphosis. One record stood out at the time. '€˜Eric B. For President'€™ inspired me to write my first rhyme. From there, I wrote and recorded a gang of songs before I ever came out with a bunch of songs professionally. It wasn'€™t just an overnight thing. That'€™s for sure. I recorded a whole bunch of songs through that whole black medallion era and the high-top fade era. I was writing, but I never felt I was ready, until I did '€˜Big Up'€™ with E-Swift. When I did '€˜Bionic'€™, I really felt I had an itch.'€

T.JONES: '€œYou founded ABB Records?'€
DEFARI: '€œYeah, I co-founded ABB. We dropped the '€˜Inaugural'€™ single with '€˜Bionic'€™. We followed that up with '€˜Third Degree'€™ by Dilated Peoples, featuring yours truly.'€

T.JONES: '€œDid you have anything to do with Little Brother signing to ABB Records?'€
DEFARI: '€œNah, I didn'€™t have anything to do with Little Brother. They came out on ABB. While I was doing my thing, touring, bouncing around on different labels, and being on the grind, I brought a lot of acts to Ben. Planet Asia, Krondon, and Dilated Peoples. It'€™s a trip because the '€˜Work The Angels'€™ single is probably the biggest independent hip-hop single ever. '€˜Bionic'€™ is a close second.'€

T.JONES: '€œHow did the whole connection between you, Dilated Peoples, and The Alkaholiks come together?'€
DEFARI: '€œI hooked up with Dilated on '€˜The Next Chapter'€™. We both had songs on the record. Coincidentally, I hooked up with E-Swift and did my first single, '€˜Big Up'€™. I'€™ve been down with Likwit ever since. That was 1995. From there, the tree just blossomed. OG'€™s like Dr. Dre. The funny thing is, I was born and raised in L.A., and so are Rakka and Evidence from Dilated. Actually, only J-Ro from the Liks and myself are the only cats from the town. When I came back after touring, I met a whole new era of cats. When I was in high school, there was a whole different era of cats I knew in L.A. You feel me? A whole slew of cats came. The people I'€™m talking about now, in this interview, don'€™t even know these new cats. It'€™s a trip.'€

T.JONES: '€œIs everything still cool between Xzibit and The Liks?'€
DEFARI: '€œYeah, old as Magic Johnson.'€

T.JONES: '€œHow has your live show evolved?'€
DEFARI: '€œNow, I have a new one. I have new songs. Now, it is about picking the songs I want to do.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat is your favorite part of your live show?'€
DEFARI: '€œProbably, when I first touch the stage. When I'€™m on tour, I think my favorite part is when I leave. (laughs). You feel me? It depends how tired I am and what city I am in. But, really, wherever I'€™m at, that first part I touch stage with that first song, is my favorite part. One part I really loved was, when I used to sit down and do '€˜Keep It The Rise Part 2'€™. I would act like I'€™m driving. I would sit in a chair and act like I'€™m driving through the town. I would blow a blunt and do the song. It was a really cool change of pace. I don'€™t do that song anymore, but it was dope.'€

T.JONES: '€œDo you open up with the same song all the time, or does the first song of your live show change?'€
DEFARI: '€œIt changes. Now, I'€™m opening up with new songs, but I don'€™t want to let the cat out of the bag. I open up with different songs. It depends.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat are the signature songs you always perform?'€
DEFARI: '€œThe people will always get '€˜Bionic'€™. Also, '€˜Smack Ya Face'€™. Those are signatures. I like to do '€˜Spell My Name'€™, but I like to stay fresh and exciting. I like people to think that I hit them with different jams, but also the classics they know me for. '€˜Behold My Life'€™. There are so many songs, I can'€™t do them all. One of my favorite parts is when I do the Dr. Dre song '€˜Some L.A. N*ggas'€™. I do my verse from there. It'€™s a call and response from the crowd. No matter where I'€™m at, the crowd goes bananas.'€

T.JONES: '€œI heard you are working on your third album.'€
DEFARI: '€œMy third album will be coming out. It'€™s called '€˜Street Music'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œWho is handling production for the '€˜Street Music'€™ LP?'€
DEFARI: '€œI'€™ve got tracks from Mike City, Fred Wreck, Evidence, Babu, E-Swift, Superstar Formula, and DJ Revolution. Once again, I recorded too many songs, like I did with Likwit Junkies. Some songs have to get cut, but hey, that'€™s what happens.'€

T.JONES: '€œWho are the guests on '€˜Street Music'€™?'€
DEFARI: '€œRight now, I have Noelle singing on a couple of joints. I have Channel Live on the album. I have a local cat, Boo Capone. I have a song with The Liks and another one with Dilated. The rest of the album, I take it to the face, for the most part.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat are some problems you encounter when you release albums?'€
DEFARI: '€œYou have to set it up for the people. You can'€™t just drop it and expect them to know about it. Because we are indie, we like to feed the people with good singles. That is the formula. I'€™m on a 3 single formula. I'€™m not like what you see on BET, where you hear 1 single and then, the album'€™s out. That is the major label philosophy and that is why they lose more money than they make. We take it to the old school. Likwit Junkies dropped 3 singles before the LP came out. That'€™s what it is about, the music. This whole industry side of the game lost sight of that.'€

T.JONES: '€œIn the song '€˜Interview'€™, you state that you are addicted to music. Can you expand on your addiction?'€
DEFARI: '€œI can'€™t live without music. It'€™s funny, because I'€™m a big fan of what I do. I'€™m glad to be apart of the stuff that I'€™m a fan of.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhich producers would you like to work with?'€
DEFARI: '€œI would like to work with Alchemist again. I would like to hook back up with Al.'€

T.JONES: '€œI was surprised you were not on his album.'€
DEFARI: '€œYou were just as surprised as me.'€

T.JONES: '€œWho are some other producers you would like to work with in the future?'€
DEFARI: '€œI think Kanye is dope. I wouldn'€™t mind working with Kanye West. I would like to work with DJ Quik too. That dude is a genius.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat have you been listening to lately?'€
DEFARI: '€œMix CDs. Today, I was bumping The Game album. I was bumping '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™. I'€™ve been bumping a lot of stuff that is not even out yet, like my stuff, some Strong Arm Steady stuff, and Dilated.'€

T.JONES: '€œFor the people who do not know, can you enlighten them on the meaning behind the name, Defari?'€
DEFARI: '€œYeah, it means '€˜The Kingly One'€™. It is also a savage way of saying, '€˜Def are I'€™, which is '€˜I'€™m def.'€™ It'€™s a b-boy proclamation.'€

T.JONES: '€œDo you still freestyle?'€
DEFARI: '€œYeah, when I got the feeling. Primarily, I focus on elevating my songwriting ability.'€

T.JONES: '€œCompared to the older days, do you have a different songwriting approach?'€
DEFARI: '€œI said it in '€˜Bionic'€™. I said, '€˜I rhyme over 10 million beats, 50 million topics.'€™ I feel limitless in terms of topics and my ability to create a story or a picture that people can get into. For '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™, I really wanted people to see a different side of my songwriting abilities, as well as showcase Babu'€™s production talents. I think that is what we'€™ve done. This is why you get songs like '€˜Change'€™, '€˜Good Green'€™, or '€˜Brother'€™. Yeah, man! You get '€˜Salute'€™. You get all these types of stuff because it is a sort of left-turn from the typical Defari stuff, which is more street or rap oriented. With '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™, you get me and Babs trying to give the people a breath of fresh air, that is brand new and cutting edge. You can tell it has the old influences but it is not stale. It'€™s not soaked with guns and other things. But, hey, that has a place as well. I like that stuff. The music is supposed to be entertaining. My point is, with Defari, there is always a conscious undertone to it, without being blatant. There is a consciousness riptide to all my stuff. Even with songs like '€˜Slump'€™, that has a conscious in there. You may say, '€˜How is that song conscious?'€™ Well, '€˜Slump'€™ is me at the club, and me going home and getting hassled. It is a song for people who have been through that. '€˜Leave me alone, I'€™m enjoying myself'€™. That is the moral to that song. With '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™, I really beat my brain to give the people a breath of fresh air and a new challenge to my songwriting abilities. For '€˜One Day'€™, I'€™m going 150 on that. A lot people can'€™t go 150. The term 150 is what we call double-time, here on the West Coast. I have a new song called '€˜He'€™s A Gangsta'€™ where I go 150. I kill them! For me, that style is easy. That'€™s like remedial for me. I'€™m having fun with it and that what '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™ is all about. That is what my new album '€˜Street Music'€™ is all about. You'€™ll see the beats are knocking. They are over the top. It truly is street music and the beats are supposed to knock and be over the top.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhich artists would you like to work with in the future?'€
DEFARI: '€œI would like to work with Slick Rick, Ice-T, and Rakim all on the same song.'€

T.JONES: '€œWould that collaboration have a theme?'€
DEFARI: '€œI don'€™t care. (Laughs) It would just be dope. It would be just living a dream.'€

T.JONES: '€œMany collaborations are recorded in separate studios. Some artists do not even meet. For '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™ LP, how were the collaborations recorded?'€
DEFARI: '€œThat was not the case with Likwit Junkies. Everybody was family on the record. Even though some of the vocals were recorded at different spots, we are still family. I took them to Pro-Tools sessions. Me and Rakka did '€˜Dark Angel'€™ in the same place. Noelle came through and I coached her how to sing that song. She'€™s just on the job. She'€™s on my new album too. The Steady recorded their stuff at their studio and Asia recorded at his. Pro-Tools is a beautiful thing. Babu mixed it all. That'€™s another thing readers should know. Not only did Babu produce the entire album, but he also mixed the album. Besides the fact that he is a world-class DJ with so many belts that they had to ban The Beat Junkies from competitions, his technical talents are worthy of mentioning.'€

T.JONES: '€œDo you have plans to do another Likwit Junkies album?'€
DEFARI: '€œOh yeah! Definitely. This is not a one-off. This is not a brand of tennis shoe. This is the real deal. We are a real group and this is our first album, our debut album. I invite everybody to check it out. It'€™s in stores everywhere now. It is also on I-tunes and stuff. We are here!'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat was the last incident of racism you experienced?'€
DEFARI: '€œThe last one? Just the other day, a lady clutched her purse when I walked by. She was an old, white lady. It has happened all my life, so I don'€™t even trip. She actually switched her purse to her other hand. It was the good old clutch. It is probably something so deeply embedded in her, she didn'€™t even realize it.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhere were you on the September 11th terrorist attack? How did you handle the day?'€
DEFARI: '€œMan! I was in L.A. The wife was like, '€˜Man, check the TV out! A plane crashed into the Twin Towers!'€™ I was like, '€˜What!?'€™ That was when I got out of bed and checked it out. Then, I saw the 2nd plane hit. That was just surreal.'€

T.JONES: '€œWord association time. I'€™m going to say a name of a group or person, and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say '€˜Chuck D'€™, you may say '€˜Revolution'€™. If I said '€˜Flava Flav'€™, you may say '€˜Clock'€™, '€˜Crack'€™ or '€˜The Surreal Life'€™. Okay?'€
DEFARI: '€œ(laughing) Yeah.'€

T.JONES: '€œWu-Tang Clan.'€
DEFARI: '€œOne of the best collection of brothers, ever.'€

T.JONES: '€œEminem.'€
DEFARI: '€œIncredible emcee.'€

T.JONES: '€œDeclaime.'€
DEFARI: '€œThat'€™s my dude.'€

T.JONES: '€œMF Doom.'€
DEFARI: '€œScooby Doo.'€

T.JONES: '€œDel The Funky Homosapian.'€
DEFARI: '€œOaktown! That'€™s my dude from back in the day!'€

T.JONES: '€œPigeon John.'€
DEFARI: '€œI'€™m not too familiar with Pigeon John. I know of him, but we never met. I would say the word, '€˜respect'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œJay-Z.'€
DEFARI: '€œOne of the greatest.'€

T.JONES: '€œGil-Scott Heron.'€
DEFARI: '€œOne of the greatest dope heads.'€

T.JONES: '€œCurtis Mayfield.'€
DEFARI: '€œOne of my top three.'€

T.JONES: '€œSmokey Robinson.'€
DEFARI: '€œMy favorite singer of all time.'€

T.JONES: '€œIf you could remake any hip-hop song, what would it be?'€
DEFARI: '€œProbably, remake '€˜Peter Piper'€™.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat was the biggest mistake you have made in your career?'€
DEFARI: '€œThe biggest mistake I have made in my career was probably being misunderstood and misquoted. Actually, the biggest mistake I have made was f*cking with High Times Records.'€

T.JONES: '€œThe '€˜Odds And Evens'€™ LP was released on High Times Records, but '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™ was not. What happened?'€
DEFARI: '€œExactly, but High Times Records was a fictitious label. It was not a label. Thank God for Devin Horowitz, man. If it weren'€™t for Devin, his goodwill, and good nature, people would not have been able to get such great albums. There were a limited amount of people who actually did get it.'€

T.JONES: '€œYou collaborated with Scritti Politti on '€˜Mystic Handyman (remix)'€™. How did that happen? What was that collaboration like?'€
DEFARI: '€œNow, that was a highlight of my career. Tash called me and asked, '€˜Do you know Scritti Politti?'€™ I was like '€˜What!? Hell yeah, I know Scritti Politti!'€™ Tash said, '€˜Come down to the studio. They want you to get on this remix. They love your stuff.'€™ I went there and I had a blast. My man, Green! If you are reading this, Green, you'€™re a class act. Those guys are a class act.'€

T.JONES: '€œWeed has been a recurring theme in your music. What is your favorite way to smoke? Bongs, joints, blunts, or something else?'€
DEFARI: '€œI take the answer D, all of the above. To be honest with you, a good old zag. I'€™m Cali to the bone.'€

T.JONES: '€œSince you have some songs that are basically about or devoted to weed, do people come up to you and expect you to smoke all the time?'€
DEFARI: '€œActually, no, because I don'€™t give that off. If I gave it off more, they would. I don'€™t. If it is 4-Dub, forget about it. Everybody is coming up!'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat does hip-hop music need these days?'€
DEFARI: '€œI think music needs variety. That is why when you hear Common and Kanye together, it is really stuff that we were doing years ago, but today, it seems brand new and fresh. You feel me? That is because the Lil Jon stuff, the 50 Cent stuff, and the other stuff are flooding the airwaves. It all kind of sounds the same. I also think that radio stations should go back to breaking artists, instead of playing the same song 30 times per day. That'€™s weak and that is why satellite radio is taking over. People want to hear music. When I was coming up, we used to make '€˜pause mixes'€™ on a tape recorder. If I heard a song that I wanted to record, I had to get it then, or I would never hear it again. That is what made that song special. I think the public is getting cheated. It closes the doors for the artists who are trying to make it, especially new artists.'€

T.JONES: '€œHow are East Coast audiences different from West Coast audiences?'€
DEFARI: '€œFor me, it depends where I'€™m at. If I'€™m in New York, the audience is pretty much the same as L.A. In big cities, people are spoiled by live performances. If I'€™m in Vermont, or San Diego, or Ottawa, Canada, people go bananas. They go crazy. If I'€™m in S.O.B.'€™s in New York, they nod their head lookey-loo style. They give respect and say, '€˜We feel you. Do your thing'€™. If they are not booing you, but nodding their head because they are into it, that is a sign of respect. It is the New York way. In Philly, they will boo you in a heartbeat. I'€™ve been through Philly, on South Street, a few times. Remember when they booed Kobe in the all-star game? One time, we got there during that week. I had on a 3XT, but underneath was a Lakers jersey. We were so hype because they booed Kobe. My DJ and my guy setting up, both had Lakers shirts on. The crowd was booing them. They stopped the music and I said, '€˜We'€™re in the city of brotherly love. We love y'€™all!'€™ They were like '€˜Yea!'€™. I said, '€˜We love Dr. J! We love Bobby Jones! We love Lotus Malone! We even love Billy Cunningham!'€™ They were like, '€˜Yeah!'€™. Then, I said, '€˜Don'€™t ever let me hear you boo another Laker!'€™. That'€™s when I peeled my shirt off. They were like '€˜Boo!'€™. They were giving it to me! It was fun, though. Then, we dropped '€˜Say It Twice'€™, and the crowd went off! They went crazy! They loved it.'€

T.JONES: '€œDuring a live performance, how do you control the crowd?'€
DEFARI: '€œYou have to feel at home on that stage. I'€™m at home, especially in places like L.A., New York, or Philadelphia. Any urban metropolis will eat you alive if you don'€™t know what you are doing. I don'€™t go up there with a hype-man. I take it solo like DMX.'€

T.JONES: '€œDid you ever have a hype-man? How was performing without a hype-man different?'€
DEFARI: '€œYeah, I used to. The energy is different. Me and my DJ have enough energy. I travel with Barbershop Kiz. He'€™s been all over the world.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat are the 3 best things about living in Los Angeles?'€
DEFARI: '€œSunshine, women, and kush.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat are the 3 worst things about living in Los Angeles?'€
DEFARI: '€œPolice, jackers, and guns.'€

T.JONES: '€œWhat is next for Defari?'€
DEFARI: '€œLikwit Junkies. We'€™re putting together a tour, coming this summer. Look for us in your local neighborhood. I have a song coming out called, '€˜The Bizness'€™ and another song, called '€˜Powder Coat'€™. It'€™s a double A-side. We'€™ll have it for you. The public and DJs choose. The Likwit Junkies are releasing a new single for '€˜Ghetto'€™ with '€˜Brother'€™ on the b-side. A lot of DJs want that. Man, I'€™m working on getting '€˜Street Music'€™ out there for people by the end of this year.'€

T.JONES: '€œAny final words for the people who will be reading this?'€
DEFARI: '€œI want to thank anybody who supported Defari and Likwit Junkies. Go to www.defari.net or go to myspace.com/defari Go to your store around the corner, if you have to. Go to Itunes. Buy the album. '€˜The L.J.'€™s'€™ is the name. Liquid Junkies is the group. DJ Babu and Defari. I want to say thank you to everybody! Thank you, Todd. Thank you, out to all you guys!'€

Thank you Defari!
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