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WYDU Interview: Count Bass D

by Travis on October 17, 2008

There is not many artists in the game that can be as well rounded musically as a one Count Bass D. The man does it all, DJ, MC, production, and he even plays instruments. One of the attraction of hip hop in it’s early days was that you didn’t need to have a lot of musical training, you didn’t have to have instruments, it was cheap for people to get together and have a DJ play records. But the better DJs had a good knowledge in music in general. That’s exactly why Count Bass D is among the most creative in the field. His albums have always broken the “mold”. He’s played the game by his own rules, and his own way.

After releasing his seventh album, L7, WYDU had a chance to kick with The Count….

WYDU: What’s good? Thanks for your time. You’ve been doing this for a lot longer than a lot of people, myself included, might have realized. What were your beginnings and some of your first projects?

Count Bass D: My first professional gig was doing some background vocals for Me Phi Me in 1992 on his album ONE for RCA. My first album was called Pre-Life Crisis and it was released by Sony September of 1995.

W: As a producer, you are well known as being quite the crate digger and you use a lot of sampling in your projects. What is your take on the whole crate digging culture that has seemingly taken off in the past few years?

CBD: I’m not concerned with anyone buying records that cats like me use just to show off. If you can’t consider yourself a “crate digger” if you are not using records to DJ or make beats, it’s like buying cans of spray paint and never getting up anywhere. So what?

W: How do you view sampling as a musical medium? Meaning, do you think its something that is making somewhat of a comeback on the underground level, or do you think eventually, even that will be snuffed out by companies looking to make up for lost revenue by going after artists who sample music they own the rights to?

CBD: I feel sampling is the only way to add on to music theory right now. This is the main reason I sample. What others are doing or their motivations for doing so are of little concern to me.

W: These days, it seems like anyone with a personal computer can be a computer, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. What is your take on the whole Hardware Vs. Software issue?

CBD: I believe the SP1200, MPC series & the ASR-10 are the Steinways of rap music. I believe you have to master at least one before you can call yourself a real rap producer. I hear people saying how much Dilla has influenced them and they aren’t even concerned with mastering the MPC3000. Rap music on the whole has very little principal and that’s why it’s so easy to dismiss by critics who are mainly fans of other forms of music.

W: What process do you take to record a song? Do you find a sample first and build around that? Or do you have a concept then find a song? Or a little of both?

CBD: The songs show up. That’s it. I’ve never composed two songs exactly the same way and I’ve written hundreds.

W: Being a “dual threat” (MCing and Producing), how does rhyming change the way you approach producing and vice versa? If you want to take it a step further, how does DJing fit into the grand picture of being a complete artist?

CBD: DJing is the foundation because you must have a knowledge of music to be a DJ. DJing gives one a working knowledge of good music and how people react to certain moods of music. MCing is there to compliment that vibe created and take it even higher. I’m not from the school that an excellent lyricist can save a wack beat. Even DOOM has appeared on some projects I wish were acappella and I believe he’s the greatest of all time on the mic. There are great lyricists who get hundreds of beat CDs and still can’t choose 5 decent beats. They don’t have a foundation in music and they may rhyme in time, but they have no idea how to marry the music with the words.

W: You also play multiple instruments, what all do you play? How does that advance your production game?

CBD: I can get a sound out of mostly anything. I started playing instruments 31 years ago and I do so to this very day. The reason my music doesn’t sound quite like the others in my circuit is because I have a true working knowledge of music so I make the records and the records don’t necessarily make me.

W: As we previously mentioned, your discography stretches back to 1995, which is funny, becasue I knew about Pre-Life Crisis, bought it in 96, but it just doesn’t seem like you’ve been around that long….How do you feel when look back at your discography? Which album would you consider your favorite? Anything you think that wasn’t recieved the way you thought it should?

CBD: I don’t look like I’ve been around that long because I’m not fat, balding and I still don’t believe there are many cats that can touch me (i.e. I’m still hungry). My favorite Count Bass D album is BEGBORROWSTEEL. I don’t expect any of my records to be received well because I don’t like most music that is popular. I’m grateful when anyone says anything positive about what I do.

W: You are the roughly the same age as me, you were around for the days when you ran to the record store on a Tuesday after school (or you ditched at 10am when the store opened) and grabbed the newest album. How do you view the changes hip hop was endured as far as promoting, releasing, and distributing hip hop in general and the internet?

CBD: I’m grateful to be my age. I was born in the Bronx the same week Kool Herc threw his first party. I was in high school for the “golden era” and released my first album on the tale end of that. That’s all I can really say. My perspective for doing this I believe is perfect and that’s why it’s nearly effortless. The older I get the harder it is for people to get the authentic thing in the true spirit of it. That’s the only reason I believe I’m still here. I’m on the outside of the music industry and how they operate doesn’t really concern me.

W: Let’s talk about the newest album, “L7″, your seventh album, early reviews are saying this as experimental as some of your early works. What was your mindstate and intent when you were making this album? What did you want to convey the audience?

CBD: Nothing special. It was my life at the time. That’s it. I have but one concept, and that is to represent my mindstate at the time of the recording.

W: There has been some time passed since your last release and this one, have you spent more time than usual working on this album?

CBD: No. I was caught up in a contract that I couldn’t release music as fast as I usually do. Now that I’m done,

W: How much live instrumentation does this album contain?

CBD: My first album was pretty obvious and the untrained ear could answer that question for you pretty easily. As time has gone on, I’ve attempted to blend samples with instrumentation to the level where the trained ear can’t tell what is what. So that’s the move for me right now.

W: You have some tour dates coming up (the Portland,OR is an intriguing date for me), but you’ve mentioned in past interviews you weren’t to keen on touring in general. Are you keeping it simple on this one? What can one expect from your live performance if we’ve never seen you live?

CBD: The touring game is 180 degrees to the recording game. I know cats who can barely put a record together but tour 9 months out of the year. I have a hard time dealing with show business politics and making friends with people who aren’t cool so I can get more concerts. When you are blessed to catch a rare Count Bass D performance, you can expect an MC/Dj who’s live influences are mainly Doug E. Fresh and Ninjaman. I believe I have more energy than anyone on the rap scene right now. Ask around about me.

W: You’ve mentioned some projects you’ve been working on with J Rawls and Insight, both very accomplished artists in their own right. Are those still in the “chamber” so to say? Any news you care to pass along on them?

CBD: Stay tuned. Insight has influenced some of the biggest names in our circuit and J. Rawls has worked with everyone in our circuit. I just believe cats like us should use our talents to band together and continue to pass on the authenticity of the culture we’ve grown up in. Just like the blues artists of old. I study music and I feel it’s important that like minds get together and create art together for the culture’s sake. The projects aren’t complete, but they are WELL on their way.

W: Anything last words for the readers out there?

CBD: Never confuse me with these other guys out here. I’m am one of you. I’m a husband of 15 years and a father of 5 children with that one woman. I don’t live like these other guys and I don’t act like them either. If you come up to me I don’t give attitude nor do I try to duck and hide backstage. I mingle with the people because I am one of the people. I hope people like me as a person more than they like my music because we all like somebody cool even if we don’t listen to the same types of music. You can support my records because I’m not trying to belittle you on them. I am my own guy. Never needed a crew or an entourage. I’m 100% self contained and that’s why the music industry can’t get rid of me until GOD shuts my eyes for the final time.

W: Thanks again for your time, it is much appreciated.

CBD: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

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