(Editor’s Note: Adrian Younge, producer, collector, composer, and musician currently touring as Adrian Younge and The Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra recenly gave us details on his creative processes. Jeff Brummett, musician and now occasional contributor, interviewed Adrian a few months back. Stay tuned for his extensive, upcoming interview with Soul Cinema icon, Jamaa Fanaka. -DM)
By Jeff Brummett
Adrian Younge is the composer, producer and songwriter for the amazingly righteous Black Dynamite soundtrack. An homage to classic blaxploitation films, the movie and especially the soundtrack are pitch perfect. He went to severe lengths to perfect and duplicate the analog sounds of classic era Soul Cinema creating a very distinct flavor mirroring the original intentions and grooves of those groundbreaking works. The attention to detail and painstaking long hours really bring this project an authenticity that is tremendously impressive. Adrian was also the editor for the film Black Dynamite, so this was very much a passion project for him. We look forward to hearing more from this multi-talented artist.
Were you given the freedom to completely create the tracks or were you and the director working together to come up with the sound?
The producers and the director gave me the freedom to do anything for the score; we collaborated ideas on most of the songs and this was a very joyous experience. The director, Scott Sanders, actually wrote the lyrics to “Cleaning up the Streets.”
How did the tracking aspect go? Was it usually starting a groove with the drummer, then overdubs?
I rarely wrote any of the music with drums first. On the song, “Black they Back,” my drummer, Jack Waterson, composed a drum sequence and I just basically followed his progressions; other than that, songs were either written on organ, bass, or guitar; I would record my instruments into my mpc 2000 for arrangement purposes; after the song was arranged, the band and I would play every instrument onto tape sequentially (do a youtube search for the black dynamite score documentary, it shows the entire process).
How directly were you trying to emulate the actual tracks to coincide with other classic soul soundtracks. Shaft, Superfly, The Mack.
I have been a fan for classic funk and soul recordings for the past 12 years. I have studied the techniques for a long time and learned a lot from Waterson, also the owner of Future Music. Future Music is a vintage instrument store that is based in Los Angeles . I purchased most of my vintage gear from Waterson and he was imperatively influential in creating the “Black Dynamite Sound.” My goal was to recreate the sound of soul from ’68 to ’73; the blaxploitation movies that you quoted just so happen to fall within this timeframe.
How long did this project take? It’s seems figuring out the tones and equipment must have been a daunting task.
The project took about 3 years to complete. We started recording before the movie even had financing. After financing was secured, recording became difficult because I was so consumed; I was editing the movie for simultaneously and would stay up late just to record music.
The tones throughout the record are incredible. I was stunned that this was a modern recording. What were some of the mics and pre-amps and board that you used? Also, did you use the same studio for all production or move around a bit.
Studio & tone: I used my personal studio for all of the recordings; most of my equipment was either rca, Universal Audio or ampex. Tone was captured through the use of my vintage hardware components. For almost everything, I tracked a vintage ribbon mic through a vintage tube mic pre (ampex) through an 1176. This linear audio was all recorded to two inch tape (24 track and 16 track).
The tone I sought was very raw. I recorded into the red heavily and sought creative mic placements. For example, half of the drums are recorded with only one microphone placed by the snare; when recording bass guitar, I would place my mic on the ground to catch unique frequencies,etc. As earlier noted, I have been studying vintage tone for over 12 years so most of the learning curve had been surpassed; however, I am still learning and developing new recording methods.
There are a few choice cuts on the soundtrack that aren’t featured in the film. ‘Shot Me In The Heart’ for example. How did you decide what to use for the actual film?
Basically, if a song didn’t make the film, it was because I recorded these songs after picture was locked. I felt as though the score needed more music so I just wrote these extra songs to complete the score.
What is your creative process like, specifically the songwriting? Do you write the melody first and then compose around that?
I usually write the chord progression first; thereafter, I focus on melody. Melody usually comes easy because melody hides within the chords.
Was it always the idea to have a score and a soundtrack? Since this is such an homage to classic soul cinema, you guys actually wanted to use tracks from 60’s and 70’s productions. Were you trying to bookend Hollander’s score as well?
The idea was always to have one soundtrack that included library music and the score; however, we discovered that the products had a better life on their own. They are two distinct soundtracks; the “soundtrack” is basically assembled from European library music; the “Score” is basically a mix of European composition and American Blaxploitaiton music. They flow well together because they both represent a certain period of funk/soul; however, the producers and I felt that they should be separated as products.
Did you work with David Hollander or just let him run with it?
I really adore that guy; we became great friends instantly. He was very instrumental in finding the library music and has a vast knowledge regarding funk and soul. We worked very well together.
The editing is amazing. Were you hired as the editor and composer or did one hook into the other?
I was hired as both: the deal was that if I was allowed to edit the movie, I would also be granted the opportunity to compose the score. The producers and director was very gracious in allowing me the opportunity.
Editing and composing are generally post-production assignments. Is that the way it went down or were you fairly involved throughout the shoot?
I was not very involved during the shoot; mostly post. They knew what they were doing and we had a strict schedule we incorporated in order to expedite the project; therefore, I couldn’t be on set everyday since I was editing simultaneously.
Some of the editing is very musical seeming as well, for example the car chase with Chicago Wind. Do you see a correlation between editing and composing?
Very much so. Music and editing go hand and hand. I would always prefer the opportunity to edit and compose because I have greater creative control.
The animated sequence is a huge laugh in the film, was that something you were involved in editing wise?
That was created by “six point harness,” an animation company; I made certain cuts within this animation scene but that was basically it. The director, Scott Sanders, came up with the Zodiac lovers concept.
Just saw the great video for ‘Shot Me In The Heart’. How did that go down?
Wax Poetics and Converse gave me the opportunity to create this video. Initially, Converse requested a video of Los Angeles djs spinning the 45 record “Rafelli Chase” (from the converse 45 series). I countered with the idea that we create a video with more depth. Converse agreed and the rest is history.
It seems like this character could still be explored. Are there any plans for a Black Dynamite 2?
We will have a black dynamite 2 if the upcoming black dynamite cartoon and the black dynamite dvd do well. Let’s keep our fingers crossed because we definitely want to do it.
Are you getting more soundtrack work after this or are their any plans for an Adrian Younge solo record?
Currently, Adrian Younge and the Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra, are working on the next album. The album should be completed by June and should be released in December on Wax Poetics Records. This record company believes in us and is working hard to further expose or sound and product.
*For more info on Adrian and the Black Dynamite Orchestra head over to Waxpoetics.com