(Editor’s Note: This was done roughly 2 years ago over the span of many long, extensive phonecalls between Mr. Brummett and Mr. Fanaka. It is one of the deepest pieces I’ve ever read on Fanaka’s films and the motivations behind them–it is also one of the funniest. I am so proud to have this among our list of interviews. Thanks so much Jeff and Jamaa. -DM)
By Jeff Brummett
Jamaa Fanaka is a legendary figure in the world of Soul Cinema. A director, writer and producer of several Soul Cinema classics, including the entire Penitentiary series, Emma Mae and the immortal Welcome Home, Brother Charles.
The only student in UCLA history to create a full-length feature out of his senior thesis, Jamaa is a true innovator and pioneer of D.I.Y. ethos who made badass, thought provoking pictures. With Penitentiary as the highest grossing independent movie of 1979, you would think success of that nature would open more doors for Fanaka. Instead he found racism and lack of studio support to be prevalent in Hollywood. In fact he filed a lawsuit against the Directors Guild, charging them with not living up to the quota of minority hiring—just one example of his tenacity for what is right.
He has an unreleased documentary entitled Hip-Hop Hope that he has finished and is working on a script for Penitentiary 4 to be filmed shortly. Still living in Compton, CA, he took time away from his scriptwriting to talk.
Describe how you wound up going to UCLA and how it changed your life.
Well, I’d been in the Air Force for four years and was having trouble looking for a job, there were no jobs. My best friend was a guy named Cash Nelson and when we were in high school, he was too shy to talk to girls, I’d have to do the talking for him, and when I get out of the Air Force, he was now a pimp! He’s got about ten girls in his stable, a Cadillac and everything and I was real impressed by it, you know. But I knew I didn’t want to be a pimp, I loved my family too much. Continue reading “WELCOME HOME, BROTHER: THE JAMAA FANAKA INTERVIEW”→
(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). Continue reading “DYNAMITE SOUNDS: ADRIAN YOUNGE INTERVIEW”→
Doctor Nurse is a San Jose band whose perfectionist (and laissez faire) approach delayed this release for years. Besides a droning, 8-minute instrumental interlude (aptly called “Graveland”) the other songs have touching lyrics that volley between detailed, real life moments and abstract imagery. The melodies are bright and replete with illustrative musicianship that combines traditional tools with vintage synths like the Prophet-600 (Sequential Circuits). Occasional French horns, vibraphones, and organs flesh out the rest.
The 4 members (and 2 guest musicians) are multi-instrumentalists whose roles rotate depending on the cut. The songs are laid-back compositions—short, garage-y, indie-rock tunes with occasional psychedelic flare. The joint above, “Phantom Lights,” is a personal favorite and displays a sense of reverie that Calm Seas... is bound with.
*JB of Doctor Nurse, who plays guitar, sings, and writes all the songs, will be sharing an amazing interview he did with pioneering ’70s filmmaker, Jamaa Fanaka. This has been a long time in the making. Be ready.
To hear more of Calm Seas, Phantom Lights and to purchase it, please click HERE or contact Doctor Nurse directly at DOCTORNURSEMUSIC@yahoo.com.