Sunday, 1 June 2014

Maceo Parker, musician

In February 2014, I did an email interview with Maceo Parker, a famous funk musician, both as a sideman to James Brown and in his own right. As usual with these kinds of interviews it was very much a case of just throwing a batch of rather obvious questions out there and hoping for something good or at least usable in reply. Some punctuation has been corrected.

CBL: What has been keeping you busy recently?

MP: Trying to stay fit, to stay in shape to perform at my level.

CBL: What kind of show are you bringing to Tokyo? Who are you bringing and why? Will it be the same line-up as appeared on Soul Classics?

MP: No, it's not the same line up as Soul Classics. That was a special project with the WDR Big Band from Cologne. I'm doing a little bit of James Brown, a little bit of George Clinton, a little bit of Ray Charles, and a little bit more of Maceo.

CBL: On recent CDs, you often end up playing with German bands. How does that work out compared with, say, Funkadelic or James Brown?

MP: I was in James brown's band and I was in George Clinton's Funkadelic band but I was not in WDR Big Band. I was invited to headline two projects and it became very important to me to be part of that, and I was thankful that I was chosen to come in and work alongside WDR.

CBL: Brown will always be a legend. What was the secret of your chemistry?

MP: He felt that my style of playing was equal to his style of performing, and when he needed time to leave the stage - to change clothes for examaple - he felt comfortable putting the spotlight on me.

CBL: Could you kindly tell our readers an interesting anecdote about James Brown that has never been told before?

MP: He wanted to change Sweet Charles Sherrel's name to Chuck Willis, but that never materialized.

CBL: You’re known for a punchy, rhythmic style that nevertheless manages to stay loose and swinging. What's the secret formula?

MP: Just to play loose and swinging, just to play that way. It's not a secret, it's just my style. It's easy for me to hear funky rhythms.

CBL: Tell our readers about how you prepare for a show. For example, after a long plane flight in a new town, when you may or may not be in the mood, how do you get that groove thing going?

MP: I exercise, I walk, and then I try to find a place to play saxophone for at least an hour and a half; and while I play and I walk, I don't stand still. Exercise and playing are vital to keep me in shape

CBL: Roots and Grooves had a Ray Charles tribute thing and a funk thing. How important is it to satisfy a variety of tastes and audiences?

MP: It's hard to satisfy 100% of audiences - I found that out - when people come they come to hear you - to hear the artist. Everyone has a favourite tune so if you play that everyone is still somewhat satisfied because they had chance to hear something they know. Once you start the show, after an hour or an hour and a half, all the time has gone so hopefully in that time frame you have satisfied as many people as you possibly can.

CBL: How does it feel being an elder statesman of music?

MP: I smile when I reminisce about the early years and feel lucky that I came up with a James Brown, and that I can quote names like James Brown and George Clinton, which sort of led to me being where I am today, so in the words of James Brown "I feel good."

CBL: As you move into that eighth decade, what are the challenges? How do you keep it fresh?

MP: I got into exercise, which is walking and I love walking - as long as I can stay a little loose and I know I must play saxophone at least an hour, an hour and a half daily and sometimes two hours. That's the plan.

CBL: Are you one of those busy musicians who just flies into Tokyo for the show and then just flies out again, or do you stop to smell the roses? If so, what aspects of Japan interest you?

MP: I always marvel in Japan that I don't hear people yelling across the street and how clean it is, and the politeness of the people.

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