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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Willie Green
Monday, July 12, 2010

Many great producers don’t get the face time they deserve, which is why this week I made a trip behind the boards to catch up with beatsmith extraordinaire, Willie Green. Originally from Hartford, CT, but now residing in Brooklyn, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Green’s work, but just don’t realize it. He has production credits on the Super Chron Flight Bros’ latest album, Cape Verde, and on Premonition’s just released The Build. Green’s latest solo release is Dirty Jordans and when he sat down with me we discussed the album, why he likes the idea of dirty, rather than clean, Jordans, and what he has in common with some other famous Willie Greens, including an NBA player and an organic farm.

Adam Bernard: I usually start these interviews by asking about an artist’s background info, but yours is tattooed right on you in the form of a Hartford Whalers logo. How long did you live in Hartford, when did you leave, and why does the city hold a place so dear in your heart that you decided to get the tattoo?
Willie Green: I was born in Hartford and lived there and in its surrounding towns for 18 years, mostly in Windsor. I still have a ton of family in the Hartford area, including both my parents. I left to go to college in Boston and after I graduated I stayed there till moving to Brooklyn three years ago. I feel most people have a pretty strong attachment to where they were born, and although it's not the global powerhouse city that a New York or LA is, it'll always be home. I remember going to Whalers games with my father as a kid, not because we were big hockey fans, but because it was just fun shit to do. They're still the Whale as far as I'm concerned, the Carolina Hurricanes don't exist to me. Plus, it's the best logo in the history of sports. Seriously, design genius. 

Adam Bernard: Speaking of famous logos, your new album is titled Dirty Jordans. What’s the significance of your Jordans being dirty? Don’t most folks try to keep em crispy?
Willie Green: For the record, I actually don't own a single pair of Jordans. I can't really be spending that kind of money on sneakers. I am however a fitted cap junkie, when I spend money on kinda unnecessary clothing, it's hats. I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 at the moment. But the significance of the album title is the contradiction. I like odd combinations of things; contrast, like beautiful orchestras with record noise all over them. Shit, when I'm making beats, I might add more noise if there's not enough. That's not to say I don't enjoy incredible recordings, but sometimes you have to grime things up a little.

Adam Bernard: There’s no rapping on Dirty Jordans, but some of the tracks were also used on the latest Super Chron Flight Bros album. From a production standpoint, how difficult is it to make it work both ways?
Willie Green: Yeah, some were on Cape Verde, and some were also on my homey Afro DZ Ak's album Elevation. It's really just a matter of being able to switch your mind into a different mode, which is something I've become pretty successful at. In the past few years I played the roles of Producer/Engineer/Studio Manger/A&R/all the other stuff I don't have a manager to do for me. The only way to do all this stuff successfully is to look at each role objectively and separate from the other work. This is the same mindset. All the vocal samples on Dirty Jordans, and last years ...Of Heroes and Villains for that matter, are very strategically placed. That's part of that contrast - the rhythm of the spoken voice against the more traditional rhythm of drums and keys, etc. I know that sounds really music snobby, but it makes total sense over here. Working with emcees is very different, because while I treat vocal samples as part of the song, with a live vocalist, they're the focus, and the arrangement supports them. The tracks on Jordans have a lot more effects and dramatic drops, some stuff I would never do with a vocalist on the track.

Adam Bernard: Each track on Dirty Jordans is short, with all 30 songs adding up to just over 30 minutes of music. Why did you keep the songs short and what do you think is gained by this?
Willie Green: Well, this album was somewhat of an experiment to begin with. It was the first instrumental project I'd ever done, it was finished a year before ...Of Heroes and Villains, but I kinda like the shorter tracks as opposed to the longer style, which can sometimes lose focus a bit. This may move by a bit fast, but I think I bridged the songs well, so all in all it works.

Adam Bernard: I know some producers who always go out and buy the latest gear, and others who stick with their favorite standbys. What’s in your studio, and what did you use to create Dirty Jordans?
Willie Green: I've gone through phases of having lots of gear and keyboards, and having very little. At the moment, I'm minimal, apart from a turntable and stacks of records, and my DVD player and piles of DVDs. All my synths and drums are in the computer. I use mostly Native Instruments synths, like Battery and Kore, and mostly Universal Audio effects for mixing. I use Steinberg's Nuendo for recording and mixing, which is similar to ProTools, but has some differences I prefer. For this project, though, I also used Ableton Live, which let me do the gradual tempo changes. It’s deep software that I just scratched the surface of.

Adam Bernard: As we mentioned earlier, in addition to your own work, you also produced a large chunk of the latest Super Chron Flight Bros. album. How did you link up with them?
Willie Green: I heard their first album Emergency Powers about six months before I moved to New York. It was a steep learning curve at first, but after a few listens I was like, "damn, this shit is crazy!" It's challenging music, but I love that. Music is too easy for listeners. There's a rapper who's style is to say a metaphor, and then in the next line explain it. That’s not even trying to give listeners a chance to be intelligent. Music should be accessible, but also stretch a little, too. It's a thin line, but the Flight Brothers do it very well. When I moved to BK the first people I reached out to were Backwoodz Studioz. The homey Zu over there set up a meeting with me and Billy Woods (of Super Chron), and since I had just finished Dirty Jordans that's what I played him. He brought a copy back to Priviledge (the other half of Super Chron), and they picked out a bunch of tracks, enough tracks that when I talked to the label about putting out Dirty Jordans they asked me to wait until Cape Verde was released and to drop them together, hence why ...Of Heroes and Villains leapfrogged. I got along great with the Flight Brothers, plus had studio access and engineering skills, so it went from just placing a couple beats to Executive Producing and being the "third Flight Brother."

Adam Bernard: That’s awesome! Who else have you been working with recently?
Willie Green: The big news, especially in New York, is this newly released project from Premonition, The Build. I'm Executive Producer on that, along with having four beats on there. Prem is a beast, and quality people, which always makes for good records. I'm also doing a one producer/one emcee project with HiCoup from New Jersey. I'm really excited about that one. Hi is crazy talented, and great to work with. His rhyme patterns are incredible and bring out a different character in these tracks. And work is starting on my next album, titled We Live In The Future. That won't be an instrumental, I'm hand picking emcees for it. That's not coming out until late next year, though, I'm taking my sweet time with it.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what do you think you have in common with other famous Willie Greens, such as the NBA player, the Delta Blues artist, and the organic farm?
Willie Green: {laughs} Well, I retired from playing ball long ago, so not much in common with the one from the Sixers. Not a whole lot in common with the farmer, but I do a lot of cooking, and use a lot of organic vegetables and whatnot, so we may need to hook up a sponsorship deal. The blues musician is an interesting story because I've been going through it a little bit with one of his fans on the internet. I'm very aware and respectful of Mr. Green's blues career, but this fan apparently doesn't feel the same way about my work. This person went on Last.fm and deleted my bio and replaced it with that of the blues artist. Never mind the fact that the albums linked with that page are mine, as are the pictures, the Top Tracks, and most other things on there. I contacted them, although they haven't responded, and put my bio back up, but I was pretty surprised by that level of disrespect. It's clearly my page, just create another one, it's free! There's enough space on the internet for all of us.

Related Links

Website: WillieGreenMusic.com
Twitter: twitter.com/WillieGreen1


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:40 AM  
  • At 10:09 AM, Blogger Birthplace said…

    Nice interview. Green's a talented guy. And I understand his pain, He-Man keeps messing with my Wikipedia page.. lol

    Manny Faces

  • At 4:33 PM, Blogger Homeboy Sandman said…

    this cat is nice with beats sun

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