Superproducer Quincy Jones was in Berlin for the IFA technology event a couple of weeks ago to introduce his signature line of headphones for audio giants Harman AKG. The genius behind the biggest selling album in history (Jacko’s “Thriller”, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the ast 30 year) talked to Kevin Braddock for BANG BANG BERLIN about hip hop, clubbing in Germany and “the real shit” in music....
Do you plan to go clubbing while you're here in Berlin?
Oh hell yeah, I wanna find the right ones. The first ones I went to in Germany when I was 19 was the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. They can get down man….
You were very close to Michael Jackson. What was he like?
He was nano-technology. He was a lot of things, he was smart… he couldn’t face the future or the past, there was a lot of stuff going on. I guess when you become a start at the age of five, your sense of reality is all very different. Wouldn't you be?
What did you think of hip hop when it apppeared?
I was all over it. I saw the genesis of it from Last Poets, and even they don't even they didn’t know where it came from. They're my homes and I love them. The majory of the rappers are just like bebop guys, freestyling is just like bebop. I told Heavy D, “did you listen to the tape motherfucker?”. “No”. “Play the tape”. He listens to the tape one time and in ten minutes writes down all and the beats and rhymes. One take done. The problem is, they have to deal with music, they were always dealing with samples. I said, “what you guys gonna sample in 20 years? You need to write some new shit.” They all call me now and say Quincy, teach me to be a real musician. You can't half-step in your pofession. Have you seen some of this email shit, LOL and U R? They’re gonna forget how to write man.
What do you think of American culture now?
One of the problems I’m fighting for is, we don't have a Minister For Culture. America doesn't have one. And our kids do not know the roots of their music. Jazz is our classical music.
How important is it to learn music now that technology means making it is easier?
I was working night clubs when I was 13, four clubs a night. Jazz musicians shack up with music first, then they court it and marry it later. It's true. I went and learned counterpoint, retrograde inversion, orchestration and harmony later. I said, I’m going all the way, I wanna be able to anything: Ravel, Stavinksy, Duke Ellington, Bo Diddley. It's very important to have your science to back up your emotion. You can get emotional as you want, but if you don't have your chops, you can’t go there. You get to a certain point where nothing scares you. I’m at that point. That might be foolish, but that’s where I am.
What do you think of the state of the music business?
The record business is 95 to 99 pre cent piracy now year. We’ve got 10 months or a year with record companies. That’s my feeling the way things are now. They biggest records out there, their sales are a joke. And it hurts a lot. We had our share, but what about the young music? I was an SXSW - 1,900 bands on that, they don't have a clue and they don't know where to go, they don't have an outlet. Piracy: there’s a whole generation who’s never paid for music. So I don’t know, it's a long continual story and we have to solve it. We’ve got to figure it out because it's a disaster now.
Where do you see the key production talent coming from today?
I'd start off with Sweden. Some of the biggest producers are coming from there and Norway now. The Grammy’s were won last year by two Norwegians. It comes from everywhere though, everyone learns from each other and they always have, but I see the majority coming from Scandinavia
Was “Crazy In Love” the best Number One of the last 10 years?
Oh hell no… no. No man. Music is rhythm, harmony and melody. “Crazy In Love” is good action song, but in terms of digging down in your soul…. Did it dig down in your soul? Shit no. I’m not judging anyone’s talent, I’m just saying it doesn't hit you like the real shit does. When you hear the real shit, it goes all the way down. It touches you deeply.
You’re a big fan of travel I hear…
I travel more than anyone on this planet. I been to China 16 times, I was here [In Berlin] when everything was bombed down, and Tokyo, Brazil, Cairo, Abu Dahbi, Kuwait, Jeddah, Kuwait, so I know what's happening all over the world, all the time – the girls, the booze, the music, everything. Eveything. It's a great way to live. There’s nothing like travel. I’m hooked and I’m 77 and I’ve never had so much fun or been as happy in my whole life.
We hope you come back to Berlin soon!
Oh I will!
Check out Quincy Jones’ signature line of Headphones here