King Britt Interview
By Matt Bauer
It may be hard to believe but the legendary Philadelphia DJ/Producer King Britt has been in the music game for twenty years now. Beginning his career in 1990 as E-Culture on the Strictly Rhythm label, Britt quickly became the DJ for the Grammy winning hip-hop group Digable Planets. Segueing into production work, he’s remixed tracks for The O’Jays, Macy Gray, Bebel Gilberto and Roy Ayers amongst hundreds of others as well as dropping acclaimed albums like Adventures In Lo-Fi while also touring the world with his eclectic and often brilliant DJ sets. The first DJ/producer to win the esteemed Pew Fellowship Grant, he’s come full circle of sorts with his latest release The Intricate Beauty which he says will be his last “traditional” dance music album. Back from a tour of Europe, King Britt took some time to talk to Nu-soul Magazine about his influences, his re-mixing process and his newest album.
Nu-Soul: I wanted to start at the beginning. How did you get into DJ’ing?
King Britt: I always made tapes in high school of all the new hard to find imports but didn’t really DJ for a living until 1990.
Nu-Soul:How much of a role did growing up in Philadelphia play in guiding you into a musical career and what’s happening musically in Philly these days?
King Britt: Oh yes, growing up in Philly was amazing in the 70s and 80s. It was the peak moment in Philly music history. The disco movement was really influenced by Gamble and Huff and their influential song writing. Radio was mind blowing as well. Stations like WDAS and WHAT played the best soul music you could find. It was a wonderful moment.
Today, the Philly music scene has died down. Things are brewing but since the ‘neo-soul’ movement (sylk130/Jill Scott/Kindred and the Family Soul) things have kinda quieted down. The hipster scene however has definitely been pretty big at the moment.
Nu-Soul: Who are your biggest DJ and musical influences?
King Britt: I have so many but for DJs its David Morales (Red Zone years), Frankie Knuckles (Sound Factory years), Dave Mancuso (Loft days), Francois K and GiGi (from Philadelphia who now lives in Miami).
As far as music-too much- Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock, Mtume, Ndugu, Miles (Davis), Art Blakey, Jaco (Pastorious), Dee Dee Bridgewater, Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, Wendy and Lisa, Prince, etc……
Nu-Soul: How did you end up being the DJ for Digable Planets?
King Britt: Butterfly and I met at Tower Records, when I worked there. We remained friends while he was developing the concept for DP. He then asked me to tour with them….boom history!
Nu-Soul: Which is more rewarding – playing to a live audience or working in the studio?
King Britt: Both are absolutely divine. They both have an incredible adrenaline rush!
Nu-Soul: You’ve remixed a lot of artists. Take me on a journey through the King Britt re-mixing process?
King Britt: Each remix is different. It usually starts with just the vocal and actually creating a new song around that. So doing the beats first, then finding the key ….chords and bass lines are next and then textures. It really depends on where I feel like taking the artist!
Nu-Soul: What artists are you digging right now?
King Britt: Quadron, Ras G, Afta 1, Flying Lotus, Soul Litchfield, Zaphrin Follicle, Knxwldge, Mnd Dsgn and King Sunny Ade!
Nu-Soul: Who would you like to work with but haven’t yet?
King Britt: Bjork, Tracy Thorn, China Moses, Jamiroquai, Herbie Hancock and Grace Jones!
Nu-Soul: Let’s get to the new album. What’s the inspiration behind the title The Intricate Beauty?
King Britt: Deepak Chopra had a wonderful passage that said “We must surrender to the unknown, while appreciating its Intricate Beauty.” I found this absolutely profound. I was going through personal positive inner work changes in my path and this inspired me to use a different process in making the record.
Nu-Soul: I’ve read that this is going to be your last album of “traditional dance music”. What’s your definition of that and why have you decided this to be your last album of that genre?
King Britt: I’m just tired of how dance music has become cookie cutter. I plan to really just make music that really can’t fit into a ‘genre’ per se…just do and see what happens.
Nu-Soul: What’s up next on the horizon for you?
King Britt: SaturnNeverSleeps.com and the new label. Pushing your mind boundaries! I also just produced a new King Sunny Ade song and I’m beginning to produce the new Bedouin Soundclash album. They are a dope Toronto based band ! Also, in June, the debut Soul Litchfield release ….a project not to miss!
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