As Gregory Hutchinson states in his brand new single “Straight From the Heart,” it’s a whole new side of him. That whole new side is now becoming apparent with both the single release and the famed drummer’s debut solo album Da Bang coming to you on September 29th via Warner Music. This has been a very creative time in the life of the singer-songwriter and producer. Motivated forward after a difficult divorce, Da Bang is an elaborate fusion of different musical styles that makes his exceptional versatility and musical imagination very apparent. Combining hip-hop, R&B, funk, neo-soul and more, the album is a statement from Hutchinson that he’s not just content being hemmed in by any one musical style.
Da Bang features an impressive cast of guests and collaborators, including the incomparable Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Karriem Riggins, James Pysner, Ray Angry, and the Queen of Underground Soul, Sy Smith. It’s something a bit different from Hutchinson, a man revered for his work as a jazz drummer with many of the greats like Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, Joshua Redman, Diana Krall, and Harry Connick Jr. As an artist, Hutchinson aims high. He is a consummate professional who has a great understanding of his musical history and wants to be the sparkplug to turn a whole new generation onto the spirit and joy of jazz music.
Today we are joined by Hutchinson himself to discuss his new music, the new record, the music industry, and more.
How would you describe your creative process?
Gregory Hutchinson: “My creative process is really based on how my emotions are, how my day is going, the music I want to get to. It’s a process that allows me to listen to what my mind is trying to tell that side of me to put forth. It also depends on what I have been listening to as a fan of music. So inspiration plays a big part.”
Tell us about your new songs; what was your experience of recording them? What went on behind the scenes? Any notable moments that stand out?
“Well, my most recent releases are ‘Straight From the Heart,’ featuring Leona Berlin and Karriem Riggins, ‘Blow Your Mind,’ featuring Sy Smith and Nick Peyton, and ‘New Dawn,’ featuring Lissolotte Ostelbulm. The moments that stand out are really when you get a song back, and it is more than you could have imagined, and that’s what these all were. Soul and life changers.”
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
“Wow, I’d most like to collaborate with Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Busta, Common, Pharohe, Dilla, Black Milk, Pete Rock, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, all in one big band; that would be crazy.”
What’s the best criticism you’ve ever received about your music or performance?
“Well, funny, I received many, but I guess being called the drummer of my generation and the respect of my peers means more to me. I’m already critical of myself.”
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
“If I could change anything, it would be going back to real music and getting rid of categories, just call it music and for it to not be so boxed in. Let’s get back control of something so special, MUSIC.”
What’s the best show you’ve ever played?
“Best show I played, let’s say every show for me has to be that damn good, with shows with Milt Jackson and Ray Brown, Dianne Reeves, a lot of shows.”
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows or on tour?
“The funniest moment for me was arriving at a gig in China to find the drum set was from someplace I never saw, so I had to duct tape it together so it would not fall apart.”
What are you still trying to figure out?
“I’m still trying to figure out life, how to play, how to be a better dad, how to relax, how to become successful, and get the bag all at the same time.”
When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind, or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?
“When I write, I think of both the song and the actual performance of it live. If it’s sample-based, how do we pull it off live, and if something should go wrong can we still pull it off, then I also just go off of where my pen is taking me.”
What is the story behind the name of the new record Da Bang?
“The story behind Da Bang is simple; remember The Flintstones’ Bam Bam, well I like the big bat he carried, so combine that with the first time I hit a drum, it was bang bang, no finesse, so also the music should bang in the club so it’s all of those mixed in.”
What do you think of the current state of the jazz genre overall?
“Jazz is in a great place, so many young cats coming up, but we need to get back to making the people dance; we forgot about that. This is not a jazz record, let’s be clear, this is a musical journey, so it’s a lot of things, but jazz is moving forward, and the talent level is higher than ever.”
What are some of the newer bands that you are listening to or enjoy?
“Actually these days, I tune out sometimes as I need a break so I can connect to me. JD Beck would be one. I mean, I can’t really give you a specific one.”
What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
“The most memorable moment would be helping certain artists I play with win Grammys and celebrating the joy that brings also the fact I get to share my talent with the world every night and hopefully bring a smile to them.”