Yohimbe Brothers, Living Colour frontman rants on everything Besides being one of the best rock guitarists of his generation, Vernon Reid also has a passion for experimentation. The work he did with Living Colour, which sold 40 million albums worldwide, as well as a solo artist, stands as a testament to that. Now Reid is back with The Yohimbe Brothers, a collaboration between himself and longtime friend DJ Logic, who"s worked with Medeski, Martin and Wood and Bob Weir, among others. Their sound is a unique blend of rock, jazz and hip-hop done with wit, verve and fire.
Vernon Reid: "The Yohimbe Brothers is not a side project. It is really an outgrowth of a very real aesthetic merging."
While a Living Colour reunion tour and album are planned for 2003, Reid and DJ Logic are on the road now. The Yohimbe Brothers will be at the Patio on Tuesday, Oct. 29. Call 239-5151 for ticket information. While his tour bus rolled through rural Idaho last week, Reid took time out to talk with NUVO about the tour, the album and the importance of music in today"s society. NUVO: How did you and Jason [DJ Logic] decide to do this record? REID: We"d always wanted to do an album focused on the way we heard music. In a way, the turntable is the guitar of today. Just as how the "60s and "70s popularized the guitar, the turntable is an important instrument. In fact, I was at a music store the other day and the guys were talking about how some people don"t want to play guitar anymore; they want a turntable. And I think it"s great. The turntable is a legitimate instrument. I"ve thought that from the very beginning. DJ Logic and I have always had an admiration and love for each other. And I totally believe in what he"s doing and I believe in the instrument he plays. Our band is really fresh and adventurous and funky. NUVO: Some of the reviews of the album fault it for being too diverse, for being too much all over the place. REID: I don"t see it that way. I think the record says a complete thing, it says it with different colors and different aspects. The aesthetics, the kind of mix-tape aesthetic that the DJ brings to the party, that"s the whole idea. DJs are so democratic in their choices because they"re just looking for the beats, the funk. That fits into what we talk about. So we go from punk to "Transmission XXX" and to me, it"s one piece. It"s the same thing. That"s the reason we made the records. It"s the things we just dig. NUVO: Talk about some of the cameos on the album, working with Prince Paul and Slick Rick and the others. REID: Paul came in first, and he"s just someone I admire so much. He"s my favorite producer in hip-hop, Prince Paul. We struck up a friendship. I told him about The Yohimbe Brothers and he laughed, he was into it. Rick came about through our saxophonist who"d been working with him. And he was absolutely great. A lot of times when people try to work with icons, it can be incredibly difficult due to scheduling and it can be difficult because sometimes people who are gifted and talented are difficult. NUVO: You"ve worked with Chuck D. in the past, and you both came on the scene about the same time. Do you feel close to him? REID: The last time Chuck and I were together was when Nightline interviewed us about Elvis. We both realized Elvis was a great artist, and he was also a victim of his own success. He was a victim of capitalism. He was a victim of music-industry exploitation. He was also a beneficiary of a divided nation. He was also dangerous and sexy, and he was also maudlin and treacly. It was interesting how Chuck and I both had this take on Elvis, because on a certain level, he was overindulged, and he overindulged, and we all celebrated his overindulgence. There"s a lot of sympatico between Chuck and I. NUVO: What is the status of the Living Colour album right now? Where are you at with that? REID: It"s a process. And part of what"s going on right now is that we"ve started working on songs and thinking about what it is the band can say and what it is the band has to say. That"s a lot of what I"m processing for myself. As long as the thing is alive and viable, you know, then I think we should do it. I"m grappling with a lot of stuff in my thoughts about it. One thing that"s good is that Corey and I, our creative relationship has taken a really positive turn and we"re asking ourselves some really difficult questions about the nature of the band having been famous, the nature of the band having disappeared and not having disappeared at the same time. Even when we were together I felt like the band was invisible. It"s a very strange thing. We"re trying to come to grips with that. So we"re going to see, I"m going to see, what the band has to say right now. NUVO: So everyone in the band is getting along all right? REID: I think so. People always throw around the phrase "family" when talking about a band. Yeah, it"s a kind of family, it"s not a kind of family. And it is friendship, and business, and it"s laughter and it"s not laughter. That"s what makes it powerful. I"m looking at the possibility of it being viable. Not just in a commercial sense. I don"t know if I"m even thinking about that. I know what I want to see from it. And everybody has different expectations, and I"m trying to clarify what my vision is for it. Living Colour was my life, 24-7, and there was no separation between me and it. It"s different now, and I think it"s a good thing, because I can really look at it and really check what am I attached to. The thing that was great about making The Yohimbe Brothers album is that both Jason and I allowed the process of making the record change our expectations for it. We had a track that we were certain was going to be on the record. And it"s not on the record, and it"s actually a good thing. When we realized it wasn"t going to be on the album, it was a weird moment. It wound up not happening for no other fact than we allowed the process to change. As far as Living Colour goes, we have to walk away from the past. I love the fact that Vivid has been remastered and rereleased, because it was an important moment. But what will make Living Colour viable today? That"s what I"m grappling with. My life is like a U2 song right about now. NUVO: In what sense? REID: "I Still Haven"t Found What I"m Looking For." At least in that sense. NUVO: Spirituality has always been a big part of your music. How do you feel philosophically right now? REID: I tell you what. I feel really good, where I"m at right now. Our bus broke down and I"m talking to you from our second bus. We"re in the middle of Idaho. We blew the transmission of our first bus and we were stuck for 16 hours in Idaho. And we had the best time. I"ll never forget, they were putting our first bus on a flatbed truck. And we came out and the night was full of stars. I felt incredibly alive. I experienced an epiphany in Idaho last night. And everybody in The Yohimbe Brothers band was great. Nobody was complaining. We just had a good time with each other. That tells you something right there. I"m looking for that feeling wherever I go. I just finished doing a week with James Blood Ulmer. I produced his album, Memphis Blood. And we just did a thing that was two guitars, bass and drums, playing these old blues songs. And I just felt so connected to him and to that music and to the fact that he is an unsung blues master. It"s weird, right, because he"s associated with the music of Ornette Coleman. But when he opens his mouth I hear Howling Wolf. I hear Muddy Waters. He"s not trying to sound like them and in fact he avoided the blues for much of his life. But I was part of a great moment in a great artist"s life. And I feel very blessed. Working with DJ Logic, I"ve really watched him become a man. When I met him, he was like 16 years old. It"s those kind of things. And I guess that"s what I"m talking about with everything I"m doing. I"m looking for that kind of feeling. So, spiritually, right now, I feel very whole. The Yohimbe Brothers is not a side project. It is really an outgrowth of a very real aesthetic merging. And I see DJ Logic very much as my partner in this endeavor. It"s a new band coming out and it"s phenomenal. It"s not old hat, it"s not trapped in a past conversation. It really is the possibility of something in the moment. And that"s kind of where I"m at in my life right now.