In the late ’90s, after teaching himself to play several instruments and digging deep into his vinyl collection, Adrian Younge released his Italian-influenced EP, Venice Dawn (2000). In 2009, his soundtrack for the spoof comedy Black Dynamite on the Wax Poetics label resulted in his being asked to score the animated cult series during the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. In 2011 Younge expanded Venice Dawn into a longer work called Something About April. Earlier this year, he released Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics. And he’s just getting started.
Vegas Seven caught up with the composer/producer/record store owner/former entertainment law professor during his Twelve Reasons To Die tour with his band Venice Dawn and the illustrious Ghostface Killah, a.k.a. Tony Starks of Wu-Tang Clan fame. Their collaboration album of the same name is an asphalt jungle romance at its finest, a thought-provoking alternative to modern hip-hop eccentrically designed to give you Scarface meets Curtis Mayfield meets Fellini. The project (released April 16) is accompanied by a limited-edition six-issue series comic book released by Black Mask Studios.
How did this project come about?
RZA’s label partner wanted me to do a concept album with Ghostface. I recorded all the music in L.A., and Ghost recorded all his vocals in New York. I sent him all 12 songs stripped down, and after he put down his vocals I put the finishing touches on the compositions. When it was finished, we started putting everything together for the live show.
You weren’t in the studio together during the recording process. So you kind of took a risk on the chemistry, no?
Yes. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a risk; there’s 20 years of data on what Ghost can do. I know what I can do. It was always an aspiration to be able to collaborate with this man. He exceeded my expectations, personally.
You began the tour at South by Southwest. What have been the best shows so far?
Humbly speaking, every show we have people are coming up to us telling us it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen in their lives. For me, we get better and better every show. Our tour manager said last night’s show in Portland, Oregon, was the best one thus far. My best experience was the L.A. show at the Mayan. That’s where I’m from, that’s where all my friends are—I mean, we had 1,600 people there.
I can’t even imagine the antics that are going on that tour bus …
You know, it’s typical guy stuff: a lot of shit talking and joking around. We’re having fun, but we take this show very seriously. We’re always repeating things and trying to make them better. It’s work, it’s not play. I haven’t even been able to check out a record store. It’s a big production.
What’s your favorite track on the album?
Oh man, I don’t know. I’m so involved in it, I listen to it more than anybody, every part of it. I guess I’d say my most enjoyable track is probably the first single, “Rise of the Ghostface Killah.” It’s got an old “Criminology” feel.
What do you want people to know about this record with regard to your original collaborative vision?
It’s a cinematic album. Ghostface is one of the best American storytellers there is. I wanted to provide a landscape for him to take his vocals to the next level, and I feel we accomplished that. I want people to look at this record as something that could change hip-hop. It’s not for people to shake their asses to in the club. It’s real soul music. It’s beyond just a hip-hop record. It’s not different just for the sake of being different; it’s different because that’s the way that we feel it should be. It’s naturally what I think a concept record should be—something with a lot of depth, something that’s timeless.
Are you going to continue this collaborative effort with other artists?
Yeah, I’ve started on one already. I can’t announce it yet—in fact, it’s almost finished. It’s gonna be a pretty big deal.
Maybe we can catch a Las Vegas date for that show?
For sure, we want to go to Vegas. It just didn’t work out with this tour schedule.
Who’s on your collaboration wish list?
I’ve always wanted to work with Beth Gibbons from Portishead. I wouldn’t even mind working with, like, a Stevie Wonder … [Laughs] But, you know we’ll see. I’m just gonna keep it pushin’.