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Slapdash Interview with Raphael Saadiq at the House of Blues

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Photos by Leslie Kalohi/LAist

The talented soul man Raphael Saadiq headlined at the House of Blues on Monday night, and I arrived determined to dance until there were holes in my shoes. His latest The Way I See It had been on repeat in my car for most of 2008. Call it neo-Motown, retro boogie, soul revival, whatever, Saadiq had created one of the best albums of the year and I was thrilled to be able to review the show. Then I got to the box office.

"Oh good, you're here," a disturbingly polished woman with a clipboard greeted me. "You're interview will be in five minutes." I stared at her in horror as my lunch began to creep up my esophagus. I informed her that there had to have been some mistake, but the lady just smiled at me and said I was on the list. Five minutes. Five minutes to prepare and interview Raphael Saadiq. Jesus, I needed five minutes to prepare to meet Raphael Saadiq. In a panic, I whipped out my notepad and started scribbling. I cursed myself for forgetting my recorder. What sort of fool leaves the house without a recording device?

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Five minutes later, this coiffed lady led me and my photographer up the labyrinthine stairs of the House of Blues, through a darkly lit corridor, and into Raphael Saadiq's lush dressing room. Mr. Saadiq, smartly dressed in a white button-down shirt and black tie, greeted me warmly and was kind enough not to laugh at my questions. Even when they were about aliens. Here is what was said.

100 Yard Dash

I warn you this is a very poorly researched interview.
(laughs) That's cool. Give me what you have.

How do you feel about this neo-Motown label people are giving the music off your latest album?
This is not a throwback album. I've been doing this since I was nine years old. I just had to warm you guys up to it. That's why I called it The Way I See It.

Was there anything specifically that inspired you to do a more retro sound?
No, no, you don't listen to an album to make an album. It's something that's in you. I've been listening to Motown all my life.

What was the fastest song you wrote on that album?

100 Yard Dash. I wrote that in the studio in one hour. It just came out.

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Do aliens exist?
Yes, definately.

How do you know?
(laughs) I've seen them.

Where?
In Cleveland, they were looking for OJs.

If you could sing with anyone alive or dead who would it be?1
Eddie Kendricks.

What's your favorite cheese?
Pepper Jack!

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What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen on stage?
In the audience?

Yeah.
It's always weird when you look out into the crowd, and there's this tall guy in the middle of it not moving. Everyone around him is partying, you know, getting down, but he just doesn't move. He's just trying to make your life hard.

What is your favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?
I like going down to Abbott Kinney in Venice and getting something to eat.

What question do you hate being asked the most?
(laughs) Well, I don't hate anything. Hate's too strong a word, but if I had to pick one question...Oh, "How did you get the name Tony! Toni! Tone! ?" People still ask me that.


What's the worst job you ever had?

Oh man, I used to work at this car lot when I was fourteen washing cars. I quit after one day.

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What happened?
They asked me to make them coffee or some thing like that.

Was that the first job you've ever had?

No, I had my first job when I was nine.

Nine! What did you do?

I played bass in a gospel group.

What's your favorite place to eat late at night in LA?

Probably, 101 (Coffee House).

That's a really weird place.

I know! The weirdest people show up there.

If you could talk to anyone in the world alive or dead who would it be?
Martin Luther King, Jr.

What would you ask him if you had only one question?
Don't you hate it that people sit and smoke crack on your memorial in Atlanta?

At the mention of "crack" the well coiffed lady ended the interview immediately, whisked me out of the dressing room, and dumped me and my photographer into the hallway. Giddy and discombobulated, Leslie and I had our first Spinal Tap moment, trying to find the stage. We bumbled upon the noisy, hot kitchen, back up musicians tuning, and some sort of VIP smoking room with glittery women and stern looking gentleman peered at us over their martinis.

Eventually we found the right door and joined the throngs that had gathered around the stage. Raphael Saadiq appeared half and hour later and shimmied, whatootsied, and I believe, mashed potatoed his way into the audience's heart. The polite, kind man I had met upstairs became a show-stopping Casanova as soon as the limelight was on him. Within two minutes of Keep On Marchin' Raphael Saadiq had the whole room doing the shuffle. You couldn't keep your butt from wiggling if you wanted to. It was like it had a mind of it's own.

If you ever have a chance to see Raphael Saadiq, (and seeing as how he lives in North Hollywood, you will) be sure to take that opportunity. Even if it means losing control of your butt for a couple hours.

1. What actually came out of my foolish mouth the first time was "If you could sleep with anyone in the world, who would it be?" Which made me turn scarlet for the rest of the interview and drew snorts from Saadiq's manager. Saadiq, just smiled and said, "You're going to get me in trouble."