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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: Soulive's Eric Krasno

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With a new album on the way, No Place Like Soul due out July 31, and an upcoming gig here in Los Angeles at the UCLA JazzRaggae Festival this Sunday it seemed like as good a time as ever to catch up with one-third, sorry one quarter (the band just added a vocalist) of Soulive, Eric Krasno. The guitarist gives the inside scoop on the new album, his love of LA, and his budding career as a hip-hop producer where he’s recently worked with the likes of Talib Kweli, 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake.

When you and the Evans brothers first got together to form Soulive what were you setting out to do?

When we first got together, we didn’t say let’s do this or let’s try and do this. There was just this unspoken thing, that we already kind of knew that we wanted to do a modernized soul/jazz instrumental type of album. Neal and Alan plugged in and they had some tunes and I had some tunes. The more we played together, the more we knew where we wanted to go with the music. We wanted to fill in all these different influences, over the years we have threw in all the hip-hop stuff, and I mean we’ve gone everywhere with it. We’ve messed with dub, hip-hop, rock. As long as its soulful music we want to do it.

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Originally, was Neal (the band’s organist) playing bass out of necessity, did you not have a bass player or was that something you guys wanted to do from the start?

That’s how it started, him and his brother were playing together and I think a bass player didn’t show up and he went with it, and that was just what he’s done ever since. When I heard him play bass and the way him and Alan connected I was amazed.

What do you think has been the secret to Soulive’s success?

I think it’s what we do with our live shows. We always bring energy to our live shows that our fans can appreciate. We are also trying to change what we do. We’ve been criticized a lot for changing our sound but in the end of it all, that’s what makes us happy. That’s really what helps us stay into this thing and stay fresh and stay excited.

Is there one particular moment that you realized wow, this has gotten way bigger than we ever expected?

There's been a few, you know opening for Rolling Stones is definitely up there. The stadium tour with Dave Matthews is another one. This really has gotten much bigger than I ever expected to get, for sure.

When was the decision made to add a vocalist to the band and how did you decide that it would be Toussaint?

We'd been working with a few different guys, I knew Toussaint who was mostly a reggae artist but I knew he grew up in church and was also an awesome soul singer. Last summer, he toured with us and did a few covers and then we got in the studio, on the tour we wrote some songs, and it just felt good so we were like let's do this together. His voice fits the music more than the other previous projects that we've done with singers. Working with Toussaint we feel like a band not a band with a singer.

How did adding a vocalist change the creative process in recording the new album?

It changed because we had another ear to work with, we had his lyrics or he would hear a track and write. I also had lyrics that I had written as well. We had a producer, Stewart Lerman, that we worked with for the first time too, having another ear was great for us.

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What were you setting out to do with this album?

I think we wanted to do something different, really put together some great songs. We didn't think about it from the beginning but as the process went along we were trying to do more of a universal album a lot of people can dig it. The people who have been fans will dig it and then also some new fans will enjoy it. It really was organic how it all came together, looking back on it. There are certain tunes that will draw you in and others will take you on a journey. I think it will definitely turn on some new people to what were doing. This album put us in a different direction, we've wanted to work with a singer for a while just never found the singer that fit.

In the creative process, do you have your audience, your hardcore fans who have been listening to you forever in mind?

We made this album for us. We wanted to like it, first and foremost. Of course, we've also wanted our fans to like it as well. The fans have been very supportive of adding Toussaint. There has been great reaction to him so far at all the shows we've done.

How do you like performing in LA? What's your favorite venue?

I dig the Roxy, we've played there a bunch and had the good shows. HOB on Sunset, even though it's a corporate vibe but for some reason I really like that particular HOB for some reason. Some of our best shows have been in LA. One of our best shows ever was at the Temple Bar. That show was just something that really sticks out as one of our best shows, Jill Scott's band was there, I met Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire) that night, it was just a great night. I always remember those Temple Bar shows.

I've seen you perform in LA a bunch but two shows that stick out to me are the show at the Knitting Factory in January '05 when Chaka Kahn performed with you guys, and even played the drums and then possibly one of the best shows I've ever seen, when Stevie Wonder came out and played with you guys. How does something like that happen and is that something you try to do when you are here in LA?

Both of those were set up through a friend of mine. He brought Chaka and Stevie to our shows, we've talked to both of them working with them. As you may know, we did work with Chaka, she was on our last album. We used to try to bring artist out to sit in with us, it does add something to the show but its not really something we are seeking out right now, I mean if someone like Stevie or Chaka are in the building and want to play with us of course we are going to take them up on the offer. But now, we really only have our friends the people we love to play with come out and sit in with us. If one of our friends is at a gig, you're going to play with them just because we really enjoy playing with them. just want to play with them.

What do you think of this lineup you are playing on this Sunday, Lupe Fiasco/Jill Scott/Les Nubians?

To be honest, I didn't even know that's who was playing. Sounds like a great lineup though. I definitely want to check out Lupe, I really liked his album.

I first learned about Soulive from Bridge to Bama remix which featured Talib Kweli, how did that collaboration come together and are there plans on working with Talib any time soon?

I actually worked a lot of his new album, (Ear Drum due out in July) he's got a song with Justin Timberlake that I did. Talib and I met up on Bridge to Bama remix actually, through the label. The guys had been talking about doing a remix and the label was asking who we wanted to rap on the remix and I was really feeling Talib on the Reflection Eternal album. So him and Hi-Tek came through and knocked it out on that track we've worked on every album since. He's definitely one of my favorite rappers.

Did you get to work directly with Justin Timberlake on that record?

Its funny, I've never actually met Justin Timberlake, but ever since that record I've actually been in communication with his people. He's got a new artist he is developing and my production company, Fire Dept., which is myself and Adam Deitch, who's a drummer and friend of mine have been talking about working with this new artist of Justin's.

When the new album was announced I saw a lot of people on the message boards asking if there were going to be more hip-hop, what do you have to offer the fans who are missing Soulive's hip-hop?

No there is no hip-hop on this album. We wanted this album to sound like an album, not a compilation, but the next album will have that sound to it. In the meantime we've been doing a lot on the production side
Tell me a little about the Fire Dept?
Like I said its myself and Adam Deitch. Adam just did a bunch of tracks on Redman's last album. We worked with Xzibit, like I said Talib Kweli's new album, we've got a lot on there. We're actually going to be on 50 Cent's new album. The name of the track is called "My Gun Go Off." Its funny, you know when we found out 50 was going to use one of our beats we were thinking maybe he'll do something positive and then we get the producer contract and the title of the track is "My Gun Go Off," but you know music is music at the end of the day. We didn't get to meet 50, we didn't get to work with 50, he basically heard our stuff and just bought one of the beats off of us. Its different than when we work with Kweli, with him we get in there and create something together.

Who would you like to work with?

D'Angelo, he is my favorite nobody can touch what he did. One of the best singers of our town. Hope to some day work with him.

Are the other members of Soulive into working on hip-hop as well?

Neal and I used to do stuff together, right now he is on some rock shit. We all do our own side projects, and projects of our own. I am finally getting my solo stuff mixed. Neal's stuff is a little more rock, I guess mine is kind of rock/soul and a little more pop. Alan is always writing stuff and he's got his own studio he is always working in.

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