September 28, 2006

Tower of Power Talks

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Sun: How did you prepare for the fall tour?
Emilio Castillo, Saxophone: Well – we really didn’t have to, actually. What we’re doing basically is picking the tunes that we love to play from the catalogue, dropping the ones we don’t like, and re-vamping them with new ideas the guys contribute to keep us happy and our fans happy at each show. We might rehearse a little at sound checks, but there’s really not too much beyond that.
Sun: How do you keep things interesting?
Emilio: What we have here is ten guys who I really enjoy being and playing with, all immensely talented, and all on the same page. We basically play our music selfishly — this is the stuff we love to play , and we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Going to work is always really fun, and if the fans love it too, there’s really not much more to it.
Sun: What other kinds of music inspire you?
Emilio: I was originally inspired by all the soul music that was going on, Stax Volt, in New York, in Philadelphia, and Detroit, and especially by their entertainers like James Brown. The big writers like Harry Arlen and Burt Bachrach help a lot too. But what I’m really interested in is the vocalists, like Gladys Knight or Johnnie Taylor. Recently, I think that all the great soul musicians have gone to gospel and praise music, like Yolanda Adams. I love that stuff passionately.
Sun: How do the compositions change in the band?
Emilo: Well, it’s always great to hear nine other opinions on the matter. One guy will point out, “You know that run, well, what if we did this …” and then another guy will want to change the timing, and another the comping … and ˘…
Sun: How do you put it all together then?
Emilio: Well, I am the leader, so I guess that the buck stops here. But really, I’m only a filter for what’s being suggested. I think you would be a fool not to avail yourself of the talent in this group, but sometimes I have to disagree with what a guy says while I include another.
Sun: What was it like to record the Sheffield Labs Direct-to-Disc?
Emilio: Actually it was very frustrating, because they had all this futuristic stuff, way ahead of its time, in the studio, but the equipment in the booth was terrible. I think the same board we recorded with in Culver City, at MGM, was used in the Wizard of Oz. Larry Brown, who iniated it, a great guy, but he just kept missing all the cues, for three days. We went in there having rehearsed every note, and the idea with those albums is it’s supposed to be a first-take, fresh cut. Well, three days went by and we started getting frustrated, so we went out to dinner, and I told the guys that we would go back and do one more, and if he didn’t get it, we were leaving. Well, he got it — but you can hear the fatigue still in the background singers and rhythm section. The equipment was just terrible.
Sun: What was your best experience in the studio?
Emilio: There are really so many, but I love bringing in violins on the ballads. It just makes me so emotional, the hairs on my arms stand up. On the album Monster on a Leash, on the song “You Can’t Fall Up,” we brought them in and it was amazing. At that point we had been sober for three years, and I remember going to the bathroom with one of the guys after we brought in the violins, and he said he hadn’t felt that way since sobering up.
Sun: How do you react to being credited with spawning a lot of other bands?
Emilio: I think it’s all very flattering, especially when we pull up on the bus and we hear a band playing “What Is Hip?” or another one of our songs. It’s up to the rest of the world to decide whether I deserve that, but for me, I’m just very grateful.