An In-Depth Interview With THE BIG OL’ NASTY GETDOWN’S Founder/Coordinator, John Heintz!
Posted On 06 Mar 2018
Woven with the threads of funk, soul, gospel, blues and rock — and executed by some of the industry’s most beloved players — The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown‘s Volume 2 is available worldwide now. Collaborators on this release include Vernon Reid (Living Colour,) Speech (Arrested Development,) Larry Dunn (Earth, Wind and Fire,) Fred Wesley(The James Brown Band), Taylor Dayne and countless other talented musicians.
For more information, please visit: www.thebigolnastygetdown.com.
Volume 2 is available now on Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes.
Improvisation is at the root of The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown, which was conceived by bassist John Heintz at a music festival in 2007. Heintz found himself in a jam session with members of Galactic, Papa Grows Funk, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and more, and sought to re-create that serendipitous, unrehearsed vibe that’s unexpectedly created and can carry music to unexpected places.
Heintz began presenting the idea to the musicians he’d been meeting on the road. “Everybody seemed interested, but touring schedules being what they are, it was an uphill battle. I asked Derrick Johnson and John Paul Miller from Yo’ Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band if they’d help me organize a collaborative project and they came on board. We started calling every musician we knew including Frank Mapstone, a knowledgeable producer and musician from FL. Frank and I clicked instantly and it was apparent that he was the most versed in the studio environment. Frank ultimately became my production partner with the Getdown. We have worked side by side for the last decade on this project.”
The first Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown took place in a 14-bedroom house on Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans in December 2007. Heintz assembled a free-floating ensemble that included 35 musicians from 17 bands, including The Lee Boys, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Galactic, and Dumpstapunk, as well Ralph Roddenbery and The Funky Meters, Garry “Starchild” Shider and Belita Woods from P. Funk. The eight day session was unplanned and unrehearsed. Bar-b-cue smoked in the backyard, songs were written in the living room and tracks were recorded all over the house, as the inspiration flowed. The result was released as Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown’s Volume 1.
The first sessions for Volume 2 was cut at a massive cabin in the woods outside of Asheville, NC. “We used the same blueprint,” Heintz explains. “We assembled, created a sense of camaraderie in the house and let it fly. We all stayed together for a week straight, living in the house together and basically having a week-long house party during which a lot of the music was written. We then went to a studio down the road and started recording what we were putting down in the house.“
This time, more than 50 musicians participated in the making of Volume 2, including Vernon Reid (Living Colour,) Speech (Arrested Development,) Larry Dunn (Earth, Wind and Fire,) Fred Wesley (James Brown, Horny Horns) Karl Denson (The Rolling Stones, Tiny Universe,) Michael Ray and Clifford Adams (Kool and the Gang,) Taylor Dayne, Ryan Martinie (Mudvayne,) RonKat Spearman (Katdelic, Parliament-Funkadelic,) Alvin Ford Jr. (Dumpstaphunk), Norwood Fisher, Angelo Moore, Dirty Walt (Fishbone), Rev. Desmond D’Angelo (The Soular System) and Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk, The Funky Meters), to name just a few.
“Mantra,” the first single, rides Norwood Fisher’s big, Bootsy-like bass line pumped up by blasts of brass, the wha wha guitar of Tori Ruffin (The Time) and anchored by the inexorable snare of Jeffry Suttles (Taylor Dayne). Speech assures us that the funk will drill us like a dentist, while Kendra Foster invites us to, “Breathe it out and let it flow.”
“As the project progresses, we’re seeing an evolution on each album, even from song to song,” Mapstone says. “We stay open to the flow of the music. If the groove moves in a different direction, we go with it and follow the creative force in the room. We want to capture the feeling of a late night backstage jam – sounds that only musicians have heard before.”
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Learn more about The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown in the following All Access interview:
Happy New Year! Thanks for your time for this All Access interview! Where does this interview you today? What is one song that you are loving right now? What is a song that you all disagree about loving right now?
Happy New Year to you as well. My pleasure. Thanks for putting this all together. I’m home in LA currently. Right now, I’m, loving the Vulfpeck song “Dean Town”. I may be a little late to the game on discovering those guys. My friend Gary sent me the track a few months ago and loved it the min I heard it. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s song “War” is another.
Hmm, so far as a track we disagree about loving….good question. I’m sure there are some pop tunes that I like that others would not be so into. Part of that is because I spent 4 months in Europe last year much of which was in the south of Spain where pop stations were some of the only choices for music. I attach the songs to amazing memories so I’m coming from an entirely different listening space.
So first things first, what all are you most excited about for this year? Did any of you make New Year Resolutions? Care to share any of them with us?
I think the thing I’m most excited about for this year is seeing all of the different projects coming to life. Seeing the Vinyl for Volume 2 all pressed and watching peoples excitement surrounding the 10 Year Anniversary 45 Collectors set we just released is really great. These are things that my production partner Frank Mapstone and I started putting together 3-5 years ago so this makes room to start working on a bunch of new things including touring and finishing up Volume 3 for hopefully an October release. So far as New Years resolution…year after year I break whatever one I make within days so this year my resolution was to not have a resolution. Should make my odds better for keeping things on track in that department.
Can you recall the moment when you all thought you could be in a band together? Was it hard to come up with a name that you all thought fit your sound and who you are?
I can recall the moment the concept for the project came to me back in 2007. I was at a music festival in Colorado with a band called the Lee Boys. It was one of my very first experiences in the music/touring life. The Saturday late night performance was a super jam with members of Galactic, The Lee Boys, Papa Grows Funk and a few other participants. I saw the interaction on the stage amongst the players and the vibe between the musicians and the crowd and was completely blown away. There’s something special that happens with that kinda spontaneity and energy where everyone is just in the moment. It made me think that this same kinda vibe could be created in a studio type of setting if the environment and the line-up of musicians was designed a certain way. I spoke to many musicians for the next several months proposing the idea. Everyone said they were interested but thought it would be logistically impossible to pull it off. September of 2007 I spoke to John-Paul Miller and Derrick Johnson from Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band about the idea and they both agreed to come on board and help get this thing off the ground. I would say by November it was evident that this was actually going to happen and the following month we had our first session in New Orleans. We had 35 musicians from 17 bands basically living together in a 15 bedroom house of Royal Street for a week. Most of the material came from the jams at the house parties we did at the house that week. We also did a bunch of writing in the studio.
The name of the band came together pretty quickly. It seems to fit the overall vibe of the project really well. The acronym for the project was purely coincidental.
Let’s talk about your newest album, “Volume 2,” that was released earlier last month. What was it like putting this collection together? How was the space made for more than 50 musicians that are featured on this album? How do you think the sound of The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown has grown and changed in the 10 years that you have worked together?
Putting Volume 2 together was fun experience but a ton of work. In some ways it was easier than Volume 1 because we had a point of reference this time but at the same time it was more difficult in other areas.
When it comes to making space for all the players on Volume 2, it’s way easier than it would seem. When the instrumental beds are being written and recorded, we are using a traditional line-up of players. It’s a full line-up but we’re not trying to put 50 people on one track. Because of the respect everyone has for one another, often times the musicians will underplay which leave a lot of space for everyone else. When players underplay, some of the best material comes to life because they are having to be very specific with the notes they choose and where they are putting them. This creates some pretty heavy grooves. Additionally with every song having its own line-up more or less, it gives us opportunity to bring in a lot of different artists without it being cluttered.
Over the last 10 years, I’d say the sound has evolved and expanded tremendously. As the project grew and more musicians from all different genres got involved the sound moved around a bit reflecting each new members personality and style. Our sound has always been a little hard for me to describe because of the amount of different styles and musical backgrounds everyone comes from. Somehow it all works and everyone has a blast during the process. It will continue to morph as time goes on, because each year more and more players get involved.
I would love to know more about making “Creatures of Habit” which is the first recording to ever feature members of Living Colour, P-Funk and Fishbone all on the same track! Whose idea was it to do this in the first place?
It wasn’t specifically by design. The instrumental bed was done in NC which had Norwood Fisher from Fishbone and Greg Thomas from P-Funk on it. After that session I gave Angelo Moore from Fishbone a few instrumentals to listen to and “Creatures” was the track he picked to write and sing on. For the group vocal it was an obvious choice to get Walt to do a hype track over top if it. The way Vernon Reid from Living Colour ended up on this particular track is kind of funny. Originally we had a couple different guitarists take a stab at putting down a solo but the solos just didn’t capture what we were looking for. During the last session while trying to get the solo, I said to the guitarist, how about trying a shredding solo like Vernon Reid did on Cult of Personality. Needless to say that was the moment that it dawned on me that I needed to call Vernon and see if he wanted to put a little something on it. Vernon said he was down and within a few days we had our our shredding solo, lol.
Can you pick out a couple of other songs on this album and talk about how they were created? Where did the inspiration for them come from exactly?
Sure, I think a really good one to talk about is Past, Present, Future because it’s the only song that we’ve done away from the typical Getdown format. It started in Asheville NC at the first Volume 2 session. We were a couple days in to the session and I think we had come to a dinner break after about 6 or 7 hours of recording. After the studio had cleared out some Jeffery Suttles who’s drummed for everyone from Bill Withers to TLC asked “Can I have 4 mins to go in and try something?” So Jeffery goes in and drops this drum track that was perfectly laid out with intro, verse chorus changes, bridge etc and nails it in perfect time. We all just kinda looked at each other thinking this guys is some kind of alien. Jeffery is just one of those rare talents who makes any band sound better when he’s on drums. Anyway, we tried to add some different things to it when everyone got back from dinner and for whatever reason it never really developed into anything usable. Prior to the production of Volume 2, I had played around with some tracks from an album that Frank and I had worked on years prior and muted everything but the drums. I took those drum tracks and brought in players from P-Funk, Kool and the Gang, Dumpstaphunk, and Fishbone and had each player add a part individually just to see what would happen and as it turned out a couple cool things came out of it. So as time progressed with Volume 2’s production, the idea to take that drum track that Jeffery had previously laid down and send it around to different players seemed like a worthwhile experiment. The first person I sent the track to was Jamar Woods from the Fritz. Jamar is easily one of the most gifted musicians I’ve ever been around. It’s like he has Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles all living in his head. He brought so much to the table at the Volume 2 sessions that he seemed like the best person to add the next layer and structure the chord changes. Because Jamar added such a heavy driving Synth/Moog part it felt like it could be a really nice instrumental. Once that was decided it became a question of what direction do we want to take this and what type of instrumentation would be the right feel. I had met Mike Dillion some years earlier who is one of the sickest vibes players out, and asked him if he’d want to get involved. As the song stood it seemed like a nice wide open space for Mike to just let loose but leave space for another soloist. I think Frank had the idea for Mike and another soloist to trade solos at the end of the song so we had him set up his performance to that type of structure. Once Mike put his part down the decision was made to send it to Leo Nocentelli the guitarist from the Meters. Leo’s playing style was absolutely perfect for the song and really pushed the energy to the next level at the end. The final step was getting the horns on it. I had asked Fred Wesley who played with James Brown and George Clinton, if he would do a horn solo on Rock It and set up a session in Asheville at Echo Mountain to get this recorded. Since Fred was there and we had the studio for several hours, PPF was opened up and Fred and Greg Hollowell worked up some horn parts to lay down. Within a few mins they had the parts worked out and the song was done minus some editing and mixing of course.
When it comes to the inspiration of the songs, I can only speak from the instrumental side which is “the moment”. Lyrically the vocalists write their own lyrics so I can’t speak from their place of inspiration. I’d love it if any part of the inspiration came from the feel of the instrumental track the vocalists were given to write and sing on.
As the founder and bassist, what was it like coordinating all these people and getting them all to follow you?
Well, coordinating this project is one of the bigger challenges I’m faced with because it goes well beyond just getting the players schedules sorted and making the sessions happen. There are many moving parts to the operation. I’m finding myself shifting from one area of the industry to the next because there are so many bases that need to be covered to be able to hang with the corporate backed artists. We have a manager now which is going to make a huge difference coordinating all of the new opportunities and ventures. I’d say it’s not really getting people to follow me. Its really just about giving someone an opportunity to try something a little different.
Has there already been talks about working together again on a new album?
Yes, and then some, lol. I decided a few years ago when we started our relationship with Studio 606 that I wanted to work ahead and build up a nice catalog of songs that we could release in a more time efficient manner. Since we were somewhat off the radar with our last release being almost 5 years old and there being some down time between the music aspect of Volume 2 being completed and the actual release of the album, I saw it as a good opportunity to just keep moving forward recording wise. It also helped keep things fresh for us. As of now, about 80% of Volume 3 is finished, more than half of Volume 4 is done and there is material set aside for 5 and 6 as well. We will also be doing some additional session late spring that will yield more material that will find a home on a future volume. We write all of the music on the fly for the instrumental beds of the songs. Solos, Vocals and Horns are over dubbed but all of the rest of the material is written on the spot once we are all together. On a couple rare occasions it may happen differently but not often. Past, Present, Future is a perfect example.
Do you have any 2018 tour dates lined up? Where can fans see this band perform next?
2018 will be the first year that we will really begin focusing on bringing out as a live act. We’ve done shows in the past and did one about two months ago here in LA but for the most part, I’ve kept things a studio project. Right now we are scheduled to play Utopia Festival in Texas which is in November and have several other dates in the works. I’m really excited to get this on the road.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
There are a few players on the list that would be amazing to work with. Right now there are a handful of people on the list I’d love to bring into the mix. Nile Rodgers, Quest Love, Stevie Wonder Lionel Ritchie, Kendrick Lamar, Chuck D, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, D’Angelo, Les Claypool, Erykah Badu, Andre 3000, Dr. Dre, Mike Patton, Rick Neilson, Mos Def, Robert Trujillo, Q-Tip, Shock G, Sly Stone, anyone from Rush, Tower of Power, and Trombone Shorty to name a few. Some of the folks on the list I’m friends with and just need to sort out details/scheduling etc, some I have contact info for and am too chicken shit and haven’t worked up the nerve to cold call yet and others I still need to connect the dots tracking down their info. I typically deal with the artist directly so it takes a little longer for me to get a cell phone or personal email. I’ve found over the years that this is really the only way to effectively present the project to an artist we are interested in working with vs. going through their management.
I feel like in a lot of ways the dream collaboration for this group happens every time we gather because it’s never the same exact players. For example, we did a session about a year ago where Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummed of half the day and Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction drummed the other half and Norwood Fisher from Fishbone and I were the two bassists. As a kid if you told me that I could do a session with any one of these amazing players I would have told you, that in itself was the dream session. For me when I’m reaching out to players for the sessions and live, I’m almost always choosing players that come from bands that influenced me as a musician or they themselves influenced me.
Right now for contemporary artists I like in no particular order Jain, Dua Lipa, Corey Henry and the Funk Apostles, The New Mastersounds, Vulfpeck, Bruno Mars, Rag and Bone Man, Tech N9ne, Jules Galli, and a bunch of others that escape me at the moment. Truth be told, I don’t listen to a ton of music when I’m home or in the car. I tend to put some mindless shit on the TV and use that as background noise a lot of times. Bob Ross the Joy of Painting is on heavy rotation around here.
Where do you think you are all happiest- on stage performing, in the studio recording music or elsewhere?
I can only speak for myself but I would say any environment where people are coming together to create without limitations and with family.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being in this band gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these difficult times?
Yes, we are in difficult times right now. Being in this band helps serve as a healthy outlet and distraction for dealing with the negativity that seems to be everywhere. It’s tough to say if the music today will reflect these times. I doubt we will have another era of music similar to the Vietnam years where there were droves of artists making a stand via song. I’m not saying there aren’t artists that have a voice but most of the time the message is not being delivered in song form.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs? What do you hope they take away from one of your shows?
I’d say the message in our music and the project is about coming together. It’s about creating something new as a community that brings positivity to the world. It’s about people exploring their talents without having to compromise because of some outside influence. It’s about believing in something and seeing it through no matter how much the odds are stacked against you. It’s about giving back.
I hope that people take away from the music the love that went into each of the tracks by everybody involved and hope the joy we had when we were all together making the music can be felt.