Ropeadope Records Jazz Collective ANALOG PLAYERS SOCIETY Discuss Their Newest Single ‘Home in America’ and Much More!
“What is Home?” is the enormous question legendary Brooklyn rapper Masta Ace poses on “Home in America,” the much anticipated single from Analog Players Society released on Friday, June 18th via Ropeadope. In three verses, Masta Ace skillfully exposes the devastating multi-generational impact of systemic racism on Black Americans and proposes a “what-if?” counterfactual history of the January 6 Insurrection.
Flashback to the before times, April 2019: producer/mixer Ben Rubin and APS founder/producer/engineer Amon Drum convened New York jazz greats tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin (David Bowie ★), pianist Orrin Evans (the Bad Plus), bassist Dezron Douglas (Ravi Coltrane / Black Lion), and drummer Eric McPherson (Fred Hersch Trio) at The Bridge Studio in Brooklyn. The sole three-hour recording session, where little was said while the ancient spirits flowed, yielded both the cut-up hip-hop instrumental record Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film and the jazz album TILTED, both released in 2020 on Ropeadope. Cut to quarantine, late 2020/early 2021: It’s time to add some vocals to Ben’s track “Starry Night.” Juice Crew member Masta Ace is down and the timing is perfect.
“I was trying to avoid writing songs for my album during 2020 because I knew my emotions and strong feelings about the political climate in this country would unavoidably come out in the music. The opportunity to collaborate with Analog Players Society gave me an outlet to voice some of my angst and give a sound to my thoughts from the past year.” – Masta Ace
Analog Players Society is a collective effort founded by producer and engineer, Amon Drum, out of his first studio, “The Hook,” in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The APS collective features a rotating ensemble cast of some of the top players in New York City. Amon has been “cherry picking” these great musicians and producers for a few years now in this rich garden. APS’ various projects, eclectic by nature, carry serious strains of the Jazz, Dub, Funk, Afrobeat, and Soul variety within it. APS’ 2012 debut album, HurricaneSeason In Brooklyn debuted in the top 15 of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart with press accolades pouring in from NPR’s Fresh Air, Wired, and All About Jazz to name a few.
Learn more about Analog Players Society in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So first things first, how did you all start this band? What made you all think that you could work together? How difficult was it to come up with a band name that you all agreed on?
Amon: I named it back in 2009. I surveyed a few trusted taste makers, they like it and that was it.
How are you all feeling at this point about the pandemic and the recent openings? Are things slowly getting back to normal life for you guys? Have you gotten vaccinated?
Ben: Yes, I’m vaccinated. But I’m feeling like this pandemic is very much not over and sadly many many people are suffering from wishful thinking/pandemic burnout and want to believe that things are normal but they’re not. I have two young children so they are not vaccinated. Everything I do I have to keep them in mind so I’m still trying to stay out stay outside whenever possible and I’m still wearing my mask indoors in public.
Let’s talk about your newest single, “Home In America.” What was the inspiration for it? How would you say that it compares to anything else that you have released?
Ben: The beat for “Home in America” comes from my track “Starry Night” which was on our 2020 release, Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film. All of my tracks on that record are basically form a beat waiting for rappers to spit some bars on. Once Ace laid down his vocal, I then reconfigured the track to support the song. Lyrically, it’s all Masta Ace. When I was looking for an MC I made a fairly long list and whittled it down and Ace ended up at the top of it. Feeling very lucky that he was available to do it. Before he wrote the song, I basically just asked him to do something socially conscious, and to keep it clean for my kids. He certainly nailed it.
When will you be releasing more new music? Will this be a continual thing throughout 2021?
Ben: As APS is Amon‘s baby, I’m sure he has a lot to say about this topic. But as far as my work with APS goes, yes definitely we plan on making more records in this “Create-Our-Own-Samples-Then-Cut-It-Up” style. “Home in America,” along with Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
Why do you think Ropeadope is the right place for this group and your music now?
Amon : We sincerely love and appreciate Ropeadope for this release.
How excited are you all about getting back out there to perform live? Do you have any future dates already scheduled yet?
Ben: I’m excited to play live music again as playing the bass is really core to my being. At the same time I have a lot of trepidation about because of this pandemic situation. Not excited to travel or be in rooms with large groups of people or cause large groups to gather.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for this band? What have been some of your favorite shows and venues?
Ben: I’ve been fortunate to play in some incredible rooms over the years like Massey Hall in Toronto and the Fillmore in San Francisco. But I think I love playing in New York the most, places like Smalls, Mezzrow, Rockwood Music Hall, 55 Bar, Mercury Lounge. There’s so many great clubs to play and that’s kind of my favorite place to play music. As for favorite shows? Of all time? Man that would be difficult. Been thinking lately about when I went to Lollapalooza in 1993 or 94 and the bill was filled with bands like Parliament/Funkadelic, A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, the Boredoms, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, L7 and I saw the Last Poets in the poetry tent. They are now on Ropeadope by the way. Another, in the early 90s I went to the Blue Note for Dizzy Gillespie’s 75th birthday. He’d booked out the club for an entire month. And his all-star band included James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Barron and Elvin Jones!
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If not, why do you think that is?
Ben: Well I’m a native New Yorker and I grew up listening to hip-hop and all other kinds of music. So New York is in my bones and influences everything I do, no doubt about it. It’s not some thing I think about on a day-to-day basis but it’s definitely there.
How would you say that this group has grown as musicians over the years? How has your sound matured and developed? What has remained the same?
Everything is actually open for change. We’ve tackled many different genre’s and styles, it’s really about going through all the great musicians we want to work with. The music can change from project to project. The next album in the fall/winter is w/ an incredible singer Falu. She’s an amazing Indian-classical (Grammy-nominated) powerhouse. The album is best described as Blade-Runner in Mumbai. It’s dark, gritty, dystopian, synth based, beautiful and sometimes anthemic.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere? With all the negativity out there today, what else in life truly makes you all happy?
Ben: i’ve always lead some thing of a dual music life and it’s kind a like a pendulum there are some periods when I’m deep in studio working and making records all the time and there are some periods when I was just gigging in on the road a lot and playing three gigs a day. And they’re both important parts of me. So I’m gonna punt and say both. With the caveat being I definitely prefer being in my studio right now during Covid.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music? Who would you all love to work with in the future?
Ben: Wow that’s a huge question! Some artists that have truly inspired me are, in no particular order: Duke Ellington, A Tribe Called Quest, Miles Davis, the Police, the Cars, Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, PJ Harvey, the Beatles, Gustav Mahler, Charlie Parker, Hank Williams Sr, anything produced by DJ Premier, De La Soul, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Ali Farka Toure, Baaba Maal, anything from the late 60s or early 70s on the Studio One label. That’s just off the top my head.
Besides working more with Masta Ace, I’d love to work with PJ Harvey someday. I think I can make a really cool record with John Scofield. Also, Chuck D, Pharoahe Monche, Billie Eilish. Call me, guys!!
Amon : No clue, anyone who can bring it, while having fun doing what they love.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Ben: Ultimately I make music to try to bring people together and to lift everybody’s vibrations. I hope my music makes people reflect on themselves and others and try to make a positive contribution in the world. While moving their asses.