Hi John, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
JOHN: It’s been a great period in the life of NuShooz. Valerie and I have been going out on the Super Freestyle Explosion Tour, and the Lost 80’s tour with other 80’s artists like Lisa Lisa, Pretty Poison, and Flock of Seagulls. Those tours inspired us to put the band together in 2014. All the members have been in the band before and really know how to get our stuff right.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Real Thing”?
JOHN: We loved the new band so much it was time to make a record. The direction we chose went back to an earlier version of NuShooz, before ‘I Can’t Wait,’ and all that. In the early 80’s we were a horn band like Tower of Power and Earth Wind and Fire. The sound of the new record was aimed squarely at pre-synthesyzer funk circa 1974. Real Thing is an homage to the Philly-Soul producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
JOHN: Valerie and I have been together 41 years now. I was kind of thinking about that as the song was being written; thinking about the idea that there’s someone out there for everyone. Not only that, but there’s something out there to engage everyone…what they call your passion. Some people find it early in life. For others it takes a lifetime.
The single comes off your new album Bagtown – what’s the story behind the album title?
VALERIE: When our son was in kindergarten, he had a lunch bag with a face on it. We named it ‘Bag.’ Then John started thinking about how all the music that influences you is your ‘bag.’ So we wanted to include all the stuff in our bag on this record. As the writing began, he started making bag puppets. A whole cardboard city grew up around them. Bagtown! As it took over the studio, he started to hear what the music should sound like.
How was the recording and writing process?
JOHN: This was the most fun we ever had making a record. There was no pressure, no delusions of grandeur, no expectations. We just wanted to make some new stuff to play. The writing and recording was pretty much effortless, and everyone in the band got what we were trying to do.
Does Portland play a role in your sound on this album?
VALERIE: Portland is one of those communities that’s slightly out of the mainstream, like Prince’s Minneapolis. I think there is a regional funk sound here, and yet all the bands in that genre sound different from each other.
Does this album explore a whole new direction or would you consider this be a follow up to your previous material?
JOHN: I think there are threads that run through all our songs, a certain way of playing chords for example. At the same time, we change it up on every new project.
How would you say you have grown as artists since your inception in the industry 30 years ago?
VALERIE: 38 years actually. We’ve been fortunate in that we have gotten to do music almost every day of our lives. John worked in advertising for 20 years starting in the 90’s. He wrote, arranged and produced commercial and film music that covered a lot of ground stylistically – from country to classical, metal to electronica. I went back to singing jazz – performing and recording with some incredible musicians that I learned a ton from. I also taught voice which, as any teacher will tell you, teaches YOU as much as it does your students. All of those years of performing, teaching, playing, and recording add up and influence everything we create. Life experience has taught us a lot too. The older we get the more grateful we are for being alive on the planet and the music that we still get to make.
Where did you find inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
JOHN: I guess the place we’ve grown the most is lyrically. We write about actual things now, instead of the ‘love on the dance floor’ type songs we wrote in our club days. And becoming parents really inspires a lot of lyrical thinking.
Any plans to hit the road?
JOHN: We’ll be doing the 80’s tours for as long as people are interested, and our band…well, it’s too large to take out very far. We’ll be playing as much as we can around the Pacific Northwest. In the old days we had a school bus we traveled around in. And when you’re in your twenties you can sleep on floors. Now we’ve become a small army, with its demands of transport and supply.
What else is happening next in Nu Shooz’s world?
VALERIE: It all depends on how Bagtown is received by the world. So far so good!
Here at Vents, we’ve spoken with many different musicians, producers, and recording engineers. During these …