Categories: Interviews

Cherrywine: A Digable New Sound

Digable Planets orbited the pop world 10 years ago. The hip-hop trio scored a Top 20 hit with the sample-savvy “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” went gold with its debut Pendulum/Elektra album, “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)” and won a Grammy Award.

A year later, a second LP, “Blowout Comb,” cracked the Top 40 but swiftly disappeared. Soon after, Butterfly (Ishmael Butler), Ladybug (Mary Ann Vieira) and Doodlebug (Craig Irving) succumbed to the two most-dreaded words in the music industry: “creative differences.”

“A lot of different things were involved,” Butler said recently. “At the core of it was, we wanted to do different kinds of music. At the time, we wanted to pursue solo careers. We weren’t really getting along in the studio with the music, so we called it quits.”

Nearly eight years after the break-up, Butler moved from New York City back to his native Seattle and continued to create music.

“I tried to get albums released for a couple of labels,” he said, “but they didn’t put them out because they folded before they were supposed to release them. I also did some production work and got my royalties.”

To expand his musical horizons, Butler taught himself how to play the guitar and immersed himself in classic blues.

“Then I started seeing my homeboys playing back in Seattle,” Butler said, “and I asked them if they wanted to try to make some music together.”

With Thaddeus Turner (guitar, keyboards), his brother Gerald “Tugboat” Turner (bass) and Bubba Jones (guitar, keyboards), Butler formed Cherrywine. The urban-beat quartet’s funked-up debut album, “Bright Black,” was released May 20 on DCide/Babygrande.

“I wanted to make good music, spontaneous performances and capture a feeling and not try to sound like anybody else,” Butler said, though “Bright Black” could easily satisfy fans of OutKast.

“Music today is all about making money; it’s a business. When you’re making business decisions, people don’t want to take too many risks because there’s money involved. That’s pretty much why mainstream music is like buying soap powder or something. When you reach for that brand name, you want to know what it smells like. That’s kind of why people want to keep it in one package now. I hope we can distinguish ourselves from all the others.”

Butler acknowledges that being on a smaller label could force a slow build for “Bright Black,” but he doesn’t mind.

“A lot of times, slower can be better because you get your footing in the places that you walk,” he said. “You get a little more dug in when you don’t have to do it as fast.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Prince’s ‘1999.’ I heard it on the radio, and I knew I had to have it.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “My mom took me to see Stevie Wonder; it must’ve been about 1978 or ’79, in Seattle. It was exciting to be out with my mom and seeing some good music.”

THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “Sorting out plastic at a recycling plant, working the night shift. It was lonely work. There were a lot of people on the line, but the machine was so loud and so huge, so everybody had earplugs and goggles and masks on. There wasn’t any talking. I would daydream about music, and I used to do my little raps during my 15-minute breaks.”

HEAR HERE: www.mp3.com/cherrywine.

ON THE WEB: www.cherrywine.net.

Gerry Galipault

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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