Categories: Interviews

Hitting the Right Spot

CD stores confused about where to display Aram Danesh and the Super Human Crew’s “The Spot” would be better off just putting a copy in each bin.

That’s how all-over-the-musical-map “The Spot” is. The album (Hear here), released July 26 on Danesh’s San Francisco-based Mammoth Entertainment, is a fusion of many styles and influences – from Latin to hip-hop, from jazz to funk.

“It wasn’t so scientific, where I literally sat down and said ‘I have to do it this way,’ ” Danesh said recently. “It just came out naturally. These sounds are all related. Music is really so versatile right now; everybody’s listening to everything. People have many genres they listen to.”

“The Spot,” featuring a cast of talented musicians, rappers and vocalists, is a reflection of Danesh’s diverse background. Born in pre-revolutionary Iran, he was raised in Switzerland and Germany before moving to the United States in 1984. In his many travels, he was exposed to many sounds – sounds that he wanted to mesh the moment he got his hands on his first guitar.

“I had worked and played jazz for a really long time. By listening and playing jazz, and growing up with some rock ‘n’ roll, jazz just opened my mind to music,” he said. “I started hearing different influences that were brought in, whether it was Dizzy Gillespie playing ‘A Night in Tunisia’ or Duke Ellington playing ‘Caravan.’ Having people bring world music into their background created a nice fusion of stuff, but within the realm of jazz.

“I kind of took that and wanted to apply it further. When I first started the record, I wanted to do a jazz, funk, hip-hop dance thing. As the album went on, it went further and further away and became more of a contemporary pop album. Then once I started thinking about contemporary pop, coming from the jazz school, I thought of it as a deconstructionist thing. I basically took the elements that go into pop music and deconstructed them down, so I heard hip-hop with reggae. Then I would hear dance music with elements of Brazilian jazz, and so on.”

The album’s highlight, “I Did It,” blends funky jazz with hip-hop stylings from Soulati and D. Wolf of Felonious. You like Us3 or the Brand New Heavies? This is right up your alley.

“I know, for some people, the album might be a little too distracted from one particular point,” Danesh said. “I’ve actually gotten people who’ve come to me and said, ‘You know, this isn’t a hip-hop album. I can’t sell it as a hip-hop album.’ Well, it’s not supposed to be a hip-hop album. I’m not walking around with hat sideways going ‘yo-yo-yo, bro.’ This is me. A fusion of world music, contemporary pop and jazz.”

“The Spot,” which took nearly two and a half years to create, was truly a labor of love for Danesh. By day, he works for an investment firm in the Bay Area.

“Music is my passion, that’s why I work,” he said. “For years, I’d work in the office, leave at 6 o’clock, then take a half-hour to have a burrito or something, then I’d go into the studio from like 6:30 till 1 o’clock in the morning. Get up at 6:30 a.m. and do it all again.”

There were a lot of stops and starts along the way. “The Spot” was Danesh’s own Murphy’s Law: If anything could go wrong, it will … and it did.

“We started working in a smaller studio because I didn’t have the money for a big-time studio,” he said. “We were working with outdated equipment. Stuff would break. Stuff wouldn’t record. We’d lose data. All kinds of difficulties that you could think of happened. We had one guy, who was a great Puerto Rican singer, he passed away during the sessions. We were getting ready for him to do a live vocal track for (the title track) ‘The Spot,’ and he went home for the night and we didn’t hear from him for a week. It turned out he died. So we had to find a replacement.”

What kept Danesh going?

“Just the creativity of it kept me going,” he said. “The more I worked, the more I found out there were rewards to it. The music had gotten to a point where I could see bigger rewards musically, not financially. I thought, ‘Wow, we’re getting better at doing this.’ “

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “The first record I bought, when I was 7 years old in Iran, when Elvis’ ‘Greatest Hits’ in 1977. His music was available before the revolution. We didn’t have any record stores; this was from a little shop that sold belts, shoes, knickknacks, and one of the things they had was a shoebox full of tapes and I just pointed to one and it happened to be Elvis. I really liked ‘Fever.’ I played it so much, I think my older sister took it away from me.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “I went to Monsters of Rock in Germany. I believe it was Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The first concert I saw in the United States was the Eurythmics at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif. It was excellent.”

THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “Digging ditches in Freemont, Calif. Back-breaking, hot sun. Fremont is inland California. It is very hot. It was a summer job when I was trying to get through college. They were building a ton of developments, cookie-cutter houses. I survived the whole summer, and took the paycheck and bought a guitar and I never looked back.”

ON THE WEB: aramdanesh.com.

Gerry Galipault @https://twitter.com/Pauseandplay

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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