The Incredible Tightness of Being Rob Hesse

Just made this flyer last night for a party at 205 Webster this Saturday! I will be playing all vinyl all night long, there will be spray paint for your graf needs, stunning visuals displayed via hi-def projection by the man Gabe McK, and delicious beverages provided by none other than Moses Def.  Come through.

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Searching For Vera at Hot Peas and Butta

Today we have a special addition to #45Fridays.

But you will have to go over to the new Hot Peas and Butta site to catch it!

At the brand new Hot Peas and Butta site

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Debut of Viola Booth Group

Last Thursday, I took a late night visit to The Knockout. I got a message from a certain Viola Booth who invited me to check out a band: “You and your peeps should come see our new 11-piece 60′s 70′s R n B, Soul, Early Rock, and Epic Ballad project play”. Eleven-piece? At the Knockout? I was instantly interested in checking this out. I have been to the Knockout a few times before and it is a grungy venue with a small stage, so I knew watching an 11-piece soul band there would be something new, if not all-together strange.

When I got to The KO, camera handy, a group called the Paranoids was setting up. This turned out to be a major plus for the night. I had a great time jamming to their music and was thankful they had a 45 up for sale. But when I went to buy it, the cute booth tender suggested I just sign up for the night’s raffle; if I won, I would walk away with a stack of all of the music produced by the Paranoids (almost a decade of good stuff). History would suggest I’m luckier than most, so I signed up. I wish I had more space to talk more about this group, they had a great feel and I can only recommend you investigate more on your own.

After the Paranoids finished, I inconspicuously started getting my camera ready. I wanted to pinpoint Viola before I was discovered lurking about. But unfortunately for me, it took about two minutes for Viola to find me out. I have a sneaking suspicion it was because I was the only person in the bar with an oversized camera and an obnoxious flash.

Viola (pronounced ‘Vai-ola’) turned out to be a lovely and energetic woman with short, silverish hair and a big smile. We chatted briefly and I sensed a little nervousness and a lot of excitement; after all, this was her band’s first night and I was just as excited.

The band started setting up. I saw a trumpet walk by, a trombone, and some pretty ladies in red. I was curious to see how they would react to the small stage and was glad that the horn section wasn’t shy about taking up the dance floor. I love seeing big bands take over a small space; it makes for a more intimate night. There were a few technical issues in the beginning but the band set the tone for the night with an energetic instrumental. Viola was jumping around, conducting the band, and for a short while I was unsure if she was going to do anything else. But the second song kicked in and, damn.

Viola can sing.

I spent some time trying to describe Viola’s voice because I knew I would be writing about her later. But I thankfully gave up on that idea and decided to just take in the band as a whole. Viola Booth Group had a lot of energy and they performed some great covers; notable ones being songs by Shirley Bassey, Wendy Rene, and, my favorite for the night, The Falcons (I Can’t Help It). I cannot claim to be a professional critic, nor do I strive to be one, so my judgement of any music group is based almost completely on whether they make me dance. And on Thursday, I was dancing. And not alone. People were jumping, swinging, and a few were literally on the floor. So regardless of my opinion, the patrons of The KO had a great night. And the crowd’s feedback eased the band into a settled groove, especially Viola, who left the stage and sang on the dance floor. I have to say, that girl’s got soul.

After the show, Viola was assailed by what I can only assume to be her new fan base. Fortunately, I was able to grab a few minutes of her time to get a feel for how far she wanted to push this 11-piece project. Still full of energy, Viola told me how excited she was for the group. They are in the process of booking more gigs and ironing out the kinks in the band. And I was glad to hear her plans for releasing original material (maybe even a 45 in the near future).

I am looking forward to seeing this group grow. An 11-piece soul and epic ballad group simply has a lot of potential to give you an outrageous fun night. And indeed, I did have a great time on Thursday. Not to mention I won the Paranoids’ raffle.

Told you I was lucky.

(Funny enough, not counting this line, WordPress says my word count is exactly 777. Completely unintentional!)

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Dusty Stax and The Bold Italic: The Spring Fling Dance

Lately, work has been sucking me dry but in a good way; I’m finally working on my own baby and I’m going to push myself to see it through to completion. But because I am tackling this monster by working harder, I have not had time to enjoy the rest of my life to the fullest. But I must say that The 45 Brains is still alive and well. I have not stopped hunting for music and ideas. And taking lots of photos along the way.

The shots you see below are from one fun night. Once again, Dusty Stax and The Bold Italic collaborated to throw a top notch 60’s party. The first one was in December to which Dick and I were invited to combine our efforts and provide some good tunes to complement the band. And that we did. We had a great time and we were invited back to play little records for Part II: The Spring Fling Dance. I got there early and dropped an easy 90-minute funk set to open for the band. And then Dick and I got on at midnight and brought everyone home with some sweet, sweet soul and girl group action. The crowd was dancing, having a good time, and looking great.

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HAL 4500: Promo Poster

I have been working too much these last few weeks and it is only going to get worse in the coming months. And whenever I feel that work is taking over my life, I react by pushing back creatively. Yesterday, I was in lab until 1am and when I finally finished my workload, I spent two hours on this promo poster for The 45 Brains. Nothing too fancy but some thought did go into it. Basically, as The Juggernaut Database grows, I get more and more inspiration. For this particular poster, called HAL 4500, each record is ordered alphabetically by artist from the outside-going-in and no record label is repeated. Zoom in and maybe you might recognize a few songs.

Hope you like it. If you want a copy (18×24) then post a comment on facebook.com/45brains or email me at 45brains@gmail.com. I’m only printing a handful though.

PEACE!

HAL 4500

edit [3/23/12]: reduced poster size for faster viewing

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Reaching Sherlock Holmes Status: Level II

Well, since I finally have some downtime between projects, this seems like a good point in time to flesh out my thoughts on “Level II” of Reaching Sherlock Holmes Status. If you have not already done so, take a quick detour and read up on Level I: Knowledge.

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‘When I hear you give your reasons,’ I remarked, ‘the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.’
‘Quite so,’ he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. ‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.’
‘Frequently.’
‘How often?’
‘Well, some hundreds of times.’
‘Then how many are there?’
‘How many! I don’t know.’
‘Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.’ (Holmes teaches Watson a lesson in “A Scandal in Bohemia”)

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Level II: Observation

Whenever I pick up a new endeavor (I despise the word “hobby”), I do my best to see what the professionals are doing. When you start off, these are the people you want to emulate and, in the future, outperform. In addition to accruing facts and building up a decent knowledge base (see Level I), you also have to build muscle memory by practically swimming in your craft. Like any other skill, you can’t become the best simply by reading books. You also have to train.

The traditional method, which hardly anyone does anymore, was to apprentice under a grand master. You would work hard, sweep the floors, wash the laundry, and do all the cooking; and, throughout your tenure, your teacher would fill your head with gems of knowledge and you would grow to fill his or her shoes. This is the route I have been striving towards. Each sunday I go to the record shop and get immersed. I help clean up the shop, move crates around, organize records, and help customers. And once a month I spin at Monarch Lounge where DJ M3 looks out for me by teaching me the tricks of the trade.

And all the while, I do my best to see and observe.

And as Sherlock pointed out, there is a big difference between seeing and observing. The former is passive, the latter is active and full of intent. In essence, one must see with a goal in mind. This is a little difficult to explain when it comes to learning about soul music. But, what I do is reach out to DJs and record collectors who have been in the game for a long time and connect with them. And although these people have lives of their own, it does not mean that I am necessarily limited. I suppose an example of what I mean by observation would be helpful.

Each month, I go to The 45 Sessions, a monthly all-7-inch dance party in Oakland, and I pay attention to what the DJs are actually doing. Not just paying attention to what they play, but how they play it. For example, how and when they transition from one song to another, how they handle the records, how they troubleshoot. And all the while, I note the crowd’s response and my own gut reactions. And I do this practically at all events that I go to now.

But opportunities for observation are not limited to these outings. I also listen to as many mixes as I can get my hands on, and replay them constantly while paying attention to the transitions. In essence, the whole observation philosophy can be summed up in a piece of advice that Skeme gave me at the first 45 Sessions I attended: “take notes on what to do, and what not to do”.

That’s some real Sherlock Holmes advice.

And for me, observation is not limited to the music world. For instance, due to repeated viewings of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, I have not been able to watch any movie since without paying explicit attention to scene transitions, the musical score, and how characters are framed on the screen. My appreciation for film (and music) has shot through the roof because of this “active seeing”. And in addition, I gain a greater appreciation for life because I constantly pay attention to details that others might take for granted or completely miss.

Stay tuned for the final level of Reaching Sherlock Holmes Status.

“I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction.” (J. Watson)

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The 45 Sessions: 2 Year Anniversary

I have been going to The 45 Sessions on a consistent basis since the Hot Peas and Butta Bros. were in town, and it has been a blast. I’ve learned a lot, got to meet some great people, and enjoyed myself thoroughly throughout the journey. And I have to say, last week was a special treat. Platurn and the gang were celebrating the 2nd year anniversary of The 45 Sessions (Valentine’s Edition) and invited Chungtech (Sweater Funk) and Natasha Diggs (NYC) to set the mood right. And I have to say, they couldn’t have picked a better pair to celebrate.

Without verbosity, Chungtech and Natasha killed it.

Finishing up lab and heading to Oakland

My friends and I had a great time dancing to their sets, and we were really impressed by their skills. I’m glad I got a chance to chat with Natasha before she went on deck; she’s been doing big things lately and it was a real pleasure being able to connect with her face to face. Another highlight (for me) was Platurn officially inducting me into the 45 Session family. I consider that to be a big honor especially since I’ve had a great time coming out to Oakland on a monthly basis. It’s pretty damn impressive of the 45 sesh crew to show love to their supporters in such a way.

Platurn with a special Valentine's 45 for his sweetheart

In sum, you’re really missing out on some top notch music and a great dance party if you haven’t made your way out to Oakland yet. I hope I meet you at the next one. Check out the pictures I’ve posted (all courtesy of professional photographer Mr. Andre Davis) and definitely don’t miss out on the official photos of the night taken by Jose Lim.

Chungtech and The 45 Brains

The 45 Brains and Natasha Diggs

E Da Boss on deck

VIP Status: respect to Plat for The 45 Sessions medallion

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Love Ain’t Simple: 2012 Valentine’s Mix

I just recorded my first mix for The 45 Brains. Been planning this one for a while but didn’t actually sit down and put it together until a few hours ago. It’s a valentine’s mix but it’s not your typical mush. From my experience, relationships, and love, are not as simple and easy as the idealistic younger version of myself once thought. And I hope that sentiment is reflected in the 45s I chose for the mix.

“Love Ain’t Simple” tracks the inevitable ups and downs of young love. It kicks off hopeful, excited, and full of promises, and ends with some downtempo doubt and murky resolutions. Each song is simultaenously a question and answer. But most importantly, these are some soulful 45s that I really love, and I hope you do too.

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Sessions @ The P.M.: Those Who Believe Will Know

A few months ago I was hanging out at Rooky’s at the right time of day. A man with dreadlocks and a bag full of records walked in and asked Dick if he wanted to sell a few at the shop. He was distributing a jazz/hip hop 45 from his collective.

I have always been an underground hip hop fan thanks mostly to my upbringing in Philly and my man Foxx Boogie who really turned me on to the genre. And that day, I wanted to support and check out some new music. So I ended up buying a signed copy, that I immediately put on the shop’s main turntable. I kicked back to finish up my relaxing day at Rooky’s, sipped my ice cold lemonade, and I nodded my head to the dope tracks.

A few weeks later, I was biking home from work using a route that I almost never take and I bumped into the dreadlocked man once again. I jumped off the bike and re-introduced myself. And because he was walking down Haight street and popping into each record shop on the way, I thought I might as well walk with him. I had a great conversation with him about his work, his record, and his collective and I asked him if he’d be willing to participate in an interview for #45Fridays.

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The 45 Brains: Tell me a little about yourself, where are you from? 

Henry Quester: My name is Henry Quester, traveling artist (MC, Art Peddler). I’m originally from Cuba, grew up in Harlem, reside in New Jersey and throughout the four corners of the Earth.

The 45 Brains: What are you doing in San Francisco? 

Henry Quester: I was in the Bay Area on the One Way Ticket Tour promoting the limited edition first pressing of Sessions @ The P.M.  “Those who believe will know” as well as becoming more familiar with the culture in the area.

The 45 Brains: Tell me more about your collective.

Henry Quester: Sessions @ The P.M. is an entity fulfilling the course of its birth right by contributing to the musical force of life. [It] is a Universal Collective. There is not a specific amount of people that amount to the collective but rather a whole stream of artists who contribute to this way of life. The inspiration for Sessions is the realization that the integrity of an artist lies within the preservation of its art form which is often disregarded due to the impersonal perception of the digital world. Sessions @ The P.M. was conceived by my older brother, myself and my younger sister. We are all individual artists that often collaborate but who more than often venture out and work on solo projects.

The 45 Brains: What made you decide to release a 45?

Henry Quester: We decided to press 45’s because they were easy to package and lighter to carry.

The 45 Brains: Sounds practical enough. What are your plans for the future?

Henry Quester: To top the Blue Note Record Estate (hahah). In all honesty, yes we would like to continue to add on to the preservation of vinyl and by adding on it can only be assumed that progression will be a result from that. For instance when Madlib digged into the Blue Note vault and began reissuing and remixing those classics I feel it was a huge motivation and big step for Jazz in general because as we all know the fundamentals of Hip Hop are deeply rooted in improvisation and bebop. This made the digger visible and empowered a new & independent generation of record producers and added to the increase in record sales over the last few years. It also allows us to keep the grass low and weed out those that are out for a free ride. Although we don’t disregard the purchasing of CDs or tapes we just personally feel that every artist should get a taste of the phonograph. Sessions @ The P.M. recently opened up an Educational Space & Resource Center to facilitate and educate the brilliant minds of the future. This Space is centered on the idea of exercising each individual’s freedom of creative expression by uniting and providing the merging of resources. In other words our true progress comes from the growth and development of all human beings with creativity at the forefront as the needle to the record. Be on the lookout for the expansion of our facility as well as the next pressing for Sessions @ The P.M. The Native Sons & Daughters Series.

The 45 Brains: Thanks a lot Henry. I hope to see more of your work in the near future. Any shoutouts?

Henry Quester: Thank you to Sama (www.45brains.com) & DJ Delgado (www.aztlanroots.com) for putting Sessions @ The P.M. Those Who believe Will Know on 45Fridays and for giving us our first interview, The Hip Hop Thrift Shop, Bleeker Bobs, Other Music, Musics Inn, Tunes, A&S Comics, Soundstation Records, DJ 4 A.M., Rooky Ricardo’s Records, Recycle Records, Black Pancake Records, Groove Merchant, Amoeba Records, Clockwise Records, Street Soul Crew out in Geneva, Switzerland, our traveling Sessions Dealers & all the brothers and sisters who stopped and supported Sessions while we were out there slanging them 45’s. To learn more about Sessions @ The P.M. or to submit any music, art, or literary work send us an email at Sessionsatthepm@gmail.com. Those Who Believe Shall Know, Peace be onto you.

And here’s a track from the EP and some pictures graciously provided by HQ. 

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Fried Chicken Salad with Dick Vivian

Dick was having two beautiful ladies over for dinner yesterday and was nice enough to invite me over for the festivities. I got there as he was finishing up dinner prep and I decided to shoot this video just for fun.

“Who are you?”

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