Music everywhere - Interview with New Primitives’ frontman Stanley Kipper
Thursday 17 May @ 14:07:50
by DWIGHT HOBBES
Powerhouse Afro-Cuban rockers New Primitives, copping the Minnesota Music Award for Best Reggae Band the last four years, have a long anticipated follow-up to their 2003 album, New Primitives, close to completion. American Nomads marks the first time guitarist-singer-songwriter Javier Trejo (who’s been with the band since just before New Primitives came out) records as a member. Also on hand: Chico Perez (congas, vocals), Brian “Snowman” Powers (tenor sax), Joel “Family Man” Arpin (drums), Zack Lozier (trumpet), DJ Triochrome (turntables) and Matt Stevens and Tommy Peterson alternating on bass guitar. Pulse of the Twin Cities spoke with founder and frontman Stanley Kipper (vocals, timbales) about his creation. FYI: homeboy can be a hazardous interview. The first time I met with him, Kipper waxed so exuberant, he gleefully punched and kicked me until I had to move out of striking distance. Next time, sitting with Trejo and Perez, he knocked over every coffee cup on the table. A week later, he greeted me at The Cabooze by banging his coconut-hard forehead square against mine. So, we did this interview over the telephone.
Pulse of the Twin Cities: Where’d you get such a judicious approach to playing timbales? You don’t fill up a lot of space. But you definitely are there.
Stanley Kipper: My timbale approach, man, comes from a drum set approach. Tryin’ to leave them holes open. I pick my spots, in relation to the song. And I work off Chico. We have this language we’ve developed over the years.
Pulse: You also play traps.
SK: Yeah, well, that works different for singing. Timbales work better. Playing traps, I always felt either the singing or the drumming was suffering some. With the timbales, I’m able to stand up and deliver the song better. And not be so. [Plus] with somebody else, like Family Man, playing traps, it just changed everything. It’s easier for me to hit them notes when I’m standin’. Better for my stamina. How much heat I can actually bring.
Pulse: You have vocal influences?
SK: Yes. Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Chuck Berry.
Pulse: Let’s revisit history. Your band One World was happenin’ for the better part of a decade before New Primitives. Basically, it was New Primitives, just bigger.
SK: It was a big, communal thing. My vision about that was the same thing, big ol’ neighborhood melting pot. Racially speaking. Culturally. Just represent. I wanted to share the front with a woman. That was the whole thing. Tryin’ to throw the doors open like that. So the World Beat girls could see their sisters, all that, so it was more than a bunch of dudes standin’ around onstage. There was a female lead, at different times in the course of the band: Jenny Sanford, Candy Matthews, Barbara Meyer -- she’s on the first New Primitives. And Liz Kuivinen playin’ keys.
Pulse: You’re producing a project with Barbara.
SK: I produced her CD. Co-produced it with Rich Mattson [from Ol’ Yeller]. It’s done. She’s doing liner notes. It’s got a bunch of her songs on it. And, no doubt, homegirl’s band is smokin’.
Pulse: Who’s left from the original New Primitives? Chico, Family Man and Tommy Peterson? What’s it like still hangin’ with these cats?
SK: Yeah, it’s the three drummers. Me, them and Tommy. Rollin’ with [those] boys is like rollin’ with family. We been playin’ together for a long time. On the same page the whole way, life-wise, music-wise. I feel fortunate, very lucky to roll with guys so righteous and so bad. They’re some great homeboys to be influenced by. They keep me on the good foot. In a world full of fools, these boys are bad. I’m lucky.
Pulse: Who’s the cat that sits in on bari sax?
SK: Man, that’s Derrick Narum. He comes from the North Dakota boys. Test Site 67.
Pulse: Brian Powers wrote “Bring Me Down.” Produced both albums. Y’all have a strong connect.
SK: Snowman Powers is the man. Snow, he’s got this new studio. He’s gonna become Brian Wilson. But he won’t have the sandbox.
Pulse: Javier Trejo. He’s got this bad joint “Buscando La Gente” on the new disc. At the club, his ska rendition of “The Way You Do The Things You Do” by The Temptations. Trejo was no small addition.
SK: Addin’ Jav was a cool thing. [He’s] got a lot of really wonderful stuff goin’ on. His chops, man, are terrifyin’. Straight up. Me, Chico and Joel, man, we ran up out the dressin’ room when we first heard him with The Beads. And said, “What the fuck?!” You know, man, to get us out the Voodoo Lounge, he had to be bringin’ it. We said right there, this boy’s gon’ be ours.
Pulse: What’d you do, drag him off the stage?
SK: We said, “This motherfucker’s gon’ be with us.” The Beads saw us comin’. I rolled in there like a pirate.
Pulse: Just kidnapped Javier. No ransom note.
SK: Nothin’. It was, “Come on, dude. Roll with us.”
Pulse: The first album is tough. This new one. Javier’s songs. And you wrote those locked in the pocket jams “Must Be Love” and “Didn’t I Tell You.” Y’all fixin’ to scare folk.
SK: We’re all excited, man. We stepped it up. You know, influences even deeper. Jav come in, everybody start flexin’ the Cumbia muscle. Chico’s writin’. We’re still mixin’ up a lotta styles. The gumbo pot got spicier and nicer, man. Lotta cool shit goin’ on.
New Primitives are at The Cabooze, 917 Cedar Ave., on the West Bank in Minneapolis every Thursday.