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Interview with Gary Hines from the Sounds Of Blackness


By Dirk Binsau of Jazz-not-Jazz

 

There are times when I really love my job. Not only does it provide me with a possibility to tell the world about quality music but from time to time it also gives me the chance to get in contact with musicians or bands I’m a fervent fan of for many years.

 

Take Gary Hines and his mighty Sounds Of Blackness for example. I love them since I’ve first listened to the 12″ single Optimistic. The recent release of the new SOB’s album Unity was a legitimate reason to ask Gary a few questions.


Q
: Please tell me the story and motivation behind the new album Unity.

Gary Hines
: Sounds of Blackness has always had a world -view perspective on life. We are committed to do our part to remedy and rectify the rampant war, hunger, hate and divisivemness in the world today by issuing a clariion call for "UNITY". "UNITY" is Sounds of Blackness contribtion to the movement for worldwide peace, love and harmony.

Q
: How did you team up with producer LaSalle Gabriel ?

Gary Hines
: Sounds of Blackness has worked with LaSalle Gabriel on and off for several years - primarily as a guitarist. When his record label, SLR had a distribution slot for a project, he contacted us and the rest is history.

Q: How did the reunion with Ann Nesby happen?

Gary Hines
: Ann Nesby and I have been talking with each other about a reuniion recording with Sounds of Blackness for years now. When we saw each other at the 2005 Grammy Awards, we decided that "UNITY" was the perfect opportunity for a reunion.

Q
: What is your mission as musical director of the Sounds Of Blackness?

Gary Hines
: My mission as Musical Director of Sounds of Blackness is to glorify God by unfying and uplifting people of all backgrounds through African-American music. By doing so, I will honor our ancestors and the great legacy and tradition of 'healing music' that they have so masterfully established. With the Sounds of Blackness, I constantly strive to approach their level musical excellence.

Q
: The members of the band have changed since you took over the musical directorship from Russell Knighton and you're the only active founding member. Why had all the others left the Sounds over the years and how do you replace them, how do you find the new singers?

Gary Hines
: Membership changes in the early years of Sounds of Blackness was primarily due to attrition, relocation, etc.


At that time, we held annual auditions for vocalists and musicians. In later years, we have been enjoying a very stable membership with relatively few changes. We are constantly receiving audition requests and I keep them on file, so that when an opening does occur, we can contact potential new members to audition.

Q
: The one thing I'm missing on Unity are the jazz influenced songs. How come you didn't covered this music genre on the new album?

Gary Hines
: The more jazz-styled songs that we recorded this time around were unfortunately removed from the CD by SLR Records.

Q
: When the SOB were with Perspective Records you've enjoyed worldwide success and extended media coverage thanks to A&M's major label budget. What do you think of this time in retrospect?

Gary Hines
: That was an absolutely awesome time and space for Sounds of Blackness. It was the proverbial, 'whirlwind' which we cherish wholeheartedly to this day and forever and, we trust will soon occur again.

Q
: During your stay with Perspective all the songs released as a single got remixed to make them more suitable for the dancefloor. What do you think of the idea to remix songs to cover different markets. Do you think that the message of the orignal song maybe could get lost? Do you plan to get songs from Unity remixed?

Gary Hines
: We believe that it is a good thing for as many ears to hear our message as is possible. The great Gamble & Huff once wrote in the lyrics of, "Message In Our Music" (The O'Jays'), "Understand while you dance". That is also one of our mottos. We feel that is better for a message to be heard and possibly missed - than to never be heard at all. Yes, there is a remix, just completed yesterday, of "UNITY".

Q
: Please tell me which experiences with the SOB have been the most remarkable and memorable since their 36 years existence?

Gary Hines
: Certainly among our most memorable experiences have been our performances in Ghana with Stevie Wonder at PanAfest. Our international tours of Japan, Europe, Brazil and the Carribbean, and winning our first Grammy. But far and away, our greatest experiences have been when perfect strangers have come up to us and told us that our music helped to save their life.

Q
: In the 80s/90s Minneapolis was very influential on black music with Prince, Jam & Lewis, The Time, Alexander O'Neal, Mint Condition, Lo-Key etc. Actually it was through Prince's music that I discovered my love for black music. Please tell me what is different in today's music scene in Minneapolis.

Gary Hines
: There are not nearly as many Black bands unfortunately. That is certainly one of the primary differences. Prince, Jam & Lewis, Sounds of Blackness etc all came out of the Minnepaolis Public School Systems music programs. Sadly, many of those music programs no longer exist. On the upside, there is still a vibrant music scene in The Minneapple.

Q
: Which objectives would you like to achieve with the SOB in the future?

Gary Hines
: Sounds of Blackness always seek to broaden our musical horizons - that is to say, we seek to do more of what we have already been blessed to do but on an even larger scale.

For more infos visit
soundsofblackness.com, theblackness.com, slrrecords.net, lightyear.com

 

Sounds Of Blackness play at the Jazz Cafe, London on the May 7 and 8, 2006. The band will also be appearing at Southport Weekender in June.

 

Dirk Binsau is an expert on Jazz and Contemporary Black Music. He broadcasts and blogs at Jazz-not-Jazz.

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

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