Rolling Stone (yes, Rolling Stone) has a fascinating interview with Jeff Mills by Elias Leight. Mills has been touring and recording with Tony Allen, legendary Afrobeat percussionist and one of the men who put steel in the spine of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 and Egypt 80 organizations.

Ahead of their new project, Mills speaks about what it was like to rehearse and jam with someone of common mind but radically different origins:

“I remember after the first time that he played, I had to ask him some questions because it was so interesting what he was doing. I kept noticing what he was doing with the snare. Literally almost every five or six seconds he would play something completely different on the snare, so after we stopped the first time I asked him, where was his technique from? He explained to me that in Lagos, in Nigeria, when he was young and growing up, they speak so many languages because there’s such a melting pot of people from everywhere, that the average person speaks six or seven languages, and that somehow with the snare, he’s in a way relating to the social aspect and the social pattern of the city in Lagos.

“That made me understand the way that he played and how he treats each drum to kind of symbolize certain things. Then once he understood that I was curious about the way that he was playing, he began to explain more, like the relationship between the hi-hat, the kick drum and the snare, and gave me a small demonstration and showed me. Then I thought about that and then came up with something slightly different on the drum machine.”


Read the rest of the interview at Rolling Stone. Tomorrow Comes The Harvest by Tony Allen and Jeff Mills is out now on Blue Note.


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