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BadBadNotGood are currently in between albums. The Toronto trio released their third LP III back in May and in February of 2015, they will release Sour Soul, a collaborative LP with legendary Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah and producer Frank Dukes. In the middle of a run of shows, I spoke with bassist Chester Hansen about Sour Soul, Frank Ocean, and old synthesizers.
When I call, he is in Toronto, finishing up a meal. “How has the year been treating you?” I ask.
“2014 has really been great,” he laughs and pauses. “It’s probably been the fastest year that’s ever gone by for all of us. Just because of everything that’s happened. It’s been awesome.”
I ask Chester what the remainder of the year has in store for BadBadNotGood.
“We have a few more shows, then right before next year, we’re going to Australia for a bit. And we’re just trying to work on music whenever we have free time in the studio.”
We start talking about Sour Soul, the upcoming collaborative LP with Wu-Tang’s own Ironman aka Ghostface Killah. BBNG produced the entire project alongside fellow Torontonian Frank Dukes. I ask him if Sour Soul is finished.
“Yeah,” he says. “It’s finally all done. We actually did a couple more changes and additions this past week or so. The whole thing has been in different stages over the past two and a half years that we’ve been working on it. So it’s great to finally be putting it out next year.”
Scheduled for a February 16, 2015 release, I ask him how the collaboration came together.
“Through our friend Frank Dukes. He’s a hip-hop producer, a beat maker. We met him a few years and then started working on a couple of things in Toronto. Then he asked us to come to New York to record with him and work on some live instrumentals. We ended up going down there for a week and recording in an amazing studio called Dunham Records where the Menahan Street Band and Charles Bradley and all those people record. We went there and did some tracks and then over the past two years they’ve gradually been taking shape into full songs with Ghostface. It’s been quite a long process.”
Chester tells me how the recording process went down.
“Most of it we would get done ourselves and then send it to Ghostface because he has his own way that he likes to record. He has a studio and an engineer and everything. It made more sense to let him do his thing in his own environment and just lay it down. We’ve met him a few times which has been great, he’s a really nice guy.”
“Once the album is out,” I ask, “do you plan on a joint tour?”
“Yeah, hopefully,” he tells me. “No one’s really sure at this point how many shows it’ll be, but at the very least, we hope to do a few shows in the major cities and have some good times.”
I ask Chester about his studio essentials.
“We actually share a studio with Frank Dukes. He’s been collecting analog synths and rare keyboards and things like that for a few years now. When we started at the studio, he already had a bunch of awesome stuff. Since then, we’ve been collecting anything old that we find on Craigslist that looks really cool and all kinds of different shit. Basses, guitars, a lot of great old synths, organs. We really need more space.”
BBNG and Frank Dukes have worked together on numerous projects. Along with collaborating on the spring release of III, Dukes and the trio also helped with the RZA-curated soundtrack for The Man with the Iron Fists. I ask him if they have plans to work on more soundtracks in the future.
“Hopefully. We haven’t had opportunities to do stuff like that, but scoring movies or videos is definitely something that we’d be interested in.”
III was released on May 6 of this year and it marked BBNG’s first project of all original material. I ask Chester about the feedback they received.
“Really good, actually. We were kind of blown away by how many people have checked it out and bought the album or listened to it. Even to this day, people hit us up every day after discovering it. Every new show we play, people are learning about it and picking up the album. The fact that people are listening to it is awesome.”
“What have you been listening to recently outside of your own music?” I ask.
“A lot of old Brazilian records,” he says. “Brazilian jazz. Matt [Tavares], our keyboard player, is really heavy into digging for old records and getting into all kinds of old music. I guess through him, me and Alex [Sowinski] have been really into that stuff. Also, just keeping up with new hip-hop and stuff. I try to listen to everything at the same time.”
I ask him about future collaborations, if there’s anyone BBNG want to work with.
“There are quite a few people that we’d love to work with. It’d be great to do something with Frank Ocean. Drake is pretty high up on the list too.”
I mention that they played alongside Frank Ocean at Coachella.
“Yeah, that was awesome, and we’ve actually hung out with them a few times since then. He’s kind of a genius so it’d be really cool to get something together with him.”
Outside of performing simply as BBNG, I ask if they plan on backing up any artists in the future.
“Nothing solidified, really, except for those shows with Ghostface, but we’re always open to playing with people and stuff seems to come up last minute for us, so we’ll see.”
As we close the interview, I ask Chester if he has any advice for struggling artists.
“Just make sure you’re enjoying what you do and make sure you’re having fun. That’s the most important thing. If you’re not having fun, it’s gonna really drain your motivation and it’s going to show in your music and whatever else you’re doing. Make music as honestly as you can and just do your thing basically.”
BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah’s ‘Sour Soul’ is out via Lex Records in February 2015.