AUSTIN DAZE: Tell us about the evolution of this project and how it came about.
PORTER –BATISTE-STOLZ: We were three of the four Funky Meters and as friends we just got together and then it started coming together and we started doing gigs and one thing led to the other.
AD: How long has been?
PBS: About 4 years.
AD: When you first went into the studio did you have a clear direction for the music? Has the music changed over the last 4 years?
PBS: Well we’re not sure if we figured out where it is going to end up being and hopefully the real thing is that you don’t see the ending you just get there some day. So musically, we still are recording and we still enjoy playing. The number one thing outside of playing the music is that you’ve got to have fun. If you’re not having fun then we got to go out and be morticians because those guys get paid. We come from all different directions and the songs take different approaches. We might go into the studio and someone has a groove laid down, something they did and we will just start making a song out of it. Or sometimes we start jamming.
AD: When this project first started did you have a sense of what you wanted it to be musically?
PBS: No, not at all. We just get together and play and if it feels good we do it and if it doesn’t we don’t. If it don’t then we move to something that does feel good. Or else we will make it feel good, you know, we’ll beat the dead horse until sooner or later it turns into something. If you beat a dead horse for more than an hour it’s supposed to be dead.
AD: There was the obvious Funky Meters influence. Are there other creative influences you can think of that are affecting you now?
PBS: No. Instinctively what you grew up with and came up with is going to seep in but that is all unconscious—that’s all unconscious stuff. At this point we have so much music in us individually that it just keeps pouring out. Being from New Orleans you don’t need much influence from anybody else.
AD: That influence is so strong.
PBS: It is so strong to the point of being scary. We’ll be playing and we’ll make the mistakes together. This band works with one mind. It’s three individuals but it gets to a point every night where it is just one mind working. So when we get into that groove sometimes we will all make the same mistake. We’ll play these medleys where we will do a song and then we will go into another song and then another song and some nights all three of us just bust into the wrong song together. When that happens, you know it is just one mind—it’s not three individuals.
AD: What’s your take on New Orleans right now?
PBS: It depends on what neighborhood you talk about. I lived in the city for 59 years so I don’t see it no worse today than it was 40 years ago. We have a chance and a really good opportunity to make it much better provided that we get the right knuckleheads in office to pull it off. When everybody stands away, this is our chance to get the correct knuckleheads in there. We would like to see everybody that lived there before to get the f**k back.
You wouldn’t have the Meters, you wouldn’t have Rebirth, without the projects and the majority of those people are gone. They are trying to really hold back from of the tradition of New Orleans music. And if all of those people don’t come back then New Orleans is kind of, f**ked up.
AD: Is the music missing because of it?
PBS: The music is not missing it’s the culture that the music came from that is missing. What we are doing is a section of the music of our city. But then there are other players and guys that are another atmosphere of our music. One of the things about New Orleans that has made us so musically great is the neighborhood you came out of that fits what that music is. So if a whole section of the city is gone that means that 3 or 4 different musical concepts are gone too. It’s very important that those sections of the city come back so that music can continue to live on. The mighty nine has to come back. That’s not St Charles Street. Gospel music; sanctified music. A lot of that music had already started to disappear in the 80s and 90s and was in the deep parts of the ninth ward—it wasn’t mainstream anymore. The music in the churches now is pop. Let’s put it this way: the chances of you getting another Kermit Ruffin or Trombone Shorty are getting slimmer and slimmer. On the real. That shit is diminishing very fast. You got to get those people to come back to the city of New Orleans.
AD: Where do you all come in on that? What’s your responsibility?
PBS: We have a responsibility to do what we do. We aren’t going to be running for office anytime soon.
AD: Maybe you should.
PBS: We don’t want to take over that knucklehead reign. Soon as you get into office you lose your soul.
AD: But do you feel a sense of responsibility that maybe wasn’t there before?
PBS: No. We aren’t going to take on that thing. We are just doing our job. We just continue to do the job we were doing before. There is no responsibility. No more than when the right question is asked to answer it honestly. The most honest answer that we could say is that if we don’t get these parts of the city that are missing back that particular part of the music community is gone and won’t be. That’s not to say that all of those guys can’t find themselves musically in other parts of the country and start developing it there but it won’t be New Orleans music then, it will be wherever the hell they are at. It will be that music.
AD: Any wisdom you want to pass on to musicians starting out in this business?
PBS: Smoke with Russell.