AUSTIN DAZE: How is the New Orleans music scene doing? Do you think it will go back to what it was pre-Katrina?
PHILIP FRAZIER: Actually, the New Orleans music scene is much stronger now because all the musicians who never traveled outside New Orleans got a chance to see more of the world and more people are dying for New Orleans music. Katrina was a sad occasion but it kind of made it stronger. It will never go back to what it used to be, but back in New Orleans we are fighting to keep it strong. Katrina made us and our people of New Orleans stronger.
AD: How is the city doing? Is there a better feeling from the folks that stayed on?
PF: We’re not giving up. I mean, I know everybody says a lot about the negative stuff that is going on in the city, but there is also a lot of positive going on. You see, the Rebirth Brass Band, we are just as strong as ever and back performing. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band-a lot of bands-are back performing. A lot of people are back. What is missing?-we want a lot of the youth to come back. We’ve got a problem with some of the youth that are back now because they are not behaving. But other than that, it’s going to get better before it gets worse.
AD: Is there a lot of improvising in your shows? How do you determine who takes the lead?
PF: We try to keep it spontaneous. We’ve been together for a long time so we can kind of feel it. Like that last song tonight, “Do Whatcha Wanna,” we’ve been playing it since 1987. But we’ve played it so much we change it all the time on the fly and tonight we added some new parts. If a guy misses a new part we make a new part out of that. The mess-ups are sometimes the best parts of the music.
AD: I bet you’ve had some earlier nights when you are on the road. How did ya’ll feel about playing until 2am?
PF: Well we do that back at home too. Actually, sometimes we go until 3 or 4 in the morning. The only thing that’s sometimes hard, like tonight, we had a long drive-a ten hour drive. If we’d be coming from Houston, we’d be chilling. We’d be playing our PlayStation video games.
[fa:p:a=72157600257285560,id=511733946,j=r,s=s,l=p] AD: How did ya’ll get started?
PF: I started the band back in 1983 when I was in high school. It started as a band project because I was in a marching band. One thing led to another and we’d go to the French Quarter and play for tips. Everyone would come to my house, sleep over, practice. This band now, it’s like the University of brass bands. Anyone that has been in Rebirth that is doing something else has graduated. But we’ve been doing this for quite some time now. Most of the guys went to school together, we’ve got family members, we’ve got brothers. My brother is the bass drum player.
AD: Did you know that this was what you wanted to do?
PF: We always saw the older brass bands everyday marching up and down our streets in our neighborhood. So when you pick up an instrument it’s like, “That’s what I’m going to do one day.” But we never thought we would get this far-travel around the world. We’ve been to Africa, Japan, Europe, forty-seven states in our own country-imagine that. When I was in high school I was like, “I don’t need no Spanish.”
AD: Was there a point in this journey that it clicked or was it a slow progression?
PF: It clicked in high school because we thought we were high school stars already just by being in a brass band. We were in the right place at the right time all the time. We recorded an album while we were still in high school. Even though some of us left for college we came right back to the band. It kept clicking. Back in the early 80s when it was moving slow, it was already moving faster than we thought it would be moving.
AD: What wisdom can you pass on to a musician just starting out?
PF: First I would tell them to have patience. Don’t worry about the mistakes in your music-sometimes the mistakes are the best part of your music. This business is sometimes a hard business but it’s a great business to be in. If you be true to yourself and true to the music, everything will follow. This band is a result of a life. ***