The Urban Music Scenes’ very own Terrill Hanna had a candid conversation recently with Actor and Musician, Malcolm Jamal Warnerabout his career and relatively new move into the music world!
TH: The Urban Music Scene.com welcomes Brother Malcolm Jamal Warner & his group Miles Long…..What’s Happening Man?
Malcolm Jamal Warner: Sounds good man, How are you doing Dawg?
TH: Brother, I’m just trying to keep it right man! Tryin’ to push the site!!
MJW: That’s right!
TH: Heh Man, Talk to us about your Jazz-Funk group – Miles Long…
MJW: Well, I started the band in ’98…..Let me back up. I started playing bass in ’96 – in the 1st year of doing Malcolm & Eddie (TV sitcom) & working for UPN was really stressing a Brother out.
TH: I can realize that!
MJW: I realized that I needed a hobby. I felt like I was the only one caring about the show. Acting, as well as Directing, I started a need to fall into a hobby. So I picked up a musical instrument. I would never start a band. I would never record a CD. This was something I would just do as a hobby which would help to release me from the day-to-day politics of my acting career…
MJW: I started playing bass & I realized, early on, that practicing my skills in the dressing room was not going to keep me interested. I put a band together, literally, to make me practice. And we started doing the L.A. club circuit. Within a year of me playing bass, we’re playing for the L.A. club circuit. In L.A., when you are whack, THEY are going to let you know that you are whack!
TH: That’s right! Because that is the L.A. Club scene…
MJW: Yeah Exactly! So it really made me take playing seriously & it really helped me to step up my game at a much quicker pace than if I was still just practicing my skills. So we started the band & doing other club circuits for quite awhile. I do the Jazz-Funk & spoken word. I’m also a poet. I play the bass & also do the spoken word in the band.
TH: Good! You know, its interesting that you are shifting some time from the Acting Career unto Jazz. Why did you choose the Urban Jazz front? What made you go into the Jazz-Funk scene? Is this a passion of yours that you had for a long time?
MJW: I still have my acting career Brother! I haven’t given that up!
TH: It looks like Miles Long is prospering!
MJW: The film career is still going. I just finished a movie out in Australia with Matthew McConaughey & Kate Hudson.
MJW: I just opened my one-man show here in L.A. & in just the last week, we got a tremendous amount of wonderful responses the past few days!
TH: Was it “The Midnight Summer’s Dream?”
MJW: No, it’s called “Love & Other Social Issues.” We just opened last weekend & we run through July 8th.
MJW: Friday, Sat & Sunday at The Assistance League Playhouse In Hollywood. So my acting career is still going. I’m not going to give up my day job!
TH: That’s great man! I was wondering because you have some stars like yourself, For example – Wayman Tisdale – who had a prosperous Basketball career & had switched over, due to his passion of playing the bass, into the smooth jazz scene. You are well on your way if decide to make that decision!
MJW: Yeah Man! And this band, again, actually started up as a hobby & we really have just grown! When I 1st put the band together, it was just about playing. In doing the L.A. club circuit, I was really coming out of pocket. I was paying band members, I was paying for advertisements, etc…it was mistakenly costing me too much to do these gigs. So I figured if I at least record a CD, a CD to sell right after the show, that I won’t feel like I am losing money every time we are doing a show. So that’s how the recording came about.
TH: Yes, & you guys are opening the “2007 Playboy Jazz Festival” for Etta James, Marcus Miller, etc, right?
MJW: YEAH MAN!!
TH: Oh-Oh! Are you guys coming to throw down?
MJW: Oh..were BRINGIN’ IT!
TH: Bring it Man….Bring it!
MJW: We played the Long Beach Jazz Festival, The St. Lucia Jazz Festival. We opened up for Earl Klugh & Luther Vandross, so the band definitely is no slouch! That is something I am really proud of. I’m proud of the pleasant surprise that people have when they actually see the band. Some people know my work & know of my integrity, & are less surprised that I have a band, but that we’re actually good!
TH: Your band had just released “The Miles-Long Mixtape“?
MJW: Actually that was our very 1st CD, we had just finished our 2nd CD called “Love & Other Social Issues”.
TH: Cool man! Is this another Jazz-Funk offering?
MJW: Yes. That’s the closest thing that people can come close to calling it, Urban Jazz. We are not a straight-ahead band, but Jazz-Funk & the spoken word. But I have grown up in the Hip-Hop community. It still has that Hip-Hop edge to it. I say my core audience, even though the band is very universal & appeals to all ages, the core audience really for people like myself who had grown up on hip-hop. Yet hip-hop no longer speaks to us the way it use to.
TH: Absolutely! You nailed that one on the wall!
MJW: Yeah! We are no longer the target demographics for hip-hop. So that’s the reality of the whole thing. Our music is still for the cats who want to ‘bob’ their heads. Lyrically, the music offers a lot of substance. And for the people who are not ready for the straight ahead jazz, we are the perfect introduction to such.
TH: That’s awesome Man! And to add an irony to this: Here you are playing at the “Playboy Jazz Festival,” which is an awesome venue year over year, & Mr. Bill Cosby hosting
the event as well. Its almost like a reunion!
MJW: That’s great & also my Father is coming to the show! I got Mr. Cosby there & my Dad – These are both cats who are largely responsible for me getting into Jazz. When I was a Baby, My Father would put me in my sitter & sit me in front of some speakers & play jazz because he wanted me to have an appreciation for jazz music. So much so, that I was named after Malcolm X & Ahmad Jamal. My Dad wanted me to be a jazz musician. So I am really excited & tickled that I will have both of my Dads’ there at the concert!
TH: Which day are you playing – Saturday or Sunday?
MJW: We are opening on Sunday & we are really coming to set it off!!
TH: That’s what I am talking about & hopefully I will get a chance to come see you backstage! On top of that, we are looking forward upon reviewing your new CD here on The Urban Music Scene.com!
MJW: And really, if you get a chance, I would love for you to come & check out the “Love & Other Social Issues” show man! I would really love for you to come & check it out! I think you would really dig it ’cause it’s important. Its really entertaining, but just the messages are really important, especially for black men. Come & check it out.
TH: Right On man & I’ll take the invite right after the interview! I’m not far from you. I’m here in Southern Cal with ya’!! I had one other question: In variance to music, that being in the jazz scene, do you think your music can speak on a revolution for jazz or is it an influence shared of jazz? How do you look at the standard your project sets for the music?
MJW: I think we are definitely very influenced by jazz. I’m not yet a straight-ahead cat. I’m transcribing all my acts & developing….The jazz-funk came about from me & my soul. Being that I am not a straight-ahead player, I’m very influenced by jazz-funk, hip-hop, & Funk. So I’m not out trying to revolutionize the jazz medium, but “Miles Long” definitely has a lot, very worthwhile, to offer.
TH: are you upset with Hip-Hop right now?
MJW: I have a love & hate relationship with hip-hop. There’s a responsibility factor. I think once you are in the public eye & once you have the ear of the younger people, then there is a certain responsibility that comes with that. A lot of people who live in the public eye do not take on that responsibility. Especially cats in the hip-hop world, most of them do not take on that responsibility.
TH: Would you like to elaborate on it more?
MJW: There’s a track on my record called “Project Image” & on MalcolmjamalWarner.com page, which puts it out there.
TH: It’s like a spoken word, right?
MJW: Yes & it calls for accountability & responsibility. It talks about what’s worse: Selling dope or selling dopey images? There’s another track on the project called “Running On Empty” that talks about breaking down the truth of who’s responsible for our youth. There is a certain responsibility we have to take in looking at the younger generation. One of the other things that I am especially proud of – none of the messages in my music are preachy or didatic. This is coming from a cat who loves Hip-Hop. I’m not trashing Hip-hop, but we have to take some sort of responsibility.
TH: A sort of accountability?
MJW: Yes!! I really think, with the spoken word, that your stuff can still be ‘dope’. Without having to talk about bling-bling, without talking about macking bitches & hoes & all that stuff. You can still be ‘dope’ & have something worthwhile to say.
TH: I remember a time when Heavy D & The Boyz, from back in day, released a track called “Don’t Curse”. Remember that?
MJW: I remember!
TH: I seem to hear that song play in the back of my head every time I hear any of today’s Hip-Hop. Is it much the same as what’s you are saying?
MJW: At the same time, I want to make sure that I do not come off hypocritical because I also curse. Make no mistake about it. There is some profanity in my music. Make no mistakes!
TH: It shouldn’t take away whatever you are trying to project!
MJW: Exactly! There is profanity in some of my music, but none of it is gratuitous.
TH: I concur with the change needed. And no doubt, I love my cats, but we do need to take care of some business!
MJW: Yeah Definitely!
TH: And on that note I hope you rock at the “Playboy Jazz Sunday“…I look forward upon seeing you! Also, I’ve appreciated all of your episodes from the Cosby Show & various other projects Man…Your doing it!
MJW: Again, it’s responsibility & I’ve been blessed with stuff, to which much is given, much is required! That’s what I am all about!
TH: We’ll catch you later Brother…Wanna do a part 2 down the road?
MJW: I think we should!
TH: I’ll look forward to it My Brother!
MJW: No doubt!