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interview // beston

What is the science about your name?

No science, they just gave me that name.  Parents that is.  Children of the sixties both of them.  Ran out of gas somewhere between rainbow gatherings and gave birth to me at the Best In Texas Beef Broil.  Manager was kind enough to let them use the manger behind the grill, so they named me after the place, though it got cut short on the birth certificate.  Itís as if Joseph and Mary named their kid Little Barn in Bethlehem, but the Romans shortened it to Littlebar.

Who is who in the group?

Just me, Beston Barnett.  Write the songs, play the instruments, sing a bit, do the dishes, and it all appears to be happening at the same time through the miracle of modern science.

What motivated you to get into this industry?

Iím not really ďin the industryĒ yet Ė just getting started.  But letís imagine I am a part of the music biz; probably my biggest motivation is makin a living doing something I enjoy.  Working towards something Ė a body of work, an artistic goal Ė rather than just taking up oxygen and protein.

What was your first single/recording?

Actually a couple of months ago I unearthed a recording of my sixth grade rock band, Tennessee Colony of Slippermen.  Righteous stuff Ė we do a Blues Brothers tune and Creamís Sunshine of Your Love.  Thatís gotta be my first recording: Iím playing the piano.  There was a band in fourth grade Ė Verbal Beat Ė in which I played bass, but I donít think we ever recorded anything.  Both bands went the way of the dodo, citing artistic differences.

What was your favorite single/recording you did?

I think I like ďGifts you canít seeĒ, from the Chrysalis album best.  Through many listens, I really feel the production holds together Ė really works.

What instruments do you use?

I play upright bass, acoustic guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, drum kit, congas, and various other percussion on Chrysalis.  On the next album I hope to bring in some of the instruments Iíve become more familiar with here in  Brazil: tun-tun, cavaquinho, quica, berimbau, and pandeiro.

How would you classify your style as an artist?

Not sure.   Iíve tried to stick with alternative hip-hop, but I mean that in the most literal sense.  Itís not alternative music, the way radio formats that stuff now.  Itís actually an alternative to the kind of hip-hop thatís out there now.  Hip-hop where the musical-ness of it is not pushed to the side Ė real, mostly acoustic instruments and rap that I think itís more honest for me Ė Iím not a gangster.

Growing up, who do you think was a few of your biggest musical influences?

Man I could go and never stop.  Lemme try and do this in order.

Probably the first stuff to fill the need too to seep into my consciousness was Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, James Brown.  Followed quickly by Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Miles Davis.  Then on to Reverend Gary Davis,  Ledbelly, Paul  Simon, Shawn Colvin, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle.  When I moved west, I dug into Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Pharcyde, Del, Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul.  These days all I listen to is Cuban son and Brazilian pagode.  I know you wanted a shorter list, but I just couldnít do it.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Probably back down here in Bahia, Brazil or maybe in San D.  Making more tunes of course Ė hopefully put together a good group.

What do you feel is the toughest part of the music industry?

No idea.

What would the ultimate reward for you be?

The best thing in the world for me would be to be able to make a record a year for the next ten years and not have to worry about anything while Iím doin it.

What message are you trying to get across to fans?

Same thing as the Beatles: all you need is love.  In the next album Iím gonna try and reiterate some of Sly Stoneís thinking: dance to the music.  By the end of my career I hope to be able to say, as clearly as Bob Marley: weíre the survivors.

Do your friends and family look at you differently now?

Not that I know of.

If someone were to look in your CD player or tape player right now what would be in it?

I think Iíve got the original Cursos do Mestre Bimba in the tape player.  Bimba is a legendary capoeira master who taught here in Salvador, Brazil in the thirties and forties.  Capoeira is a traditional Brazilian martial art/dance/ritual that Iím here studying.  The signature instrument of capoeira music is the berimbau, which is a one string affair with a gourd.  I was just practicing along with the tape Ė though itís hard cause the old dude plays fast.

Personally what does hip hop mean to you?

Iím not sure Iím qualified to answer this question.  Thereís a lot of stuff out there and itís all hip-hop if itís got that swinging hip-hop beat that comes from James Brown and thereís somebody rhyming over top.   What more can I say?  I like the way you can inject so much personality into hip-hop, way more than you could into other kinds of music.  Take a popular pop-tune, anybody could redo the song and though it might not be as good, it would still make sense.  But nobody could come in and try to do one of my tunes Ė it would just sound ridiculous, cause the stuff is written so specifically for my voice.

Who do you feel is your biggest influence and why?

On Chrysalis, Iím pullin in influences from every direction at once.  Maybe the biggest is Cassandra Wilson, or more importantly her guitar player and producer.  When they did New Moon Daughter, they were able to give folk/jazz music a whole new life by letting these simple acoustic instruments be heard Ė that music has incredible depth.  I tried to bring the same kind of simple depth to hip-hop.

How do you feel your music will effect its listeners?

Itís meant to put them into a trance, from which they will wake wanting desperately and single-mindedly nothing more than to finally and totally debunk the infamous Cheerios Myth.  (the Cheerios Myth is the ridiculous idea, thrust upon us by the heinous marketing industry of the eighties, that we ever wanted cereal that didnít sink or that stayed crispy in milk.  Woe how I remember those dark days when the WASPy neighbors next door sneered at my Grape Nuts, while eating their Fruit Loops, their Cheerios, their Captain Crunch.  Whoís laughing now, clowns.)

If you could change one thing in world, what would it be?

Iíd reverse the agricultural revolution.  If we hadnít ever learned how to grow crops, weíd still be hunting and gathering like the rest of the animals, probably much happier, and certainly wouldnít be hurtling towards Malthusís carrying capacity with environmental doom in tow.  Call me an edenic declinsionist, but Gaya is not happy.

What would you like to say to all the new artists in the game?

I only know what Iíve come up against so far: and I canít foresee what will happen to me next.  The only thing I know is that youíve got to make good music - not parodies, not second-rate imitations, not just the music you know how to play, but the music you love.  If you make good music I canít guarantee youíll go anywhere, only that youíll be happy.

Any Last Words?

Parting thoughts from Townes Van Zandt (greatest songwriter that ever lived): I come from a long line High low and in between, Same as you.


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