Hi! Why does your album sound like the name of a 90s direct to video action movie?
It kind of does and it’s because when I was 14, instead of paying attention to whatever it was that was going on in class (probably Physics, possibly thermodynamics), I was more interested in imagining myself as an action hero. You know, the next Brandon Lee. Brandon had tragically died in a gun stunt gone horribly wrong. This was 1993. I imagined myself as the younger brother of Brandon (despite not being Chinese and white-such were the simpler pleasures of the 90s), going out into the underworld (literal and metaphysical) to investigate, and yes, avenge his death.
After Vengeance. Because in it, I am after vengeance. But, my fantasy action drama would also address what would have happened after vengeance. Geddit?
27 years later, it’s early January 2020, and I’m sitting in a tiny bar in DuPont circle after another extremely fulfilling day of being the assistant to so and so CEO. I had struggled to break out of that box for years. But, in that moment, I was happy. You see, I had love in my life. A little lady I’d met not too long ago, with the greenest of eyes and the sweetest of smiles. A small bear cub of a dog with extremely sharp teeth, and a lot of spunk. A perfect little apartment just outside DC in the suburbs. Well almost. We’ll get to that in a bit.
I was happy because after two critically and commercially ‘interesting’ musical outings I was ready to be back. Outing numero uno was as Pakistani electronic dance sensation Raza in 2004. Outing numero dos was as the man you now know me as (ahem, the funk and electro fueled Phatso Brown?) Phatso and I did our thing from 2005-2010 until my ‘retirement’ aka “I’m too old for this shit”. But now I was back. It was 2020 and I was back, baby. With an album of 16 tracks, each inspired or influenced by a tune that had a transformative effect on me, tunes released between the 70s and the early 2000s, I decided to move ahead with the project.
Step one is always the most fun, at least it was for me: what am I going to call the album? What am I going to call the songs? What ‘genre’ will they be in? For example, I knew I wanted to make the ‘ultimate’ Acid House anthem (which became In The Box), the ‘ultimate’ Progressive House banger (I ended up with two, Approach and Wa’laah), the ‘ultimate’ Dub workout (Activation) etc. Each tune was going to be the ‘ultimate’ example of its style. Rubbish of course. I was only ever going to make what ‘ultimately’ I had the talent to produce, musically, lyrically, emotionally and artistically. But it was cute of me on that frigid day in January to have had those thoughts. While I waited for the love of my life to return home from work so I could Uber to her and my wee doggy. My home.
At the time, my love was fond of referring to to me as her ‘all the things’. This was something she was fond of saying anyway: everything was ‘all the things’, but I loved my love and loved being called her ‘all the things’. And lo! There was a name for the record: All The Things. It was perfect. An album of 16 disparate tunes all culled from golden memories. Audio masterpieces on tape and CD, but in my own style. A homage to my favorite music, artists and genres. None of the songs had actually been composed. I would spend the day at the office and nights and weekends with her, and tiny dog. The pandemic was still lurking. No one paid attention. No one cared. Least of all our Commander in Chief.
I should have cared. I was too smart to have been that stupid.