Let's Take a Trip with Tall Black Guy
27 February 2017 by Sancho Murphy
Interview by Bianca Annamie.
Detroit native Terrel Wallace is no stranger to musical beginnings, with both parents filling his childhood with the likes of Tribe Called Quest, Luther Vandross, Teena Marie and De La Soul – an influence that is prominent throughout his production. But his roots don’t determine his style, as Wallace allows his sound to react and expand with his surroundings, a skill that reverberates through his latest album ‘Let’s Take a Trip’. When an artist has the ability to produce an album based purely on a vivid dream, an album created during times of pain and disconnect, while still holding true to his signature sample-filled,Jjazz and Soul inspired Hip-Hop beats, it only re-inforces what his fans and peers already know – that Terrel Wallace, aka Tall Black Guy, is one of the most prolific beat makers of our time.
Gearing up for his album launch through Australia, Tall Black Guy accompanies Stro Elliot, yet another iconic producer on the Fats Beat Tour, hitting Lobrow Gallery & Bar on March 3rd, a night that is sure to be a “journey into sound”.
So you're here for your album launch for 'Let’s Take a Trip' which was released late last year. As with any album release, what do you want your audience/fans/listeners to take away from the album itself?
I had a vivid dream. In it, a train arrived, and then I was hanging on the side of the train. Suddenly, I had a vision of the artwork; short sound bites just came right to me. After waking up I started digging for all those particular train sounds to try to tie it all together to create an upbeat story. Going into making “Let’s Take A Trip” in April 2013, I was feeling quite positive and had many ideas in mind. In fact, I wanted to challenge myself by using different instruments and also having several other musicians on the record. That’s what I was going for, but then I had some tragic stuff happen. One of my dear cousins had passed away in the process of me making the album; plus there’d been other personal problems… That was a part of the influence, and the other part was me living in England and seeing all the stuff that was going on in the United States — you know, the racial tension tied with the police and a lot more. Eventually all of it came into play, and it was this combination of different events that I was trying to capture in my music.
And its live counterpart?
As for playing live, I try to share the influences I had in making the album. I might break some of the tracks down to its foundation and then build them back up again.
You collaborated with a range of artists on the album – from a creative standpoint, how does working with someone else differ from just bumping through beats on your own?
You get to have someone else's perspective on a track. And with collaborating, you can trade ideas together, to try to make the best song. I am always open for collaborating with someone else, if it feels right.
Who were your early musical influences, and how did your style develop over time?
I had a variety of music around when I was growing up and I loved all of it. My moms would play artists like; Teena Marie, Luther Vandross, and Cameo. And then, my pops would listen to artists like; Tribe Called Quest, George Duke, and De La Soul. So for me, I had great music on deck at all times. When I started actually making music, I wanted to replicate that feeling I had when I was consuming the music my parents were playing.
You’ve been in the U.K. for just over five years now – has it had a distinct impact on your style?
Moving to the U.K. has been great. I think the creativity out [here in Europe] on a lot of things, is really high. For some reason [people in Europe] just like to experiment and take things into a different direction. Take the broken beat stuff for example, which is awesome. But the average listener in the States might not know what to do with that type of music. Or, you know, different types of house music. Even some of the EDM stuff – I'm not into that but I'm just saying. Europe's a little more open to things like that, I don't know why that is though.
With a ton of collaborative projects under your belt (Temika Moore, Skyzoo and Little Dragon to name a few), what have been some of the most enjoyable and why?
Some of my favorite studio sessions have been with my best friend Dee Jackson. We have released music under the name 80's Babies because we have been homies for 20 years. The music we make together is very easy for us, and we don't have to try and force it. It just comes naturally.
Do you prefer live sets or studio sessions?
Live shows are great! It's always cool to meet new people and go to new places. But personally, I like being in the studio creating more. The thing is that you have to have a balance. If you're in the studio all the time creating you won't be aware of what's going on around you musically. And you can get stuck into making the same type of music. When playing live, you can get ideas on what to make next because you can see what works at a party and what doesn't work.
You’ve previously worked with Diggs Duke and Ozay Moore on '8 Miles to Moenart' – what do you like about collaborating with them?
The thing I like about collaborating with both of those cats, is that I respect both of them as an artist, and I am a fan first. I wanted to keep some kind of continuity on the album. They both are very easy to work with and they go above and beyond to create a great music.
Hiphop beats have been a constant fusion of samples, turntables, synths, drum machines, and live instruments. Have you come across any albums/sounds/artists recently that you would consider groundbreaking?
That new Yusef Kamaal album is slamming. The whole album from start to finish is crazy! BadBadNotGood also challenges the listener to think outside box.
Given the opportunity, who are five artists (not just restricted to musically if you’re so inclined) you would love to work with?
Lets see... I would say Jill Scott, Lonnie Liston Smith, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove and Charles Bradley.
Are there any particular travel/tourist related sights or activities you want to do while you’re here?
For this whole tour experience, I'm not going into with any expectations. I just want to enjoy the moments I am over there, and looking forward to meeting some amazing people.
What’s next for Tall Black Guy?
I want to create a Jazz album. I know it is going to be a huge task, but I am up for the challenge. It's going to take some time as I have to write the music then have musicians come and replay it over.
Finally, I gotta ask, where does your stage name come from?
Back in college I used to do graphic design, and it was a part of a project I had to do. I was one of the few black kids in my college, so I took a name from a project that was called “Tall Black Guy something or other” and then I decided to use it as my stage name. At my first beat battle the first guy who announced me started laughing, because it’s not really a common name you’d go by. It’s kind of crazy, but over time people got used to it.
STRO ELLIOT (US) & TALL BLACK GUY (US) w/ 26TH LETTER (SYD) & CUT LAB (CBR)
Friday 3rd March ~ 8PM
$15 (+bf) pre-sale / $25 on the door (limited capacity)
Facebook Event for more details.
Pre-sales available through Eventbrite.
LOBROW GALLERY & BAR
Upstairs, 181 City Walk,