My interview with Debórah Bond was so epic, that I had to split it into three parts! It is merely a reflection of the type of journey that Debórah and her band/production team, 3rd Logic, have been through in order to get their lastest album, Madam Palindrome, produced. Part 1 of the interview gave us some insight on what a “palindrome” actually is and how important the idea of it is to the listening experience, as well as hooking up with engineer extraordinaire Al Stone (the true Master of the Mix) to achieve their excellent new sound.
Part 2 delves a bit further into how the music has evolved, the insanely creative visuals surrounding this project including the video for the first single, “You Are The One,” as well as the visually arresting artwork that pulls you into Madam Palindrome’s world, and a surprising duet with British blue-eyed soul recluse Lewis Taylor.
How would you describe the evolution of your overall sound on Madam Palindrome, as compared to your debut album?
We had a nice amount of time to evolve, even though we’re never gonna stop evolving as a unit, the four of us. I just know that if we continue to make music together, we’re just gonna continue to evolve. From Day After to Madam Palindrome, we had a nice chunk of time to do a lot of things. I think that evolution came not only from the fact that technology got better and better, but there’s always means to create the most elaborate music now through technology. It’s good in some ways, and it’s bad in other ways. 3rd Logic has a great way of keeping the balance. As producers, they began to experiment with a lot of these new things. For me, I had a lot of time to think, to live life, to write, to join other people on stage for all kinds of events, which also changed my approach to singing at times.
I think we gave ourselves some time to explore some things, and it really helped take the movement from an organic place to a mixture of the organic sound and the new technology. We really listen to a lot of music as a whole, the four of us. The musicians in 3rd Logic are all multi-instrumentalists, so they have this strong love for playing and for hearing the live instrument and it being recorded. That part of them I think really held on to making sure there’s a lot of live elements happening in our music. We started also paying attention to the sound of the mainstream music sonically, not necessarily content-wise. Lyrically and arrangement-wise, that part of it I didn’t really pay that much attention to as a songwriter, but sonically, the mixes and the engineering of albums we payed more attention to in the mainstream, artists like Imogen Heap. There are a lot of artist out there now that are mainstream, but depending on who they are, they have this state-of-the-art…just great engineering. We were paying attention to that in the time that we’ve been off.
I just tried to explore a lot of things with different subjects and things that I had been dealing with when writing and I felt like I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to challenge the message I was bringing forth in the songs. I felt like Day After was a lovey-dovey album in a lot of ways. I felt like it had the underlying theme of love. I wanted Madam Palindrome to have more of a universal message content, things that are going on in my life, but also things that were that were happening in the world. I wanted to challenge myself as a songwriter and what I was writing about and not make every song like ‘oh I’m so in love with you, you sing me the lullabies’ (laughs). I think that’s another way we evolved, so I think once we got to Madam Palindrome, our mind frames were just like ‘step up, step it up, change it.’ We wanted to keep some of the old sound but take it up a notch as far as how we present it.
The art work for Day After was so simplistic and so raw, and also, it was low budget! I have friends who were just supportive of me and just good, talented people around me that said hey, I’ll do this for you. Every aspect of Day After had more of an organic vibe, from the people that I reached out to take the pictures to where I took the picture on the cover of Day After in my living room looking outside. It was just a really mellow kind of a situation.
For Madam Palindrome, I think that once we had that concept, we wanted it to be a visual experience as well and we wanted it to be a lot more intense and tripped-out than the artwork for Day After. That led us to meeting so many people and artists. We met Shuhei Matsuyama, a good friend now who was living with my flute player Nico at the time. He’s an amazing graphic designer and illustrator and he had already done some work on my remix album After Day, and I just thought he was amazing, and that was just minimal touches that he added. We reached out to him and we went a bit more wild with Madam Palindrome.
It’s been a complete evolution in my opinion. But the crazy thing is when you listen to the content, honestly, there’s this sound that is 3rd Logic in the music, in the groove, that doesn’t change. There may be a little slight difference to the groove or a different type of song, but I really feel like when I listen to Day After and I listen to Madam Palindrome, I hear growth, and I hear something that’s familiar at the same time.
Let’s talk about the video for “You Are The One,” which was directed by Aaron Keeny. How did you guys come up with the concept for that video?
The concept of the video was the brainchild of Hilton Carter, who we found just researching directors and video music makers around, and a name came up called Fresh Kill. It sounded weird, sounded different, it stuck out. I believe, if I’m not mistaken, it was Chuck, my bass player, who said ‘yeah, check these guys out, look at what they’ve been doing.’ So we were looking at the videos and thought they were pretty cool; another situation where we just reached out to folks we were interested in. We reached out to Fresh Kill and said ‘hey, we wanna do a video with you guys.’ Hilton Carter was the first person on board. Once we had a chat with him and told him about Madam Palindrome and broke it down: ‘what is a palindrome, take a look at the art, look at the direction we’re going, you can tell we want things to be from a different perspective…what can you do?’ Because honestly, I have a few ideas for videos for maybe future songs, but that’s not my expertise, so I really like for the director to listen to the music and get an idea and get a feel for it. He came up with this amazing idea, this girl whose a color girl living in a paper world…a real-life girl living in a paper world, and she’s getting ready for her date. Who’s her date? Ironically, maybe he’s someone from a different perspective. I don’t think Hilton created this idea possibly to be in sync with the artwork for Madam Palindrome. It was a cool coincidence that he just thought this would be a cool idea. Midway through the process of getting ready to shoot this video, circumstances made it so that Hilton could not direct the video. He lives in L.A. and he was not able to come out to the east coast, so he recommended his business partner who does a lot of special effects and was gonna be a part of the shoot anyway. Once we met him and saw some of the work he did, we were like, oh definitely! Aaron pretty much took the idea that Hilton created and then he brought it to life with just the most amazing prop work and set work. He really took the idea and ran with it and did such a great job.
Did he use real paper all throughout the video?
Yeah, he did all of the set design. Everything is actually real! There’s a few scenes where we did special effects, but most of that set, when we walked in there it looked like I was in a fun house or something because everything was covered in white with black trimming on it, even the instruments which were real instruments! It was really fun. I mean, it was a lot of hard work. I give props to a lot of these artists who are spittin’ out videos left and right because it’s a lot of work to create a video. I had a great time and I thought that Aaron did such a cool job, and it fits Madam Palindrome. It’s another perspective on life, it’s another perspective on love that you might not have seen before. It fit right in, even if it wasn’t planned that way. It totally fits along the lines of what Madam Palindrome is all about.
I could tell you were having a good time in the video, cuz you had that Janet Jackson shoulder action goin’ on. I was like ‘get it girl, get it!’
I LOVE Janet, and I love anything Jackson and I love the way they move. The more people get to know me and get to see me visually, more than just hearing an album and hearing some songs and start to really see me, you’ll know that I am a Jackson fanatic. The groove of that song…it just makes me think of the Jacksons. I felt that little energy to the Janet shoulders…and that’s not gonna be the end of that! (laughs)
Speaking of Janet, I read a recent interview where you were talking about “Never Was,” the last song on the album and how it had that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis/Janet Jackson kinda vibe, which was what I was thinking when I was listening to it. It reminded me of those melodies that they’re famous for.
Here’s the thing with me. When I dig a sound, it becomes a mission of mine to somehow show respect to it, but in my own way. I really love the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis sound. It’s some of my favorite pocket of music in time when they were really thriving with everybody from Alexander O’Neal to Human League to Janet to New Edition. I just love their vibe. When I heard that track…it’s an older track from Robbie McDonald, my guitar player, one member of 3rd Logic…it was something that he had been working on kinda loosely and I heard it and was like, ‘oh my gosh, I love this! I would so make a Deborah Bond take on Janet!’ You just have to be careful when you are showing respect to a certain style or sound that you might be inspired by. You don’t wanna ruin it, you know what I mean? It’s a very scary thing to do when you hear someone’s song and you know that they were definitely going for this type of sound, it can really be hit or miss with that. So I was nervous and so was Robbie, but at the end of the day, as soon as I heard the music by itself I just started humming (she hums the melody of the chorus), and the way the song came about, I felt like it was still me and I kinda left the Janet part a little to the side and just focused on what I heard naturally. I really love that song. That’s one of my favorite songs and I feel like I definitely took it to where I wanted to take it Deborah Bond-wise. It’s getting a good response, which is really cool. People dig it.
You guys are paying homage to a lot of your influences, from Janet, to Jamiroquai, Chaka Khan…there’s a lot of different influences. But the thing that I’m getting is that it’s your thing. You’re just looking back and using sounds that are familiar to people.
DB: Yeah, but then you take another twist on it. You think about a lot of the greats in music. That is part of the key to being a dynamic, successful artist. You should study your craft. You should listen to other music. You should listen to so many other kinds of music because you never know how you may be inspired. Everybody from Michael Jackson to Prince, some of the greatest in music, they all admitted that, you know…Michael Jackson moves the way he moves because he wanted to be like James Brown, but when Michael moves, it’s Michael Jackson. It’s not Michael Jackson trying to be James Brown, you know what I’m saying? You do have to study from those before you and, you know, your peers, and understand what makes dynamic, good music and take little pieces of all that and mix it up and see what you give. I enjoy that, and that’s one of the things that helps me not give you the same thing every time because there’s so many forms of music that I feel like I’m inspired by that you’re gonna get so many mixes of all of those styles, that it won’t repeat.
One of those influences that I heard was The Brand New Heavies. I saw in the credits that you thanked N’Dea Davenport. How did she influence or support you on this project?
Through journalism and through XM Radio, I had the opportunity to interview N’Dea Davenport on one of my shows on XM Radio a few years back and it was a really good conversation. She was very down to earth, very cool vibe. At some point along the way, I made sure that she knew that I was also an artist and that I was highly influenced by The Brand New Heavies and so was my band. I think I saw her at another show she did in DC with The Brand New Heavies at the 9:30 Club and I passed her some music. I don’t know her very well, but the communication that we have had has been really cool. I literally just asked for advice on how to succeed being on the level that I am when I don’t have any major support, and she lent me some advice. I actually asked several artists all at once for the same advice, and she was the only one that reached back to me. I just thought, ‘that’s good vibes.’ She didn’t have any airs or anything, she just gave me some really cool advice. Here and there she says ‘hello’ on my Facebook page which I think is so cool because I really love her music. That’s why I thanked her, because that’s the kind of vibe I’m trying to pass on. If you need advice on something, if I can give it to you, I would. In my eyes, she’s on a pretty big level, and sometimes folks have egos and don’t wanna give off good vibes, and she did, and I felt like I needed to give her a shout out for that because not only did she influence my music and I’ve been a fan of hers for many years, she also wasn’t hesitant to give me advice and just be cool. That’s why I just wanted to make sure she got a shout-out.
Another person that I know you admire and got to work with is Lewis Taylor. I was gonna ask you how the hell you got him to come out of hiding, but I read somewhere that it wasn’t like that.
No, I didn’t get him out of hiding. He wasn’t in hiding yet when we worked together.
But now he is in hiding. “If I Didn’t Need You” is an obvious radio single, so how’s that gonna work?
I really don’t know. I mean, we’ve performed the song with other male singers. We know when we do it live, we have to do that, unless somehow he re-emerges. There’s ways of pulling that off, but I also really hope and pray that it maybe just somehow brings him back. I’m sure that somehow, wherever he is, he’s gotten a call from someone that said (in a British accent) ‘I heard you on this Deborah Bond CD. You got a new song out?’ (laughs) I know he knows there’s a buzz going on about him, he has to know that, so maybe he’ll re-emerge. Until then, it’ll be out there for the world to enjoy.