DARYL HALL: Interview from Daryl's House
What initially started out as a “light-bulb moment” in the life of Philadelphia-born-and-raised superstar Daryl Hall has turned in to a globally-watched international online sensation, in the form of 'Live From Daryl`s House' -
A monthly internet webcast, which features the multi-million-selling singer/songwriter playing music with friends and colleagues in an intimate setting. With its initial US debut last November having drawn upward of 100,000 hits, the shows (which Daryl compares to an internet version of the hit UK TV show `Later With Jools Holland`) have since gone from strength to strength internationally.
Indeed, having already attracted such interesting guests as Gym Class Heroes` rapper/singer Travis McCoy, funky San Francisco singer/writer Chuck Prophet and highly-tipped up-and-coming Philadelphia soul man Mutlu, 'Live From Daryl`s House' is not only proving an immediate way for Hall to introduce his new material (both in creation and finished product) to a worldwide audience, but is also proving a useful tool for him to communicate directly with his fans about tour dates, album releases and any other events involving him and his on-screen featured band.
With the site including the option to view each concert on a full screen (with the ability to listen to individual songs in the set on demand), the shows have so far taken place at Daryl`s residencies in both New York and London, with upcoming versions slated for his other homes in New England and The Bahamas. Indeed, with its July webcast (which features Eighties-recalling electronica outfit Chromeo), marking the concert`s ninth edition, its popularity arguably is also proving a factor in the current UK chart presence of 'The Singles'. An 18-track collection of past hits from Hall and long-time recording partner John Oates. Its classic, soul-infused highlights - like 1973`s sombrely haunting 'She`s Gone' and 1981`s, compulsive R&B groover 'I Can`t Go For That' - evidencing exactly why the twosome are officially recognised as the Number One-selling popular music duo of all time, while in turn harking back to their little-known roots in the Philly Soul scene of the late Sixties/early Seventies.
An articulate Mr. Hall discusses with 'B&S' his new smash webcast series plus his unsung role in helping create the world-renowned Sound Of Philadelphia.
The reasons for doing 'Live From Daryl`s House'
“Well, for me it was sort of an obvious thing. I`ve been touring my whole adult life really and, you know, you can`t be EVERYWHERE! Nor do I WANT to be every-where at this point! I only like to spend so much time per year on the road. So I thought `Why don`t I just do something where anyone who wants to see me any-where in the world CAN?`! And, instead of doing the artist/audience performance-type thing, I wanted to deconstruct it and make the audience more of a fly-on-the wall kind of observer. You know, I actually like the added intimacy of having no audience in the room with us - just the musicians, myself and the crew hanging out, sitting around talking, rehearsing a song, and then just PLAYING it. I mean, what I`ve always done onstage is very natural. I talk to the audience and it`s a very sitting-roomy kind of thing. So I just thought I`d basically bring that to the web.”
How it`s affecting his music in a positive way
“I think it`s affecting my music in the way that I WANTED it to. I`ve been trying to get more back to my origins with my live performances, as well as my recordings. I`m trying to simplify, be more direct, be more in touch with the song as it`s actually being written... And I think that the band I`ve just put together for 'Live From Daryl`s House' - in terms of the arrangements and the style that I use - REFLECTS that. It`s a very organic, old skool approach to music. It`s really just musicians playing, with the minimum of technology. You know, acoustic guitars, basic keyboards, real drums. And l think my next solo CD will be an extension of that. I think it`s gonna involve some of the artists I`ve worked with on the webcasts, and it`ll basically sound like the SHOW. The only difference being that it`ll be on CD instead.”
Interacting with his guests musically
“Well, I`m lucky enough to be able to make phonecalls and have people respond to me. In that all the artists I contact seem to wanna do the show. So I end up getting some really interesting guests, who I can interact with in a very creative way. Which, in addition to being very stimulating artistically, is also a lot of fun musically. You know, I love collaborations; l love stretching; I love taking what I do and mixing and matching with other people… And, just like I`ve done a lot of that in the past on RECORD, now I`m doing it in a LIVE situation.”
Daryl`s early background
“I grew up in a very racially-integrated place called Pott Town. It was an agricultural-slash-industrial town which has since become a suburb of Philadelphia. I grew up basically in a black neighbourhood. So my early influences musically were a mix of European and African-rooted music, which is very typical of people from the Philadelphia area. Then, when I became a teenager, I moved into Philadelphia proper and started working with local musicians who in those days were all doing the same things I was doing. And over time we sort of together formulated the Sound of Philadelphia. And, when I say `we`, it was me, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Thom Bell, The Delfonics, The Stylistics... We all knew each other, and we were all working together.”
The Philadelphia music scene of the Sixties
“Those were the days of the Cameo/Parkway label. It was the Wild West of music, with a lot of very unscrupulous people running things and a lot of very naïve artists getting ripped-off royally! You know, there was a lot of white-to-black exploitation; a lot of white-to-white exploitation; and some BLACK-to-white exploitation… So I saw the music business from its ugly inside from the very beginning. And, while you may think I`d know better, I still wound up making the same mistakes as everybody else! But, you know, back then I was a kid just starting out. I knew intimately local guys like (King of `The Twist`) Chubby Checker and (white pop-soulster of `1.2.3.` fame) Len Barry, who were gigantic stars in the early Sixties. In fact, the first single I ever wrote was a song called `Rich Man`s Son`, which I wrote with Chubby.”
The role he played in creating Gamble & Huff`s world-renowned Philly Sound
“I was involved in it from about 1967 until I moved from Philadelphia to New York in `72. And that late Sixties/very-early Seventies period really saw the formation of what the world came to know as The Sound Of Philadelphia. What had happened was that, back in the Sixties, we`d all worked for the same crooks. But then everybody started breaking away and going on to do their own thing. So Gamble & Huff went off in one direction, and I ended up being signed on and off to some of their labels while simultaneously working on a lotta studio sessions with the same guys who played on records by The O`Jays, Jerry Butler, The Spinners - and everybody else recording in Philly at that time. You know, musicians like Norman Harris, Bobby Eli and Earl Young were people I played with constantly, almost every day. Plus I knew a lot of the groups themselves, like The Delfonics, from Overbrook High School and The Uptown Theatre. Which, back in the late Sixties, was like Philadelphia`s version of The Apollo. So yeah, they were great days. It was all like one big family really.”
How Daryl first met up with John Oates
“The first time John and I were introduced to each other was at a (pre-Jackson Five soul family group) Five Stairsteps show at the Adelphi Ballroom in West Philadelphia. John had a record out on one of Kenny Gamble`s labels; I had a record out on ANOTHER of Kenny Gamble`s labels - and we were both promoting our records at an R&B show. But then the concert turned into a gang fight! So John and I both got out of there fast, because the show was over. We introduced ourselves to each other - and that was how we literally first met! We found out that we were both just starting at Temple University, we were the same age, and then just started hanging out together and ended up sharing a number of apartments.”
How Daryl Hall & John Oates started out as a recording duo in their own right
“Well, we had a conversation with Kenny Gamble, who asked us to sign to his and Leon Huff`s Philadelphia International label. But we were like `Well, we love what you guys do. But we wanna do something DIFFERENT! We wanna take the music some place ELSE!`. You know, John and I had this whole idea of doing this sort of R&B/acoustic thing. Which may seem like nothing special now, but was pretty revolutionary back then. Basically our concept was to take these sort of folky/acoustic-y influences and mix them with R&B, and we felt we had to leave Philadelphia to do it right. So we moved to New York City, and that was the very, very beginning of us trying to figure where we were gonna go musically.”
The background to Philadelphia becoming a significant soul music capital
“It has to do with history and geography. In its own way Philadelphia is America`s southern-most northern town and, after the Civil war, you had a lot of free blacks and, in turn, the first migration north of black people. S o there`s a long-standing black community in that part of Pennsylvania, as well as a mixture of other people too. You know, Philadelphia is literally `The City Of Brotherly Love`. Its history is founded on tolerance and an acceptance of an integrated society that is greater than any other city I`ve ever lived in. Plus - and I have to add this - I also feel the Germanic tradition in the Pennsylvanian area has something to do with it too. Because Germans are very musical people in a European way, there`s a long tradition of good music in the school system there. So, just like sport is stressed in a lot of places, in Philadelphia everybody was in a band or a chorus. Which I think makes people not afraid to express themselves musically. So, you know, when you break all those factors down and then put them together, you have the background to The Sound Of Philadelphia.”
The monthly internet webcast 'Live From Daryl`s House' is available exclusively at www.livefromdarylshouse.com The Daryl Hall & John Oates album 'The Singles' is out now through Sony/BMG Music Entertainment
Words PETE LEWIS