MOCEAN WORKER BRINGS BACK THE BOOGIE
On the fifth album of his career, appropriately titled Cinco De MOWO!, Adam Dorn a.k.a. Mocean Worker (pronounced Motion Worker) has assembled the quintessential feel-good summer record of 2007. The opening number, quite simply, says it best: Shake Ya Boogie. In what has become the incomparable Mocean Worker sound, Dorn mixes and matches the best of modern beat-making with live musicians like trumpeters Herb Alpert ( Changes ) and Steven Bernstein ( Shake Your Boogie ), bassist Marcus Miller ( Brown Liquor ), alto saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum ( Les & Eddie and Son of Sanford ) and vocalists Morley ( I Got You ) and Alana Da Fonseca ( Que Bom ). Cinco De MOWO! follows up Mocean Worker’s 2005 release Enter The MOWO!, where Dorn’s vision for the definitive Mocean Worker sound began to gel. Dorn began to more liberally embrace his jazz and funk influences, while keeping the focus on crafting songs with undeniable hooks. On Cinco De MOWO!, that vision has come into full focus. More than just funky break beats, tunes like Shake Ya Boogie, Tickle It and Sis Boom Bah find their way deep into the sub-conscious with melodies that reverberate long after the record has ended. Dorn also further explored sounds and flavors from different periods in music’s history, re-conceptualizing them for the 21st century. Les & Eddie and Changes are obvious nods to the late ’60s/early ’70s soul-jazz-funk gumbo of artists like Les McCann & Eddie Harris, while songs such as Tickle It, Son of Sanford and Brown Liquor draw from ’30s big band swing. Jump ahead to the late ’70s/early ’80s and Que Bom parlays elements of Nuyorican soul. Go even deeper and Pretty is a contemporary Bossa Nova. From the opening rumble of Shake Ya Boogie, it’s audibly apparent you’ve entered the world of Mocean Worker.
Mundovibes: Do you love the ocean or the motion of the ocean?
Adam Dorn: Um, never thought of it that way. I’m a terrible swimmer and actually I have great fear and respect for the ocean and so should you kids out there. Remember& .stay in school and SAY NO TO DRUGS!
Clearly you enjoy playing with meaning and context, both in your music and its titles. Did you study semiotics at Colombia (sic) or read lots of Derrida as a kid?
I ate lots of Doritos as a child yes, that’s quite obvious in my many works that have latin influence. I have an ex-girlfriend that went to Columbia University, does that count?
You have evolved quite a bit since your earlier recordings of dark, atmospheric drum’n’bass. What happened along the way to create this change?
I just got bored with drum and bass plain and simple. I once had a phone conversation with a DJ of some note from the UK and I knew I wasn’t long for that genre when this guy ( who started the conversation off by yelling at me for calling him in the first place since he was famous and didn’t want strangers calling his house ) asked me what tempo I wrote in. I was like. I don’t understand your question I knew right there and then I had sort of run the string out on my drum and bass interests. Besides what folks ( mainly media ) seem to forget is that half of my first three albums all had matrerial that was edging towards the sound that finally appeared on ENTER THE MOWO!, CINCO DE MOWO! Is an extension of that style and though and now the actual fully realized style and voice Ive been trying to find and convey with my writing.
You have said that you originally started producing music almost as a joke. At what point did it become apparent to you that you actually were a musician and your productions were “legit”.
I did a remix of SUMMERTIME by MAHALIA JACKSON on my first album. It was done live to dat and when I played it back the next morning after having slept on it. I knew I had something. I knew I wasn’ t fooling around with toys in a room anymore. I started focusing more and writing music and trying things and not thinking too much about the outcome but just going for it. That record alone was the starting point for all the Mocean Worker stuff. Intersting how it wasn t even remotely a drum and bass piece either.
“Cinco de Mowo!” is your fifth album, which is quite an accomplishment. How does it feel to have this many recordings under your belt?
It’s kind of wild. Since they are all kind of different from each other. In some ways it feels like it’s been a really long haul and tons of work and in other ways I’m just basically happy to be able to make music and not really have to worry about much else. I’m proud of each album for a different reason. They are all reflections of what has been going on in my life at the time.
What is the world of Mowo! like?
Pretty simple. I make my bed everyday. I like to eat pudding. Sometimes I like to watch futbol. Nothing much else on offer really.
How does “Cinco de Mowo” work as a follow up to “Enter the Mowo!”
I don’ t think that’s up to me to decide. I know that as I made CINCO DE MOWO! I did keep in my mind the thought that I would love for people who enjoyed ENTER THE MOWO! to totally dig this album. I was concerned with having made three totally different albums the last three times out. So there was a concentration and focus on continuity. I wanted the flow and style of ENTER THE MOWO! to act as the template for this record. Obviously I didn’t want to copy it vibe for vibe but I did want to have that feel again.
What would you say is the concept behind “Cinco de Mowo?”
Shake ya boogie, shake shake ya boogie, shake ya boogie, shake shake.
“Cinco de Mowo!” is climbing up the charts and seems destined to be a summer hit. Is this taking you by surprise?
We’ll see, the jury is still out on that. I’m not surprised by anything anymore in this business. Seriously, I just try to do stuff and get it heard by folks and that’s about all you can ask for. MY version of a hit is way different than, say, a major record label’ s version of a hit. A hit to me is Hey you get to make another album and tour without going completely into debt & hahha. Seriously, if I can get the music heard and sell some records in the process& great! I’LL TAKE IT!
What was it like growing up surrounded by the music your father produced?
It was incredible. My old man is my best friend. Never one moment of bull shit between us. I think I enjoy the humor we share and the honest relationship we share more than the time spent around studios and musicians and making music. I learned a lot by watching how he dealt with artists. Let’s face it, artists are demanding and annoying and nuts and afraid a lot of the time. He deals with that very well. I DON’ T. I learned I don’ t like being around it. Haha, but seriously. That’ s my man right there, my old man and I can easily sit around and watch a Yankees game and not one mention of anything related to work will come up. We’re buddies, that’s far more important to me than anything.
Were there any memorable moments that might have influenced you?
Playing a sound check with the Neville Brothers at like the age of 15, jamming on bass. I knew I had arrived and I knew I was gonna be a musician in some way shape or form from there on out.
Having a sense of fun and irony seems pretty key to getting your music. Clearly you don’t take yourself too seriously.
I don’t. Hey, wait a minute how dare you. I have studied at the best conservatories on earth and have worked& & .HOW DARE YOU& & & I’M VERY SERIOUS! ( ***calls lawyers*** )
You’ve become very skillful at matching jazz with beats and electronics. What is your methodology in creating your music?
Make a beat that gets their ass moving. Then couple it with a melody that is catchy to the point of being ALMOST annoying. DONE DEAL. Stimmer, reduce, garnish and serve (repeat if necessary).
“Cinco de Mowo” features music from Herb Alpert (“Changes”), Steven Bernstein (“Shake Your Boogie”), bassist Marcus Miller (“Brown Liquor”), alto saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum (“Les & Eddie” and “Son of Sanford”) and Rahsaan Roland Kirk joins the party from the great beyond. How did you go about incorporating their music into yours? Are these collaborations or did you sample passages of their music?
It’s quite easy actually. With Herb and Marcus I sent them files and said do what you want on top of this and then I’m going to slice and dice the results. They were very willing participants. With Steven Bernstein and Cochemea we worked in the studio and I usually had passages of a song that we would focus on and I would simply ask them to try out specific ideas. I’d then chop up the things they gave me and tried things. Rahsaan sadly passed away in 1977 so that s me manipulating a sample. A long sample ( 2 min.) I siced off phrases and pitched things up and down and assigned samples to notes on a keyboard and literally played back snippets in real time to get the part that I wanted. I literally played Rahsaan as an instrument of sorts. Was a lot of fun.
You also collaborated with vocalists Morley (“I Got You”) and Alana Da Fonseca (“Que Bom”). How did these tracks develop?
I first saw Morley perform at Joe’s Pub here in NYC. My good buddy Bill Bragin who books the club took me backstage to introduce me to her and we hit it off right away. I asked her on the spot to write a tune with me for the album. It took a bit to get it together, but it worked out really well. Morley is such a great artist in her own right and I know that doing this track was at first a bit strange for her as she doesn’t really make music like this. I think I gained her trust though and we just really hit it off as friends that she went along for the ride and I thank her for that. Really proud of the tune and so psyched to have her on the album.
Alana is a bit different. Mostly a creature of the studio. I met her actually on myspace through another friend ( sounds creepy but it wasn’t ) I sent her a stupid email being a wise ass and we just hit it off. We started talking about doing some work and I really didn’t have anything sitting at the time that I thought would be right. I then was messing around with some sort of Braziliant hing (that turned out becoming QUE BOM) and it dawned on me that she spoke fluent Portuguese. I think she wrote the melody in like 20 minutes and she sang me ideas over the phone. Working with her was a blast as she is one of the best pro tools engineers Ive ever worked with so for a change I didn’t have to do the vocals or any tech stuff myself! I had never really seen a vocalist not only write a melody but also track the vocals all at once. Was cool. She’s a bit insane though. DO NOT GET INTO ARGUMENTS WITH HER ABOUT BUBBLEGUM.
For “Cinco do Mowo” you have said “I really just want people, all kinds of people to put this record on and have a nice time, enjoy themselves, clean their houses, throw a party, whatever it takes, it’s all good.” How challenging was it to do this, knowing this was what you wanted?
Wasn’t at all. Wish I had a slick hip answer. I just know when something grooves and makes me smile that, well, I think it’s gonna also make other folks dig it. Also it’s important to know that I actually didn’t say that. The quote was changed and the way it should finish is “clean their houses, throw a party, DRINK THEMSELVES INTO A STUPOR, whatever it takes, its all good. Someone out there made it a bit too P.C for my tastes. Hahahha& just wanted to clear that up. There, I’m at peace with it now.
What do you think you’d be doing were you not producing music?
Something in sports. I love me some sports.
You recently have a live “residency” at the seminal New York City club NuBlu. Tell us about this.
We play every other Tuesday night (for the time being ). The band is a six piece unit. Trumpet, sax, bass (me), drums, piano, percussion. It’s a new thing for me. I have to say without being a braggard, this band kind of kicks ass. It gets right to the heart of it. No pretension or BS. We are there to groove. NUBLU is the perfect venue for us to play in. We play early too so for any folks who want to come down please keep in mind we play from 10-11pm every other Tuesday. We’re playing for hipsters but we keep bankers hours! Hahaha& just was the best time slot Ilhan the owner had for us and we’re more than happy to fill the place up and have a party each time out.
Where will the next six months take you?
Touring, touring, touring and hopefully more touring and possibly some film score work and some TV writing. Just want to keep the Mocean Worker b(r)and out there and get in the ears of as many people as possible. I think we have something nice that we are creating that will be something folks will look forward to coming to their town.