[INTERVIEW] Marcus Miller's 'Renaissance'

[INTERVIEW] Marcus Miller's 'Renaissance'

The bassist talks remaking classics by The Jacksons and Janelle Monet and embracing his role as a musical elder statesman

by Eugene Holley, Jr., August 06, 2012

[INTERVIEW] Marcus Miller's 'Renaissance'

Marcus Miller

into Darkness,” the basslines are only three notes, but it’s so hypnotic.

EBONY: You also changed up Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope,” with Dr. John rapping.

MM: When I first heard “Tightrope,” it sounded to me, like a Professor Longhair/New Orleans boogie-woogie style [bassline], with a contemporary flavor. I said 'man, it would be nice if I could reconnect “Tightrope” to New Orleans – how would I do it?  Why don’t I get Mac Rebennack/Dr. John’s voice on it?'  So that’s what I did. I had him learn the Big Boi’s rap from Janelle Monae’s version. He did a great job with it.

EBONY: You end the CD with the Jackson Five classic “I’ll Be There,” that features your bass solo; which to me is the successor to Jaco Pastorius’ “Portrait of Tracy.” It was very moving.

MM:  I was doing a bass clinic, Michael had just passed, and I played that song at that moment. Later on, somebody played a tape of it … The reason I’m a musician is because of the Jackson Five!  Me and everybody else my age… we lost our minds when we hear that group. Every generation has their kid group that they attach to. My kid group included the genius. And that song was a beautiful song.

EBONY: That track shows - as does Renaissance – that the bass is as lyrical and melodic as any other lead instrument.

MM:  I came up in the glory years of the bass. So for me, the bass being in the front of the band was a very natural thing. The thing is: you’ve got to pick your spot. Because you still want to support your band. So on this album, it was really important for me to come in and out; to drive the band, from the bottom – the back of the bus –with the bassline, and then jump out in front and be melodic and sing with my bass. I really tried to found a good balance on this album.

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