G-Clef, first of all introduce yourself to the German readers!
This is G-Clef da Mad Komposa aka Amadeus Melchizedek aka Joe Aton 3 5 7.
Where does the name “G-Clef Da Mad Komposa” come from?
Originally one of my boys in the Soul Kids Crew named me G-Clef, which is the symbol of music. The “mad komposa” part came later and that came from my son kinda. He was watching sesame street with me and we saw “don musik” the crazy songwriter cat who was being interviewed by Kermit the Frog. That cat kept wilding out, banging his head searching for the secret melodies and shit. At the same time, I always related to the Mozart movie, Amadeus which portrayed Mozart as an insane genius. That’s me. I call my type of insanity “supersanity” though, because it’s really above sanity, not below it. Both subsanity and supersanity are outside what is deemed sanity by society. Amadeus Melchizedek means God’s Love / King-Priest.
Many people know you as a person who was connected to The GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. What’s the story behind that? Why do you go seperate ways now and are you still in contact?
I stopped all contact with the Gza situation after his company ended in 1998. Gza was mainly concentrating on video directing. He had a company that handled that as well as some artist/producer management. I was managed by them. The actual business heads were Geoffrey and Jay Garfield, as well as Big Al Williams, who is also Meth’s cousin, who I stayed in touch with, and who kept managing me till a few years back. I stay in touch with Al because he always kept it real with me. I cannot say the same about others in that camp. People always ask me about Gza, but the truth is he is a shy person, and didn’t really build much with cats. He would sit in on some meetings, give pounds, and direct videos, thats about it.
I know that you are not only making Hip Hop music. You do Jazz albums, instrumental LP’s and other projects. Where does this musical versatility come from? Did your childhood have any influence on that?
I have strong backgrounds in other music, especially in jazz, and swing, where I have a parallel career. My band The Yalloppin’ Hounds are very well known in the Modern Swing field. As a Jazz Saxophonist I am also known and respected in Jazz. I was touring at 17 with Illinois Jacquet, and so my jazz career developed first, before my Hip-Hop career. As a kid I was always into music, I started playing clarinet at 11, and sax at 14.
Where do you feel homelike musically? Would you describe yourself as a Hip Hop artist?
I describe myself as a B-Boy because Hip-Hop is an attitude and a culture and a way of life. I describe myself as an O.G. because I was one of the first few generations originating Hip-Hop music. We never copied , only innovated the music.
Where do you get the power and strength for your daily work?
From God of course, and the love of what I am doing. I strive daily to build things one piece at a time nowadays, brick by brick, stone by stone. When an artist is patient, and sticks to his/her integrity, it can be amazing what can be accomplished.
What inspires you making music and could you describe your musical influences?
Inspiration comes from everywhere I can draw it. Influences have been Prince, Duke Ellington, The Carpenters, Rakim, Ultramagnetic MCs, Jungle Brothers, Wu-Tang, Lou Donaldson, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, you name it….
Remember the young 10 year-old Joseph Casaveno. What dreams did you have as a young guy and has anyone been fullfilled already?
Yes. All he wanted was to play lead also in a big band like the Ellington Band. I played lead alto in Illinois Jacquets band for 12 years on and off…
Some people collect sneakers, others buy 20+ cars and a lot of guys are looking for every CD/LP they can get. Do you have a similar tick?
Yeah, I used to collect Ellington Records on vinyl. I basically got everything he made at one point.
The election of the president happened not long ago. Did you go to vote?
I didn’t manage to get out to the polls, but only because I knew Bush would lose in NYC anyway. Let me say this though: I do believe in voting, but it should be made more convenient, perhaps logging into a govt site with strict encryption. The whole system needs a revampment to catch up with technology basically. I never liked the old school voting machines we have here in the states, but I hear it’s worse in European countries. I heard in UK for instance, they still use paper in a box !!!!
Do you think George Bush is able to lead America for the next four years?
Of course he will be able to lead. Whether Americans may like his agenda and policies are another story, but enough people believe in him here to re-elect him, so of course he will lead. Many Americans seem to feel he is sincere enough in his mission so they support him.
Can the effects of 9/11 still be noticed in America’s everyday life? What has changed in the people’s mind?
Yes and no. I am here in New York, so it’s painfully obvious because its so hard to make a living here since 9-11. All the clubs we were working at closed or stopped paying decently. Tourism declined, and so did the whole entertainment industry here. Live shows are at a standstill now. As for the rest of the US I can’t say. People do seem to just ” keep moving” like nothing happened now.
Let’s get back to the music business. The internet has opened up the gate for many artists to be recognized all over the world and not only in their neighborhood. On the other hand illegal downloads of music are also a (negative) effect of the world wide web. What is your opinion about that?
The positive outweights the negative. Keep music cheaper, without middle men, and you have less bootlegging. Keep making it AVAILABLE is the key also. All these Wu-Afflicated artists that are dealing with us now have noticed a sharp decline in the bootlegging problem online for their shit. If you aint gettin’ your shit online, you WILL get bootlegged, that is a fact, as well as file traded. The net empowers artists in a way they never had before.
Nelly, Eminem & Lil’ Jon are selling millions of records, every more or less talented rapper has his own mixtape on the streets and some of the bigger names have their own clothing line. I think money has been more and more a reason for artists to join the rapgame. Where do you see Hip Hop today?
Hip-Hop as a culture has little to do with the Rap Music industry, put it that way. I detest these idiots who came into the game in search of money only. They aren’t artists and have no business making music.
A lot of Hip Hop Veterans have left the scene. What has changed in the last 10, 15 years so that these old cats are retiring?
The love is gone. Simple as that. When it comes back, so will they.
Jam Master Jay died two years ago. In my opinion he has given Hip Hop a lot more than 2Pac or Biggie but almost nobody is talking about him anymore. Do the people have lost their respect for the pioneers who paved the way?
Yeah.. noone cares about the O.G.s of the game really. People arguing over who was the best rapper of all times, Big or Pac are out of touch with the history also. They should be debating Rakim or G-Rap, or maybe Melle Mel or Caz. Also, noone now knows what true emceeing is either. They think its either all lyrics, or all sales. Half these cats don’t even know how to hold a mic! And that includes some members of Wu !
Where do you see the future of Hip Hop and how long are we going to see G-Clef in this business?
I’m back in a new form: chambermusik.com, which is the bridge between the street artist and the web. First I was busy with other stuff, but now I have finally documented all my old Soul Kid Klik shit, and about to release some previously unreleased Ghetto Philharmonic shit. That is my digital documentation right there, so now I can create new shit again.
I heard you and Metatron build a new group called “Lost Secret”. When is the album coming out?
Metatron is a Queens cat I discovered and trained from the time he was 18. I can say with security, he is now a Master Emcee no doubt. Lost Secret will be my new 2 man group, and it will be all the shit I really wanna say about everything, in an ill musical setting, underground Hip-Hop in its purest form of course, yet still groundbreaking. That album is almost done now, and we did a remake of “The Delta” that’s crazy, featuring the originator Ced Gee from Ultramagnetic rhyming with Meta on the track. I also got commitments from JS-One to do the cuts, and Necro will drop a verse as well as Freestyle from the Arsonists. I will also have some of my wu fam cats on there no doubt. But we trying to finish up OUR part of the album first. Lost Secret is what it says: The Lost, or Missing word/secret of Masonry, or is it Hip-Hop? You all can be the judges of that right there. I am also trying to get a Soul Kid Klik reuinion track on it.
You have your own label and you are not only producing music for other artists. What can we expect from your label and G-Clef as an mc and a producer besides the “Lost Secret” project? I think it is time for a real big solo album…
Lost Secret will basically be my solo Hip-Hop album for now. I do have an EP of various solo Hip-Hop I recorded throughout the old days called “Journals From A Desert Planet”. One day perhaps I will do a solo LP, but not yet. I also just did 2 joints for Solomon Childs as a producer. You can download them on www.chambermusik.com. I really don’t shop my beats around and shit, because I been ripped off too deeply by former managers and whatnot. There is too much stealing in this business to waste too much time shopping beats. I would rather use them on my own records now. Besides, so many people are giving beats away for free, it’s fucked up the market, and now I can’t get what I would want for them anyway. Soulkid will hopefully be releasing that Circle of Iron project with Iron Shiek from Protect Ya Neck, as well as a couple of other wu-fam producers like Falling Down and 4th Disciple. We are already talking to emcees like Solomon Childs, Hellrazah, Prodigan Sunn and others.
A few weeks ago your label released an EP from Infamous (“The Pressure”). I read that it features material which has been recorded back in 1996. Why did it take so much time?
Infamous and I finally got back in touch and worked a deal out is why. I always wanted to put all that old Soul Kid Klik era shit out and document it for the fans.
What’s up with the Soul Kid Klik? Is there any chance the members get back together and do another album?
Actually yes. Because of the chambermusik excitement, it has motivated me a little to try something like that, but everyone is now in really different places. It would have to be about the love of Hip-Hop I suppose, and the demand and support from the fans. Infamous claims he no longer raps, only does beats. Black Spik says he hardly rhymes now too. Storm claims she stayed sharp, but is hard to catch up with. Metatron would replace Goodfella because I can’t fuck with that cat regardless. Spinbad is really big now on Power 105 here, so I don’t think he would be very into it. It’s alot of work, so we will have to see if its possible.
Is there a chance to see G-Clef in Germany in the near future?
If the fans/promoters bring me. My swing band Yalloppin Hounds will tour Switzerland in 2005, thats for sure.
Have you ever been to Europe?
Yes. I spent many days on various tours with Illinois Jacquet, the late great tenor saxophonist who died this year, and many other jazz greats. I have been all over Germany with Jacquet. All together I have toured in 29 countries in the world.
Thanks for the interview G-Clef, any last words to your German fans?
Peace, and keep supporting the real!!!