by A.J. Wachtel
Danny Bedrosian is one funky dude. From classical piano training in Lawrence, MA, as a youngster, to performing electronic dance music in arenas around the world as an adult, you’ll never catch him sitting still for a second. From George Handel to George Gershwin to George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Danny says, time to get funked up!
Noise: You were born in Lawrence, MA, and your parents were concert level classical pianists who taught at their own piano school. Your first recital was at five years old. Is there any relationship between classical music and funk? Are they similar in any way, and how are they different?
Danny Bedrosian: Classical music, thanks to my mentor (and original P-Funk keyboard whiz) Bernie Worrell, who was also classically trained, is very much a part of the things going on in the P-Funk. Bernie’s injection of classical training, and orchestral influenced music is a huge part of the P-Funk canon. Listen to things like “Aqua Boogie,” or even more obviously stated on “Opusdelite Years,” “Atmosphere,” “Let me Be,” and others in the P-funk songbook. Obviously, there is a training focus that is so important to classical music, and believe it or not, this stance of hard study is not only helpful in learning the P-Funk music due to its vast scope, but it is studied with a similar diehard frame of mind.
Noise: Your parents went to UMass/Lowell and majored in music and you attended the University of New Hampshire to be a historian of Middle Eastern studies. Were you just being an independent teenager or were you really planning on using this knowledge to further your career as an academic? Do you play any Middle Eastern instruments today and do you use anything you learned in college with your music?
Danny: Well, being Armenian, Middle Eastern studies was something I was very much at home with. I was looking to do something that was different from music, as I had already studied classical piano for 15 years straight at that point and was still continuing to do, so it was just an alternative and something I have always been passionate about. It also pervades into my music. Much of my melodic and rhythmic foundation comes from Armenian folk music from the Middle East. I do play some Armenian folk instruments too – the Duduk, Zurna and Shvi, but I am still a novice on those amazing woodwind instruments.
Noise: When you were about 10 you became interested in jazz and r&b amidst your classical studies. What happened?
Danny: My father hipped me to a lot of cool music, like jazz, Art Tatum, Ray Charles, and even James Brown. My dad took me to my first concert when I was around that age, and it was James Brown at the Lowell Auditorium. It changed my life.
Noise: Sweet Motha’ Child, your super-funk New England band, played locally from 1997-2003. What New England acts did you like on the scene back in those days and what were your favorite and least favorite area clubs to gig at and why?
Danny: I cannot remember any other acts from that time. We were pretty self contained, being an up to 19-piece group. We were into our group big time! There were tons of dives in the Merrimack River Valley that were just garbage. Today there are a lot of great clubs that I love playing with my bands – I think it has improved vastly. Favorite venues to play back then were on-campus gigs at the colleges around New England. They always paid the best and had the best crowds.
Noise: You have worn many hats in your career including writer, producer, performer, programmer, engineer, manager, promotions, street team ringleader and recruiter, web team, art department, photographer, publicity man, radio blitz team, and music educator. Am I missing anything and is there anything you haven’t or wouldn’t do? Care to share what you did as a street team ringleader and recruiter, and while on the radio blitz team?
Danny: I continue to wear most of those hats… getting street team is just like meeting friends and supporters. Radio blitz work is just tedious but worth the work. The more one does the more they get back.
Noise: I have heard that recently you were playing in 10 bands live and working on 10-15 different studio projects. Is this busy schedule your normal work load or do you sometimes take a break?
Danny: It is my normal workload, yes. Yearly, my average is five to 15 bands, and five to 12 album releases, both with my own bands and other people’s.
Noise: Not long ago, you performed your long planned Armenian Genocide Centennial Concert in Tallahassee, Florida. A two hour tour de force with your dectet playing music spanning 3,400 years of Armenian history. Why did you need ten players and what instruments did they play? And how do you fit 3,400 years of history into two hours of music?
Danny: It was a dream come true. I liked having the ten piece, but I could have had more! It consisted of two percussionists, a guitarist, bassist, contrabass, clarinet, three female singers, and myself on grand piano and vocals. We used mostly western instruments, with the exception of the percussion. The oldest piece we did was the “Hurrian Hymn,” from 3400 years ago (the Hurrians were one of the tribes of the Armenian Highland), hence, the great year span. I also included a lecture series in the concert and a film. It was an amazing experience.
Noise: Speaking of your lecture series, what is included in a typical Danny Bedrosian discussion?
Danny: History, music, musicology, ethnomusicology, business, marketing strategies, political science – all kinds of stuff.
Noise: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic recently released the three disc First You Gotta Shake The Gate. You have been with the band for 12 years and are featured on 19 of the 33 tracks with the following artists: George Clinton, Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Michael Hampton, Blackbyrd McKnight, and Soul Clap. What are your favorite songs on the CD and care to share a story about Sly Stone with my readers?
Danny: My favorite songs on the album are “If I Didn’t Love You,” “Catchin’ Boogie Fever,” “Meow Meow,” and “Boom There We Go Again,” but I like them all really. Sly Stone is a genius through and through. He has done lots of shows with us as well, even a hugely received Chicago show, where he came out with his guitar, and churned through three or four of his biggest hits. Sly is a huge influence, and I love his music.
Noise: In 2015, you are involved with many international releases – Dutch, British, Australian, Italian, and American. You are playing on albums by Gotcha, Space Bugs, Ishan Cooper, and Less-On. Am I missing anything?
Danny: Also the Metropolis Live album we released in the UK at the famous Metropolis Studio. That’s with P-Funk.
Noise: On your last global tour with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic you covered four continents, 14 nations, and most of the U.S. How are American audiences similar and different from crowds in Europe and around the world?
Danny: American audiences take their American music a bit more for granted, but I am hoping that will change.
Noise: I know you toured South America and did a gig on The Island of Le Reunion in the middle of the Indian Ocean. What was that show like and is it the strangest place you’ve ever played? Do they get funked up in the middle of nowhere?
Danny: Le Reunion is technically part of Africa. It was the most out there place I have ever been, but it was beautiful and the people were awesome.
Noise: You’ve also played at one of the inaugural balls in Washington, D.C., for President Obama. Did the Leader of the Free World and the First Lady get up and dance or did they just chat at the White House dinner table while you were onstage?
Danny: Not sure. That day was a whirlwind.
Noise: You’ve released your 11th album this year, The Clock. Is this new music from your own band Secret Army or is this a solo project? Can you tell us a bit about it? What songs should listeners really check out?
Danny: It’s a solo project, me delving into the electronic funk I have been playing with for years. It’s kind of an electronic album with acoustic percussion and piano added to the synth madness. It has influence from everything from doo-wop, to neo-soul, to video game music, of course p-funk, Armenian music, r&b and hip hop and much more.
Noise: Any advice to young artists trying to get their music heard in these tough times?
Danny: Now is the time more than ever to collect money on your music digitally and physically, and to own all your own output. Now is the time.
Danny Bedrosian & Secret Army are playing live at The Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain on Saturday, December 19, and at OPUS in Salem, MA, on Sunday December 20.