By A.J. Wachtel
It’s always a listening pleasure when an icon mixes it up with a star of the next generation and travels down an old path in a new, unexpected direction. Magic Dick, the legendary harp player from The J. Geils Band and younger guitar wizard Shun Ng flex their creative muscles together and take us with them on an elegantly enjoyable trip. Check out these tremendous talents talk about what’s behind their magnificent music .
Noise: You two come from such different backgrounds. How did your paths cross?
Magic Dick: Shun’s manager, Ralph Jaccodine, is an old friend of mine. He sent out an email blast with some YouTube and iTunes links about three and half years ago to announce his excitement at having just signed Shun. I listened to Shun’s solo CD titled Funky Thumb Stuff and some YouTube videos. When I heard Shun’s CD I knew I wanted us to be a duo! I asked Ralph to arrange a meeting at his office.
Shun Ng: We met through my manager, Ralph Jaccodine
Noise: Your CD About Time (MDSM Records) is just harp and guitar. Is there precedence for this and why is it stark with no added artists or tracks?
Magic Dick: The musical concept of a duo is not new. Shun and I gravitate to musical minimalism, meaning we both are more interested in small musical groups than larger bands or orchestras. We like the challenges of creating satisfying music with the least number of elements, so we work with our voices, guitar and harmonicas. We feel this is where our hearts are.
Shun: That’s a great answer from Dick. We feel like we can challenge and express ourselves more freely in this format, plus it’s a load of fun!
Noise: The music has influences of James Brown, DeBussy, Little Walter and Miles Davis. Is the term soulful blues a good description of your sound?
Magic Dick and Shun: Yes!
Noise: About Time has four covers and two originals. What sort of song attracts your attention and gets added to your catalog?
Magic Dick: We like songs that have a groove and tell a story. Blues, r&b, soul, rock, jazz and pop all work for us.
Shun: Songs that we both relate to singing or playing and most importantly, feel like we can bring something of ourselves to.
Noise: Your two tunes “Dixology” and “Space” are credited as being composed mutually but are greatly different. Do you write anything together?
Magic Dick: Both “Dixology” and “Space” are credited as being mutually composed.
Shun: Both tunes are credited mutually, one of us may have the seed of the idea but we develop, grow and nurture the composition together.
Noise: When you share your ideas what do each of you bring to the table?
Magic Dick: Shun and I have much in common. We share so many musical roots. We bring to the table a complete openness to try new things on a daily basis and push the boundaries of our abilities. This is very exciting for us.
Shun: It’s hard to say because, though I usually do the arrangements, they are birthed from our interactions with each other and really working off of each other in the moment. We bounce ideas back and forth till we find something that resonates with both of us and then proceed to come up with an arrangement
Noise: Magic, in your cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” you quote his guitar leads in the beginning of the song and pay tribute to him. How did this come about?
Magic Dick: I love to assimilate musical lines I’m strongly attracted to. Quoting a well known line puts a spotlight on it and can be fresh when heard on a different instrument.
Shun: It seem to make perfect sense that the harmonica, in the duo context should be the one quoting the line and MD plays that line like a bad ass! We love quoting known lines as a platform to explore the motif deeper.
Noise: Magic, since Peter and Seth wrote most of The J.Geils Band material is “Dixology” and “Space” your first original songs to appear on a release? Why has it taken so long?
Magic Dick: Some things need fertile soil to bloom.
Noise: Magic, you play funky harp on this CD that only sounds vaguely similar to your J. Geils Band sound. Where does this vibe come from?
Magic Dick: From within… it’s always been there. The vibe of working with Shun is different from working with the J. Geils Band. As a musician, I would respond differently to different musical aggregations.
Noise: You two do such a different version of your signature Geils song “Whammer Jammer” written by Juke Joint Jimmy. What’s the story behind this cover of a cover?
Magic Dick: The song was written by the full band and we used Juke Joint Jimmy as the writer name for it. We wanted to reinterpret the original J. Geils Band version, which is an original, not a cover.
Shun: I’ve always loved this tune, it was the first thing I heard MD do. We wanted to stay away from just doing a “cover.” We did not want it to be just a stripped down version of the J Geils Band original. We never want to look at the duo as a stripped down band, or even try to sound like a band. We love the minimalistic approach in the instrumentation of a duo and aim to make the largest impact with the least elements, sometimes that can mean playing less or reinterpreting tunes differently while keeping the soul of what the tune is. The soul of “Whammer” to me is that it is a wild musical ride and we were excited to bring our fresh interpretation to a great classic tune.
Noise: You also do James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.” How does a duo of only guitar and harp get funky?
Magic Dick: In the manner demonstrated!
Shun: We both try our best to be locked into each other’s flow by way of having a deep understand of the groove of the tune. Deconstructing the tune and understanding makes it move the way it does, where the accents are and things like that. We then work within our instruments to try to embody different aspects of the groove, so that there is little redundancy in our parts and we are both constructively adding a layered dynamic to the groove and song.
Noise: What’s in the future for Magic Dick & Shun Ng? What do you hope to do in this group?
Magic Dick and Shun: The future for Magic Dick & Shun Ng will be one of expansion, both musically and personally. We love to perform and make our audience and us feel good.