Miles Davis:

"I think the greatest sound in the world is the human voice."

An exclusive interview with Miles Davis by Gene Kalbacher, New York,
conducted April 3, 1985 - six weeks before the release of "You're Under Arrest."

Source: [the Swiss magazine] JAZZ, 4/1984, reprinted in issue 5/1985, MILES DAVIS SPECIAL

The Miles Davis Credo proclaims: "The music speaks for itself!" That is well and good, up to a point, as many unsuspecting journalists have learned to their discomfiture over the years. But when there is no new Miles Davis music to do the talking, Miles Davis the musician must carry the load.

Such was the case during this interview, conducted April 3, six weeks before You're Under Arrest..., Davis' 44th and latest Columbia album, was released. At the time of the interview, no advance cassettes or session credits were available. The only new product was a 12-inch single, Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time" b/w "Katia." In this instance, unpreparedness must be excused, to a point. So, having heard only the single, the listener entered the lair of the Prince of Darkness armed with only his wiles and a thoroughgoing knowledge of the fabled trumpeter's lofty position in the history of modern music. In the absence of new music, then, one was left to ponder the myth of Miles Davis: He hates the press. He hates whites. He hates the word "jazz" (though he used it twice in the interview). A ponderous burden - three strikes and you're out without taking a single swing.

But such paranoia proved unjustified. That raspy, bittersweet voice was calm and patient. Notwithstanding a few vulgar locutions common to jazz musicians, the Prince of Darkness came off more like Prince Charming. What's more, not having heard the album proved propitious for this listener because the trumpeter carefully explained both the motivation for and the mechanics behind several of the new tunes, which he might not have done had the album been released. As it turned out, the onus shifted from the interviewer to the interviewed.

To call You're Under Arrest [the actual title is You're Under Arrest. You Have The Right To Make A Phone Call, Or Remain Silent So You Better Shut Up] a radical departure for Davis would be misleading, and to say that the album has caught the critics totally be surprise would be absurd. Davis has been performing "Time After Time" in concert for several years, but its inclusion on the album along with such pop ditties as Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and D-Train's "Something's On Your Mind" has taken many listeners aback. If that's not startling enough, Davis devotes will do a double take when they hear his two "message" tunes - "One Phone Call," a funky rock-styled rap in which he engages in go-for-the-groin repartee with the cops, and "Jean Pierre/Then There Were None," a cautionary medley combining a singsongy children's melody with all-too-realistic sound effects of an accidental atomic explosion. So, You're Under Arrest is a departure, yes; radical, no.

The term "radical" stopped being applicable to Miles Davis 15 years ago, when the pulled the pin on acoustic, small-group jazz and exploded an electronic grenade full of Bitches Brew on an unsuspecting public. What's most curious about You're Under Arrest, however, is that unlike most of his earth-shaking albums over the past 35 years, this one comes without clear warning, without a transition album presaging - and perhaps palliating - its force of impact. Whereas Milestones hinted at the modal breakthrough Davis would achieve on Kind Of Blue in 1958, and Miles In The Sky anticipated the electronic ambush of Bitches Brew in 1969, You're Under Arrest follows what many critics consider the trumpeter's most coherent postcomeback effort, last year's Decoy. You're Under Arrest, thus, with tunes from Lauper, Jackson and D-Train, is either an anomaly or an unabashed announcement of Davis's arrival as a pop-rock stylist.

From an instrumental standpoint, Davis and his band are availing themselves of the accoutrements of pop music like never before. Davis has been using electronic hookups for his trumpet, including wha-wha, for better than a decade, but drum machines are widely used on You're Under Arrest; Robert Irving III, the synthesist, is showing ever-greater facility with the DX-7 and Korg Poly-6.

Davis, nearing 60, with just as many albums under his belt, appears to be vigorously cultivating a young audience. The New York/Los Angeles resident by way of St. Louis, the man who swapped his arrow for Cupid's Harmon mute, has apparently regained his health and decided to reclaim his reputation as the leading mover and shaker of modern music.

The following interview, conducted from the trumpeter's home on the West Coast, begins with a discussion of the Record Plant, where You're Under Arrest was recorded, and Ron Lorman, the engineer for the album, who began his association with Davis as the remote engineer for portions of 1983's Star People. An exclusive interview for JAZZ by Gene Kalbacher.

[Comments by Thomas Hoenisch]

JAZZ: Was your new album recorded at the Record Plant in New York City, as Decoy essentially was?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah, all of it. They treat you real good over there. My roadies seem to like it. Ron Lorman, the engineer, seems to like it. Lorman asked me to give him a shot at recording, right?

JAZZ: Are you pleased with the way he, and the album, turned out?

MILES DAVIS: Oh, yeah. He asked me could he make Decoy, and I told him, yeah. I told him I'd give him a chance. But I had to jump on him about those negative vibes up there. Sometimes, if you ask people to "go downstairs and get me this or that," they'll say, "It's rainin" or "It might rain," or "There's some bumpy roads on the road," or bla-bla-bla. They give you all those excuses, so when they do something which is easy, you're supposed to say, "Damn, you did that?"

JAZZ: You're supposed to be grateful. "Thank you, man. Wow! I appreciate it."

MILES DAVIS: Right. So I had to get on him about them negative vibes like that, you know. I'd aks him, "Ron, take this eight bars and put it there." And he'll start frownin' and such. [And I'll say] "Wait a minute, man. Don't do that shit." That's the way women do. The frown. They want to give you the attitude to approach them back, by giving you a negative vibe. You might say, "Oh, well, okay, don't go." You know what I'm sayin'?

JAZZ: Yes. It's like you owe them.

MILES DAVIS: I said, "Listen, man, if Bobby" - my synthesizer - "asks you to do something, you do it. We're the musicians...You just follow what we want you to do." So that's what happened, and we got it done. But you have to put your foot down.

JAZZ: Did you have a similar problem working all those years with Teo Macero?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. He's like an old woman, man. I'd say, "Teo, do this, do that." He say, "Well, Miles, you know, my wife..." Shit. Fuck it. No more. I should've done it a long time ago.

JAZZ: Let me ask you this: Having worked with Teo as your producer for about 20 years, did you have to make any adjustments in the sound and editing when you yourself produced Decoy with a new engineer?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah, well, you know. Teo. I don't wanna talk about Teo. He's a helluva musician, a brilliant musician, but he's just not for me, that's all. I can elaborate on it, but I don't want to do that

JAZZ: But being your own producer, what adjustments did you have to make with the editing and splicing and so forth?

MILES DAVIS: No, it's a different ballgame now, so that lets Macero out. He's always complainin', always sick...Like Ron Lorman's always sayin', "Na-na-na-na-na," you know what I mean? I don't need that in the studio, man, because, Gene, we had to re-make everything we did in the studio, because there's different tempos, or it wasn't fat enough and we had to put in new sounds. So I just said, "Fuck it." The numbers I thought would carry the album - when I heard 'em back, you know, me and Bobby Irving and my nephew Vince [Wilburn]. I have perfect time, you know, near perfect time. I can tell when tempos go off. If they go off for a bar, I can tell because I have to play against 'em...Say you're runnin' a long run or something, and behind you the tempo changes in the middle, your eighth notes become uneven. So we had to take the drum machine. Somebody like my nephew Vince, he plays drums and he don't vary the time. The time stays the same; even if he drops it a little bit, it stays the same. In Chicago they play on top of the beat instead of way back. Jazz musicians are so comfortable. The reason they can't do what we do is because they're so comfortable doin' what they do.

JAZZ: They're locked in?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. They feel comfortable with their clichés, you know. So we have to have new blood all the time. Especially with this shit we're playin'. You can't have anybody saying, "No, I can do this," that kind of negative thing. Bobby, Vincent and I vitrually went into the studio with strong numbers that I thought would carry the album. The new things that would spring off didn't do it, so I wrote, on the spot, introductions, endings, replaced the music in order.

JAZZ: Sequencing?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. Listen, man [laughs], on "Katia" [B-side of the 12-inch single] they called me at home. "Miles, 'Katia' is 12 minutes long; we got about 10 minutes too much music." So I said, "Okay." When I went into the studio to edit "Katia," everybody acted like somebody died. It was so good they wanted to leave everthing on.

JAZZ: "Don't touch that thing."

MILES DAVIS: Right. They said, "We not gonna touch it till you get there." So I went down there and edited it. Every time John [McLaughlin] starts some runs on guitar, and ends this and ends that - you know, that staggered start - I just took it out.

JAZZ: "Katia" starts like the guitarist is right in the middle of a solo. Scofield is wailing, the band is cooking right behind him -

MILES DAVIS: Not Scofield - that's John McLaughlin.

JAZZ: That's John McLaughlin? I didn't know that.

MILES DAVIS: Yeah, of course. John Scofield plays in a different style. He's a muthafucka, but so is John. John is too much.

JAZZ: I hadn't heard that John McLaughlin was back with you.

MILES DAVIS: John McLaughlin is on "Katia" and a reggae tune [Ms. Morrisine]. John was in town. [Coughs] Pardon me. Every time I eat ice cream I get this shit. No more ice cream. Anyway, John was in town so I called him up. He has this girlfriend. She's French. You know the Labeque sisters? They play concert music. His girlfriend is one of those, one of the pianists. They're sisters, they play classical piano.

JAZZ: Yes. She's been on some of his records, I believe.

MILES DAVIS: So I named the tune after her - "Katia." I wrote this thing right quick for John, and we just played behind; I'm playin' synthesizer and Bobby's playin' synthesizer. Then I punched in a lot of brass parts - bap, bap ba-da da da-da, that kind of shit.

JAZZ: Short trumpet blasts.

MILES DAVIS: It turned out good. That's a strong number.

JAZZ: A strong blowing number. Right from jump street, the tune really latches onto you.

MILES DAVIS: Whet happens is that the other side of the LP, the A side, ends with like Bap! [Katia Prelude] Like I cut loose the chord on the synthesizer and it goes chromatically up. Then, with a couple of rat-a-tat things on the drums, real sharp rolls, crisp rolls, we changed the mood. John comes in at the end on the A side. And when you turn over to the B side, he's already playin'...The start of the B side [Katia] is on A. When we got through with the last tune, to change the mood I let the synthesizer go, Wa-aa-aa-aa-ah [voice goes up] like that, and John starts playin'. You hear two or three bars, then you turn the side over and John's right into it already.

JAZZ: Sounds like a very organic process.

MILES DAVIS: I'm tellin' ya, we just went in and molded the record.

JAZZ: Tell me what Vincent's role was on the record. You mentioned that he did some drum machine. Did you later bring in Al Foster to play live drums over the machine parts?

MILES DAVIS: Al can't play with drum machine. He's playing on the first cut [One Phone Call] and he's playin' on "Time After Time"; we had drum machine on that too. And he's playin' on "Jean Pierre" at the end. You got to hear the end, Gene. What we did on the end is we made something like a little statement. Somebody, my daughter or my wife, gave me a music box for Christmas. It plays "My Funny Valentine" on celeste, you know? So I had Bobby just play "Jean Pierre" with the changes on celeste. You hear three bells while I'm playin'. We play the "You're Under Arrest" tune at the end [next to last tune on the second side]. It goes right into "Jean Pierre." You hear da-da¦da-da¦dom¦dom¦dom. I had the band overlap what they just got through playin' over "Jean Pierre." It's actually two tunes. All of a sudden you hear chimes. You also hear the kids gettin' out of school at 3 o'clock. You follow me? Then you hear a countdown, "Five, four, three" - "Jean Pierre" is goin' on - "two, one." Then you hear a big atomic-bomb explosion, and all the kids are screamin'. Then at the end we say, "Somebody pushed the wrong button!" George [Butler, Columbia Records vice president] told me you can't listen to that but once. It's like a political statement. It might happen!

JAZZ: And "Jean Pierre" is a tune that's obviously very important to you. [One of Davis' sons is named Jean Pierre.]

MILES DAVIS: You know, it's for kids. The melody is French. But that's the end of the record. I named it "Jean Pierre Then There Were None," you know, because of the big explosion. You'll like it. It's a nice album.

JAZZ: And that's the end of the record. It leaves you thinking.

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. It's just as strong to me as "We Are The World."

JAZZ: I'd like to return, Miles, to your use of drum machine on this record. Had you used it much before on earlier albums?

MILES DAVIS: Well, in respect for drummers, see, I love drummers.

JAZZ: You've had the best.

MILES DAVIS: Give me a good drummer, that's it, you know? But certain drummers drop time, and I like to play on top of the beat. But some of them drop time because they want to hear what you're doin'. You ever hear Buddy Miles play the drums? You know, he doesn't vary the tempo at all. If you're going to drop behind, you have to keep it there. The reason they call things "unison", and they sound unison, is because you actually play two different tempos . . . like you're a little sharp, or a little flat; it's so slight that they call it "unison", but it's not unison. If you had to call it "unison", it ain't unison [laughs]. It ain't the same as somebody else. If you can hear that it's unison, and you have to name it something other than "unison", it ain't unison, you know what I mean? It's two guys playin', but one guy is playin' slightly out of tune, one is playin' slightly off meter. You say, "Damn, that's two people." You know what I mean? Drummers - sometimes they play and they listen. And that little listen takes a speck away from the right tempo. I can tell. I'm gifted with that, you know. When I hear that the tempo is slightly off, it's hard for me. So I don't play. I can't play properly a run or something -

JAZZ: You're inhibited.

MILES DAVIS: Right. It pulls me back. It's like swimmin' without warmin' up, yuo know what I mean? So [cackles] we use the drum machine, and we take it out.

JAZZ: You use it as a reference, in other words.

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. When I went in there, we used drum machine on "Time After Time" and "Human Nature". Al is on three cuts and Vincent played the rest.

JAZZ: I'm a little confused, Miles. On "Time After Time" and "Human Nature", live drums were later added, weren't they?

MILES DAVIS: We don't use the drum machine to play a pattern. You play the pattern by being consistent. The only way a drum machine will get out of beat is for you not to pay your electric bill. [Laughs]

JAZZ: So you're using it for the perfect tempo.

MILES DAVIS: Right. I've used it because I have to have the perfect tempo.

JAZZ: So that you're not inhibited on your runs.

MILES DAVIS: Right. And I keep telling Ron Lorman and them in the control room, "It's my band! The reason I have a band is because I can't stand for somebody to tell me what to do." I tell old women that - you know what I mean? - when they start orderin' you around and shit like that. "No, don't go like that!" So when we edit the music, I always remember, "It's my band. Save me a place to play." . . . When you use the drum machine, a lot of drummers can't play with it. You can take patches and put 'em in front. You take the good patches and a couple you want to connect. Maybe you play a melody twice. You play it once like you like it, and some parts that you don't like you can just switch. An eight-bar motive - you can just take it and put it in the front or back or something like that. It can save you 50 or 60 or 70,000 dollars, a drum machine. That's why everybody uses it.

JAZZ: Because of the time you save?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. You gotta have it because people are droppin' tempo or rushin' tempo. Some musicians play with their heart, you know what I mean? [laughs] I don't know what to tell a person that can't - if you can't tell a person what you're talkin' about when they're rushin' or droppin' the tempo, you get somebody else.

JAZZ: Have you had drummers who were resistant when you told them this?

MILES DAVIS: I've gotten hernias from drummers when they drop tempo, man. Anyway, that's that. We just re-do it.

JAZZ: Among the things I especially liked on Decoy, Miles, were the tunes co-written with Scofield, "That's Right" and "That's What Happened". In speaking with him, Scofield mentioned that these tunes began as live guitar solos, as improvisations, and that you and Gil Evans made head arrangements from these solos. That strikes me as a wonderful way of composing from preexisting stuff. It seems like the essence of improvised music. Have you been doing this a long time?

MILES DAVIS: When you write an arrangement, I can't write anything for myself. I can write when I hear like Coltrane play something; I used to write chords and stuff for him to play in one bar. I can write for other people, but I don't never write for myself. I can hear what I want them to play. If you don't hear what you want someone to play, then you can't tell 'em. If you make a suggestion and they don't know what you mean, you have to be able to do it yourself. I often sit down on drums and show 'em just exactly what I want. And I do it and then say, "How do you do that?" It's because I know how it looks, I know what I want to hear, and I don't drop or rush any tempo. It ain't in my body, it ain't in my nephew's body. I usually write from the rhythm section, you know what I mean? If a drummer got a funky beat on some things - like a half-shuffle or a shuffle or a backbeat that's even - I can write something. And if I have a dynamite bass player - I have Darryl Jones - it's so easy to write for him because he's such a funky kid and he's gifted. He's like a little genius, you know? That muthafucka can play! My nephew told me to get him. I said, "Man, I need a bass player."

JAZZ: So Vincent recommended him?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. He recommended Bobby. [Ooops!? It would've been fine, if you'd clarified whom Vincent finally recommended to Miles, Mr. Kalbacher! Was it Darryl Jones or Bobby Irving or both???] All of 'em are from Chicago; they used to play in school amateur hours. Randy Hall, Bobby Irving and Vince - they were in all the school anateur shows.

JAZZ: You have very good musical relationship with Bobby Irving. The way he lays textures and atmospheric behind you is really gorgeous.

MILES DAVIS: He didn't know that when he came with me. I had to show him. You know, I put all those synthesizer sounds behind "Decoy" and "Code M.D." A lot of things we write together. A lot of things are his, but they don't have that thing I want on the bottom. I often tell him, I say, "Bobby, if there's a melody, there's another one somewhere that goes with it."

JAZZ: An implied melody?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. Or an obligato. Or something that can throw the melody you write, and you put it in a different texture. It's something that always can fit it that makes it moreso. It's like shinin' gold or buffin' diamonds, you know what I mean?

JAZZ: You bring out what's there innately.

MILES DAVIS: That's right, but you bring it out to the max.

JAZZ: That's an interesting comparison.

MILES DAVIS: Listen, you ever hear "Only The Lonely Hearts" [sic], the melody that goes with that? You've heard Frank Sinatra. I love that melody; we used to sing it in high school.

JAZZ: Besides Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time", your new album also has Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and "What's Love Got To Do With It", which was a big hit for Tina Turner. Did you record these tunes with this particular album in mind?

MILES DAVIS: We played all those tunes in concert, but I couldn't do Tina Turner because it wasn't the right tempo; so I scratched it from the record. I wanted to do it about a year ago, but something happened.

JAZZ: So you first performed these tunes live and, I assume, checked out the audience response.

MILES DAVIS: Not "Human Nature". I haven't played that live.

JAZZ: Did you say that the Tina Turner number is not on the album?

MILES DAVIS: No. We recorded it, but I have to do iz again.

JAZZ: When I spoke with Scofield some months back, he also mentioned that you'd recorded tunes by Kenny Loggins, DeBarge and Dionne Warwick. Is that so?

MILES DAVIS: Yes. And Roberta Flack. I love singers, you know.

I think the greatest sound in the world is the human voice.

"We Are The World," man, with all those singers - it goes right on through me.

JAZZ: It get chills down my spine when I hear it.

MILES DAVIS: That's right. That's where I pick a song, man. If I hear a song like "Time After Time." I'm sittin' there lookin' at video and Cindy Lauper comes on singin' this song. I said, "God damnnnnn!"

JAZZ: That's the way I felt, too. The first thing I hears of hers, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," struck me as a silly, dippy tune. But when I heard "Time After Time," I said to myself, "This girl has felt some pain."

MILES DAVIS: Ain't that a muthafucka! We made it a year ago, and I told George, "George, I'm gettin' a strange reaction from the crowd when I play "Time After Time."" He ignored it, because he is so busy with Wynton Marsalis. He heard us do it at the Montreux Jazz Festival last year. He said, "We gotta do it!" I said, "George, I told you, man. We already did it!" And he still didn't release it. International CBS told me, "Man, if we had had that tune, we'd have sold millions of records."

JAZZ: I hear that WPIX [an MOR/pop FM radiostation] in New York City is playing it.

MILES DAVIS: Yeah, but Sandra DaCosta, Columbia Records publicist, told me it was too late for the full impact. I don't like that, you know?

JAZZ: They should've released it a long time ago. CBS blew it.

MILES DAVIS: That's what I'm sayin'. Listen, I'm not jealous. But - George is so interested in Wynton Marsalis that he put me in the hole. He put me in the hole because that tune would've made our thing with CBS in the black, not the red. You know when a company says you "in the red"; that means all your recordings and studio time are takin' up a lot of money. That tune would've straightened it out. Plus, I told him we were gettin' this reaction from just playin' it in person.

JAZZ: If people like it, it'll sell. That's what they're in business for - to sell records.

MILES DAVIS: Listen, Gene. I don't call the record company and tell 'em nuthin', right? But when we played this song in person, when I got through playin' the melody, everybody started applaudin'. So I called George, right? I said, "George, I'm gettin' a strange reaction when I play this tune 'Time After Time.'" He said, "Oh, yeah-yeah-yeah." That was it . . . There was something else I had to tell you. The introduction to "You're Under Arrest." Do you know what the album is called?

JAZZ: It's called You're Under Arrest.

MILES DAVIS: No. It's called You're Under Arrest. You Have The Right To Make One Phone Call, Or Remain Silent So You Better Shut Up! So that's what's on the front of the cover. The inside cover I did some black dancers; you can frame the picture. The sleeve - I got 40 or 50 people doin' a lot of different things. It looks like an orgy, but it isn't. I drew all that stuff.

JAZZ: Earlier in the conversation you said that, for you, the greatest sound in the world is the human voice. Even with electronic instruments, you've managed to retain the essence of the human voice. Is that a difficult thing to do?

MILES DAVIS: No, not if you have a tone like mine that is recognizable. No matter what I play, when you hear my tone you can tell it's me. Japanese people, man [laughs], they hear my warmin' up and they start screamin'. They can tell it's me . . . It's my tone on the trumpet, it sounds like I'm speakin'. In other words, an instrument should be an extension of you; it's supposed to sound like you - the way you walk, the way you dress, you know.

JAZZ: So the instrument plays you instead of you playing it?


JAZZ: I wanted to ask you about these pop tunes you've covered, Michael Jackson and Cindy Lauper -

MILES DAVIS: Wait a minute, Gene. I didn't do it because they're famous -

JAZZ: You did it because they're good tunes.


JAZZ: I know that in the late '60s, when In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew came out, you were said to be listening to Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix. Were you recording any pop tunes at that point?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. I did Bronislaw Kaper's tune. He wrote "On Green Dolphin Street." I mean, I did all those ballads, all them ballads from South America, you know? All those tunes - the guitar concerto on Sketches Of Spain. All those are Spanish melodies. Some of them we made up ourselves. And I'm gonna start doing a little calypso. I heard Harry Belafonte. I went down and hung out with Sammy Davis Jr. this weekend in Las Vegas. Harry Belafonte was down there, man, and he sounded great. And he's playin' calypso. Of course, Sammy's Number One. And I caught the Pointer Sisters; they're dynamite. They got a new tune comin' out that's a muthafucka tune. I told 'em, "Send me the lead sheet so I can do it." But, I mean, Sammy said that Harry renewed his faith in calypso. And I been hearin' calypso melodies for at least four months. You know da-da/da . . . You like that?

JAZZ: That just grabs you up.

MILES DAVIS: That's right. Catch Harry Belafonte. He's got a helluva rhythm section. And so have the Pointer Sisters. And that little guy with Sammy Clayton. He's about 22 years old. He plays the whole show with 40 members. So, you know. Shit. We gonna be playin' in Las Vegas. Steve Wynn [chairman of the Golden Nugget] said, "Miles, I'm a fan of yours." Me and Cicely and Sammy's wife, we all went to see Harry Belafonte, I went to hear, they went to look at him [cackles]. And Steve Wynn was sittin' next to us. He owns the place, you know. Lionel Richie was with him, and Lola Falana. We got together and he said, "I'm a fan of yours." And Lionel said, "Yeah, I learned chords and stuff playin' against your albums." I said to Richie, "Man, my wife says you must really respect women because you write such beautiful love songs." You hear these things like [pauses, then sings the lyrics to the Car's "Drive"] "Who's gonna take you home/When I'm gone." You ever hear that? The Cars or someone. That's a helluva song. I wanna do that one, too. I did some stuff that Earth Wind & Fire did. That's still in the can. But when you bring this stuff out, man, you gotta re-do it; the tempo might be wrong. Anyway.

JAZZ: Some of the tunes on your new record are current pop numbers. I've got the feeling that a lot of critics are not going to like it.

MILES DAVIS: They liked when I did Porgy And Bess.

JAZZ: I'm sure the new stuff is happening. But you know how people quibble. There are old ladies out there who are critics.

MILES DAVIS: Not that old ladies. They don't listen to me. Shit. They listen to some other trumpet players [like Wynton Marsalis!?] Not me.

JAZZ: But a lot of those other trumpet players are getting a lot of their stuff from you. They may not always admit it, but they do.

MILES DAVIS: Well, we all steal from each other, anyway. I had a girl tell me, she said, "Miles, I got pregnant off of Sketches Of Spain." Another girl told me, "You know how much money I made fucking with Sketches Of Spain on?" Or Quiet Nights. People like certain things, little melodies. I gave the album to Quincy Jones and he loved "D Train". We couldn't call it "D Train"; it's called "MDI/Something's On Your Mind/MD2". That's on the album . . . We had an earthquake out here last night, man. My whole building shook. We're right on the ocean. I thought, "What the fuck was that?" I was doin' a lot of sketchin'. You gotta check out them dancers in the middle of my album, Gene.

JAZZ: So many great musicians have matured while playing in your bands over the years. When you select musicians for your bands, do you look for guys who will someday move on and get their own groups together. Like Art Blakey does.

MILES DAVIS: Art Blakey picks good musicians. Always did. Musicians pick good musicians that they like to play with. That's the way I always pick a band. I ask somebody, "Who do you feel comfortable playin' with." They say, "This person or that person." And then, certain guys I like myself. Like the bass player with the Pointer Sisters. So Cicely says, "You gonna steal that bass player!" I said, "Cicely, when you need a bass player, you don't look under 'B'." You don't look in the telephone book under "B" for Bass. I don't need one - Darryl is one of the greatest bass players I ever heard in my life. He and Louis Johnson and the guy who plays with the Pointer Sisters. And Larry Graham. All those bass players are outasite. Verdine White, who played with Earth, Wind & Fire. [Ever heard Jaco, Miles?]

JAZZ: Since the album isn't out yet and all I've heard is the single, Miles, tell me what outside musicians, besides McLaughlin, are on your new album?

MILES DAVIS: Sting of the rock group The Police. Let me tell you about the first number, okay, Gene? Then after that I have to ge somewhere. The first number is a street scene of me snortin' coke. All of a sudden, you hear a si-reen. The po-lice pull over. "We been followin' you, Davis. We got you in that yellow Ferrari." And I say, "That wasn't no yellow Ferrari; that was a cab you been followin'." So the music is going, Tat-tat/tat-tat behind me. Then they say, "We been waitin' for you ass. We got these handcuffs." [Davis says] "What are those, cuff links?" "No, handcuffs." This is the rap on the first number. So, anyway, they say, "We gonna take you downtown." I grab my crotch and say, "Take this downtown." The po-lice are bustin' me. Down the line my friend Marek Olko says, "You under arrest. You got the right to make one phone call" - in Polish. And he's bustin' my drummer, Steve Thornton. And Steve says, "You cna't bust me. I just came from Miami, and that's my fuckin' religion. So fuck you!" He says it in Spanish. Then Sting says it in French: "You have a right to make one phone call," bla-bla-bla. "So katois!" "Shut up!" I say, "Katois some of this!" And the first number ends and we go right into "Human Nature."

JAZZ: That starts the album and "Jean Pierre" ends it?

MILES DAVIS: Yeah. I had to put that "You're Under Arrest" on there because this shit is happenin' to everybody. My nephew said he was drivin' out in Beverly Hills with the drummer from Earth, Wind & Fire - a guy Vincent hangs out with - and the po-lice pulled 'em over. They were drivin' a Mercedes. They said, "What're you doin'?" They do me like that all the time! "What you work for?"

JAZZ: "Who you work for!"

MILES DAVIS: Anyway. Anything else?

JAZZ: You mentioned that Steve Thronton is your new percussionist. I'd heard that Cinelu had joined Weather Report.

MILES DAVIS: Mino should get his own band; he's so fuckin' talented. So is Al Foster, man. He should get his own band; he writes his ass off, but he's always scared to bring in an arrangement. I say, "What?" He says, "Man, you might not like it," and na-na-na. That shit makes me sick.

JAZZ: From the way you describe "You're Under Arrest" and "Jean Pierre," it sounds like you could make dynamite videos from them. Have you made any videos for this record?

MILES DAVIS: No. I was thinkin' about doin' that. I'm supposed to look at some graphic designs today. I might put it on with "Katia," you know? The statement on "Jean Pierre" is enough. I just don't wanna -

JAZZ: You don't want to exploit a controversial subject?

MILES DAVIS: No. With "We Are The World," I can't even eat when I watch that on television. If I'm eatin' some food, I have to put it down. I feel very strongly about that. So I don't know what kind of video I want to make, because you really want to make something to help somebody, you know? When you hear that ["We Are The World"] . . . and you know what's goin' on over there. Ethiopia asked the United States in 1930 for help. In Africa they don't need no food - they need some plows and tractors and shit like that.

JAZZ: They have to learn to get their own thing together, learn the means to develop their own economy.

MILES DAVIS: Right. Anyway, we gonna make something with art, you know what I mean?

47 recordings from Miles Davis

Although the title announces 47 recordings, only 46 are listed.

maintained by Thomas Hönisch TOP last update: September 29, 2001