Okayplayer: Tell me a little bit about the forthcoming album?
James Williams: It should be finished by next year. We already have five tracks and we are about 90 percent finished. The second track that’s going to come off the Reset album is already mixed and mastered. We are ready to roll as soon as we get the green light. The third track will probably be a ballad that’s absolutely a knock down killer ballad, one of The Ohio Players trademarks.
Four original members are in the band now: Clarence “Chet” Willis who plays guitar and sings lead and background vocals, Billy Beck, who is our music director, keyboard player and he sings lead and background vocals, Robert “Kuumba” Jones plays percussion and me on the drums and I do lead and background vocals.
OKP: Why did it take 30 years for new music?
JW: A little bit of listening to the music industry. And then as a writer you have to do it when it hits you. You can’t force it. It just has to be something that either you have it or you don’t have it. I guess for a while we didn’t have it [laughs]. We had to get it again… and getting it again it takes a little bit of time. During that period of time, we were still going around touring and playing. We were listening to what the industry was presenting to us, which was a lot of daggon machines and auto tunes. Everybody can sing, but nobody’s really singing, nobody is really talented, drum machines and all kinds of stuff and no spirit and no life with the music.
I am the drummer with the band—the first person they picked on to use a machine to replace a person was the daggon drummer. A drummer is not perfect, a machine somewhat is, it does not vary, it is straight ahead and life is not like that and no drummer is. As much as I’ve been trained myself with private lessons and all city orchestra band. I got a full ride to Kentucky State University for music. I did my due diligence in being able to play these drums. Nonetheless I’m still not perfect. When they come out with all of this “perfect” machine music, it has changed a lot.
Listening to that we got fed up. Not to say we are against things that move on, we understand automation. But there’s nothing like people. Music it’s a spiritual thing. When you play music and you go in the studio, you play one with another. Music is an interpretation. It’s hard to interpret a computer or a machine. You can’t ask questions and get a human answer, you can only get a mechanical response. That’s why it took some 29 years before we decided to do this thing again.
OKP: You lost some folks along the way, Marshall Jones, Sugarfoot, Morrison, Clarence Satchell…
JW: Yeah, we have lost Sugarfoot and we have lost Marshall since then. Since ‘88, we lost Satch and Pee Wee. They respectively died in ‘95 and ‘96. We lost four of the original seven and we’ve lost four of the nine that we have onstage today. We have 11 pieces on stage today, but four of us are original guys. Three are from the horn section out of Chicago. Johnny Cotton on trombone, Kenny Anderson on trombone, Michael Turner on sax. Darwin Dortch is on bass. Guitar players, well, one is from Youngstown, Ohio, Edward Rick Ward, and the other guitar player is from Dayton, Ohio. His name is Christopher Bowan. Both of which are blazing saddles. These boys can play… and we have Odeon Mays, a keyboard player.
OKP: You took Greg Webster’s place as the drummer when he got sick and you have something called a matched grip as a drummer, what is that?
JW: When one hand does not match the other as far as how you hold your sticks. That’s not traditional. I started playing everything when I started to perform single stroke. During the recording process we would loosen the head so loose it made for a fat sound recording wise, but you couldn’t play a press roll. Two strokes and you would play a roll like you would use in a marching band. I got used to playing everything single stroke. You get more power that way. It means alot to have a little bit of freedom and a little bit of power and dexterity. I’m ambidextrous. I eat with my left hand and I write with my right hand. Being ambidextrous helped for me to play the drums.
OKP: The big thing that made Ohio this hotbed of talent, according to other musicians that came out of Ohio, was playing the clubs back then and competing with other musicians. Is that part of the way Dayton and Cincinnati produced all this talent or was it something else?
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