Photo by Gregory Harris courtesy of GQ.
In addition to giving the world Amy Wallace‘s 7,000+ word feature on the return of D’Angelo, our friends and fellow D’Angelists at GQ Magazine have posted some new out-takes today from their interview and photo sessions which will be of more than passing interest to any D fanatic. In addition to parsing the key role of our own benevolent afro-lord ?uestlove in the behind-the-scenes of D’s recent live dates and album recordings, Wallace got a chance to listen to the family jewels–tracks from the almost-finished but still-untitled 3rd D’Angelo LP; music which she describes in some detail, including the songs “Ain’t That Easy”; “The Charade”; and “1000 Deaths.” Get the excerpts below and hit the link at bottom for more via GQ.
D’Angelo on performing in Stockholm in January, his 1st concert in more than a decade:
“It was scary,” D will tell me later, reflecting on playing the guitar in public for the first time. “I would feel comfortable when I was by myself, but actually getting onstage and playing was a different thing. My friend Raphael Saadiq was like, ‘Yo, man, you’ve just got to jump in. Start swimming. Just jump in the pool, you know?’ It was good advice. I was nervous up until the point where we started playing and singing, and then it just felt—it felt cool.”
On ?uestlove’s role in D’Angelo’s career:
D asked Questlove to help him come up with the playlist for the European tour, just as D had asked for his help on his upcoming album. Like anything D-related, that took a lot of time (Questlove calls D’Angelo’s painstaking process “beautifully frustrating”). Since the Roots drummer has a day job now (he’s the bandleader on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), most of the work on the album has had to be done between the hours of 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. After one seven-week stretch of pre-dawn sessions and little sleep, an exhausted Questlove contracted coxsackie virus. He wouldn’t hesitate, he says, to do it again.
On D’Angelo’s forthcoming 3rd album:
Despite assurances that it’s 97% done, D hasn’t locked his third. Not yet. In Europe, he unveiled several songs he thinks will be on it. In addition to “Ain’t That Easy” and the irresistible dance number, “Sugar Daddy,” there is a song Questlove compares to Herbie Hancock called “The Charade.” “Crawling through a systematic maze to demise,” it begins, and D sings the line with a seething fury. When I catch a reference to “the deceiver,” I can’t help but think: this song—twisted, almost atonal, multi-layered—is about that forked-tongued devil, Fame.
D says I’m wrong. “It’s about the disenfranchised,” he says. “It’s telling the powers that be, ‘This is why we are justified in our stance.’ There’s another song on the album called ‘A Thousand Deaths’ that is the flip side of the coin. ‘A Thousand Deaths’ is just a fucking war cry. You know what I mean? The beheadings have commenced.” It occurs to me that the Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831, in which slaves rose up and killed more than 50 white people, the only sustained slave rebellion in the South’s history, took place in D’s home state of Virginia. “Ain’t no justice/It’s just us/Ash to ashes/Dust to dust,” D sang so insistently on Voodoo. I am beginning to get what he means.
I ask someone who has a closely-guarded copy to let me hear “1000 Deaths.” It is dark, dense and mysterious and makes the most of D’s newfound prowess on the guitar. The lead vocal is so distorted—like the moans and groans of a Negro spiritual—that D could almost be speaking in tongues. The song is compelling, maybe even profound, but it is the opposite of catchy. That’s just fine with D. He tells me art, not commerce, is his fuel.
props to GQ