Devo Springsteen Interview
|Next Project:||The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Mixtape|
|Website:||Devo Springsteen's Website|
No, it’s not Bruce Springsteen’s long lost (long, long, lost) brother, its producer/executive/businessman Devo Springsteen. Devo has quickly become a major player behind the scenes of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. label by signing former college roommate John Legend, DJing parties around the world, and co-producing “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” even winning a Grammy for his efforts. In an exclusive interview with DJBooth.net’s Nathan, Devo talks about his new mixtape, hip-hop’s business side, and being huge in Japan.
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Devo Springsteen Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s up everyone? This is Nathan from DJBooth.net and with me today is a Grammy award winning producer, Devo Springsteen. How you doin’ man?
Devo Springsteen: I’m doin good man, real good.
DJ Booth: Why don’t you take a minute to introduce yourself to everyone out there.
Devo: I’m Devo Springsteen, producer, songwriter, DJ, Renaissance man. You may have heard of me from Kanye West’s record “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” several John Legend songs, I actually signed John Legend to a record deal. I’ve worked with O.D.B., Rhymefest, Nas’ most recent album, Common’s upcoming album. I got a lot of stuff coming in the future.
DJ Booth: You definitely got your hands in a lot. Speaking of the new Common album I heard you just got back from some shows in Japan with him, how was that?
Devo: I was actually out there with Consequence. I work with the G.O.O.D. label which Consequence is on with Common, and we went out there and did some shows in Tokyo and Osaka. It was crazy, people really are fans of the music over there, there’s less politics and things involved. If the music is good they’re into it.
DJ Booth: Is that what you think the main difference is between an overseas of Japanese hip-hop scene and the U.S.?
Devo: I think so. I think overseas there’s more respect for the forefathers than here, and also I think here it’s important who gets featured on the song, who produced the song, all those other peripherals involved, as opposed to just the music. My experience is that overseas and in Europe people appreciate just good music.
DJ Booth: It’s crazy to think that hip-hop is truly global now.
Devo: It really is.
DJ Booth: Now back here in the good ol’ U.S. you got a big project coming out called The G.O.O.D. The Bad and The Ugly, in conjunction with Bacardi. Tell us how that came about and more about the project.
Devo: First and foremost I’m a DJ, I’ve been DJing since ’96. I used to do a lot of house parties and clubs, but now I do international events like what I did in Japan, I go to Africa pretty often. As far as the DJing goes some friends of mine who work for Bacardi were at a party I Djed and we stared trying to think of a way to get me involved. I feel like anyone who wants to try to sell products to young people you need to have some urban music element in your campaign. I introduced the idea of doing a series of mixtapes that would promote the company that sponsored it, and number two would promote the artists I work with, the G.O.O.D. Music artists, my labelmates. So I presented that and Bacardi was into it. This is actually the second in the series. Last year I put out The G.O.O.D. Life, which was all artists from the G.O.O.D. camp. This one is a similar thing except we stepped it up a little bit; there’s two music videos on it, there’s a documentary about making the mixtape, footage from a party I had where they’re serving all these Bacardi drinks, footage of us in the studio working on the CD, me goofing around. It’s really interactive and there’s weblinks to sites like my MySpace page. The other part of this campaign is I’m sending vinyl to 250 DJs across America that’s co-branded with Bacardi, so you get this watermelon colored vinyl that has two singles from the mixtape, one from Consequence and one from GLC. It’s really the first multi-dimensional website/viedo/cd/vinyl distributed, and I’m really excited and proud of it.
DJ Booth: Speaking of the business side of things, I know you’re a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. How do think your education and what you learned there has affected your music career? Obviously you’ve got the ability to hook up with Bacardi and make things happen that other people wouldn’t have the knowledge base to do…
Devo: I think it’s a lot about knowing what these businesses are looking for; I have that education and background…
DJ Booth: What are these businesses looking for?
Devo: They’re looking for things that will impact the bottom line; they’re looking for credible entrance into the mindset of young folks. I think that the kind of music that I work with and the people I work with is a great relationship for certain types of brands. Not everyone should try to collaborate with a John Legend, not every brand wants to be involved with a clean look, and not every brand wants an urban look. I think for Bacardi the kind of upscale and trendy-not too expensive-type of crowd, it’s a good connection between my music and the demographic they’re trying to reach. Even knowledge of the demographic is valuable. But beyond that it’s just the people. I think that’s the biggest benefit of going to Wharton is the people I met. My first job coming out of Wharton was because of my friends, not a job interview process. Even the way I started working with Kanye is because I got him articles in The Source through college friends, same thing with the Bacardi hook-up. That’s something I try to tell people who are thinking about going to college or not, I try to encourage them to go to the best college they can and to understand it’s not just about book and pens, but also the people you meet. My roommate in college for three years was John Legend, he was John Stevens then, and then we graduated and worked together and make these steps to make things happen. It goes beyond just getting a degree, you can make anything you want happen out of it and that’s largely though relationships.
DJ Booth: More on the music side of things, it seems like Kanye and the G.O.O.D. label are pushing hip-hop more innovatively than other labels. What is it about your musical approach that allows you to keep things so fresh?
Devo: I think it’s an approach to life that we have. I think that a lot of musicians and rappers will pursue whatever will get them the most radio spins, or the most record sales. I feel like our camp, our goal is to make the new music you haven’t heard. But it’s also to wear the new shoes you haven’t seen. It’s the result of the life we live.
DJ Booth: It’s a lifestyle, not necessarily just a music or a fashion?
DJ Booth: You mentioned Consequence is on the mixtape, what are some of the tracks we should be looking out for off The G.O.O.D. The Bad The Ugly?
Devo: My favorite tracks are a song I did with Consequence called “Blowing Up My Phone” that’s the ringtone on my phone. It’s a crazy record that has Consequence rapping the whole time using metaphors that would deal with your phone. He’s freestyling to the ringtone. There’s a record called “I Tried” with GLC from Chicago, with Crucial Conflict, Chicagoans will know Crucial Conflict and real rap heads will know about them. They have a crazy record I sent out to the DJs. Sa-Ra’s on there, they’re dope, have you heard of them?
DJ Booth: Yeah, I live in Los Angeles so my apartment building’s plastered with Sa-Ra posters.
Devo: Those guys are ill. There’s a song called Big Fame on there by Sa-Ra. I feel like if you’re a hip-hop fan you should listen to that stuff and you’ll hopefully hear something that will expand your horizons. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard. Those are three tracks you should check out. I also have Patti LaBelle on there; a record with Consequence and Kanye, Farnsworth Bentley, John Legend, the whole camp’s represented on there.
DJ Booth: Speaking of expanding your horizons I read you worked with Aretha Franklin, what was that like?
Devo: I don’t really know how that came about. We didn’t get in the studio together. That was something where I went to a label and played them some tracks and one had a hook on it that they said could work for Aretha. So I had made this whole song, I had written the hook, but I had my roommate John Legend sing it. So they wanted John Legend to do the record and I’m like yo I did this whole record, everything you like I did. This is the first time I’ve really written the bulk of the song. Next thing I know she’s singing it. It’s insane that the first song I wrote Aretha Franklin is singing it, and it sounds really crazy.
DJ Booth: There are certain people that are on a whole other level and she’s one of them.
Devo: Definitely, I think to me something that’s been interesting is the artists I’ve worked with like John Legend, Aretha Franklin, Dead Prez, Nas, these artists are literally internationally popular artists. It’s a challenge for me to work with regional artists or local artists and have a Southern sound, or a Midwest sound, but when it comes to working with universally accepted artists it seems to be easier for me—which leads me to believe that [the] stuff I’m producing is somewhat universal.
DJ Booth: I think a lot of people on the label have not just national but global appeal. It’s associated with Chicago but it’s not tied to one specific region.
Devo: That’s absolutely right!
DJ Booth: I really appreciate you taking the time today, is there somewhere fans can find out more about you and your music?
Devo: They can check me out on www.myspace.com/devospringsteen, just like Bruce, well not just like Bruce (laughing), but the spelling. Look out for the new albums from Common, Britney Spears, Nas, Claudette Ortiz, there’s a lot of stuff coming up in the next few months that people should be looking for.
DJ Booth: You guys are doing it real big and definitely turning into a bit of an institution. I appreciate you taking the time today and good luck. Peace.
Devo: No problem at all, peace.