A few weeks ago I posted an interview that I conducted with Adrian Younge. As a follow on to that, I spoke with William Hart, the lead singer of The Delfonics about working with Adrian on the new album. We also spoke about working with the Wu back in '96 and sampling in hip-hop...
Both interviews are up on Wax Poetics website in a scaled down form...
And here is the full William Hart interview below...
Interview conducted by Pattch82 (email@example.com)
Interview Date: January 9th 2013
PATTCH82: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me…
WILLIAM HART: Yeah no problem, absolutely.
P82: I’ve heard the press copy of the new album, I’m totally in love with this album!
WILLIAM: Oh thank you man, thank you.
P82: How did you and Adrian hook up for the album…?
WILLIAM: Well you know, there are a lot of people that have been entranced with my music. I hooked up with Adrian through a friend of his that said he was looking for me. So one thing lead to another and I ended up going out to California and I recorded fourteen songs, I wrote all of them and Adrian did the music. It came out like a really good combination, put the Delfonics back on the map I thought, haha.
P82: Had you heard any of Adrian’s previous work before hooking up with him…?
WILLIAM: No, my idea was to go down there and… because any kind of music I can write to it, I can even write Country & Western, I can write any kind of music. I like writing lyrics to the melody of the music, you know different melodies and things like that. I can put a counter melody to whatever music you throw at me. When I went there he had a whole bunch of music but he had no lyrics to none of them. It took us about a month and we did fourteen songs.
P82: Your vocals are still incredible after all these years. How do you keep your voice in such good shape…?
WILLIAM: Haha thank you man, thank you. Well you know, no smoking, no drinking, staying young in the mind. And exercising, playing a little golf, fishing, I eat a lot of plant based products and you know, you stay as fit as you possibly can. Sometimes I get kinda like ummm… I can’t believe that I can sing that way at will. And I don’t understand it actually, I know that at my age right now I shouldn’t be singing like that.
P82: It still sounds effortless…
WILLIAM: Yeah some people have heard it and thought it was something I did back in the sixties, haha.
P82: On the recording process, were you involved in creating any of the music or the tone and feel of the album…? Or were you focussed on the lyrics and vocals…?
WILLIAM: Definitely the lyrics and vocals because you know me, I like to sound clear and I like to sound pleasant to the ear with my voice. Throughout the years I have done that and I can somehow still do it. Don’t ask me how I can still do it, haha.
P82: I spoke to Adrian a few days ago. He said you recorded your vocals in two week-long sessions. That seems fast. Was it quite a quick process…?
WILLIAM: Well it kinda blew his mind a little bit, he couldn’t believe I was putting these songs together one after another like that you know. I’ve been writing a long time, but I had never actually written to anybody else’s music like that, I usually wrote to all my own music, usually put together with Thom Bell. But if you give me a blank track, I can give it back to you with a beautiful song.
P82: What did you think of Adrian’s vintage recording studio…?
WILLIAM: Yeah yeah it’s all the old equipment, old microphones, we had the old microphones like what Frank Sinatra used, everything old you know, old organs, everything from like back in the day that was very well kept and preserved.
P82: Kinda like stepping back in time…
WILLIAM: Yeah yeah twilight zone you know haha…
P82: When it came to the song writing, did you have any of the lyrics already or did you write everything once you heard the music…?
WILLIAM: Ummm some of them I had before like for instance the song ‘Enemies All Around Me’. I had already written that song. I just put those lyrics in to that music. And you know, it’s just been a real adventure for me, even to have a video out…
P82: I was going to ask you about that as I wasn’t sure if The Delfonics made any music videos back in the day…?
WILLIAM: This is my first one and actually, it’s more or less leaning to a younger crowd because they need some older guidance in their music. Everybody can listen to it, I write songs for everybody to enjoy, your Grandmother can listen to it, your children can listen to it, and this is the way you should think when you’re writing. That’s how I’ve always thought, and I’m proud to say that over the years I haven’t written anything that was filthy or degrading, or anything that would harm the mind of a human being that I’m writing to.
P82: What was the vibe like during the recording sessions…?
WILLIAM: Umm it was comfortable, very comfortable. It was laid back you know. I took as much time as I needed to make sure the lyrics were balanced to go with the flow of the music that Adrian laid out. I had to be very skilful and had to take my time in certain areas to place the lyrics where they would fall right in with wherever the music was going you know. So it’s that kinda thing, it’s like a blank canvas… I’m an artist, just give me the canvas and I’ll paint the painting.
P82: Did you have any further input after your vocals were recorded…? Were you present for mixing sessions, etc…?
WILLIAM: I did the vocals and the writing, and then I went back to Philadelphia, I rested and let Adrian do all the mixing down there because the younger mind today will clash with the older mind because we mixed things differently back in the day. Kids are trying to get a true back in the day type of sound, it might be good to invite one of us old guys to these mixing sessions.
P82: The backing singers on the album are really good too, especially Saudia Mills who duets with you on the ‘Lover’s Melody’ track…
WILLIAM: Yeah yeah she’s great and sounds good. So what do you think of the album? You’ve listened to it, what did you think?
P82: I’m in love with this album. It sounds like something that could have been made back in the sixties, but at the same time it’s got a modern Hip-Hop twist too. The drums especially give it a real Hip-Hop feel; you can quite easily picture MC’s rapping over a lot of these tracks.
WILLIAM: Yeah yeah yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Fantastic! I’m glad to hear that, because the world needs to hear that good music again and it’s still happening. Not only with me, but with a lot of other artists, like Ted Mills (of Blue Magic) and Russell Thompkins (of The Stylistics), you got The Chi-Lites. These people have albums but they’re on independent labels and they’re really not being pushed. I also have my own label LaLa Records…
P82: I was actually going to ask about something you put out a couple of years ago that I picked up, ‘The Heart Of The Delfonics’ album. That was through your own label right…?
WILLIAM: Yes that was through my own label, there’s some beautiful songs on there too.
P82: It’s a double disc album too, is it all new material…?
WILLIAM: Yeah yeah it’s a double disc, I didn’t know you had that.
P82: Yeah. I haven’t been able to listen to it as much as I would like to, time constraints and such but I really enjoyed it. Again, I was very surprised when I first heard your vocals on there, surprised in a good way…
WILLIAM: Haha, well you know you gotta just keep going you know. Keep going forward and one of those doors will probably open up you know. Gotta keep trying.
P82: How do you feel the new album compares to the classic Delfonics material…?
WILLIAM: Well ummm, in my personal opinion it’s as good as anything that I’ve ever done musically. What happens though, the amount of airplay that it gets determines whether it’s as good because it’s all music you know. Say for instance if they never really played ‘La-La Means I Love You’, it would just be another song. But they gave it the airplay you know. I have songs that I know if they got the airplay ummm… there’s a song called ‘She’s The Kinda Girl’. I don’t know if you’ve heard that one or not, it’s off the first disc of ‘The Heart Of The Delfonics’…
P82: Yeah yeah…
WILLIAM: It’s a beautiful love song you know. But this new album it’s really different and I’m looking forward to this taking the Delfonics career even further you know.
P82: Do you still work with other members of The Delfonics, like Wilbert…?
WILLIAM: Every now and then you know if something came up and they want me to see the guys then we’ll do it.
P82: So when you say carry on The Delfonics career, do you mean Delfonics as just yourself or with the other members…?
WILLIAM: As you get older you have to take it a little slower and guys have different opinions and they want to do different things. Me, I just want to carry the legacy of The Delfonics.
P82: Do you plan on touring to support the new album…?
WILLIAM: Oh yes, yeah. Well the album is officially released in February and then I will know the massive promotion that they’re going to do on it because everyone loves this album. So I’ve got my fingers crossed and hoping that it’s a hit.
P82: I hope it does really well. It should appeal to soul fans from back in the day right through to today’s Hip-Hop fans…
WILLIAM: Yeah, yeah well you can’t do nothing but continue to try. And I’m going to continue to try and keep myself in good shape so I can sound like I’m supposed to sound as an artist. It amazes a lot of the young people, so many people that are sampling my music, my voice and even from this new album and from ‘The Heart Of The Delfonics’ album. They’re sampling my music and I’m loving this stuff. I feel like I want to get in to mixing you know, be in some of these videos with the young kids you know what I mean. Doing some licks with their raps or some hooks you know.
P82: Would you consider doing more albums or projects with Adrian in the future…?
WILLIAM: Oh absolutely, absolutely! We want to take one step at a time and I’m sure Adrian wants to go one step at a time and get this one all the way to the top of the charts and everything else will fall in place. If this one gets the momentum then we’ll probably just instantly go in and start on another album.
P82: Now, I just wanted to ask a couple of quick questions about the history of The Delfonics, for anyone that might not know. Where did the actual name ‘The Delfonics’ come from…?
WILLIAM: Well that was my idea. Actually, it came from a stereo box that was in my house. Back in the day they had the double reels, remember the reel to reel tapes? And mine said Aurophonic Stereo and at that particular time I named my group The Aurophonics. And from there, we had a manager named Stan Watson and he liked the sound DEL – phonics and so I got the DEL from him and the FONIC came from me.
P82: What do you consider to be the definitive Delfonics line-up from back in the day…?
WILLIAM: That would be myself, Wilbert my brother and Randy Cain.
P82: There were a few line-up changes later on in your career when you brought in people like Major Harris and Frank Washington…
WILLIAM: You know Major Harris passed away…
P82: Yes, sadly…
WILLIAM: And Randy Cain passed away. My brother Wilbert does his own thing and I’m just doing my own thing trying to carry on the legacy, you know. I was the sound of the Delfonics, I am the signature sound so I decided to carry on the name.
P82: For me, The Delfonics’ self-titled third album is an all time classic. What would you consider to be the high point in your career…?
WILLIAM: Ohh, when I got the Grammy award for ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)’. And also, there’s always this little lurking thing in the back of my mind… I was riding down the street in my car and I heard the first song that I ever recorded for the first time on the radio. And I couldn’t believe I was hearing myself on the radio and that sticks in my mind, it’s like something that never goes away. I remember the time of day it was, I remember exactly where I was and it was amazing to hear, you know? It was ‘He Don’t Really Love You’, that was the first hit, the first song we put out. So when I heard that on the radio that was the highlight of my life, even above getting the Grammy for ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)’.
P82: Towards the mid-seventies it seems like you took a step back from recording. Was there any reason for that…?
WILLIAM: Well if you notice, all of the groups had to take a step back because we were not disco groups and in the mid-seventies that was when the disco thing was getting stronger. It started turning all of the clubs in to disco places. So if you didn’t have disco music they stopped playing it. So now it’s coming around full circle again. This is why I put my own record company together. Then I met Adrian Younge, I went down there and we did this project together and we’re hoping for the very best you know. I think we’re a good team… he doesn’t read music and neither do I, the combination is definitely outside of the box as far as music as it is known is concerned. We’ve come up with some very very odd and very different moods.
P82: Earlier you mentioned that you had never written anything derogatory in your music, so I wanted to know how you feel about The Delfonics being heavily sampled by Hip-Hop artists throughout the 90’s right through to now…?
WILLIAM: I really thank them. Because it cleans their music up, they’re going to get the nice clean songs and the nice clean hooks. To use my music you would have to be using it for the cleanliness of it because I don’t do anything that’s dirty.
P82: Adrian is also working on an album with Ghostface Killah at the minute. I know you worked with Ghostface on a track back in 1996. What was that experience like…?
WILLIAM: It was very nice, very nice and it’s going to be nice working with them again you know, everything comes full circle. I’m just looking forward to working with them. Ghostface just did a rap song to one of the songs that I wrote.
P82: Was that the ‘Enemies’ track…?
WILLIAM: Yeah, yeah ‘Enemies All Around Me’. I need to hear it, did you hear it yet?
P82: No not yet, I don’t think they’ve put anything out from the album yet. So are you actually going back in the studio to sing that track again for the Ghostface project or are they sampling it…?
WILLIAM: Well I’m the vocal voice right. I haven’t heard it yet so I got to find out exactly how they used my voice, or how they want it. They’ll probably use it as the hooks then he’ll put his raps on you know what I mean.
P82: Back to the upcoming Delfonics record, what has the response been like so far from people that have heard the album…?
WILLIAM: Well I’ve got over 25,000 hits on my Facebook page alone you know, and it’s not even released yet. I’m just hoping that it continues and once it’s released it’ll probably go even higher because it’s definitely something different and in show business you gotta try and come with something different you know. I’m hoping and praying that this is it because I’ve got a good feeling about it.
P82: Well I’ll be supporting the album when it drops. I also bought the red 7” vinyl of the ‘Stop And Look’ single when that dropped too. Do you have any future projects lined up at all…?
WILLIAM: Oh yeah, here at home I’ve got some projects that I’m working on. I’ve got an artist called James Knight and I wrote a song for him that’s tremendous. He’s young, he reminds me of Usher. He really can sing and he can dance, he’s one of those Justin Bieber type of guys and he’s very good. We’re about to release his music on LaLa Records.
P82: Is there anything else you would like to mention before we finish up…?
WILLIAM: I want all my fans to know that I love them and La-La Means I Love You and to pray that this is the comeback of The Delfonics as I am doing and I need your support. God bless.
Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics is released on February 12th through Wax Poetics