Wednesday, Apr 07 2004 | 17:59

Ubiquity Records‘ longest-running artist presents his new album, “Soul Mosaic“.

Andreas Stevens, aka Greyboy, residing in San Diego, has gone full circle. He was the first artist to sign to Ubiquity, and his first full-length album is still the label’s all-time best seller. Not bad for a record that cost less than $4000 to make, and sold on an advertising budget of $0! He was a man in the right place at the right time. While the acid jazz phenomenon was brewing in Europe in the early 1990s, Greyboy became the first American producer to mix beats with jazz. His chunky beat-making sensibilities earned him praise from the European crowd, and his tracks were heard by crowds checking out DJs like UK-based Gilles Peterson, Marcus Wyatt (LA), and DJ Smash (NYC). “When I first started making beats, I was making hip-hop. Since I couldn’t find MC’s to work with, I decided to try the jazz thing and lace my tracks with live instruments instead. That’s where Karl Denson and the Greyboy Allstars came into the picture”, explains Greyboy.

Michael McFadin, founder of Ubiquity records recalls the story of how Greyboy came to sign for Ubiquity, “It’s been nearly a decade since my wife Jody and I received our first phone call from Andreas Stevens [Greyboy] at our record store, The Groove Merchant. He was searching for breaks and rare grooves that he couldn’t seem to find down in San Diego. Back then he had some notoriety as a DJ in Southern California and he had recorded an underground house 12” that had sold 5000+ copies. He had grown up on hip-hop but had caught the bug for collectible rare groove. We started getting weekly calls, and he started getting weekly shipments. This was about the time we had started our label and Grey mentioned that he thought he could produce music for the label and started sending rough mixes. With some feedback from us, he began searching for live musicians and incorporating them into his music. Enter Karl Denson and Marc Antoine (both of whom have gone on to have their own successful careers). “Unwind Your Mind” was the first completed track; and, more than any other cut, it carried the sales of the Home Cookin’ compilation.”

Once hailed as a leader of the American acid jazz sound, Stevens went into hiding as a producer as the scene took a turn for the worse. He started a hip-hop label called P-Jays with world famous skateboarder Rob Dyrdek. “I have done soundtracks for skateboard flicks and have been friends with a lot of people in the industry, because it’s mostly centered around San Diego;” explains Stevens, “and for some reason skateboarders are notorious for liking hip-hop and jazz type beats.”

After two P-Jays compilations, many 12″ releases, and working with artists like AG (of Showbiz and AG), Stevens decided it was time to re-light the Greyboy fire and set to work on Mastered The Art. Maturing as a producer and longing to push the Greyboy sound forward, Stevens sketched outlines of tracks. “I only use samples from vinyl to create my tracks, and for the last few years I have been using a lot of easy listening and obscure instrumentals for textures that have a worldly sound, as opposed to the predominantly jazz sounds that I had on my older records.”

It’s still the kind of laid-back affair you might expect from a Southern Californian beat-head, but with the Greyboy twist. There is a heavy Italian feel to the instrumentals – as acoustic guitars and strings hug the fat beats and catchy bass-lines. Infact this heavy dose of Italiana led us to ask high flying Italian producer Nicola Conte to remix the title track – a big bossa remix featured on limited 10″ and as a bonus cut on the album. Chase-scene suspense tracks like “Logan’s Run” and “Instantly” or the mysterious sound of “Marrakech” give “Master The Art” a soundtrack-like quality. These are nicely balanced by bouncing hip hop party tracks like “Hold it Down” and “Ghetto Boogie”.

Stevens teamed up with CuBop vibraphonist Dave Pike, Greyboy Allstars alumnus Elgin Park, and MC Mainflo from Mood to bring his ideas to life. “I think each song has its moments, and I really owe that to my collaborations with Elgin Park and Main Flo. Dave Pike is one of the coolest artists that I have ever worked with, and Elgin is just out of his mind. He has so many good ideas and knows how to play so many different instruments,” says Stevens
“I would say that my approach was the same–to make tracks that I like and expand on them with live instruments–only this time I had MC’s to work with as well. My production skills have grown, and I wanted to show that–including more scratching than I have done on any of my other releases,” he adds.

Stevens’ favorite producers include James Brown, Q-Bert, DJ Premier, Mobb Deep, and the Beatnuts; and while Mastered The Art dives into new territory for him, his influences remain the same: “any recording from the late ’60s to the late ’70s that has that fat sound…you know, the kind you can’t really reproduce!”

An average day for Stevens means waking up at 7:30am (he can’t sleep!) and either making beats, trying to find records for inspiration, or a new piece of furniture for his house. “I bought a house that was designed in 1960 by a modern architect and soon after discovered the world of mid-century modern design; now it is my main thing next to music,” he says. For the furniture freaks reading this, his prize possessions are a coffee table designed by Alexander Girard and swag leg desk and kangaroo chair by George Nelson. He also drives a metallic gold 1970 Ford Torino GT (pictured on the cover of the album), with sound “powered” by an 8-track collection. “Right now I have Henry Mancini cop show themes loaded; but I have about 50 selections that I choose from, including all 3 Cymande releases, Grant Green Final Comedown, and a bunch of other funky ones.”

Soul Mosaic

Clearly one of the most anticipated record releases of the year, Ubiquity proudly presents Greyboy‘s first album in three years. Entitled “Soul Mosaic,” this brand-new full-length was recorded 10 years after the release of “Freestylin’,” the ground-breaking first Greyboy full-length album for Ubiquity.

The tracks crafted into a fourth Greyboy album include groundbreaking territory for the Southern California based producer/DJ. For the first time he has recorded full vocal songs adding a new soulful dimension to his music. The trademark laid-back West Coast Greyboy beats remain central to “Soul Mosaic” but are now enhanced by collaborations that took place over the past two years.

Vocalists like Bay Area underground favorite Bart Davenport formerly of The Kinetics and now a solo artist on Paris Caramel records sings on the two sold-out singles “To Know You is To love You” and “Genevieve”, cover versions of a Stevie Wonder tune (originally recorded by Syreeta) and Cymande respectively. “Genevieve” was nominated as one of the songs of the year by Radio 1’s Worldwide host Gilles Peterson. East Coast based Sharon Jones has made a storming come back with Daptone Records over recent years and also appears on two tracks. San Francisco up n’comer Bing Ji Ling adds a lil’ Shuggie Otis folksy soul and guitar while MCs like Mainflo (TVT), and musicians and turntablists like D-Styles and Ricci Rucker (Sound In Color) maintain the hip hop pressure. Rounding out the mosaic are co- producers like the UK-based Quantic and West Coaster Mike Andrews, who recently had a hand in the Christmas #1 spot on the UK charts with a version of Tears For Fears “Mad World” from the Donnie Darko soundtrack.

“I couldn’t have done this when I recorded Freestlyin’, working with artists from all around the world is one of the beauties of modern technology,” says Greyboy.

Working up the rough drafts for “Soul Mosaic” Greyboy recorded parts, solos, and lyrics with guests returning to the lab in his Long Beach home to deconstruct and sift through all the elements. And just like the aesthetic of Killingsworth, the well-known Case Study House architect who built the house which Greyboy is restoring, less is definitely more. In fact the process of restoring the home is not unlike his approach to making music. His mid-century modern building has been altered, remodeled and added onto over the years, Greyboy is currently putting it back the way it was supposed to be.

“I constantly found myself stripping back the amount of musical layers recorded in session and even the tools I use to make the music,” explains Greyboy. “I am a collector of sounds and objects, but I really only like a few things that are very good not a bunch of stuff that’s just OK – it’s definitely about quality, not about quantity…” he adds.

Greyboy warns people ahead of time that he will be radically changing tracks after studio sessions are over. However, his time with guest artists very much shapes a tracks final outcome. The cover versions on this album were ideas he became really enthusiastic about because of who he was working with and the mood they arrived at during studio sessions.

A decade ago “Freestylin'” became a surprise underground hit, it was a building block of the early acid jazz movement and still holds cult status today. Since then Greyboy has released the equally jazz-based instrumental “Land of the Lost” and the soundtrack and hip hop inspired “Mastered The Art,” which featured musicians and MCs in a prelude to the “Soul Mosaic” album.

Greyboy has recorded with AG (Showbizz and AG), and the Greyboy Allstars (whom he helped put together and produce). His music has been featured in movies like Get Shorty, Celtic Pride, The Kelly Slater Surf Pro video game, Budweiser commercials, and he was handpicked to provide a mix CD for DC shoes in 2003.

Over the years Greyboy has DJ’d in Japan, Europe, and across the USA. His largest DJ gig was to 5000 people in the countryside outside of Rome, but throughout the summer of 2003 he played to over 20, 000 people a night on tour with Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. His DJ philosophies have never changed, he practices to stay technically on top of his game but never practices a set for a specific night preferring to put together tunes and based on the vibe at each gig.

Included on the CD version of the album are remixes by Paul Nice (Biz Markie) and Quantic, previously only available on limited edition vinyl. Watch for Greyboy DJ dates in USA, Europe and Japan Spring 2004.

Greyboy Album Discography

1993 – Freestylin’ CD/LP
1995 – Land of the Lost CD/LP
2001 – Mastered the Art CD/LP
2004 – Soul Mosaic CD/LP

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