As child Diggs Duke’s ear drums were filled with soul legends Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye due to his parents musical influence, although he admits he was too young to truly understand soul, it is from this moment that marked the beginning of Diggs Duke's gift. Fast forward a few years later and composer/vocalist Diggs Duke has capsulated the definition of soul through his music. He does this by making soul music from the perspective of a jazz musician. Diggs reveals to Stimulate Your Soul the difference between ‘entertainment genius' & ‘musical genius,’ why his first EP ‘Gravity’ was his most rewarding and why he describes himself as just a curious dude with good intentions. Margaret Tra writes.
You've got the sound that takes your listeners back into a time machine. Was this your intention? How do you do that?
In a sense, yes. I intend to make music that will stand on its own over time. Most of the time, when I write music I write with the intention of creating something unique, to make a statement. It doesn't always happen. But, when you set out with that goal, you create music that at least sounds like you're reaching for it.
How do you know producer Tall Black Guy?
I try my best to keep up with my contemporaries. I expressed that I liked his music to him over the internet, and it turned out he liked mine, as well. From there, he would give me mixing tips and I would give him tips on chords and stuff. We are working on some music for 2013!
Who would you say influences you?
Duke Ellington is my greatest influence, in most things that involve music and its industry. He was in the business for a very long time and experienced many changes, through which he always kept his cool. He knew how to put on a show and his music was described as exotic, even when playing in his native country. I also am a huge Phyllis Hyman fan. She carried herself with so much class, musically and otherwise. As far as modern music, Bilal Oliver is someone I look up to. He has an adventurous way of making music, live or recorded. He plays for the moment.
‘Duke of Soul’, has a ring to it. What makes you so passionate about soul music?
My parents were both big music fans. They've both seen all of my heroes play live in their best years, from Miles Davis to Marvin Gaye. Soul music was always part of my life. I didn't used to like it when I was a child. I didn't understand it. But, they listened to so much of it around me throughout the years that I eventually began to crave it. Now, it's another part of my musical taste, which spans the spectrum of music from around the world.
Are you working on any new projects?
Always. I'm focusing more on playing live these days, since I created so much music during the last year. I have a big show coming up in New York City at DROM on February 10, 2013. It should be exciting. Tickets can be purchased here.
Out of all the EPs you released, which one was the most rewarding?
I would say that my first EP, "Gravity," was the most rewarding because it really caught people's attention for the first time. It put the idea in my head that what I was doing was worth something.
But, I would say that as far originality and quality, "Mass Exodus: Volume 1" is my best work to date.
Favourite/cheapest record you've found digging?
Gil Evans Plus Ten on audio cassette. Yes, I still listen to cassette tapes frequently.
You have a very strong opinion on differentiating between ‘entertainment genius' & ‘musical genius.’ Could you please elaborate?
I would say that the qualities of the two ideas are completely independent of each other. In my opinion, music genius must channel sound directly to the ears, with no consideration for the other senses. Sure, a musical genius can look good and dance and be entertaining. But, the music needs to come first to be considered a musical genius. Just the basis of the word entertainment encompasses things that aren't even musical, like jugglers and magicians and things like that. But, a magician isn't a musician.
What would you class yourself as?
Musically, I make soul music from the perspective of a jazz musician. I write songs and I explore them during live performance. As a person, I'm just a curious dude with good intentions.
What would you be doing on a typical Saturday night?
On a typical Saturday night, I'd be writing music or hanging out with my woman. It's pretty much the same as any other day. Every once in a while, I might go out to a concert or drink some whiskey. But, most of the time, I lay low.
What Stimulates Your Soul?
Observing things in their natural state.
For more on Diggs Duke pop into his website.