On Michael Rank/Another Love by Michael A. Gonzales
On Michael Rank/Another Love
by Michael A. Gonzales
For me, social media can sometimes be the best place to find new and interesting music that wouldn’t have been on my radar otherwise. It was while sound surfing on Facebook one night that I first heard Michael Rank‘s wondrous track “Be Alright.” Like a combination of Curtis Mayfield and the Black Keys, the chill sound of that record got in my bones. After Michael and I connected, he began sharing tracks from the project he was working on and I was hooked. That project, Another Love, has finally arrived and it’s a dope groovalistic journey into sound that combines Rank’s love of retro-soul and lo-fi rock that has already become one of my favorites of the Summer.
soulhead: Although you’ve been a professional musician for years, many of our readers might not be familiar with you and your work. Can you give us a brief introduction?
Michael Rank: Although it feels like lifetimes ago at this point, I started out in the mid 80s fronting a rock and roll band called Snatches of Pink. We were definitely from the New York Dolls school of thought in that what we were lacking in actual ability we made up for with an abundance of attitude and volume!! I got to open shows for folks like Iggy Pop, The Ramones, Johnny Thunders, The Cramps, Soundgarden and just a whole mess of others. But, like so many other bands, we came close to the success we were after but at the end of the day no cigar. I stayed with it longer than most but then when the day came that I became a father I just didnt want to get in the tour van anymore and miss any of my new sons life. But even though I stopped gigging I kept putting out albums, different styles. And this year apparently Im in overacheiver mode cause Im dropping a triple album called Another Love!!
soulhead:Another Love is an ambitious project consisting of three discs. What was the origin behind the project? Was there a lot of planning? Did you have all the songs written in advance?
MR: It actually started out as a normal length album. I had the 9 or 10 tracks I was digging, but then during the recording sessions I just kept writing. And writing. And writing. So we just kept recording. I became like walking job security for every studio in town. It got to the point where we were like, man, this could actually be a double album now; and then, fast forward a couple months later and it was, man, this could actually be a triple album now. If they hadnt cut me off wed be looking at a box set.
soulhead: I know you’re a Prince fan and have cited him as a influence on this record. What makes Prince special to you?
Prince – “1999”:
MR: Most artists, myself very much included, have their influences. Some of us wear those influences on our sleeves more than others, but we all have them. When 1999 first dropped, to my ears at least, there was suddenly no easy sonic reference. This was a music and these were sounds that didnt come from any template I had ever heard before. Man, thats such a rare thing to experience. That moment when you hear something so new and so uncharted for the Very First Time. And the thing is, it STILL sounds uncharted even today!!! And I truly believe it always will.
soulhead: You co-produced this project with former DAG member Brian Dennis. What does that second set of ears offer you when working on music?
MR: This album would never ever have been possible without Brian. During the year we spent creating this album I cant tell you how many middle of the night emails and texts I must have sent Brian asking him about a buried sound I was hearing on some DAngelodeep cut. Or asking what instrument it was at three minutes and ten seconds into some unreleased Bilal track. So many conversations about Slys Theres A Riot Goin On ..and just on and on. It was like having the coolest education in the coolest school. At the end of the day Im always gonna be a fan, a student. And Brian was a very cool and very patient teacher.
soulhead: The single “Be Alright” is such a cool song and video. Can you give a little background on that track? Any interesting back stories?
Michael Rank – “Be Alright”:
MR: Man, thank you. Im so glad you dig that track. That was one of the last tunes I wrote for the album. I think third to last actually. At one point in the studio towards the end of the project, Brian had mentioned in passing to me that he thought it might be cool if there was a track on the album that didnt have any drum machines. No drums. No beat. Just my voice and the keyboard. So that seed kinda got planted in my head. And I wrote Be Alright to be THAT song on the album. So Im digging it and feeling really pleased with myself. And the next time I get up with Brian I take out my phone and proudly start playing him my new song and damn if he doesnt INSTANTLY start playing air drums to the damn thing!!! So that was the end of any notion of there being a tune on the album with no beat.
soulhead: Much of the sound of Another Love comes from your collection of vintage instruments. Can you talk about developing that sound? Also, where do you find your instruments?
MR: Once again, so much of the sound and gear on Another Love comes from Brian. His knowledge just goes so deep with all of that. But, what was cool about this album for me, and unlike any other Ive ever written, was that every single song started out from a beat off some old 60s or 70s drum machine I had at my house. Starting with the Rhythm King and Rhythm Ace, and then I became obsessed with the sound of the old Korg SR-120. And here lately Im writing most everything with the Korg Rhythm-55 and the CR78. And most all of it I grabbed from eBay auctions.
Maestro Rhythm King:
soulhead: Your video for “Satellite” seems to be having fun as well as making fun of the medium. What are some past videos that drove you crazy, but seemed to be playing every minute (for me it was Ah-ha’s “Take On Me)?
MR: Man, Im so happy with that Satellite video. For so much of my career I was that guy that wrote really slow sad songs. Thats just what I was into. Sad songs made me happy!! But now its been such a trip to be creating shit thats actually fun and upbeat. I just really wanted that video to convey that. Its funny you ask about old videos. I use to work at an arcade during the height of Defender, Space Invaders, Centipede, Galaga all of that and when MTV first launched we were one of the very first places that had the big screen that would play MTV every minute we were open. So its safe to say I saw every damn video that ever aired during those early years. And Im happy to say I have mentally blocked the memories of a sizable selection of them!! But my favorites were always the ones like the Rolling Stones videos off of Some Girls and Emotional Rescue where they werent even trying to make you think they were actually playing their instruments. They didnt even have guitar cords plugged in. They were just looking cool and chopping away.
Michael Rank – “Satellite”:
The Rolling Stones – Waiting On A Friend:
soulhead: I wanted to talk a little about your jones for D’Angelo, something we both share. What is it about D’Angelo that you find special?
MR: Oh man, for me personally, DAngelo is it. Ive spent so much time thinking about those albums and those sounds. Voodoo” just changed the game on how I heard timing. There are folks who lean a little ahead of the beat and there are folks that lean a little behind the beat, but there has never been anyone that leans as far as DAngelo!! You had Questlove playing this very Dilla inspired beat, totally drunken and randomly dragging, but if that aint already enough you then got Pino Palladino playing bass even behind that. This shit is like BEHIND behind the beat!!! For me it just felt sooo right. Just so good. And thats all DAngelo. Thats his aesthetic.
D’Angelo – Ex To the Next (Voodoo Outtakes):
soulhead: I hear you’re back in the studio…what’s up with that?
MR: Man, I got the next album all written and all my keyboards, vocals, and the beats already recorded. And any day now Brian is gonna jump in and start tracking as well. Ive had Marvin Gayes I Want You and Maxwells Urban Hang Suite on a constant mental rotation here these past months, so maybe some Leon Ware magic can trickle down just a little into this next album of mine!!
Check out the full album below:
Michael A. Gonzales has been writing about music since the 1980s. A few of his subjects include Barry White (Vibe), DAngelo (Wax Poetics) and Lauryn Hill (The Source). In addition to soulhead, he contributes to Complex, Pitchfork Review, XXL, Baltimore City Paper, Philadelphia Weekly and The Weeklings. His essay on the DeBarge family appears in Best African-American Essays 2009. Gonzales blogs at Blackadelicpop.blogspot.com. Check out some of his work for soulhead.