Twenty-eight years ago, pissed-off twelve-year-olds around the universe discovered a new planet, a Black Planet. Public Enemyï¿½s aggressive, Benihana beats and incendiary lyrics instilled fear among parents and teachers everywhere, even in the border town of Laredo, Texas, home of the future founders of the Latin-Funk-Soul-Breaks super group, Brownout. The bandï¿½s sixth full-length album (out May 25th) Fear of a Brown Planet is a musical manifesto inspired by Public Enemyï¿½s music and revolutionary spirit.
Chuck D., the Bomb Squad, Flava Flav and the rest of the P.E. posse couldnï¿½t possibly have expected that their golden-era hip hop albums would sow the seeds for countless Public Enemy sleeper cells, one that would emerge nearly three decades later in Austin, Texas. Greg Gonzalez (bass) remembers a kid back in junior high hipped him to the fact that Public Enemyï¿½s ï¿½Bring the Noiseï¿½ is built on James Brown samples, while a teenaged Beto Martinez (guitar) alternated between metal and hip-hop in his walk-man, and Adrian Quesada (guitar/keys) remembers falling in love with Public Enemyï¿½s sound at an early age. ï¿½When I got into Hip hop, I was looking for this aggressive outlet . . . and I didnï¿½t even understand what they were pissed off about, because I was twelve and lived in Laredo . . . but I loved it and I felt angry along with them.ï¿½
Joseph Abajian (Fat Beatsï¿½ owner) must have sensed the deep hip-hop well lying beneath the versatile bandï¿½s Latin-Funk veneer. ï¿½I thought their sound would work covering Public Enemy songs,ï¿½ Abajian says, and, ï¿½it was good to know they were P.E. fans . . . We came up with a track listing and they went to work.ï¿½ Despite the bandï¿½s eagerness to work on new original material (an album of original songs is slated for next year), they couldnï¿½t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to this iconic and influential posse.
Translating sample-based music to a live band turned out to be more of a challenge than they anticipated. Adrian tried to get inside the Bomb Squadï¿½s [Public Enemyï¿½s producers/beat-making team] head in order to find the inspiration to reinterpret P.E.ï¿½s songs: ï¿½imagine the Bomb Squad going back in time and getting the J.B.s [James Brownï¿½s funky backing band] in the studio and setting up a couple analog synths and then playing those songs.ï¿½ While some songs closely follow the original musical blueprint, others use the source breakbeats as jumping-off points later sweetened by Trombonist Mark ï¿½Speedyï¿½ Gonzalesï¿½ horn arrangements, synth wizardry courtesy of friend-of-the-band Peter Stopschinski, and DJ Trackstarï¿½s turntable scratches. But donï¿½t listen expecting to hear paint-by-numbers recreations of classic Public Enemy jams. ï¿½Our approach is never in the tribute sense,ï¿½ Adrian explains. ï¿½Weï¿½ve always taken it and made it our own, whether itï¿½s the Brown Sabbath thing or this Public Enemy thing.ï¿½
Coming off numerous tours as Brown Sabbath and even a stint backing the late legend Prince, Brownout is arguably the tightest and funkiest band on the road today and theyï¿½re psyched to bring this revolutionary music to the people. For a band without an overt political agenda, they collectively couldnï¿½t resist the opportunity to play this music live, especially now. ï¿½If thereï¿½s any way that we can use the already political and protest nature [of P.E.ï¿½s music], we would like to try,ï¿½ Beto says. ï¿½The albumï¿½s title, Fear of Brown Planet is definitely a relevant idea today and weï¿½re not afraid to put it out there, because we want to speak out.ï¿½ By reinterpreting these hip hop classics in their unique style and channeling the spirit of Public Enemy that first echoed around the world and captured their imaginations all those years ago, Brownout is doing exactly that.