For the past month, local soul DJ (and former Houston Press music listings editor) Brett Koshkin has been traveling the world in search of adventure and vinyl and he found plenty of both. Through India, Amsterdam, and France he scoured for records and experienced exotic things that most people can only dream of doing. Tomorrow night he returns to his monthly Dirty Honey gig over at Boondocks with special guest DJ Ceeplus Bad Knives. It's an R&B dance party, reaching back to James Brown, Archie Bell and some obscure jams that leave us stunned. Check out his MySpace profile for some exclusive mixes. It's a great Sunday-morning starter set. We talked to Koshkin this week about Indian road rage, Bollywood soundtracks, and the grant he received from Andy Warhol Foundation to document Houston's soul music past. It's a project you will be hearing more about from Rocks Off in the near future for sure. He also had the time to dish out some of his favorite vintage soul tracks to us. Rocks Off: Tell me more about India. We followed you on Facebook the entire time, by the way. Brett Koshkin: Well, the only thing I come even close to enjoying as much as music is traveling. If I've never been there, odds are I want to go there and experience other people's way of life, their food, their culture and naturally, buy all their records and bring them back home. India had been high on my list for years and knowing it's just not an easy trip to make, it took a while to find a good excuse and a way to pull it off but I finally managed it. RO: What cities did you visit?
BK: I criss-crossed the country and managed to visit New Delhi, Calcutta, Kochi, Jaipur, and Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The fog and smog are pretty much suffocating as soon as you get off the plane in New Delhi. You instantly gain a cough like you worked in a coal mine for 40 years and whenever you blow your nose, things come out black. It's completely worth it though. I went to a wedding in Kochi that was absolutely beautiful. Nobody talks during the entire ceremony; it's all gesture, which was amazing. I ate Indian food with my hands with banana leaf for a plate. You just don't get those types of experiences at home. Driving was hands down the scariest thing imaginable. Lanes are just a random line on the road, red lights a mere suggestion at best. Speed limits are as fast as you can cut through elephant traffic. I witnessed an Indian road rage fight during traffic one day that made me all misty-eyed for Houston. RO: Did you find any cool new music or 45s? BK: Fortunately, after some hard work I managed my way into a warehouse and found plenty of records to bring home. Anywhere I'm traveling across the globe, I'm going to make it a point to search out the music that was made there. India was a very homogenous place excluding the influence from the British, so there's some truly intriguing homegrown music that was made there. When the Western sounds of soul, jazz and groups like the Beatles started to trickle in, Indian composers like Bollywood soundtrack guru RD Burman started to co-opt various techniques and ideas into their music. I brought home a suitcase full of albums and I'm still cleaning and aurally processing everything, but I did find a Bollywood soundtrack with an Indian garage tune that's blowing my mind right now. Another killer soundtrack I found was for a film called The Burning Train which has this sort of funky Bollywood-meets-Kraftwerk vibe. I never thought I'd be able to describe a record as such but then you find something like this. I guess that's one of the reasons I keep looking for records. "The Burning Train" RO: What's the plan for the rest of the year? BK: I just won a grant through the Andy Warhol Foundation called the Idea Fund. Basically I'll be spending most of 2010 documenting, writing and hopefully putting together an exhibition on the history of Houston soul music. There are still a lot of things to work out for it. I'm searching out donors and anyone with Houston soul ephemera to use. I'm really enthusiastic about doing this and see it as a vital part of the city's history. It's bigger than me.Darker Shades LTD, "Trackin' Down Jody Part 1" (ARC)
Jody is an androgynous name commonly used to refer to the person bedding your spouse while you're not around. In other words, "I came home from the bar last night and found Jody and my wife butt naked." I think the singer of this enraged psychedelic funk single can describe it best "Track him down, make him bleed, take him to court, we're gonna see how he plead." Though infidelity is never a fun thing to be on the business end of, at least it inspired someone in Austin to record a damn fine piece of soul.
Who doesn't love a song about fried chicken? I'd bet even vegans would find a place deep down in their soylent hearts for such a song. How could they not? The song has about five pounds of the fattest fatback drums you've ever heard. Exercising extremely poor judgment, I traded Southern Fried Chicken away years ago and only after paying some serious penance did I score another copy in trade last year.Little Bob & the Lollipops, "Agent 00 Soul" (La Louisianne)
Southwest Louisiana's finest belts out his own take of Edwin Starr's classic tune. Bob, who also recorded under the name Camille Bob is one of the few musicians I place in the "Never made a bad record" category. Seriously, try and prove me wrong on this. Releasing a cover of Starr's hit took a certain amount of gusto and while the original is a beautiful tune, the energy in Bob's voice that starts to rip loose towards the end is something to be both admired and enjoyed.Ray Frazier & the Shades of Madness "I Who Have Nothing Am Somebody" (Stanson)
A screaming dance floor killer, do you really need to know anything else about this 45? After years of searching, I found this one here in Houston of all places last November. A funky call for self esteem, thumping bass and a great horn line, it's a real wonder why this one never climbed the charts but more times than not, that's how the music business works out. Frazier also cut sides for Chicago-based Chess Records and if legend is true, they actually passed on releasing this song.Demands "Say It Again" (Clem)
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I don't really know much about this record outside of it's from Dallas. A mid-tempo dancer with some rather rudimentary guitar work, it's one of those tunes that stick in your head and I often find myself singing this one while doing my grocery shopping.BONUS
Les Problemes, "Dodecaphonie" (Vogue) Because man can't survive on soul alone, here's one I found in Paris about a year and a half ago. While the group spent most of their time backing the sissy-to-be singer Antoine, Les Problemes fuzzily shaped his early sounds. Too bad they didn't shape his future.