Who: Gio Black
What: Singer-songwriter, studio engineer, producer, and musician
Where: 7th Ward
Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: Bad Storm Studio
Q: What’s a food you always wanted to serve to a guest but never had on hand?
A: It’s not about the food I have on hand. It’s more about comfort food. What I want to give people is something that satisfies their soul. Different people require different things.
With a vegan, I can’t give them the gumbo that Tommy made, but I could give it to Drew, who just came over to cut my grass. And I bake like crazy, so Drew says, ‘I’ll fix your termite damage for some of your cookies.’ You don’t realize, people love my cookies. Honey, my triple chocolate chip cookies…if you weren’t a vegan, you would eat them.
Although the drummer, Joey, from a band I just recorded came over the day with no-bake vegan cookies, and they were off-the-freaking-chain.
So, it’s not about the food. Food is a connection, and I want to be able to connect with people in so many different ways. When you come into my space and feel comfortable, I want someone to feel that with food as well.
That way you take some of me with you.
Q: What’s a voice – dead or alive – that you’d want to record?
A: I have two of them. The first would be Whitney Houston. I think out of all the voices I’ve ever heard on the planet, her voice was the most musical. The timbre of her voice is unmatched.
The first time I saw her was when she was opening for Jeffrey Osborne. This was in 1983 or 1984. She came out and sang, and I couldn’t believe it. In the studio they kept her singing straight, but when she performed live, she opened up.
When I heard her I said, ‘She’s opening for Jeffrey Osborne? He should be opening for her.’ The next year, that is what happened. He opened for her.
It’s funny because I used to tour with Bobby Brown. This was before he met Whitney. I was doing key check and sound for him, and I was on the Don’t Be Cruel tour. Those tours were crazy, though, and I had to get off of that tour.
Then right after I left, he met Whitney. I couldn’t believe it. That was my chance!
The other voice, and I laugh because everyone is going to think I’m a giant a-hole. It would be Bing Crosby. His voice was amazing. The quality, the timbre, the way they recorded his voice. I love Ella Fitzgerald, I love Nat King Cole, I love Billy Eckstine.
All of these people had unbelievable voices.
Bing Crosby, though, had this factor. This Irish Tenor voice. They gave him the worst music to sing, but you listen to “A White Christmas,” and that voice will drive you crazy. He did a version of “Pennies from Heaven” back in the 30s, and it’s just amazing.
Q: What’s an emotion you know but haven’t really experienced?
A: It’s really kind of scary because I just experienced an emotion I never thought I’d have. In my 57 – almost 58 years of living on this planet – I have never experienced the feeling of death. Well, on December 24, I passed out and fainted. I hit chairs and a table on my way down – breaking three ribs in the process. People helped me up and laid me down. I was woozy, short of breath, and people were trying to give me food.
I kept thinking, Just give me a minute. Just give me a minute. In that moment I actually thought I was going to die. And even thought I haven’t done all the things I really want to do in my life, I felt okay with it. I kept thinking that if this is the way it has to be, then I have to let it be.
There was a finality to it, and I was okay with where I am, and that’s not a feeling I’ve ever felt before. The next step to a next phase. I never really even thought much about mortality until that exact moment.
In regard to something I haven’t ever experienced. Man, I’ve done so many crazy-ass things. I guess there are things – they’re not necessarily regrets – but experiences I had the opportunity to do, and I just didn’t do it.
As I’m thinking about it, they’re all based around sex.
Q: What sound would you want to be amplified and what sound would you never want to have amplified?
A: I love synth pads.
Yes, synth pads.
[Pause as he runs his keyboard through a synth and plays me various chords.]
I bought this keyboard for the particular sounds it can produce. I could hear those combinations and sounds amplified every day.
Cause you see, there are two sides of me. When I listen to “In a Sentimental Mood” or “Night and Day,” I have that traditional side that’s being fulfilled. I’m not sure people realize that I’m a jazz cat, but I am. Sure, I can be funky, but I’m also a jazz cat at heart. On the flip-side, to balance me out, the next day I’ll be listening to Dead Mouse. Skrillex. Or, when I’m in the car by myself, I’m listening to NPR.
And what’s a sound I would never want amplified? The trumpet. Every trumpet player who knows me knows that I hate the trumpet. It’s the most God-awful instrument on the planet. The only trumpet player I like to listen to is Ashlin Parker.
I love listening to him.
I love the flugelhorn, but I can’t stand the damn trumpet.
Gio Black will be playing at Yuki on Friday, January 29. He is the house band, so you can hear him on a weekly basis – usually Fridays or Saturdays – at Yuki. You can also check out his studio work at Bad Storm Studio online.