Q & A: John Heintz of The Big Ol' Nasty Get Down
What is The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down? Is it a band? Is it an event? Is it an album? Well, it's all of that, and so much more. At its core, The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down is an ever-evolving laboratory of collaboration, that remains fluid and faceless, defined only by intention.
For the past 12 years, The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down has been a recording-based project, made up of a slew of musicians representing a broad spectrum of sound. These musicians were gathered together and let loose creatively in the studio. Now, this experiment is hitting the road, and they are doing their first run here in North Carolina, where the project was initially conceived.
Check out our conversation with bass player John Heinzt, who launched The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down here in Asheville, with John Paul Miller of Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, in 2007.
BT: Why choose NC for this tour?
JH: When the project started, I was living in Asheville at the time. And Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band is based there. We’ve always considered Asheville home base, even though I am in LA now.
BT: What spawned The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down?
JH: Back in 2007, I went to the Sunsation Festival in Colorado, and at the end of the night, there was a “super-jam” with a whole bunch of musicians from different bands that were playing the festival. This was my first time performing in a situation like that and it had a huge impact on me. The exchange between the crowd and the band was amazing. I began to think we might be able to capture that kind of vibe in a studio situation by bringing in a diverse group of people to play.
BT: When did you record the first The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down album?
JH: In December of 2007 we brought 35 musicians from 17 different bands together in New Orleans and basically had a week-long house party. We wrote most of the stuff at night, while we were hanging at the house, and went into the studio the next day.
BT: New Orleans is a great place to bring musicians together.
JH: It sure is. And we got to hang with a lot of our friends we had met along the way, that were based in New Orleans; like members of Galactic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Dumpstaphunk. They showed us their town, brought the Nola vibe to the sessions, and gave us all a truly unique experience.
BT: And you recorded the second album here in NC?
JH: We did. We wanted to capture a different vibe and change up the setting. And since a lot of our players are from Asheville, we wanted to give the same experience we were given in Nola, to musicians coming in from out of town to record. So, we rented a big cabin outside of Asheville and brought over 50 musicians together.
BT: I know it wasn't the original intent, but the albums seem to lead towards funk.
JH: They do. That's a result of the fact that a lot of our players have been heavily influenced by funk. And others have been heavy influencers on funk. It’s hard to believe the number of musicians that have come from legacy acts that have participated in this project (see list below). Funk is fun. And it was a language they could all speak.
BT: And the free-form vibe seems to foster funk.
JH: It does. We don’t try and control the project. We leave it to the musicians to find what feels good. Everyone has a ton of respect for each other and they leave each other room. There is some space in the music. Which leads to really heavy grooves.
BT: How does this translate to the live shows?
JH: We take a rotating cast out. And the line-ups are always fluid. It’s about the sum of all the parts; not one particular person. This is an ongoing thing that never has to stop, because it’s faceless. Like the sessions, there are a lot of musicians involved in the live show (13 to be exact. See the list below)
BT: Do you have plans for a third album?
JH: Honestly, I have the next three albums pretty much done. I saw the Sound City documentary that came out some years ago. The movie is about Dave Grohl buying and restoring an iconic music console that was used at Sound City in Van Nuys, California. Then Dave moved it to his personal studio, Studio 606. The board has an amazing history. Once I saw the film, I wanted to mix our next album on it. As it just so happened, we made contact, and started recording at Studio 606. This setting allowed us to bring tons of people in there we never expected. Like members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, War, Sly and The Family Stone, and Earth Wind and Fire. We easily got 50 tracks in various parts of completion from those sessions. We got some great free-form jams recorded too. Like Chad Smith (Red Hot Chil Peppers) and Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) playing for the first time together. Or the jam where Stephen Perkins from Jane's Addiction is sitting behind the drum kit, and Larry Dunn, the key player for Earth, Wind, and Fire walks into the room. Larry sat down at the grand piano and just starts playing. And then Stephen chimes in, and the two go on this crazy odyssey. It was a straight musical communication. They had never even met before and didn't even speak words to each other before they were playing in the studio. They just went for it. And it just so happens we were running the tape.
The Big Ol Nasty Get Down has already made a huge impact with the two albums it has put out. And the material yet to be released sounds like a treasure trove. And, with the line-up they have in store for their 4 appearances here in North Carolina, we would assume that it's gonna be nasty. And folks are gonna be getting down. In a big ol’ way.
Catch The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down in NC
Sept. 20 - Asheville, NC @ Salvage Station
Sept. 21 - Greensboro, NC @ Blind Tiger
Sept. 23 - Asheville, NC @ IamAVL Live Broadcast
Sept. 27 - Raleigh, NC @ KINGS
The Big Ol’ Nasty Get Down Line-Up
Claude Coleman Jr. on Drums (Ween)
John Heintz on Bass
Leon Mobley on Percussion for 9/19,9/20,9/21&9/23 (Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals)
Frank Mapstone on Organ
John Paul-Miller on Guitar (Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band)
Bobby Easton on Guitar (Delta Nove)
Derrick Johnson on Trombone (Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band)
Greg Hollowell on Tenor/Bari Sax (Asheville Horns)
Linda Shider on Vocals (Funkadelic)
Henry Roland on Keys (Henry + the Invisibles)
Rev Desmond D'Angelo on Vocals (The Solar System)
April Bennett on Vocals (April B. & the Cool)
Simon George on Keys for 9/23 (Marcus King Band)
JoshBlake on Guitar for 9/19 & 9/23
The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown Volume 1
Recorded in New Orleans, LA
Featuring members of: Parliament-Funkadelic, Galactic, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Dumpstaphunk, Trulio Disgracias, The Lee Boys, Bootsy's Rubber Band, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Derek Trucks Band, Sci Fi, Konglom, Blackalicious, D'Angelo's Vanguard, George Clinton, Laura Reed, Sidney Barnes, Kendra Foster, Rev. Desmond D'Angelo and more. BUY HERE
The Big Ol' Nasty Getdown Volume 2
Recorded in Fletcher, NC
Featuring members of: Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, Arrested Development, Fishbone, The Meters, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Dumpstaphunk, The Time, Living Colour, P-Funk, The Fritz, James Brown Band, Mudvayne, Bubonik Funk, Empire Strikes Bass The Sexual Chocolate Band, as well as Speech, Kendra Foster, Taylor Dayne, RonKat Spearman, Rev. Desmond D'Angelo, Laura Reed, Mike Dillion, Karl Denson, Fred Wesley, Angelo Moore, Vernon Reid and many more. BUY HERE