BY BLAIR JACKSON
Collaborating (literally) all over the map with Global Noize
Left to right—Jason Miles, Falu, and DJ Logic.
JASON MILES has enough credits to fill a few careers. For many years, he worked practically non-stop as a first-call synth and keyboard specialist, programmer, and arranger on the New York studio scene, working with the likes of Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Grover Washington, Michael Jackson, Marcus Miller, and many others. On his own—actually, with a lot of help from some of his über-talented friends—he also established a bright solo career, with a string of fine albums that touched on everything from jazz to fusion to Brazilian styles, as well as a series of highly original and well-regarded tribute discs honoring Weather Report, Ivan Lins, Grover Washington, and Marvin Gaye. It seems he’s always in the thick of something interesting and cool, and both of those adjectives certainly describe his latest passion: an eclectic group called Global Noize, which finds Miles, turntable phenom and beat-master DJ Logic, Indian singer Falu, and a host of others blending various world music styles with funk and jazz and rock in unpredictable ways.
Global Noize just put out its second album, Prayer for the Planet (Lightyear Records), and it’s all over the map (literally!), with nods to Brazil, India, the Arab world, and more—with several languages represented—but never straying too far from Miles’ beloved jazz/ funk terra firma. Most of the songs start with Miles working on his extensive collection of synths at home, laying down basslines, grooves, and atmospheres “and then writing melodies on top of that,” he says. “It has to come down to melody, though it’s also about keeping the groove on the floor and making sure people can feel it. I’ll send it to Jason [DJ Logic] and he’s very quick with understanding the groove. No matter what I have, he’ll have something interesting to throw in there. I’m writing chord changes and coming up with arrangements and the structure, but then he’ll come in and start adding turntables and effects—Mofo and Kaoss pads—and we blend all this stuff in there and it totally changes the flavor of it. Then we’ll start bringing other people in. Maybe Falu will sing on it—she’s so amazing—or we’ll have guitarists or a sax player; whatever the song calls for. We don’t put any limits on it.” Reeds player Jay Rodriguez is an important contributor on the album and is also part of the still-evolving Global Noize live ensemble.
Live drums were cut at Bennett Studios in Englewood, NJ (and sometimes combined with loops later); some vocals and guitars were recorded at Shelter Studios in Minneapolis, “and then some people worked in their own places, sent me their tracks, and I put everything together here,” Miles notes. The disc was mixed by Goh Hotoda (Madonna, Janet Jackson, Depeche Mode, et al.) in Tokyo. “He’s one of the best there is,” says Miles. “He’s got a great ear for bottom.”
Though Miles relies heavily of triedand- true synths he’s favored for years (“I’ve probably put Minimoog bass on more records than anyone alive,” he says with a laugh), he’s always looking for new textures to add to his already formidable arsenal: “I do use some Spectrasonics stuff in the computer. I love the Trilian [Total Bass Module] and I love the Stylus [RMX Realtime Groove Module]. I’m using the Prophet 08 [Vintage Synth Explorer], which I truly love, and I’m also using the [Clavia] Nord Electro 2 for different effects. I still program all my own sounds—that’s very important for me. I like programming cool shit—that’s what gives the sound character, which is everything in synths.”
Miles’ humble aspirations for the group? “We’re trying to bring the world together. I truly believe an Indian woman, a black DJ, and a Jewish guy who’s got some soul can put something together and resonate a message throughout the world.”