With his baby-blue circus-clown razamataz
rapper's cap tilted at a carefree angle and king-size round glasses
slid down on the end of his nose which is in turn at the end of a
mobile rotund face, is Foley a wise young man or a smart alec?
way, this much is true. His first album on his own was called "New
Directions in Smart-Alec Music" (Motown). And he went "from
nowhere to Miles Davis" in a weekend.
"He hired me
over the phone, man," Foley said, shaking his head, still in
disbelief, even though it was ages ago and Miles had since passed.
That's what they call a trip.
Here is one more "Somewhere
Man." Isn't that a Beatles song? Or is it the reverse? One way or
the other, Foley's post-Miles band had just toured Europe.
Artist Formerly Known As Prince (Afkap as he is called by his friends)
said he approves of Foley. Not the Prince of Silence, mind
you....Prince the Purple One. Prince's record company executives, PR
people and managers were coddling Foley. Cuddling too. Foley also had
acquired Miles's accountant and lawyer. "A Cinderella story,"
he called it.
"Nowhere" had been Columbus, Ohio,
where he was playing the bass guitar in rock, funk and jazz bands in
clubs, bars and hotel lounges. Being, to put it mildly, an
enterprising fellow, Foley had been sending demo tapes all over the
place. One of them reached Miles's producer and arranger, Marcus
Miller, in New York.
It remained on the bottom of the pile
until, as luck would have it, it happened to be playing when Miles
called Miller from his home in Malibu.
you're listening to?" Miles asked over the phone.
cat named Foley from Columbus." Some Nobody from Nowhere.
me hear it."
Miller held the receiver near the speaker.
Miles took Foley's number and one two threee four just like that he
called Columbus and asked him to be in New York on Monday to rehearse.
Foley remembered the day well - April 17, 1987. Good Friday.
said to tune the bass up a seventh. He would hire another bassist to
play the bass part. Foley would play what Miles called "lead
bass." Nobody'd done it before or since as far as Foley knows. He
wondered whether Miles had been looking for a player to do that or if
he just thought it up. Either way, Foley had no idea how to do it. And
the Prince of Silence wasn't talking.
Talented young musicians tended to blank out when they joined
Miles. Too much history, too many models on the rolls. Foley thought
about Paul Chambers, the Johns McLaughlin and Scofield, Daryl Jones
and the others, and he choked. He was scared to death every time out
at first. Hearing tapes of the first concerts, he hated his own
playing. Whatever he was looking for it wasn't there.
night, Miles whispered in his ear: "Play half."
"Play half," he repeated.
Foley knew about "Less is more" and "Small
is beautiful" and he knew Miles was called the "Prince of
Silence." He was all for the idea of less notes. However,
although he agreed in principle, he did not know how to cut it. Half
as many? Half as long? Half as loud? Play only half notes?
half" was like the time Miles advised John Coltrane to "try
taking the saxophone out of your mouth" after he had asked Trane
to play shorter solos and Trane did not know how. Space defined
without euphemisms or metaphors. Out. Half.
back on it, Foley looked sad: "Too bad I can't talk with Miles
any more. I really miss Miles."
Foley's new album bore
the imprints of Living Color, Led Zeppelin, Quincy Jones, Funkadelic,
Frank Zappa and Prince, at whose Paisley Park studios in Minneapolis
much of it was recorded. With 23 short and varied tracks, it was more
like a down-home collage than a string of numbers.
voices, raps, samples and scratches were infused with social
commentary and funky irony ("if I ain't got AIDS by now I ain't
goin' to get it"). All songs were written, produced, arranged,
performed and mixed by Foley.
And he knows how to TCOB: "Yes
indeed. I'm not stupid. Not bad for a homeboy from the street. All my
childhood friends are dead or in jail. I suvived because of my mother
"I still live in Columbus. I have no need of
a metropolis. The people have my number, wherever the are."
produced three songs for George Clinton and worked with Chaka Khan to
record "Cashmere," a Led Zeppelin tune she liked. The night
Foley turned 33, his record company threw him a party.
the old days music was art. It was all one big song with infinite
variety. Edgar Winter and Sly Stone were on the same top 10. Today,
everything is contrived with marketing strategy. Every record in every
category is supposed to sound like the last one. They are all the same
old song. The music business people don't want to make anybody mad.
Imagine if Monk hadn't played those "weird" chords because
he didn't want to offend anybody?
"Business cats hear
my album and think I'm crazy. But if they think I'm sane, then I'm
part of the problem. I mean what's sane to them is definitely not sane
to me. I have to sleep at night. Look at myself in the mirror. Maybe
only one person will hear it and say, 'Oh, if they let him do that.
Hey. I'm going to do that too.' Then I'm a success.
word 'genius' is thrown around too much. A genius is just somebody who
has the will and the nerve to stretch himself more than the next guy.
All children are geniuses untl they are separated during the
educational process. They thought Einstein was nuts, dyslexic, stupid.
But he knew better: 'I'm just going to keep doing what I'm
doing....O.K. now I'm a genius. I was dumb before.'
call Jimi Hendrix a genius. But all that happened was that Mitch
Mitchell wanted to sound like Elvin Jones and Jimi said: 'O.K. you do
your thing and I'll do mine.' And you got 'Third Stone From the Sun,'
which for the most part started fusion.
hears it and goes 'Bam! Poof! That's the new thing. O.K. roll the
tape.' So Miles gets credit for being a genius. But these were just
people opening up their heads.
"I consider John [Lennon]
and Paul [McCartney] just as much my forefathers as Jimi. Hell, yeah.
And Carl Stallings, who wrote the music for those Warner Brothers
cartoons. These people stretched their minds. Look man, sound is
special. It was here before anything. It's pure. Vibrations can sooth
you or stir you up.
"You shouldn't mess around with
sound. That's why actors can't cross over into music. Dudley Moore is
no slouch as a piano player. But he's played a silly drunk in those
dumb movies and now when he plays piano he can't help but act. You
can't act with music.
"Music is why I'm here. Nothing
more. I'm not the guy who will discover a cure for the common cold.
But my music might make people think a little bit. If I don't provoke,
I'm a failure. I'm taking up oxygen for nothing.
not married. I don't have kids. I'm not here to be a husband or a
daddy. My songs are my children. I hope they grow up and make a
difference, be good citizens, like Marvin Gaye's children' from
'What's going On.'
"But I'm more interested in peace of
mind. Peace of mind is free. You don't need money, success, power or
things. When you get the girl or the car or whatever it is you think
you need, you still got to live with yourself. I live alone, I'm alone
quite a bit, but I'm never lonely. I talk to myself. I don't mind my
"I've only recently understood that people
are extremely messed up. But, on the other side of the coin, they can
be very good. It's the nature of the universe. There's no origin to
good and evil. It's got nothing to do with male or female, they just
are. The choice is yours. You have to decide whether you want to cut
people up and put them in a refrigerator or contribute something
positive to the human race.
"Course, maybe some people
get peace of mind by cutting human beings up and putting them in
refrigerators. Yeah.! Ain't that a bitch?!"