We chat with South Florida-based Tribal House Crew, who recently released their new single, “Afro Acid,” on March 11th.
Your new single “Afro Acid” shows a hypnotic “Afro house” sound. When did you first strive to explore this subgenre?
Most of the songs I worked on back in the 80s and 90s, always had my afro/latin style percussion on them, but only recently did I really start exploring the different percussion instruments used worldwide. With afrohouse, you’re able to use the percussive sounds as instruments and melodies, all while using less actual musical instruments. That works better for me since I’m more of a percussionist than musician. I hear melodies in beats. Afro house allows me to explore my creativity more easily because of this.
The project is a husband-wife collaboration. Did you both create music together shortly upon meeting, or did that mutual hobby develop later into the relationship?
Well...the time my wife and I met, we were at a club so I guess music was with us since the beginning. I was there trying to get the dj to play my new track and she was one of the police officers assigned to club security that night. We connected and that‘s how we met. Once we were married, her participation in my music happened over time. I would be in the studio working on a track while she was in another room and she would come in singing lyrics or a melody she came up with while listening to me work.
At first I was like “ok, go ahead I’ll listen”, but most of the time, when someone says they have an idea, it‘s usually not what I’m looking for. Her writing was good, so I gave her topics to write about, for example, like how we are destroying our planet. So she wrote Armageddon, the stars are falling. Then she sang some lyrics in Italian and it worked for me. It gave me an idea to use her vocals, in Italian, English and Spanish, with my afrocuban percussion to give my tracks a worldwide feel. So now we collaborate on all the Tribal House Crew tracks.
Charlie, you’re originally from the Bronx. What’s your favorite thing about your hometown, or NYC in general? *Well first
I have to give a shoutout to the area of the Bronx where I’m from and that’s the soundview section of the Bronx, Clason Point, down by the water. That was one of my favorite things about the Bronx, the water. We used to jet ski on the east river. It was awesome. We even took the jet skis around Manhattan and that was crazy. But the favorite thing about the
Bronx were the subways. Once you made it to a subway, you could go anywhere you wanted to in NY. I guess that’s where I was exposed to graffiti, or what everyone now calls street art. Rightfully so. Some of the whole train car pieces were incredible and The Bronx had some of the best artists. That’s a favorite thing for me. The subway graffiti. My graffiti name was Blast and I was pretty big on the insides of the #6 train.
There were train yards we used to go to at night, we snuck into the lay ups, which is where they park the trains at night. We did some crazy stuff back then in The Bronx. Hip Hop started in The Bronx and there was some awesome jams in the parks and high schools back then. That’s when I was introduced to hip hop and started to dj. I guess I was very lucky to be brought up at a time when all these things were new and
happening for the first time. It gave me the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. And I did. So those were my favorite things about the Bronx.
What was the first album you heard that had a strong impact, either artistically or personally?
Looking back, there were 2 albums that had a strong impact on me. One was the soundtrack from the movie Shaft, produced by Isaac Hayes, and the other was Kiss, Destroyer. The theme from Shaft just had me mesmerized with those rhythms and guitar fx that Isaac Hayes used in his productions. At that time, my father had a Kenwood stereo with headphones, and at 8 yrs old, I would sneak listening to Shaft on his stereo because I wasn’t supposed to touch it. Well one day I’m sitting there, with my eyes closed, jamming to that incredible groove of Shaft and I open my eyes and see my father standing there. Watching me. I remember being so scared that he was gonna smack me for touching the stereo but he didn’t. He saw I was listening to Shaft and he asked me why? I told him I liked the beginning of the song. If you’re familiar with the song, you know what I mean. The intro has no drums. It‘s just bass, guitar and percussion.
When I listened to the song, I played the drum patterns in my head. I would listen to the intro and when it ended, I would pick up the needle and start it again. Over and over. Basically doing a remix at 8 yrs old. Years later, my father told me he couldn’t believe his eyes, seeing an 8 yr old kid, Saturday morning, listening to Isaac Hayes instead of watching cartoons. I think that was an insight on what I was going to do later on in my life. So yes, that album definitely influenced me artistically.
The Kiss “Destroyer” album was a whole different vibe entirely. After that Kiss album, my dream was thoroughly cemented to become a rock star. My friends and I even formed our little Kiss band. I was Gene Simmons. His character was just incredible. He spit fire! He also played the bass and my father had a Fender jazz bass, so I picked it up and taught myself how to play a few notes and copied Kiss songs while I watched myself in the mirror sticking out my tongue.
Kiss was a really big influence on my goals. But I don’t think that an album had the biggest musical influence on me. I think that was the song “Turn the beat around” by Vicky Sue Robinson. That song to me was so sick. Her vocals flowed so awesome over that percussion, the lyrics hit me so close to home. Oh… I love that song. That percussion was so different from other percussion at that time. To me it was like one long ever-changing solo that complimented every phrase in the song. I’ve styled my playing on that. I know every lyric by heart and anytime I hear that song, no matter where I am, I will sing that song and a little tear comes out of my eye from the emotion I feel from that song. True story. #forthosewhoknow
Do you have a specific process or ritual when creating new music?
It really depends on the situation that I’m in. When an idea comes to me, I’ll get real quiet and continue working on the idea in my mind. That’s how the process starts. Then it depends what the idea is and where I’m at when the idea hits. If I’m not in my studio, I’ll record the idea quickly on my phone, and get back to it later. Sometimes I come up with lyrics, or melodies and lose them briefly sol definitely learned to record all ideas before they’re lost.
Anything can trigger an idea. Birds singing, cars speeding on a highway, a person screaming at someone in a parking lot, workers doing construction etc. As far as the actual creative process in the studio, I record whatever I’m hearing in my mind first. Most of my ideas usually start as a bassline groove with kick and tuned percussion. Basically the bottom of the track. To me the beat, the bottom of the track, that’s the meat of the track. The meat is the beat. Haha. The music I’m doing now is based in percussion and the beat so if the beat is fire, you’re more than halfway there.
My musical playing ability is not as good as my programming or my beat making ability right now, so I keep the music simple and use the beat as the main focus of the track. My playing has definitely gotten better and I’m sure with continued experimentation, it will continue to get better. As I’m adding new parts, I try to keep the levels and eqs close to what | want to end up with. Basically I mix the tracks as I go, then when I get a really good rough mix, I’ll download it to my phone and SoundCloud. After listening on several different speaker systems, I go back in and make the proper adjustments. Sometimes it takes several mixes before I’m happy. Sometimes earlier mixes sound better. When I’m finally happy with the master, I’ll upload it to SoundCloud and send it to several dj friends of mine for their opinions and feedback. I’m very lucky to have that and I appreciate them. Then I listen again.
Any favorite artists or albums you’re listening to at the moment?
Right now my focus is on the genre of music I’m producing, so I get like a method actor. I like this type of music so I tend to listen to afrohouse and hear the different styles of artists. I like techno rhythms also.
If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?
That is a tough question. I have to give 2 answers. If I had my choice of someone who passed, to come back for one studio session and collaborate, that would be keyboardist and writer, David Cole. RIP. I had the pleasure of working with him on the Tony Terry 12” single “Lovey Dovey” and he was just amazing. I laid down the drum track and he ad libbed some keyboard and the song was a billboard #1 r&b track. Simple yet effective.
Now if I could collaborate with someone alive, that would be Joe Malloy (Romeo JD of the Boogie Boys). Joe wrote and played all the dance hits for the latin freestyle/ pop group Sweet Sensation (produced by Ted Currier)and I did the drum programming, editing and some additional production. We made a good team and I think we never got to finish what we started. We lost touch but recently reconnected so let’s see what happens in the future.
What do you find is the most satisfying part of being an artist?
The most satisfying feeling I get is when I get to see people dance and get off to my beats. I really like watching the crowd.
What is the biggest challenge you find in today’s music industry?
There are 2 major challenges in this industry today. One is getting your music heard. There are so many new artists coming out with music on a daily basis, to be able to cut through all of it is a spectacular feat in itself. Which brings me to the 2nd biggest challenge and that’s social media. Nowadays, to get your social media noticed, you have to really stand out. You have to be a graphic designer, videographer, promoter and producer all at the same time. Then you have to make sure you stay connected to your fans on a consistent basis. I’ve always been pretty much a private person and I don’t talk about all the projects I’m working on. I do talk about some though.
What’s upcoming for the project?
We have several tracks just about done and I think we have some bangers. We also have some more laid back musical tracks that I have to figure out but I’m working on them. Also, I think we’re going to be playing more live gigs, now that I just added the Roland Handsonic to my setup. I’m looking forward to whatever the future may bring.