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Published: 2012/12/28
by Sam D'Arcangelo

Brian Stoltz’s Funky Edge

Some of your music has appeared on the New Orleans based HBO show Treme. Do you think that show has done a lot for New Orleans music in terms of getting it out to a wider audience?

Yeah, I think it has. It definitely has. But the show hasn’t done a really great job of getting all kinds of New Orleans music out there. I’m a little bit concerned because, while one side of it is that it’s great a lot of this music is getting exposed, I hope it doesn’t get the tag of “New Orleans music.” All kinds of music have come out of New Orleans. It’s a little bit of a narrow thread of what they’ve been using as “New Orleans music.”

Are there any New Orleans bands out there that you’d recommend?

Yeah, a group called MyNameIsJohnMichael. The leader of the band is John Michael Rouchell. He’s just a tremendous guitar player, singer and songwriter. You gotta watch out for him.

Can you talk about playing with Jerry Garcia? How’d that come about?

Back in the mid-80s, I was playing with the Neville Brothers. The Dead asked us to come out and do the New Year’s shows with them. We did that run of shows between Christmas and New Years. We did that for several years. We also did some of the Mardi Gras shows with them. That was always phenomenal. The Dead, during their second set, would do their Space thing. They’d go into the drum solo and they’d bring Willie Green up. Then they’d bring the rest of us up who wanted to play with them. It was usually me, Art Neville, Cyril [Neville]. So many guys would go up and do the rest of the second set with them. It was always fun. They were always really nice to us. Jerry was just such an unbelievable guitar player. It was a real honor to stand next to him and pick with him for a little bit. He was such a nice guy.

How’d you go from the Neville Brothers to the funky Meters?

Well there were a few years in between. I left the Neville Brothers in January of 1990. After that, I wandered around a little bit. In ‘91 or ‘92, I spent about a year touring with Dr. John. I think it was some time in ‘93; Leo Nocentelli resigned from the funky Meters and I just got a call. Art Neville wanted me to do it when Leo left. I said, “Yeah sure! I love playing with Art Neville.” It was a smooth transition. It was a weird time too. I had already played with The Nevilles and had played with Dr. John. I kept thinking “Who’s left?” I thought, “Well, there are the Meters,” but I never thought that Leo would leave. But then, one day I got a call that he didn’t want to do it anymore so I got the gig. I started doing it in ’93 and have been doing it ever since. Except for the couple of years I took off. It was a smooth transition.

In a past interview with, you spoke about the negative impact that disco had on live music in the 1970s. Is something similar happening now with the rise of electronic music?

I don’t remember saying that. I’m trying to remember in what context I might have said it. I definitely don’t think that about electronica. It’s a totally different thing. There are so many genres of music now and there’s so much music out there that it’s really hard to put things into genres anymore. It’s all becoming so molten. Electronica is just another genre to add to the mix. Back in disco days—again I’m not sure in what context I said that—but disco came along and actually put people out of work. It either put musicians out of work or it made them have to play it. Electronica is just another genre. I don’t see it putting anybody out of work. It’s not taking the place of anything. It just seemed like disco was taking the place of everything at the time.

In your opinion, what is it about New Orleans that makes the music there so funky?

Oh god! New Orleans is just a really laid back place. It’s completely different from any other American city really. It’s so laid back that people come visit here and they end up moving here. It’s one of the last places in America that really has a European feel. I think that’s what it is. There’s just so much music. There are so many styles of music and so much of that music comes from out on the street. Brass bands, second line bands, so it’s always had that street thing. So in New Orleans, you cant walk two blocks without running into a parade. It’s a street element. That’s what keeps it funky.

Before we wrap up can you talk a bit about Bob Dylan?

Well I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve been listening to his new album pretty much non-stop. I’m listening to it every day. The only thing I don’t like is that they got that song on it about the Titanic and we’re getting ready to get on Jam Cruise! That got me a little freaked out. Other than that, it’s a really really great record. I worked with him on the Oh Mercy album. Since then, a lot of those tracks—some of the outtakes, and stuff—have come out on a whole bunch of records. But yeah, I did the Oh Mercy album with him in ’89. It was just a really great experience. I was honored to be on it and it was just a really wonderful experience.

What else is on the horizon?

You asked me about this lawsuit and now that I’m thinking about it, here’s one thing that’s happened to me because of this lawsuit. Before we got sued—this was end of 2009—the term was almost up with this management company and I’d been trying to get a new album out since my last studio album in 2005, and Up All Night in 2007. I’d been trying to get a studio album out since then. It just never ever happened. This management company wasn’t behind it. All kinds of excuses came up and it just never happened. In the meantime, I had enough studio recordings for two or three albums. I just started going on my own, trying to figure out what I could do. I had a couple of different companies lined up that were interested in this record. They wanted to put it out. I was talking to Sony Red about distribution. I was talking to another gentleman about forming a label that had distribution. But when I got sued, all these companies backed out. They were afraid of being sued. That was in 2009, it’s almost 2013. I’m sitting here four years later still trying to get a record out. I want people to know I’m working on that. I’m trying to explore my options right now to figure out a way to get the next project out. It probably won’t be out until this lawsuit is completely over but that is on the table. That’s my next move—trying to get a new studio album out. Hopefully it’ll be sometime in 2013. I can’t even start to tell you all the ways this lawsuit has screwed me up. It pretty much put the breaks on my career. My other two records, East of Rampart Street and God, Guns & Money, I put them out on my own label. I got up every day and I worked those records as hard as I could. Got radio play, worked them every day, called radio programmers, did what I could. It was pretty much a fulltime job every day to do that alone. I’m not sure I have that kind of energy anymore. I’m just trying to explore all the options to actually get something out. We’ll see what happens.

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