By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
What made you want to work with ?uestlove? Were you a Roots fan?
I met the Roots band in Trinidad, and we talked backstage about getting together in the studio and doing things. We left it at “Have your people call my people.” I had to go to a family reunion down in Orlando, Florida, business as usual. I’m always doing two things — both elements work for a while, then I’ve got to start something else. Anyway, we end up making the album, and then they took this single, and then the single goes up and here we are, riding Top 10 with a bullet. And our fans are, like, hooray, and meanwhile, I’m at the grocery store saying [sings] “La-la-la,” and people are, like, “Don’t touch the tomatoes.”
Was the chemistry naturally there between you guys?
It was really fresh. I’d never did anything with them and the first thing they said is, “You sing like Al Green, and let us do the music.” The more they tried to do the music, the more it sounded like 1973-74 Al Green; the more it sounded like the Willie Mitchell extension for Al Green in 2008. We cut it in February and it was like fresh cream. It feels like I just wrote the songs the other day in my mind.
Do you listen to any hip-hop? You’re one of the more frequently sampled artists in the genre.
There’s more to hip-hop than just trying to make everything rhyme, and you find out in life that everything don’t rhyme. The music they’re cutting is musically fantastic. I’ve seen and watched the hip-hop era, the R&B era, the jazz and soul-music era. Jazz was created in the U.S. Soul was created here. Gospel was created in the church. It all comes from this concept of Jimmy Smith, Eddie the saxophone player, Satchmo, the people who opened the door for all of us. Ray Charles. Aretha. Ella. Sarah Vaughan. Sly Stone, he’s up there. All the people on Stax and then Motown and all their groups, and Oakland and Chicago and then Philadelphia, and look what you’ve got, a history of health. We’ve created a gold mine.
It’s an election year. Have you been following politics?
I am, but it’s about more than registering to vote; I’ve been following the candidates. I figured that if we had to choose the woman president, she’d be the first woman president, and if we had the kid from Honolulu and the Harvard graduate, we’d have the first black president. They were both lawyers and they knew the law, and I saw Obama and said that he’s got some vision and that’s what a lot of people are latching on to. The guy’s got some vision. We can’t continue to spend 12 billion a month in Iraq just because someone wants to stick their nose in the barrel of a tank.
Looking back, are there any records you’ve cut that stand out as your favorites?
I think Let’s Stay Together is good. Al Green Explores Your Mind is really kind of a very personal record for me. I feel like the Greatest Hits is a homegrown remedy for love. I was on the plane the other day and a stewardess pulled out a picture of her blond-haired little girl and said, “Look what you made me do.” So I said, “I’m sorry, but you have a beautiful little daughter,” and she said, “Yes, she is,” and she put it right back in her purse and kept on serving people.
Al Green performs with Gladys Knight at the Greek Theatre on Saturday, September 20.