Self-taught musical genius, visual artist, healer, night bird, and like his namesake suggests, a selfless guide through the ocean of music, Dolphin is one of the most inspiring artists/musician out there. Dolphins are communicators between the surface of visible light and the deeper layers of the ocean ---light-filled to those who have the eyes for it---, they show up to seafarers preventing them to get lost in deep sea and guide them to safety. He is one of those people who might just do that for you, if you are open to it. His multiple talents are like paper fragments in a kaleidoscope of sound that form into various patterns…Ocean Aquanaut, October Octopussy, or Wardolphin just to name a few. Dolphin and I have started a conversation about creativity and the absolute need to create to "feel alive", about solitude and friendship, pain and healing, feeling blessed, being an underdog and having time to meditate on love, beauty, and soulfulness…our conversations have grown into something I needed to share… here you go….
L: So how did you get your name, Dolphin?
D: The name Dolphin was given to me in a dreamstate. I was searching for a name that I felt most represented me. I wanted a name that identified with the universal nature of people, something all entities could relate to. It was interesting cause at first I was very uncomfortable with it and it took time for me to see the value. However, once I realized it's power and why it was chosen for me… I knew it was perfect. Dolphins are ambassadors, able to speak to all people at all times without any fear because of their own confidence and love. Dolphins are natural musicians who use their music to communicate, to heal others, to fight, and to provide a balance in their habitat.
L: When and how did you begin creating music?
D: I started when I was pretty young. I taught myself the guitar and then the bass… and then on to other instruments from there (drums, piano, harmonica, etc). I remember my mother saying “the only thing I really remember about you is you in your room with all this recording equipment that wasn’t yours”. It’s interesting cause I think I started making music to feel alive. I honestly don’t think I was fully alive and breathing beforehand so I guess it came out of necessity. From there I started stealing guitars or borrowing four and eight track recorders from friends. I vividly remember sneaking out of a friend’s house with a Yamaha DX7 with her assistance from her house to mine just so I could record. Haha… there was a serious need for me and I think all my friends saw that and basically just gave up their instruments to me until their parents found out.
L: How does a song get to born? Which part of the day are you the most creative? Do you produce your own tracks?
D: Great question. Songs are born in all different ways. Sometimes the song will instantly pop in my head fully composed or I’ll be playing the piano or the guitar and come up with something that feels good. I could be watching someone else perform and be inspired or I could be in the shower. I find inspiration in everything from the news to the birds in my backyard to walking through Baltimore and looking at all the despair. The key is to be open to everything. Nothing is ever written in stone in the creative process. To me each instrument should have it’s own personal conversation with you and the drums are often my guides thru the process. Some songs like say for example “Light St.” took all of a few hours to record from the ground up, all the guitars, the keys, the vocals. Other songs may take longer or I may want to sit with them a few days to make sure I like what I’m hearing. It depends really. Some I will write and store away never to listen to again. They are my children and some of my kids will need more alone time than others. Some are just prepared to leave home and never look back. I find there is a huge difference in my creative zones from the day to the night. Generally I prefer to record at night. There is an openness to the air that I appreciate and there is something I really enjoy about being the only person up or writing a song as the sun comes up. I always produce my own tracks. It’s another good question cause with all the Dolphin music, the Ocean music, the October Octopussy music and the Magnetic Moves music, I play all the instruments, do all the recording, do all the lead and backing vocals and engineer the entire session. There is no involvement from anyone at any point. Earl Blaize, head producer and engineer for the AntiPop Consortium (WarpRecords) was really one of the first cats to call me up out of the blue, and basically say “I love your work, I love what your doing. I want to drive to Maryland to help you rearrange your studio and to help you master these joints”. I was floored. I was in London maybe two weeks prior to that call in what used to be Tower Records staring at a huge poster of him. Mind you, my studio is very small and I think that shocked him when he saw it… and realized I recorded everything at home. Like “this is it?” However, he started mixing the albums this year and he comes down to visit me regularly to make sure I haven’t become Howard Hughes. Basically it was and is a huge honor. He took the music personally and we have been running strong ever since. That is a great question cause Ge-ology just called me last week and basically said "I just wanna come watch". Certainly he's seen me play and we have worked together before, but I don't think he's ever seen me create something from the ground up. He asks for several reasons cause I remember being out record shopping, Geo, myself and Jazzy Jeff all day in Bk.. getting crazy inspired and then afterward we went to hang out at Dj Spinna's crib. At that point Geo and I were buzzing, but Spinna was working on a song. He'd had a question about the SP1200 (something he was using at the time). I remember giving them an answer in my opinion on how Spinna could reach his objective, and then there being dead silence afterward like 'what is this cat talking about?'. Lol. I'll never forget. So I think he may be intrigued to some degree. I remember he and I being in his lawyer's office and his lawyer listening to Times Are Hard for Dreamers and him asking 'is that a sample?'. I told them "there are no samples on this album, everything is live except for the programmed drums in certain areas". That being said, even though he and I are crazy close, sometimes it even gets pass him. Which of course is a great honor. I have worked with others, working with Wajeed of the Platinum Pied Pipers on a few things, Ge-ology, not to mention some of the people I produce and am scheduled to work with, MamaBase, High Priest, Cilvarado, Tony Bones to name a few. For the albums, however, it’s crucial to me to record every note and create every part of the work from start to finish. That way there is never any confusion about who did what and it gives the listeners the chance to really understand what I was trying to say. I may not always be that way, but it certainly has been and is that way now.
L: I always thought listening to your tracks that there is a melancholy beauty to your songs…Do you tend to create music more when you are in that mood? What are your inspirations?
D: Yes, that is very true. Thank you first off, that’s beautiful. Um, yes… I prefer human emotions and moods. Things that fuel us. I love that feeling that connects us, that emotion that saddens us, that lifts us up, that makes us stop and sway. I love it. Somewhere between reality and the dream state, that’s where I try to be. That feeling that you know you have, that I know I have, yet none of us have a name for it or can’t identify it if we tried. I absolutely love Joni Mitchell. I remember reading an article about her that she was stopping herself from ever recording again (fortunately for us she has had a change of heart). I was so saddened by that article that it caused me to record and entire album in the period of a week (We Have Magic Minds). I felt it had become my duty to do this, that I was being told something. So inspiration comes from a number of places. When my daughter calls me to say she’s written a song on her guitar for me to being on a plane above the clouds looking down to buying a new instrument… there are so many inspirations. Music is great color to paint with. I love listening to the painting once it’s done. When I was in Africa, it showed me to a great extent how very fortunate I am, yet how unfortunate I am. Here were people in complete distress and despair, and they had more hope and light than anyone I’d ever met. It showed me how important it was to understand our universal connection with one another, how important it was to understand our place and our gifts and what we are really meant to do with them. We are not just making music; we are combating the negative vibrations that are extremely pronounced on this earth. Music is medicinal and to me that is extremely inspiring, it’s like Sun Ra said, ‘it is now time to explore the myth, we tried it your way and it didn’t work’. That alone is inspiration with no boundaries.
L: Do you know that animals like cats can transform negative vibes? When I had a cat, whenever parts of my body hurt, she would snuggle up next to it and purr. You have a cat…do you think cats help the creative process?
D: Lol.. ya know, yes. My cat is so strange. When I first received him he was already living with someone. So when they brought him to my house, he freaked and hid in the basement for 3 months without ever showing his face. One day while I was recording I realized that he was hidden in my piano coffin, asleep. It was then that I realized he enjoyed my music. I used my music to get him to come out… and eventually we bonded. Now, when I’m creating he comes in the studio and sits on my piano or sits right next to the speakers. When he really likes something he closes his eyes and falls in a zone and sits directly in front of the speakers. It’s so funny cause we have this whole other way of communicating. I think through my music that he realized who I really am and have aspirations to be so it made it okay. Cats are very spiritual creatures and I consider myself the same. So I find it very interesting when something is a little ‘harder’ he stays in the hallways, but when it’s more soothing he can’t keep himself away.
L: I know that you are a visual artist, but I am only familiar with your music. Where can one see your artworks?
D: Well after seeing your amazing work I completely bow down. Lol. Yes, I do a lot of pen work, Indian ink etc. I have designed comic books (solely for my own purpose), along with pieces ranging in all sizes covering a few different mediums. Like music, I’m a self-taught visual artist. I really don’t show my artwork that much, although my friends who are graphic artists/ visual artists all say I should and are constantly encouraging me to cause the drawing by hand in this age is a dying artform.
L: How is the music scene in Baltimore? Do you tend to collaborate with your musician friends like Spankrock or Geology?
D: Sigh… Baltimore. Baltimore is a very interesting place, I love it here cause I can just stay focused and be home and create. When I’m in Baltimore, most people here have no idea that I’m a musician and unless they are and really could care less. Baltimore has such a sense of groundedness and reality. This is certainly the place where friends will remind you of who you are. Although I wasn’t born here, to me it’s my home. The music scene exists here, but in many regards it’s not quite what I’d hoped for it to be. There is no true sense of solidarity even though everyone knows one another for the most part. Spank, Geology and myself have all been friends for a very long time. I met Spank through Geology’s brother back when Spank was still in high school. He and I became really good friends with me acting as a mentor to some degree. My place was where all the ciphers were being had, MC’s were falling through, there were always new beats to be heard, so it was a great sparring ground and he would come thru after school. We are and always will be brothers. Same with Ge-ology. It’s ill, cause Ge-ology and I met when we were still in our teens. He and I have been best friends ever since. It’s rare that you meet cats who fully understand not only the person that you are, but the artist that you are. These two brothers have actually helped me understand my artistic side more than anyone else in the entire world. I never had that guidance, I just always operated on emotion and intuition. We are sort of our own self help support groups…lol. Ge-ology and I are, in fact, working on some things for this summer. With me, it’s not always about the camaraderie and the friendship as much as it is about the placement of the work. In other words, I understand that some of my good friends have their own place, path, and things to do. That being said I separate the music from our friendship even if we are both musicians. I never ask my friends to record with me out of respect, cause I know we all have a mission and their mission is just as important as mine. Not to mention we are all fighting for the same things and fighting the same common enemy. I remember me and Mos Def hanging out one night while he was filming “Something the Lord Made”… we were laughing and watching School of Rock. I remember saying ‘wow… if he can start a band with some kids, I should have an ALLstar concert’.
L: You are coming out with a number of records and will be featured on the cover of a number of magazines, such as Varla Mag and Farrago Underground's Sept 07 issue…tell me more about these albums floating around…
D: I love bootleg records, real bootleg records. The ones that were only on cassette that had hiss, that were three generations deep by the time you got them. I record somewhat with that in mind. I absolutely hate clinically clean records. To this day when I come across an old Sly Stone bootleg, a Prince bootleg, or a Miles or Hendirx live bootleg I get crazy excited and can’t wait to have that intimate moment with it. Some of my material has been floating around for some time now. Different versions of albums, different songs. It’s a subculture that really surprised me. I never really recorded music for anyone other than myself so when I realized people were actually listening and sharing, it was a great feeling. Thanks to cats like Benji B at the BBC, internet radio shows, and college radio things started bubbling and people began tuning in and hopefully it will continue to grow. At some point I figured doing press or allowing the person behind the music to be heard wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought. I’m not really a fan of interviews or pictures and things like that. Just not my style. Most of these albums that are floating are from 2000 on up. There may be a few albums from 98-99 I’m not sure. I have recorded quite a few bodies of work, some that I hope will see the light of day, others that will not. I think there are roughly about 9 albums floating around right now. My biggest concern is making sure they know how the album was created. To me sometimes that’s more important in knowing that instruments are live and not samples, that the drums are real drums or may be a SP12, or that the album could be all MPC2000 with chopped records, it depends on what name it's under and what's the context of the work. I like detailed information like that and I’m hoping others will too. I have recorded so much music that at some point I figured it would be a good idea to have a nexus for people to find it if they so desire. That’s why I created Wardolphin.com. It’s still being created but it’s just a place for those who appreciate what I am doing to find me.
L: Are you planning on going on a tour...
D: I am planning on doing some dates in the US, definitely. There has been talk recently about touring the UK and Asia, we’ll see how it all goes. I have to be comfortable with everything.
L: If you could be given an opportunity to play anywhere, where would you take your music?
D: Wow, what a great question. Playing music in Africa by far was my dream so in some sense I have accomplished it already. It’s interesting too cause while I was there I ran with W.Africa’s biggest MC founder for HipLife, a combination of High Life and Hiphop. I also ran with musical legend Dick Griffin, once owner of Solaar Records. He was ex business partners with Michael Jackson, he found Lakeside, Shalamar etc. He was also very close friends with Bob Marley. We spent time in his home discussing music, his legacy, the direction I needed to go and what the future really meant for me and music in general. It was truly a blessing and the ill part was when I arrived there I knew no one. I have always wanted to perform in front of the Pyramids or Stonehenge, anywhere that has a hyperspiritual legacy. I also feel that the one place that I need to play at some point is prison. It may be the one place I really need to take my music. We are such reactionary people, reacting to everything, disenfranchisement, societal oppression, and to our own music. Hopefully it could play some small part in countering this vibration, this overwhelming sense of defeat or hopelessness and to provide some sense of solidarity. While communication often fails us, I solely believe it is art that will save us.