Adam Dorn, his real name, is immersed for a long time in the jazz and R&B music thanks to his father. His father, Joel, was a key producer of the « Atlantic » label » in the 1960’s / 1970’s. He had worked with Coltrane, Mingus, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, The Allman Brothers and many others.
He is friend with Marcus Miller for a long time. Mocean is also a bass player and a singer. As many american stars, he studied music at the « Berklee » school of music, Boston. Then he played beside David Sanborn and Chaka Khan, Jamaica Boys and Marcus Miller, among others.
His first album was released in 1998. Since then, six albums between jazz and electronic with a touch of funk and hip-hop.
We had discovered him almost ten years ago. What has happened since? We sat and talked to him.
Musiculture : You are part of the last Marcus album, « Afrodeezia » : How did it happen ? Is it because of your friendship ? because you are the best ? both ?
Mocean Worker : Marcus and I have been friends for about 30 years now. I was lucky enough to start my career by sitting in the studio and watching Marcus produce albums. It was an incredible educational experience I started at the age of 16 after writing him a letter. A very exciting development for me was watching that relationship grow over the years as I developed my Mocean Worker albums. I didn’t think Marcus was very familiar with what I was doing as an artist but because of his manager Bibi Green keeping him informed and always getting him my new music it lead to me working on 3 songs on Marcus’s album « Silver Rain » and also subsequently doing one tour with his band in Japan. It was an incredible experience as I got to play bass nightly on the gig as well as play keyboards and trigger samples. Fast forward about 9 years as I was trying to get Marcus to be a guest on my podcast I reached out to Bibi and asked what was going on. It was taking long to get him to confirm being a guest and she said « I need to speak to him tomorrow I will get back to you ». Much to my surprise she called me the next day and says to me « You wont believe this Marcus called me last night and says he has a tune he wants you to work on with him ». Kind of a very funny coincidence as I was bothering him about getting him on my Podcast totally unknown to me he was writing a tune he knew he wanted to do with me. I was blown away. he sent me the demo and we went to work instantly. The song is called « I Cant Breath ». Its the last song on what I think is a very emotional and intellectual album. The album itself is informed by Marcus’s experience being a cultural ambassador for UNESCO. The album tells a story of the slave trade from its very beginnings to its very current state. « I Cant Breath » is a commentary on what is currently going on with racial matter in the United States. It was an incredible honor to co-write this tune with Marcus and to have Chuck D. add lyrics. Hopefully there will be more to come concerning this particular song. Stay Tuned.
M : You have worked with chuck D, a hip-hop legend. How do you feel about it ?
M.W. : Chuck D. to me is the voice of his generation. An incredibly kind individual thats passionate about so many things in life. He’s incredibly in tune with what’s going on on so many fronts. Full disclosure though I am the age of the EXACT demographic that Public Enemy hit in the late 80’s when they emerged out of nowhere to be the real force of hip-hop. I was looking at it I think from a different angle than Marcus because Chuck is not a peer. Im very much a fan. « Fight The Power » alone is one of my favorite songs of all time. It still to this day floors me when I hear it so to get to work with Chuck was a surreal experience. Once I got over the « fanboy » aspect though the bigger issue was making sure it fit in perfectly with the track and the message was delivered. Marcus had some lyrics he wanted Chuck to focus on but otherwise it was completely up to Chuck to write what he felt and what moved him. I think its a powerful track without being too over the top. Chuck sounds great, Marcus plays a fretless solo! I was so excited he was open to that idea. Furthermore I got to play bass in the breakdown section. To play bass on a Marcus album!?!?! Are you kidding me. That’s like getting to play one on one against Michael Jordan. Chuck and Marcus. Pretty amazing combination. I was just glad to be in the room !
M : Does your work with Marcus help you for your own solo project ? if yes, how ?
M.W. : Usually the answer to this question is kind of « no ». I say that because while I studied Marcus’s playing and production style for like 3-4 years I very much decided early on to have as different of a voice as possible as an artist. I remember one time sitting in the studio during the making of a Jamaica Boys album and unbeknownst to me Marcus walked up behind me and said « You sound just like me ». That really hit home. I didn’t want to become a player that sounded just like someone else. What fun would that be? Not much to be honest. From that point forward I decided I was gonna write music and figure out what my voice was. My Mocean Worker albums and my connection to Marcus aren’t very evident. As a matter of fact Marcus played on one of my albums and I was really adamant about him NOT playing bass. He played Bass Clarinet on a song titled « Brown Liquor ». I figured it would be cooler to have him playing an instrument that fit into my music more than the electric bass. I don’t even play electric bass on my own recordings. I love what he did on that track. Was such a fun way to show his incredible musicianship in a different context! i’d say the one way my time spent with Marcus helps on my own recordings is my working with other musicians. Marcus has an incredible way of running a session. I know I picked that up from him. I watched him like a hawk run sessions for like 4 years. I COMPLETELY stole from him ( and also VERY much so from my father Joel Dorn ) how to run a session. So that’s been an invaluable tool for me moving forward. Marcus and my Dad can run a session as well as anybody ever. Focus and constant movement forward. Great skill to have.
M : Do you have a new solo project in mind ? How will it sound ?
M.W. : Yes. I do ! Im very excited to say I am about 80% finished with a new Mocean Worker album and Im very excited about it. Its very housey actually. I say that but I wouldn’t worry about House Dj’s lining up to play the tunes its still very headphone and home listening based in the true Mowo ! sense. The one major difference is that I’ve played REAL BASS on every tune so far. Im very very excited about that because I think the difference is gigantic. The grooves feel so much warmer and natural. It’s still in the 30’s – 40’s Mowo ! vibe but its very funky too. I had seen this explosion in « Electro-House » and to be honest I felt like I kind of was way out in front of those guys. This album represents me getting a little more dancey but without losing my center. The bass playing makes it feel like Chic and Count Basie interacting. it’s very exciting. Im not sure about a release date yet because some other projects keep getting in the way but it’ll be out no matter what in 2015 !
M : On your site, I saw a lot of photos of Paris : Do you have friends there ? maybe projects with french musicians ?
M.W. : HA ! You’ve noticed my love of France ? I love it. I do not currently really have any artistic connection to France. I have some good friends there though and I love them. I recently produced a female singer named Nikki Yanofsky and I believe her new album found some success there but that would be the extent of my artistic connection to France right now. When I was in my very early 20’s I did however live in Paris off and on for about 4 years. I played with a ton of French Pop stars and did some touring and producing with artists that are about the polar opposite of Mocean Worker. I almost never bring it up because folks ( especially French ones ) says » QUA ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? ! ? » when I mention the artists. To put it simply as a studio musician in my earlier days I got work………..work is good. Getting to come to France and learn about such an incredible country and its history was the perfect payment for having to work on some music I may not have loved as a young man. That’s that. I did also get to discover Daft Punk ( pre helmets and world wide stardom ) and electronic music while living in France. France has a very special place in my heart.
M : What are the main difficulties for an artist like you today?
M.W. : My biggest challenge is touring. Its just too expensive. I know most artists complain about album sales. I’ve given up with « selling » music. I think it all balances out. I have never sold 100’s of thousands of albums anyway so the funny thing is I have a fan base and they still buy my albums. I really really appreciate the support too. Its always kind of existed on the same level. Each new album picks up some new fans. I just can’t tour. My music is really fun to make but it doesn’t translate live the way i want it to. I have DJ’d and I have taken an 8 piece band on the road and both versions still don’t equal the albums themselves. Dj’ing just isn’t fun for me. I get bored. I LOVE playing but the band ended up just sounding way too funky and moved too far away from the 30’s-40’s vibe of the music. its a tough thing to put together. One of these years something will make it easier and I can get back out on the road and have it make sense. Right now, its just doesn’t make sense financially. it costs a fortune to tour !
M : Can you explain us what is this project with Charlie Hunter ? How did this idea came to your mind ?
M.W. : Such a great question ! This is a project Im really proud of. Charlie has become a really close friend over the years and we’ve always tried to think of ways to work together. He actually appears as a guest on my last album (Candygram From Mowo!). One day he called me and after a conversation with a great friend of ours and drummer Scott Amendola, Charlie said « Hey, Scott says you and I should do a podcast ! » I immediately said yes not even knowing what a podcast really was or how to do one. I knew I wanted to put something together with Charlie where we sat down with artists ( NOT JUST MUSIC) we admired and respected. The idea is just to have conversations. You can’t promote a new album. its all about the individuals journey to creativity and funny stories along the way. The podcast is called The Compared To What Podcast. and we already have maybe 45 episodes up. Its a really fun project and it’s lead to some incredible new friendships and relationships. Charlie is the best. If you;’re not familiar with his music look him up on youtube or iTunes immediately. Wow. Such an incredible musician !
M : We had an interview almost ten years ago : How would you define this period of your life as an artist and as a man ?
M.W. : Ten years ago I was trying to figure it out as an artist. Now, Im still trying to figure it out as an artist. I don’ t think that ever changes. The only difference is…….Im a dad. I’m not trying to figure that out. I’m very focused on that. That’s the best gig ever.