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Sampling Shuggie

Psychedelic funk: Musical pioneer Shuggie Otis is back after 40 years in the shadows.
Big Hassle Media

Not everyone has heard the name Shuggie Otis, but chances are, they have heard his music.

The songwriter and session musician has been a part of the music world since he was a child, playing with such legends as Frank Zappa and Etta James. And while Otis received much praise in the 1970s, garnering cult status, he slowly faded away from public attention.

But his music found new life as artists including Outkast, Beyonce, and RJD2 sampled his soulful guitar tunes.

Now, Otis is back on tour with his band the Shuggie Otis Rite and is in the studio recording a new album. He talked to Danielle Furfaro about being on the road, hearing his music in samples, and the wonders of analog.

Danielle Furfaro: What’s it like hearing your music sampled by artists?

Shuggie Otis: There’s a lot of samples. I have heard maybe a quarter of them. I like the Beyonces samples. I can’t remeber too many of the others, but she did a good job with the songs, she added a little something to it. It’s always flattering when someone uses your music.

DF: Who are some of your favorite people to collaborate with these days?

SO: I like to start my songs myself and then bring other musicians in. Right now, I like playing with my band, the Shuggie Otis Rite. We’ve got James Manning on bass, Michael Turre on saxophone, Larry Douglas on trumpet, my brother Jon Otis on percussion, Albert Wing on saxophone, my brother Nick Otis on drums and Swang Stewart on keyboards and guitars.

DF: What was it like recording an album after all these years? Do you prefer new recording methods or the old ones?

SO It’s okay. I mean, it’s amazing but I perfer the old way. I like tape. I still lke the sound of analog tape nad working with a console.

DF: You’ve been known to have some issues with record labels in the past. Have you considered any alternate methods of distributing your music other than going through a label?

SO: I have considered it, and I might be doing that pretty soon with my new material I’m working on now. The plan is to record the music and start selling it on my website. It’s a thought. I really don’t want to be with a record company. I have no intention of signing with anybody.

DF: How did you like performing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg this past April?

SO: That was one of the best concerts we had on the whole tour. I had a lot of fun, the crowd was very responsive and we were too. It was one of those nights where you can’t expect it to happen and you can’t buy it. We videotaped that show, I’m going to mix it down and it hopefully will come out by the end of the year on Cleopatra Records.

DF: What’s it like being on the road these days? What do you love most about performing?

SO: On tour feels like where I’m supposed to be. I’ve always wanted to tour, but many years I didn’t couldn’t get hired to work, let alone get a record deal. I had my own band here in the states, but I played with my father more often than I did with my own band. I had some non-musical jobs too. When I’m on tour, it makes me feel normal. When I’m at home, I’m in a neighbohood and in a cul de sac. My band is loud. The neighbors don’t complain, but I don’t feel comfortable. I like traveling a lot, I love playing for people and I love to see the crowds.

Shuggie Otis at the Metrotech Commons (Metrotech Center between Lawrence and Bridge streets, in Downtown). Aug. 8, noon, free.

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