Featuring Avey Tare from Animal Collective, Tank from Tank and the Bangas, Zakir Hussain, Previously Unreleased Music from Jerry Garcia, and MORE!
On November 10th, legendary Grateful Dead drummer, solo artist and world music aficionado Mickey Hart will release his 14th solo album – RAMU – on Verve Forecast. RAMU was co-produced by Michal Menert, formerly of Pretty Lights, and features Avey Tare from Animal Collective, Tank from Tank and the Bangas as guest vocalists. In addition to their contributions, RAMU features the incredible Zakir Hussain on tabla, bassist Oteil Burbridge, talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju, guitarist Steve Kimock, multi-instrumentalist Charles Lloyd, and Jason Hann of String Cheese Incident. Recordings of the late Jerry Garcia, the late Babatunde Olatunji, and unreleased field recordings by Alan Lomax also appear on the album. RAMU will be released digitally, on CD and vinyl and can be pre-ordered HERE.
The album’s title – RAMU – is also the name of Hart’s Random Access Musical Universe, a musical database he’s been collecting since the late 60’s and has been utilizing in the live sphere since the 80’s. RAMU started out as a place for Hart to collect and organize “musical universes” – things as analogue as tom toms and djembes, a vast amount of digital loops and samples, and sonifications of things like the cosmos, plants, and brain cells.
Hart eventually made RAMU into a tactile instrument, one with knobs, faders and pedals. “It’s a very powerful compositional tool,” says Hart. “It’s vast, it holds new treasures, and it’s still revealing itself to me. It’s been a growth period for RAMU as well, because it has new food, new data. So when you’re working with it, every place you turn, you find interesting stuff-music is endless, just as RAMUis.” Above all RAMU‘s main focus is its rhythmic drive: a multi-dimensional rhythm machine at play, embedded in a universe made of controlled vibrations. This is the foundation for the RAMU album – the vast world of recordings within the database, and the infinite possibilities the instrument has for building new recordings upon them.
During the time that Hart was working on the RAMU album, other matters were also changing in the world, including the political climate. The election of Donald Trump dramatically altered the course of the album. “I hadn’t been looking at politics specifically,” he says, “I was just trying to create art and reflect the time, as any artist does in song and words. But after that, things took a new turn. The record is largely dedicated to Mr. Trump.” Hart continues, “He’s a great inspiration-every time I think of him, I write things. I can’t tell you how loud I’m screaming and, as a musician, this is how we scream-to shine light on things that are dark, and shine some understanding on life and this horrible human being leading our country.”
RAMU was recorded at Mickey Hart’s Studio X in Sonoma County.
For more information visit www.mickeyhart.net
Big Bad Wolf
The Lost Coast
Who Do You Think You Are
You Remind Me
When the Morning Comes
Wine Wine Wine
Spreading The News
Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg
MORE ABOUT MICKEY HART AND RAMU:
Mickey Hart is best known as a drummer in the Grateful Dead, which for three decades channeled the voices and visions of rock’s psychedelic counterculture and blended them with folk, blues, country, jazz, and other American music streams. On the strength of that work, Hart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and named to Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.
In 2015, Hart joined the other surviving Grateful Dead members to create the Fare Thee Well tour, a 50th anniversary celebration that was among the most successful events in the history of live entertainment. Today, Hart continues to perform with Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann-as well as John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti-in Dead & Company, which launched a nationwide tour in October 2015, played sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and elsewhere, and garnered praise from critics, Deadheads, and new fans alike.
In addition to his Dead-related work, Hart has a longstanding musical mission: to break the rhythm code of the universe and probe its deepest vibrations. That effort, which began in earnest in the 1970s with the Diga Rhythm Band, produced Planet Drum (1991) and Global Drum Project (2008), both of which received Grammys in the World Music category.
Propelled by an explorer’s restless curiosity, Hart’s groundbreaking recordings point beyond conventional notions of music and culture. “Underneath the world’s extraordinary musical diversity is another, deeper realm,” said Hart. “There is no better or worse, no pop music versus folk music, no distinctions at all, but rather an almost organic compulsion to translate the emotional fact of being alive into sound, into rhythm, into something you can dance to.”
Hart’s latest album, RAMU, reflects that conviction-and may be his boldest adventure yet. It fuses Hart’s massive and ever-expanding digital database (the Random Access Musical Universe) with cutting-edge urban dance rhythms, social commentary, and contributions from contemporary and past masters.
“For this record, I knew what I wanted,” he says. “This wasn’t a wandering-in-the-desert kind of project. There were certain things at the core: a great backbeat, great groove, using non-traditional and homemade instruments to include the world’s music in contemporary dance music. I wanted to create a new stew, a new recipe for making music.”
Hart stresses the unique process behind the album. “Everything goes through RAMU, the mothership,” he says of the database he has been working with since the 1980s. “It’s my instrument, and it’s a very powerful compositional tool. It’s vast, it holds new treasures, and it’s still revealing itself to me.”
From his archives, Hart constructed songs around the voices of a 1940s auctioneer (the opening track “Auctioneers”) and recordings of an old longshoreman’s chant (“Wine Wine Wine”). “RAMU is truly a multidimensional instrument that allows you to travel to new universes at the flip of a switch,” Hart says. “This record includes sounds from radio telescopes around the world, solar winds, the radiation that comes from light and is turned into sound, weather conditions from hurricanes.”
Naturally, the new album features Hart’s rich musical network, including maestro Zakir Hussain on tabla, bassist Oteil Burbridge, talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju, conguero Giovanni Hidalgo, and guitarist Steve Kimock. Recordings of two late,great artists-Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and percussionist Babatunde Olatunji-also appear on the album. Animal Collective’s Avey Tare contributed vocals, as did Tarriona “Tank” Ball, who fronts the New Orleans-based Tank and the Bangas-recent winners of NPR Music’s “Tiny Desk Contest.” Jason Hann of The String Cheese Incident added drums, and Michal Menert (formerly of the EDM collective Pretty Lights) co-produced the album.
Many lyrics were composed by another familiar collaborator: Grateful Dead wordsmith Robert Hunter. “He spins tales, he’s a great mythologist, like all those characters that came to life in Dead songs,” says Hart. “I think this album has some brilliant writing by Hunter, some of his best writing.”
With the new album, Hart has assembled a profound statement surveying a lifetime of making music. Paying tribute to Jerry Garcia and Puerto Rican percussion master Giovanni Hidalgo, it also documents a historic Indonesian gamelan before filtering it through futuristic technologies and rhythms. “It’s a hybrid of different influences that have moved me over the years,” says Hart, “and if you’re being honest with your music, that’s what usually happens-new things are created from the old.”
Hart’s past projects include “The Mickey Hart Collection,” twenty five recordings released by Smithsonian Folkways in 2011 that compile and preserve his efforts to cross borders and expand musical horizons. His critically acclaimed books include Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion (1990), Planet Drum: A Celebration of Percussion and Rhythm (1991), Spirit Into Sound: The Magic of Music (1999), and Songcatchers: In Search of the World’s Music (National Geographic books, 2009).
As part of his ongoing research, Hart has recorded vibrations from the Golden Gate Bridge, which he describes as a giant wind harp, and collected data from stem cells, heartbeats, and brainwaves to produce compositions. His work with Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a leading neuroscientist, seeks to identify rhythms that can stimulate different parts of diseased and damaged brains, leading to new and innovative approaches to healing. As far back as 1990, Hart testified about rhythm and music therapy before the Senate Subcommittee on Aging. For all its variety, his life’s work can be summed up simply: Having found rhythm everywhere and in everything, he invites us to share its inexhaustible vitality.