By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
Outtakes: It would be easy for you to rest on your laurels. Why did you feel the need to challenge yourself by recording Possibilities?
HH: Well, I never like to do the same thing twice. I always like to come up with something that's new for me, something that's challenging. That's kind of where I live, so to speak. I like it that way.
How familiar were you with the artists you and [producer] Alan Mince chose to collaborate with?
Some artists I was much more familiar with than others. I knew Santana's work very well. I knew Paul Simon's work too, and Sting I knew very well. Of course, I'd heard much of Annie Lennox's stuff. I wasn't as familiar with John Mayer, Joss Stone, or Christina Aguilera, though, because they're newer artists and don't have as many albums out as the others. Raul Midon didn't even have a record out.
How comfortable were you with the ideas brought to the table by these artists?
I'm so used to being outside a box anyway. I'm always trying to work outside the box. I'm always trying to do something different than I've done before. For me, to work in areas that are unfamiliar is familiar to me.
In the film, you specifically say that music is something you do, but you're more interested in improving your life. Do you think a life can be improved through music, though?
Music performs a function. The highest function music can perform is to serve humanity, and that's what I always hope to achieve in some form. It can reflect life, but it in itself is not life. In a sense, you can say it's a tool, though that's kind of a cold way to put it. It's a tool that, in our own human hands and motivated by our hearts, can become something that can encourage others. In many cases, it can be a kind of method to heal.
Where did that philosophy come from?
It comes from my realization that I'm a musician when I'm performing music and thinking about music, but I don't do that 24 hours a day. I'm also a husband, a father, a neighbor, a citizen. I'm an American, I'm an African-American, I'm a Buddhist. These are all aspects of who I am, but the root of that is I'm a human being 24/7, I'm a human being. The other aspects of myself that I demonstrate, like music, depends on the circumstances. But I'm always coming from the fact that I'm a human being. Every day makes a huge difference to me, so I always try to create music from my humanity rather than from my musicianship. And that's what I was trying to accomplish with Possibilities.
You've accomplished so much in your career. Are there any mountains left to climb?
There're plenty of mountains left to climb. I already came up with another idea for my next record that's different from Possibilities. It would be kind of obvious to do a Possibilities 2 now that I've kind of laid out that philosophy/structure. [laughs] But I don't like to do exactly the same thing twice.
Rarely does a doctor of my stature (read: ego) voluntarily admit that he's made a misdiagnosis. It's something I usually reserve for lawsuits. But that's why I'm here today to offer a second opinion on New York City indie rockers Elefant, whom I wrongly diagnosed based on their debut album, Sunshine Makes Me Paranoid. While I stand by my initial findings that the Interpol-inspired band was suffering carbon copy syndrome I was wrong in my prognosis, that this condition was terminal. But just as I was about to suggest pulling the plug, two things happened that changed my mind.
First was Elefant's latest album, The Black Magic Show, which I fully expected would cause slight nausea, if not outright vomiting. The album's first single, "Lolita," has a generic-enough title. Hell, it's beyond generic it's over-the-counter. So I figured the music wouldn't be much better. While "Lolita" didn't exactly jump-start my circulatory system, it does prove that Elefant finally broke from the herd; these aren't the same Cure copycats of two years ago. (The album's healthiest tracks are "Uh Oh Hello" and "Don't Wait.") Curious, I pulled up the band's tour blog and that's when I felt the sting of my error.