T.S. Monk Speaks Out
The bottom line is you've got to be yourself. You can't give a god damn what the critics are going to say, and for that matter you can't really care'as you're creating'what your fans are going to say. What you have to do, you have to be who you are, you have throw yourself out, and let the chips fall where they may. I watched my daddy do that. I watched John Coltrane do that. I watched Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter do that, and I'm going to do that. What is a T.S. Monk really? Who are you really? And I said, you're a guy that grew up with Duke Ellington John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Max Roach, the Temptations, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. I said, you're a baby boomer, man. You got them crazy years that the baby boomers got. Now what do you like to do, Thelonious? Well, I like to play funk, and I like to sing a song, I like to tell a joke, I like to tell a story, I like to swing like hell, and I like to cool it, and I like all these things and that's what I'm going to do from this point on.
I'm going to be true to what my daddy always said, 'Be true to yourself. Do your own thing.' And I'm gonna let the chips fall where they may. Because what the world has told me. The world has told me, 'T.S. Monk, we like your dance music a little bit. And T.S. Monk we like your jazz music. T.S. Monk, we like the way you deal with your daddy, and T.S. Monk we like to hear you give speeches and tell stories,' and I said, 'I'm a cross talker'. That's what I am. It's not about fusion. I'm not a fusion guy. I'm a crosstalker. I talk in different languages, musically. If I play you funk, it sounds funky. If I play straight ahead, there's no doubt that this is a badass straight ahead drummer. And that's crosstalking. And I'm doing it all the time. It's not crossing over. You see crossing over'like and the guy I like most in the music is Herbie, he's a very close friend'Herbie has crossed over. Herbie can cross back and forth whenever he wants to'he does one now, then a couple years something else. Whatever he feels like.
A few years ago he was into the standards. But I'm the next generation. I'm mixed up. I'm schizophrenic. I want to do it all at the same time. Then I thought about it a little more and I thought, 'I know a lot of people like me that really, really love John Coltrane. And they really actually dig Kenny G. They really, really, really love Leon Thomas and Sarah Vaughn, and they really, really, really love Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. What's going on? Whose actually addressing that very, very real ear in the marketplace? I said, 'No one's got the guts to do that. Because no one wants to be honest enough to say, 'You know what? I like it all!' We are so accustomed now to the pigeonholes that you're shit better fit into a pigeonhole too. You better like a rock, or a funk, or a this or a that. It's not only the artist that has to be this or that, but the listener also has to be a this-listener or a that-listener.
AAJ: Identity formation. Exactly the opposite of the jazz mentality.
TM: Exactly. So I said, this is really who I am. I'm singing on my records, I'm playing funk, I'm playing straight ahead. I'm doing it all. It could be smooth. It could be lumpy. That's who I am, and there are a lot of people that like that and I'm going to have to prove itself to myself first, and see how my audience responds, and then I'll deal with the industry next. So, what I did was the next album after Monk on Monk was a wonderful album Crosstalk which got completely lost. What happened was the label I was on when I did Monk on Monk tanked'so they ended up selling the company and you know that if you put out a record in the midst of your company being sold, it's going to get lost. So Crosstalk got a little bit lost and I got really hurt because I'd worked for so long. You know, here I am, I got the jazz cd of the year with Monk on Monk, I know how the jazz industry works. You get the jazz cd year, you get at least a god damn shot with your next record and I got no fuckin' shot with my next record, I'm oughta hear. Fuck this whole fuckin' thing. I'm starting my own fuckin' label. I don't have to do one fuckin' gig in order to sit in my Mercedes, which I'm talking to you from, or to live in my fuckin' four hundred thousand dollar house in South Orange. So therefore I've got the resources and I have to fuckin' tighten up my fuckin' nut and get busy, put my own records out and market me as what I am.