Amp Fiddler talks early years, J Dilla and new album, ‘Motor City Booty’

Photo credit: Amp Fiddler
Photo credit: Boswell Creative Photography

Joseph “Amp” Fiddler is a Detroit music legend. With a career spanning over 30 years, he’s worked and collaborated with musical giants such as J Dilla, Prince, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Raphel Saddiq and more. His blend of futuristic funk and soul puts him in a class of his own. He never hesitates to push the boundaries forward when it comes to style, music and culture, which is why he’s such a revered person abroad. After flying back from Tokyo, Japan from a tour, he and I got a chance to talk about some of his storied history within music. Check out some of the excerpts below.

You started out early in your journey of becoming a professional musician. What were some of the things that you learned about in order to build your foundation for success?
Well, I started out doing music in high school when I was about 16 years old. My mom asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons one day so I went to the lessons and I didn’t like it. When I turned 17, I decided to go back and ask the older lady who taught piano about taking lessons again. From there I started taking piano lessons at Grinnell Brothers in Downtown Detroit and learned how to play classical music and read music. After I finished with her and graduated high school, I wanted to go to school for music so I ended up going to Wayne County Community College, Oakland Community College, and then finally Oakland University. When I got to Oakland University, I got the chance to audition with Enchantment and I went on the road with them full-time.

Enchantment and Parliament Funkadelic are two of the most iconic bands in soul music history. Talk about that leap from school to working in the music business, because that can be a tough transition on its own.
Prior to working with Enchantment, I learned how to write composition at WCCCD and I took some jazz classes which was cool. It was when I actually started to work with Enchantment that I realized that it was nothing like school (laughs). They had me playing string ensemble and synthesizers on a Moog keyboard which was the first keyboard that I ever bought. I was the second keyboard player so I had to play the strings, horns, etc. After I finished touring with Enchantment, I worked with RJ’s Latest Arrival, Was Not Was and then George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. I toured with George and Parliament for about 8 years. I also played on “Do Fries Go With That Shake.”

Photo Credit: Amp Fiddler

During the early 1990s, you worked with J Dilla and actually taught him how to make music and use the MPC in your home studio. How did Dilla utilize your teachings in terms of creating his own compositions?
It took time for Dilla to learn how to make music. He came over diligently every single day and he would ask questions and I would teach him about it. It took a lot of practice for him to get it, but he had amazing natural skills for it already. He already had the concept down of what he wanted to do with the music and how he wanted to manipulate the music from listening to records. Dilla was truly a master of rhythm.

Talk about your work with Native Instruments.
I had called Native Instruments because I had just got an endorsement with them and I had a good relationship with the A&R guy so I asked him who I could talk to about Expansion packs. This turned into me going to L.A. and sitting doing with Native Instruments to present my idea, and from there they told me to make a demo of what I wanted to create so I made one and I ended up doing two Expansion Packs for them. One is called “Amplified Funk,” and the other is called “Conant Gardens.”

Photo Credit: Amp Fiddler

You released a new album titled Motor City Booty. From listening to the album, it seems as if you took it back to the essence of that Detroit sound of the ’80s and ’90s. What were some of the inspirations behind your latest LP?
Honestly, this is a complete party album. Me and my boy Yams produced this entire project. But besides it being a party record, it’s also something different for me which is a good thing. I have some amazing singers on this album who remind me of the Brides of Funkenstein from back in the day. This album has allowed me to be able to have a lot of fun.

Follow Amp Fiddler on Twitter. You can also stream Motor City Booty below on Spotify.

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