You might know and love Henry Roland for his funk music. And beyond his recent new single Let’s Bounce, he’s been developing a series of beats sets for this summer. Drawing inspiration from beat makers around the world, his new beats are instrumental and ethereal with that same great hip hop, funk, disco energy Henry favors.
He was in his North Austin studio when I called him for this interview. He had just recorded three minutes of chord progressions on guitar and was in the midst of chopping it up to add a beat and some bass. “I really enjoy slicing my own music and making something else out of it.” Henry shares.
He started writing this year with a single that was released in March. “Originally I wanted to drop a new song every month or month and a half. I kept writing in the studio and as it turns out, these songs stood strong on their own without lyrics. They have melodies within them. So I took a detour to put out this beat record.
“Often when I over-focus to produce things I’m not completely satisfied, but when I let the music take it’s path I’m much happier with the outcome.”
Henry acknowledges that his music didn’t start out with beats. “Essentially when I started writing music, as a youth,” he said. “I was doing punk rock in garages and I never anticipated being a singer.” Henry was in a funk band that removed their initial singer. After auditioning a couple of people, he decided to take it upon himself to be the lead vocalist after 5-6 auditions. “I knew the music,” Henry said. “I’ve always been one of the writers in every band I’ve ever been in, predominantly writing chord structures and melody lines. So Henry and the Invisibles worked out for me because I was already familiar with that role.”
“I’m stripping songs down to the elements of what makes a song happen. It’s not unconventional for hip-hop producers. For example, J Dilla or Mad Lib basically take songs and splice them up so much that they are unrecognizable. My album concept of Musaic was basically that style of production. I wrote lyrics over songs I had pieced, taken an idea of my own music and reinvented it. This new beat tape is more of that concept and I’m very excited about it.”
Henry will be playing music from his new beat set Beatz The Heat this Sunday. “It’s a Summertime beats record that has elements of being at the beach: being on the coast, ice cream man passing by on the boardwalk, skateboarders, seagulls sounding in the distance, ocean sounds, something you’d put on at the boat party or pool party,” Henry said.
“I wanted to keep the album around thirty minutes; each song is two to three minutes long. The record will be a journey of emotions. The album will be streaming in mid-June.”
I asked Henry if he had any advice for musicians getting into beat work. He suggested listening to the legendary beat makers. “Start with J Dilla – he’s the John Coltrane of the MPC (beat machine). He did things that rhythmically and sonically, nobody had done before him,” said Henry. “Listen to instrumental records and see what you like.
Above all, don’t be afraid to be yourself… always.. Many producers try to sound the same – in my opinion, what’s popular today probably will not be popular tomorrow so dare to be different.”
Henry will be playing several festivals this summer in the Midwest and in California, but the big news is his upcoming residency in Austin TX at One to One bar starting July 3rd. He will be playing every Tuesday evening from 8p-10p.(excluding the last Tuesday of the month).
“My goal is to make as many records as I can. I’d like to make another 10 records in the next couple of years, honestly. It’s the legacy that artists leave behind… and I’d like to keep writing a beautiful story so that I can look back someday and smile.”