December 11, 2017
“I dig everything – as long as it’s honest.”
Anyone who has ever watched Tommy Guerrero skate won’t be surprised to hear that hardcore really wasn’t his bag. Growing up in the ’70s in San Francisco, his soundtrack was the sun-soaked soul, funk and rock of the West Coast, and he treated the skateboard like Clyde Stubblefield or J Dilla treated the drums – loose, laid back, but always in the pocket.
Globally renowned as part of the Bones Brigade collective, Guerrero also spent much of the ’70s and ’80s in bands, finding an outlet for his myriad influences that ranged from UK punk to new wave, Latin, jazz and of course hip-hop.
With its renegade visual aesthetic and open-minded approach to hip-hop and despite being based half way around the world, it’s somehow seemed the perfect fit for Guerrero to end up releasing two early solo albums on Mo’ Wax at the turn of the century.
Little Bit of Somethin’ (2000) and Soul Food Taqueria (2003) are emblematic of Guerrero’s singular curbside folk, as lo-fi, street-smart beats hang out under his soft-touch guitar picking and dusty melodies. Both nostalgic and timeless, these are albums for long summer nights, that Be With Records are reissuing on vinyl for the first time.
To accompany the release, we asked Guerrero to tell us a little more about his musical journey, in the form of a superb influences mix and a short Q & A, which you can read below.
Was music always a part of your life?
I think it all started when I first heard Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’ at a very young age… maybe around 5? My fam always had music on – we lived with my aunt, uncle and their 3 kids who were all older. There was always lots of ’70s stuff on. I started playing music with my brother when I was around 12 and have been playing and recording ever since.
What records soundtracked your early life as a skater? Was hardcore already doing the rounds?
Hardcore wasn’t even around when I started skating! I’m old! ’70s rock/soul/funk was what we were listening to. Punk hit around ’78 or ’79 for me, and that’s when we started forming punk bands and writing tunes.
I was never really into hardcore unless Bad Brains are considered hardcore. We grew up on English punk for the most part. All the usual suspects. So much of that music stands the test of time.
That said, the influences present in your own music seem very broad. Have you always listened to a lot of different styles?
When you’re young you go through phases. Soul to rocker to new waver to punker to metalhead to hip-hop/b boy etc. It all informs what I do now. I dig everything – as long as it’s honest.
How did you get involved with Mo’ Wax?
Long story, short version: It all started with a skate vid I made called Amigo’s for a clothing brand FORTIES that I ran out of skate company Deluxe. I created the soundtrack for it which some people were stoked on, specifically Thomas Campbell who was friends with a skater who worked at Mo’ Wax – Andy Holmes I believe.
I can’t remember if Andy already knew about the vid or if Thomas hipped him to it. Anyway Andy played it for James and I guess he dug what he heard. That was the spark which lead to the albums. Toby Feltwell was also instrumental in helping it all come to fruition. He was great.
John Coltrane – ‘Aisha
Cymande – ‘Dove’
Santana – ‘Waves Within’
Syl Johnson – ‘Is It Because I’m Black’
Bill Withers – ‘I’m Her Daddy’
Gil Scott-Heron – ‘The Bottle’
Curtis Mayfield – ‘If There’s A Hell Below’
Marvin Gaye – ‘T Plays It Cool’
Booker T and the MGs – ‘Melting Pot’
Merry Clayton – ‘Southern Man’
Bob James – ‘Nautilus’
Bobbi Humphrey – ‘Harlem River Drive’
Donald Byrd – ‘Lansanas Priestess’
The Main Ingredient – ‘Euphrates’
Photo by J. Grant Brittain