Wally Clark, creator and owner of Gummy Soul Records in Nashville, is a Renaissance man of sorts. His authentic ear and love for hip-hop led to some of the greatest mashup projects of the last decade. Long after the legal barriers and cease & desist threats stemming from 2012’s amazing Bizarre Tribe remix album, featuring reconstructed classic A Tribe Called Quest beats laced with Pharcyde verses, his work continues to push the envelope of history and technology. There’s something magical about teaming the old and new to create original and innovative content that keeps real fans wanting more.
Alongside his work as visionary producer, Clark shines on the mic, crafting honest, imaginative records that paint vivid pictures of life and love, framed with perfectly placed soul samples to animate the mood. His latest record, Fling, is a memoir of romantic proportions, showcasing Clark’s skills on the mic and behind the boards.
JD: What’s happening in Wally’s World these days?
Wally Clark: Oh, you know, just the constant pull between wanting to sleep all day and trying to take over the world. I’m not too sure which side is winning right now, but I’ve been making a lot of music, so that’s good.
JD: Fling feels timely, it’s a summer record. There’s a little romance, some flexing… A whole lot of style. How did the album come about?
WC: I wrote and recorded Fling during the spring and summer of last year. It is loosely based on a girl I was dating at the time who was living with another man who was working out of town. Since she was in a relationship, we basically just lived in the moment, and I would try to be the “fun” guy and keep it loose. So the project is about fleeting romance and enjoying someone even though you know it can’t last.
JD: Lots of people recognize Gummy Soul because of the excellent blend projects with Fela/De La Soul, and the Tribe/Pharcyde stuff. On the mic or behind the boards, where do you feel most comfortable?
WC: Producing has always been a passion for me, though I still feel insecure about it sometimes. Since I’m not a musician in the traditional sense, I am constantly relying on the faith that I will be able to find new samples to use. So there is a certain mysticism to it that makes me feel like is coming from a place outside of myself, like the records are finding me. Though I’ve learned to trust that it will happen, it is still surprising when I find something on a record that fits the vibe I’m looking for. When I describe hip-hop production to people I say that “it’s not painting, it’s a collage.” It is a re-contextualization of what already exists.
Writing is different, because although some of the ideas seemingly come out of nowhere, they’re are all a part of my collective experience, and I enjoy seeing pieces of my life come out in clever ways. So writing is ultimately more satisfying, because it is more of a personal expression for me. But, since I do both simultaneously, they are both interconnected and equally important to the process.
JD: How much did your work on Nashville radio shape the direction of Gummy Soul?
WC: Radio was a very important role in the development of Gummy Soul because even before I wanted to make music myself, I was studying music and digging for records. I had a knowledge of music that made learning how to produce much easier. The radio station that I worked at, WRVU, directly influenced Gummy Soul, because when I was in high school, there was a show called 911 Emergency, hosted by Egon and Count Bass D. Through that show, Egon hooked up with Peanut Butter Wolf and went on to run Stones Throw Records, which I have tried to model Gummy Soul after.
JD: Your hip-hop pedigree runs deep. Even your label name pays homage. How did you settle on Gummy Soul?
WC: I was a huge Wu head growing up, and when I was in college, I discovered a small discount shoe store selling Wally’s for $30 a pop. So I was buying six pairs at a time, dying them, and getting real crazy with it. That’s where I got my nickname.
There is also a strong Blues and Soul history in Tennessee, and so outside of hip-hop, that is what I grew up listening to. When I started producing I would dig for artists that RZA used, and I discovered they were mostly Memphis artists. So it all just fit with the sound and vibe of what I was trying to do. I fancy myself as more of a blues singer than a rapper even.
JD: Give me three records you can’t live without.
WC: “Make Me Yours” by Bettye Swann, “I Get Lifted” by George McCrae, and “Whatevea Man” by Redman
JD: Lastly, what’s next for you and the label?
WC: I have 2 more projects that I will be releasing this year, a DOOM tribute record, where I flipped DOOM samples and rapped over them, and another called The Goat. Then I will be releasing a psychedelic rock based rap album called Bad Trip early next year, and I am beginning to work on an all analog tape recorded album with a soul group. I am also finishing up an album with Kurtis Stanley, as well as working with other Nashville artists such as Sofa Brown, Case Arnold, Litkaby and Brown. I’m also looking to start touring more, because performing is my biggest passion. That’s where I get to showcase all of my talents collectively.
Check out all of Wally’s work at www.gummysoul.com.