Kev Marcus of Black Violin on productive mindspace and wanting to create timeless music

by Patty Templeton

Sometimes, this world is not enough, or maybe it’s hella too much. The need to be somewhere else strikes. Music can take you to the be-not-here. It’s a refuge from overdue bills, CNN, and seeing your ex everywhere. “When I hear music, I fear no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest,” wrote essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

The modern and the classic collide in the exultant string work of Black Violin, a hip-hop and classical fusion duo made up of Kev Marcus on violin and Wil B on viola. Their sound could fit as easily into an elegant salon as it could Gotham City at night. It’s an indomitable, ecstatic, gritty get-down sound.

DGO spoke to Marcus about what the group has upcoming and the creative process.

Have y’all been working on a new album?Last year, we were working on the new album and then we got to score a TV show called “Pitch.” That derailed the album a little bit, but it was such a cool experience and it was such a great show on Fox, but we do have a new project coming. It’ll probably be released in the first half of 2018.

The last album had a fair bit of social politics on it. Will that continue on the next album? There will always be social elements because of who we are and how our music blends, but we don’t try to be activists. We want to make great music. It’s because we’re black guys playing violin and we do get stereotyped that it keeps coming up. We are focused on the music, but if we see things that need to be spoken about or need more visibility, we will use our platform to do it.

Does touring interrupt or amp up your creative process? Wil might be a little bit different, but for me, I like to separate them. Being on the road is its thing and being in the studio working on an album is its thing. I don’t like them to mix together. That’s probably why it’s been a couple years since we’ve released an album, since we’ve done so much touring. We play about 300 shows a year and I have three daughters, so when I am home, I’m into them.

I need to leave and go to New York or L.A. or somewhere else to write an album. I need to be in a place to make something that I feel is timeless.

What’s your mindspace like when you are creating music?Limitless, ya know? There’s a book I like called “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.” It’s Deepak Chopra. The first law in that book is The Law of Pure Potentiality, meaning the law that anything is possible, even beyond your wildest dreams. That’s where I want to get to. I don’t like regurgitating music. I like making music that someone says, “Yo, I’ve never heard anything like this, but I love it.” That’s what I’m trying to find. I can make you a Justin Bieber song in five minutes, but to make something that people haven’t heard before? That’s hard.

Lyrics can cut you, but so can instrumentals. What’s the difference in the way they attack the heart? It’s almost scientific. My daughter was asking something a couple days ago and I told her that music is a natural property of the world. If I were to play a low A on my violin, the low A will play and it will play a third and a fifth and an octave above that and it’s an overtone series. The music is strapped into the principles and properties of our world. Inhale oxygen, exhale carbon dioxide. If you play the violin for animals, dogs bark, cows will walk to you. They’ll stop what they’re doing and look at you. We did it one time, playing Bach suites when we saw some cows.

In a vocal song, it’s “Baby, I love you,” it’s a much more direct way to get people’s feelings to change. The best music, no matter if it is Ozzy Osbourne or Beethoven, needs to create an emotional response. It can do it scientifically or say really cool stuff that makes people think. Or it can do a little bit of both. It’s a science project, going into the studio and trying to create emotional responses out of people. With an instrumental, it may be a bit more laboratory compared to a vocal song, which is a bit more poetic.

You play the violin and Wil plays the viola. Can you see the subtle differences of the instruments in your personalities? We both met as violists in high school. We both got scholarships on that. Then, when it got to this point that we were going to put together a group, one of us had to play a violin because, the difference between violin and viola is the viola is the alto of the choir. You don’t want to have a bunch of alto. You need that soprano belting over the top. Give it that icing. One of us had to switch to violin. We flipped a coin and I lost. Now I play violin.

I think we are both really and truly violists, but I knew I could play the violin and I’m more the violin personality because the viola player is like the bass player and the violin is like the flash, the lead guitar. If you could create a fusion festival where you headlined, who would you want to play with you? Wow. OK. Fusion headliners. I would have to say Kanye West, Snarky Puppy because I love their jazz pop fusion. Awolnation. Trombone Shorty, a little bit of that New Orleans flair in there. Let’s see, one more, if it were still possible, Linkin Park, they were the king of fusion.

If you could place that festival anywhere in the universe, where would you play? Man, let’s put it at Austin City Limits. (Laughs)

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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