Van Hunt: Straight From Concentrate

It’s hard to pin down Van Hunt. His music can range from soulful to rock to experimental. His lyrics can vary from overtly romantic to insistent. And during this interview, he was elusive and alluring; just like the words to your favorite Van Hunt song.Hunt has come a long way from writing Dionne Farris’ “Hopeless,” […]

It’s hard to pin down Van Hunt. His music can range from soulful to rock to experimental. His lyrics can vary from overtly romantic to insistent. And during this interview, he was elusive and alluring; just like the words to your favorite Van Hunt song.Hunt has come a long way from writing Dionne Farris’ “Hopeless,” which was featured on the Love Jones soundtrack in 1997. Ten years later, his fans have been wearing out The Popular Machine, the four-song sampler released in August to preview Hunt’s January 2008 full-length album. Van Hunt’s newest album, Popular, isn’t exactly a follow up to 2006’s On The Jungle Floor. It is more sonically-daring, lyrically-risqué and emotionally naked. Basically, it’s a lot more to digest than your average Soul Singer.After penning one of music’s most frank hooks of the year, Hunt swears he isn’t aggressive, but actually shy. Is this part of his mystery as a musician? He also opens up with us about how he almost walked away from music. Was it a hunger for popularity or a love affair with music that made Van Hunt stay in the game? You decide. Alternatives: You released a four-song EP in August. What was the strategy behind releasing that, and then releasing the full album in January of 2008?Van Hunt: That was Blue Notes’ idea. Since the release date was so far away, and I had actually finished the album in March, they wanted to get something out there. We didn’t want to go nine months without something out. So they came up with the idea of releasing the EP.AHHA: You have a song called “The Lowest 1 Of My Desires.” The hook is pretty straight to the point…Van Hunt: I think that’s the end of the point, don’t you?AHHA: I don’t know, you tell me.Van Hunt: The verses to me are like poetry. So after you poeticize your target, your lover, the only thing that is left to say is, “I wanna f**k.”AHHA: How did you get the idea to come that aggressive or is that just how you are?Van Hunt: I didn’t think that was aggressive. I thought it was just the only thing left to say. It was important for me for people to get the concept. But I would say the song highlights a part of my personality.AHHA: Do the women you date have any issues with this aggression that you don’t see as aggression?Van Hunt: I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. It’s not like some of the other songs that I’ve heard that say, “I wanna f**k” and there’s no poetry to it at all. There’s no warm up or no foreplay or nothing. AHHA: A lot of your songs are very sexual and you talk a lot about your sexuality in songs. How do you feel like you express that differently than your peers in soul/R&B music?Van Hunt: I didn’t know I talked so much about sexuality.AHHA: Well, you do have a song called “The Dimples On Ur Bottom.” That’s kind of sexy. I think you are descriptive of women and femininity. So that can be sexy.Van Hunt: I don’t really listen to other soul and R&B singers. I’m assuming you are talking about [my peers as] Raheem DeVaughn…or the D’Angelos or the Maxwells?AHHA: You don’t listen to your contemporaries, your peers?Van Hunt: No.AHHA: What do you listen to?Van Hunt: Let’s see, today I bought some Bo Diddley.AHHA: Who do you consider your peers, musically?Van Hunt: I guess everyone would be my peer; everyone who is still making music today.AHHA: You make romantic and sexy songs, and so do a lot of your musical peers. So how do you make your songs so different?Van Hunt: Why are you trying to make me call those people’s songs fake? [laughs]AHHA: I’m not saying that. I just noticed that you have a very strong and different point of view. So how is your point of view different?Van Hunt: I don’t know. I’d have to listen to some of the songs and the artists you are talking about. I mean, we all have individual talent. I think my music stands alone. I think it’s impossible to make comparisons.AHHA: The album is called Popular. On the album, you seem to be kind of cynical about being a star. How did that attitude come about?Van Hunt: There are two definitions of a star. Obviously, Oprah Winfrey is a star. But, Joi, who people consider an underground singer, is a star in so much as the way she carries herself. I think I’m a star along those lines, and I’m not cynical about that. I like that I am Van Hunt. Maybe the cynicism you pick up on is just my sarcasm. The way people act and the way people treat you, you know.AHHA: You’ve said this album is the most sonically-pleasing to you. How do you go about getting what’s in your head onto a track and making it sound the way you want?Van Hunt: The only way I can do it successfully is practice. You gotta keep making records. Keep playing you skills and practicing your craft.AHHA: You have song on the album, “N The Southern Shade,” where you talk about retiring and not making music anymore. How close were you to giving it all up?Van Hunt: I was certainly ready to walk away after On The Jungle Floor. It didn’t make a difference to me whether I continued on. I just didn’t think it was making a difference. But that quickly changed, I started writing songs and making music. And I got it in my head that I could be important again. Now that I’m finished with the record, I no longer fear if I’m important or whatever. I love doing what I do.AHHA: What’s the best thing and the worst thing about fame?Van Hunt: Well, probably that there’s not enough of it. The worst thing is that it’s not enough, so I can’t afford the yacht that I want. The best thing is that it’s not enough.AHHA: You have a song called “Anything (To Get Your Attention).” What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to get a woman’s attention?Van Hunt: I never try to get anybody’s attention. AHHA: Never?Van Hunt: Not in the way that you would think. I’m too shy.AHHA: What about something interesting you’ve done to get someone’s attention. Maybe not crazy, but just innovative.Van Hunt: Well, I’m much more interesting after I get into a relationship with somebody, than beforehand.AHHA: The chase is supposed to be the interesting part.Van Hunt: To be honest, I guess I’m fortunate enough to not have to chase. There’s really no time.AHHA: You have a song called “Being A Girl.” What are the traits in women that you like the most?Van Hunt: Oh man, the one I like the most is that women are so much stronger than men. And yet they have to assume this position of fragility. That’s what I like the most.AHHA: You have a song called “Character.” What is something about your character you wish you could change?Van Hunt: I’ve just about ironed out all my wrinkles. [laughs]AHHA: I don’t know if I believe that. Are you serious?Van Hunt: [laughs] I’m serious! I feel pretty comfortable with who I am.AHHA: So if I would have asked you that question five years ago, what would the answer be?Van Hunt: It would be me being honest with the people around me. I just started telling the truth about everything. A friend of mine once told me, you’d be surprised how far the truth will get you. And he was right. AHHA: When you ironed out your character flaws, how did that affect you as a musician?Van Hunt: It made me more focused, because I didn’t have so much to try and keep hidden from people. So the things that I give to my music now are much more concentrated.AHHA: You have a song called, “Turn My TV On.” What’s your favorite TV show?Van Hunt: Columbo, by far. It’s so smart. Especially the shows from 1968-1978. It’s hard for me to imagine that television was so smart at one time. That’s a classic.AHHA: Describe your music to me using your five senses. Van Hunt: The music feels like Portland cement. It tastes like Grand Marnier. It looks like a Le Corbusier building. It smells like s**t. [laughs] Especially the new album, it’s just uncut. It’s at the bottom of all the funk. I want to give it to people sometimes. Just give them all my s**t and what’s going on with me. That’s what it smells like. It stinks!  AHHA: And what does it sound like?Van Hunt: It sounds like Van Hunt.