The Truth Is Very Important: Life According To Quincy Jones

A number of thoughts on a variety of topics from the man who made "Thriller" with Michael Jackson.
From Manzine Issue IV: Quarta Edizione


On Long-haired dictionaries & advice for young men

"The best advice I had when I was young was from Vin Webster. He said, 'youngblood, step into my office, I gotta pull your coat,' which means I wanna tell you something important. 'Everywhere you go, eat the food the people eat, listen to the music they listen to, and learn 30-40 words in every language'. I speak Greek, Farsi Turkish, French, Swedish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian - I'm not talking fluently, but I like to get around. They say a long-haired dictionary is the best way to learn an language. I got two girls in China teaching me in Mandarin, writing and speaking. You learn fast, man, because you paying attention" [Quincy Jones then writes his name out in Chinese, Arabic and Japanese].

On being referred to as The First Superproducer

"I don't think about that stuff. Somebody else makes that decision. I do the best I can, okay? Do you rank yourself? No. Neither do I. It's silly. It's a waste of time."

On Joe Pesci

"Joe Pesci can sing his ass off." 

On Cockney Rhyming Slang & Michael Caine

"Michael Caine and I did 'The Italian Job' in '68. We were recording at the Olympic [studios] - the Stones were in doing 'Sympathy for the Devil' at night and we were in during the day doing the movie score. He was teaching me Cockney rhyming slang, and said. 'Quincy, you don't speak the fucking rhyme, the Gregory Peck bit. You say the first word, just the one word, so nobody knows what the fuck you're talking about.'

He saw a beautiful cellist in the front row and said, 'Quincy, take a pipe between the Scotch and check out the grumble... watch the boat on the ice cream when it checks out the Bristol's on that Richard.' Its like bebop talk, which is where hip hop talk came from."

On melody & Macca

"I'm close to Paul McCartney, and 'Yesterday' is the best thing he wrote. Melody is the invisible gift from God. There's technique for all the other shit - counterpoint, retrograde inversion, harmony, orchestration - but for melody there's no formula or science to it. It's emotional. You can take examples from the past, the power of fifths and the power of octaves, but melody is God's voice. It's very, very divine."

On being really into modern technology

"Are you kidding? My best fiend is Alan Kaye. He's our Einstein. You know who he is? He's the man who invented Mac I, Mac II, overlapping Windows, icons before anybody knew what a computer was. We became friends 35 year ago in Silicon Valley. Steve Wozniak was my third engineer at one time, 1975 when we doing the Brothers Johnson. Two years later he went off and did Apple with Steve Jobs. You're gonna write this like I'm thinking about 78s and mono? No way, brother. We were there, on top of it, riding it, every inch of the way, you have to. It's part of our voice."

On whether he dances around his living room to music on his own

"Sure, music from everywhere. Cuban and Brazilian music is the hottest shit on the planet, man."

On Synths & Stevie

"Robert Moog, would say, 'Why aren't the black musicians playing my instrument?' And I said, We'll, it creates an electrical signal that you sculpt into a sine wave, but it doesn't bend, and it if doesn't bend, you can't get funky and the brothers ain't gonna be messing with it. And they didn't. Stevie wonder as working next  door to me. He put a pitch bend on that, and he got four Grammy albums in the row with the synthesiser: 'Innervisions', 'Songs In The Key Of Life' and all that. It's a tricky road you know?"

On the music of the spheres

"It's no accident to me that a symphony orchestra tunes up to A which is 440 cycles and the universe is 450 cycles - why A and not C? All this shit I wondered about for years, and I got into it early at 13. There's only 12 notes. It's fascinating, man. Sixty years and I'm still like a kid with it. If you stay up all night writing and arranging, then listen to it, it's tremendous. Almost as good as sex."

On giving advice about love

"I'd be the wrong guy. I've got six daughters and one son, five mothers, three wives. I felt like I did my duty. I didn't have a mother so I didn't feel like I knew how to raise kids, but they are the biggest blessing in the world. It's a situation. I've never been bored or lonely in my life, but 24/7 with a woman is a hard job, man, especially if you got other interests. There is no set rule for it, there are exceptions for everything. I got __ girlfriends all over the world now. I tell them the truth. The truth is very important. I tell them I got other people, I'm a bad choice for a mate, I don't wanna get married, I don't want any more babies."