We caught up with Herbie Hancock the other day as he was in the middle of fixing his car. That’s right, Jazz Legend Herbie Hancock was running late because his hands were covered in oil. Hancock recently had to cancel an appearance in SF—he’ll be playing at the Mountain Winery tonight, and he said he hopes people will make the drive down. Below we’ve excerpted part of our conversation with him. ‘Then and Now: The Definitive Herbie Hancock’ will be released Sept. 23 on Verve.
Favorite musicians from Bay Area
Carlos Santana is one. I don’t know a lot of musicians that currently live there now. Tower of Power was certainly a favorite of mine—I don’ know if they live there anymore, but that sound is the sound that comes from the Bay Area and Oakland. That was one of my favorite groups. Joe Henderson, the jazz musician who passed away a few ago, was one of my favorite. I made a lot of records in recording studios in the Bay Area. To the point where I’ve been asked several times to help be a presenter at the Grammys, and a lot of people thought I lived in the Bay Area. My former manager David Rubenstein lived there at the time and he had a studio there called the Automat-e, and I recorded there many, many times—I made a lot of records there so I have a deep enduring attachment to the Bay Area.
Any advice to aspiring musicians?
My viewpoint, Buddhism, includes a portion of what l learned from Miles [Davis]—Miles always said work on things, explore, think outside the box. And what Buddhism teaches is no matter what happens to you, no matter what you might experience in life there is always a way to find something positive, something that can move you forward. No matter what it is. Whether it is something that is painful or tragic, or whether it is something that is lovely and exhilarating. There is always a viewpoint that you can find that can have a positive effect on your life. So practicing really builds up the fundamental essence of your life. From the standpoint that there are really an infinite number of ways to look at things, and that is what I believe. Because of that I believe that there are an infinite number of ways I can find to express myself in music. An, infinite number of ways I can come up with projects. That’s why every record I’ve done over the last ten years or so has been different from anything I’ve done before. And different from what anybody else is doing, I specifically look for that. I look for a way to do what I’ve not already done. Promoting that is a way of being what you believe in.
Buddhism talks about that too. It’s your responsibility to turn that into action and be that—and have it be an integral part of your life. Consequently I’ve found ways. One way of looking at what I’m talking about in music is captured called “reinventing”. Madonna’s done that several times. Miles Davis did that several times. That’s how he was able to stay viable through several decades in music, and have such an influence on pop and rock. What I’m doing in music is very much an extension of that. It also implements one of the most important things to me now, in the later stages of my life, which is to take my experiences from things I’ve learned and to share them and hand them down. Share them with young people so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, they can find other ways of expressing themselves. That’s my advice to young people—find the way or ways that work for you to be positive in your life and music.