Eric Cooke is a musical polymath. A DJ, record collector, producer, vocalist and club promoter; if it has anything to do with music, Eric Cooke has done it. His musical projects are striking collages of diverse influences from the known musical universe, which he channels through specific titles like E da Boss, Lucid Paradise, The Pendletons and Myron & E.
Originally from New Jersey, Cooke is now based in Oakland, California where he’s established a varied and rich musical career as an artist, DJ and producer. He has been releasing music since 2002, almost exclusively on the vinyl format. Dusty Hip Hop breaks, released largely through his own Slept on Records marked his earliest releases while later through his career he would turn his attention to the evocative sounds of the past, siphoning elements of Soul, Funk and Jazz into the present.
Later he would join forces with 90’s music icon Myron Glasper for Myron & E with singles on Timmion Records before the album “On Broadway” found its way out on Stones Throw records. Lauded for it’s stunning “retro-soul” sound, Myron & E established Cooke as a prominent figure on the Neo-soul community with The Pendletons and Lucid Paradise taking up the baton in various new musical directions for the artist shortly after.
From Myron & E’s soulful R&B to the to the sweater funk he and production partner Trailer Limon (Dan Meisenheimer) produces as Lucid Paradise, Cooke’s music spans a vast chasm in the musical spectrum. There’s always something familiar about his music as cues from music’s history touch on something nostalgic. Like a record collector with that rare B-side that holds the key sample to a popular Hip Hop track, Eric Cooke’s musical projects play on those tenuous threads between the familiar and the unknown.
There is a considered connection between his production and his roots as a DJ with a kind of dusty character to the music that sounds like it came from some forgotten box, tucked away in a corner of a second hand store. His preferred form of communication today is the 7” and he has enshrined his love for the format in a night called 45 sessions in Oakland with Platurn, Enki, Mr. E & Shortkut. Through that night he continues to DJ while his various musical projects continue to find new audiences.
He is on the road currently as Lucid Paradise and the Pendletons and with a stop at Jæger imminent we had the opportunity to send him some questions over email. Somewhere on it’s way to Manchester we find Eric Cooke on train …
Your musical output is quite diverse going through your projects. What inspired this eclectic approach to music growing up?
Like most dj/producers, I got into hip hop in the early 80’s & because that music was sampled based it took me down a long winding road of discovering old records of all genres. Funk, Jazz, Soul, Rock, etc… After many years of listening to all types of music I 1st started out DJing and then branched out into production after I slowly started to collect drum machines, samplers, effects processors, etc….
You’re playing as The Pendletons and as Lucid Paradise at this upcoming gig at Jæger. Can you tell the folks how these two projects might go differently on the night?
On this tour they go hand in hand. We do a mix of Pendletons & Lucid Paradise tunes all together. As this is our 1st time playing in Europe we had to scale down from a live band to a PA show because the price to bring the whole crew to Europe is just to expensive. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring the full crew next tour.
Both will be live sessions in a club context. How do you adapt/modify the recorded music to the context?
We modify the music quite a bit. We only do half of some songs and add in some unreleased tunes. We just try to keep it upbeat & fast passed to get the crowd interested & dancing!
Vocalist, producer and DJ, you’ve done it all. How are all these different aspects of your career connected, and is there one you prefer over the others?
I think one just lead to the other to be honest. I started as a DJ. Then got into producing & from there I was DJing & producing for hip hop acts. As a DJ I slowly got into being a hype man for mc’s & when I was the DJ for Lateef the Truth Speaker of Quannum Collective he would ask me to sing some of his back up lyrics. Then after a chance meeting with the Timmion Records guys I began singing as an artist. The main thing for me is just to have no fear & to keep trying to push my skill set forward. I’m actually taking acting classes now so who knows….. One day you might see me on TV
I was watching the Pendletons video for Gotta Get Out and the 7” records; the idea of the rent party; and the soulful elements to track all lend a kind of nostalgia to the mood. Is that something you purposefully like to bring through in your music and your DJ sets?
Definitely! I try to play music for everyone when I DJ. I always bring some known & recognisable tunes, ones that really good but have an “across the board” vibe. This tour those tunes have been Best of My Love by The Emotions, The Glow of Love by Change, Street Player by Chicago & more like these. I love to play rare tunes but for me I want to see people having a good time & that happens when you play known tracks. Same goes for making music. After Dan (Meisenheimer) & I have our tracks laid out for a song we try to insert elements from known music that help raise tension and release in music. Same with writing hooks, we try to use phrasing that can get stuck in your mind! We try to make it hard to forget!!
You’ve been running a successful vinyl DJ night In Oakland for a while now. Can you tell us about the 45 sessions?
Yes! I’ve been a part of 45 sessions from the start along with Platurn, Enki, Mr. E & Shortkut! We have always done the party in Oakland, even before the mass exodus of people from SF who moved across the Bay. It’s been a really great party & we’ve hosted some of the top dj’s in the world. Although we don’t do it monthly any longer we just do it quarterly.
I know a lot of people have moved to Oakland, because of the tech industry hiking up all the prices in the city. How do you think it’s affected the music scene there?
The music scene in Oakland is amazing now. It’s better than San Francisco! The bars & clubs downtown Oakland are jumping most nights of the week!
What is it about the 7” format that is just perfect for you?
Oh that’s an easy one. As a dj traveling the world playing vinyl, it’s just easier to carry. That’s the main reason I started carrying around 45’s in the bay area to play. I didn’t have a car & got tired of dragging around a backpack full of 12”s so I just started carrying 45’s all the time. This was years before the hype around 45’s started.
We all know about Amoeba, but what are some of your favourite hidden spots to dig in the Bay Area?
There are a few. Every once in a while you can find a few gems at The Record Man, Ashby Flea Market, or Champion Sound!
Lastly, can you play us out with a track or five?
Here are 5 for the Road!
May My Love Be With You by Phreek
My Favorite Person by The O’Jays
Let’s Get Together by Pam Todd & Love Exchange
Rip It Up by Orange Juice
Confrontation by Home Grown Syndrome