The Ohio Players: Hitting The Reset Button
The legacy of the Ohio Players is absolutely extraordinary – with timeless songs such as Fire, Love Rollercoaster, and Skintight still being played all over the radio airwaves today. Thrilling the world with their exhilarating tunes and dynamic live shows since their debut recording Observations In Time released in 1969, the Ohio Players remain a compelling force of auditory intrigue within the funk, R&B music scene and well beyond. Earlier this year, the Ohio Players unveiled a brand new single entitled Reset, and have plans to release a brand new album in the New Year.
Highwire Daze Online recently had the opportunity to chat with longtime Ohio Players’ drummer Jimmy “Diamond” Williams to discuss the emergence of Reset, much revered classics from the past, and what the future has in store for this tremendously iconic collective. Read on…
Tell me about the new song “Reset” and what inspired the lyrics? How did that song come about?
Truly, the song is about taking a look around the world with the things that are going on and what people are saying and doing. We’ve just felt it was time for a reset and for a song called “Reset.” We had been using a lot of instances where people say if time hits a reset button, we need to reset this and reset that. Of course, you have it on your computers at all kinds of gadgetry that’s around today. We have traditionally, The Ohio Players, have written songs that have been timepieces, for things that have been relevant to what’s going on. So, “Reset,” we thought was a great title. Not only in somewhat of the political aspect but in romance, and in the music industry and a lot of things going on today. People would like to hit the reset button.
How close are you to writing and recording a brand new full-length album?
We are very close. I would say that we’re more than halfway in its completion. We plan to put out the album in mid-summer of 18′ and we have about 5-6 songs 90% complete. 2-3 of which we have almost ready to go. We have another song ready and mastered for the next release. So we’re well underway, we wanted to let people know that The Ohio Players are, first of all, writing material again and then secondly, writing good material so they can feel confident when they buy the album that they’re going to be great songs on there.
What has it been like to be back in the studio after all this time?
It’s been wonderful. It’s been magical. We record all the time. We play live, you know, we’ve been playing live on the road throughout. Not nearly as much as we like to. This last year and this year, have been exceptional years for the band. Next year is going to be even more exceptional but getting back in the studio is another horse that you have to ride. In some ways, Ken, they say if it’s not broke don’t try and fix it. Certain aspects of the recording side, with The Ohio Players, we have a lot to measure up to. We tried in 1988, we went to track records / an album called “Back” and we tried to more or less simulate what was going back in the industry at that time. I think for the songs we did somewhat of a good idea, but it wasn’t The Ohio Players. So with this idea, we wanted to make everything sound not like a 70s song, but sound like what we do on stage, which is The Ohio Players. We went in with that attitude. It took us quite some time and we had even thought about and tried to go the crowdfunding way, with one of those sites and that didn’t work out for us. So that kind of put us back again and just being confident enough to record these songs and put them out, and feel good about them.
How surprised are you that songs such as “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” still stand the test of time?
You know, we felt good about it when we wrote those songs and as history would have it, they have stood the test of time which is absolutely marvelous to be able to hear those songs some 40 years (first of all be around that long). There are four Ohio Players that are gone, and not with us today. So I feel very fortunate, first of all, just to be here and second of all to be able to hear the music still being played. And, thirdly, to be able to go out and perform that music still, and see people still enjoy those songs. All of that is tremendously exhilarating and just absolutely wonderful.
How do you feel when other bands perform covers of your songs like for example, The Red Hot Chili Peppers covering Love Rollercoaster?
Well you couldn’t ask for a better rendition and not a better group could you ask to do it than the RHCP. We were totally amazed and they did a great job of it. I was just so happy that they chose our song to want to do a remake of. Them and all the artists that have remade some of The Ohio Players songs have done just a fantastic job. I won’t name them all because I will certainly leave out somebody, but all of them have done a great job of it. We feel great about it.
What do you think is the most underrated Ohio Players album, and why?
I think Contradiction is the most underrated because musically, I think Contradiction has great songs within it. The title of the song and the subject matter is not one that appeals. Honey appeals, Skintight appeals, Fire appeals. Contradiction is somewhat bad, it’s a contradiction. The subject matter’s way hard and it was hard to write a song about it, but The Ohio players have always attempted to write songs – not just dance songs, but all kinds of music. Hopefully the musicality of those songs were done expertly. That’s what we try to achieve. And I think that album more so than any is underrated.
It’s funny you mention that, I actually bought Contradiction last week and it’s really good. I had not heard it before. Will The Ohio Players be performing live in the New Year and what can one expect from a live Ohio Players show?
Expect the unexpected. I’ll tell you what, we have done shows this year from The Hollywood Bowl to where we did the Taste of LA where I told people there was a small crowd of friends of thousands jam. It’s kind of a crowd, little club, it was outdoors. We just performed there but we’ve been to The Hollywood Bowl twice in the last three years. We have done various casinos, festivals all throughout CA and around. We even played our hometown which is quite exciting because you never do that. We did that this year with The Ojays. So you can expect the unexpected. This band, I tell people all over the world, there’s no band that plays The Ohio Players better than The Ohio Players. Although we moved on in years, you will never see that on stage. This band is exciting, we have a show that people are seeing today is the best show that they’ve ever seen. I tell people that. It’s quite rewarding to hear that. I’m very flattered, but we’ve heard that within the last 2 years more than I’ve ever heard that in my career. We have 11 pieces on stage. I also tell people, Ken, we don’t use no samplers or no vocoders, autotunes and all that kinda junk. You get a chance to hear and see musicians sing and play without such gadgetry. What a concept!
What do you think has kept you so passionate about music after all of these years?
I’ve had a chance to hear music progress or regress, if you want to say it that way. To a point, I’m not talking about the music by how it’s performed. Or the lack of it. With machines taking the place of human beings and the first person they wanted to jump on or the replacement thereof was the drummer with these drum machines. They were the first ones, my job Ken. I take it quite personal, I do. You still hear a lot of songs today being recorded with machines. So there’s been a lot of change and that passion of the change has only caused us, The Ohio Players, to want to come back and show the world that there’s another way as it was in the 70s and 80s and 50s and 60s of performing live music. It’s not too often heard today in radio and otherwise and there’s a place for it. So here we are. We led the way with a lot of things in the 70s and The Ohio Players want to lead the way today.
Do you have any messages for Ohio Players’ fans who are reading this right now?
Stay tuned, strap up and get ready for a lot of good music. We’re around. We’ve been very blessed to be here. We’ve got a gift that we want to display. And people overwhelmingly have accepted that gift from us in years gone by. We just want that acceptance again, we’re gonna do our job. We’re gonna do everything possible to write good music. We want them to listen to it, and if they like it, buy it.
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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