FeaturesSonic Universe – Taking You Higher

Sonic Universe – Taking You Higher

The cosmos aligns in grand ways to pull together this quartet of experienced, seasoned musicians to form Sonic Universe. Singer Corey Glover established himself for decades in Living Colour, guitarist Mike Orlando was an integral part of Adrenaline Mob, with bassist Booker King and Sworn Enemy drummer Taykwuan Jackson rounding out this killer lineup. The debut album It Is What It Is combines elements of funk, soul, rock, metal and punk – the songs vaulting off the page, containing an endless supply of integrity, hooks, melodies, and supplementary progressive musicianship in spots that should easily win over followers in every part of the world.

Another bucket list talk for this scribe (who remembers the debut Living Colour album Vivid rising up the charts in my senior year of high school, freshman year of college) – singer Corey Glover brings us into the formation of Sonic Universe fold, expectations of developing this act in today’s internet-driven music scene, how “Cult of Personality” has become an iconic, evergreen song, special musical milestones, how he’s able to keep his voice in stellar form, plus future plans for both Living Colour and Sonic Universe.

Dead Rhetoric: The genesis of Sonic Universe took place when you and guitarist Mike Orlando were invited as special guests for the all-star jams on the Shiprocked Cruise in 2023. What was the initial introduction like between you and Mike, and how quickly thereafter did you start putting together the key components and lineup for Sonic Universe?

Corey Glover: I was on the Shiprocked Cruise as a stowaway. So was Mike to a degree, but he had his band there. I happened upon him playing on the pool deck with his band and I was blown away by his playing. I was very excited when my manager said he knew him, and he could introduce us. He introduced me (to him), we hit it off and hung out a lot on the boat. Made a promise to each other that we would get together and do some writing when this thing was over, so we did that. Things got really good, writing songs with him really turned out well, we decided to continue. We thought we needed to have a band, and we also needed to have a record deal. I suggested Booker, who had been playing with me forever and had been playing in my solo band a long time. Taykwuan comes from a band, one of my favorite bands Sworn Enemy. He had the right combination of influences that were necessary for this. He actually did come from a gospel background, one of his parents is a preacher, and he played in his mother’s church. He had that going for him, and he had the metal chops for days. He was a great sort of fit. Booker as well, he’s been playing with people forever and he has a really sort of solid foundation for us to work on.

We had these songs and we plugged them into this whole thing. We had Larry Mazur to help us get a deal, and he did. He got us a deal with (earMusic), and the rest they say is history.

Dead Rhetoric: Did you know straight away what direction you wanted to go in for the material that makes up the debut album It Is What It Is – or is it more of a case of trusting your instincts and talent based on the musicians within the group to just organically let things evolve and see what comes out?

Glover: I knew of Mike’s stuff with Adrenaline Mob and the other stuff with the other bands he had played in, so I thought let’s do what you do, I’ll do what I do, and let’s see what happens. Fortunately, it’s a good combination. What I didn’t know and found out very quickly is that Mike is an amazing engineer and producer. He did all that on this record as well. He has a great ear, and his mixing skills are amazing. It’s not just that he’s a really good guitar player and a songwriter, he is a good producer as well.

Dead Rhetoric: Were there any particular songs that were a little more challenging than others when it came from the demo stage to the final output?

Glover: “Beautiful Disunity” was one that we had to come back to the well often. I had to change some things up just to make it work.

Dead Rhetoric: Did you know right away which songs to premiere as singles from the record?

Glover: Absolutely. For It Is What It Is… “I Am” was the first song that we actually got together and wrote for the record. That being a single, it kind of worked. “Higher”, is bouncy, lively, kind of uplifting, and it’s positive in a world of very, very dark places you can go to nowadays. It’s a very happy song.

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to making videos, has the process changed compared to what you used to do back in the early Living Colour days?

Glover: Some videos the budgets were like that of small feature films back in the old days. What we did, we shot three videos for Sonic Universe in one day. The background sets didn’t change, just our clothes did. But it worked for what it was, it gave a uniformity to the look of what we are trying to get.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the songwriting and direction for this debut record? What songs do you believe came easiest to you – and conversely, which songs took on the most evolution?

Glover: The greatest evolution. The songwriting was relatively simple. Mike would have a groove in mind, and I would start writing lyrics and melodies after that. He came up with some stuff, I came up with some stuff, and it was a very collaborative effort between the two of us. There wasn’t much difficulty. “Beautiful Disunity” was the only song that posed a bit of an issue – but not much of one. It was simple, and once we got that fixed it was smooth going after that.

Dead Rhetoric: What was your approach to the lyrical content for Sonic Universe? Has the art and craft of writing memorable words and melodies evolved for you from your early days in Living Colour to how you look at things currently?

Glover: Yeah, a little bit. If I have a nugget of an idea that I’d like to say, I try to write around that. I still try to find a theme. Sometimes I don’t particularly have it completely there, fortunately for me I had Mike there sort of like as a sounding board. He contributed a lot to making these songs work.

Dead Rhetoric: It seems like Living Colour is gaining a second and now third generation of followers thanks to former WWE wrestler CM Punk using “Cult of Personality” as his main entrance theme over the past decade or so. How does it make you feel to have such an enduring song make that massive of an impact 36 years after its original release- in so many different ways?

Glover: The song itself has that air of being evergreen. Because the theme that it was taken from was forty years old to begin with. The idea of “Cult of Personality”, it happened in the 1930s, fifty years before that. It was an evergreen idea that we captured, we fed our imaginations over. It doesn’t surprise me that it still has a life, and it will always have a life. The idea in and of itself is one that you can’t deny.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of the music industry and its evolution over the decades? How do younger musicians and artists make an impact compared to when you first hit the scene – as it seems that while the internet may be the great equalizer, its tougher to make a big splash compared to the days of MTV, major label support, and terrestrial radio push?

Glover: Yeah, because your phone is a radio right now. You can hear any kind of music, anything you can think of. It’s right there, say to Google what you are looking for and it will give you a list. They’ll give you playlists of songs you can find. Any kind of music you are looking for, it’s right there. What that means is that the ubiquity of it all makes it less important. Where you had to keep your hand on the dial of the radio back in the day, you can find it for yourself and be your own radio deejay. That lessens the importance of (music) sometimes.

Particularly with a band like Living Colour, who had very specific ideas to say about the world that we live in. It’s hard to find that niche, unless you are already there. Fortunately for Sonic Universe, we made a video, and we’ve been doing a lot of press. Getting the word out, having people listen to the songs, actually hearing the songs as the critics and influencers talk about this. If they are on board, we will be getting there.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you define success personally – and has that definition changed or evolved over time?

Glover: Success is being able to do it. I’m able to do it and live comfortably. I’m able to do it, and I’m always going to worry about bills and gas prices, but you know, I’m doing it, that’s what I do for a living. This is my job, and this is a job I’ve wanted and had for over thirty years.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider a critical or pivotal moment that helped shape your musical career?

Glover: I don’t know. There have been so many sorts of milestones. To go from playing CBGB’s on a Tuesday night to going out with the Stones. Being in the studio with Mick Jagger. Being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. There are so many different things to having people knowing what your name is. It’s an interesting double-edged sword, people know what your name is, but it is a pivotal moment.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in another recent interview that the four musicians agree upon the greatness of Thin Lizzy as a coming together point. What has Thin Lizzy meant to you as a band personally – and if given the opportunity to showcase a song or two to give it a Sonic Universe twist, what would you choose from this legendary act?

Glover: Thin Lizzy was to me the ultimate bar band. When you hear them play, you can smell the sawdust and the beer on the floor. That was the kind of thing I loved about them and that I dug, they were down and dirty. And I’m trying to think of songs I would want to do. “The Boys Are Back in Town” would be such a cliché, I wouldn’t want to do that. “Whiskey in the Jar”, that would be a good one. I don’t know what else I would want to do, but we are going to try to do that one.

Dead Rhetoric: If you had the ability to create a high school or college-level course on any subject matter outside of music, what would you create and why do you think subject matter is important for people to be educated on?

Glover: I would want to do thing about the correlation between blues music, and yes, I know it would be about music. How it traveled around the country, and eventually around the world. Those mechanisms that were used to do that in the early days of popular music, what then became pop music.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel your voice is holding up over the years? Are there specific tricks or tips that you have to use now to keep things stronger compared to your younger years?

Glover: Surprisingly, it’s still here. I’m surprised after all these years. I do have some things I do, I do warm ups and warm downs, I still have a vocal coach. I still work with that vocal coach constantly to maintain what I have. The biggest key to what it is that I do is as much as you work, it’s all about how much you have to rest. You can’t sing for two hours and then go drinking and doing whatever and not getting any sleep. You need to sleep; it’s a muscle and you are working it out. In the same way that you go to the gym, and you work out, you need as much time to recover from that just as much as you get into it. You have to warm yourself up to get to the point to do your job, and then warm it down.

Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have about the world that we live in today? If there are any changes you could make, what would you want to make for the greater good of people overall?

Glover: The search for truth is a major idea. If I could change something, any information that we get from the television, internet, anywhere, it’s vetted and unbiased and truthful. And for the good of everyone.

Dead Rhetoric: What does the schedule look like for Sonic Universe and Living Colour over the next year or so as far as recording, touring, promotion, etc.?

Glover: Living Colour is in the midst of making another record. We just got out of the studio a little while ago. We are going to do some more writing and recording over the course of the year. Our schedule as it is right now is that we are working until the fall of this year. At that point, Sonic Universe will hopefully get out on the road and do some shows, on some proving ground stuff to see what happens there. Then, hopefully we can get a Living Colour record out by 2025, and Sonic Universe will be on the road to play for as long as we possibly can, and then go back in the studio and make another record.

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