Listen to any of Amp Fiddler’s records and you will find that he is a true student of his craft that is never afraid to go to new places. His albums have been loved by fans and critics for years as he keeps finding new ways to approach funk, soul, and electronica while keeping it authentic and current. Artistic freedom has always been important to Amp and he uses his incredible instincts to let the music tell the story. His music is honest, from the heart, and genius, and his relentless passion for technology has made him one of the true innovators of modern Detroit music. His resume is impressive, as he has worked with George Clinton, Slum Village, Prince, Brand New Heavies, Fishbone, Maxwell and Corinne Bailey Rae. He has toured all over the world and in 2008 recorded an album with Jamacian reggae pioneers Sly and Robbie. Amp’s catolog of music is massive and his recent release, Basementality 2 (a sequel to the 2002 album Basementality), is a nice addition to his classic collection that includes Waltz of a Ghettofly and Afrostrut. Amp is a down to earth guy and seems to have a deep love for his home city of Detroit, he is more concerned about the future rather than the past, the right rather than the wrong, and is known for his energetic, positive and inspiring live shows. Amp says, “I think radio has worked hard at keeping people’s vibrations low, especially in urban areas, the frequencies are higher in the music I am working on right now – the vibrations are higher to take us to a new dimension”. Amp speaks of his new side project, Digitarians, and how he believes that people forget how powerful music can be sometimes, and how it can change the way we do things. “We need music right now,” he says passionately.
The grand piano that has been part of Amp Fiddler’s family from the the time he was born sits beautifully in the living room of his Northwest Detroit home. At the age of thirteen, Amp would sit on his aunt’s porch with the harmonica, working out blues riffs, and within two weeks he taught himself how to play. “That was my first love for music and after that I kind of knew I wanted to play music,” Amp says. Music was always in the family and it continued in the house when Amp’s father bought his brother Bubz a bass guitar- after this his siblings abandoned the piano, he saw an opportunity. His mother convinced Amp to take piano lessons but he didn’t click well with his first teacher, so he inquired about piano lessons at the Grinnell Brothers Music House in Detroit and found a teacher that taught him the fundamentals. By the time Amp was eighteen he was involved heavily with the music programs at his high school and decided to continue his studies in college, this would prove to be a life-changing decision for him.
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Amp attended Wayne and Oakland Community Colleges in the late 1970’s for a short time before he ended up at Oakland University learning from Jazz legends Harold McKinney, Sam Sanders and Charles Boles. He wasn’t there long before he was asked to play keyboards for the successful soul doo-wop group Enchantment . Amp was still exploring many different styles of music including jazz, classical, soul, reggae and funk; “I was growing in a simple way and Enchantment was a challenge because I went from playing piano to having to play synthesizer.” Amp was learning to tweak the sounds using the technology he had access to, and explained that the malfunction of some of the broken keyboards he played opened up his eyes to new sounds and the potential to shape frequencies. With Enchantment, Amp was diving deep into monophonic electronic instruments and learning the “performance” aspect of music all at the same time. With the development of polyphonic keyboards and his current status as a touring musician, it was perfect timing. Amp was growing and perfecting his craft and people were starting to notice.
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Amp met George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic in the eighties. Before this time he was buying drum machines, keyboards and recorders for his home studio to create his own demos and compositions. Amp is a self described “do it yourself” guy and felt that recording in his home was the only way to do it. Amp’s impressive studio started to attract members of Parliament-Fundadelic such as Michael “Clip” Payne, Bernie Worrell, Junie Morrison, and George’s sons Trey Lewd and Daryl. They were all recording at Amp’s studio, and it was his dream to be in the band one day. Amp’s girlfriend at the time took one of Amp’s demos to George and he liked it. Not too long after that Amp found himself on tour with Parliament Funkadelic and played with the band for ten years.
During time off from the first P-Funk tour, Amp would spend time in his home studio making demos and crafting his own sound. Kids in the neighborhood would walk by the house and were fascinated by the sound they heard coming out of it. Some of the kids approached Amp and asked him to help make music, he thought it would be a good idea to check out the talent in the neighborhood so his house continued to be a creative hub for musicians who wanted to learn and explore new sounds. With his success, he had the tools to help, so Amp become a mentor to the kids who happened to be J Dilla and the hip hop group Slum Village. Amp taught J Dilla how to operate the popular MPC drum machine, a new technology at the time, Dilla learned fast and his drum programming technique became groundbreaking and influential to other hip hop groups across the nation.
After talking to Amp for a while you understand his commitment to his community and his openness to art. He is in it for the long haul and is constantly trying to do better to create vibrations that will move your soul and take us to a new level of “being”. Music is his voice and love is his motivator and we all know that the universe can use a little more of both.