Charlie Wilder, aka Captain Planet, has a new full-length album out this year, Cookin’ Gumbo, which encompasses every aspect of his musical personality. Getting his musical start with punk rock and rap and evolving his career to his now distinctive soul-funk and jazz sounds, Captain Planet’s world travels serve as the source of inspiration.
His last stop on his North American tour is at Elbo Room this Thursday with songstress Brit Laurén and Bay Area favorites Afrolicious.
Your production moniker is Captain Planet. Do people almost always equate it with the superhero? What does it mean to you?
Most people of my generation know the superhero, which is hilarious. Of all the spandex-wearing cartoon muscle men, he’s by far the most flamboyant. I think it’s important to laugh at things even if you take them seriously. I can’t deny that a part of me has always wanted to be a superhero. I care deeply about the planet’s dance floors and I want to protect them from eco-villains who think in dollar signs and study billboard charts to concoct pop-music-of-destruction. Captain Planet is summoned by the rhythmic powers combined: guaguanco, samba, diwali, taiko, funk. Ask Don Cheadle, he knows.
You started out with punk rock and hip-hop roots. What made you want to dig deeper into jazz, funk, and world music?
In all honesty, I started life with my parents playing Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and early Talking Heads on repeat, mixed with a healthy dose of Michael Jackson and James Brown. So going into world music is actually going back into music that my parents liked, and recognizing that they had good taste. I still love punk and hip hop, but I’m not 13. My first punk song was called “Burning Spears from the Sun.” I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since then.
Share with us some of the inspirations behind your new full-length album, Cookin’ Gumbo.
Driving across country with my best friend at age 16 and the only four cassette tapes we had were Outkast, Beatnuts, The Meters and Thomas Mapfumo (an amazing artist from Zimbabwe for those that don’t know). By the time we hit Louisiana in August, the music had melted into my subconscious.
What made you finally decide to make it this year?
There were several forces at work here. For starters, I moved to a new city (L.A. from Brooklyn) and all aspects of my life were in transition and flux. The band I had been investing most of my musical efforts into was falling apart. Also, my good friend who runs Bastard Jazz records was like, “Dude, let’s make this happen.” In more ways than one, putting out this album was returning to something that I started a long time ago.
What kind of vibes should we expect from it?
Thank you for this question! Why are non-hippies afraid of the word “vibes”? This word is crucial. Music is vibration and if you’ve ever experienced psilocybin or read about E=MC squared, then you know that all matter is fluid energy as well.
I am trying to promote vibes with a prominent low end (60hz) to gyrate your center of gravity (hips and ass), accompanied by a prominent hand-clap inducing smack (5-10khz), which also contains the psychedelic element of an imagined landscape where traditional cultural styles blend in unexpected ways. Oh wait, my bad, that’s just Brooklyn where I’ve been living for 10 years.
Since it’s so full of inspiration of different music around the world, have you done a lot of traveling of your own?
Yes. If you’re debating higher education, allow me to be the voice of reason. Don’t go to college, go to Africa! Or do both. But please make international travel a part of your life. And I’m not talking cruise ships, or Club Meds. I’m not even talking hostels full of Australian and Israeli backpackers. I’m talking about taking the bus to a part of town that you and your friends have never been.
You’ll be playing with Afrolicious on Sept 15th. Whats your connection to this crew?
These dudes! Would you believe that we’ve known each other digitally for years, and never actually met? It’s so rediculous, Oz even came to a spot I was DJing in Brooklyn and danced and didn’t introduce himself! That’s crazy. I know what they do in SF and I know and respect their music, and I am very much looking forward to finally drinking whiskey with them.
What can we expect from your live show?
God willing, you will be privy to one of the great voices of our time, the illustrious Brit Laurén. I will DJ, that will surely happen and that will be cool, but if I can manage to get her up to SF for the show, then you will really be in for a treat. Just this past weekend, we were sitting at a campfire and she brought me to tears in front of a bunch of friends with her rendition of a Donny Hathaway song. This woman is amazing and I feel like it’s my duty to promote her vibes.
Captain Planet performs September 15th at Elbo Room. Tickets are $5 and the party starts at 9:30pm.