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Monday, July 2

Interview with Scott "Sloppy White" Williams of Soul Summit DJs

Scott Williams (aka Sloppy White of Soul Summit DJs) is the featured artist at saki for the month of July! Scott has done show posters for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, J.D. McPherson, Charles Bradley & more, as well as regular show posters for Soul Summit. We talked to Scott recently about the origin of his DJ name, "Sloppy White," his take on the modern "vintage" soul movement, his favorite fonts, and a few other topics. Check out the interview below & come out this Friday (7/6) for the opening reception of Soul On Paper: The posters of Scott Williams at saki!
For your show posters you use a lot of simple, clean & recognizable fonts that are often thrown slightly askew. What’s your affinity for those types of fonts?

I enjoy making the type “dance” and be slightly energetic in the layout. I also like to use big, heavy san serif fonts to start with because they can run into or overlap one another and still maintain their legibility. Like I did in the yellow poster series with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I just want it to feel fun, graphic, and simple.

Well, mission accomplished. That Sharon Jones series is great! As a designer, are you a bit of a font junky? Are there any in particular that you find you always come back to?

I think any designer will tell you their really into fonts. I mean you kinda have to be on some level. I have designer buds that are WAY into fonts. Like they know the history behind them, make their own, etc. I have a multitude of fonts that I keep coming back to when designing. But I think I really like to mess with the san serif ones. Stretch them vertically, push them. See how that makes them “talk” or what kind of feel it generates by doing so.
As a member of Soul Summit DJs, you perform under the name “Sloppy White.” What made you choose that name? Is it just something you came up with or is there a deeper story to it?

I was starting a Golden Era Hip Hop mix back in 2000 and I knew I wanted to release it on CD. So I needed a name. I was also into graffiti at the time and thought “Sloppy White” would be a cool tag. Like how can white be sloppy or messy? You can’t see it. And it was also kind of referencing an old comedian named Slappy White. So I went with it. Thought it was funny too when people starting calling me “Sloppy”. I ended up doing 3 mix CDs from that genre which became critically acclaimed at the time. I would get lumped into articles about “Random Rap” along side DJ Ivory, Edan, DJ Shadow. All of them released obscure/rare Hip Hop mix CDs from the Golden Age (1987-1992). My name wasn’t as big as those other cats, but what set me off was the packaging I came up with. The first mix was called Fat Tape. The cover was a cassette busting out of a Hershey candy bar. I actually wrapped the CD in foil and even had the little tag that sticks out like a Hershey’s Kiss. I made another one called Get Some. The CD was attached to a mini mud flap I made with silk screened graphics on the front. So I became known for doing crazy packaging and design. Got a lot of press for it as it gave journalists something to talk about besides the music. Those are all out of print now but you can see images of them at sloppywhite.com. And you can also download the mixes for free.

Oooo, didn't know the mixes were still available for DL! Definitely need to snag those...  So, Soul Summit is obviously Chicago-based, but do you guys ever take it on the road?
We’ve talked about doing a road trip. But nothing solidified as of yet. We’ve played at multiple venues around town, but nothing compares to our home base at Double Door. It’s just a great place with wonderful people and the sound system is really fucking good (and loud).

It's obvious you dig the sweet soul music, but when you’re not spinning soul records for the sweaty masses, what else do you find yourself listening to a lot?

My tastes are all over the board. I really like 60s garage rock and some of the pop-ier stuff from that time. I’m also into 70s punk rock. Just glancing over at the records by the turntables now I’m listening to this 60s band called The Bag, ZZ Top “First Album” (really good stuff), Phluph, Lori Burton, and a Canadian punk rock group from the 70s called The Diodes. I have a lot of records amassed over the years and I really enjoy re-discovering records I haven’t listened to in a long while. Having a lot of records is also great from a design perspective. I mean they all have cover art. It’s like a graveyard of ideas I can reference at any time. The internet’s good for this too I suppose.

Yeah, but it's so much better to have that record in your hand! I'm not familiar with any of those you mentioned besides The Bag & ZZ Top. Guess I need to do some digging! You did the album art for the last JC Brooks album & you’ve done several gig posters for them. Do you have some connection to the band, or was it just a another job?

I think I first met those guys at a gig Soul Summit played with Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens at the Empty Bottle. I did the poster for that show and they really dug it. I also had an initial loose connection with Billy Bungeroth (the guitarist) via all the poster work I’ve done in Chicago’s improv/comedy community. Then they played a couple times at Soul Summit, so it kinda went from there. They’re all so incredibly talented and I’m thrilled they asked me to be a part of that album.

In the past 5-10 years there has been a major resurgence in modern bands playing vintage soul. Most notably from the Daptone label out of Brooklyn. How do you feel about these musicians recycling that sound when we’ve already got so many great soul record to listen to? Do you think it’s revivalism or rip-off?

I don’t think it’s either. It’s just good music when done right. Period. I think someone like Sharon Jones is singing the way she knows how influenced by what she grew up with. And someone like Gabriel Roth (Dap-Kings leader and Daptone founder) is playing the kind of music he’s always loved. Put those 2 together and it’s just natural. Not forced. Same with JC Brooks. JC is a fucking natural up there with a great voice. You can tell when bands are trying to force that “soul” sound. Most of the time it just comes off too polished and slick.

Well said, I couldn't agree more. Good music is good music! How about the more recent trend of pairing aging soul singers with modern electronic production, like we’ve seen XL’s Richard Russell do with the late Gil Scott-Heron & now Bobby Womack? Is that sacrilege to you as a soul DJ?

Not at all. If it sounds good, it sounds good. Regardless of age. That’s just a number and doesn’t mean shit if your heart’s still in the game. I applaud the artistic effort in general of trying to put 2 things you might think are completely different into one whole. But I’ve only heard the Gil Scott Heron record you’re referencing. I dig it. RIP Gil.

Yeah, that record was great. The new Bobby Womack was also produced by Russell (with some help from Damon Albarn). I recommend it if you liked Gil's record.  Of all the posters you’ve done so far, which was your favorite?

Aw man, that’s hard. They’re all my babies. The Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings yellow series is a fave. I LOVED manipulating James Brown’s face to make him looked super high for the Soul Summit 4/20 poster. That took forever. The Right Now poster with the chick standing over the toaster as it ejects a piece of toast upward towards her hoo-ha is fun. I also had fun with the JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound microphone poster. It’s got all these mics in it and one small dildo. I think Ben Taylor (Bassist) told me some woman bought the poster and her small kid asked her “what kind of microphone is that mommy?”. Haha… makes me smile. They all do.

Ha! I couldn't tell if that piece of bread was "rising" or "setting," so to speak... good to know. And we've actually had a copy of that JC Brooks poster from Metro behind the counter for a while now - never noticed the vibrator before. You should work for Disney. The stoned James Brown is also a favorite of ours. Good work, sir!

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