Genre-defying funk-jazz-soul-hip-hop-psychedelic-jam-art-rock-experimental-avant-garde music titans Lettuce recently released their sixth studio album, Elevate, on June 14th and in its support, the road warriors are bringing their blissful rhythms and sonic grooves to an extensive tour throughout the remainder of the year. We caught up with Adam Deitch, the collective’s drummer about the new album, playing live and wearing the many hats that he does not only with Lettuce but also other projects like Break Science and wherever a back beat is needed. Not only that, he’s an in demand Grammy nominated producer having worked with the likes of 50 Cent, Matisyahu, Xzibit and Ledisi just to name a few.
I’m kind of in a quandary and hope you can answer a question for me that I have. I’ve been listening to your new album, Elevation and I don’t know whether to lay back and chill or get up and move. Any suggestions?
Man, both, bro. We’ve got tracks for both on that album.
It’s really cool. You guys just dropped this album in the middle of June and then a couple days later you’re playing Red Rocks Amphitheatre, headlining “Rage Rocks”. That’s one heck of an album release party.
Yeah, it was so amazing it worked out like that. (laughs) It was kind of dreamy. This is our fifth year headlining Red Rocks and this was the most special because we just dropped the record.
You have to wear a lot of hats in the band. You’re a drummer and all that, but you’re producing as well. How do they coexist and what is your mindset like when you guys are recording?
I do a lot of writing. I do a lot of composing of the songs and sometimes we get to the studio and sometimes it’s a song we’ve been playing live sometimes on a series of albums we’ve been dropping. A lot of the songs we haven’t played before and I like that too. It’s nice and fresh. Album to album they have fresh tunes and tunes we’ve been playing out. It’s my job to make sure everybody feels good and feels comfortable and just get what they do.
What’s really cool is that it has a live feel to it. A lot of times you’ll hear a band live and then a recording and it’s like two totally different worlds and you’re thinking, “What happened here?” You guys seem to have that funky fresh feel throughout the entire recording process.
Yeah man. We always record live. And I’ve probably been doing it for years and we like to be in the same room and see each other and have a vibe. When the song’s over maybe the guys will fix a mistake or two of one note missed here or there. Other than that it’s a live take. Every song is a live take.
Elevate is the first album you put out in years. How road tested was the material on the new album?
I would say maybe 30 to 40 percent was road tested. About 60 was; “Let’s do this new tune guys. Here’s the recording and let’s all get together on it and make it the best we can”. It was a mixture of both.
You come from a long line of drummers. Did you feel as if that was your destiny growing up?
Yeah man both my parents were drummers as was my great uncle. They also played every instrument. They played keyboard, guitar and sing and their both music teachers and college professors. I’ve been in this music game for a long time from the time I was three year old, so yeah, meeting the guys for Lettuce was the catalyst for where the potential to where I can take it to. These guys are my brothers and we’re all trying to push each other and make each other better.
What made you choose drum over other instruments? Was it because of your parents? You said they played multiple instruments…
I’ve been playing piano my whole life – as long as I’ve been playing drums. I’m playing guitar and bass, took a little saxophone in seventh grade, so I’ve got a basic understanding of other instruments. But drums were so natural, seeing my parents playing all the time. It was something I really didn’t have to grind at because I could always ask my dad, “How do you do this” or ask my mom. They were right there. It was just a natural progression.
You’ve got to be one of the hardest working men in show business. I was looking at your schedule and you’ll be playing The Caverns here shortly but this weekend you’ll be playing with Break Science in Atlanta.
Oh yeah. Every break I have off with Lettuce I’m out with Break Science or I’m out with my quartet. I just try to keep trucking away – keep drawing from all the musical sides of my brain – just try to keep moving. We’re really excited for The Caverns. We had a really great time last time and this time we’re going to be a little more relaxed. It’s going to be a really great show. I’m really excited for it.
Is what you do on stage as far as songs scripted or just to with the flow? I understand you write songs and when you’re in the moment you can go on a tangent even though all songs have a basic structure. Many think music is just one of those things you just do, but there seems to be a lot more planning than meets the eye.
We try to find a happy medium between the two – between the stuff we know and the stuff we make up on the spot. Pretty much our formula now is have something we know to play at the beginning, have a way to end it and the middles are up to the guys to create. So that keeps everybody fresh, keeps everybody happy. We get to the middle of a song and “Shmeeans” the guitar player might come up with something totally different – a different groove. He solos and goes wherever he wants. It’s really open. It’s open to a lot of improvisations. Every song is 50/50 improv and an outline of what we’re going to do.
Besides playing live you spend a lot of time in the studio producing, not only your projects but others as well. Do you find that a relief from being on the road or do you find being on the road a relief from being in the studio?
I need both in my life. I try to be the studio guy who’s in the studio 24 hours a day for months and then I get a little stir crazy. And then if I’m out on the road too much I miss the studio. I really have to do both for my own sanity and it kind of balances each other out.
Do you find yourself being a perfectionist?
Not really. It’s not about perfection; it’s about having an outpouring of creativity. It’s about just putting stuff out for people to hear and enjoy – not making them wait too long for something. I want to have something new for them – something they can feel a part of. That’s the main goal. Perfection is an unattainable thing. I’m more into imperfection. Perfection is really imperfection – the little things that are real and human. I’m not trying to make perfect stuff, but I just want people to enjoy it and I want to keep on putting out creative stuff.
Lettuce has been around over 25 years now. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday you guys were the new kids on the block – pardon the play on words. (both laugh)
Yeah man, we all tried being here and doing different things – going out with pop stars and different bands and then we all realized about eight years ago we just wanted to play with each other. We just wanted to hang out with our best friends and play music. It just all worked out. We finally got the guys that want to be a part of it. And we wanted to be on the road and playing everywhere, so it’s a beautiful thing. Everybody’s really happy and gelling good.
How do you feel your music has grown the last two albums?
Just more influences, man – we’re influences by so many different things. All these new beat to check out from bands that play hip-hop records to crunk and old music from the ‘70s and ‘60s we’re listening to. We bring that all in. We’re expressing different sides, finding different genres to kind of pull beats from and write tunes over. It’s definitely a progression. The more we all listen to other stuff and keep sending each other music, the better that we write. There’s a progression happening.
Would you say music is a never-ending process?
Never-ending. It would take a million lifetimes to get where we want to be. We’re just here to chop away at that tree and try to carve something out of that marble – you know what I mean? Make a nice thing. It takes a long time and we’re all down for the ride.
– Dave Weinthal