True to our site’s name, sometimes we catch a vibe with the stars we interview and they drop more gems than we’re able to use. “Outtakes” is a series of excerpts from VIBE profiles, Q&As, and cover stories that we just couldn’t leave on the cutting room floor.
Earlier this year, VIBE spoke with Felton Pilate of Con Funk Shun about the chart-topping cover of their hit record “Loves Train” performed by Silk Sonic’s Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. In the May 2022 interview, Pilate revealed the song was a pleasant surprise and put fans on notice that Con Funk Shun would soon return the favor.
Still, with his decades in the industry, Felton Pilate had more stories to tell. Our lively conversation touched on the music industry and colorful stories of past times on tour and in the studio. Here, we gathered the best, unpublished moments of the full discussion.
On Staying Inspired
To be honest with you, I spend the first 20, to 30 minutes of every day studying and learning something on YouTube. Listening to other artists, learning engineering tricks, [and] production tricks. I listen to playlists, too, just so I can hear what’s going on. As a producer, in producing consumption, I have an interesting tightrope to walk. In my mind, I have to stay true to what my former listeners are used to hearing while keeping the sound fresh and up to date for all the new listeners. It’s an interesting tightrope to walk, but it’s coming along.”
On Who He Listens To Now
“I have to honestly say I’ve been a fan of Bruno Mars ever since “Grenade,” both as a songwriter and as a recording artist. Ne-Yo, I like Ne-yo’s stuff. I gravitate toward him. Kem. There was a guy I met when we were out on tour with The Deele, a long time ago. Right? And I think that the guitar player kind of stood out to me, very, very talented performer and songwriter. He told me his name was Babyface. I’ve been a fan of his since we met, production and songwriting. Dua Lipa.”
On Dua Lipa
“She’s an example of the new music and stuff that I need to pay attention to. I need to go back to when I was producing MC Hammer. I remember promising myself that whoever knocked him out of the number one position, I promised myself I would just go buy their album. I need to stay attuned to the pulse of what everyone is listening to. It was Garth Brooks. And I’m serious, I sat down and I got past my initial dislike of country music. I really did. I said, ‘Oh, well, this is what the country’s listening to. I need to learn it. So I need to pay attention to this.’ And I think it was his crossroads album. By the time I finished listening that two or three, I’m like, ‘Okay, I get it.’ And I think all songwriters, we all need to do this, just to… Don’t close yourself off to one genre. Be familiar with… As producers, be able to do all of it.”
On Working With MC Hammer
“There was that strong musician part of me, and I’ve said it several times, it felt like part of what I was doing with Hammer was to take what he brought me and turn it into something that I was comfortable listening to. Taking the very raw ideas. Now Hammer was a very creative guy. Right? And he would bring me songs that he had just programmed on his drum machine, and I would take that and make it more musical. And so yeah, that was it.”
On Tour Memories
“Being out on tour with him [MC Hammer] as his music director was a summer of unbelievable experiences. We literally toured all of Europe and the United States, so that’s just stuff I didn’t get to do with Con Funk Shun. We sold out the Tokyo Dome, I think, two or three days in a row. To be part of that huge machine was life-changing. There were a couple of moments, by the way, that had nothing to do with MC Hammer, that I can’t forget.
I do remember in Greensboro, North Carolina… I think that was before I became his music director. I think for the first year I did front-of-house sound for Hammer. And, of course, this was after I quit Con Funk Shun and before we re-banded. And we’re doing a concert in Greensboro, North Carolina with Guy and New Edition, and a fistfight broke out on stage in the middle of New Edition’s show. I’ll never forget that man. That was a crazy mess.
I’d actually say just that whole experience. Oh, and of course, my first experience with Hammer came at a time when I was… A few minutes ago, I was saying that you should open your mind to all kinds of genres. I did not like rap music, was not a fan, but was open to the challenge of producing it, of getting in there and working with it. So, it was a challenge and learning experience. Literally, I was learning as we went. With every new song we were doing, I was picking up something else. Worked out well. We sold 2 million copies on the first album.”