Nutt Gone Yet: An Interview With Lonnie "Meganut" Marshall from Weapon of Choice
by Andy KaufmanLonnie Marshall, bass player, singer and mastermind extraordinaire behind the phenomenal collective known as Weapon of Choice, coined the term "nutmeg" for their brand of high-energy funk. Despite the popularity of their first two albums, the band has struggled to exist without proper support ever since Sony's Loosegroove label bit the big one. Likewise, the media has ignored the band, despite their popularity, and only small pieces of the entire story have been revealed. In this exclusive interview, the man known as Meganut helps to fill some of those holes and bring a bit of closure to the multitudes of fans who have spent years wondering.
PSF: Tell me how you came up with "nutmeg."
I always liked the way the name/word sounded. It was always one of those funny words for me. So at a Trulio Disgracias rehearsal, one funky afternoon, Billy Bass from the original Funkadelic was on the bass and Greg Bell was on guitar and Fish from Fishbone was on drums and they were playing a groove that sounded to me like the groove was saying "nutmeg." So I just put the nutmeg vocal on it and me and Norwood (Fisher) from Fishbone started flowing with the nutmeg concept.
PSF: How did you know P-Funk?
One of my best friends in junior high school's father worked with P-Funk, so me and my brothers who were way into P-Funk at that time in the seventies were able to be around P-Funk, Bootsy (Collins) and George (Clinton), go to the shows, backstage... And we actually went onstage with Bootsy at the last L.A. Funk Festival in 1978, me and my two brothers, Mario and Arik. And Arik is the guitar player who once played in the Chili Peppers and now with Macy Gray. You know about Marshall Law too?
PSF: That's a big hole in my research. I don't have any of those albums.
We actually didn't do any albums. We did our two songs on the Ska Parade compilation.
PSF: So is there another Marshall Law?
Might be, if it's a heavy metal band, it ain't us. But we're heavy, though.
PSF: Did you ever release anything under Marshall Law?
No, we never released anything. That's how Weapon of Choice formed. It was originally Marshall Law, me, my brother and a drummer and then we got a development deal with a record company to record a demo. And we recorded a demo. They didn't like it. After that the band broke up, so it ended up being a solo deal. After the development deal fell through, that's when I put Weapon of Choice together. And the rest is his- and her-story.
PSF: What kind of music is/was Marshall Law? Were they like Weapon of Choice or were you trying to do something totally different?
Well, Marshall Law is a one-of-a-kind, unique combo, because it's a brother, super funky duo, being myself on bass and Arik on guitar. And so we have a connection. We used to go to jams in the early eighties in Hollywood, you know, all over the place, being the youngest ones jamming, being the only ones playing the funk. Everyone else was playing blues and shuffles... And so we got that Marshall Law connection that makes it us. And I would just say it's like all out mayhem mega-funk.
PSF: So you did the video for "Uppity Yuppity," right?
Yeah, we did the video with Jeff Moore, who did Jewel's first video. Anyway, Jeff did our video and Stone Gossard (of Pearl Jam) saw it and we hooked up in Seattle. He got us up to Seattle to record our first record, Nutmeg Sez "Bozo The Town". But before that, we were rockin' the spot everywhere, mostly on the West Coast. And then we got the opportunity to tour with such legendary bands as Fishbone, Primus and Chili Peppers. Play shows with George Clinton and opening up for Run-DMC, Ice Cube, lots of different varieties of people that we played with, because our music is so eclectic. That's where the nutmeg comes in. That's one of the many benefits of nutmeg. The pitfall, of course, is that they can't find a category for you, so that's why we call it nutmeg.
PSF: Has it been a recurring problem over the years, being difficult for the industry to classify your music?
It needs some people who understand and feel where the bands want to go and where the art wants to go, instead of wanting to know where the dough is goin'. That's great too, but the art is first. So that's where the art comes in and that's the art of nuttin'. You get somethin' out of nuttin'. Start with nuttin' and you make somethin' up. You got somethin' brand new, see?
PSF: Eventually the deal with Loosegroove ended. Did that end before they folded?
It ended as they folded. As they folded, we were without a label or a distributor at that point. Because they folded. And then we recorded Illuminutty...
PSF: Well, wait a minute. There were a couple albums in between. There was Hyperspice and then Nutmeg Phantasy, which I haven't heard. My understanding is that (Nutmeg Phantasy) was for a benefit.
It was supposed to be for instruments in schools in the educational system. So for the arts is where the proceeds were goin'. The arts in school. Have you heard Illuminutty?
PSF: Oh, yeah! My only beef is that you have no distribution.
Where'd you get it?
PSF: I eventually ordered it through Barnes & Noble. I think at most places you can order it. But if you walk into a store you just can't find it.
That's Fishbone's label Nuttsactor. Yeah... There's a problem. I'm working on recording the next record, which is going to be distributed on a wide and big scale. So that's the plan for the next one. This Illuminutty album was kind of just put out to just put something out because we hadn't put anything out there. Just to let people know that we have been recording something and this is what we recorded. It was from the rough mixes. And that's that. But we want to record a brand new record that represents where we're at now, because that record was recorded a couple years ago also.
PSF: Illuminutty was done how long ago?
PSF: And it took you that long to get it out some way?
Ah, yeah. Because I didn't have the final mix of it or anything. I had it from rough mixes from CD's. So Norwood suggested that he put it out on Nuttsactor and I said "Great". And there you have it.
PSF: Did you sign a contract with Nuttsactor or was it a word-of-mouth agreement?
It was an eye-to-eye contract. It was just an agreement.
PSF: Did you see that you got a bit more of an audience when bands like Fishbone started giving you props?
Yeah, definitely that helps. People became aware of what we do, because obviously if they love Fishbone, which many people do, and Fishbone says check something out, then people are going to check it out. And if anyone checks Weapon of Choice out, they'll get into it. There's something for everybody. Somethin' from this nuttin' for everybody.
PSF: Tell me about the song "Soda Pop." My understanding is that that song is about the band's ups and downs and the fickle nature of the music industry.
That's a good interpretation. I like that. It actually doesn't mean anything, first of all, but what it expresses is it's kind of like a public service announcement for would be pops, you know pop stars, or people that want to become pop stars before they want to learn how to play an instrument or learn how to sing or something. It's just like that. Or giving an alternative, providing an alternative as a musician to people who would want to be in that position of a pop performer to encourage 'em to actually learn how to play an instrument and you should really appreciate music for itself without all the outside artificial stuff. So, you know, that's why it's time for nutmeg, because everything on T.V. and everybody has the same conversation and is pretty much bored with it. It's time for the next wave and that's the nuttwave.
PSF: You're best known for your live performances. Have you thought about doing a video/DVD release?
We're working on that right now. There are some hype shows that we've done recently in L.A. and we're puttin' together a DVD right now from live shows.
PSF: Will you have the "Uppity Yuppity" video on there?
No, we'll have the Love Balm video on there. That's me and Gabby. She's a graduate of Cal Arts, a sitar player and a rapper/singer. That's our group Love Balm and we have a video called "Tight Noise" that'll be on there, as well as some clips of my T.V. show.
PSF: I wanted to talk to you about all your other projects like Love Balm and (your cable access T.V. show) Late Nutt Snack. I'm in Boston, so we don't get any of that stuff.
I was just out there with The Coup and the X-Ecutioners. Did you see that?
PSF: No. I wish I had.
Still waiting to get paid for it. That was a couple months ago. That's rock 'n roll... You've got to wait it out. And then you finally get credit for something.
PSF: Tell me about Late Nutt Snack.
Well, we basically improvise, play it by ear, you know, and I just invite whoever I think of callin' at the spur of the moment when I have a show booked, see who's available and then see who shows up and then we just go from there. Mostly we improv, vocally and musically. And we do a talk show format also and show video clips, stuff like that.
PSF: Do you do the interviews?
Yeah. Me and Gabby do the interviews.
PSF: How long have you been doing that?
We've been doing that for about six or seven years.
PSF: And how often do you do it?
We do it like once every two to three months. I've got a lot of shows that have been piling up. A lot of shows with Fishbone and Weapon of Choice mixed up, makin' up some new stuff with Angelo (Moore, lead singer of Fishbone) on the theremin and doin' poetry, Norwood rhymin' and a lot of stuff.
PSF: How did you first get connected with Fishbone?
I actually auditioned for a band that Fishbone's rhythm section, Norwood and Fish, was playing in at the time called Animal Dance. And they left after they got their first record deal. So I auditioned for the band Animal Dance and got the gig. So that's how I met Norwood and Fish.
PSF: I've never heard of the band Animal Dance!
You know something, a lot of nutmegheads don't know. That's the first time anyone's asked me that one. Outside of that I've been teaching at Silverlake Conservatory, teaching bass. And that's going fine. I've had a good time with that. And I've been continuing to write. And I put a band together for Snoop Dogg last year for the Jay Leno Show, a ten-piece band, which was mostly Weapon of Choice band members.
PSF: How did that come about? How does that just happen?
Let me see... That was my friend Dexter; he worked at Priority Records, which was Snoop's label. He knew that I had a band and he'd seen me play before and he basically got me the gig, putting the band together for him. Did you see the MTV Diary on Snoop Dogg?
PSF: No. Not at all.
See, you gotta see that, man. Because they show Snoop saying, "I wanna see the band." He just came out to the rehearsal for Jay Leno. He hadn't seen us. So he says, "I wanna see the band play" so we played for him. And he told us to slow it down, because he likes it gangster, so we slowed it down. "Now that's pimpin'!" And that was it.
PSF: Now you're also doing an album with Stone Gossard, right?
Yeah, I'm doing an album with Stone Gossard, featuring Matt Chamberlain, who plays on just about anything you can think of, he's the drummer, and Skerik from Critters Buggin'.
PSF: I love Critters. They're another one that's kind of dropped out sight, your label mates.
Yeah, they'll resurface, sort of metamorphasize into something else. But it always comes up nutmeg.
PSF: What is the album with Stone Gossard like? Are you still doing funky stuff or are you doing something totally different?
We're doing a little bit of something mostly different. It's still funky, but it's the funk that chased the skunk under the rock and made the rock roll.
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