Adam Deitch is steadily among the hardest-working and most prolific musicians in the culture. The Lettuce co-founder and virtuoso drummer got that reputation from his tireless creative streak, unparalleled work ethic, and non-stop touring for more than two decades in a variety of bands, combinations, and projects. Adam Deitch is forever on the move, making the world shake what they’ve got across rhythms, languages, and continents. He’d just returned from an inspired Lettuce tour across Europe, just a few days before we reached him for a conversation by phone.
With the music industry shutting down abruptly due to COVID-19 and touring cycles for all musicians grinding to a halt, for the first time in a while, Adam Deitch has had an extended window to rest and recharge, time to cook and take care of himself without rushing back out the door for another twenty shows—but this is Adam Deitch we’re talking about here! So, while the celebrated drummer/producer has been sheltering-at-home for almost two months, the man is always creating—exponentially and at all times—dropping heatrocks with his varied endeavors and myriad collaborators.
We caught Adam at his home in Denver, CO to discuss the making of Lettuce’s new LP, Resonate, due May 8th on Round Hill Records, coming on the heels of its Grammy-nominated predecessor, Elevate. Throughout the conversation, Adam touched on working with super-producer Russ Elevado on the last couple of releases, as well as his writing process and the shared creative contributions and collective energy of the band. Deitch also was sure to tease a couple of legendary collaborations taking shape in the Lettuce-funk universe.
You can read a transcript of the interview below, edited for length and clarity.
Live For Live Music: Let’s jump right in! Resonate—the three singles are blazin’ hot! Gimme a little bit on the new record, even though people haven’t heard the whole thing just yet.
Adam Deitch: Resonate is where it’s at. It’s like if you think of the Star Wars trilogy and Empire Strikes Back, it gave everybody the chills, it has that vibe. I feel like this is like the second chapter of the trilogy, these records with [engineer/producer] Russ Elevado. This was our second time mixing with him, and this time we mixed it in New York, so we had a really good time with him. The songs are more powerful.
Live For Live Music: Russ Elevado is somebody that you admired for a long time and was always in the back of your mind. I know the band always hoped to work with him, and now you’ve got him on board for what you described as a three-album trilogy. Working with Russ, what do you love about it?
Adam Deitch: When he stops the mixing process in the middle of it, when he’s focusing too much on the mix, he’ll stop and then he’ll play us D’Angelo bootlegs that no one’s heard, and he’ll play us Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced? super loud, for all of us to really zone out, relax … We sit there and we really listen with him, and he’ll play us some Erykah Badu stuff that we’d never heard or some Roy Hargrove live shows that he mixed. He’s got all of these amazing vaults of music that only he has. The records that he listens to, he converted them from vinyl to digital himself through this special process.
Live For Live Music: Sounds like the dream studio hang!
Adam Deitch: It’s like being in class, it’s just a constant learning process, and then you go back to mixing your song and you have this wider perspective of how you should do the mix and how you should make the song sound. By taking those breaks, he’s enlightening us to his world of sonics, and that gives us ideas how to make things better. Working with Russ, it was like a masterclass, it was worth every second.
Live For Live Music: It’s a match made in heaven. He’s been a part of so many favorite records, historically. Your last, Elevate, was very celebrated, and it was nominated for a Grammy. What is different, or how did you, in essence, up the ante with Resonate? You mentioned it’s more powerful. How did Resonate turn the page to the next chapter?
Adam Deitch: We just felt more comfortable. We tracked all the stuff at the same time, but I feel like this group of songs really fits well together. With the Resonate mix, we got even more creative and started doing a bunch of psychedelic things … to make it really stand out. It’s more developed, the kind of situation where it’s just feeling really good.
Live For Live Music: I understand that you write the majority of the music [for Lettuce]. What’s that process like? You sort of write the basics, demo it out, and then you distribute it and everyone does their part? Gimme the nuts and bolts of the Voltron creating Resonate.
Adam Deitch: It all starts with the shows and us playing, and [guitarist] Shmeeans and [bassist] Jesus going off on some riff out of nowhere. That happens and it totally blows me away, because they just wrote it. And then they forget it—we get onstage and they don’t remember it. So I go back to the bootlegs, the recordings of the shows, and I find all these moments where they just made stuff up, and then I’ll take those ideas and write something off of that. Then I send them a demo, and they’re like, “Ooh, this is eerily familiar.” I’m like, “Yeah, because you guys thought of this.”
That’s kind of how I write, and I just like to do stick figure demos, just for them to hear it in song form, and not just a groove. I’ll maybe throw a melody on it, something that is very [Ryan] Zoidis [saxophone] and it’s very [Eric] Benny [Bloom, trumpet]. Then, they get it and they go, “That’s great, but let’s try this and try that and try this,” and then after a lot of that, we have a tune. That’s the way all these tunes came about for Resonate… except for the James Brown thing, “Mr. Dynamite.” That one was a totally improvised jam in the studio.
[Photo: Jay Sansone – Human Being Media]
Live For Live Music: But it’s like a dead ringer for classic JB’s—with that psychedelic Lettuce spin on it. Your writing process, creative process, is almost like… reverse-engineering a hip-hop process, where you’re almost sampling riffs and grooves of your bandmates, then creating from that source material.
Adam Deitch: Exactly, absolutely. When they’re playing, they somehow just come up with these, live! Improvising a type of a riff or a groove or something like that, a keyboard line, a melody or a horn line, whatever it is. If they’re inspired, then I take it as my job to write songs off that inspiration, use that as the inspiration to create new music and write new tunes. I couldn’t write all this stuff without these guys being so amazing at what they do, because It’s a total band thing. That’s how I look at the creative process,
Live For Live Music: There’s such a wide diversity of sounds, of the styles, you can’t pigeonhole you guys as a funk band anymore. You are so many things, but really, what you are is Lettuce. You guys have just really kicked down the barriers of what genres are and what’s okay for what kind of band to play on any given record.
Adam Deitch: Totally. Rhythm is infinite, tempos and grooves from everything, from electronic music, house music, dubstep, trap, to afrobeat and reggae, there’s millions of grooves all over the world. It’s my job as the drummer to kind of bring in these sort of beats that we haven’t done yet. Like, where have we not yet gone to rhythmically? I kind of rack my brain to have an original beat, an original feel or a tempo we haven’t touched yet.
That’s where “House of Lett” comes in. We don’t really have a solid funky house tune, and there’s a way to do it that’s still Lettuce, but incorporating this sort of beat. People love to dance to house music, that’s a huge thing all over the world, so why not incorporate that vibe in some way, but without using drum machines or anything? We play it live, and just kind of have that driving force going on.
Live For Live Music: How did you guys put together the “Funkin’ From Home“? It was produced really well, sounded together, even though it was the entire band in different places. Again, totally Lettuce. What was the process for “Funkin’ at Home”?
Adam Deitch: I originally wanted to call it “Wash Your Hands”, because I feel like that was more of an appropriate title because it starts with the clapping. After you wash your hands and you’re wiping them, you start coming up with a [clapping] rhythm. I was searching through my computer, and I found these claps. I love having a unique percussion thing in there, that kind of sets off the song.
I decided to put a drum beat down in my house. I used two microphones, and I got it, I put it through a bunch of stuff to beef it up and make it dope—as dope as I could in my house. Obviously, we’re not working with Russ and there’s no professional engineers anywhere near us. I sent the drums to Shmeeans, and he immediately came up with this single-note line that just had some Shmeeans JB funk in there. Then it went to Jesus, it went to [keyboardist] Nigel [Hall], and then the horns. Everybody threw something on it, and everyone kept sending the stuff back Shmeeans. Shmeeans mixed it…
Live For Live Music: Word. He had it soundin’ poppin’!
Adam Deitch: Shmeeans is an amazing engineer, he went to Berklee [College of Music, in Boston]. He studied music production and engineering. Even though he [is] a killin’ guitar player, his engineering skills are phenomenal too, so when you hear that “Funkin’ from Home”, you’re hearing Shmeeans’ coming-out party as an engineer for Lettuce. Thank you for saying you dug the sound of it, because that was Shmeeans’ first time mixing a Lettuce tune that goes out to the public.
Live For Live Music: Before we go, we’ve got the next chapter of the Russ Elevado/Lettuce trilogy coming with Resonate on May 8th. Is there anything else exciting you might wanna share with your hardcore fans stuck at home during this quarantine?
Adam Deitch: This whole little “Lettuce works with their heroes” thing is really coming together! We wrote this Tower of Power kind of tune, and I was like, “Let me see if we can get Emilio Castillo to sing on this, and get the Tower of Power horns on it, with our guys.” So I sent him the demo, and Emilio loves it, man. He’s like, “This is the sh-t.”
Lettuce Resonate drops on May 8th, 2020 via Round Hill Records.
Listen to the complete, unedited dialogue from this interview on The Upful LIFE Podcast, Episode 032.