Gary Dourdan: “Music is the Way”
Gary Dourdan’s journey has been nothing but interesting. From making music videos with Janet Jackson, acting in theatre to playing music with bands in NYC in the early 1990’s. He has also enjoyed various acting roles in TV soaps/series, his most popular to date as Warrick Brown in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Dourdan’s most recent role on the big screen was that of a seductive chef in the US hit romantic comedy, Jumping The Broom. In his own words, Gary Dourdan on music, movies and fatherhood.
Gary Dourdan: I think it was catharsis. I had done 8 years and I had a lot of success on the show. I thought it was a great time to do something else and fulfil my life in other areas. It takes its so much time to shoot the show but now I have a great deal of time and there are a lot of projects that I’m working on right now. At the time, whenever any new step is taken, it is a bit of trepidation but I know it was the right choice to move on. I have been doing some films, working on some music projects and some travelling, back and forth to France and other parts of Europe.
Belinda: What are some of the most significant experiences you had while on CSI, which have stayed with you?
Gary Dourdan: I have had so many extraordinary experiences on and from the show. I won three awards from the show: a Screen Actors Guild Award and two NACCP Awards, and I was so proud of them, the show, and working with some fantastic people. Working with great directors like Quentin Tarentino and myself as a writer and director, I learnt so much. So I took away a great deal of experience and knowledge that I gained working behind the scene and in front of the camera for so many years. With what I’m doing in the industry right now, it helps me tremendously and I’m thankful to have had those experiences. It makes it a lot easier when I’m working on my own project.
Belinda: Some people have no knowledge of you as a director, so what kind of films would you like to direct and work on?
Gary Dourdan: We are working on a short film project right and we are doing some music videos. A lot of the things I’m doing right now within music are directly connected to my work in films. So, we are doing this at the same time as we are recording songs with several artists in my studio and we are directing the videos with my company,Temple ofThoughts Music. It’s been busy lately.
Gary Dourdan: We have Angela Basset, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Bishop TD Jakes and some really great people. It was fun to work with Mike Epps, he is so talented. We were up in a remote village inCanada, we got to know each other and everyone was devoted, from the crew, executive level at Sony, it was such a positive experience and everyone was so good and beautiful, inside and out, I can’t say enough about everyone. And to have this film as number three right now at the box office in theUS, is a really great thing. I’m very proud to work around positive people, who have good things to give in front of the camera and behind it.
Belinda: You are a DJ, vocalist and play the guitar, where does the passion for music come from?
Gary Dourdan: My uncle was a saxophonist for Sister Sledge and he gave me my first instrument when I was 12/13 and I continued to study music and picked up the guitar when I was 17. I have been playing the piano since I was about 12. My older brother played the flute and now, owning a recording studio. If I didn’t have a band, certainly I would play the instruments to record music myself. I just have to express myself in some kind of way otherwise, I get very, very complacent and destructive if I’m not expressing myself and my passion for music is directly connected to my brother and my uncle and I’m very proud to have played music with my uncle and still do. We did some great work with DMC about a year ago, when he released his solo album, some poetry and a single, speaking about the Gulf War and it was inspired by the Jimi Hendrix, Machine Gun song.
Belinda: Do you write your material and what kind of issues/subjects or challenges do you deal with through your music?
Gary Dourdan: Yes, I write all the music but I also collaborate with other people. In terms of subjects, I talk about politics a lot but I would say some of the things that come up are things in our social circles. There are certainly things out there which are positive and inspire other people to do good. And there are a lot of good kids out there to. It’s about working with them and trying to cure any kind of prejudices and racism and these days with technology and how fast things are moving, it is possible to do that. There are a lot of things we cannot take for granted. We can know each more now, than we ever have. And it is about taking advantage of that. So, a lot of my music is about expressing that, love and some of the discretions of the past and present and what’s going on that needs to be changed. Music is the way to express all of these and some of the things going on in my mind and heart. It has certainly kept me sane, being able to express that through music.
Belinda: In the music industry, the lyrics and videos are getting daring. How would you describe the current state of music in the US and globally?
Gary Dourdan: Well, working in any industry, there is going to be a lot of fluff and a lot of riff raff. Every now and again, you will see artist who will break new grounds, tell the truth and be real and is ahead of the game. But there will always be the general mediocrity in the arts. I don’t pay attention to that. I look for the more discerning artist, someone who really can express and share.
Belinda: Who are some of the discerning artists you admire and respect?
Gary Dourdan: There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening right now and I have been doing something with Mos Def and Ayo, and so may artists who are cross pollinating, film and music, Queen Latifah, Common. It’s great to know these people and work with them. Mike Epps is doing music and comedy as well and he is so talented as an actor, rapper and musician. There are people, I also want to work with like Run DMC’s Darryl, who is talented and a legend. And people I have known for years and spent time with, like Seal and Lenny Kravitz and I’m still very proud to be their friend, support them. They really inspire me also and there’s Keziah Jones, who is a tremendous talent.
Gary Dourdan: They are feature films, one is an action film and the other is comedy. Cooley T was a lot of fun and it was shot in New York. A great friend of mine is directing the project and I told him that would come back and do it and we are a having a lot of fun. Fire is the action film and I got a chance to drive aroundBerlin and did my own stints and it was a great deal of fun.
Belinda: When you say, it’s not about liking the acting more than the music, what do you mean and how do you balance both aspects of your career without one dominating the other?
Gary Dourdan: I’m generally interested in the arts and I‘m also a photographer and refer to myself a bit of poet. I’m not Saul Williams by any means but I like to express myself through the art. So what I mean by that is giving 100 percent of myself as an artist.
Belinda: You have been described you as an alternative musician. What does it mean to be an alternative musician?
Gary Dourdan: Well, if they mean alternative to bad and crappy music, that would be cool but I really don’t know what alternative means either.
Belinda: How would you describe your genre of music?
Gary Dourdan: I would say I am coming from a very soulful place and I have some rhythm, so you can say, I have got rhythm and blues. I’m a funky person, so you could say I play a bit of funk music. I like rock, I grew up with rock and I listen to it, so you could say that I’m rocking out. These are elements of music I grew up with and was inspired by. From Marvin Gaye to Jimi Hendrix to Led Zeppelin to Coltrane to David Bowie and many more, influence my music.
Belinda: You lived in France for a while, how does that society, compare to life in the US?
Gary Dourdan: I have to say I pick up along the same lines that my forefathers and mothers have done. As black Americans going to France and seeing a whole diaspora of African heritage, being accepted legitimately as an American artist doing American art forms in Paris and being encouraged even more to do my music, I really have to thank the French country for that. They have given me so much inspiration and encouragement as an artist and put me on more stages. Coming toAmerica, even Americans are slow to know what the French have known for some years about art and black American art forms. I think America has a lot to learn from that type of encouragement in the arts and it’s something we are tying to do over here in America, appreciate the artist that we have and give them greater stages to play on and encouraging people to support them because that is what the longevity of the artist really depends on, the support of people going out to see these artists and the plays.
Belinda: How do you deal with the controversial things about you in the media?
Gary Dourdan: It’s something that is more of the American market types, to take shots and put out negative things and blow them out of proportion and try to have that define me as a person. Yes, things have happened but it’s magnified. It doesn’t define me and they are great experiences. It’s all just more publicity.
Belinda: You are also a father, what’s the experience of fatherhood like with your busy schedule?
Gary Dourdan: Actually my kids are busier than I’m. They are going to school and are very connected to things that are going on around them and their school work schedule, I have to beg to call them up to say hey guys can we get together? My daughter is 12, and my son is 9, and they have a busier social schedule than I do.
Belinda: What should people expect from your album?
Gary Dourdan: I think they should just expect it to be me. It’s not made up of 20 different people trying to write my song. Everything comes from my experiences as an artist and every aspect of the music is something I bring forth, so you should expect the truth.
Images: Rebecca Saray
Jumping The Broom is out on DVD