Performing since 1968, Tower of Power (or TOP for short) originated in Oakland California and have delivered their own brand of funky rhythms and driving grooves to fans across the world. With a soaring horn section, soulful vocals and inarguably one of the tightest rhythm sections in the business, the funk‐soul outfit is renowned as a must‐see act.
Having performed with a who's who of artists, including Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, David Sanborn, Elton John, Huey Lewis, Little Feat, Paula Abdul and Santana, Tower Of Power are returning to New Zealand to play one show at the ASB Theatre in Auckland this Wednesday night, October 5th.
We had the chance to fire some questions through to founding member and saxophonist Emilio Castillo ahead of the show.
Tower Of Power has been going now for 48 years. What do you put down to the band's longevity?
I always tell people God did it and I just turned up. Because I probably made every mistake you could possibly make in life. Somehow God got my attention later in life and we all started praying together and things have been going good. The fact that we make music exactly the way that we want it to be makes it really easy to go to work every day; we're not chasing trends or trying to be like others, we like it just the way we like it.
The 50th Anniversary is coming up very shortly. What kind of plans have you got to celebrate that?
Well, we're in the ground stages. I'm trying to finish this record; I recorded 28 original songs and am trying to get it finished by next year. But I'm working to get the 50th Anniversary celebrations going, so we're starting to scratch the surface on that.
The horn section for Tower Of Power has worked with a number of diverse artists from a wide range of genres. Who have some of your favourites been to work with?
We did some great work with Little Feat, Huey Lewis & The News... Linda Ronstandt & Aaron Neville. There were a lot of great sessions! We also played with Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith, P. Diddy, Santana... the band Heart too, they were very good to us. We once played live with the Rolling Stones. Playing Satisfaction live, that was cool.
Going back a bit now, do you remember how you first got involved with music and how you started your craft?
Well I got into a little bit of trouble; me and my brother we tried to steal some t-shirts. We had a really short crime career because we got caught first time out. My Dad told me take this note book to my room and fill it out with why I was never going to steal again and think of something that was going to keep me off the street, or I wasn't coming out of that room again.
The Beatles had just come out and we told my father we wanted to play music. So we got in the car, went down to the music store and he told us to choose anything we want. I chose the sax, my brother chose the drums, and we started the band that day. That became my whole life and that never changed. It's been a wonderful career so I am very grateful.
So who were your early musical influences?
Well my Dad was a, bartender and we lived in Detroit, Michigan. So there was a lot of black people in that city and they'd play a lot of stuff like The Platters, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington... and my parents were really in to Elvis Presley. This was when I was little. Then when I was 11 we moved to the Bay Area which was right when Motown music became popular. I didn't know any kids in the Bay Area yet because we were new, so the radio became my friend. I listened to all the Motown music and I'd get homesick for my friends in Detroit.
I was also really into singers. Burt Bacharach started producing Dionne Warwick, and Glady's Knight came out, Otis Redding... I was always into singers and songs. That was my main thing.
You're heading to New Zealand very shortly. What can we expect to experience from a Tower Of Power show?
It'll be a high energy show. It's really exciting and very musical. It's not the kind of show where you just sit there and witness it. We encourage the crowd to get up on their feet, clap their hands and sing back at us. We're doing all this high energy soul music. We have this great new singer called Marcus Scott and he's just killing it! So it's a very exciting and highly emotional show. It will tweak your emotions.
So it's been awhile since you were last in New Zealand?
Yeah, it has! We've only been there once, I was just thinking about it. We played a winery and I remember going to the winery and thinking to myself 'These people won't even know our music'. Then when we got there, there was about 8,000 people and we were feeling no pain and they were singing all the lyrics. I realised then they know a little more than I thought.
What plans have you got following the NZ show?
We tour all the time, and we're just trying to finish up this recording because we have more than two albums worth of material. I want to pick the best 12 and put it out hopefully by the end of next year. And of course the big 50th Anniversary planned, but we're always very busy and active.
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