*The Time is now … for the Original 7ven.
After 21 years since their last release, the band formerly known as The Time has reunited with “Condensate,” a new album filled with “14 masterpieces and a couple of sexy interludes.” Until now, the group remained under the public radar, but frontman Morris Day and fellow members Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton, Monty Moir and Jesse Johnson have consistently remained in touch and worked together in “various stages” over the years.
Nowadays, the musicians can be heard in a new light as they reintroduce themselves under a new name, The Original 7ven. The reunion has yielded new possibilities and a new single (“#Trendin’”). Speaking with EUR’s Lee Bailey, Day and Jam expressed their excitement over “Condensate” as they navigate familiar territory with an experienced hand to ring in the era of the 7ven.
A PAST TIMELINE
As The Time, Day and Co. were known for giving fans their money’s worth with lengthy songs in their catalogue, something Day and Jam reflected on with pride. As a result, the group’s early albums consisted of six songs. Within its lifespan, The Time churned out a slew of classic hits, including “Jungle Love,” “The Bird,” “777-9311,” “Get It Up” and “Jerk Out.”
Individually, the members of The Time carved their own niche with Jam and Lewis becoming one of the most successful producing duos in the music industry, Moir achieving notoriety as a songwriter/producer and Jellybean Johnson also striking gold as a producer, along with Jesse Johnson, who embarked on accomplished career as a solo artist and producer. Not to be outshined by their groupmates, Benton expanded his resume with acting, while Day pursued a solo career of his own with four albums and the hit single, “Fishnet,” to his credit as well as various acting ventures.
Although fans know Day as the lead singer of the Time, what may be not be known is his initial desire to have a less prominent role in the band. At the time, Alexander O’Neal was poised to become the group’s lead vocalist.
“Originally, I wanted to the drummer and Alex be the singer. And I could stay behind my security blanket and do what I do back there, sing a little background and all that. “But I was pushed,” Day humorously shared. “Once the Spider-Man, Superman scenario kicked in for me, my webs and muscles started to come out and I moved front and center and started to do what I was destined to do. [Jimmy Jam laughs]
When asked why he doesn’t play the drums as often as he used to, Day cited the inclusion of Jellybean Johnson into The Time’s line-up.
“We have another ridiculous drummer, Jellybean Johnson. So I kinda let him handle that department and I switched up to the front center position,” he confessed. “When we put the band together, we had Terry and Jimmy and Monty and Jellybean wasn’t in. I was gonna play the drums. Alexander O’Neal — you all have heard the story — was gonna be the lead singer. It didn’t work out with Alex and that’s how I ended up being the lead singer, which made me happy because that’s how we got Jellybean into the band.”
“EITHER YOU’RE GONNA DO IT OR YOU’RE NOT GONNA DO IT”
And the rest, they say is history. “Condensate” marks the first time in years the Original 7ven have hit the studio to record with it’s original unit. The collective’s last project was The Time’s 1990 opus, “Pandemonium.” Despite years of making vows to reunite and efforts by Day and Lewis to work on new material, nothing came to pass until the collective performed with Rihanna at the Grammy Awards in 2008. It was then that Jam and Day say the fire was lit to give fans what they were craving. Jam, who credits Lewis with being the catalyst for getting The Time back together, ended up with double duty the night of the performance.
“When we got offered the Grammy performance, that was that date that was etched in stone. That either you’re gonna to do it or you’re not gonna to do it. And it was too good an offer to pass up. Everybody was on board with it,” Jam remembered. “It was probably the funnest week I’ve ever had in my life because at that time, I was chairman of the Grammys in 2008. Not only did I have those duties, but I also was rehearsing and playing with The Time, which was amazing.
“Somebody asked me ‘Are you nervous about the performance?’ and I said, ‘No. I’m not nervous about the performance but I’m nervous about the other 3 ½ hours of television that I had some responsibility for,” continued the musician, who had to make sure the entire Grammy show went off without a hitch. “I knew we were gonna be fine. I knew we were gonna do what we did. That date was the thing that really solidified, put us back together, got us in the room together, got us rehearsal, got us going. We had such a great time we just decided we didn’t want to let it end.”
Despite a good showing at the Grammys, the band found itself in the middle of figuring out where to go from there. Fortunately, they did not have to wonder for too long.
“I remember after they were asking Morris, the press and everybody, ‘What are you guys gonna do now?’ because normally you do the Grammys and then you put your record out or you go on tour. It was kind a great catalyst,” Jam said while admitting the group “hadn’t made any plans” after the Grammys. “It was a one off…It was crazy, but after that, we ended up doing some dates in Vegas, which ended up being great Summer vacation for us. And we just never looked back from that point and time. It just was a matter of when.”
COMING BACK WITH A NEW NAME
With all members on board, it was clear the Minneapolis-based band were focused on coming back in a big way. According to Day, they immediately hit the studio to start recording. However, the group’s return would come at a price. As previously reported on EURWeb, Prince owned the name of The Time and refused to let the bandmates use it. Despite Prince’s stance, Jam gave credit where it’s due in terms of the music icon’s role in jumpstarting his career and the careers of his fellow musicians.
“All kudos and respect and praise to Prince because if it wasn’t for him none of us would be doing what we’re doing here today,” he said. “He blessed us with the opportunity he blessed us with. The biggest thing that Prince did for me was work ethic, showing how hard work really pays off and we don’t have nothing negative to say about Prince.”
After playing around with different names, the group ultimately went with The Original 7ven.
“It just described who we were,” said Jam. “We thought the Original 7ven really covered it. We’re the Original 7ven, but we’re also the band formerly known as The Time. So we think that describes it. As a group, we are the Original 7ven and the description of the group is the band formerly known as The Time. And that is who we is. Yes!”
While changing names proved to be a challenge, Day and Jam admit the move came as a mixed blessing of sorts.
“If you think about it, for all intensive purpose…Prince is really a member of The Time. Prince was so instrumental along with Morris in the early records and the first couple of records that he almost was like a member of The Time,” said Jam, who compared the experience to when he and Lewis found triumph on their own after being fired from The Time by Prince. “But the Original 7ven is the seven of us and this is the first record really from start to finish that has been our concept and, really, our whole idea from start to finish. So it’s appropriate that it’s a new name…he pushed me and Terry out the nest, so to speak, and we know what happened after that. It’s all been good. So we think that this is a good thing.”
A CREATIVE DELAY FOR MUSICAL RETURN
A good thing, yes. But even a good thing can be somewhat of an obstacle, with The Original 7ven becoming its own worst enemy as constant creativity proved to delay the group’s imminent return.
“The thing was once we started, that was great. But the bad thing about having creative geniuses like we have, like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Jessie Johnson, all of us are creative in our own right. It just kept going. And I was the one that kept saying ‘Maybe we should stop now.’ And then Jam would come up with another song and be like ‘No, we gotta do that.’ It just kept going,” said Day, who joked that “‘we’re gonna be recording until we’re dead’ because “it just kept getting better and better and better and better.”
“So we finally decided to stop,” he added. “And the result is what you’ll hear once you go out and procure you a copy of this fabulous project.”
GIVING THE FANS WHAT THEY WANT
Putting together the final song list for “Condensate,” the Original 7ven strayed from their tradition of composing lengthy songs to deliver more material for fans. According to Jam, it was Jesse Johnson who was the deciding factor in the group going with the more than double their usual amount of tunes for an album while whittling their initial track list down from 25.
“We got it down to 14 that we all agreed ‘Ok. These 14 are cool. Now let’s get it down to 12 and maybe 10,’” he said. “And Jesse just said ‘The fans have been waiting 21 years for us to come out with new music. Let’s just give them all 14 songs. We were like ‘Ok, that’s cool.’ So that’s how we ended up with that.”
“Our standard was six songs back in the day.” Day chimed in. “So 14 is really a bargain.”[laughs]
The influence of the fans was apparent in constructing “Condensate” as the Original 7ven worked to maintain a good length for songs as well as trying to insert a noticeable vibe on “Condensate” as a two-sided collection of tracks.
“It was important also for us to do it as an album. It is an album. It has a start. There’s a middle. At one point, Morris in the middle of the record says ‘Side two’ because you’re supposed to turn it over. I know you can’t really do that on your computer or whatever, but we wanted the spirit of that to be there because we do have a first side and a second side,” Jam stated. “It’s all the best of the way albums are supposed to be. Songs segue way together, sexy interludes. It plays from start to finish and we hope people enjoy it.”
A FREEING NEW PATH
Despite notable achievements and name recognition as The Time, Day and Jam label the Original 7ven as “freeing” in terms of being able to embark on a new creative and artistic path.
“You have the opportunity, and particularly as the Original 7ven, because we’re basically like a new band, so it gives us the opportunity to really do whatever the heck we want to do musically, to me. It’s very freeing, I guess,” explained Jam, who added how the group stuck to sounds they knew best when charting their new trail. “That being said, we went right back to OB-8 synthesizers, ARP Omni string machines, LM-1 Linn drums. We went back to the things, the instruments and those things that were us, that were the seven guys on the first album. That’s what we went back to because that is really who we are.
“And in some of those cases, we expanded from that,” he continued. “There is probably a couple songs on this album that, honestly, if we were going under The Time we probably wouldn’t put it on the album because we would’ve said it doesn’t sound like The Time. But being the Original 7ven, those restraints are off and so it really freed us up to do whatever we really wanted to do.”
Among the tracks representing the Original 7ven’s new mindstate on “Condensate” is “Cadillac,” a “tribute,” Jam said, to Detroit and “our love of that city.”
“With their economic troubles and things that are going on there, they still supported us…that place has always supported us,” he confided. “We wanted to just kind of give a little homage to that city.”
#TRENDIN’ WITH A CLASSIC SOUND
In addition to “Cadillac,” fans can also check for “#Trendin’,” the Original 7ven’s latest single. With being back on the scene after being away for so long, Jam and Day are well aware of the differences between then and now.
“If you think about the last album. 21 years ago, there was no Facebook or Twitter. None of that existed. There was no social networking. So the social networking for us was to be patrolling the parking lot after the shows and the hotel rooms. We had our own social networking type of thing that we used to do,” Jam joked, noting that “#Trendin’,” is just “our observation on the social networking of today.
“And we do it differently. We’re not trending. That’s what people are doing, trending. We’re trendin’. And people kept looking at the word going ‘wait a minute. Isn’t there supposed to be one of those little things on you?’ I said ‘No. We’re not abbreviating it. It’s trendin’ for us. Like all the things we just say. It’s just how we do it. We trendin’. They’re talking about us.”
For Day, “Condensate” comes as a testament to the Original 7ven’s ability to craft what can be deemed as an authentic representation of his band’s classic sound.
“I didn’t know that necessarily when I first heard it but I was like ‘I don’t know T. He said. ‘Trust me on this Mo. Let’s do this one.’ There were times when I kinda questioned where we were going with it, but the thing [is] if you listen, it’s still real instrumentation, real music. And some of it is so intricate. If you really listen closely, I mean…The depth of the musicality on there is crazy,” the singer said when detailing doubts that turned into approval. “But we did our thing and I think in the end, just like any good cattle farmer, we put a brand on the ass on all the songs. It’s definitely branded on a Timeish slash fast forward Original 7ven fashion. [laughs].
The Original 7ven’s new album, “Condensate,” is available now online and in stores.
Original 7ven online: www.theoriginal7ven.com