Sam “Squeak E. Clean” Spiegel has an impressive resume. He’s produced albums for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ben Lee, scored commercials for Adidas and Levi’s and composed soundtracks for David O. Russell and Spike Jonze. These days his primary focus is N.A.S.A. (North America/South America) – a musical collaboration between Spiegel and Zé “DJ Zegon” Gonzales. Over a 5-year period the duo have enlisted the services of music heavyweights David Byrne, Chuck D, RZA, the Yeah Yeah’s Karen O, Tom Waits, ODB, George Clinton and many others to contribute vocals to their debut album Spirit of Apollo. The goal of the album is to “bring people together with music.” A perfect example is the pairing of Tom Waits with Kool Keith on the track “Spacious Thoughts.” The fact that they got the reclusive Tom Waits to join the project, speaks volumes to the effort they put into this record. They are also adding the finishing touches on a documentary chronicling the making of the album.
I spoke with Sam by phone last week to discuss the project, the ones that got away and intergalactic loving.
R&G: How are you doing?
Sam: Lovely. Just getting some stuff done while I’m back in town on break.
R&G: Were you in Brazil?
Sam: Yeah – I just got back yesterday.
R&G: Was it crazy?
Sam: It was crazy, man. Brazil is always crazy. People definitely have a lot of fun there.
R&G: That’s cool. You’ve mentioned that James Brown was one of the guys you really wanted to work with on the Spirit Of project. Who else was on your wish list that didn’t make it on the album?
Sam: So many people. David Bowie, Lou Reed, Tom Yorke, Damon Albarn, Al Green, Morrissey, Mos Def, Andre 3000, Jay-Z, Nas, Rakim, Björk. There are so many people.
R&G: Did you reach out to Q-Tip or Kool Moe Dee or Schoolly D? Any of those guys?
Sam: Q-Tip was actually almost on the record, but it didn’t end up working out.
R&G: Were there red tape issues with the other guy’s labels or just conflicting schedules?
Sam: Some people politely declined. David Bowie said, “I really like this, but it’s not for me.” I think he said, “It’s not my cup of tea.”
R&G: I hear that Lou Reed is notoriously difficult. What happened with him?
Sam: He just wanted an insane amount of money we could have never afforded, so unfortunately we couldn’t do it with him.
R&G: Were some of the artists working for free?
Sam: Yeah. Some guys were nice enough to lend their services just because they loved the project. That was awesome. We hooked people up with as much as we could, but it was great to see people just volunteering their services because they were inspired.