Fear Of A Brown Planet was not Brownout’s idea. The funk instrumental troupe from Austin, Texas — whose Black Sabbath tribute album Brown Sabbath came out during 2014 — was approached by Fat Beats Records with the idea of reimagining favorites from the Public Enemy catalog. But the label couldn’t have made a better offer, as evidenced by Brownout’s version of “Fight The Power,” premiered exclusively below, and the album’s 11 other tracks.
“We were wary about doing any more, like, covers albums, but this was just too good not to do,” the group’s Adrian Quesada tells Billboard. “I’m a huge Public Enemy fan, and so are the guys in the band. It was the music that was a big influence for us growing up, and the message still as poignant today as it was back then. So it was really a no-brainer for us” Most importantly, Quesada says, the prospect of reinventing those Public Enemy songs, including the Bomb Squad’s landmark production, was a challenge Brownout was happy to embrace.
“What they were doing was pretty ground-breaking back then and still is even now, how they pulled off that sound,” he explains. “Ultimately, if you strip it down to its core, which is what we did, you’ll find the base of a lot of the songs are funk samples, either James Brown or James Brown affiliates or Kool & the Gang or Funkadelic — all bands that were a big influence on us when we started Brownout.”
That said, the Texas troupe did not hesitate to take liberties with the music. “We didn’t want to do super faithful recreations of the songs, nor could we” Quesada says. “Just from a technical standpoint, their production was so far ahead of its time, there’s no way we could have recreated exactly what they did. And we wouldn’t want to. We just tried to do something different and imagine those producers back in time getting Kool & the Gang or James Brown in the studio with those (Public Enemy) songs and what that might sound like. So we took the elements of that bombastic, noisy Bomb Squad production but also tried to make it melodic.”
Quesada and company have yet to hear from Public Enemy about the album, which comes out May 25, but the group will be playing songs from it starting June 2 at home in Austin, with guest MCs joining the group at each show. Brownout has also started mixing its next album of original material, which was recorded with Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and should be out later this year.