The Roots’ Captain Kirk Douglas’ first solo album — Turbulent Times, whose heavy-rocking track “Uma” is premiering exclusively below — seems like it was a long time coming. But Douglas says there’s good reason for that.
“I just happen to be part of the world’s most hard-working band,” Douglas, who’s releasing the eight-track set May 24 under the moniker Hundred Watt Heart, tells Billboard. “I have a very full musical plate with my involvement with them. But every time I go to play guitar outside of the Roots, occasionally you play something you may want to fully realize that is not really appropriate within the parameters of what we do in the Roots, and you want to document that.”
Turbulent Times, in fact, has had its own long gestation. Douglas recorded the basic tracks during a weekend at the end of 2016 at Electric Lady Studios in New York, assisted by Roots bassist Mark Kelley and Earl Greyhound drummer Ricc Sheridan. He spent the subsequent interim recording vocals and overdubs as time allowed, finally finishing Turbulent Times for its upcoming release. “It’s been a fun process,” Douglas notes. “I’ve sort of learned not to rush anything. I fully believe everything happens when it’s supposed to happen, so I’m not trying to rush any process. If I did, I would just end up frustrated.”
The album’s sound decidedly leans into the rock side of Douglas’ playing, with touches of psychedelia and blues. “The music that inspired me to play guitar in the first place was rock music — any music where the guitar took up a lot of the sonic real estate,” he explains. But while Turbulent Times‘ songs come from a decidedly personal place, Douglas still felt more comfortable adopting an alias for the project.
“Imagining holding an album in my hand that says ‘Kirk Douglas’ or ‘Captain Kirk Douglas’ made me cringe. It just doesn’t feel right,” he says. “I like being in a band. I felt like even those these are my compositions, it’s a band effort in terms of its execution, so that’s why I went with a name. And Hundred Watt Heart feels right. It’s describing what’s going down. It’s the amplification of what’s in my heart.”
Douglas played his first Hundred Watt Heart show on April 26 in New York, and he’s planning a release party for Turbulent Times for some time this month. With the Roots getting ready for its ninth annual Roots Picnic on June 1 in Philadelphia and summer touring on the horizon, Douglas doesn’t expect to have another chance to play until the fall, but he is hoping that more Hundred Watt Heart music will follow in the not too distant future.
“The short answer is yes, I definitely want to record more,” he says. “My goal is to leave this planet having every musical thought that I’ve ever had being recorded, just so it’s all documented. So I’m looking forward to documenting the next one — and more after that.”