Oakland Zone

Oakland Zone
2003 - 14 Songs

1 Eastside 1:32

2 Give Me Your Love 4:42

3 Get What You Want 5:04

4 Could've Done It Better 5:18

5 This Type of Funk 5:21

6 Pocketful of Soul 3:30

7 Remember Love 4:54

8 Oakland Zone 4:49

9 Life Is What You Make It 4:52

10 Happy 'Bout That 4:54

11 Stranger In My Own House 5:21

12 Back In the Day 4:34

13 Page One 5:43

14 ...Eastside 1:32

*That's Just Where It's At (Bonus Track)
*You Ain't All That (Bonus Track)
(Bonus tracks are only on the Japanese Import Version)

"For more than three decades, Tower of Power has called Oakland its hometown and creative inspiration. The band has touched us and millions around the world with their fabulous soul music.
On behalf of the people of Oakland, I am proud to say that we are honored, once again, to be the source for the unrivaled sound and rhythm of Tower of Power in the "Oakland Zone."

Jerry Brown
Mayor of Oakland, California

2003 Interview by Steve Escobar
Tower Of Power Is Back In The “Oakland Zone”

I had the pleasure to speak with two of the founding members of the greatest funk band ever to come out of Oakland! Steve (Doc) Kupka and Emilio Castillo are letting us all know that Tower Of Power is back with a tour and a soon to be released album paying homage to the city where it all started for them! Krupka and Castillo are responsible for keeping together one of the best vocal sections. The mightiest of horn sections, and the funkiest rhythm sections on earth!

Steve Escobar-This band has always had such an interesting sound that unlike a lot of other bands from the 1970’s who are forever playing just the hits that everyone is cozy with, Tower Of Power is always putting out great fresh stuff.

Emilio Castillo- It’s always been different for us. Our fans… they like to hear new stuff. (Laughs) They want to hear what we’re gonna do next.

SE - You keep putting out great funk and soul grooves and just keeps them wanting more!

EC- Yeah, I think we got kind of known for the different way we approach music. Even when we were not as in favor shall we say, (Laughs) as we were in the 70’s.. the 80’s were a tough period for us, but even during that time we would do shows and work up new material, and then people would be just hanging on it, because they like to see what we do in music. So, that’s a good thing.

SE- Was the band based in Oakland when it came together in 1968?

EC- We took Oakland as our home… I mean, we started out in Fremont California, and when I met Doc I moved to Oakland… that’s basically where we were hanging out at the time. So, when we did our first record Bruce Steinberg who did the album cover said “everybody claims the Bay Area to be San Francisco, I think you guys ought to claim Oakland. That’s where you live, that’s what your sound is” That proved to be a really wise move. (Laughs) Because he was so right. We never hung out in San Francisco, and we certainly didn’t have that psychedelic San Francisco sound. So, we took Oakland as our home … even though a lot of us don’t live there no more (Laughs) we still claim “that’s our sound” it’s the home of our sound.

Stephen Doc Kupka- Yeah, when I joined the group most of the guys were either still in high school, or just graduated from, and livin’ at home and stuff, and when it was time for them to get out of the house in 1970 we just moved to Oakland.

SE- I remember hearing that you guys lived around the Alcatraz avenue area…

Doc- I did myself, Me and Emilio lived together foe a while before we married our wives and… we lived on Seminary, right between Bancroft and East 14th street, and then we moved to Becito up in the hills when we got some money in 1972, we lived ther a couple of years. I lived on Alcatraz and College for a couple of years back in the 70’s, and I also lived off of Redwood Road for a while, I lived on Taft avenue in the Rockridge area..

SE- I’m in that area.

Doc1986-87 then I came back down here.

SE - you’re still here in spirit.

EC- We made a conscious decision to come back to the Bay Area for… we rehearse up here, we record up here, we write up here, and we find that the environment in the Bay Area is just a more soulful environment for us creatively. We used to always go to L.A. for years and rehearse there… you get cheaper places, and a lot of the guys were livin’ down there, but you know, the vibe was just not as nearly as soulful. (Laughs) So we just changed our approach. Then when we decided to do this new record we said “we want to get back to that back to Oakland kind of thing” and it’s really paid off. The record just really has that ring of the real classic Tower Of Power stuff, but it’s got the new slant on it… it really worked out great.

SE- That’s great. I’m sure that everyone driving to an A’s game or a Raiders game has a Tower Of Power tape somewhere.

EC-(Laughs) you know that.

SE- When you drive through East 14th now… “Bump City” becomes a soundtrack to that wide screen video you see in the windshield you’re looking through.

Doc- (Laughs)

SE- No matter what genre of music anyone is into… when “You’re Still a Young Man” comes on… everything stops!

EC- (Laughs)

SE- That song could bring world peace if played at just the right moment.

EC- That song’s been very good to me I must admit. Doc and me always joke around… that was the first song we ever wrote, and we say “it’s been downhill ever since!” (Laughs)

SE - I wouldn’t call you a one hit wonder band that’s for sure, you had “Sparkling in the Sand” right before that.

EC- In the Bay Area that was a real classic.

SE- Getting on Fillmore records… was that a Bill Graham tie in thing?

EC- Oh yes, most definitely. In those days every band… I mean not only in the Bay Area but throughout the nation was trying to get on Bill Graham’s new label. And the way you did that, was that you went to the Fillmore west on a Tuesday night audition. And we got ours around January… we got our date, and our date was in November. And we had just gotten busted by the ABC for being underage at drinking establishments, so we couldn’t work bars no more, and that’s all we had worked for a couple of years,. So, we had no connections for High Schools (Laughs) so we had no gigs for the whole year. We were just in the garage rehearsing for that one gig, and we went to that Tuesday night audition… we were literally at the end of our rope financially it was falling apart, and I told everybody “I want to do this gig, and I’m flying back to Detroit to be with my parents for the holidays and if nothing comes of this gig, I’m not coming back” We went, we did the gig and… there was five bands on the bill and they were all five piece rock and roll bands, I remember Neal Schon was in one of them. It was like everyone was playin in A and E (Laughs) and then we came out, we were the last band and everyone took a look at us… we’re wearing these velour shirts that no longer had velour on them and all these little roach burns and stuff (Laughs) we were a ragged looking bunch, they looked at us and turned around and started to walk out because we were not the type of group they were used to seeing at the Fillmore. And we hit our first tune and it was like… about face! They couldn’t believe it and they started walking back in, and Bill Graham stuck his head out of his office door and… we did the gig and I didn’t know how it went. And I flew back to Detroit and then Doc called me a couple of days later and said” You’ve gotta come back! He dug it!” I’m goin’ “who dug it?” He say’s “Bill Graham!” I remember I had this VOX organ that I never use because I was always borrowing people’s B3 instead… the VOX organ, we had hocked it… I told him “go get that organ and hock it again and send me a ticket!” (Laughs) And I came back and he signed us to his label, his publishing company, his management firm, his booking agency, and everybody in the Bay Area that we knew… we were friends with Cold Blood, The Loading Zone, and bands like that, and they were stunned that we were the one’s that got signed because they were all trying to get signed on that label.

SE- You guys had a whole different approach than they did.

EC- I’d say that’s a great thing about the Bay Area, by that point Bill Graham had exposed the Bay Area to so many different types of music… he had Miles Davis in there one night and Ike and Tina Turner the next, and Otis Redding, he had so many different kinds of music coming to the Fillmore that they were ready for something like us. He had fine tuned their ear.

SE - Then Santana, etc.. who would have thought that all these different genres would be tied into rock through Bill Graham.

EC- Only in the Bay Area! And then it hit so big here that the Bay Area just dictated to the rest of the country what was hip. (Laughs) The Bay definitely made it’s mark on the world.

SE- The Bay Area has always been a big melting pot for music.

EC- I think that’s got a lot to do with it. That whole melting pot concept… I remember when I first moved here when I was eleven, I moved here from Detroit with my family and that was the first thing I noticed as a little kid, that… WOW man! There were Italians, phillipino’s , Chinese, Japanese, Blacks, Mexicans, I’d never seen so many types of people all living together so closely. Like, were I came from in Detroit… there was the Polish neighborhood, the Jewish neighborhood… everybody was separate! Here… was a total melting pot, everyone together.

SE- Your music always sounded like it was inspired by your atmosphere.

Doc- Oh yeah, we claimed Oakland as our home because at the time that San Francisco sound was defiantly not us… Starship and Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and The Holding Company, and all that. We more related to Sly Stone who was just getting big… he was an East Bay guy, and we liked classic soul and that seemed more like an East Bay thing… now we say we like “classic soul” but at the time it was just soul music, we didn’t think in terms like classic soul back then.

SE- Back then you didn’t know it was gonna be a classic, you just knew it was good!

Doc- (Laughing) Yeah. Now I make a differentiation because Urban music today… we’re not much like that either. So, I just say we play classic soul.

SE- How do you feel about the fact that samples of your stuff is used in music today.

Doc- Well, that’s what the kids do now so… I don’t mind. The only time it might become an issue is if it just sounds too definitely ours and it’s a big hit I feel they should give us something … as a matter of fact Tony Toni Tone ripped off the Oakland Stroke, but they were cool enough to pay us a little bit of bread behind it.

SE- There aren’t as many musicians as there are DJ’s out there.

Doc- Right.

SE- And I notice that DJ’s often buy tons of used records here at Rasputin Music…

Doc- By the way, that’s a great company! A great store! Yeah, I really like it, so you can tell them people that.

SE- And that’s where DJ’s go to buy records to mix together a band, so like I said, there are very few musicians today that don’t just play turntables.

Doc- I think a lot of it has to do with… that there is no music in the schools like there was. We were taught to play… although Emilio was basically self taught, and I’m self taught on bari, but I mean still, I played in the school band and the Orchestra, and that really helped me, at the time the Berkeley school system had a really good music department… I don’t know, they might even still. But, for sure they did then and it really helped me out a lot. Urban music, hip hop, rap… there’s not much artistry in that you know? I’ll say this… good words, good rhymes, but… that same beat, that same vibe, I can’t listen to too much of today’s music, very little of it gets me off.

SE- Is your new record almost done and ready for release?

EC- Yeah, I start mixing tomorrow. We cut seventeen tracks, we’re probably gonna put fourteen on it and it’s called “Tower Of Power in the Oakland Zone”

SE - So we should have it in early 2003?

EC- February more likely.

SE- And you’ve got the original rhythm section playing…

EC- We have the original drummer David Garibaldi is back, this is his first studio recording with the band… we did a live album a couple of years ago and that came out fabulous! But this is the first studio since he’s been back, all new material, with his stamp on them with all those real clever beats and stuff, and then we’ve got this new singer named Larry Braggs and he’s probably the strongest singer we’ve ever had… ever since Lenny Williams we’ve had really great singers but no one’s really made that mark like Lenny, he had the really unique high voice, and this guy we’ve got now… that’s what he’s like, he’s got a real high beautiful voice, a super high energy performer… he’s definitely one of the strongest additions we’ve made in the thirty years of our existence.

SE- So you’ve got four of the original members with you now?

EC- It’s me, Doc, Rocco, and David Geribaldi. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Rocco, but Rocco was really sick…

SE- Oh yeah, a liver transplant.

EC- Yeah man, he’s doin’ great! Him together with David Geribaldi once again is like… unbelievable. They got the lock on it!

Doc- Now that David Garibaldi is back in the band, and Jeff the guitar player lives up there, and the singer lives up there, there’s definitely a back to Oakland thing. And as I say myself, I would move back up there except for two reasons, one, the houses cost too much, and two, my wife is in the movie business so we’ve gotta be down here for now. But I’ll tell ya, my hearts up there and if the configuration changes slightly I’d be back up there. I do much better musically up there than I do down here.

SE- It sounds like there’s a really happy feeling that the rhythm section is back.

Doc- David is the drummer for Tower, and Tower is the band for David. I mean, we bring out the best in each other… without him it wasn’t quite right, even if it was good. And for him without us it was… his career never really went anywhere like it should have as good a drummer as he is. So it was absolutely great, it was like the old times again. He and Rocco just really melded. And now the whole rhythm section is strong, the horn section is balanced with the rhythm section, it’s strong too, so there’s no weak links! Larry did a stellar job singing, the materials good, I’m just really pumped up about this CD, much more so than any we’ve done since those old Warner Brothers ones back in the 70’s.

SE- I can’t wait to hear it.

Doc- Oh, you’ll like it I’ll guarantee it. There’s no weak links! We recorded seventeen tunes, and even if my favorite four don’t make it… it’ll still be a great, great album.

© 1968-2012 Tower of Power