If you’ve been to a Psychic Mirrors show, you understand that it is effectively a time warp back to the days of electric boogaloo-ing and Yarbrough & Peoples, D Train, even ESG. It’s also a psychically elevating experience, partly due to the band’s sheer size but mostly to frontman Mickey de Grand IV’s ability to pull a crowd. He’s a supremely insouciant ringleader, though his nonchalance betrays the fact that he penned and composed most of the band’s repertoire. As Antoine Rocky-Horror, a new solo project, his genius is even clearer. The recently-dropped “Machine Gun Boogie” 7-inch, out on Cosmic Chronic – a label and collective founded by him and his friends in the Miami Players Club – is a trip through outer-space funk and heavenly bass. (Think of what happened when Onra remixed the B.B. & Q. Band.)
De Grand’s love of boogie is obvious, but his music foundation is heftier than that. He’s a studied composer, well-read in the world of jazz, classical, the greats. “I’ve been studying music and records since around 1997,” he explains. “I received a dual music degree from City College of New York with concentrations in Jazz and Orchestral Composition and Arrangement. I was always curious about 20th century applied harmony and chromaticism found in Western European (Debussy, Ravel) and Eastern European (Bartok, Stravinsky) music of that time. I wanted to learn how to take that apart and understand the logic of it all.”
His interest was bred earlier, though, seeded in childhood with the help of a well-loved relative: “My grandmother had a lot of records and always pushed me to explore music. She bought me my first saxophone and guitar. I owe everything to my Abuelita.”
Of his studies, de Grand is quick to add that schooling only goes so far. “They don’t teach you how to have style, though I’m blessed to have been able to gain a lot of technique in harmony and counterpoint while I was in New York.” Style and the concept of stylistic elements in general are the true guts of Antoine Rocky-Horror, it seems – what was Boogie (the genre) if not a lesson in aural stylism?
Geography, too, is a big theme for de Grand: “Though I’ve always been an orchestral and jazz cat, most of the records you hear coming out of Cosmic Chronic are Boogie records in a Miami style,” de Grand says. “Boogie is something very close to my heart … Miami is my main inspiration for most of the music coming out. Members of Miami Players Club like Benton, Arun Brown, Stevezy, and TR have always influenced me, too; we’ve all been collecting records since we were kids.”
Cosmic Chronic and the Miami Players Club are perhaps the most apt titles for a collective and label in Miami history; the aforementioned reference to space is easily applied to most of its releases (especially de Grand’s), and all of it makes you feel pretty stoney. It’s essentially the best platform for Antoine Rocky-Horror – all of the exigencies of the label and its themes are somewhere between ’80s Miami and ’70s New York – and a solid example of Miami’s shrewd D.I.Y. creed. “The label was incorporated last October in 2011, though some things in the catalog date back to 2004,” de Grand says of the label’s history.
Regarding any aesthetic or personal influence for Antoine Rocky-Horror beyond a time, a place, and a sound, de Grand, in keeping with the theme of casual virtuoso, is modest: “I don’t know, I kind of just do what I do. I just do what I like and make it real.” But how did he come up with that name?
“You should ask that question to Antoine.”