Interviews

STILL RIDING HIGH

Friday, 06 March 2009 03:46 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

STILL RIDING HIGH

The Motor City soul legend Leon Ware talks candidly to Charles Waring about love, music, life, death and his new Stax album 'Moon Ride.'

"I love the age of sixty nine because it's a precious number," announces soul music's durable love man, Leon Ware, who then breaks into a raucous laugh that sounds like a mixture of a Mutley-like wheezy chuckle and a low-pitched hacking cough. Despite the fact that he'll be seventy next year, the veteran Detroit singer/songwriter has not let go of his youth entirely - he confesses he still possesses a boyish streak and has a penchant for saying provocative things: "I can't tell you how much joy I get from saying something shocking and which makes people say 'what did you say?' It was part of my spirit as a kid. I was a mischievous little boy - I was pulling the girls' hair and peeking up under their skirts…and nothing's changed!" Ware starts laughing again. It's hard not to share his mirth. His sense of joie de vivre is certainly infectious. But then Leon Ware has a right to be happy about his life these days. He's lucky to be alive for one thing. Three years ago he was diagnosed as having prostate cancer.
"I was given six months to live," he reveals in sombre whisper. "They found lymphs that were affected and operated. They closed me up and gave me six months. The Doctor said 'there's nothing we can do for you.'"
Sadly, cancer has claimed several other members of Ware's family: "My daughter passed away three years ago. She had cancer as well. Cancer has taken my father, my mother, two of my sisters and three of my brothers. I've had, if you want to call it that, a relationship with that particular disease or affliction - but I'm not afraid."
Thanks to his friend and fellow songwriter, Adrienne Anderson, Ware found a surgeon who worked "outside the box" and after another operation his symptoms subsided and his disease went into remission. "I'm going into my third year now and every time my Doctor looks at me he sees I've gained weight" states Ware. The songwriter's experience has made him want to help others: "It makes me want to say things to people that are going through the process of living with a disease or getting ready to make the transition - because I don't call it death. I may be able to say something that will help them deal with it a little better."
Musically, Ware feels re-invigorated and for the first time since he was at Elektra in the early '80s he is back with a major record company - in this case, the re-activated Stax label, which is distributed by Concord (Ware reveals he signed to Concord initially, with Stax's involvement coming later). 'Moon Ride' is in fact Ware's first album since 2004's 'A Kiss In The Sand' and follows his recent cameo appearance on a re-make of his Latin-infused classic 'Rockin' You Eternally' on the Jazzanova album 'Of All The Things.' 'Moon Ride' follows the same stylistic trajectory manifested on his previous work - the subject matter mostly focuses on sex and romance while Ware's sensual vocals are framed by richly textured grooves. "It's a continuation of my adventure," reflects Ware, who once declared to me that "sex is my religion" in a previous interview a few years ago. "It's a romantic album," he continues, "and it's sensual - I flow in and out of certain different levels of nastiness, you know. It's another serving of my romantic and sensual delicacies."
Leon Ware, as you'd expect, is vociferous when it comes to the subject of love and romance. He sees himself as an ordained minister of erotic love. "The earth needs romance" he declares. "We don't have enough of it. It doesn't touch a lot of people. Maybe the people it doesn't touch are untouchable. But I'm an optimist and maybe in my devoted service to that process I'll reach them." Certainly, Ware believes in the redeeming power of music: "Music has become medicinal. It's become therapeutic and it's become a religion."
But for all his optimism, Ware admits that planet earth and its inhabitants are on a potentially perilous path: "The world is in a state - not only from a financial perspective but a spiritual one also. We're not looking at a world which promises young children a future that they can stand up and get really excited about - it's a world where a digit is much more important than a human being. We are at Hell's doorway and the devil is having his day. In that light, I look at what I'm doing as much more than entertainment."
Ware's association with Stax - "I couldn't be more honoured" he says - may mean that his musical and philosophical message have a greater potential for being heard and making a telling impact on a larger number of people. He's certainly excited about the liaison with a big label but as for the music business as whole, he expresses deep reservations. "The music business is filled with opportunists and superficial artists," he laments. "And their whole agenda is about making money - not about making art. But what can you say? It's the world we live in."
Undoubtedly, Leon Ware is not a superficial artist. His CV as a songwriter, producer and singer speaks for itself and is replete with a long list of significant R&B recordings - ranging from his crucial involvement on Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" and Quincy Jones' "Body Heat" LPs to memorable recordings of his songs by Michael Jackson, the Isley Brothers, the Main Ingredient, Bobby Womack, and numerous others. Even Madonna, Robert Palmer and Todd Rundgren have covered his songs.
A new 19-track CD on Expansion Records called 'Leon Ware & Friends' is a compilation that features a mixture of performances by Ware and host of other people who've recorded his songs during the last thirty-six years. It includes Donny Hathaway's awe-inspiring rendering of "I Know It's You," an intensely soulful ballad which the Chicago singer/pianist recorded for his 1973 Atco album, "Extension Of A Man." Says Ware: "I can remember walking across the A&M lot heading for the studio when someone said 'Leon! Leon Ware! Come here, you gotta hear this.' Atlantic Records had sent a demo before the song had strings on for us to hear. Everybody in the office was floored. I had tears in my eyes - it was a song I'd written to my mother because she was extremely religious. I want you to know that that was one of the most pleasant days in my life. Donny did it so good that nobody else has ever touched the song. Roberta Flack made it very clear to me in a conversation with her one-time many years ago after it was already a classic and Donny had gone. She said 'the reason nobody has touched that song, Leon, is because Donny peed on it.' Ware laughs again, a deep husky chuckle. He's understandably proud of the fact that Donny Hathaway - who also wrote some decent songs himself - recorded one of his tunes: "When you service another writer, that doesn't put a feather in your cap, it puts another hat on your head as far as I'm concerned. There's no greater honour than to have your peers to do your work, especially somebody who can do it by themselves."
Ware's collaboration with another long-gone soul great, Minnie Riperton, is also represented on 'Leon Ware & Friends.' He worked on her 1975 album, 'Adventures In Paradise,' which contained the classic slow-jam, 'Inside My Love.' "That was a song that was written out of a request from Minnie that she wanted to write something that was provocative" explains Ware regarding the song's birth. "Oddly enough, it happened at a time when I was playing with an idea that came from my childhood. I was in the Church seven days a week with my mother until I was nine or ten years old and every night we would go there after she came back from work. The pastor would stand in front of the congregation and say 'won't you come…won't you come inside the Lord.' It was so compelling and the people were almost in a hypnotic trance. So when I told Minnie the lyric 'come inside my love' she had this look on her face. Then she said 'do you know what they're going to think?'"
Riperton may have been initially horrified by the risqué sexual connotations of 'Inside My Love' but recorded the song and it became a Top 30 US R&B hit. Says Ware: "The first week it was out I was driving down La Brea in California and a DJ was playing it on KTLH. He played the record and then stopped it almost before it got to the end and said 'hang on, let's run this back again. I want you all to listen to this. I'm not sure if I'm getting this. Is Minnie really inviting us inside her?' I laughed but then I was kind of slightly pissed because I wanted people to reach for the better part of it."
As for Riperton, who died of breast cancer in 1979, she has a special place in Leon Ware's heart. "I had the blessing and the gift of her friendship and she was a fan of mine," he says. "She became a large part of my family. I was with her when she made transition. We were very close. She was like a sister - she was sweet, very loving, and a very maternal woman. She mothered the world that was in her presence. She still lives with me. In my mind, Minnie and Marvin (Gaye) are never gone: their essence, their spirit, their whole being is a part of your psyche, a part of your soul and a part of everything that you are."
Despite having a fascinating past, Leon Ware's primary focus is now the future. To the relief of soul music fans, he's not contemplating retirement just yet, and is wholly devoted to his art: "As long as the oxygen flows through my system I'll be putting out music" he says defiantly. He's already contemplating the follow-up album to 'Moon Ride' - "I have half my next project in my head" - and reveals he's preparing to publish a book. "It's actually a children's adventure book that I've been writing for several years that I'm about to finish," he discloses. "I have a Parisian co-writer and a Dutch illustrator so it's going to come out in three different languages."
With his creativity undimmed and a clean bill of health, there's no doubt that Leon Ware seems to be enjoying the ride of his life. Long may he continue to do so.

'Moon Ride' is out now on Stax/Concord.

 

FIVE WORDS - AND MORE - WITH TRISH ANDREWS

Thursday, 05 March 2009 08:10 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

FIVE WORDS - AND MORE -  WITH TRISH ANDREWS

TRISH ANDREWS' 'These Five Words' is currently one of the hottest indie soul albums. Tracks like 'Comfort Zone' are wowing the modern soul rooms while other cuts from the LP are being regularly rotated by some of the most discerning soul radio DJs… www.soulandjazzandfunk.com felt the time was right to catch up with TRISH and we began with the obvious and asked about her musical background and influences…

I've been singing since I was in the 3rd grade. The first song I ever learned was "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell... I've had years of vocal training and worked on song writing skills with my vocal coach Janetta Deavers. I love all types of music, but favour Neo-Soul. Influences? Well - Jill Scott, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Maxwell, James Brown, Bobby Caldwell, Dianne Schurr, Musiq Soulchild, Raphael Saddiq to name just a few - but the list could go on and on. Above all, though, I enjoy performing live and getting up close and personal with my audience… to get that natural high from a responsive crowd. With this passion for music I began singing in talent shows, festivals, local venues and with jazz bands, blues bands, and top 40 bands. But I always wanted to have my own style and be my own person so I sorted out my own musicians and became Independent Artist Singer/Songwriter Trish Andrews. Now I find myself opening up for nationally-known artists such as Eric Benet, KEM, Walter Beasley, Mike Phillips, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Cameo, Whodine, The SOS Band and so on.

'These Five Words' is your debut album… Why did you decide the time was right for you to record a whole LP?

I first started out with a 3-Single CD titled "Can't Keep Running". Once everyone heard it they loved it and wanted more songs to listen to… but I didn't have any!. So I teamed up with my producer Rodney Shelton to do an 11 song album project and end it with a bonus track, which was a remix featuring Eddie Owens. We would make the first 3 songs on the album the cuts from the 3-Single CD but we redid them to match the new ones. I wanted to have a little something for everyone on this album so it became a great mix of Jazz, R&B, Soul, and Hip-Hop.


What was the inspiration behind the collection?

I already knew the whole project would be about love and positive relationships, with grown up yet sexy lyrics. I would say 80% of this CD is sexually-driven but with clean sexual content in a round about way! I do think that a lot of today's music is missing that "Real Music" and "Real Lyric" feel. No one hardly talks about real love anymore. In my mind, I feel love still exists so through my music and lyrics, I wanted to bring that magical feeling back. For me, love should be spontaneous, fun, serious, exhilarating and emotional. On the album therefore, the song "You Know What You Do To Me" is about fun sex, while "On My Mind" is about serious sex. Then again "These Five Words" praises the whole natural high/spontaneous type of sex while "Making Love" focuses on emotional sex. These types of intimate moments are driven through everyday love and relationships and this is what helps keep that special fire burning within one another… so very important to help build a strong and healthy relationship! So through my songs, I expressed it all without being too vulgar… I hope!


Do you write all your own material?

Yes, I write the melody lines, the chorus, and the verses. And my producer Rodney Shelton writes the instrumentation. With the exception of "Can't Keep Running", "Feels Like Heaven", and "Already". Those three we wrote together.

Tell us more about your producer, Rodney Shelton.

Rodney's major role was as arranger of the tracks and getting the whole team together - my engineer, background singer and live musicians and then making sure all my mixes were exactly right. Rodney has already worked with many greats such as James Brown, Shirley Caesar, Keith Washington, Billy Griffin, Howard Hewitt and many more.


What are your hopes for the album and your immediate ambitions?

Well I hope to perform the album world-wide. And I definitely want to perform live in the UK. Soul lovers in the UK have shown me and my music so much real love and support . My dream would be to get on a major tour with someone like Maxwell, KEM, or Eric Benet... I think their style and my style are somewhat similar.

….. And the future for Trish Andrews?

To run my journey on this album and start my next journey for the next album. What will I write about next? I'm anxious to see what album 2 brings out of me.

TRISH ANDREWS' These Five Words' is out now and available via the usual internet outlets - or go to www.trishandrews.com

 

MUSICAL CRUSH ON ANTOINETTE

Saturday, 14 February 2009 07:49 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

MUSICAL CRUSH ON ANTOINETTE

NORMAN CONNORS' 'Star Power' album is one of the first big indie soul releases of 2009 and one track in particular is proving that real soul music is still alive and well. The cut in question is 'Where Do We Go From Here' - a shimmering duet between HOWARD HEWETT and the song's writer, ANTOINETTE MANGANAS. CONNORS was so impressed with ANTOINETTE'S performance that he recorded her on two other key tracks - covers of 'Walk On By' and 'Sweetest Taboo'. Now residing in Pittsburgh, Ms MANGANAS also has her own album out. Called 'Verbal Crush', the 12 tracker is a relaxing mix of modern soul and smooth jazz with that man CONNORS taking production responsibilities on three of the selections. The album's so impressive www.soulandjazzandfunk.com tracked ANTOINETTE down to find out more about her album and aspirations. We began by asking about her musical background…..

I wanted to be a singer since I was a child. I came from a musical background. My father, Reolando Nunzio Conte was a singer and played every instrument from the clarinet, to sax, to guitar and banjo. My mother would accompany him as a vocalist. They were also very "old school", being that my father was born in Belmont, Calabria, Italy and my mom in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They had many plans for me but singing and being a performer was not one of them. They had that "old school" mentality where you get married and raise your children and the man provided. That being said, it never hindered who I was or my love for music and performing. In my home we had all kinds of sounds going on from all different rooms. My father was a barber (at home) and he listened to Gladys Knight, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Carlo Butti, Lena Horne, Elvis, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and Rod Stewart. My brother listened to the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Hall and Oates. My sister listened to Chicago, Anne Murray, Donna Summer, Peter Frampton and I listened to Chaka Khan, Frankie Beverley and Maze, Earth Wind and Fire, Shalamar, Michael Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Michael Jackson and Sade.


How did you get involved in the Norman Connors 'Star Power' project?

I met some people that came to see me perform here in Pittsburgh. They contacted these friends of theirs from Atlanta where I was later on introduced to Norman. That is how I came to meet him, Bobby Lyle, Herman Jackson, Donald Tavie, Johnny Britt and Howard Hewett…and the rest was "Magic"!

Why did Norman choose your song 'Where Do We Go From Here'?

As soon as Norman heard my song, he LOVED it from the start! Then, he asked Howard Hewett to sing the male part 'cos he knew that Howard and I would make a great mix! He said that our vocals complimented each other's.

What was it like to work with an established star like Howard Hewett?

I was first introduced to Howard at a restaurant in LA. We got along right from the start. He even ate my food! I don't let anyone eat my food! I must have liked him! We had such a musical chemistry …and a personal one…I felt like I grew up with him and was reuniting with my high school buddy again! He is so cool! I am his soul sister and he's my soul brother! I LOVED it because he knew exactly what to do on this song…..Very professional…..and he has a smile that is infectious!

Why do you think Norman choose you to take lead vocals on two other tracks…. Do you think he was having a 'Phyllis Hyman moment'?

I truly believe in my heart that these tracks were "Special" to him and he was looking for the singer with a certain tone in her voice, a kind of sultriness and the right amount of soul to pull them off! At one point when we were in the studio, we were listening to 'My Love Is All That' (a song from 'Verbal Crush') while mixing it and I said "THIS SONG IS SO BEAUTIFUL"!!!!! Then I leant over and kissed him on the cheek…(my way of saying thank you for even letting me sing this song), and he had a tear coming down his cheek! I know that was his way of saying, "you're welcome"…you made me proud! That made me teary eyed!

Tell us something about your own album ?

Well, my own CD is called 'Verbal Crush'. I named it that because people would tell me that my voice was alluring and addictive. So, if you can't see me to have a physical crush, then you can listen to me and have a Verbal Crush! I was fortunate enough to have Khari Parker, John Blessucci, and Larry Kohut as musicians on the album and producers like Larry King, Norman Connors and Donald Tavie from Lakeside. Bobby Lyle also plays on several of the tracks ….

There are a lot of covers on the album…. 'Déjà Vu', 'It's Too Late', 'Could It be Magic' and so on …. why?

Being a GEMINI, I LOVE A CHALLENGE…I've grown up with these songs and heard them sung by the most incredible and talented singers and I wanted to see if I could do them…and do them as well as they do…I guess that was my challenge. Plus, I never heard a woman's version of one of my favourite songs 'Sara Smile' by Daryl Hall and John Oates and I wanted to do that..

What do you hope for the album and what are your immediate ambitions?

Simple …that the whole world will get to hear 'Verbal Crush'! I know that people are hungry for old school music - music that tells a story or a ballad that can be delivered vocally for pure romance. Back in the day it was about romancing someone before you got the prize! Unfortunately today they seemed to have skipped that part. I am hoping the whole world will have a VERBAL CRUSH and appreciate the love and determination and dedication that went into both mine and Norman's CD! Then I'm hoping to tour the world with my CD and hopefully they will fall in love with me like I have with my music!!!

…. And what about the future?

WRITE… WRITE … AND KEEP WRITING! I take things that I necessarily don't know how to react to but it happens in my life so I put a song to it! Then I'm hoping one day that someone like Babyface comes to me and say, "I WROTE THE PERFECT SONG FOR YOU ANTOINETTE"….Would you please do me the honour of singing it?? MY DREAM … MY DREAM……Who knows????

ANTOINETTE'S 'VERBAL CRUSH' IS OUT NOW ON PYRAMID RECORDS AND IS AVAILABLE FROM THE USUAL INTERNET OUTLETS.

 

HEARING THINGS WITH JEFF LORBER

Wednesday, 12 November 2008 13:43 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

HEARING THINGS WITH JEFF LORBER

Philadelphia keyboardist JEFF LORBER is a doyen of the smooth soul scene. Indeed he was in the business long before the term was even coined. With 18 solo sets under his belt, JEFF'S just launched a brand new collection - 'Heard That' - his first album for Peak Records. BILL BUCKLEY of www.soulandjazzandfunk.com recently caught up with JEFF to talk about the album but couldn't resist kicking things off by asking him about his early years in the City Of Brotherly Love and wondering if that city's unique musical heritage had any impact on the young LORBER ….

Unfortunately I was too young to participate very much in the music scene in Philly when I was growing up, but I heard a lot of great stuff on the radio and when I was in high school I was very lucky to see quite a few amazing musical performances come to town - people like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd and a number of Miles Davis' bands. I also went to the original Woodstock. Many of those experiences were incredible and made some very strong impressions on me regarding how powerful and creative music can be. Much later I did get to play at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios. I filmed a session for something called 'Studio Jams' in there, just before it was closed down. Also one of my father's friends was Bernie Lowe who was a writer, very much involved in the Cameo-Parkway thing, so I did hear indirectly about the business from him.


What about other influences on your work? What musicians did you really rate?

I love all the fusion music from the late 60s - through the 80s …. Like Return To Forever, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and anything from Miles, Weather Report and all the great stuff coming out from Fantasy Records…Tower of Power, Average White Band, Earth Wind And Fire… I could really go on and on. Today I don't hear a lot of current stuff that I'm crazy about but I do follow some producers like Timbaland and Pharrell. I love Keith Jarrett also; his phrasing kills me.

Tell us now about your latest album…… and why the title 'Heard That'?

'Heard That' is just a catchy phase that kind of fits with the very bluesy, R&B flavoured stuff that Rex (Rex Rideout, co-producer) and I came up with. We were referencing a lot of the early Jeff Lorber fusion grooves as well as some of our favourite bands from the 80s like the Brothers Johnson, Chic and Pleasure.

How did the tunes come about?

Most were collaborations with Rex, though I had two tracks that were previously written (although still new) - the title track and 'Don't Hold Back'. Then of course, there's 'Rehab'. That was a last minute addition.

Some people might be surprised that you chose to work on the Amy Winehouse tune. What made you go for it?

I thought it would be fun because it's got a cool rhythmic feel and the melody translates well for piano. Though, I have to say I wasn't too sure at first that it was a good idea. But people have been really enthusiastic when we play it live - so now I'm a little more confident.

The song's quite transformed. In some ways it harks back to the way Ramsey Lewis treated material like 'Hang On Sloopy' and 'Hard Day's Night' in the 60s. Would you agree? If so, was this a conscious thing or did the groove just evolve?

YES… Ramsey Lewis … I'd VERY much agree with that…however it wasn't intentional. It just kind of happened

The track's been featured on a new UK compilation from Jazz FM - a re-launched radio station that's trying to keep the smooth jazz flag flying… though some critics say its output is too bland. How would you answer people who say that smooth jazz is little better than elevator music?

Those people are right … well, sometimes anyway. However, I'm always trying to push the envelope. I like to think of what I do as contemporary jazz; trying to keep the spirit alive of some of the more adventurous musicians - like those folks I mentioned earlier.

Finally what would you say has been your greatest musical achievement and what ambitions have you left?

Probably sounds a little conceited, but achievement-wise I think I've written some pretty cool songs and for the future - well, I'm just starting to play more internationally and I really enjoy that. The crowds in Europe and Asia are younger and more hip than in the USA… in some ways anyway.


 

JEFF LORBER'S 'HEARD THAT' is released on Peak, Concord on 17 November 2008

 

HOW TO MAKE A COOL MILLION

Thursday, 23 October 2008 14:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

HOW TO MAKE A COOL MILLION

Without doubt one of the best modern soul albums of 2008 is COOL MILLION'S 'Going Out Tonight'. The Expansion album has rightly won critical acclaim and no wonder! It's stuffed with classic modern soul tunes all stamped with an unashamed yet irresistible 80s retro feel. Listening to tracks like 'Give Me My Love' and 'Damn Beautiful', you'll be asking yourself where you've heard that one before. You'll be haunted by a familiar riff or a catchy refrain, but before you can place them, your attention will be whisked away on another familiar-sounding classy soul groove. It's all quite magical and strangely compulsive. www.soulandjazzandfunk.com's BILL BUCKLEY resolved to find out why 'Going Out Tonight' offers so much. He discovered that COOL MILLION is essentially an enthusiastic Euro duo - FRANK RYLE and ROB HARDT and after a little more detective work BILL tracked FRANK down to his mountain retreat in Denmark. BILL began by asking FRANK how COOL MILLION came about and why they used that odd name…..

Originally Cool Million was founded by me - Frank Ryle - and Jesper Koan and the idea was to make some cool modern soul. At some point we talked about a suitable name for the project and came up with Cool Million, by accident. Actually it was a joke between Jesper and me. Jesper had some work going on with a US pop singer and an agreement laying on his desk that he was about to sign with a US manager. I asked him what kind of money was involved if any... and he replied with a "well give me a Cool Million.." We laughed a lot about it and I said why not use that name Cool Million for the project, so that was it..

How did your track, 'Naughty Girl' come to the attention of Expansion Records?

Well I know Ralph Tee from Expansion through my other project Soulportal.dk, a Danish website focusing on soul music, that's been around for over 7 years. Over the years I've been doing many reviews on various Expansion releases and I interviewed Ralph some years ago, even invited him to Copenhagen to DJ. So when the track was ready I just passed him the track and one thing led to another.

How did you feel about the song being featured on one of their famous Togetherness albums?

Well, I felt pretty good... The 'Soul Togetherness' compilations are in my humble opinion one of the best things to wait for…. always packed with high quality soul music and pure bliss from start to end. So naturally I was extremely happy.

Did the success of that song lead directly to this album or is there another explanation?

When working on 'Naughty Girl', I had the idea of a full length album in the back of my head. But first we started on a track featuring Bobby Cutchins and when that track was almost finished Jesper decided to leave the Cool Million project. So I was in a trance for an hour or two, then I decided to ask Rob - whom I knew through my soulportal site. He said yes to me straight away, and I told him my plans and he agreed and we started working on the album from day one.

All the tracks on the LP have an authentic 80s retro feel - why?

That's the way we like it. No, it has something to do with a mutual feeling between Rob and I. Both of us miss that 80s feel in the modern soul music of today. And we agreed to take a chance and try to bring some of the 80s magic back. Rob and I started out listening to soul music in the early 80s: you know people like Nile Rogers, Bernard Edwards, Jam & Lewis, Nick Martinelli, Kashif, Paul Laurence and Mtume … that whole thing with the synths, 808 drum machine, party time lyrics, happy vibe and soul music you can actually dance to... It's hard to find good uplifting soul music these days unless you go with soulful house. We wanted to end that with our album and on top of that I think I prefer the uptempo tracks most of the times.

How did you achieve that 80s feeling?

That's totally Rob's achievement… he is one of the most wicked studio musicians around and very talented as a remixer as well.

Take us through some of the tracks and tell us what were the inspirations behind each song - or, to put it another way, what is the musical point of reference for each song? For example is 'Damn Beautiful' modelled on 'Juicy Fruit'?

Yeah, you could state that a track like 'Damn Beautiful' is our tribute to Mtume. 'Walk Away' clearly has its inspiration from Kleer. In fact Woody from Kleer was very impressed with our sound on that track. A track like 'Music' featuring Jahah came out so it could sound as something Butch Ingram did in '84. But the overall idea wasn't to copy anybody but somehow use sounds that reflected that period and still be able to hear that it was made in 2008. We wanted to give the audience a little teaser... like I have heard it before, but who is it? Get them interested.

Why did you choose to cover Carol King's 'Its Too Late'?

Simple... it's one of my favourite tracks. It's a killer song and I have only heard it covered once by Gene Rice. So I figured it would be suitable for one of the best singers in Denmark, Karen Groth. She agreed to do it, and it turned out pretty good I think. In fact so good that we got a request from Mr. Tom Moulton letting us know that he wanted to remix it.

How were the songs put together? Who does the music, who does the lyrics?

The whole project is very low budget, so we had to find singers who would do it just for the love of it. We used My Space to get in contact with many of the singers; presented the concept and passed them different rough backing tracks to choose from, then they came up with want they wanted and passed their vocals to us and we finished the track with the 80s sound in mind. I do the rough first things, and Rob is the guy who arranges the vocals and the music as he is the music master.

What are your hopes for the album?

First and foremost we hope it will do really well on the soul scene in the UK and Europe, then Japan and the US. It's hard work, but we believe that this is an album for everybody. You don't need to be a soul head to feel Cool Million, so if we could get the BBC and other major radio stations and big name DJs to play us, we are sure it could/would crossover to a bigger market. But for that we must do a lot of work and maybe we would need a bit of luck.

Some critics have said that there is little point in recreating old sounds… how would you respond to that?

I don't see their point - for progression you have to look back once in a while. Look at how fashion works - designers get inspiration from all decades so why shouldn't music be that way. Right now there's a lot of music with a heavy influence from the 60s and even the 80s. We think it's all good - you don't have to be a copy cat, but it's cool to use elements from back in the days.

What are your views on the current modern soul scene?

From where I am I think it's too small: I think there should be a lot more soul music in radio, television and clubs etc. There's some good music out already, but it's hard when the major labels and radios only look for R&B and hip hop. So the underground has to open up, and try to make it less underground. I was attending a Soul Weekender earlier this year, and I was thinking that in 10 years time half of the crowd would be dead! I think they should really think about how they could bring in new generations - if it's the same DJs that are playing to these events and even the tunes are the same you don't get new blood. So I would say that the UK soul scene - which is the biggest in Europe - should look at what they do in other countries. Invite people over from Denmark, Germany, Sweden etc to play at these events. Make a bigger community. It doesn't have to be a secret or for soul heads only.

And what about your plans for the future?

Get people turned onto the Cool Million sound, do more music under the name Cool Million. Enjoy it and see how far it will bring us.

 

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