Interviews

Forever Hip - Tower Of Power's Emilio Castillo Talks Teamwork, Family Values And The Power Of Prayer Ahead Of The Band's Imminent UK Tour

Friday, 26 April 2019 13:43 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

     altEmilio Castillo, co-founder of the long-running funk institution, Tower Of Power, clearly recalls the band's maiden trip to the United Kingdom. "In 1974 we went over there with the Warner Brothers music show," reveals the 68-year-old tenor saxophonist who co-founded the band in 1968. "I remember Keith Richards and Elton John came to see us. It was exciting. We were young and the band was hitting really hard. We were playing with Little Feat, Graham Central Station,  Doobie Brothers, Montrose, and a little band called Kimberley. Every night, each band was trying to outdo the others and some nights we won, and other nights, someone else won. It was just really a great time."

Fast forward to 2019 and the long-running soul and funk institution originally from Oakland California, are about to return to the UK to embark on a three-date tour  at the end of May (with dates in Birmingham, Manchester, and London) as part of the 10-piece band's ongoing 50th anniversary celebrations. "In the past, we usually just came to do one gig in London," says Castillo, "but we've always been baffled because we haven't been able to play other cities in the UK. Then in the last couple of years, we hooked up with this agent and told him in no uncertain terms, we want to play other cities in the UK. So by God's grace, we've started to do that. And everywhere we go we get a large, excited crowd, and a great response. So we just love it."

Given the band's huge back catalogue - eighteen studio and six live albums, not forgetting numerous compilations - it must be difficult to decide what songs to include and what to leave out. Emilio Castillo's solution is to vary the set gig-by-gig so that he keeps the fans happy - by including the hits and classic songs - but also makes it interesting for the band. "I try to keep three 90-minute sets that we revolve," he explains. "There are a few songs in there that we have to repeat in all the sets but for the most part, the bulk of the set is different each night. It makes it fresh and a little more challenging too. It's an exciting show, like a James Brown or Prince kind of show in terms of audience excitement. You should leave tired and sweaty."

Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2019 18:06

 

CHELSEA GIRL...

Monday, 22 April 2019 13:58 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altAustralian singer CHELSEA WILSON won plenty of plaudits with her 2015 long player, 'I Hope You'll Be Very Unhappy Without Me'. Despite the odd title, the set was voted "Best Soul/Funk Album Of The Year" at the Victoria Music Awards in the land down under! It's taken a little while but busy Ms Wilson has just released the follow up –a concise 9 tracker 'Chasing Gold' which like its predecessor is winning great reviews.... even earning "album of the week" status on some top soul sites. So what better time to find out more about Chelsea....

I'm a vocalist, songwriter, DJ, event producer, festival director, board director and broadcaster from Melbourne Australia. I'm obsessed with music and have been writing and recording songs since I was 9 years old. I used to knock on the neighbours door as a kid with my ghetto blaster in one hand and money box in the other and ask if they would like to pay to see my 'show'. I've always loved the stage, mum calls me a born 'show girl'. Mum played classical piano when I was a kid and tried to teach me how to play but I was never disciplined enough to read the dots and become a classical player. I could play by ear much to mum's frustration so she gave up trying to instruct me so I'm self taught. She put me in dance classes at my request but I always preferred my own moves and so I was always the rebel at the back of the room making up my routines! I studied contemporary music and audio engineering at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, so I'm not properly jazz trained. But my first love was jazz, I learned the great songbook on the road. After my study I completed six international residency gigs singing jazz standards in 5-star hotels – I did three six month stints in Japan, I worked in Thailand, Dubai and also spent some time at sea singing on a cruise ship. Some people feel embarrassed to talk about doing gigs like this but I'm not – singing 280 shows a year, six nights a week, four sets a night for a couple of years gave me my performance stripes, enabled me to learn stage craft plus I got to have some amazing adventures!

When I returned to Australia I went back to study and completed a Masters Degree of Arts and Entertainment Management and worked in music licensing for a bit while I started focusing on my own music. I then landed a fabulous role as Music Manager of iconic Melbourne station PBS106.7FM and started my own radio show Jazz Got Soul. While I was in this role I released my debut album "I Hope You'll Be Very Unhappy Without Me". The album was lauded #2 album of the year on ABC radio national and led to me performing at Glastonbury Festival and supporting Macy Gray on her Australian tour. I was then offered the position of Artistic Director of Stonnington Jazz Festival so I made the move to Festival directing after seven years in radio. I've now directed seven different festivals and next month my fourth jazz festival kicks off. I love the creative side of festival directing and producing new shows, it's a different way for me to express ideas.

 

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE... the Isaac Aragon interview.

Monday, 08 April 2019 14:07 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Love Bless America' is the latest single from US blue eyed soulster ISAAC ARAGON. if you read the savvy soul media you'll know all about it; if you listen to the better soul stations, you'll have heard it.... it's been critically acclaimed and winning plenty of airplay. Surprisingly, maybe, nobody knows too much about Mr Aragon. So, to find out more we hooked up with him and he started by telling us a little something about himself....

I'm 29 years old, and I was born in a small, mountainous area in the northern part of New Mexico, USA. Most of my adult life has been spent in Albuquerque, NM. New Mexico is a crossroads for many very strong and distinct cultures and the music I was raised on was a reflection of that. I was raised with the sounds of Spanish flamenco guitar, Native American drums, Mexican mariachis, Depression era Delta Blues, Rock and Roll, and of course the music that CHOSE me...Soul Music.

Growing up, then, who were you musical heroes and influences?

First I must say that I was brought to music by my parents. They played/sang old Spanish Catholic songs at church every Sunday, and it was they who put a guitar in my hands in the first place. But I didn't quite take to it, not even a little bit...there was no purpose, no incentive. I wasn't spiritually moved by music...until I heard Bill Withers. Bill Withers changed, forever, the trajectory of my life. Simplicity. Raw, sincere human emotion. I never knew how powerful the human voice could be, and how one could say so much with so few words. My discovery of Bill led me on an inevitable journey to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Equally powerful musicians and songwriters in their respective ways. These 3 true artists taught me how to speak to the world about society, about politics...and turn it into a palatable, beautiful experience. And it has since been my goal to carry that torch (making soulful, socially conscious music), while defining a voice and sound distinctly my own. A few other notable influences of mine are Donny Hathaway, Gregory Porter, and Allen Stone.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2019 17:10

 

ALL ABOARD THE BATTLESPARK GALACTICA - Bobby Sparks II Talks Schizophrenia, Chilli Sauce And Prince

Friday, 05 April 2019 07:16 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

      alt"My father made the best chilli in the world," says Bobby Sparks II in a deep, sleepy voice that possesses a languid, molasses-rich, Southern drawl. "He used to win chilli cook-off contests all the time. He was known as Chilli Poppa." The quietly-spoken 46-year-old keyboard player originally from Texas - who can heard on Snarky Puppy's latest album, 'Immigrance' - is reflecting on the inspiration behind a spicy number that appears on his debut album, 'Schizophrenia - The Yang Project.' It's a succulent funk jam with a sticky backbeat called 'Bobby Sparks Sr.'s Famous Chili' and is intended as a homage to his late father's famed piquant Mexican stew.

Though, Bobby Jr. might not be noted for his culinary prowess, on his new album - a sprawling double platter released via the Leopard label - he blends together different musical ingredients like a bonafide master chef. Indeed, the album is characterised by an abundance of tangy and delectable flavours. As already mentioned, you'll find some searing chunks of funk, but you'll also discover R&B, hip-hop, jazz, blues, and rock flavours together with elements drawn from symphonic and world music. It's a kaleidoscopic collage of sounds and styles that is breathtaking, and at times, almost epic, in its scope...

Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2019 18:07

 

CHEAP DREAMS ... The Eli Reed Interview

Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:35 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altELI "PAPERBOY" REED was one of the first of the new generation of "for real" soul singers and he's all set to launch his next t album '99 Cent Dreams'. We last spoke back in 2010 when he was riding high with his long player 'Come And Get It'. That album had the backing of the mighty Capitol label and Eli's next LP was out on Warner Bros... before long, though, he was back working for the indie set up Yep Roc – also the imprint for '99 Cent Dreams', so when we hooked up again we wanted to know just what happend at those major labels....

That's am big question! A lot happened in between 2010 and now, some good and some bad. Unfortunately, major labels these days can be quite topsy turvy. Especially a few years ago, there was a lot of bureaucratic upheaval that went on, with people being shuffled around to different positions or losing their jobs altogether. It was a tough time for artists like myself because no one at the majors wanted to take a chance to push for a big campaign since if things didn't pan out they could easily be fired. Ultimately I ended up getting dropped from Warner in 2014 after a lot of my champions at the label either lost their jobs or were moved to different areas. I was quite disillusioned with the whole process and ended up channelling that to make the "My Way Home" album that came out in 2016. I made that record on my own dime and was put in touch with Yep Roc by my old friend Nick Lowe. They loved the record and were happy and excited to be in business with me which was a feeling I never really got at any of the majors I was on. In the end it was a tough process and I'm just now coming out the other side of it.

Try to define the differences between major labels and indie ones.... in retrospect do you regret signing with those big labels?

I still say that the answer is no and if I got the chance to work with a major again I most likely would. I think the major labels can provide funding and infrastructure that just about nobody else can match and if you're looking to make a big splash as an artist, that's the way to do it.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2019 16:50

 

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