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Please read the interview in the last SOULM8ONLINE ISSUE 17
Here to who wants to know a lill bit more about me :=)
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in a popular working class area in Southern Paris, near Montparnasse. My father worked hard in a parachute factory, working on metal pieces from early morning to late at night. Famous 3 x 8 turns stuff. We were a modest family, but love and laughter was our everyday food. I was not interested so much by school, but I enjoyed English, History, Geography and Philosophy. Only music was in my mind. My grand mother found me in front of the mirror at 7 years old, playing a furious broom solo on Carlos Santana's Soul Sacrifice. My future was already etched!
When did your love of soul music begin?
With Arthur Conley, ‘Sweet soul Music’ because I loved the Atco Lill Trumpet designed stamps logo.The first record I ever bought, together with The Rolling Stones, ‘Satisfaction’ and Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime’. ‘Sweet Soul Music’, I know this by memory! If I reflect now, what incredible choices, haha!
But it was Jimi Hendrix who gave me my first musical ‘shock’. There was everything in there, Soul, Funk, Rock, Psychedelic, Jazz, it evoked craziness, beauty, attitude and was magical. My favourite album is ‘Rainbow Bridge’, and that unforgettable Woodstock Festival live performance of ‘Star Spangler Banner’. Surely, my first approach to Soul in a way?
As for my love for REAL soul music? This properly began when I watched a Marvin Gaye concert on TV. He was singing ‘What's Going On’. I remember being stuck to TV, and the day after I ran straight to the store to buy a couple of albums, ‘What's Going On’ and ‘In Our Lifetime’, both of which have been integral in my music listening to date. Tracks on those albums still are in my opinion, essential anthems of Soul music. I also remember that record store in Quartier St Michel in Paris where I used to go on a Wednesday afternoon and every Saturday, staying there for hours until dinner, without ‘buyin' nuthin’! Store headphones on my ears, under the close but compassionate eye, of the owner from below! He later, became a good friend of mine ;) ‘U again?’, he would say each time! Haha! It was then I discovered soul and funk music, and I am grateful to him for that.
But what can I say about my love for music in general? I’m curious and I always have been. I don’t have the memory of one day without music in my life .Well, let me think? Erm? No indeed, haha! I’ve always been into music.
The 80's was the most crucial period in my musical growth . Good times, for real! Those where the years when Paris was a very exciting and enthusiastic mixed culture, and groovy place. We were hanging out, dancing and already playing music with friends. Stevie Wonder, EWF and Michael Jackson's ‘Off The Wall’. For sure, Early Jackson 5, Georges Duke, Roger Troutman, Funkadelic, the HUGE Bobby Womack. Kool and the Gang, Cameo, Brother Johnson, Quincy Jones, Isley Brothers, ooh the Isley Brothers, man!. Then Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, James Brown, Teddy Pendergrass, Prince, Barry White, Philly sounds, Bunny Sigler, Don Williams, Jazz, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Fusion Jazz, and billions of others artists and their music became my everyday food.
We used to stay hours on the phone for hours with friends, talking about music, and then sharing cassettes with our discoveries. No internet, Facebook or You Tube in those years. Back then it was ‘the’ tube, busses and bikes! We were courageous music lovers, ahaha! Listening and revisiting my vinyls for full days and entire nights to compare and learn, learn, learn. Also big rock dinosaurs like Led Zeppelin, I still love them. Some Beatles, Stones, Jeff Beck, lots of Reggae and Dub music. I truly was and still am, and a dedicated fan. From Bob Marley to Gregory Isaacs, Lee Perry to Sir Coxsone. Plates, soundsystems, melodies and studio magicians.
Who were the artists that influenced your style?
All my inspiration for this album has come from my past, my teenage memories. For example, I realise now how The Isley Brothers, Earth Wind and Fire, The Gap Band, The O'Jays, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder have all been so important in my process to compose these songs. Even if someone talked about an obvious, but lil' reductive EWF mimetism concerning the album.
Leon Ware is a huge influence, but I discovered that more recently. He has influenced my style under another musical angle. I mean, his delicate touch to write those hugely eternal songs, their constructions and melodies. But also about the man, his personality, his composer's life, and his fantastic interviews. Leon Ware is like the cumulative history of soul music. Words inspire music too, right? Leon has composed songs I would listen to many times a week throughout decades, like I have done with ‘What's Going On ‘, ‘I Wanna Be Where U Are’, as with other songs ‘Move on Up’, ‘ABC ‘, ‘Ain't No Mountain High Enough’, and ‘Harvest For The World’. These are some of my favourite tracks of all time.
The list of influences would be too long. However, things that influence me are in constant mutation and also part of the present. I am a huge fan of Deep and some Tech House too. I love House music, Chicago and Detroit house music legends. Moodyman, Kerry Chandler , Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig. House music has inspired me a lot too. That is the Sepiaboy part of me. My own organic electronic approach to album's song. Influences are so many. It can depend on the day, the place where I am, or the weather too! Aah, I believe it! Or simply, my kiddies, the people I’m with or life's events in the present moment too.
Influences also come from my child musical background, for sure. I listened for years to my Dad's 7”s that he’d bring from the US when he was a French Marine from 1955 to 1957. Mainly Jazz, Latin, Be-Bop, Calypso, Early R’n’b, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, even Elvis Presley too! Sydney Bechet, Harry Belafonte, Charlie Parker with strings, Django Reinhart, Toots Tillemans, and Duke Ellington. They’ve definitely influenced me too. Not so much French music. apart that deep veneration I got for Serge Gainsbourg; his music, his infinite inspiration, and his controversial personality. I remember as a child, those weekly Sunday mornings with'em, Dad and Mam. That was the moment I’d hear those magical crackling vinyl’s coming to my Stereo ears, in Mono ahah! I am sure that my influences come from all those numerous elements of memories too. I am just asking myself, if perhaps I don’t recollect some VERY important influences that blessed my ears? Probably not, aaha!
You produce, sing and play guitar, but which do you prefer?
I don t have preferences until I got something to feed my imagination in creating songs with those three elements .I considering myself more a writer than an instrumentalist. I consider those three things as an ‘everything’ and I really can’t say if I like one more than the other, if you understand what I mean? Producing is the second step in my process to writing songs. At first sight I use to sing and play my guitar. I know now when I feel and ‘see’ that lil’ light in my body and soul, that tells me, ‘Ah yeah, that's it’! ;) This is very personal and intimate.
Then, I need something to compose basic chords based on my guitar chords, then increase melodies, then groove as basement . It can be my guitar, but also can be drums, a loop or some simple keyboards chords. It depends of what I find in the studio or the place I am in that moment. I believe that producing will come later. As time passes, I realise the real pleasure to produce. I mean, to achieve and express exactly what I have basically got in mind, this is the magic of it .Playfulness is my favourite instrument actually ;))
You have worked with many artists but whom do you enjoy working with the most?
Working with Rahmlee Michael Davis has been one of the most beautiful musical experiences of my musician's life. I learned a lot about music, human relationships and humility. His unique art to construct ‘voicing‘ as foundations inside my songs or how to distribute notes like characters in the cinema, or measuring ingredients as in fine cooking, and gastronomy - to have the perfect taste or colour. Learning this art has been like a revelation for me.
I learned a lot about arrangements with him, how using silences and many other basic sides of arrangements and recording sessions. Every second with him is intense and always creative. His huge sense of humour, but serious concentration at the same time, transforms everything in a very simple way. Even if there are elevated numbers of musicians involved, which is very complicated to manage at the same time. Like how to resolve a puzzle, searching to finally find solutions to express the best way to serve a simple piece of music. I mean a Song. This man is a genius. His science of penetrating your song, surrounding your tracks with their horns ‘inside’ the composition is unique . Punching grooves, energizing them with that high level of harmonic knowledge, opening the spectrum of them, and always respecting the apparent simplicity of my songs.
Music was the goal. I’ve been so impressed by the apparent simplicity and the humility in how Rahmlee helps to produced them. He has worked for years with EWF, Michael Jackson, Bobby Womack but also Phil Collins, Abba and many others. His experience has been fundamental in creating that fantastic album
During my career I have also met and collaborated with many big musicians. The amazing cast of fantastic musicians, who have been part of the album. Larry Dunn, Tim Owens, Mr James Gadson, Alex Al, Gordon Campbell, Byron Miller, Kamil Rustam, Maurice Herd and my friend Orlando Johnson. Many other interpreters, producers, and singers will remain in my heart for life, but the list will be too long here. So many different musical experiences.
Basically I love to work with my close friends Terry Tam, Dan Florean with who I co-composed ‘I’m Not The Same Man’ and ‘Luv Is Comin Up’. Also Ivan Russo with whom I recently remixed Chingy, Kof, and Manu Dibango or the French Saxophonist Fred Karato. Also about Ivan Russo with who have received many European awards, one of my brothers and closest collaborator too. I composed tons of songs with him and it's like an alchemy. Those three guys are family. We know each others through memories and we don’t need to talk to compose and produce. Just smiles, have fun, play ‘record ‘ and go ;)
Do you find it easy working with other artists or is it a compromise sometimes?
It depends of the kind of production you have made and the level of involvement you are in .When you produce an album with so many musical legends, what some people may call "the wisdom of experience", it is fundamental as everyone naturally serves the project . Then is no need to compromises in that case. Prolonged periods in the studio pushes you naturally, to what I can call ‘compromises’ until everyone respects the original goal or the original idea of the song you are working on. Sometimes is very easy, for example, in the ‘In The Name of Luv’ album. But sometimes it is very hard when others and external egos, or too much so-called ‘outside deciders voices’ interact and creates a confusion in the making of it. The spirit of collaboration is essential to makes things happens as they originally deserve to be. I am talking about the magic. Always present in mind. You often need patience and a huge dose of self control to reach perfection. I love to collaborate with others, but that is my point of view about that.
Your last album has done very well around the world, did you think it would do so well?
Basically, it was a challenge, at many different levels. To turn that musical dream into reality. So much work but so much joy, and gratefulness in return.
Many people worldwide have acclaimed the album. This is like a piece of love and brotherhood With my friend and producer Patrick Smadja, a real talent with whom I grew up, as teenager and musician. We have done many live shows and tours together. Twenty five years later, our original idea was to re-create the sound and feel of our teenage years, funk and soul vibes through. The result, in respect to the worldwide enthusiasm is nothing short of amazing .Many people and press critics have on several occasions defined the sound, as a tribute to EWF, "Like a new EFW album they've never recorded"! Aah, well! I deeply admire the band, and comments such as that are incredible .EWF have wrote classics and they’re one of my favourite band all time. They are comparable to nothing or no-one! They are an entity. They brings joy to millions of people with their incredible music .We made the album without pretentions, just to have fun without thinking about that unexpected never-ending acclaimed feedback .
Originally Patrick's goal was perfection, but perfection for fun! I’m so grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to realise our common dream, being constantly focused on his passionate requests, composing songs. I have been his interpreter in a way. And that stuff comes out! Incredible! He is doing others production at the moment. Patrick deserves respect and love.
Your recent tour around the UK was on a tour bus, was that your first time on a tour bus and did you enjoy the experience?
No, not my first time. But the atmosphere was unique! Myself, together with Cool Million, Gary Poole, and Westcoast Soulstars, under the ‘Soul On The Road’ banner definitely lived and met love everywhere we went. I would like to use this space, and take this opportunity to thank every single person who was in involved in that unforgettable musical and human experience. I want to thank all of those, for that rare brotherhood. Also, everybody in the UK for their never-ending encouragements and love. They mean a lot, DJ’s, radio programmers, love them.
Did you enjoy the UK and when can we expect to see you again
As soon as the promoters request it, and everyone’s schedules fits together. The Hoochie Coochie club in Newcastle has been HUGE and we will certainly be returning there very soon. Many other people from the UK are contacting me for return gigs in Stockport, Margate, London and Glasgow. This is what I loved about touring in the UK. You ‘feel’ crowds, they live the moment! They are supportive, not critical like certain other places!
Soul on the Road….. Togetherness…. It really was! I have tons of beautiful images in my memory, firstly of my friend and singer Tim Owens who literally blew people away, and reduced people to tears singing ‘I’m Crazy’ with his fantastic powerful , groovy and emotional performance. He is the spirit and soul of that Luv Allstars project , a huge part of it. He is one of the most extraordinary singers in circulation. We had waited for that moment for a long time, and we can’t wait to do it again . Every nights has been top shivers stuff! I met and lived there a magical week together with those fantastic NuSoul and retro Funk leaders, with Cool Million’s Guy, Frank Ryle (Rob Hardt was sick and stuck in bed at home)!. Real ‘choon’ makers, plus the fabulous, unique and funniest sister Laura Jackson , a huge talent! Gary Poole who is soul personified with his fantastic smooth and classy, beautiful songs . His voice is magical .And also Eli Thompson and Janine Johnson for their Westcoast Soulstars project . Eli is an incredible showman and Janine has a huge powerful presence and amazing voice. Her ‘Ain't Nobody’ reinterpretation gave me shivers every night. Lastly, I can 't forget our fantastic Band , the Baltic Soul Band. I mean Andrew McGuiness, our musical director and drummer on the tour, with his brilliant boys Lexa, Jan and Seb. They are a REAL band playing together since a damn looong time ago! They have played with so many soul legends and the togetherness and understanding of what happens on stage , their kindness and humility have been fundamental .
We had rehearsals in Berlin and already anticipated during those sessions, how the moment would be. It was an amazing, and well done contribution by all. Together we laughed a whole lot, aah! What a fun we had Guy, ahha. Without forgetting Miss Jen Dunbar, who took a huge risk mounting that event just by passion and love for the music. She deserves big respect and love, I am sure everybody there in the uk, are grateful to her for doing that! in that. Wow! Big time guys! I am still feeling it inside, a month and a half later ;)
When is your next project due and do you have much planned for 2012
I am currently preparing the second album, actually. Now is the time. Then soon, it will be the right time to share the new songs with fans. I can’t wait. Very exciting! ;)
I have been asked when? Realistically, the new album will be released in January 2013, with a prior release of the first new single in August 2012, then a second in November 2012. i am also seriously focused on organizing a new UK tour, and also visit others lands such as Germany, France, Japan and US West Coast. The first album live is so special. I’m trying also to bring a full horns section on stage very soon, to make the full ‘circus’ happen.
What is the best thing in your opinion about being a musician/artist?
Playing your music live then hearing the feedback from the audience, like a boomerang, is an unique sensation. No-one can feel or even realistically understand it, if not musician or artist. But CAN feel it as an audience. Simply put, reading quotes like “Your music gave a ray of light, put all my problems to one side and gave sense to my day” That is cool. The creation process is another thing, the end result takes longer, but the excitement of a release is a fantastic feeling. I get a huge sense of achievement, when I feel that universal celebration of togetherness, brotherhood and love.
Thanks Soulm8 for providing the opportunity to talk about all that and you Dave, for the passion , the trust and the kindness .
Luv y'all <3
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