Quite recently I finally picked up a copy of David T Walker’s very nice record Plum Happy. After doing just a small research on the man, I found out he played on a crazy lot of other good records. He played on over 2500 records. Basically that means that if you’d record for a different album every day of the week, it would take you at least seven years to achieve this. Marvin Gaye, Crusaders, David Axelrod, Nolan Porter, Stevie Wonder, Donald Byrd, Carole King, Odyssey, Jackson 5, Merry Clayton, Leon Haywood, Blue Mitchell, Gene Harris, I could go on forever, but these are to name but a few artists David has played for. David was so kind to answer some questions for me, hear him out.
What music where you into as a youngster, what are your first musical memories?
I heard & felt deeply Gospel, Blues and Chants from Native Americans. I heard them in person, from the radio, jukeboxes and some records.
I read somewhere you played saxophone at first, what/who encouraged you to pick up the guitar?
Yes, I did play the saxophone in the elementary school and continued playing it until middle school. Then, at age 16, I switched to the guitar because it was a common and available instrument. I also thought it was closer to the human voice. I started saying many years ago that the guitar is my voice.
What’s the first record you ever played on?
A soulful local organist in L.A. Also a group from high school called Kinfolks which I belonged to.
What do you consider your favorite solo album and what other record you played on do you cherish the most (you can also name a few since there are so many)?
It’s hard to choose a favorite one, but if I had to say, I would choose “David T. Walker” because I got many of my friends together on that album. I truly enjoyed working on it.
If your house was to suddenly be on fire and you could escape to safety bringing only one record, which one would that be?
I would choose John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme”.
Your music has been sampled a lot. As well your solo stuff as your licks on other artists’ albums, like Tupac’s Dear Mama sampled your guitar from Joe Sample’s In All My Wildest Dreams. What are your thoughts on the sampling industry? Do you consider it an hommage or rather theft?
In the beginning, I didn’t care for it so much because they didn’t give credits to the original artists nor monetary payment. Now I see more respect for the original artists in that sense. I also see it now it as a compliment.
Which track that has sampled your work do you fave?
I like the feeling of Tupac’s Dear Mama and A Tribe Called Quest’s God Lives Through.
What project are you currently working on?
Currently, I am practicing and trying to maintain my touch and connection between my brain/spirit and the guitar.
Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun scrolling through- and reading the DJ Food site. As indicated there, it’s more of an online scrapbook really. Focussing on all fine sorts of music and design, digging into the dust and creating new stuff. I envy the creative mind that is Kevin Foakes, practically the last remaining member and therefore sole director of – previous collective – DJ Food. As I’m always curious for other people’s music taste, I contacted the kind feller for a short exchange of questions and answers. Cheers.
Could you introduce yourself shortly?
DJ Food aka Strictly Kev aka Openmind aka Kevin Foakes. DJ, producer, graphic designer, collector, parent.
– Classic Breezeblock, one of my fave BBC radioshows. –
You’ve mastered a lot of different arts…DJ’ing, producing, illustrating and as a fan of your articles on the DJ Food site, I can also add writing. A true factotum. If you had to continue your life picking one of these disciplines, which one would that be?
That’s quite difficult – at the moment (this very one as of writing) I’d say designing because that’s where my head’s at at the moment. I’m going through a love/hate relationship with DJ’ing at the moment, as I love playing but want to play in venues and situations outside of clubland at the moment; shops, galleries, radio, museums etc. as this creates opportunities for different kinds of sets.
What kind of project are you currently working on?
I’ve just started work with an old friend on what could turn into a graphic novel for a music project of his, I’ve done some image-making and collage work for his performance and a possible publication. It’s early days but new ground for me which I’m keen to explore. I’m also in the process of starting a new monthly night in London, to create exactly the kind of space to play in that I was talking about before.
Is there a record – or maybe a few – you can mention, that really inspired you to start making music yourself?
I usually quote Double Dee & Steinski’s ‘Lessons’ trilogy as some of the ones who made me want to start DJ’ing, along with Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’, DJ Cheese’s DMC winning sets and Grandmaster Flash’s ‘Adventures on the Wheels of Steel’. As far as music-making I’m not sure anything inspired that, it just happened as a result of the DJ career. I’d probably quote producers like The Bomb Squad, Marley Marl, Duke Bootee, The Dust Brothers and Coldcut but also artists like Foetus, Kraftwerk, Eno and Trevor Horn as influencing my musical style.
I often have trouble finding a record that suits my hangover, do you have any?
Nope, I usually stay away from music and get in the bath with a couple of Ibuprofen.
What music got you going in your adolescence?
Fishbone, Foetus, Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys, Big Black, The The, Hijack, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art of Noise, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, The Human League
What is your favorite record of 2016 so far?
Cavern of Anti-Matter – ‘Void Beats/Invocation Trex’ is going to take some beating
You live in London. What’s your favourite recordstore there?
My favourite record shop is The Book & Record Bar in West Norwood, a great place to hang out, drink, browse books and records alike and they have radio broadcasts and after hours events. It’s at the bottom of the hill by West Norwood train station, so easy to get to, but not somewhere you would just happen across unless you knew it was there. It has a basement literally overflowing with stock too but only a few trusted patrons are let down there as it’s so packed, I’ve been trying to sort it out with a friend of mine for a year now.
It’s known you’re a fool for record sleeves, could you mention a fave and tell me why you like it?
Only one? Looking across to my shelves with some of my favourites displayed I’ll pick the 7″ Structure Sonores Expo 58 7″ single ‘Musique de L’Atomium’ by Lasry / Baschet / Cotte / Chouet
Finally, could you share some inspiring words for those who decided to spend their lives collecting records, or music for that matter?
Support labels and local shops as well as shopping online. Buy new music direct from the labels and artists if you can so that they can keep doing what they do. Do your research and don’t buy the first copy of something you see online as there are a lot of records out there and things come and go all the time. Don’t feed the flippers on eBay, especially around Record Store Day, they really are the bane of the real music lover / collector world who only exploit the situation for their own gain.
Once your collection reaches the 5000+ mark think about getting the floors re-enforced. Try not to pack your records too tightly on the shelves, not only does it make them hard to sort through but it can cause all sorts of problems if you use plastic sleeves with certain plastics getting fused to the covers if you’re not careful over the years. Never stack your records horizontally and try not to have them leaning at too much of an angle, it can lead to records warping, as upright as possible is best. You will never have all the records or music that you want, there will always be more out there to find and collect, just accept it, the wants list never ends and who would want it to?
Recently I got fascinated by a record some friends presented me. It was a 12″ reissue of the – originally on 7″ – Junei record You Must Go On/Let’s Ride. I immediately decided these jams were beautiful and needed more attention. I contacted Junei to ask him some questions about this awesome piece of music, only to find out the record is just a small part of his fascinating story.
Do you remember what music got you going as a kid? Was there a specific sound you were into?
I remember being fascinated by just the sound of any type of music as a young child. I believe I was 5 years old and the year was 1959. As I remember, there was a local radio station in Gary, Indiana called WWCA that I would listen to each night until bedtime. However, there was only one song that I truly loved that became my all time favorite song to this very day. It was called “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos.
As I grew older, I leaned more towards Rock & Roll. That’s what really turned me on! Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles etc…
I actually love that Flamingos jam as well. What triggered your decision to pick up an instrument yourself? When was this?
When I was about 10 years old, my father bought my older brother an acoustic guitar. He wasn’t too interested in it so whenever he would leave the house, I would pick it up and mess around with it. Soon afterwards, after catching me red handed… lol .., he decided to let me have it so I practised on it all day long everyday. Overtime I could pick up songs that I would hear on the radio stations. The first song I remember learning was by Jimmy Reed. I was also fascinated by Jose Feliciano’s song called “Light My Fire.” But the one thing that really made my mind up that the guitar was going to be my thing was when I saw Jimi Hendrix on the Ed Sullivan Show here in the USA one night! Man, he really blew my mind! And from that point on I learned everything that I could get my hands on by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Soon after that, I discovered Carlos Santana. I had never heard emotions like Santana come from a guitar! So from that point in my life, my two guitar heroes became Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana.
So just to recap, after seeing Jimi Hendrix that was the moment I decided that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!
So what happened next? What happened in the high school years? Did you form a band?
I continued to practice every day for several hours. I listened to and taught myself everything thing I could within my skill level.
On Christmas morning in 1967, my father got me my first electric guitar and amplifier. He probably spent every bit of about $50 bucks total for them both. Lol… That was the happiest day of my life! The guitar was manufactured by a company named “Norma” and the amplifier was by “Tiesco.” … Man, I was on top of the world!!! …. The amplifier was equipped with reverb and tremolo! I began experimenting with tones and effects. I soon discovered the “fuzz & wah wah pedals” and incorporated them into my style of playing.
By my 7th grade school year, I began practicing with a neighborhood friend and classmate whom I had convinced to learn the bass guitar. His parents ran a local business called “Blue’s Record Shop” specializing in 45’s & vinyl Lps. We learned the current song releases as soon as they were available. We got pretty tight overvtime. It wasn’t long before we found a drummer who was also a fellow classmate. We practiced after school as often as possible. Before our trio broke up, we were hired to play our first and only paid performance for our schools 8th grade “May Dance Event.” We were an instant hit with the crowd! And that was the beginning of my live performance career.
After we dis-banded, I continued practicing daily spending long hours perfecting my guitar and piano skills.
I couldn’t read but I managed to play anything I heard. No matter how complexed, I could figure it out. I knew the names of the strings because it was printed on the string packaging! Lol….
Also during my 8th grade year, I wanted to play in the schools band. The year was 1969. However, I didn’t desire playing any of the conventional instruments. I wanted to play my guitar and I made it known to the band instructor who laughed in my face at the idea in which she thought was totally unheard of. But I stood firmly on my request. She tried to talk me into playing the upright string bass, the bells and the tuba but I refused. Eventually she realized that I was serious so she sarcastically challenged me and said that if I could succesfully read a guitar chart of the song that the band was preparing for an upcoming event (Age of Aquarius by The 5th Demensions) she would secure me a spot in the schools band. So that same day, I ran home on my lunch hour and woke up my older brother who was an accomplished musician, songwriter. Within a half hour he taught me the staff, the notes, symbols and everything I needed to know to read a musical chart. I then ran back to school, auditioned and became the first guitarist to be accepted in the city’s school system. I eventually plated for the orchestra and the jazz bands til graduation in the 12th grade. I was awarded with certificates and presented a full paid scholarship to attend The Berklee School of Music.
Furing my earlier years, I remember watching a tv concert series called “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” in which I would watch the fingering techniques of various guitar players. It aired once a week and I never missed a show! Lol…
During that time, I was playing multiple genre’s ranging from rock & roll, blues, R&B, jazz, folk, gospel, reggae and anything else I could get my hands on!
I formed several trio’s and bands trough the years from 1968 – 1971, 1977 – 80’s.
My favorite bands were “Lightship, The Galaxy Band & The Lostweekend.
Just a side note, this one – The Bridge Of Love – has been sampled by Tyler The Creator on Colossus
B-side to the Lost Weekend’s second 7″ Trouble.
Did you record any stuff with Lightship or The Galaxy Band?
Unfortunately, there were no recordings made with the Galaxy Band nor Lightship. We were strictly a show band.
Did you enter The Berklee School Of Music? How did your music career develop after high school?
Although I was awarded a full scholarship to attend Berklee, I was talked out of attending by my brother who at the time was the leader of The Lostweekend. I was young and didn’t realize the importance of moving forward with my education. I regret it sometimes when I think about it.
Regretting pasttime decisions….happens to me aswell sometimes (I quit university before graduating). I can only judge you through your music and your music is awesome. Doing some research I stumbled upon this release, Bernard Walker – My Lover/Sexy Thang (1988), which says ‘produced by Junei‘. Unfortunately I can’t find any soundclip of the track, which brings me to two or actually three questions. Is this you and do you happen to have a soundclip or snippet? Did you do more work producing/arranging records for others artists?
Well, I do regret not moving forward with my education in regards to the scholarship that was presented to me upon high school graduation. Hopefully one day in the future I’ll pursue a degree in the arts.
Yes it’s me. I worked on a couple of studio projects with Bernard Walker. I produced, recorded & layer down the instruments on his My Lover & B-side 45′ single. I have a sound clip. I just have to locate it. I’ve done work with many artist over the years.
So I found out about your work because a friend of mine had bought the PPU reissue of Let’s Ride/You Must Go On. A popular record amongst collectors and boogie heads (I think an original copy goes for around 200 bucks). Do you remember how the record did back then? Could you tell me some things about this particular release….like how it was made or what inspired you?
Yes, the Pharoah Record 45′ vinyl initial release did extremely well in the U.K. It made it to the top ten in Europe. Since then, it’s been re-issued twice. (Boogie Times, PPU) and I continue to get offers from other independent labels. “Let’s Ride” is on several compilation releases.
The original 45′ single has been sold on www.discogs.com between $200-$750 each. I only certain saw it for sale by John Mansship Records out of Portland, Oregon for $2000….
The songs on this 45′ were just 2 of my many song projects from my 70s -80’s library. “You Must Go On” was inspired by a true story about a female whom I encountered after a performance one night. She had a fight with her male friend who left her there sitting alone and sad. I came over, asked permission to sit down and talked to her. A talk of encouragement of sorts…
Let’s Ride is an instrumental track that was simply inspired by my love of experimental jamming out. I love different against the grain stuff!
A good thing you did for that woman. Indirectly, her sorrow sort of resulted in making us boogie. Where are you now with your music?
Currently I’m choosing the tracks for my upcoming album release. It looks to be a 10-14 track project. It will be a combination of vocal & instrumental songs.
My entire career is dedicated to my deceased father who was my biggest fan as well as my support. He was there from the very beginning. He bought me my first electric Guitar when I was 11 years old. Throughout my entire career he was there encouraging & pushing me forward. Even after he was diagnosed with cancer that left him bed ridden, he continued supporting me. Our very last conversation was him making me promise to never give up my music career, and he died a few hours later.
I’ve always been a sucker for French girls singing, especially the yé-yé type. Years ago I found out about this awesome song – 7 Heures Du Matin – by Jacqueline Taïeb, only to find out she had performed in Amsterdam – my hometown – some months before. I knew from that moment on that I had unfinished business with Jacqueline. I contacted her recently to do an interview. What started as an interview, kind of transformed into being pen-pals for a while. It is my pleasure to share our conversation with the people, lisez!
You were born in Tunis, Tunisia. Although you moved to France at a young age, do you remember any Tunisian music that was around back then?
Ever since I was born, my mother used to sing me stuff that went from Tunisian songs to Ella Fitzgerald with some Charles Aznavour in the middle. My favorite Tunisian song is Bahdha Habibti (when I’m near my loved one).
What music were you into around the time you first picked up an instrument and started singing? I figure this must be early 60’s?
At the age of twelve, I wanted a bicycle, and my father gave me a guitar!!! Such a good inspiration, god bless his soul. During summer holidays in Tunisia there was this young neighbor, sixteen years old, who taught me the first chords and how to make my guitar groove. This guy was a cool teacher. He taught me the right way to find the chords to the songs I loved. I think the first song I ever played and sang was Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles. I loved Ray Charles, James Brown and all this kind off stuff, and I still do. I had already fallen in love with Elvis and his music when I was eight, and I still am. He gave me the desire to learn English, because I wanted so much to understand what he said. I quickly tried to write, compose and sing my own songs. My guitar became my best friend. I wrote my first song when I was fifteen, called Oh Dans Tes Yeux (oh in your eyes).
What was your first recording and how did you get there?
I’m seventeen, another summer holiday in Tunisia. Me and my guitar, playing and singing on the beach with my friends. Sun, laughters and the sea – sounds coming from another planet now -. A woman passes by, stops and listens. She tells me “I like the music you’re playing, I’m a music publisher. I’d like you to come see me at my office when you get back to Paris” and she gives me her business card: Rolande Bismuth / Editions Barclay. I was petrified…I had just succeeded my “ Bacaloréat” and was ready to go to the Sorbonne for an English Master. I had never thought of recording or having a show business career. I was more of a fan of singers than a singer myself. Actually, my secret dream was to have my songs sung by the singers I loved.
However, I went to her office in september – of course -, with my guitar – of course – and she aked me to sing some of the songs I had written. When I started 7 H Du Matin she began to laugh. At the end of the song, she said something like
“Love it, it’s fun and original, let me make phone calls, I want to introduce you to the people I work with”. A few days later – things were going quickly at that time – I met Roger Maruani, A&R at Festival Records, and Jean Bouchety, the french Quincy Jones. Rolande offered me a publishing contract for a couple of my songs and Roger offered me a recording contract!
As I was a minor all this had to be signed by my parents. They were more busy quarreling with each other than caring about me singing or not, so they signed! And here I am, working with Jean Bouchety. He was great because he listened to my ideas about the arrangements I heard and optimized my good ideas and took off my bad ones. He was so respectful towards a seventeen little thing! I never worked with such a respectful arranger/producer since then. They often want to impose their visions. And it’s uncomfortable for me, because when I write a song, I can hear drums playing this way, strings doing this or that, etc…
As Jean used to do with the other artists he worked with – Françoise Hardy, Michel Polnareff – he took me to London to record my first 4 titles EP: 7 H Du Matin/La Plus Belle Chanson/Ce Soir Je M’En Vais/Bienvenue Au Pays.
It was a dream, a laaaaaarge recording studio in the center of the swinging London, the best English musicians playing for me, a Sound Engineer touching lots of buttons!!! I was ecstatic. When we got back to Paris Rolande and Roger were very glad with the result and they decided to release the EP and present it to the first MIDEM in Cannes, January 1967. Both were in Cannes and I was in Paris. Suddenly I received a phone call from a friend, yelling at me “Jacqueline, Jacqueline, put on the radio! Europe 1 station! They just said your name! They said you’re the best newcomer of the first MIDEM! They’re now playing “ 7 heures du matin!”.
That’s a really nice story, like a dream come true. I like Jean Bouchéty’s arrangements for your songs a lot. Also the stuff he did with Polnareff, Stone and Nicoletta. Where there ever plans for doing a full album? (I know there is a ’67 LP release from Canada, but that seems more like a compilation).
Yes – sorry I forgot Stone and Nicoletta and many other great french Artists for whom Jean Bouchety had worked.
No – I think albums were only made for the stars! I was a beginner and my team was more inclined to release an EP every two or three months. I think they were perfectly right, actually, it’s still the format I prefer. With an album, you often find only four songs – or less – worth being released. To me the ideal for artists would be to record their best songs whenever they feel it, and then release a single, EP or album, being very demanding about the choice of songs.
For almost a decade, mostly covering the 70’s, you didn’t (as far as my sources go) release anything. What happened?
When I graduated and got my English diploma, I started teaching English in two different schools. But I never stopped writing songs. At that time, I was hanging around with Julien Clerc and his team. He was the star of the musical Hair, performed in Paris in the early seventies. One day, I was playing this melody – with no-name and Maurice Valet – then one of Julien’s lyricists told me “I love it, it inspires me! Do you want me to write the lyrics?“ I was so happy because I loved his way of writing and his making the words flow. Bonjour Brésil is a very poetic text about the beauty and the wildness of this country, and about the Brazilian natives who had been expelled from their land. I recorded a single Bonjour Brésil/On la connate, which was released in 1972. It was produced by Bernard Saint Paul, Véronique Sanson’s producer.
A few years later, as I was still dreaming of having my songs sung by other singers, I met with Jeane Manson. A beautiful and talented American singer who had just made a big hit in France with her first single Avant De Nous Dire Adieu. Summer 1975, I’m invited by Andre Djaoui at La Madrague, Brigitte Bardot’s villa in Saint Tropez!!! André had rented this villa as a show off to impress the women he loved (later on they got married and their Daughter Shirel is a famous singer too)!. Jeane and I are chatting around the swimming pool, I take my guitar and sing my last song to her, My happiness. She says “je la veux chanter “, which is so cute, because in French, you say “je veux LA chanter”, not “ je LA veux chanter “. A few months later, Jeane records my song “My Happiness” for her first album, released in 1976. The album was a big success and Jeane asked me to go on tour with her as her background vocalist. I accepted, of course!!! The tour led us to all the big cities of France and ended in Paris, at the mythical Olympia. Different artists were part of the show, of which the two stars were Jeane Manson and Dave, for whom I wrote a song a few years later!. I loved this experience and cherish these memories.
At the same time, I was composing and writing with musicians and friends : Steve Shehan, Patrick Kessis, Catherine Podguzer, Elisabeth Vigna etc …They all wanted me to sing again. At last, I got the opportunity to record a new single Printemps à Djerba, a single with two tracks was the new format. The single was released Christmas ’77.
One day – or one night – as we were a little high, my friends and I started imagining a musical fairytale in which a group of children would be the stars. We chose a dozen of children and baptized them Les Cousins De Miel (the honey cousins). We wrote the script and the songs. The album La Petite Fille Amour Chez Les Cousins De Miel was released in 1979 and didn’t get the success we were waiting for. However, 35 years later, two songs from this album are used in different movies! Maman Jusqu’Où Tu M’Aimes is part of the soundtrack for the Conan O’brien documentary Can’t Stop (2011) and of the PAN AM tv-series. Petite Fille Amour is part of the soundtrack for the American film My Idiot Brother (2011) and for the Angelina Jolie’s film By The Sea (2015).
Then, I wrote new songs and released a new single in 1979 with J’Suis Pas Nette, which – at the very late seventies – led me to work with Michel Fugain!
My sources lied haha, apparently you were all over that decade. Lovely tunes! Then came the late 70’s/early 80’s. I own a copy of your 1981 release Il Faut Choisir/Pourquoi T’Es Pas Chez Toi, love that stuff. Could you tell me something about your cooperation with Michel Fugain and perhaps what other things went down music-wise in this period?
The next day after the TV show where I sang J’Suis Pas Nette, I received a phone call from Michel Fugain. I had known him in the sixties, we had started almost at the same time and had the same Publisher, Rolande Bismuth. He appeared in the Fac De Lettres clip, but I hadn’t heard from him for a long time. He wanted to know who wrote the lyrics to J’Suis Pas Nette, so I said I did. He started to laugh because the lyrics are kind of crazy, he was very enthusiastic about it. He told me he was preparing a new album and needed lyrics to his melodies, “would you like to work on them” he asked? Me: of cooooooourse! I usually loved his stuff, and still do. Michel Fugain is a great composer and singer and a fabulous showman. So I went to his place – a beautiful Moulin – 50 miles away from Paris and he had me listen to a dozen of melodies. The lyrics to five of them were already written by big French names such as Pierre Delanoe, Claude Lemesle. I was very impressed to find myself on the same boat! From the seven melodies left I fell in love with one, which became Les Sud Américaines, and was released in the early 80’s. It was a hit and became a standard of Michel’s repertoire (and the French’ repertoire). I also wrote four other songs for his album he named Les Sud Américaines. Working with Michel Fugain was a fantastic experience to me. At first because of the fun of it, – as we say in French – you don’t need to tickle Michel to make him laugh. The jokes were bursting over and over. Secondly because of the professional side of it, when he likes something – a word, a rhyme, an idea, an image – he tells you WHY. Same as when he doesn’t like, he explains you why. So I learnt a lot working with him.
Almost at the same time, I recorded a new single, with one of my songs I like the best, Dis Moi Des Betises/Je Cherche Quelqu’Un (1980). Also another single, Il Faut Choisir/Pourquoi T’es Pas Chez Toi (1981). These two singles were recorded in the best studio, with the best musicians in Paris, but it didn’t get the success I was hoping for…I was very sad.
I know you played with an Amsterdam band a couple of times, I even heard rumors you lived in Amsterdam for a while. Since I live there I’m sure you don’t mind me asking…what is your connection with Amsterdam?
Let me tell you about my Netherlands experience. One day – around 2005 – I received a mail from Mikkel Van Dermelen saying something like “Here in Amsterdam, we love your music and we’d like you to play with us. I’m the saxo player & leader of Amsterdam Beat Club, a rock band”. This mail was so unexpected. As I love Amsterdam for different reasons, I was very excited! So Mikkel invited me there, I rehearsed with ABC, fantastic musicians. I went there a dozen times and we played in different Amsterdam clubs, in Utrecht and in Rotterdam; the gig I enjoyed the most, because of the great audience and because the Yardbirds were performing at the same festival! Meanwhile, I wrote & composed Partir A Amsterdam. We included the song in our repertoire, of course. Mikkel and I decided to co-produce an EP. Mikkel wanted me to record 7 H Du Matin again, but I said I was too old for the lyrics. Instead I wrote 7 H Du Soir and 7 PM. I just love this record and the memories I have from my Amsterdam experience, but I never really lived there. I just know the Paris – Amsterdam Thalys by heart! Then we had some other gigs in other clubs, but the band broke up. I don’t know why, that’s show business.
I never knew you wrote so many stuff for other artists, great! I’ve been checking out your playlist on youtube. Some of the stuff I never heard before, like for example Maréva Galanter, Karim et les Pro-Fetes and Oonabella are awesome.
Oonabella is a spanish singer who – in 1990 – adapted Ready To Follow You, in Spanish. The hit I wrote for Dana Dawson, so kitsch, isn’t it? Let me tell you a secret, I’m currently working on the french version with Agathe, a twenty old singer with a very good potential. We’ ll be recording the song in a few days. Surprise.
Karim Et Les Pro Fêtes…I’ve recorded so many songs, so many artists from different horizons. Some became successful, but a lot were hardly born. You don’t really know why it works and why it doesn’t. To be or not to be at the right time, right place, with the right persons I think. Je M’En Fous was fun though.
As for Mareva Galenter, the gorgeous ex Miss France, she released a record with 60’s songs she liked (2006). My publisher – Warner Chappell Publishing – asked me if I was okay with her singing 7 H Du Matin her way. What do you think was my answer? Lol.
You’ve been involved in a lot of different musical corners. Where are you right now with making music? What other modern music do you like/inspires you?
I love music too much to choose genre X and eliminate genre Y. I like writing songs that fit me the best – mostly rock/funk – as much as I like writing songs for other singers who have the right voice to sing them. Composing and/or writing for other artists, is like being a sur mesure, tailor or the director of my own musical fantasies. Sorry, I don’t know if I’m being clear…I write a song whenever I feel like it and when I hold an idea that catches me. Then I work on it in my home studio with very basic equipment and demo it. This is what they call 10% Inpsiration – 90% Perspiration.
Lots of music inspire me. When I watch clips on TV or listen to the radio, I zap very quickly when I don’t like it and stay when I do, then search them on youtube if I’m really interested. Youtube is vital to me!
I couldn’t tell any new English singing artist I’m really fond of, I can’t find any. I hate the Adele’s Hello, I’m rarely interested in the so called nowadays R&B, nor outdated ballads like You’re Beautiful sung by I don’t remember who, and I think that Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake is a pale copy of old Michael Jackson stuff such as Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough…It’s much less groovy and has stupid lyrics. Michael forever. Definitely – since Elvis, The Beatles, Queen, The Stones, The Doors, Gino Vanelli, Aretha, Stevie, Michael, David Bowie, Whitney – no English speaking artist has really turned me on.
As for ‘new’ French artists. i love Julien Dore, Indila, Benjamin Bioley, Amel Bent and Claudio Capeo. My French idols will always be Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Michel Berger, Michel Fugain and Veronique Sanson.
I’m currently working with a 20 year old artist. She’s very cute and has a big potential as a singer. We just finished recording the first song Je Te Suivrai N’Importe Ou, which is the French version of Ready To Follow You. The name of this young artist is Agathe The Blues.
I could’t agree more on the whole Adele thing, I’m definitely not into this whole ‘vocal acrobatic’ thing. As for Michael Jackson, as a kid I would practice his moves in front of the TV with my brother while watching our VHS copy of Moonwalker about every day…Perhaps you still have some funny, strange, sad or anyway noteworthy anecdote that would just be to good to leave out?
I’m happy you don’t like boring music either! It’s been a pleasure to tell you a part of my life. I’d like to add this…in 1968 I released Le Coeur Au Bout Des Doigts. In 2014, I was contacted by this fabulous Danish band Asteriod Galaxy Tour. They wanted to use some of my songs. We worked together and made a new song that fits beautiful.
If you try and wikipedia the band Blue Feather you get a very minimal sheet of info written in either English or French. Though the band is from the Netherlands, the Dutch themselves seem to have forgotten one of their finest funk outfits. Hardly anything is written on the band that brought you their – self acclaimed – Feather Funk. It was not to easy finding someone who could tell me more about the band. After some research I finally contacted Dirk Nusink who played the latin percussion, sang and played the harmonica for Blue Feather. He also told me the sad news that Ed Brouwer (lead guitar/vocals) and Rob Hoelen (Bass/Vocals) passed away way too young, may their souls rest in peace.
When Blue Feather started exactly is unclear. Brothers Ed and Ron Brouwer started the band with some other folks. They were inspired by bands like the Eagles, Little River Band, Eric Clapton, Dave Mason and acts similar to those. They chose the name Blue Feather due to a fascination for Native American culture. After Lex Nusink joined forces to play the drums, brother Dirk Nusink talked the band into letting him do the percussion. By then Jan WIllem Weeda (keyboards/vocals) and bass player Rob Hoelen were already part of the band. Brothers Lex and Dirk had a background in Jazz/Rock/Latin oriented music and introduced the “Feather Funk” style, Dirk vaguely remembers coming up with the idea: “Funk with a feather touch”. At this time the band was still just a local buzz. As soon as they defined their style Ed and Ron’s father “Meep” Brouwer started managing the band which led to several gigs. Gaining live experience had very positive effects in the studio. After showing off their live skills in front of producers Cor Aaftink and Roy Beltman, father Brouwer had managed to fix a record deal with Corduroy Productions.
Their first 45 It’s Love was a modest hit and even charted for a while, due to airplay by popular Dj’s like Frits Spits, Felix Meurders and Mart van de Stadt. Soon came the first 12 inch Let’s Funk Tonight (first press around 5000 copies), which initially sort of flopped. It wasn’t until the Canadian Siamese label released a 12 inch remix by Peter Frost that the single started gaining more attention from the Dutch record industry. It created a snowball effect that led to a lot of releases, a variety of 12 inch mixes pressed in Italy, France, Spain, UK, Japan and so on. The band eventually got noticed by a British management, who got them a whole lot of gigs. They crossed the UK playing venues like for example the Venue London and Hammersmith Odeon, Let’s Funk Tonight even topped the British Dance Charts for a while. The band also attended several television shows abroad. In Wroclav, Poland, they performed for the Polish State television and in France they played a show alongside Illusion where they received a Disque D’or for their record sales. In Tenerife they ended up accompanying Black Slate at a bullfighting arena. Under the pressure of their hit, Phonogram decided an album had to be released quickly. It was pretty much a compilation of the previously released singles with some new tracks. It was put out on Mercury in 1982 and also found some pressings abroad.
One of Dirk’s personal favorites is the 1983 release Let It Out (pressed both on 7 and 12 inch). The band had repeatedly asked producer Roy Beltman for British musicians to join in for a production. Finally a few British session musicians flew in to be responsible for the horn section of Let it Out, the same guys that played with – to name but a few – the likes of Spandau Ballet, Shakatak and Light Of The World. You can by the way hear by now that lead guitarist Ed Brouwer was really inspired by George Benson at the time, adopting the style of singing/humming along guitar licks. Another aspect that defines the character of this track is the use of classic synths like the LinnDrum and the Roland Jupiter 8.
Because of financial and creative disagreements, the band had some arguments. Only four members remained (the brothers Brouwer, J.W. Weeda and Dirk Nusink). They got an offer from their agency, Jan Vis, to record a second album in his studio. Ron and Ed decided to produce the second record, Shadows Of Night, themselves. This resulted in a different sound compared to the first record, which was recorded at the infamous Wisseloord studios. Shadows Of Night was no big hit at it’s time, though some remixes were made by for example Rutger “Rutti” Kroese. Nevertheless the album found a 2007 reissue on PTG Records and is now considered to be an underrated boogie record.
Dirk introduced a new drummer and bass player and the band did some gigs in the Uk. They also did some live radio performances, most notably on the legendary Ferry Maat Soulshow. The intentions were there but the band eventually found themselves in a dead end street and fell apart around 1990. Some stuck to music for a while, some didn’t, anyway they went separate ways.
Dirk still makes – in his own words – 70’s synth/Tangerine Dream inspired music under the moniker of Tranzit. Very cool, check out his soundcloud below and tell your friends.
Can you be a biology teacher and run an awesome record label at the same time? Yes you can! With a large variety of awesome 45’s, a bunch of killer LP’s and beautiful artwork, Colemine Records has got to be one of the gnarliest record labels out there. I had a brief Q & A with the man responsible for all this goodness, Terry Cole, who apparently now also runs a Record Store in Loveland, Ohio. Awesome!
Colemine Records started as a label to bring out Soundscape, a band you were part of. How did other bands get involved?
Initially, the label started as me and my friends recording our own projects, but I became involved with Ikebe Shakedown through knowing Tommy Brenneck from Dunham/Daptone. The was the first band outside of my friends that we released. From then I met Kelly from Monophonics and it has slowly, but organically just grown from there. It’s been fantastic!
I read the first Colemine release was a CD. I understand your switch to vinyl, still I’m curious, what was your motive for doing so?
I did CDs in the beginning because I couldn’t afford vinyl, but vinyl was always the end game for me. No other way!
What other record labels inspire you the most?
Daptone, Truth & Soul, Stones Throw, Fat Possum, Sub Pop
Apart from the Colemine font/logo, every 45 has a different artwork. A thing you don’t see often, but in my eyes one of the things that define Colemine Records. What inspired you to do this and who’s responsable for the beautiful designs?
I like having a recognizable brand, but having each record have something unique about it. Like a variation on a theme. I do all the 45 art design myself with much input from the bands :).
Which 45 do you consider your favourite/one of your favourite creations artwork-wise?
I really like the artwork for the first Durand Jones 45. It’s black and white and has some real cool psyche vibe going on. But overall, I’m very happy with the whole catalog’s labels. They looks great all next to each other :).
– Could you tell me what is one of your favourite non-Colemine 45’s (for the music or artwork, you decide)?
Don’t Know How by The Superlatives is one of my favorites for the music and the artwork. Anytime I spin some 45s, that is ALWAYS one of them!
– I’ve read your daytime job is teaching biology, isn’t it really hard to combine it with running a record company? Especially because it keeps expanding.
I have quit teaching and am running the label full-time now with my younger brother, Bobby. We also run a record store together, Plaid Room Records. We are both here full-time as both the shop and label are expanding at a fast rate.
Plaid room seems like a record store I could spend a few days straight, too bad I live 4000 miles away from it. Who knows. I always think it’s hard to sell records because I’d rather keep them (I know greedy). Do you have any record you regret selling?
I had some early Blue Note pressings that I let go of early in the store’s life that I regret a little, but not too much. I try to keep collection pretty small. Just stuff that I truly listen to regularly, plus I love hipping someone to what I think is a great record. It’s more fun paying it forward than it is hanging on to records for me.
Where do you see Colemine Records in a few years?
Hopefully with over 60 45s in the catalog, about 15-20 LPs, and a few employees.
Finally, could you share some inspiring words for those who might want to start a label themselves one day?
Having a steady paycheck for the first 8 years of the label’s life really allowed it to grow steadily. I couldn’t imagine just quitting my job and starting a label. The money would just run out too fast. So, my advice is be patient, stay the course, have a goal in mind and build your catalog with quality, not quantity.
Recently I went through my old youtube favorites and stumbled upon an upload named “beat group – hi , bird lp 60s library”. The track is actually named “Studio G’s Beat Group – Hi, Bird”, it’s a 60’s instrumental Hammond groove. I was interested and contacted the writer/organist Mike Lease, as I could barely find any info on this release. It turns out that we should be ashamed we never heard of Mike Lease, the Welsh man was super involved with the London scene of the sixties!
Where did music start for you? What influenced you, or moved you to pick up an instrument?
When I was very young, my parents said I would sit mesmerized by the bagpipes whenever they came on the radio … From about 3 or 4 years old onwards, apparently, I pestered my parents to learn the piano, persistently. [We had no instrument in the house … ]. Sometime before my eighth birthday they procured an old piano from somewhere for me, and I started lessons with a lovely lady, continuing with her for about 2 – 3 years, before we moved to a different area .. I made rapid progress with the classical repertoire to the delight of my teacher, although other styles of music would occasionally float through the radio air waves, like Mahalia Jackson’s “Didn’t it Rain” & “Poor Man but a Good Mam” by Sonny Terry & Brownie Mcghee, which deeply affected my young musical “soul” …
– How was the music scene when you were an adolescent, were you involved in a specific scene? Did you play in a band?
My adolescence covered the late ‘50s, early ’60s … I started off by playing in a dance band trio – piano, string bass & drums, then joined several local rock bands in Gwent, South Wales. I had strong interest in jazz and [especially] blues. My piano style had been initiated by hearing Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”. [Aged about 13 years old. I formed probably the first out-and-out rhythm’n’blues band in my local area. I left for the capital [London] in 1963, aged 17, and flung myself into the music scene there… I wanted to get into blues exclusively, and met & accompanied the young Beverley Martin [then Kutner] for a while, also forming a blues trio [Mose Allison style] playing for river-boat parties up and down the River Thames [!].
Did you stay in London for the rest of the decade? Did you record/release anything in that period?
Yes, carrying on from my arrival in London, blues work gradually petered out, and I reluctantly began to accept that I might have to look for some “rock” work instead. In 1964 I answered an advert in Melody Maker [the musicians’ weekly newspaper at the time], wanting an organist [I didn’t have an organ at that time]. It was a band called the Zephyrs and they offered me the job. So I purchased a Farfisa [portable] Italian organ and joined the band … We went up & down the UK [60,000 miles in about 9 months !]We released several singles one of which, “She’s Lost You” [with me singing] was a minor hit in 1965. This got us on quite a few big tours, and we appeared in 2 films – “Be My Guest” & “Primitive London”. Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of friction within the band, eventually I got completely sick of it, and left the group. I started doing some song writing [my last recording with the Zephyrs was my first composition], and doing session work, then was headhunted to join a French singer called Teddy Raye for work in Spain. This person turned out to be a complete psychopath, and the Spanish “adventure” was a real roller-coaster ride. This particular episode would fill a book … ! Eventually in late 1965, I returned to the UK, and seriously focused on songwriting & building up my reputation as a session musician, playing with various groups & ad hoc outfits. I became friendly with Denny Cordell, an interesting “original” producer & he gave me a lot of session & arranging work.I re-met up with Beverley Kutner, and played on an album of hers which Cordell was producing. We attempted to set a group for her, with John McLaughlin on guitar, but it didn’t take off. I also worked with Denny Laine, who had just quit the Moody Blues, and even played one gig with Jimi Hendrix – I was good friends with John “Mitch” Mitchel, who booked us both for a last-minute gig, opening some club or other … At this time I also deputised for John Mayall, [who was out of his head at the time!] with Peter Green, etc in the “Bluesbreakers”. I also had a regular gig on the London West Indian scene in a reggae-type outfit called “Ramon & his Contrasts R’n’B Band … In 1966, Tony Hatch asked me to record a single of 2 of my songs, singing & playing piano. “The Many Faces of Love” & “Morning” was released on the Pye label. McGlaughlin was on this recording. It made no progress in the charts, and I realised that I was not destined to be a singer … ! I was also musical director of an act called the Pyramid, at Cordell’s behest, who developed an intricate stage show, with me on Hammond. – Incidentally, I am currently re-involved with this group, working on the album we never did at the time…. We did release a single, “Summer of Last Year” & “Summer Evening” in ‘ 66.
What happened next? I see the Pyramid 45 was released in ’67 (On the label it says: “Music Director: Mike Lease”!!), what happened after ’67? By the way I also found a link on youtube with your performance in “Be My Guest”!
You mentioned “Be My Guest”, I forgot that I got very friendly with Steve Marriot [who was a young actor in the film]. While I was still in the Zephyrs, we met up and he asked me to join him in a band he was forming to be called the Small Faces … He’d only been playing the guitar for a short while, and I declined his offer [one of many professional mistakes…. ]. But there was an ironic footnote to this saga. When I was in Spain, Teddy Raye [the French singer] had failed to pay us anything after a hard tour around Spain, we’d had a big fight with him and he later smashed up most of the band’s gear and disappeared … As I was sitting on a beach wondering what the hell we could do next, an English traveller walked by with a “Melody Maker” under his arm. He gave it to me and I looked up the charts – the Small Faces had gone straight in at No. 1 with “What Ya Gonna Do About It”…! This was in ‘ 65.
On with the story … – The Pyramid included Iain Matthews, who went on to have a number 1 hit “WoodStock” with his band “Matthews Southern Comfort”. Quite a number of people I had worked with subsequently became successful, and asked me to join them, all of whom I turned down… These include Denny Laine, Labi Siffre and Iain [there were others, but I’ve forgotten…. I had started to get interested in the Spanish Guitar in ‘ 67, [classical & flamenco], which was increasingly consuming my interest. I continued session work and gigging around until Ray Royer & Bobby Harrison, who’d been acrimoniously kicked out of Procul Harum, prevailed on me to join “Freedom”. We worked night & day on the 14-song score for “Nerosubianco”, writing, recording and filming non-stop for about 5 / 6 months, and then did some gigs. We also recorded a single “Where Will You Be Tonight” On the last gig I decided to call it a day after being thoroughly sickened by the band’s drug-fuelled performance – for example 2 members of the band were playing totally different songs simultaneously from the one we were supposed to be playing… Prior to this we had a roadie called Harvey who drove like a maniac and was a compulsive thief. I had eventually given the band & management an ultimatum that either he was fired or I would leave – [we had come close to death on numerous occasions!]. He was fired, but eventually ended up driving for folk-rock band Fairport Convention, where he caused a fatal accident, killing several people … – [Jack Bruce’s album “Songs for a Tailor” was dedicated to one of his victims]. Basically Freedom was my last professional rock band. By 1969, I had turned my back on the Rock world, and was back in South Wales studying the guitar, turning down all offers to rejoin my previous occupation…. I did form my own jazz – rock outfit several years later, which had quite a successful gig-run for a while…. –
So you went back to wales after an adventurous trip to London. I stumbled upon your name because of what seems to be some kind of a library release by a band called the Studio G’s Beat Group. After reading all this it feels kind of weird knowing you from such a, relatively seen, small release. Could you tell me something more about it though?
Of course – I’d gone to Wales to visit my parents, and got an emergency call from Studio G’s boss. He wanted me to do a recording that evening of 6 original tunes fro his “library”, and book the musicians. The other musicians were friends in London who happened to be available that night. I caught the train & wrote the pieces on the 3-hour journey, got to the studio, recorded them in a 3-hour session, then caught the late train back. Unfortunately, this man was a crook & and I found out decades later that he’d robbed me of most of my royalties … [!] This was also true of Freedom’s manager, and we were robbed of what would have been in today’s money about £250,000 … This was quite a common feature of the “beautiful” ‘ 60s, I’m afraid – lots of well-known bands were victims of management-fraud, like “lambs to the slaughter” we were – Beatles, Stones, Animals, Yardbirds, etc., etc. Also the music scene started getting infiltrated by real criminals with the drug market … it all started to go really sour with Manson [Beach Boys connection] & the murder by Hell’s Angel “stewards” at the free Stones concert … Any illusion of “Flower-Power” had by then hit the dust…
I‘ve seen or heard about this flip side of the music scene before. Actually, most 60’s bands I spoke to have been a victim of these wolves that run the industry. Sad but true.
If I’m correct you, after you went back to Wales, kind of said good bye to the hectics of the 60’s rock-scene.. You mentioned you formed a Jazz band in the 70’s, how did that work for you?
It was known as MLB [Mike Lease Band]. It was virtually all my thematic compositions plus a lot of improvisation … We only had one recording of it – our first gig, in fact … We lasted about 2 / 3 years – it was really good by the end, but several band members had to go away to find work & I didn’t have the energy to re-start it … Actually, a specialist “nostalgia” recording company was going to release this cassette-recorded live item about 10 years ago, but I lost touch with them. They had released a 45 limited edition of 2 of the Studio G tracks previously, and were very interested in this MLB recording also…
I’ve seen that Studio G reissue on Discogs, it’s on “Licorice Soul Records”.
I think that wraps up most of it. How is music treating you now, I read something about you being a teacher? Finally, could you tell me something about you being involved with some kind of Pyramid reunion you mentioned earlier? Is there going to be a full album release? Old Material, new material?
Yes -Licorice Soul – I might recontact them …
The Pyramid material is mostly old – but never recorded … The intention is an album’s-worth, but its slow-going. Main problem is logistical, Iain’s in the Netherlands, Steve is in Paris, Albert’s in London and I’m in Wales…!
My main professional instrument is currently the fiddle – trad. Irish & Welsh styles. I also teach [mainly] guitar [all styles] as well as fiddle, blues piano, and various other instruments…
The Hooterville Trolley, a band formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, released only one single. It’s a 1968 release on Lynnette Records, No Silver Bird/The Warmth Of Love. I first heard No Silver Bird about 6 years ago, as it had been reissued on Stoned Circus. I decided to buy it after hearing only the first five seconds of the song. I had never heard such an ominous, spacey, yet groovy intro. I wanted to know more about this beautiful song and contacted Bill Chreist, the organist of the band.
Norman Petty, an influential artist who for example co-wrote a lot of Buddy Holly hits, had a studio in Clovis, New Mexico. It was this studio where the Hooterville Trolley recorded their single. Norman had just received a new machine, which he dubbed a String Machine. He wanted to use this machine on their single.
“We liked what he did with it so we printed the records with his string machine in the back ground which gave it a new unique sound that we liked.”
The reception of the single was good, though no big success. It was very popular in the band’s hometown Albuquerque, but nationally it didn’t get much airplay. The band never earned any money with their release. Producer Tommy Bee, who produced the song, paid for the recording time and therefore retained ownership of the masters. A nasty move by Tommy Bee is that he released No Silver Bird again on an album by The Magic Sand, he changed the title into Get Ready To Fly.
“He later released it under a made up name of Magic Sand but it was our exact recording but that was done without our approval.”
As I’m always curious what other artists influenced a band, I asked Bill for theirs.
“We were influenced by a lot of the bands of the time including the Buffalo Springfield and The Seeds whom we played for as their opening act when they played in town. Chicago Transit Authority was another favorite band of ours at the time.”
Bill recalls doing shows in New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma in 1968, which he claims couldn’t have happened without the release of their single (which by the way has been sold a copy of on ebay last year for an astonishing 699 dollars!!!! I’ll stick to my reissue). In the same year they broke up as they graduated from high school. Most of them went to college, anyway they all went their own way.
No Silver Bird is one of my favorite cuts from the sixties, hard to put into a category. Bill himself calls it Psychedelic Rock, but for me it goes beyond that.
So far I’ve only focused on the old gems, now it’s time for new ones. French jazz-funk outfit DopeGems is definitely one of the grooviest bands out there! They just released their debut LP Necksnappin’. Founder Slikk Tim, who’s also drummer and arranger, was so kind to answer my questions.
How did it all start? What gave birth to this band?
Being a rap music fan, I always wanted to have a band that would play that jazz-funk type stuff, but it always seemed complicated to me because I pictured this big band with horns and everything, and it was just not doable to me to have so many musicians in a band. Then I met Yragaël, our vibraphone player, on a Michael Jackson tribute gig I was playin’ bass on and he was on drums. Turns out he starts talkin’ to me about Roy Ayers and Gary Burton and all those cats ! Since I was already jamming on drums with Giuliano on keys in a neo-soul trio, I was like hey, I definitely can build a jazz funk band around those guys.
The band’s slogan is “Celebratin’ 70’s forgotten jazz-funk”. Apart from the fact that 70’s jazz-funk is a tasty niche, I wonder what influenced you to choose for this style. Did you grow up with it? We’re you into collecting records from that era?
Rap music is definitely the biggest influence. You listen to the beats and you find the samples. That’s 90% of the influence to me, that’s why I tend to prefer the harder, darker side of jazz-funk. I always say it has to have that “gangster” vibe somewhere.
Of course, with my father I grew up on hard bop and modal jazz, and then it was a lot of Detroit Techno, and all those styles have something in common with jazz-funk. I think the last part of it is the movies from that era, especially the late 70s. It has that poised, sophisticated and cold attitude to it that I love.
I don’t collect records personally, but I got great friends who do, like Jeremy UnderGroundParis, Aurelio LostGrooves or DJ Skeez, and I always bite their selections like, “hey, I’m so gonna play this !”
– Do you think celebrating 70’s music caused the band to create its own style?
That was my main idea. See, a lot of folks don’t understand I’m not writing new music for that band. The thing is, to me, when you try and compose “like in old days”, it’s very hard to not subconsciously end up sounding like something you really like, and I didn’t want that. I wanted my band to have it’s own identity, just like a regular straight ahead jazz group that plays standards with their own sound. You don’t have to distort the tunes in and out to make it your own if you have your own vibe. I purposely chose a limited instrumentation setup, for example, so we always have to find arrangement tricks to make the varied styles we chose to play work right, and that creates a recognizable style, I think: besides, there is the greatest, friendliest vibe in that band, and I think how much everybody loves playing what we play makes for the spontaneity of our sound.
If I’m correct you guys are from France. Is there a French touch to your style? Where you for example influenced by artists like Serge Gainsbourg, Nino Ferrer, Bernard Estardy or J.P Massiera?
Yeah, most of the band is from Nancy, with our guitar player Greg from Paris. There is no direct influence from French cats, but I guess we French always had a knack for the grittier, harder, darker Afro-American music. I mean, from jazz to rap music and house, it was quite systematically the darker the better. For example, a lot of the “French touch” in house music in the 90s was basically sampling jazz-funk and making it extra deep. Besides, there’s this culture of liking the bad guys in France. Everybody knows and love the old 50s to 70s French gangster movies, which had dope music too although in a different style, and I guess that kinda brings the attitude necessary to play the music we play. It’s not good schoolboy music in any way!!
Is there a story behind the name DopeGems?
Not really, it’s just that those two words are everywhere in the crate digging world. “Wow that’s dope.” “Hey, that’s a true gem”. And so on. So I was like, hey, let’s make a band that plays nothing but dope gems. And I just removed the space to make it recognizable on Google. It’s the 21th century, you gotta be on point with that shit ! (laughs)
– Recently DopeGems released their first album Necksnappin’, could you tell me something about the process?
Our studio process is very simple: I select the tracks and arrange everything to sheet music. Then we get into a very simple studio, sight read the tracks and cut the music with basic gear. It’s all DIY ( I set up my own mikes and actually operate the tape machine while playing the drums !). Then I mix everything on the laptop I’m typing this interview on. It’s really that simple. Actually, those sessions were recorded quite a while ago, the thing is, finding a label that would understand what we were doing was a nightmare. A lot of those labels are more into the early 70s soul sound, while we are determinately on the late 70s tip. Then, some labels wanted us to write new material (I think for sync money opportunities), some labels didn’t want to offer vinyl which was just bullshit to me, then some labels just tried to fuck with us plain and simple, even asking for separate stems! Eventually, Traveller records gave us our first opportunity, then we found a great home over at Heavenly Sweetness.
What’s next for DopeGems?
The next LP is in recording process as we speak, and it will feature something I was very specific on: female vocals! We’re pretty thrilled. And of course more live gigs, you gotta realize the first LP only contains a glimpse of the repertoire we play live and we constantly add new tunes. I want to do a special instrumental “movies and music” project, playing all those rare late 70s OST tracks with VJing of the original sequences, but it’s a legal nightmare. We’ll see how that turns out! This motherfuckin’ industry will do anything it
can to prevent people from using anything from the past, but I don’t give a damn, I’m sure I’ll work something out in the end!
It is a great honor for me having the opportunity to talk with the Champ himself, the man who gives the keys a Fuel Injection. I’m talking about Alan Hawkshaw! The name might not ring a bell to everyone, but some of his work will. The man played with Serge Gainsbourg, The Shadows, Dusty Springfield, Cerrone and The Mohawks, just to name a few. He was one of the most groovy, influential and contributing musicians of the british Library scene, for labels such as KPM and Bruton. He recently released his autobiography called: The Champ -The Hawk Talks.
When did music start for you, not necessarily as a musician, but in general? What, for example, was the first record you remember buying?
Music was always being played in my house even as I was born. Mostly classical, with a little jazz here and there. As I was learning a language by listening to my parents speak, so I learnt music. When about 8 years old I borrowed my brothers portable wind-up record player and my favourite jazz record, a piano duet played by Fats Waller and Benny Payne playing a tune called After You’ve Gone. From then on I loved jazz piano, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing.
Could you describe the scene you were part of as a young musician? What other music were you into?
As a young musician it was always jazz. It consumed me.
How did you get into the library scene? Were you friends with other label-colleagues, for example, Keith Mansfield or Johnny Pearson at KPM? What was the KPM era like?
During the year 1963/4, I was introduced to Robin Phillips who ran KPM. Guy Fletcher, the now president of The Performing Right Society introduced me to him, although I was still in a rock group called The Original Checkmates. Robin was looking to modernize the library, to supply more music of the day, namely rock ‘n roll and funky music. He let me loose in the studio with my group. What resulted was tunes such as Rocky Mountain Runabout, Senior Thump, Beat Me Till I’m Blue and other later Mohawks tracks. I met up with Keith Mansfield during this period and we collaborated on quite a few pieces. Johnny Pearson was already an established composer and library writer, of the old school.
I first heard of Alan Hawkshaw after a little research I did on the 45 I bought of The Mohawks’ The Champ. The song is considered a classic among the Hip Hop heads, as it has been sampled over and over. Were you aware of it being sampled at the time? What was, or is, your opinion on the whole sampling industry?
I gradually became aware of the multi-sampling of The Champ. I suppose sampling breathed new life into a lot of the old catalogue so I am not against it.
– What do you consider to be the favourite record you worked on? Or if that’s too hard to decide; which record did you really enjoy working on?
Difficult to answer, but one I really liked and was proud of was the stuff I did with Keith Mansfield, the funky organ stuff and some piano pieces with orchestra, one being a piece called ‘She’. Also some synthesized cool library stuff with Brian Bennett, Synthesis.
– Other musicians describe your playing as a “percussive style of playing the organ” (Keith Mansfield in this case, but I’ve read it multiple times), could you tell me more about this technique or style?
The Hammond is a very dynamic instrument. I enjoyed employing its Percussion stops to play my percussive pieces, although I also like playing coller jazz on the instrument with less percussion, more in the Jimmy Smith style.
How is the music scene treating you now? Are you still asked to play on records, provide soundtracks etc?
I’m occasionally asked to contribute to other peoples albums but I’m more into my orchestral stuff, especially musicals, writing love ballads in the classical-crossover vein.
Finally, could you tell me something more about your book, The Champ – The Hawk Talks?
My autobiography The Champ chronicles the start of my professional life in the music business with some chapters on the period of my teenage years prior to going professional. It lists many of the people I’ve worked with, gives details of key sessions I was on and provides interesting photographs, diary details and anecdotes throughout the 60’s, up to the present time.