Interviews

HE DOES IT RIGHT - THE WILKO JOHNSON INTERVIEW

Thursday, 23 February 2017 13:35 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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With his po-faced demeanour, intense manic stare, Pyrex bowl haircut, and black-suited undertaker look, Wilko Johnson certainly caught the eye in the mid-1970s as the charismatic guitarist in the legendary Canvey Island R&B quartet, Dr. Feelgood. He was one scary-looking dude - perhaps that's why he was cast in the role of a mute executioner, Ser Ilyn Pane, in the hit TV series Game Of Thrones. But the way that he charged back-and-forth across the stage when he was in Dr. Feelgood wielding his guitar like a machine gun while firing off shard-like R&B riffs with deft, karate-like chops to the strings added to his mystique. He was sensationally fired from Dr Feelgood in '77 and co-founded Solid Senders - a short-lived, one-album outfit - before playing with Ian Dury's Blockheads. He then formed the Wilko Johnson Band, which recorded its first LP, 'Ice On The Motorway,' way back in 1981, and, amazingly and against the odds, the group is still going strong today in 2017.

The first thing that strikes you about Wilko Johnson is that he laughs a lot. Perhaps that's because he can't believe his luck - after all he's had the biggest reprieve of all and famously eluded the Grim Reaper's scythe when many others before him had failed. He'll be 70 later this year but four years ago he didn't think that he'd make it to that milestone. That was when Johnson had a life-changing bombshell dropped on him: he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a matter of months to live.

"I remember I was absolutely calm, dead calm" reveals Johnson, in an interview with SJF's Charles Waring. "I didn't freak at all ...and I wasn't expecting that." Instead of being gripped with fear and panic, he matter-of-factly accepted his fate, rejected chemotherapy treatment, and vowed to live his life to the full until his allotted time was up. He quickly embarked on a farewell tour - "we played some great gigs" he laughs - and recorded what was intended to be a valedictory album called 'Going Back Home,' with The Who's Roger Daltrey. That long player was going to be Johnson's musical epitaph but later that year, he underwent surgery to remove the tumour that was the source of his ill-heath. He ended up losing not only the tumour - which weighed in at a whopping 3 Kg - but also his pancreas, spleen and part of his stomach. The operation was a success and, miraculously, freed the guitarist from the dark spectre of cancer.  

69-year-old Johnson's recovery has been extraordinary and since then he's starred in a Julien Temple-directed documentary (The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson), written a well-received autobiography (Don't You Leave Me Here: My Life) and curated a superb compilation exploring the Chess Records vaults called 'The First Time I Met The Blues.' Now, he brings his own career under the microscope with this 25-track/2-CD solo retrospective called 'Keep It To Myself: The Best Of Wilko Johnson,' released on the Chess imprint.

In a candid and revealing interview with SJF, the legendary rhythm and blues maven talks about his new album, his time in Dr. Feelgood and his much-publicised battle with cancer...


Last Updated on Monday, 27 February 2017 19:11

 

There's No One Like Him - UK soul star OMAR talks to SJF

Monday, 16 January 2017 20:28 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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"I hated my first single, 'Mr Postman,' so much that I didn't want to hear it again." So says UK soul grandee, OMAR LYE-FOOK, MBE, who accompanies this statement with a gravelly chuckle. "This was 1984 and after two weeks of hearing it, I couldn't stand it," he explains. "So from that point, any music that I made, I had to like because you've got to play it for the rest of your life."

Six years later, and, Omar, now 22, came up with a song that he could listen to repeatedly. It was called 'There's Nothing Like This.' "When I wrote that song, I made a demo of it and put it on a 90-minute cassette," he says. "There was 45 minutes on one side of just that song and it played and played and played. Nobody got bored of it so that was a sign that it was going to be quite a big hit."

Indeed, it was, and for many soul fans of a certain age, it was the song that represented their first acquaintance with OMAR's music. It was back in the summer of 1991 when Acid Jazz was the hip and exciting new currency in the world of British R&B and bands like the Brand New Heavies, Incognito, and the Young Disciples were setting the pace. OMAR, then 23 - a multi-instrumentalist and former percussionist for the Kent Youth Orchestra - was a label mate of the latter two groups (on Gilles Peterson's influential Talkin' Loud imprint) and broke into the UK charts with 'There's Nothing Like This.' With its summery vibe, feel-good groove and addictive chorus, for many people that particular song came to encapsulate a special moment in time and was adopted as an anthem.

'There's Nothing Like This' remains one of the highpoints in OMAR's canon even though it was recorded almost thirty years ago. Though its success has eclipsed almost everything else he has done in commercial terms, he doesn't view it as a heavy and uncomfortable  albatross around his neck.  "No, I'm very happy with it," he tells SJF. "If that's the only song of mine that people know then at least they can start with that one and then get to learn the rest," he laughs. He then reveals that some people, when they recognise him, often approach him singing the 'There's Nothing Like This's' chorus line. "For the most part it's fine," he says, "but when you're trying to meet someone or get a private moment, and people come up to you singing it, you think 'not right this second!'"

But 48-year-old OMAR - who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for his services to music - isn't content to rest on his laurels and live in the past. Though not a prolific recording artist, there's been a fairly steady stream of music during the last 25 years and now he's now about to release his eighth album, 'Love In Beats,' which follows in the wake of 2013's critically-acclaimed 'The Man.' The new LP - which features noteworthy cameos from keyboardist-of-the-moment, Robert Glasper, soul veteran, Leon Ware, spoken-word specialist the Floacist (aka Natalie Stewart) and singer Natasha Watts, to name a few - is an eclectic collision of soul, funk, jazz and Caribbean flavours that has been masterfully marinated by its genius creator together with his producer brother, Scratch Professor.

In an interview with SJF's Charles Waring, OMAR talks about his new record as well as other fascinating facets of his career, including his aspirations in the world of acting....

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 14:39

 

A DOGGETT DIALOGUE.....

Friday, 23 December 2016 18:38 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altBy common consent one of this year's best UK soul albums is album 'Colours' from THE DOGGETT BROTHERS. A selection of singles and mixes from the album has kept the momentum at max for the Doggett Boys but despite the success the brothers are still very much an unknown quantity in the soul community... men of mystery even! So as 2016 draws to an end we decided we all needed to know more about the Doggetts. We tracked them down to their soul lair and kicked off by demanding to know just who the Doggett Brothers are ...

The Doggett Brothers are a UK based collective of musicians and producers, with strong roots in modern soul, R&B and dance music. The (actual) Doggett Brothers are Carl and Greg Doggett. We started this whole thing as a studio project in 2010, recording our first ever record, 'Azure Sky'. Since then, it has grown and grown into something a lot bigger than we expected! The collective is now far bigger than just us, that's for sure.

OK, so how would you define your sound?

Our sound is a mix of soul and dance music. We love modern soul artists such as Dwele, but also love the electro sound of artists such as Disclosure. We have a very particular idea of what we are after, and don't compromise what we want to say. We write, record and produce all of our records, from start to beginning.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 December 2016 15:50

 

CHIMING IN... THE PAULINE HENRY INTERVIEW

Sunday, 04 December 2016 14:44 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIt's just over 25 years since an album icon of Brit soul was released.... 'The Chimes' by THE CHIMES. The band was essentially a trio ... Mike Peden, James Locke and Pauline Henry and back in 1990 cuts from the album were being played out everywhere. Their version of U2's 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' scaled the charts and even hard-to-please Bono was heard to say how much he loved the Chimes' version.

To celebrate the anniversary, bbr records have just reissued the album ... along with a plethora of bonus cuts (see our "Reviews" section). Now old soul heads are once more enjoying some original and ground breaking Brit soul and we felt we couldn't let the anniversary go by without finding out a bit more about the elusive and short-lived Chimes. After considerable detective work we tracked down singer, PAULINE HENRY and fired all kinds of questions at her. First, though, we wanted to know how she felt about the album reissue after all this time....

The reissue came about when a fan reminded me that it was "The Chimes 25 years anniversary, and how nice it would be to see the Chime reunite!" So I initiated the idea with Sony Music about a re- licence, and that is when BBR Records and Cherry Red got involved. And you know I am excited about it for many reasons. Firstly because the Chimes did not fulfil their potential. We signed to Columbia for a five-album record deal but we only made our one "brilliant" album. So the reissue with the un-released songs and re mixes on feels like the second album that never was. I get to savour tracks I have long since forgotten about. I'm totally loving "Stay", "Stronger" and 'No Need To Pretend'. It takes me back to the innocent and early days of the Chimes. Secondly, too, we are gaining new audiences as well as re engaging our established fan base. Thirdly, re-working the songs gives them a new lease of life.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 December 2016 15:14

 

Midnight Musings - MAXINE GORDON INTERVIEW PART TWO:

Friday, 25 November 2016 15:13 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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It was exactly thirty years ago that  jazz tenor saxophone legend, DEXTER GORDON, made his on-screen acting debut at the age of 63 portraying Dale Turner (a fictional musician whose life was loosely based on that of itinerant US pianist, Bud Powell) in Bertrand Tavernier's acclaimed movie, Round Midnight. Dexter died four years afterwards but the film - which has been revived with special showings around the globe to celebrate its anniversary - remains an important part of his legacy. 

In the second and concluding part of Charles Waring's recent interview with Dexter's wife,  Maxine Gordon, the saxophonist's manager-turned-music historian, record producer and author, talks about Round Midnight and also gives us her opinion of a new film called Cool Cats, which focuses on her husband's (and fellow tenorist Ben Webster's) years living in Denmark. She also tells us about the Dexter Gordon biography she's writing, which is due to be published sometime next year...


Last Updated on Friday, 25 November 2016 15:57

 

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