Over the past few weeks a certain little modern soul tune has been working its way into the consciousness of discerning soul collectors. Tune in question is ‘Hanging On’ by a Liverpool-based outfit called DOWN TO US. The cut is sweet and summery with a rhythm pattern that recalls DRIZABONE and a vocal that evokes JAMIROQUAI. One of the brains behind the single is GEORGE McSHANE who also works with a band called JUDDERBASS. You may recall their excellent ‘Everybody Knows’ track which was a high spot on the second SOUL UNSIGNED compilation. Confused? Well, we were… so we hooked up with GEORGE to find out what was going on. We wanted to know where JUDDERBASS ends and DOWN TO US begins; we wanted to know how they manage to create such catchy soul songs… but first we wanted some personal details. You know, name and number and so on…..
My name is GEORGE MARTIN MCSHANE and I was born in Liverpool in 1968. My father died when I was 8 years old. I have 3 sisters and 1 brother and I was brought up on a councill estate on the Wirral (just over the Mersey from Liverpool). There was a lot of love and creativity in the family (my mother is a fantastic artist (of the painting kind) you know! My mother also made sure we all have good values and principles. I’m now happily married to my gorgeous wife from the Czech Republic – Andre, and we have a beautiful baby daughter Lucie. I live in liverpool and I am currently employed as a Mental Health Social Worker. I have in the past tried to combine my interests in music with my work as a means to engage with people with severe and enduring mental illness by setting up and running a music group … this resulted in a CD being recorded; some of the other people involved are now in a band themselves .
Clearly music’s important to you… so tell us a little about your music background … why did you get involved in music in the first place… who were the artists who influenced and inspired you……
I wasnt really interested in playing music untill my early teens. Then I had a desire to play the bass and started learning bass lines whenever I had the opportunity to have a go on my sister’s boyfriend’s bass . Initially it was MARK KING who influenced me to play bass. I then started looking at the bands and musicians who’d influenced him – STANLEY CLARKE, JACO PASTORIOUS etc. My very dear friend,the late MARTIN LAVERY opened my ears to jazz , funk, and soul . He played me a whole range of music from WEATHER REPORT, BROTHERS JOHNSON, BOOTSY, ISLEY BROTHERS, LUTHER and god bless him he even tried to teach me music theory … a major challenge to say the least! Through the late 80s and the 90s I guess bands such as ROACHFORD ,CHILLI PEPPERS, FISHBONE and LIVING COLOUR , provided a bridge between rock , funk and soul that led me to start appreciating bands and artists such as CAMEO ,D-INFLUENCE, LOOSE ENDS, DRIZABONE, INCOGNITO, OMAR , JEHLISA ,ZHANE, the artists on the Talking Loud and Acid Jazz labels (JAMIROQUAI BRAND NEW HEAVIES , URBAN SPECIES, GALLIANO PROJECT etc) then on into artists /bands such as JILL SCOTT LYNDEN DAVID HALL ,ERYKAH BADU , ANGIE STONE ,REMY SHAND ,KINDRED. I then started listening to the early soul/ funk /disco influences of these bands such as CHIC, JAMES BROWN, ARETHA FRANKLIN CURTIS MAYFEILD STEVIE WONDER , PARLIAMENT, FUNKADELIC. I only discovered the delights of BOBBY WOMACK in the last couple of years for gods sake !!! But better late than never !!!
Briefly update us on your musical CV – how you got from where you started to your Judderbass days….
The first band I played bass in was made up of older guys playing 70’s rock and included PAUL PILNICK of STEELERS WHEEL fame . I then played in various covers bands – still mainly rock influenced – HENDRIX ,FLOYD etc. Next, MARTIN LAVERY along with vocalist PHIL ANTIGUA and I formed a soul band called SUGAR LOAF but then when we went our separate ways and I then joined a hip hop band called THE SHAKTI , then a funk/dance influenced band called SPARE RIB whom I stayed with for around 6 years. One of our biggest gigs was backing ATOMIC KITTEN! Then I started writing songs too. I wrote a few songs with one of the band’s singers, JOANNA BROWN… one was that eventual JUDDERBASS track . Then I hooked up with MARTIN LAVERY again. We found a great drummer , COLIN LAMONT and a keyboard player – LEE WARREN SHONE and we were on our way.
Where do JUDDERBASS come in– what was that band all about and how did you get involved with SOUL UNSIGNED?
MARTIN, LEE and I continued to write and jam together. During this time I discovered the fantastic Soul Unsigned show on Solar Radio. The presenter PHIL DRIVER was promoting unsigned soul acts, so I thought I would send him over the rough demo of the track ‘Everybody Knows’ under my stage name of ‘JUDDERBASS’ featuring JOANNA BROWN . PHIL was very positive about the track and encouraged me to go into the studio and record a good quality version . Obviously it wasnt hard for me to select the musicians to support JOANNA and I. So I asked COLIN, MARTIN and LEE to do the session . With the help of sound engineer ANDREW NIXON I produced the track which PHIL agreed to release on Soul Unsigned Volume 2.
You’re back now with a new name – DOWN TO US…. is this group essentially the same as JUDDERBASS or a new outfit… and why the name – ‘DOWN TO US’. Tell us about the group….
Well yes and no. MARTIN LAVERY, LEE WARREN and myself were joined by the amazing vocalist KAYLEIGH O’NEILL after her number was given to us by drummer COLIN LAMONT. COLIN also passed on the number of an excellent percussionist – AL FLUKES and we started to record some tracks. Then COLIN went off to work on sessions and we recruited a new drummer – IAN HAMPSON . We sent some tracks to PHIL DRIVER and his continued interest encouraged us to work on more. We then decided that I’d use the name JUDDERBASS for my own projects and come up with something fresh for the new team – which had now been joined by backing singers LEANNE O’NEILL and DEJE SOWANDE. Then we were knocked sideways … so, so sadly MARTIN LAVERY died suddenly in February 2010 after experiencing a pulmonary embolism. He’d been suffering from a form of bowel cancer and was in recovery. He had shown such courage and determination in getting through his treatment and staying involved with the band. We were devastated . On a personal level I had lost my best friend. The band decided to go with the name LEE suggested ,’DOWN TO US’ – reflecting our determination to see things through after losing MARTIN. Eventually we held auditions for a guitarist and we recruited BRI STEVENSON who, despite the surrounding sad and difficult circumstances, immediatley made an impact with the band.
How did the song ‘Hanging On’ come together? A lot of people say it has a feel of restrained Jamiroquai about it… was that intentional? How would you describe your sound?
A while before KAYLIEGH joined us, MARTIN, LEE and I had a jam at my house . LEE had come up with a great intro hook which had an immediate emotional reaction with us … sounding new and yet familiar at the same time , leading us to save it on the computer with the typically terrible name of ‘lumpy throat’. When listening to that jam at a later point I tried to come up with a melody line . I specifically wanted to experiment with rhythms in the melody .Once I had the rhythm and melody recorded I wrote the lyrics then howled the song down the mic. It was then over to KAYLIEGH to do her magic and make it sound like a song . We recorded the track live as a band in the studio and later worked on the backing vox production in Tonewood Studio, and at my home due to being on a tight budget. There definitley wasn’t any concious effort to sound like JAMIROQUAI although we are all fans of the band and the people who have influenced them.
At the moment the song only exists as a download single – where do you go from here … is there an album on the way? And what about live work?
Due to the present economic situation we feel a download only single makes sense. However we have enough material ready to follow up with a physical album /CD. We are excited about the prospect of promoting the single and forthcoming album with live gigs and are presently working with our promoters toward that aim.
Presumably you work in and around Liverpool, what’s the soul scene like in the Northwest – or do you get further afield?
With Liverpool clubs such as the Magnet closing down it looked as though soul music venues may be on the decline . However we were recently invited to a soul night organised by ADEYINKA OLUSHONDE and SAEED OLAYIWOLA called ‘Soul4Soul ‘. The venue is Studio 2 at the famous Parr Street Studios in Liverpool. It included a combination great soul music from DJ’s and live performances from various local vocalists (all excellent) backed by the Soul4Soul House band (excellent also). Each event has a theme celebrating the music of classic and contemporary soul artists , and takes place on the last Sunday in each month . ADEYINKA and SAEED will be working with ourselves via their ‘Soul Inspired Promotions’ company to promote the band including live venues around the country , (we are featuring in the next Soul4Soul night Sunday 29th May )
Where does GEORGE McSHANE see himself in five years time?
I would like to continue developing my writing , production and live performance skills and to continue collaborative writing with KAYLEIGH , LEE and the DOWN TO US BAND . I like to think that DOWN TO US will have another album in the bag . MARTIN LAVERY also left material in various stages of completion and so finishing these tracks and recording them is very important to me and the band . I also hope I will be able to put together a ‘JUDDERBASS’ album featuring different musicians from the Merseyside area and beyond.
‘HANGING ON’ BY DOWN TO US IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE NOW AS A DOWNLOAD SINGLE…
For DETAILS GO TO www.soulunsigned.com