What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
It was an organic process for me. Back in the day I was a bass player involved in many bands & projects but I never contributed to the writing process in any of those situations. In hindsight this was my probation period, I was digesting all those influences over almost every genre of music, & the more experience I gained the more I was inspired to become involved in arranging, production & finally writing in those situations. What ultimately inspired me more than anything was being in & around recording studios, I was a musician brimming with ideas in the ultimate toy shop.
My current incarnation is the result of a journey; Bass player – Producer – Song Writer – Media Composer – Ambient Jazz Ensemble. The latter is my passion project, something I always find time for between writing music for television. AJE is gathering momentum, the new album will be the 4th release & it’s redefining who I am as a writer & producer.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
‘Scars’ is the 3rd single from the forthcoming album entitled ‘Aura’. The album is a collection of 10 tracks which continue the Ambient Jazz Ensemble ethos of cinematic storytelling. The common thread in the new music is that it strives to be uplifting, & the way the tracks naturally build lend a theme of hope over adversity.
The album was mainly written through 2018 & recorded at my studio in Oxfordshire during 2019, it features 13 musicians including horns & strings. Most of the players contribute more than one instrument & I play Double Bass, Bass Guitar, Keys, Guitar, Harp, Kalimba & Pedal Steel Guitar, as well as recording all the sessions.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Musically, Weather Report have probably had the biggest influence on me. I don’t think what I write sounds anything like their music but they were the constant through my teenage years when I was learning music, learning bass & when I was a sponge for ideas. I’ve also done a music degree thesis on the group.
Non musically, I have the biggest respect for anyone who swims against the tide in the music business. The industry can be so narrow minded, so it takes a lot of energy & determination to stick to writing music outside of the mainstream, to change direction artistically, or to use music as a vehicle to highlight prejudice. Those that have & succeeded are an inspiration.
Jaco Pastorius falls into both camps for me because, as well as being a musical influence, he was trying to forge something unique both in terms of his instrument & his compositional style. His 2nd studio album ‘Word Of Mouth’ showed his uncompromising attitude when the industry tried to mould him. Some might say he hit the self destruct button, but I totally understood his stance & defence of his music, he wasn’t interested that it was too challenging for the record company execs. It’s an example for me to stick to what I feel & let the music find it’s audience rather than pander to the mainstream.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
I regard the genre and describe my sound as cinematic jazz. I try to give the cinematic aspect some momentum, create a journey rather than a static scene. The new album has some reflective opening sections but they always move forward, building towards something uplifting, even euphoric. The ‘jazz’ really refers more to the instrumentation & collective spirit, the fact that amidst the confines of a cinematic approach there is room for improvisation, individual input & sonic experimentation. Some of the tracks on ‘Aura’ grow towards really celebratory end sections with horns & strings giving it a jazz orchestra feel.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Hejira – Joni Mitchell
Mysterious Traveller – Weather Report
What We Must – Jaga Jazzist
Cinema Paradiso – Giuseppe Tornatore
Into The Wild – Sean Penn
Lost In Translation – Sofia Coppola
London Fields – Martin Amis
Money – Martin Amis
Hotel California – Barney Hoskyns
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
For me it’s the studio. I’ve always been drawn to the recording studio, it’s where ideas, sketches & demos are turned into records, & that process of creativity is captured & sealed. I remember years ago whenever I could get my hands on some equipment I’d be bouncing between revox machines, portastudios or 8-tracks, trying to squeeze as big a sound as possible out of limited resources.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
In the 90s myself & my writing partner did some production work for US based label Capitol Records. The work involved a day recording in London then flying to LA to record vocals & mix. We ended up spending all day & all night in the London studio & going straight to Heathrow armed only with 2 hastily stuffed plastic carrier bags of drives, disks, leads etc & a multitrack tape. At LAX we were met by a driver who was puzzled that he’d picked up 2 jet-lagged tramps. As we walked through short term parking our attention was drawn to the biggest stretch limo you’d ever seen & joked that that was our ride into LA; sure enough the driver led us straight to it, placed our carrier bags in the boot, opened the door, & informed us there was champagne in the fridge.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
I’d say the title track ‘Aura’ from the forthcoming album. From it’s conception it always stuck out for me, it’s all about the tune in the second half which is a really bold statement. It taught me to trust an uplifting tune could still retain an atmosphere & intensity. I’m also proud of the building blocks as the track grows, utilising soft Saxes & Bass Clarinet textures, Hungarian Cimbalom & the most delicate of Piano solos played by Sam Crowe.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
The obvious next step for Ambient Jazz Ensemble is to play live. It’s a difficult undertaking, even without the Coronavirus pandemic, because I think it will work best on a grand scale, a large band on a big stage. I’ve been unwilling to compromise on this so far, I’ve been waiting for the right moment. Also, there are new ideas forming as we speak & there are new demos recorded, so I can foresee at least an EP release sometime next year.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Vinyl, Cassette, CD, Mini Disk, Download or Streaming?
Vinyl! I have a modest collection of albums mainly from the 70s. CDs would be a close 2nd though; it’s an unfashionable view, everyone seems to have sold them off, but I maintain they sound great & retain at least part of that tactile experience vinyl gives you, with credits, info, lyrics & (albeit shrunken) artwork.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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