- Thu, 2007-03-08 16:36
Jazzie B & Back To Life as The Soul II Soul Soundsystem Live are playing a one off spectacular at London's Shepherds Bush Empire this Sunday 11th March 2007. The night will include an array of Special Guest Vocalists, it will also have a Very Special Guest appearance from one of the most popular DJ's around.
Soul II Soul created the Soul II Soul experience at the legendary Africa Centre in London's Covent Garden. Unlike other sound systems on the same circuit, Soul II Soul wasn't just about the big name DJs, it was about a vibe. And that vibe not only gained more street credibility, but it had spilt over into another scene.
The Soul II Soul sound has always been original, new, fresh, and infectious, but above all its a UK thing; homegrown. It represents without alienating itself. Jazzie enjoyed chart success with 'Keep On Moving' and 'Back To Life'. And he and Soul II Soul quickly became household names.
I Like Music caught up with the heart of Soul II Soul, Jazzie B, to talk about their one off spectacular gig, the collective and the soundtrack to all our summer’s, Get A Life.
“I like music because… music keeps us all alive. Keep it real!” Jazzie B
ILM: You are part of the soundtrack to my life. Because, when I was about 14 it inspired me to dance and have fun and to think about things and question things and I was officially uplifted by it. 'I had all the Funky Dred stuff too. How does it feel to be part of the soundtrack to so many people’s lives?
Jazzie B: It’s really weird, y’know. I guess the most important thing is the fact that, with hindsight you can always put everything right, yeah? Well I never imagined any of this. It’s all very strange, but very interesting and I’m very much enjoying it.
ILM: You and your Soul II Soul Soundsystem are playing a one off spectacular at Shepherds Bush Empire on March 11th. What can people expect from that? I hear you’ve got a whole host of Special Guest Vocalists appearing.
Jazzie B: It’s the whole line-up. It’s a little bit paying tribute to when I first went out live back in 1990. So we’ve got the string players and two lots of keyboards players, a gang of vocalists and a few other mates who’ve jumped on the bandwagon so to speak But we’re basically looking to have a lot of fun and go through the last few years of all of our singles from 1989 to where we left off as it were.
ILM: You’ve had true determination, resourcefulness, passion, and an adoration for music to get you where you are today. What’s your advice to budding artists just starting out?
Jazzie B: The most important thing is to believe in what you doing. It’s really easy to change or to stop doing it, the difficulty is having that stamina and belief. So many people will knock you and suggest that it’s this that and the other. Obviously your intentions initially have to be honourable, in terms of believing doing what you’re doing, so if you’re out there making music, every opportunity is an opportunity. And always be ready. I hate those people who’ve forgotten their demos or are making up excuses. So you need to believe in yourself and always be ready.
ILM: You took your first steps into the bass heavy world of the sound system when he was just 13. When you and your school friend Daddae started a sound called Jah Rico, which played mainly reggae music, and then began playing more soulful music. Can you describe the Soul II Soul process of making such wonderful music, back then and now and how it’s changed?
Jazzie B: In actual fact, our first paying gig was the Silver Jubilee in 1977, £8 worth, which was a mint for us in them days.
ILM: I was around then, but I was only three.
Jazzie B: I was ten years old then.
The process was just a bunch of people who were all into what they were doing together as a collective. A real collective organisation; most of our principles are based on the Soundsystem ethos where we come much together like a football team. Believing that we were all winners and what we did, we did it together, and we were all driving for the same goals, y’know? Trying to achieve the same thing, and I think that’s what made the big difference, and in terms of what happens nowadays, we just talked about the whole Pop Idol thing and I don’t think things can ever be the same, not that they should, but in terms of opportunities, in a strange way there are always opportunities it’s just a matter of seek and search and you’ll find it.
ILM: It must’ve been nice to have that shared dream and support network?
Jazzie B: Absolutely, it made the whole difference in terms of when it went wrong how you stuck together and still believed in it, as well as when it went right and how you were all able to bask in the glory. So we shared everything.
ILM: In 1986 Soul II Soul signed to Virgin as an artist/band. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about the music industry? And how has it changed for the better or worse since you began?
Jazzie B: The thing that stands out most about the industry is that it’s full of bullshit, but it really wouldn’t be the business if there wasn’t all that the bullshit, so in a strange perverse way the bullshit is quite important, because that’s all part and parcel of it. It’s the quickest game to make it, but its even faster to lose it, so it’s all relative y’know? So in a strange way, that’s what you’ve got to remember, that there’s a lot of nonsense in the game. But I think, once you have your head reasonably screwed on, you can’t go too far wrong.
ILM: In the 90s you collected 2 Grammy's and you were given the keys to seven cities in the US, including LA and New York. There's even a Soul II Soul day in America.
Jazzie B: Yeah, mad innit?
ILM: What was the highlight of that whole experience?
Jazzie B: Yeah I think the highlight was never really getting any props in the UK and then every time you heard that our biggest exports, like Robbie and Oasis, doing this that and the other and being given so much and in return, returning so little. None of us actually go out there ever for awards, but how many Brit Awards are you going to get. It does highlight ….again we talk about the nonsense in our industry, or how small it is. And I think it’s quite interesting talking about the modern day and Pop Idol which is giving people another view of the spectrum of music and how it all works.
For me it’s really interesting. It’s funny, there’s the X Factor and American Pop Idol and it’s funny to see an English person in there and he’s the most revered person amongst all of them, and you look at the X Factor here and see what his position is again, and then you hear about his life story and blah blah, and you think what’s the underbelly of all of this, is he making it easier or making it even more difficult. And from the eyes of an English person from that perspective, it’s really quite interesting, because then you understand where the Great in Britain is actually missing. So it all contradicts itself in a funny way, and goes round in circles. So who’s going to find out that that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. We watched the Oscars the other day, and the girl who got a dissing won an Oscar for Dreamgirls. That’s all very important.
ILM: What Soul II Soul songs do you enjoy playing live the most?
Jazzie B: There’s so many, but from my personal point of view, it’s got to be Get A Life. Doing that, it’s an inclusive song, that catchy annoying hook with the kids on it, but it’s really the sentiment for the song. Now, at the stage I’m at in my life, doing that song it still resonates the same sort of spirit and conjures up the same feelings, and you’re still asking the same question What’s The Meaning Of Life… it’s still relative
ILM: And people relate to it so much.
Jazzie B: Yeah, totally.
ILM: How much of a sense of achievement do you wake up with each day? And what ambitions do you still have to achieve?
Jazzie B: I don’t think it every stops. My old man says once you stop learning or taking things on, it’s over. I still get the same feeling and same butterflies on whatever I embark on, whether it’s a DJ gig or even, on occasions, meeting up with different people. So I’m still a kid at heart.
ILM: That’s great because it makes you feel alive…
Jazzie B: It really does and because I spend so much time around kids as well, it does keep you up.
ILM: What tune or album do you stick on to instantly cheer you up and to chill out to?
Jazzie B: To cheer me up? Anything between Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield or Dennis Brown.
To chill out? I always listen to a bit of Fusion to Courtney Pine, I really enjoy, or as mad as Burt Bacharach in the background. I still love all that. Funnily enough, lately I’ve been listening to U2. I don’t know why or what, but I bought this box set, and I’ve been listening to that. It takes me away from everything else that I’m involved in everyday and really appreciate the music again. And, once I get back into the groove, it’s just another feeling, so I just appreciate the groove even more, so it kind of works for me.
ILM: Your sound was and still is original, new, fresh, and infectious, and homegrown. Are you working on any new stuff?
Jazzie B: Yeah, I’m always working on stuff. I’m working on some material now for a girl called Chickaboo and I’m involved in doing an animated movie, which is untitled at the moment. And fearing God and living life.