- Fri, 2003-06-06 12:51
Un-Cut - one of the most hotly tipped UK urban acts of 2003 released their debut album 'The Un-Calculated Some' in summer 2003 via WEA/M Records. Un-Cut vocalist Jenna G is a remarkably talented individual and a diva in the making. Not only do her soaring vocals add a gold-edged touch of class to Un-Cut’s already mesmerising arrangements, but she also starred as the eponymous lead character in Danny Boyle’s (The Beach, Trainspotting) widely acclaimed film ‘Strumpet.’
But music is Jenna’s first love and began to pursue that love further when Un-Cut producers Darren and 2D discovered her in the hip-hop group Subliminal Darkness. Having had a huge underground hit last year with ‘Midnight’ selling out its 10,000 copy run on Wired Productions, Un-Cut signed to WEA/M Records and began work on their debut album. Whilst the essence of ‘The Un-Calculated Some’ is rooted in Motown and Northern soul, Un-Cut take these classic influences and mould them into something invigorating, fresh and, above all else, new.
I Like Music caught up with Jenna-G a few days before the release of Un-Cuts album, The Un-Calculated Some
''I like music because… it is my life.'' Jenna G, Un-cut
ILM: So how has the year been for you so far? You kicked off the first festival of the summer - Homelands? How was that? Did you manage to catch any of the other acts?
Jenna: Homelands was really good this year and the whole year has been crazy too. Homelands was our first festival of the year and we were on right at the beginning of the day, so we had the rest of the day to walk around and it was a really good day, had a great time.
I watched Audio Bullys who were really good and bought their album as a result. I saw Junior Senior but I have to say I wasn't impressed. I was looking forward to it, because I love that 'Everybody' tune, but their set just really baffled me, so I left half way through it. We also saw De La Soul and The Streets. [Click here to read the ilikemusic.com review of Homelands 2003]
ILM: And can you give me a highlight from your recent tour with Lamb?
Jenna: The highlight was our day off in Brighton. I'd never been to Brighton before and it's really nice. I really like Brighton and I'll be going back. The bars on the beach are wicked, I love the vibe down there.
The Lamb tour was mad because we'd just finished touring with Craig David and went straight into the Lamb tour, and you couldn't have two more different tour experiences - the Lamb tour was very much a grounding experience having toured with Craig David, because we shared a crew with Lamb so it was more like a big family and Craig David is a very nice bloke. Couldn't say a word wrong about him. All his crew and band and security were really nice, which was not what we'd expected at all.
ILM: And would you like to work with Mr David or anyone else in the industry in particular?
Jenna: I'd like to work with almost anyone. If a miracle was to happen I'd love to work with Prince. But anyone that I'm into musically it'd be great for them to feel the same about us. It's weird because you still meet people at industry parties and kind of act like of a fan, but then they do the same and say, 'ooh I've heard this about you,' and it's nice but really weird and I still don't know what to say to people.
ILM: Your single Fallin' is out NOW, (just been released) - can you give us your own personal description of it and it's whole vibe?
Jenna: Fallin' is a really nice summer tune. It just oozes summer really. The song itself is about me falling back in love with someone I used to fancy, and that's the twist in it, because you're remembering the good times but also that it did go bad, and it did that for a reason. So it's like a reminiscent kind of vibe. When we made the tune and went to make the video we just wanted loads of sunshine, and that's what we got.
ILM: Can you also tell me a bit about the tune from your debut album, The Un-Calculated Some' that you a) like the most personally and b) had the most fun making?
Jenna: The song I like best of all is Senseless. I like all the songs but I really like doing Senseless live and it gets the best reaction. For some reason, even though it's slow, at the end of Senseless everyone is just leaning forward and really into it, just listening. And the track I had the most fun making is Midnight still, because when we wrote it we broke into our old flat through the laundry, and so it was fun because there was criminal activity involved, plus it was such a long process and then to get such a good reaction to it, made it even more fun.
ILM: You've said you like to have a twist in your lyrics and write from personal experiences that are often emotional - where do you find you do your best writing? Do you have a special writing place?
Jenna: Not really, I kind of write anywhere and everywhere. Whenever things come into my head, as long as I've got a piece of paper and a pen, I'll write it down. Loveless, I wrote on a train coming back from London. Lost in Music I wrote in the studio literally there and then when the loop came up. It's just whenever. A lyric will come into my head and if I don't write it down it'll stop there, so it's a bit of a frantic thing, you'll often see me saying 'Gimme a pen!
ILM: What is your favourite un-cut lyric?
Jenna: I like Chinese Dog a lot because it's a massive metaphor that tune and there are a lot of clues in it. It's about someone in particular and there's lots of clues in the song about who it is about, but the only person who'll know who it is, is the person I've wrote it about and myself, and I like that. I want them to think 'oh god that's me.' But he hasn't been in contact yet, because he's a man and they don't tend to do that.
ILM: When you started making music together as Un-Cut there was pressure on to make every track go off on the dance floor. Do you enjoy the process of making music more now that you can produce deeper tracks?
Jenna: Yeah, definitely. It wasn't so much the pressure, the reason we had to make tunes for the dance floor that really went off was because we had to eat. But now, it's more like 'we're eating this week anyway', so there's less need. But we still put that pressure on ourselves anyway because we still want to hear our music on the radio and have people want to play it. But now we know we're not starving if we don't sell a tune.
ILM: Can you describe the un-cut process of making music?
Jenna: It could start anywhere. Un-Cut - it's all uncalculated like our album name suggests. I could have the lyric and then 2D and Darren might have a loop up and the lyric goes with it, or they might have a loop up and I might really like it and sit down and write some lyrics to it. So it can happen any different way, then after the first person has put their bit down, the others come and add the next bit and so on to build the track, and that's how every song has happened. And that's cool because we never sat down and said 'right, we want to make a fast tune' it's more natural.
ILM: What to you is the 'fundamental' constant in the ever evolving genre of drum and bass?
Jenna: It's Britishness. The fact that it's a very British sound is something that we should embrace and a lot of people don't. We should embrace it as one of the only music styles that we actually created ourselves, and it's something to champion. And it's such a diverse genre of music as well. It's clinical and mathematical on one hand, and then you've got live really mellow vocal drum and bass, so it's broad. And it's a genre that you can really experiment within.
ILM: Was Goldie ringing you to big-up Obsession a defining moment for you as a band, or are there any other ones than stand out?
Jenna: For the boys that was definitely the one because they would always listen to Timeless by Goldie, so they looked up to him. So for Goldie to be ringing them up and bigging up their production that was like 'wow'! They were really chuffed, and I was too. I've been a raver from whenever and knowing who Goldie was to have him tell us, we're part of the family, that was very cool.
But every moment is like that for me. Like when we did Craig David, and at the Royal Albert Hall that was crazy. And things just keep on happening.
ILM: Describe the boys in one word each. What word do you think they'd use to describe you?
Jenna: 2D would be a joker. He's just a classic joker. When he meets someone knew he won't even say hello, he's just straight in to taking the mickey out of him, and it's so funny to see how different people react. Some are just straight on it and start taking the p*ss back, and other people don't know what to do. Darren is a perfectionist. He likes everything just so. He won't wear certain colours and likes his hair a particular way. And they'd probably call me a Lush. Darren would call me giddy, or a giddy lush.
ILM: What's your objective as a band?
Jenna: Just to make more music that we're happy with and get on with it really. After the festivals we'll be going straight back into the studio, and won't be pushed into doing music we don't feel like doing. That's the uncut objective.
ILM: Can you tell us the hardest rejection/knock back career wise you had to deal with and how you overcame it?
Jenna: I used to be in a hip hop group, and I was with them for three years and went and represented them over in Malaysia, me and a few of the other guys from the group went over and we did loads of gigs and on our return, they kicked me out of the group! I'd been with them for three years and all my efforts had been in the group for that time, so I was really gutted and didn't know what to do. But…
A month after that someone approached me and asked me to a night in a club, and it was from that I got my name round the MC circuit. So it was the biggest rejection I'd faced, but it resulted in me being a lot more approachable in terms of people asking me to work for them, and that boosted my confidence. It made me realise I hadn't wasted the previous three years and that people had seen me, and also it all resulted in meeting the guys and joining Un-Cut, so it's all good.
ILM: And what advice do you have for young singers/MCs starting out who want to go the urban route?
Jenna: Wherever you're at, go out and get involved in the club scene and research your local city club scene on the internet, and if you've got something to give them, like songs, lyrics or ideas, then get in touch with DJs, studios and producers. And try and go about getting yourself experience because it's no good turning up at a record label and saying I've never done it before but I look good and can dance, and I want to sing. You need some element of experience. And put your own songs up on the internet - just make an effort.
Also the more shape of an idea or style you have the easier it'll be to hook up with someone else to execute that idea. As long as you know where you want to go and what you're about, because a lot of people get compromised when they go into the music industry. It's a case of them thinking 'if I make this kind of music then everyone will definitely buy it.' And you might be right but what longevity does that have. It's all about enjoying yourself, knowing what you want to do and just having no qualms about going out and saying 'let's do it' and every opportunity you've got to grab it and run with it. That's all I've done.
ILM: You did a spot of acting before Un-Cut - is that something you trained in or would like to back to in the future?
Jenna: I did some acting when I was little - from about 10 - 13 years old. But acting has a lot to do with what you look like, and I had a bit of puppy fat, but because of that I still wanted to perform as it's more about what is sounds like. But years later I got recognition as I was in Strumpet and that was good because they were saying, 'ok, so now you would look good naked in a film,' so I did another film after that. I love performing whether it's acting or singing. Film work is so much fun, getting drunk with a whole new family for a few weeks. But I'm in the music for the moment, but wouldn't say no to any films.
ILM: Who inspires you and who would you like to inspire?
Jenna: A lot of people inspire me. The biggest inspirations I had when I was growing up were Cole Porter and Prince. I'd just like anyone to listen to our music and like it really. I'd love it if someone who'd inspired me liked me. We had a singer from America who wanted to buy one of our tracks, someone I've looked up to for ages, and that was like wow. But I was like, no let's not sell it this time.
ILM: Can you describe your favourite place on earth?
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Jenna: Roots - Phrenology. It's brilliant and everyone loves it as well, so I just keep playing it.