Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Cool Million: Playing it cool

Cool Million
Cool Million Cool Million Cool Million: Frank Ryle ( Cool Million: Rob Hardt (

“The song “Stronger” actually started ten years ago” Rob Hardt begins. As one half of soulful production/songwriting team Cool Million, Rob and his musical partner Frank Ryle have built up quite an address book over the years, working with icons of 80's R&B including Glenn Jones, Eugene Wilde and Meli'sa Morgan on a back catalogue of albums including 2010's “Back for More” and “Sumthin Like This” in 2015. Now the slick German-Danish production team returns to the music scene with their new album and a long-awaited collaboration with James D-Train Williams, “Stronger”.

Inspired during their youth by 80's R&B and 70's funk, Cool Million's latest project “Stronger” sees the collaboration kings invite some new friends to the studio including Faye B, David Tobin and D-Train. Explaining the origins of the latter collaboration Rob shares “We met James ( D-Train) a few times at live gigs but it took ten years for the collab to happen. (James really hadn't released music for 30 years) so we wanted to come up with something strong, uplifting and positive for this man. But now James has also done tracks with other people so he's back on the scene now which I really like. We want these people back on the scene because if they come back with new music I get inspired again. Glenn Jones got the Unsung documentary, new management, a big tour. I'm so happy to see him back on stage and if (our collaboration “Tonight”) helped a little bit with that, I am very proud”.

Expanding on the pairs creative approach Frank chimes in “Some of the songs are made by sending files back and forth and others were made in the studio, for example, we had James D-Train Williams in Copenhagen for a recording session. We did three songs with him. We also went to the studio with a couple of other artists, David Tobin and Rachel Matthews. Other times we would send demo tracks to artists and if they liked it, they would make a song out of it. Then they would send their vocals to us so we could finalise the track”.

And while the album still contains some Cool Million signature dance floor fillers, there has been something of a sonic shift towards downtempo grooves. Rob reveals “It's a matter of the vibe. We wanted more than just dance beats. I think the variation is more interesting from a musicianship point of view. Uptempo, tracks don't have a lot of room but when you have a downbeat you have more room for the vocals and I really like that and Frank is on the same vibe as that”.

When asked to choose a highlight from the countless recording sessions and collaborations with other artists Frank struggles to choose a favourite saying “It's hard to tell but I'm really happy about the new songs we did with D-Train. It's been a dream of ours to work with him and we finally managed to set up a recording session with him. For me, he is top of the list of the legendary names from the early '80s. I also love “Back For More” with Eugene Wilde from ten years ago. It still gets a lot of plays”.

On what makes the 80's such a defining decade of inspiration for Cool Million Rob Shares “I was young when the music came out so it was brand new. I lived in the North of Germany at the time and was surrounded by two US army bases so I was very influenced by the American soul music. Because I'm a keyboard player, I like the synthesiser based stuff like Midnight Star. The keyboards were really hot, the beat was danceable the music sounded fresh to me and I always loved the positive energy of this era of music.”

Although Cool Million is always at the heart of their musical output, the duo are also accomplished artists in their own right with both releasing notable solo projects. Rob became a go-to remixer in the mid 90's reworking tracks for the likes of Chaka Khan, Roger Troutman and Keith Sweat. More recently, in 2016, Frank released his boogie infused solo project “The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes”. Speaking about the respective solo work Ryle begins “It's hard to tell if there will be any future project but I just had a remix made from one of the songs that I'm planning to release after the summer. But right now everything is centred around Cool Million and the album. The solo project is out in my name but it's still kind of Cool Million without being Cool Million (laughs) Of his remix of Chaka Khan Rob reminisces “I remixed Chaka Khan's “Never Miss The Water”. It was a remix situation for Reprise Records in the US. The offer for the song came from Warner music Germany but Reprise was paying for the remixes. Warner Bros, Germany actually hated my mix. They didn't like it at all” Hardt shares candidly “But the tapes were sent to Reprise in the US and they totally loved it so it was released in the US. The song went somewhere in the top 50 of the Billboard chart there. Two days later I had Keith Sweat's “Twisted” and Roger Troutman's “Living For The City” on my table and they wanted remixes!”.

Of the band's mantra to “take soul music back to the future” Hardt explains “When we started we felt a lot of music didn't really have a bite to it any more and we thought R&B and soul music should have that. (At the time) everyone was into new soul and it was really down and super cool... but we wanted to bring back the fun aspect of the music for us - not even for an audience - we just wanted to bring it back for us. Cool Million was our playground so we could do what we wanted to do. It was a time when you didn't need a label any more because you can release it yourself if you want to so no one was telling us what was hip and what wasn't hip. That phrase never came from us, it came from outside because (our sound) was a recreation of what we like about soul music but with a modern twist to it”.

The album Stronger and its initial release of the same name, featuring soul royal D-Train, are both available through Sedsoul records.

You can read more from Karen Lawler's must-read cover interview with modern soul stars Cool Million, which includes their thoughts on working with a who's who of artists they have listened to/admired over the years and some cases, helping to relaunch their careers. Plus Ryle and Hardt's memories of music they grew up listening to in Denmark and Germany and how that music has helped shaped the Cool Million sound of today...all in the current issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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Words Karen Lawler

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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