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Issue 1084

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Feature

KINGâS GO FORTH: To Infinity and Beyond

Kings Go Forth @Blues and Soul
Kings Go Forth @Blues and Soul Kings Go Forth: One Day

Over the last six to eight months the most talked about and revered record in the underground Funk and Soul scene worldwide is a killer double-sided debut 7â single out of Milwaukee, USA by âKings Go Forthâ...

Both sides of the record âYouâre The Oneâ and âOne Dayâ have been causing mayhem on the floors. Itâs rough and tough production makes these two group-vocal soul chargers sound like they were made in 1968 not 2008. For Blues And Soul, Snowboy talks exclusively with band-leader, song-writer, bassist, andâ¦.phewâ¦..record shop owner Andy Noble.

Snowboy: How long have 'Kings Go Forth' been going and how did you form?

Andy: We formed in early 2007. We started writing and rehearsing then but didn't end up playing a show until November 07. The first gig was scary as it was opening up for Sharon Jones! It was a sold out show (700+) as well.

Snowboy: It's an unusual name for a Soul group. How did the name come about?

Andy: I wanted something different and something that stood out a bit. Also, I thought if we had a typical 'Somebody, Somebody and the Swinging Somebody Else's' type-name, we would begin the artistic pigeon-holing from day one. I felt that besides the harmony vocals thing, we should to be able to do any style of music we wanted. I keep telling the guys to brace themselves to go metal! The actual name Kings Go Forth came from a Sinatra war film.

Snowboy: Is the songwriting process very democratic or does it come down to a couple of main songwriters? I imagine it would be hard if everyone kept putting ideas in. There must be someone who has the final say and leads the direction.

Andy: I tend to have the final say, basically because someone has to. Youâve got 10 guys and that usually means 10 different opinions on everything, soâ¦â¦As far as the writing Blackwolf (Jessie) and I have done it up to this point, although both the other singers (Dan Fernandez and Matt Norburg) are accomplished writers and I'm sure you'll be seeing a few of their tunes in there soon enough.

Snowboy: Did you form with the intention of doing this particular sound?

Andy: Not really. We were doing a lot of Ska and Rocksteady at the start, although I knew we'd get into this stuff eventually. I though that with the harmony vocals as a backbone we could do anything and sound pretty good. I would love to get into some rock stuff and soundtrack-y things as well. The skyâs the limit. You have to tell yourself that.

Snowboy: What groups or artists have inspired the bands direction?

Andy: Well, for me it's all the no-hit wonders of the world. I am a big collector of Soul music, but also soundtracks, Folk, Rock, Jazz, Reggae, Hip Hop, Latin and Brazilian music. A lot of the other guys in the group are big Jamaican Rocksteady/Ska/Reggae fans. Blackwolf is a soul man from way back.

Snowboy: It sounds like the single was all recorded analogue.

Andy: Pretty much. Basically we record analogue and mix/edit digital and then it usually goes back to tape. You cannot mess with tape for the drums and horns especially. Anything that's really punchy is going to sound amazingly more dynamic off tape than from âPro Toolsâ or what have you.

Snowboy: Where was it recorded?

Andy: In two different basements in my neighbourhood, Riverwest. Jeremy Kuzniar, the drummer, did almost all the recording. He is really the unsung hero of the group. He's obviously a great kit drummer, but an amazingly intuitive recording engineer as well. We mixed it together at the end and it was a lot of fun. Don't let anyone tell you that in 2009 it's not possible to self-produce a hit record in your basement because it absolutely IS!

Snowboy: Did you do much overdubbing or was it all done live?

Andy: The rhythm section was live, then we overdubbed horns and vocals. This seems to be the pattern we are falling into.
Snowboy - You're from Milwaukee. Is there much of a scene for vintage Soul and Funk in the city?

Andy: It's massive truth be told. I host a monthly funk and soul event, The Get Down, in Milwaukee and we have been getting 350+ people paid at the door every time. The first two hours of the night are also broadcast live on the radio. Through my shop and a few close friends we have basically started this scene/sound in my area, although there are huge events going on weekly and monthly all over the states these days. Funk is probably King but soul is creeping up. At our night we play everything from 3rd Guitar to Flaming King, Northern, Modern, Beat Ballads, R&B, the lot.

Snowboy: What has been the reaction to 'KGF' in your area?

Andy: Great. A local station, 88.9 Radio Milwaukee, put both sides in heavy rotation here. Celo, our percussionist, told me how the kids he taught at school didn't believe he was in the group. He had to have the station give a shout out to the class! That to me was the best indicator that the songs had gotten to people. The kids love the 'ooh ooh BOW' at the start of 'You're the One'.

Snowboy: Do you work much outside of the area?

Andy: We've played once in Chicago, it was okay. With the 10-piece, everything is a big project. I pretty much have to ask for big money to get us out of town. That's fine with me though as writing and recording is number one these days. You look at the success of our first record and one has to think that in the era of the internet it's perhaps not as necessary as it once was to be to flog it out on the road for years.

Snowboy: Is there a great deal of work for a band playing your kind of Soul music? I guess the success of Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings proves that there is.

Andy: As much as you want really. I guess it comes down to this simple question, âDo you want to be a stage/performance act? Would you rather be recording artists/songwriters and play shows sometimes?â I mean Sharon and co play hundreds of dates a year. Then one kid records a little project record on the label (Menahan Street Band), it gets sampled by Jay Z, and in one fell swoop makes more money than that huge band did all year! I respect the group for bringing it live each and every night, and doing it damn well, I just don't know if that's for us. I like hanging out at home with my girlfriend and my dogs, listening to records and such.

Snowboy: Who do you have in the line-up?

Singers: Blackwolf, Dan Fernandez, Matt Norburg (who also plays guitar) plus Dan Flynn â Guitar, Andy Noble â Bass, Dave Wake - Organ, Piano, Jeremy Kuzniar â Drums, Jed Grosser â Trumpet, Dave Cusma â Trombone, Cecilio Negron Jr - Congas, Percussion

Snowboy: Recently, have there been any bands in your area prior to KGF doing anything similar? I guess what I mean is: Did KGF form out of the ashes of other bands?

Andy: Tons really. Almost too many to mention.

Snowboy: Are there any off-shoot projects from other members of KGF, or are other musicians working with many other bands? As a full-time Latin Percussionist myself your amazing conguero must be playing Salsa or Latin Jazz too, for example?

Andy: Cecilio's no joke. He plays with loads of personality. He is a full time percussionist, raised into it. His dad and uncle are both accomplished players as well. He and I, plus Dave Wake and Jeremy, have been playing in a Latin group (De La Buena) for 5 years or so. I also play in a group called The Chain - which are a kind of an âafro-psych rockâ group, or as we call it 'Weird Gear'.

Snowboy: In recent times I don't ever remember there being such a buzz on a record in our scene; perhaps not for 10 years since 'Who's The King?' by Joseph Henry on Desco records. How do feel about the red-hot worldwide reaction to your debut 45 'You're The One' / 'One Day'? Both sides are causing chaos for the lucky DJ's that have them here in the UK.

Andy: Flattered, and proud of the guys.

How many did you press?

Andy: 500, no more no less.

Snowboy: It's on 'Mr. C Records'. Who is Mr. C?

Andy: Dave Cusma, the trombone player.

Snowboy: How do you feel about so many copies being sold on e-bay? Personally, if I have to be honest, I think it's not fair on the band or the collectors. Shame on them. It's not like it's an old record.

Andy: Itâs probably my fault, honestly, for pressing a limited number. I could have sold 2000 more copies easily, but you can't put a price on the hype we got over all these people scrambling to get a copy. The next releases won't be limited, and the songs will be on the CD/LP that we're putting together for an early summer release.

Snowboy: What are you doing next?

Andy: Tons more writing and recording for the LP - tentatively titled 'Basement Ballads'.

Snowboy: There must be a lot of pressure now, being as you came out with such a strong debut.

Andy: Ha! Well, that's just the start. The new one is even better!

Snowboy: On finishing Andy, I must just talk about you having your own label too - 'Lotus Land'. Soul fans in the UK are very aware it. Why did you form it?

Andy: My brother and I were hunting all these guys down anyway for copies of the records. We figured we should sign them up and make everybody some money. We now have a deal with Stones Throw records and have been placing a lot of tunes in TV/Film. Six tracks are going on the next Guitar Hero (DJ Hero), including Ramsey and Co âLove Callâ and Jewel 'Paradise'.

Snowboy: Is it strictly a reissues label?

Andy: Yes, we have no plans on doing new stuff. We do all our own things under different names/imprints.

Snowboy: The product is all very heavy duty. The originals are all very, very sought after records. Have you had much trouble tracking the artists down?

Andy: Man, we have had nothing but trouble! It's hard, otherwise these guys would've been found decades ago.

Snowboy: Is your record shop just an internet shop or can the public just walk in? If one can just walk in, what can we expect to find?

Andy: Lotus Land is a store as well. We have tens of thousands of LPs/12s/45s in there. We make most of our money online, but the shop has always had a retail location. A lot of records come in off the streets so it's worth it for us.

This interview is under strict 'B&S copyright only' and is for Blues and Soul readers only - we take theft of copy VERY seriously.
Words SNOWBOY

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