Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Tortured Soul: SOULED OUT


"It’s a manic, magical, musical express train mystery tour," answers Tortured Soul main man John-Christian Urich when asked to sum up life in one of clubland’s most revered and respected soulful dance bands. "It’s wonderful and horrible all at the same time," he adds, jokingly, for good measure.

Or is he joking? It’s perhaps an inevitable question but the name Tortured Soul must mean something right?: "The phrase was in one of our early songs and it sounded kinda deep and clever, because of the music we’re all about," Urich explains. "But, no, there was, and is, more to it than that. The three of us are close, but we’re all crazy workaholics and perfectionists, and that does create dissatisfaction, disagreement and the occasional need to get away from it all."

Bassist JKriv (Jason Kriveloff) and keyboardist Ethan White finalise the Tortured Soul line-up, with Urich taking on vocals, percussion and the lion’s share of songwriting. Touring and recording together for the past five years, the trio has earned itself a phenomenal reputation as one of the world’s top live house music groups, not to mention a truck load of big name admirers thanks to club hits such as I Might Do Something Wrong. The gig’s clearly a good one, but not without its drawbacks.

"The touring is pretty relentless and you never quite catch up the jet-lag; it’s not always fun being cooped up in hotels either, with little or no time to check out the amazing places you’re playing in,’ Urich reflects. ‘But we wouldn’t change our careers for the world. The wonderful bits make you forget the horrible ones."

JKriv agrees, despite confessing exhaustion. Tortured Soul’s phone conference with Blues & Soul is literally hours before a gig at Camden’s Jazz Café that follows shows in Dublin and precedes engagements in Europe, South Africa and across the States. The performances, like the touring schedule itself, offer no gap or pause – just a distinctive, high octane live segue-way from song to song. ‘There are times we’re moaning about being under-rested,’ he suggests, ‘and you’re missing friends and family like mad. But Christian’s right, this is a great job all in all; we’re real fortunate.’

2009 should come as major reassurance to that claim. The touring schedule has, in truth, been a little lighter this year, allowing the band time to chill out as well as complete a rather immaculate new album, 'Did You Miss Me', whose early glowing reviews would surely make anyone think a career in music worth it. The shows Tortured Soul have committed to in recent months have also gone down well – the Jazz Café will sell-out later tonight, it transpires, and draw sparkling reviews. In fact, some of the boys’ best ever.

'Did You Miss Me' follows 2006’s impressive debut album Introducing… The title makes cheeky reference to the long wait fans have had for new material but also reflects said material’s interest in the theme of journey.

‘Touring firmly aside, we feel like we’ve been on a journey in the studio these past couple of years,’ Ethan confirms. "We’re continually hard on ourselves but this is an album we finished and felt happy about – it’s a true progression from the debut. We’ve got tighter; we’ve learnt new things… picked up new influences."

The record bears that out. Opening track and recent single release, 'Home To You', offers some neat 60s soul licks, while We Like Tequila works itself up into an intoxicating Latin swirl, and At The Bottom bounces with 80s electro phatness. This is before we get anywhere near Tortured Soul’s trademark house sound, which is there in the form of songs like In My Fantasy and See You More but sounding more complete and emotive than ever.

‘The album is unified’ Urich agrees. "It’s more soulful flow than collection of edits, which was the case last time round. It’s been a long creative path but we’ve finally made it." And now, off the back of exceptionally positive feedback and reviews, the band is planning a new single release and possible summer UK tour.

"There’s a few contenders for the single; it could be the title track 'Did You Miss Me', Ethan teases. ‘Mark De Clive-Lowe is on to a remix for us, and we’re also chatting to Scott Wozniak, Dimitri From Paris and DJ Spinna about tracks."

And the shows? "Yeah, there’s a good chance of a return to the UK, where else is there so much energy and enthusiasm from the crowd? (JKriv laughs). But, no, tonight’s show is kinda clashing with the Southport Weekender and we know some fans will have been torn. If we come back this summer we can hopefully play to everyone and introduce the new songs to new people. The rest of the year is shaping up nicely.

That means more than it did last year, when global recession was only just rumbling onto the horizon. These days, much of the music industry is feeling the pinch in one way or another. ‘We have friends that are suffering, for sure’ Urich concludes. ‘Music is a double-edged sword right now. The digital revolution has created a much bigger pool of experimentation; there are a lot of new people stepping into the game and making a name for themselves but that just ups the pressure on everyone to try and stand out."

He adds: "There’s also the pressure of making a living – more people are circulating and digesting music online, but it’s not always as financially rewarding. I’m just happy people continue to dig our stuff. They provide the momentum for us to do bigger and better things, and that’s a good place to be."

See? Being a Tortured Soul isn’t all that bad….

Tortured Soul’s new album Did You Miss Me is out now on TSTC/Dome UK Records. A new single is due out this July.

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