Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Down To The Bone: Different Class

Down To The Bone
Down To The Bone Stuart Wade (Down To The Bone)

Well it’s not just jazzy, and it’s not frankly funky, but Down To The Bone’s new album 'The Main Ingredients' is damn good stuff! Programmer, engineer and producer Stuart Wade spoke with Blues & Soul’s "sweet boy" Ricardito about what went into creating the new masterpiece album, modern technology aiding music and the best way to get people to leave the queue for bathroom.

B&S: Firstly tell us about the new album; what inspired it?
SW: I guess it’s an amalgamation of everything I have learnt over the past eight albums; I feel that with each album I am learning that bit more. With this particular album I specifically pulled on everything I learned over the past eight [albums] from the very beginning with ‘From Manhattan to Staten’ where a lot of it was programmed as I didn’t know as many of the live musicians as I know now. So it’s much more of an incorporated sound, whereby I am able to use much more live [musicians] and mix in some loops and samples. These days I am able to replace a lot of the programmed stuff with live musicianship; it’s staying more truer to the live musicians who have played on it. There’s a bit more soul in it as well, and I tried to be a little bit more diverse with the tracks that are on the album as well.

B&S: You have worked with a variety of famous singers in the past. How do you choose who works on the album?
SW: Primarily I try to go for singers that can contribute a lot more than just their voice, so if they can write the song on top of the music that has been done then that is a big factor in whom I choose. Partly because I have tried writing vocal tracks in the past, and for me it’s very difficult, so I try to stick to what I feel I know best which is the music and the grooves, and then I will send the tracks off to them and they will write their vocal on top of it. I have always thought that my music would lend itself to being vocalised, but in the early stages I didn’t know as many musicians as I do now. Now I am an established act I feel I am in a position where I can contact these artists and they are more willing to sing because of the profile and history behind the band. For example working with Flora Purim was amazing. I am always slightly daunted approaching an artist with a huge history and who is famous in their own right; there’s always a slight apprehension of if they will do it or even know who I am. Working with Flora was great, and pretty easy because my lawyer in America represents her as well, so I was able to hook up with her in that sense.

B&S: Has the growth of technology has helped or hindered you?
SW: For me the growth in technology in the studio has really helped me as I am not a musician. Without a computer and loop samples I would find it a lot more difficult to be able to do the music or be able to come up with ideas on my own. Or have a musician come in do his part leave, and I go through and cut it up on the computer and use the best bits and create riffs. Technology is vastly advantageous to me in the studio; it has helped me so much.

B&S: Have you had all your artists in the studio to record?
SW: I would love to be able to do that one day, but in order to do that I would need to have all the music prepared before hand and then get them all into the studio. I would still need the technology get me to the stage where I can present the track to them to play in the studio. To do a full live set in a studio would be pretty amazing to do, but budgets just don’t allow for it these days.

B&S: Talking about money, would you describe yourself at this stage as a struggling artist or comfortable?
SW: I would say between the two. These days it’s very difficult to a) find a record label that exists, and b) one that will pay you an advance. Luckily I had money left from a previous advance from a previous record label, so I was able to channel that money into this album. Realistically I did this album without being on a record label, and did it off my back and then presented it to the labels. It’s a nightmare juggling the budgets, and you have to be very careful that you don’t go over the top. I wasn’t able to have musician guests that I usually have like Roy Ayers and Brian Auger this time around; I couldn’t afford that. Luckily I was able to work with Imaani, and because she was able to co-write some of the tracks there is a share in it for her. Moving on from that there is no budget to then do re-mixes to send out to DJ’s and clubs etc. So it’s working on a string tight budget, but then paying the musicians enough for them to do it; so you have to have an understanding. Some musicians still haven’t figured it out that in this day and age you have to be able to compromise in one way or another, as they can’t demand the same fees that they used to three or four years ago.

B&S: You had had a number of label changes, and different labels representing you in different places. How do you keep that altogether in your head?
SW: (Laughs) Its very difficult, in this day and age artists are having to take on more of the work themselves that would have been handled by the record labels; so yeah you have to have much more a business head on. Trying to do the music and the business side at the same time is a bit of a nightmare. But I have always believed that if you can to get a label to represent you in the territory that the record is being released then that’s your best option, because they are the people that will work on it the best. So with this album once it was finished I wasn’t keen to let one label have it for the world, so I have one label in USA and Canada which is Trippin n’ Rhythm, another label for Japan which is P-Vine, and Dome Records for UK, Europe and Australia.

B&S: Has there been a different experience of working with these labels as opposed to previous larger labels like Verve and Blue Note?
SW: Yes it was fantastic being on Verve and Blue Note who are based in America, but it was also frustrating at the same time as a lot of those labels are great for America and increasing my profile there, it didn’t do much for my profile outside the America. They tend to see other countries not as important to work as America. I think the most important thing is to find a label where the people are enthusiastic and willing to push your product, in a lot of the bigger labels I was a small act in a big pond. I struggled to get my opinion across, and influence how I felt things should go for promotion for previous albums. Being on Dome [records] they have an enthusiasm for the album that I haven’t experienced in a few years.

B&S: Forget what critics say and the industry pigeon hole; how would you describe Down To The Bone?
SW: I keep coming back to this one phrase, I think its “good groove”; that is the title I would give this type of music. Strictly speaking its jazz-funk, but I’m going more towards good groove as its not strictly jazz and its not strictly funk, its got an amalgamation of the music I like. It’s difficult to put it in a pigeon hole which has caused some problems in the America as they love their formats and pigeon holes.

B&S: Tell me where the titles of your songs come from, as some of them are very amusing like 'Spiderlegs', 'Cosmic Fuzz', 'Latin Sagebush' or 'Cooking With Gas'.
SW: (Laughs) well…(laughs) if I think of a title I write it down on a piece of paper, and I have this long list of these different names I keep. Then when the album is practically finished and I can hear what is happening with the tracks, I sit through each track and read through the list of names, and whichever name fits the track that is what it’s called. I am always weary of titling a track before its done, because then the title will dictate how that track should be. Also I am also afraid of titling something and it isn’t for example calling it ‘The Funky Groove’ then when you are listening to it isn’t funky at all (laughs).

B&S: So tell the truth, as producer have you at times had diva tantrums with your musicians?
SW: I am not sure temper tantrums…although one person did say I should film myself putting an album together and stick it on youtube so we could see the process, but that probably wouldn’t be a good idea because I would have to mute out the sound because of too much swearing (laughs). So its more of a frustration, as I realise at the end of the day if something isn’t working you change it. Because I am not a musician I am able to step back, look at the track as a whole and see what is not working and either change it or get rid of it; take an objective view…I think (laughs).

The final three:
Three songs that you wish you had written-
‘Inner City Blues’ by Marvin Gaye… (laughs) crikey my mind has gone absolutely blank…oh no…(laughs) ‘Black Gold Of The Sun’ by Rotary Connection, and 'California Soul’ by Marlena Shaw.

Three songs you hear that take you back to your childhood-
(Laughs) Oh no I wasn’t that musically intelligent when I was a child (laughs) ‘The Bus Stop’ by Fat Back Band, ‘Boogie Nights’ by Heatwave, and Monster Mash by Borris “Bobby” Pickett (laughs), well its either that or ‘Scooby-Doo’ (laughs).

Three songs to get you buckwild on the dancefloor-
‘Get To This’- Leroy Hutson. There’s a story to this, I was at soul weekender in Bournemouth and there was a massive line of people waiting to go the loo, and when this track came on everybody left the queue and went on dancefloor to dance to this one track; it was quite funny to experience.

Dear reader please note that Stuart cheated and confessed he was busy going through his record collection to give us track names at this point.

SW: I guess anything by James Brown…wait, I’m gonna have to look for it…’Don’t Tell It ‘ and ‘Give Me Your Love’ by Sisters Love.

Down to the Bone's new album 'The Main Ingredients' is out now on Dome Records.
Words Richard 'Ricardito' Ashie

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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