Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sananda Maitreya: Meanwhile, on the other side of the world...

Sananda Maitreya
Sananda Maitreya Sananda Maitreya Sananda Maitreya Sananda Maitreya

There are singers who have style, there are singers who have what they call the ‘wow factor’, there are some who have amazing voices and there are a few who command your attention no matter whether they are singing or whether they are not - BUT, there are the chosen few who have all of the above attributes rolled into one, the superstars, all instantly recognisable as soon as their first note drifts skyward…

To say Sananda Francesco Maitreya (we’ll revisit that handle later) has that same unique sound is somewhat of an understatement, but if you are not too familiar with the name, maybe you should try his original moniker of Terence Trent Howard instead? Who was incidentally born in Manhattan, New York, on March 15, 1962…Any nearer? Tip of your tongue maybe…well in that case, then how about Terence Trent D’Arby? Ahhh, touchdown! If you remember TTD, then you’ll remember he produced one of the best albums of the 80’s, or indeed the last 30 years! The name of the album, “Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby” (1987) was hardy mix of rock / rhythm & blues infused and blended with a decent dollop of funk, soul and R&B (Rhythm & Base). D’Arby also danced like he’s broken the mould James Brown had previously set and sang like his life depended on it - a gritty Otis Redding / Jackie Wilson tilt which also wasn’t afraid to hit falsetto at a rate of knots, this won him legions of devoted fans across the globe, who in turn sang along to his tunes while they danced to his beat, household hits included; "Wishing Well" (#1 U.S.), "If You Let Me Stay", (#7 U.K.),"Sign Your Name" (#4 U.S. / #2 U.K.) and“"Dance, Little Sister" ( #2U.K.) The album went on to hit the platinum gong 5 times, with a staggering 1 million copies being sold within the first 3 days of release alone…as album releases unfurled and a Grammy was won, 1998 (Best R&B Performance), the world was indeed his oyster. But instead of global domination, the wheels didn’t exactly come off , but they definitely seemed to wobble…

As follow-up albums, “Neither fish Nor Flesh (A Soundtrack of Love, Faith, Hope & Destruction)” in 1989 and “Symphony or Damn” #4 in the U.K. (1993) didn’t exactly perform to plan, with the latter still delivering top 20 hits: "Delicate” a duet with Des’ree, Do You Love Me Like You Say?" (both #14 U.K. Chart), ”She Kissed Me" and "Let Her Down Easy" (#16 and #18 respectively, also in U.K. charts). The relationship artist and label would degenerate to such an extent by 1995, after the release of the “Vibrator” album (#20 U.K charts) with accompanying world tour, the two soon parted company in a somewhat acrimonious manor. This apparent bad brake-up led the artist to announce 6 years later, on October 4th 2001, that Terence Trent D’Arby had in fact passed away! Citing, “Terence Trent D'Arby was dead... I watched his suffering as he died a noble death.” Then adding, “After intense pain I meditated for a new spirit, a new will, a new identity" and Sananda Maitreya was born.

To truncate the story slightly, Maitreya went on to start / release through his own Treehouse label, eager to return to work with unreleased “Solar Return”, which morphed into album, “Wildcard”. Sixth album “Angels & Vampires - Volume I” came out in 2006 and “Angels & Vampires - Volume II” followed in 2007. In 2009 controversially named “Nigor Mortis: A Critical Mass” was released, with Maitreya explaining the title thus, as "Nigor Mortis" represents the state between rigor mortis and vigor mortis - from the stiffness of a corpse to the vitality of life. 2011 brought the web release of “The Sphinx” and 2013 saw "Return To Zooathalon", released on his birthday, March 15.

These albums released since his departure from the major label would physically move the artist to Europe, first Germany in 2001 and then Italy in 2002, where he resides to this day and where I managed to track him down for a few words on his latest project, "The Rise Of The Zugebrian Time Lords”, a healthy 2CD offering full of well, D’Arbyesque sounds for want of a better description and off the wall lyrics… so no change really you might say, well, unless you talk to Maitreya that is, first of all I ask about the creation of the new album…

“The Rise Of The Zugebrian Time Lords”, which basically came out of the last project we did, called “Return To Zooathalon”,  which pretty much came out of the album before (“The Sphinx”), so those 3 projects form a kind of trilogy…In the sense that is was the start of the mythology that was starting to be created, as I began to see that in the video age that we live in, publishing couldn’t really afford to see itself in the ‘old terms’ - in the old dynamic - it had to catch-up with the age we are now living in.” He adds, “Which is to say that I wasn’t just creating music, what I were trying to also create was something that could be theatre at some point, could be film at some point. I just to basically create something that could go beyond a collection of songs.” Elaborating, “The next songs that we will be presenting in he future has already come out of this - we continue following what’s being created, while it’s being created.  Once you start creating a world, it starts to take on a life of it’s own and you just follow it.”

Maitreya goes on to musical idols, “I think that’s what I was aiming towards, what Jimi Hendrix was doing and what Led Zeppelin was doing was the same thing, they were basically saying, Don’t just look at our ‘look’, listen to where we are coming from. We also beat the hell out of Led Zeppelin because we weren’t willing to except pasty faced white boys from England could play with this level of authority and originality - it was still very cool at the time.” Continues, “Likewise, whatever we were to call Master Hendrix, he was physically a great musician who was trying to basically gain our attention and permission to be no more than that! If he wanted to be as creative as Pablo Picasso one day, or Muddy Waters the next, then he had the space to do that because we understood what he was… he was kinda bigger than what we were trying to call it.”


Life is Tweet!

If your Tweet is 'Favourited' by B&S, you could see your comments added to our print issue @SanandaMaitreya @BluesandSoul

You can read more from our exclusive interview with Sananda Maitreya in our latest issue... including Maitreya's thoughts on the music business he left behind and whether he would ever be tempted to tour again?

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