Cantaloop is out now, can you tell me a bit about the single?
Well itís been about 10 years since the original came out and I just thought it would be interesting to update. The idea was to melt it down a bit and give it an urban slant. Obviously this versionís sample free Ė itís a reinterpretation and thatís why I wanted to do it.
I chose that one to reinterpret basically because that was the biggest one to do. I did think about doing some of the others but I didnít want to get in to the situation of redoing the whole of the first album and Cantaloop was just the obvious one to redo.
The videos brilliant Ė whose idea was that and are you pleased with the way itís turned out?
Iím putting this out myself so I havenít got a big marketing budget and never really intended having a video at all. It actually came about because I was searching the internet with my two year old daughter and we were looking on the Tellytubbies website and we both got a bit bored with that so I just typed in cartoons.com and followed a few links and found a website for Naoki, the guy who did the video.
Heíd done some music videos before and his CV was on the site. It said he was an investment banker in Tokyo and was now living in LA doing some painting and animated videos. I thought that he must have heard Cantaloop when it first came out because LA and Tokyo were two of the biggest cities that it kicked off in ten years ago. I emailed him on the off chance and he emailed me straight back saying he was a big fan and heíd bought the first album. He said it had really made his day and heíd really love to do it.
It took him eight weeks to do and he did me a favour and did it really cheap which was really nice of him. I think itís fantastic heís done a great job.
And your new album Ďquestionsí is out on Sept 27th, are you excited about it
Yeah definitely. The album actually came out in Japan last year but itís good to get something released here. This is my fourth album in 11 years which isnít a high turnover of albums. This is because Iíve had a lot of grief with record companies in the past so itís really nice to go out and do it on my own. Itís a bit scary but Iím enjoying organising it at the moment and Iím definitely going to do another album next year.
So the sampling is out and the new albumís got more of a Latin feel, is Ďquestionsí a big leap away from previous releases?
I donít think so. Obviously the first album had a lot of samples on, the second one was less reliant on samples and by the third one Iíd left Bluenote so there were no Bluenote samples on there and only about a third of the tracks had samples on. So I think itís been a logical progression really.
The majors have made it very difficult to clear samples now and what they actually charge is phenomenal compared with ten years ago so thatís another reason not to do it. Also, I didnít have a band when I started and demand to see Us3 live meant that a band kind of grew out of what was a studio based project really so all of a sudden I had all of these brilliant live musicians and it seemed a shame to be working with samples. People are kind of coming through the band first now and then Iím pulling them into the studio.
How fun was it working with Reggi Wyns and Mpho Skeef? Did it make the recording process more enjoyable for you?
Yeah definitely. Itís quite weird when youíve got a whole bunch of backing tracks and you donít know whatís going to go on top of it. I never force people into being on a track they donít want to be on, itís a question of playing them a track and seeing what sparks them off really. Reggiís actually a phenomenal freestyler so itís quite difficult to get him to stop sometimes. In the studio quite often Iíd put something on and heíd just be off straight away but he doesnít stop, itís quite a funny way of working. He doesnít really write things down, he just raps straight off the top of his head so quite often we had to just record him rapping and then sit down afterwards and really write it out. Heís a real character.
The album launch nights will be held at the Jazz Cafť on September 29th and 30th, what have you got planned for those?
Thereís actually going to be a nine piece band. Iíve had pretty much the same personnel in the band for about 3 or 4 years now. Iíve got the A team - a lot of the guys who played on the album: Ed Jones on Saxophone, the trumpet player Chris Store, the keyboard player Mike Gorman, all of whom played a lot on the album and theyíre in the bandÖ and Paulie as well, DJ First Rate heís called, he used to be in a group called the Scratch Perverts who won the DMC best DJ thing a few years ago, heís a phenomenal DJ. So it should be a good night. We havenít played at the Jazz Cafť since Ď97, the last time we played in London was at the Forum so itís going to be quite interesting to play there. Plus the fact that I used to work there before all this started so itíll be really like going home or something!
Us3ís been around for a massive 12 years now, whatís been the highlight of that time for you?
I sort of really subscribe to that theory that lifeís a journey not a destination kind of thing and the whole thing has been interesting. Itís had ups and downs but I really like the travelling and going to different places. Weíve been all around the world several times now. I like Japan especially; itís just culturally very different. Weíve been there eight times now and weíre just negotiating to go back in January, fingers crossed.
Is it hard to keep things fresh?
Not really. The thing thatís been difficult for me has been getting things released because of all the politics in the major labels that Iíve been signed to so now Iíve got a massive backlog of tracks.
Jazz is becoming more and more mainstream at the moment with the success of the likes of Jamie Cullum, what are your thoughts on this?
I donít know if a lot of jazz musicians would describe what Jamie Cullum and Katie Mellua do as jazz really. Thereíll always be a commercial end of the market and thereíll always be the opposite end as well. But I think anything thatís a success, that helps get jazz over the image of being an old mans music or something, I mean thatís something that we were very much fighting against to start with but thatís been raised to an extent nowÖI think jazz has regained itís cool now really, can form a point of entry for people. If people use Jamie Cullum or Katie Mellua as a point of entry into jazz then find other vocalists and other musicians and spread out their knowledge then that can only be a good thing. Thereís room for everything and everybody.
Youíve had your fair share of problems with the business side of the industry; did you ever feel like giving up? What made you keep going?
It has done several times in the past yeah but now this feels like Iím finally taking control of my own destiny so itís very much a fresh start for me I think, doing it this way. Iím really excited and itís nice that Iím in control of every move that I make at the moment, no oneís making any decisions for me which is exciting and scary at the same time.
What would you say has been the secret of your success?
Iíve no idea! Iíve had ups and downs in my career, I donít think anyone has constant success and thatís something I try not to analyse. If I knew how to have a big massive hit single Iíd do it every time but I donít think anyone knows. Youíve really got to be in the right place at the right time and try to capture the mood of what people are into. Thereís a lot of different factors that go into something being successful but I think that thatís the beauty of the industry, that you never really now whether or not somethingís going to catch fire.
How do you see the future for Us3?
Hopefully a European tour next year, Japan and another Japanese tour early next year. The second single is going to be ĎBelieve in Yourselfí which is on the album so weíll get some remixes done for that and then the new album, Iím not going to wait another three years this time!
This review was conducted outside of Room Thirteen and has been reproduced in its original form with permission from Us3.
Cantaloop is out now, can you tell me a bit about the single?