The frontman of Faithless returned to the stage at Village Underground on 7th December but it wasn’t an opportunity to turn on the smoke machine and flip on the lasers.
His new project with The E-Type boys is a more personal work which recalls the music of his youth but also shows where he’s at right now. In his own words he spins us the story.
I had a guitar in my house since I was about 17, my mum bought it for me and I used to play a little bluesy lead in a band. Then a few years back, I started taking my guitar on tour, because, you know, you spend a lot of time in your hotel room not doing very much. So, that’s what I started doing, then songs started appearing. Over a period of five years I wrote three songs, then three more arrived the next year, then a couple the following year. So I just got to this point where I had all of these songs. I decided to call my mate Chris who used to be in my old band and he’s a proper musical professor, I thought:
If Chris likes them then there’s probably half a chance they’re half decent
So I played them to him and he really liked them. So I said:
Ok, let’s get a band together
Skip forward eight to ten months and we had a band with a group of mates that I’ve known for a little while, plus the people who I’ve known in bands for 30 years, and they’re really good friends with the younger people, so there’s this instant friendship. We get on really well, we miss each other when we’re not hanging out. There’s that really nice vibe already and it’s just a case of transmitting that good vibe to the room of people that come and watch us play.
The whole thing is almost like going back to your roots. You know, when you first start playing an instrument with other people, generally when you’re at school and you see something in them and you share music, and eventually you pull a band together. Other members of the band, I’ve worked with years and years ago, and the reason why we stay in touch is because they are good mates.
In fact, I can sum it up with a quote from John Lydon. One time I was touring with Faithless, we bumped into him and we were having a cigarette outside the airport in Belgium and he said:
I only ever tour with my mates now
And I said something along the lines of:
That must be great to have a good time…
And he ignored that he said:
They don’t lie to you
It’s really important on the road. You need to know there’s enough love in there to overcome the obstacles that will definitely come up.
INNOCENCE & EXPERIENCE
Here’s the rub, I’m in a band with people who have been doing this for a living for most of their lives. They’ve done big gigs with big bands and all that but there’s a couple of guys in the band who are 27 and 32 and this is their first experience of anything. Even though us guys have been doing it a while, because we’ve got some first timers in the band, you get to see through their eyes.
Sometimes you’ve got a song and you know it’s going to be good but you haven’t quite got it yet. And if even one person in the band doesn’t give a shit or they’re just turning up just for the session then the vibe is completely different from people who might not be getting paid at all but are in love with the music and want, with their whole heart, to make it as good as it can possibly be. And when you have that amount of enthusiasm and love in the room, when it does sound great, when we can just share a look… it’s brand new!
My original idea was to make a guitar album and a hip-hop album at the same time and put them both out together on the same day. But I massively underestimated the amount of work that would take! After a while I realised that I’ve just about managed singing and playing without looking at your guitar neck!
Now… playing and dancing I haven’t managed yet so for the next week or so I’m going to be practicing throwing shapes and trying not to hit a shit chord after I’ve thrown a great shape! This band is all so new for me. At the moment it’s such a good feeling though when you get through a gig and you’ve only made a couple of mistakes – you just feel like a king.
The ‘chunky funk’ description came from me, honestly, somebody asked me:
What kind of music do you play?
and I didn’t really have the answer. She was like:
Well, if you can’t describe then I bet you somewhere down the track someone will describe it for you, and what’s more you won’t like it…
The rock bit is the chunky and the funk obviously involves the reggae basslines and the more soulful stuff. It’s in every single song, they might start somewhere but move to somewhere else then move back to that, as you said:
It’s a collision
ASKING FOR A REMIX
I have no problem with hip remixes and no problem with tapping into producers that would give it a go but the songs came about on my own, then have been reinterpreted with the band. The sound has developed because of the seven or eight people in the band and the amount of energy they put into it. I really want people to hear that.
We turn up at Bush Studios in Shepherd’s Bush and we haven’t seen each other for a week. Then we start playing and the energy is so inspiring. I’ve worked out after being about for a while, that whether it’s in rehearsal or onstage or whilst recording, it’s not about getting it completely right, it’s about flat out enjoying yourself. Because when you’re flat out enjoying yourself with a guitar strapped on, then anyone watching or hearing you will be able to feel that. You can get really caught up in the technical side of writing or playing or recording a song but if you make a mistake and you’re enjoying yourself, everyone else will be too busy smiling and dancing to notice. That’s the vibe that we’re championing here, if you make a mistake whilst you’re having the best time of your life then what the hell.
Most of my songs are written from about 40 percent personal experience and another 40 percent received wisdom and maybe another 20 percent trying to be artistic and putting it in a way that is nice to listen to that isn’t preachy or hectoring. I guess I want to write stories about life, I can only truly write about my life but most of us go through the same things at different times, so anything that you write from your heart most people will be able to identify in some way. That’s the whole plan, I grew up in a generation where your parents didn’t give you any kind of social education other than “speak when you’re spoken to, otherwise shut up” so a lot of my education came from the radio, I mean a lot of how I learnt how to feel was because people were brave enough to sing about it. So I figured when my turn came I thought there was no point me writing any rubbish just try and do the same service for 14-year-olds as people did for me when I was 14.
I remember my mate LSK [who’s in both Faithless and an E-Type Boy] he showed me an interview with DJ Premier and he was being asked what he thought of hip hop at the moment and he said:
there’s a lot of kiddie rap out there but I don’t mind because the kids have got to listen to something. What I don’t like which is when you’ve got cats my age trying to make music for 18 year olds – make music for your own age group.
I’m 58, I’m not even 38 and this is the music that was turning me on when I was 17-18. Plus I’m writing it on guitar, I have no real training on it so I can only play what I like. I don’t really have control over it, so I’m naturally going to go to my own age. With a guitar I’m basically playing the blues, behind the decks I’m able to put on anything but with a guitar it’s a certain vibe I get from it and that’s what comes out.
KEEPING IT REAL
You want to write entertaining songs, you want to write songs that make people laugh or are sexy or whatever… But you do that from the same point of view of absolute truth from my perspective. Everyone’s got their own reality but there is a truth underlying us all, I believe. I’ll always try and come from that perspective. People might disagree, the one thing that will continue from Faithless is that pursuit of putting your view across in a non-threatening and entertaining way but the fact is that there is a different way for people to live.
Maxi Jazz & The E-Type Boys are performing a handful of dates prior to Christmas, check his Facebook page for further info and tickets. More pictures below and on Flickr by Wyatt Dixon. This article is based on an interview with Dan Davies.