interview by Jennifer Warner, intro
by Kris Upjohn
While the hip-hop element of Us3 is capable
and catchy (but not always heavyhitting) the hooky jazz infusion
and soulful R&B atmospherics make for a joyous and listenable
fusion. On the duo's latest album, "Say What?!" afull-bodied
and perky blend of flavors flows with some tasty grooves, to be
sure. Though it is on the poppier side of the jazz realm, it does
texture its gloss with a little headiness here and there. The keys
and jazz horns and jazz guitars mingle well with the lushness of
the rhythm-and-blues elements and touches of funk work well, too.
The hip-hop adds an urban personality to the affair. Us3 strike
a pretty strong balance between the jazz, R&B and rap and present
it in a mode that's sure to find its way into modern dance floor
So who are Us3? Who is on their latest album? And how would they
describe their music to someone who's been frozen for the past 50
years? We asked Us3's Geoff to find out!
Hi Geoff! Let's set the mood, since this is an email interview... where are you sitting right now and are you doing the typing of the answers?
I'm sitting in my office at home in front of my shiny new iMac, typing away...
What were you doing right before this?
I had a bite to eat while watching TV after putting my 5 year old
daughter to bed. I've been in my studio alone today working on some
What do you have planned for the rest of your day/evening
Sleep! Tomorrow I've got to talk to my booking agent & tour manager
about our European tour dates for September/October. The logistics
of getting 12 people from Lanzarote in the Canary Isles to Koktebel
in Ukraine are giving them both a headache judging from the amount
of email traffic...
What keeps you living in London?
There's a great buzz about this city that I really haven't found anywhere else (apart from Tokyo). From a musical point of view London is the biggest cultural melting pot on the planet.
Tell me about how you first met Akil Dasan and Gaston, and
why you wanted to work with them on both your last album and your
I met them both through a guy called Rocky who runs the freestyle nights at the Nu Yorican Poets Café in NY. The first time I went there was about 11 or 12 years ago, I like it there. I think they've both got different styles, yet they compliment each other. After getting to know them both more when we were touring the Schizophonic album last year I knew I had to record them both again, with both of them in the studio at the same time. They've got a great rapport with each other.
Who is Adeline and what does she bring to the table? How did
you find her?
Adeline is a 21 year old French R&B singer. I met her through Akil,
who had performed with her in NY. When I decided to keep Akil &
Gaston in for Say What!? I knew I had to also throw something
new in the mix too! It's true that there's been a more gritty jazzy
funk influence in some R&B recently (Amerie, Christina, Beyonce,
etc) & I knew if I found the right voice I could put my own twist
on that... And then I found her!
Who are some of the other musicians you work with on Say What!?
Saxophonist Ed Jones is the only musician that's played on every
Us3 album. Ed & trumpeter Chris Storr arranged the horns, both have
played with the band for a long time and are great friends. I featured
a variety of keyboard players; Mike Gorman (who also plays with
the band), John Crawford (who is a fantastic latin player), Barry
Green (a hot up-and-coming guy in London) and 23 year old Ross Stanley
(who also plays with Nostalgia 77). DJ First Rate did the turntable
trickery (another long standing band member) and double bass duties
were performed by Phil Donkin (the hottest young guy in town here).
Where did you get the title to your latest album?
It started out as a jokey working title for the track "Say
You Belong To Me" - the music industry is full of people talking
loud & sayin nothing, but I prefer to just get on with it. Life
is a journey, not a destination (as my mum used to say).
What kind of software and hardware did you use while recording?
I use Performer to program & write in, I've been using this for years & find it very user friendly. Then I transfer the song via midifile into Logic & record the vocals & live instruments. Some of it is mixed within Logic as I go along. The album was mixed at the Hospital studios in central London (www.thehospital.co.uk). I actually still use my trusty old Roland 770 sampler too! I've built up a huge library of sounds over the years. Aaaaah!
Anything significantly different or new from prior recordings?
I'll let you be the judge of that! All I try and do with each album
is make it better than the previous one...
If you were talking about the kind of music you make to someone
who'd been frozen for the past 50 years, how would you describe
Man I hate trying to describe my own stuff! I'd probably just play
it to them & let them decide. Once the music is commercially released
I kind of let go of it, everyone has their own interpretation and
I‚m happy with that.
Why are you now releasing your music independently? Advantages/disadvantages?
I've just released my 3rd album independently in the last 3 years.
Prior to that I released 3 albums in 10 years when I was signed
to a major... Read between the lines... The main advantage is that
I'm in control of my own destiny, I can do what I like when I like
without having someone "advising" me. The downside is
that I don't have the financial muscle to mount a properly effective
worldwide marketing campaign. It's been a huge learning curve actually
and, although it can be frustrating at times, I'm actually enjoying
Who and what instruments will be in the Us3 band when you
Ed Jones (sax), Chris Storr (trumpet), Mike Gorman (keys), Chris
Dodd (double bass), DJ First Rate (turntables), myself (beats),
plus Akil, Gaston & Adeline (vocals).
What's the most fun/best thing about doing what you do?
I'm a studio animal really, that's where I really get my kicks. I like bringing an idea to fruition, from the initial spark through the studio to the final release.
Anything else you'd like to say?
I'd love to bring the full live show to the US...
Thank you too! - Geoff