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DJ interview











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 approval.

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 new ideas.

What do you have planned for the rest of your day/evening or tomorrow?

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 current one.

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 ( 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 it?

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 myself!

Who and what instruments will be in the Us3 band when you are touring?

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!!!!!!

Thank you too! - Geoff


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