Interview with Stuart Wade (Down To The Bone)
Q: How confident are you with the reactions to the new album so far?
Stuart Wade: I'm very happy with the initial reactions, so far. Most people seem to think it is the best album since Manhattan To Staten. I am glad about that as I feel the same, as with this album, I feel I've turned a corner and am more focused in taking the music in the direction I want it to go. I tried not to think about what other people would want it to be and am just doing it for myself. As I am my worst critic, I trust myself to do as best a job as possible. Luckily, so far, Narada are happy to let me do that. I was setting myself up for this album, by doing 'Cellar Funk', which helped to steer me this way. I have to be careful not to do things too radically, all at once, I feel I am going on a musical journey and hopefully, those who really like my stuff and understand what DTTB is about will want to come with me. The most important thing is that I am able to enjoy it as much as I can , as that is then reflected in the music. Without trying to sound too pretentious.
Q: On the Internal Bass releases you did some "additional programming" but never appeared on the list of musicians. Why can't Stuart Wade be heard on DTTB's music as musician playing an instrument that's rather unusual for a band?
Stuart Wade: I think you have to look at what DTTB is. It's mainly a project/production than a full time band. I'm not a musician but really a self taught producer with a lot of ideas which I either relay through others or record on to a Dictaphone for later use. I started this project without knowing how it would turn out, but as I had loads of ideas and was determined to try to make a change, I had to see what would happen. I never really thought it would take off, especially in the US, where my main success has been. I call in session musicians, usually the same guys, as I have grown to trust them and we have established, what I think, is a good working relationship. I then play them my 'hummed' ideas or explain what I want to create, as the idea evolves and they include ideas of their won we may then end up co-writing. When the project started to become more popular I had to look at putting together a live band. Shilts, lead sax player and band leader, helped me to do this. The live band is not made up of the same musicians that I work with in the studio. Mainly because I don't have the budgets to fly a full UK band over to play most of the one off gigs we get in the US, where most of the live work is. We don't do full tours but mainly festival gigs, which are at the weekends.
Q: Please tell me how you met N'Dambi and what was it like to work with her on Angel Baby.
Stuart Wade: The involvement with N'Dambi came about via Malcolm Prangel, at Soul Brother Records, in Putney, London. I have a good relationship with those guys and I knew of N'Dambi as they had put out her stuff on their own record label. Malcolm knew I was thinking of a singer for this album and suggested I use N'Dambi. On a trip to London, N'Dambi was played a few tracks of mine by Malcom and whilst listening to one, in the back of a car, she promptly wrote the vocals for what became, her titled, 'Angel Baby'. I never actually met her, because in this day and age you can send parts via computer, which is what I did. She then sang the vocals in LA, sent them back to me, where I finished the track at my studio in Surrey, England. A little bit impersonal but a very quick way of doing it and one that does not include large travelling costs. Maybe when I can command bigger budgets I will get to meet the guests I include on the albums.
Q: What does a vocalist have to have to become a DTTB voice and with whom would you like to work on future releases?
Stuart Wade: I don't need to ask any singers to change their styles to fit DTTB as I choose them for their own, individual, style any way. The music is usually done first so they sing to the track, which usually, already, determines the style that they should sing in. It would be good to work with Lonnie Liston Smith, or Dave Pike, Melvin Sparks or get Queen Latifa to sing on a track, maybe. I will look at a rap thing at some stage too. Especially as Katisse Buckingham, sax and flute, does a rap to 'Vinyl Junkie' on the live side, which goes down a storm.
Q: On your website you told us some things about the inspiration behind Spread Love Like Wildfire.
"I am constantly fighting to get people , within the business , to understand and believe in what I am trying to achieve with DTTB . I am constantly trying to get the band taken seriously within the format, without people attempting to manipulate or change my sound." you wrote. While DTTB may not be known by the majority of people I think you have a solid fan base. Why don't you take the next step to set up your own label to have totally creative freedom?
Stuart Wade: I had a business partner and we set up our own record label, 'Internal Bass'.Due to that experience I would not be keen to repeat it unless I could find the right person to work with. It turned into a bit of a nightmare and as I could not do it all myself I would need someone as dedicated and fair as myself. There is no way I could do all the music and run the label, with all the headaches involved with that side. I would have a nervous breakdown for sure. It's hard enough dealing with the business side of the music, let alone making it.
There are always pros and cons but at least this way I can, mainly, concentrate on the music, although I always keep a check on the other side, business that is. Most of my frustration comes from having to trust my music in the hands of others and that can be hard if things are not done the way you would prefer. It's impossible for me to just do the music and then walk away once I hand it over to others. I have to know what goes on and that everything possible is being done to give my music the best chance, otherwise what's the point?
Q: Where do you see your growth as a musician when you compare the first DTTB album on Internal Bass with the latest release on Narada Jazz?
Stuart Wade: I'm learning all the time, so am growing all the time too. I now know many more great musicians than I did before so am able to move from what was a very restricted and basic sound to a more diverse and 'full on' project. My ideas are not now restricted to just a few elements. I can work with a more 'live ' sounding form as although most of what you hear is has been heavily programmed, I try to make it as live sounding as possible. I try to give it that harder edged sound of the present club stuff too. I am now in the position where musicians are starting to come to me and ask if they can play on my new stuff, which totally amazes me as I never though I would be in a position like that. It save me having to, dauntingly ask them.
Q: My main point of criticism of Spreading Love Like Wildfire was the covershot. (What else should I criticise when the music's flawless *grin*) For me it just doesn't fit to the high standard your previous albums had set. How could this happen?
Stuart Wade: Ummm, I sort of agree with you, although I obviously am not as critical. I wanted this cover to be totally different to the others. I had an idea for how the cover should look but had a really hard time getting my ideas across to the label. We went round in circles, but to their credit they did try, but we fast ran out of time and in the end I settled on this, which I found and was close to what I was trying to achieve. Graphically it could be better, but I have learnt from this and I will have to sort it all out myself next time. It was difficult as I had worked hard on the album and needed the input of others to help me but we were not on the same wavelength. I think it is striking and does stand out and I was happy enough togo with this cover.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Stuart Wade: From various places, but mainly from my love of Jazz/Funk and groove music. I have this burning desire to try to make a difference and bridge a gap in the music formats, where I can appeal to people, who like myself, just want to hear good grooves with great riffs/melodies. People who just want to have a good time and not take it too seriously. I also want to try to funk the format up a bit and get away from a lot of the smooth/bland stuff that is around. I feel it's time to liven things up a bit. I have been able to reach a far wider audience, in the U.S especially, and if I can open the door a bit for all the other acts, new and old, then I will be achieving part of what drives me. Because there is so much good stuff out there that never gets the recognition that it deserves. I feel I am getting there as a few people have said that after hearing DTTB it was the first time the teenagers and their parents could both share the same music. As the format, as it is, has managed to alienate both audiences and bands. It would be great to go some way to fixing that.
Q: You've said about the new album "I feel I am getting closer to the direction and sound that I have wanted to take the project in since I first started." So you are close to what you want DTTB to sound like but actually you're not quite there. How would the perfect DTTB music sound you're trying to achieve?
Stuart Wade: It would be harder and funkier.I'm trying to make each album funkier than the last. I try very hard to make each track as good as the last so that there are no album fillers. I have favourite tracks from each album and I'd like to do an album where every track is me favourite. Whether that's achievable or not I don't know, but at least it drives me forward.
Q: The visitors of jazz-not-jazz (and me) are always open for suggestions about new artists. Which musicians have impressed you lately?
Stuart Wade: Probably all ones you know but The Rebirth, I am really into at the moment. Also Soul Quality Quartet, Speedometer and The New Mastersounds. All good stuff.
For more infos visit downtothebone.com, narada.com and read my review of Spread Love Like Wildfire.