Interview with Jazzie B of Soul II Soul

An interview with Jazzie B

How has the Soul II Soul website been working out? Are you directly involved with it?

“That’s been up for about three years. No, I’m actually notthat hands-on in terms of information going in and out. We have somebody who specifically looks after that. But its been incredibly active, particularly the merchandising.”

Have you considered using it to sell music on-line?

“Yeah, we have. We’re in the process of talking to I think, who have been looking to develop it into the next stage. That is something we’re seriously considering.”

How do you feel about on-line music distribution?

“Well, as far as I’ve been told, by numerous people, it shouldn’t have too much of an adverse effect. I think it’s a fantastic way to go, as long as all the bits and pieces are ironed out. I think it’s fab. Particularly now, most people are moving in that way in regards to being computer literate. Particularly the younger kids and stuff like that. I’m all for it, actually.”

Do you think it might cause the focus to shift away from albums, since people would be able to buy individual songs?

“‘Yes, but to be honest with you, it’s been the situation of late when you have … I remember going to my local record shop, standing in there for hours. That was part of buying records. Those mom and pop stores don’t exist anymore. You don’t have that rapoire with the person across the counter. You go into the bigger shops now and they don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore. So you’ve lost all that anyway. Most people, when they buy an album, sometimes it is for one particular track. So I think it’s just a great idea. At one of my night clubs actually we have a machine, just as a trial at the moment, which has a whole array of artists. The device is called the Music Pod. It has a monitor, then a Mini Disc recorder, and then it has a whole .. I’m not sure how many titles, but there’s a whole bunch in there. You can download and make your own Mini Disc or even CD. From the clubs, looking at how that’s been going, there’s been a great bunch of interest. So this is something that I believe will catch on. Plus, I’m not sure about America, but compilations seem to be the biggest selling thing anyway here. From a consumers point of view, they’re getting the kinds of songs that they want immediately, as opposed to being in the stores and shopping like that.”

Why re-release “Club Classics Volume One” now?

“I had nothing to do with me, can you believe that? I’m sitting over here in the UK and someone phones up and says ‘hey Jazzie, how about re-releasing yoru old album?’ and at first I was ‘get away, it’s ten years old, my hairs longer and much more grayer, I’ve got five other albums, why the hell couldn’t you release one of them?’ It was really like one of those types of scenarios. It was all their idea, but as a matter of fact it’s been quite interesting getting a response from a lot of people. Particularly people in Europe and the UK who’ve purchased it and re-purchased it, and for some people it’s quite new. Again, we called this album ‘Club Classics’ and it really was about it being a classic. Some of those tracks, you listen to them today and they sound just as fresh as they did when we first put them out. In hindsight, it was a good idea.”

Did you have any input in the selection of bonus songs?

“No, those again were done by Virgin. They made suggestions about doing this that and the other and I was like ‘ah, cool , it’s all good’.”

“Our lingo in this country is completely different from your lingo. I can remember vividly in the 80’s being there, and because we’d called it ‘Club Classics,’ due to that period of time they didn’t want it pigeon holed as a club record. Because in America, you’re very distinct about your categories and your genres. In the early years here, we had only one category, which was music. Now we’ve gone over to the America way of thinking, by having urban charts and dance charts and R&B charts and pop chart and all these other charts. It’s just really confusing. That’s why there was a different title for the album in America.”

What are the pros and cons to having a rotating line-up?

“Well, it’s all that I’ve known, really. We kind of established our own little style, our own little kind of institute, developing acts. Because at the time we started doing it, it was really a new thing. The club music during that period of time just wasn’t given the light of day unless it came out on a major label. It was very difficult for black acts to get across to the major labels as well. So we had our own idea based on what our club and our social life was about. Giving out a hand to another person, etc,etc. Which is why we did it in that kind of way. So the pros and cons of it, it’s all I’ve really understood in terms of helping to launch other people’s careers. And I guess the whole idea about the eclectic magic, what happens when people get together like that.”‘

How do you tend to meet up with the people you collaborate with?

“It’s a combination of both things. Sometimes I could be out in a club doing whatever and people approach me with tapes or ideas. Or I could be in someone else’s environment and hear stuff and make an approach that way.”

Since you had so much success with “Club Classics Volume 1,” did you feel pressure when it came time to follow it up?

“No, not at all. It was never about any of that.”

There’s quite a bit of diversity in your music, even within particular albums. How do you decide which tracks to make singles?

“It’s a combination. During that time we had a great A&R man who was really with me all the time. He translated information into record company language. That was a lot easier to do. But I think it’s usually a combination of me and the A&R person. And of course, different markets choose different stuff.”

Soul II Soul has always been much more than just a band; what’s the current status of your other projects?

“Well now we’re set up both in England and the Caribbean, we have studios in both premises. We have 3 recording studios in London, we still have our merchandise and are still quite active writing and producing different acts. Have a label that is transglobal in regards to the Caribbean and to the UK. We’re currently negotiating distribution for America next year. Because I get all my stuff back next year, so we’ll be re-doing a lot of our bits and pieces there. And then hopefully we’ll have someone who will be able to put out stuff out.”

Have you considered branching out to other types of entertainment?

“Yes, the idea of film and that side of things has come up. But at the moment I’m happy to have my feet on the ground, we’re still pretty active in the club world, my first love, and that’s what I’ve been concentrating on a lot this year. And obviously with the celebration of our tenth year anniversary it’s been really cool. Plus, my studios in the UK have just had their first #1, which is great.”

Dance music evolved so quickly; do you always try to keep up with it?

“Fully. Keeps you young, don’t it? Here I am, right in the pits of it right now. I’ve got a recording studio that people come in and use, you’re at the cutting edge of it all. And at the same time I’m in the clubs most nights of the week, where you’re getting it full-on. ”

So you’ve left Virgin?

“Yes, we have. We’re currently negotiating at the moment so I can’t say too much.”

What was the reason for changing labels?

“Yes, the contract ran out . 10 years later … It ran out 8 years ago!”

Did you feel it was time to move on?

“No doubt, everything has changed so much.”

It’s been a while since you’ve performed in America . Any plans to come back soon?

“I know! I’m desperate to get back there! We’ve been made a few offers, so by the end of the year hopefully we will be back!”

Is it a problem getting everyone together to go on tour?

“No, not really. Most of the nucleus of your organization are always together anyway. The biggest problem we have is just linking up some of the lead singers, but we usually get by.”