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’I wouldn‘t care if they never sell another copy of that album.’ says Honky‘s Matt Ellis bitterly. revealingjust how badly wrong he thinks the first age of the band's development went. ‘It represents where we were maybe a year ago. showing a combination of our naivety and calculation.’
The band were snapped up by ZTI‘ Records eighteen months ago. Their demo tape had been carefully written to appeal to the commercial tastes of A&R men. ‘We tried to give them what they wanted to hear.‘ he explains. ‘There‘s no point having high principles if the audience never hears your stuff.‘ Once in. though. the band found they were stuck fast in their assumed role. Their poly-ethnic. Daisy Age rap with a TV-tastic real band format and a sussed PC stance was all contrived to achieve success. They undeniably got attention: Melody Maker called Honky Britain‘s finest rap band and Sky dubbed their album the best British rap album yet.
Ellis claims ZTT tried to pressure them into doing things they didn‘t want to. Being slotted as a support act for East 17 and having their work remixed by house 015 are two that stick in their minds.
Further similar ideas left the band frustrated and angry. When they eventually refused to go along with the label. they were warned they would be dropped, which was exactly what they wanted. They left ZTI‘. dumped the drummer. bassist and female singer and set to work with a tighter team. This was centred on Ellis‘s studio talents and rapper Kye‘s lyricism. backed by another two rappers.
Ellis promises that the new Honky is a lot more vocally in-your-face than before. and that the overtly commercial sound will be gone. ’The thing about rap. though.’ he says. ‘is the less commercial it sounds. the more it sells.‘
More calculated moves? Surely not. (Rory Weller) Honky play Glasgow School of Art on Fri 2.
me- Boss brass
Trumpeter Colin Steele takes to the road again this issue as a member of saxophonist Russell Cowieson’s excellent quintet. Steele first emerged to notice on the Scottish jazz scene as a member of the inaugural Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra, but it was with the John Rae Collective that he really began to stand out as an important contributor to that scene.
That seminal outfit has been the seed of a spate of developments involving its various members, but Steele has not yet taken the step of putting together his own project. Like John Rae, he has chosen to spend a significant part of his time abroad since the band went into abeyance, re-emerging at regular intervals to play with a number of the emerging younger leaders here, notably Cowieson, but also the likes of Tom Bancroft and Suzanne Bonnar.
His early dependence on the example of Freddie Hubbard, the great bop trumpet man who has recently had to give up playing due to problems with his lip, has receded over the years as Steele has both developed his own particular views on the bop-based music which he plays, and extended
the scope of that material.
Cowieson recognises his importance in the context of the quintet. Steele is the only player on this tour who also made the last one, and Russell acknowledges that the band ‘would not be the same without Colin. It’s not just the way he plays — it has a lot to do with the way we exchange ideas and talk about music off the stage as well. We have a lot in common in the way we approach the music, especially in terms of harmonic ideas, and that feeds into what we do on stage.’ (Kenny Mathieson) The Russell Cowieson Quintet play six dates around Scotland. See Jazz listings for details.
‘It’s like llemel llempstead,’ he muses. ‘I don’t think your readers will recognise that reference, but it’s an awful place. There’s hardly any music goes on there, it’s all offices.’ This is flick Lowe, explaining why he never relocated to llashville when he was married to country star Carlene Carter. After all, you’d think a singer- songwriter so steeped in Americana would be right at home there.
Nashville’s loss, though, is Brentford’s gain, and it’s from his Essex eyrie that Lowe concocted his countryish new album ‘The Impossible Blrrl’. A long way from the poppy singles that made his name in this country, it should be investigated by those who were struck by the Johnny Cash rendition of Lowe’s ‘The Beast In Me’.
‘I think it’s as good as my first album,’ laughs Lowe. ‘You know how everyone says the first album’s always the best and it goes steadily downhill from that? I think this album is mature, it’s a middle-aged man’s
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w record. I don’t think youngsters are going to like it.’
This is the main thing he seems to want to stress about ‘The Impossible Bird’: that he’s putting away childish things. (And that’s right, he did say ‘youngsters’.) All of which talk gives rise to the morbid question of whether he regards his songs as parts of himself that will live on long after their creator. . .
‘I suppose everyone wants to leave some mark behind. People will be playing “Cruel To Be Kind” and “I Love The Sound Of Breaking Class” before they’ll be playing anything off “The Impossible Bird”. Occasionally, they might play “The Beast In Me”. That’d be nice, to be remembered for that. But I’m not planning on it just yet. I don’t think I’ve reached any great plateau or great triumph, I think I’m just starting to get the hang of it.’ (Alastair Mabbott) flick Lowe plays The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on Sun 4.
mam] Mr Anderson’s ﬁne tunes
3W3" Wm" Yes. it may well be an excellent fruit and veg shop on the Great Western Road. but Roots And Fruits is also the label attached to the current concert series being promoted in Edinburgh and Glasgow by the Chamber Group of Scodand.
With the sort of enlightened programming which is now a hallmark of this ensemble. Roots And Fruits ‘traces the roots of contemporary composers and the fruits of their creativity'. So far. Lyell Cresswell has been the focus ofthe ﬁrst programme and in December the Group looks at the teacher/pupil lineage of Bryan Anderson. the Scottish composer who died ten years ago at the age of 27 in a climbing accident on Ben Nevis. Born in Glasgow, Anderson studied under the father figure of Scottish contemporary music. Thomas Wilson. at Glasgow University where. according to Alasdair Pettinger of the Scottish Music Information Centre. ‘He became interested in electronic music and went on to study at the Institute of Technology in Massachussets. After that he did a post-grad degree, an M Phil, at Sussex University.’ At Sussex. he studied with Jonathan Harvey, whose Piano Trio forms part of the Chamber Group’s programme.
‘We’ve actually got the portfolio Bryan Anderson submitted for his M Phil.‘ says Pettingcr. ‘He was a copyist as well as a composer and had a very good hand. His music is very mathematical. based on formulae and it‘s really amazing to read his detailed analysis of his own work.‘ At the time of his death, SMIC published an obituary with the words of Jonathan Harvey — ‘He was one of the best students l‘ve had and l entrusted him with helping me in copying my own works. deciphering my pencil sketches. i felt he understood my music. He was intelligent and penetrating.‘ (Carol Main)
The Chamber Group of Scotland perform the String Quartet by Bryan Anderson on I 2 December. Queen 's Hall. Edinburgh and I 3 December at the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow. both preceded by masterclasses with Jonathan Harvey. Full details from Chamber Group of Scotland on 04 I
42 The List 2-15 December 1994