Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mr Bailiff! Del Camino and 1EYE. 2 bands, one set of musos.

This post is about two bands with the same core personnel. They’re absolute killer musicians, by the way. On the one hand they operate as Del Camino, who bang out top notch Salsa; and on the other, they’re reggaemeisters 1EYE. And they’ve got an interesting take on where reggae is going. 

1EYE. Excellent moody attitude at the Custard Factory car park, guys
There are those who hold that Reggae is done and dusted. That it was all over and done with by the end of the 80s. But they’re quite wrong. Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that Reggae is now global. It's not just made in Jamaica. And Birmingham is, more than ever, a powerhouse for reggae, with a string of fine third and fourth generation bands flying the flag. 

For example, Xova, who are going from strength to strength. Or the fluid and infinite permutations of Robin Giorno’s Friendly Fire Band. Or brilliant ska groovers such as 360 and Tempting Rosie. And the fine work coming out of Elephant House. There are others too.

Now there’s a brand new video from 1EYE, after the jump, which is absolutely delicious… You owe it to yourself to watch.

I love it. Meticulous work, perfectly researched, spot-on period detail all wrapped around a brilliantly infectious song.

So, looking at the local scene, 1EYE are right up there with the best of them. But, as has been said on this blog many a time, simply being great at what you do is not going to keep you even remotely comfortable. I met up with Andreja Sapic (call him Andy Sax, nobody gets the name right. It’s Serbian, since you ask). Andy’s yet another graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, a session muso, a jazzer and a lot more: a veteran of the local scene. On a freezing afternoon close to the 1EYE/Del Camino studios in the Jewellery Quarter, Andy spelled it out

It’s hard to make a living as a musician solely relying on live performance – that is, playing with other musicians. It’s really tough. Unless you’re playing in the upper echelons of pop, which I've done... but it can be a cut-throat thing. 
So who did you play with?
Plan B, in 2010. And that opened up my eyes to a lot of things about the current scene.
Hang on, that’s one hell of a credit, playing with Plan B…
And he found me in Birmingham!
Andy covers a lot of ground. Two bands, solo work, jazz, tutition, playing to dj mixes fro brands like Hed Kandi and Moneypennys. 

How many guys do that in Birmingham?
        A few… but I was one of two sax guys in the early days. I was the original Hed Kandi resident sax player at Bamboo in Chinatown. I played every Saturday for over two years before Mark Doyle left the brand.
How well does that pay?
It’s not amazing, but it’s decent. You can survive.
So let’s talk about this split personality music thing you’re doing with your bands...? 
As a bunch of musicians – the core is me on sax, my brother Alek who’s the lead singer, Hugh who drums with 1EYE and plays standing up with a kick-drum, timbales set and a percussion rack with Del Camino…Sam Rogers who is also a saxophonist – we are the brass section – two saxophones, which is unorthodox. Me Sam, Alec and Hugh are the four originals…
Who came together in…?
1997. It was Salsa we started with. And it’s developed from there. All the other roles – bass, keys, percussion have been filled by a range of great musicians (Magoo, Joelle Barker, Richard Sealey,  Soweto Kinch, Steve Tromans, Paul Timothy, Dave Storer), and we’ve had Venezuelan, Cuban and Colombian musicians.
1EYE - Trouble In The Streets

So what I can’t quite get my head around is that you are – very obviously – killer musicians. But you’re still a relatively well-kept secret.  
Well, the Salsa was the original inspiration. We were really interested in the full-on Cuban Son, the Mambo, the originals. We were so in love with the music that we weren’t thinking about the money! But we were playing a lot of good places. At one point we were performing four nights a week, and just about surviving. But then the agents who booked us couldn't find us enough work – times were changing, and the economics of a ten, twelve piece band.. With a salsa band, the bare minimum you can get away with is a seven piece. And that’s what we are now. 
So then we thought we’d try something fresh, which is where 1EYE started, in 2007. We had a big love of reggae and jazz along with our Latin influences, and we put it all into one melting pot. The first 1EYE album was a mix of different genres. We had the same rapport, and we all wanted to do something different to strict salsa. 
If there is a limited market in the UK, there’s still a huuuuge global market…?
But we’re looking at the global market for reggae now.
Much bigger. West Coast and East Coast of the USA. Europe, Latin America, and they’re very big on UK acts. Some of the best Reggae producers in the world are based on the West Coast. And some of the biggest festivals are in Eastern Europe, places like Poland. We’re talking about gigs like Rototom Sunsplash in Italy, Ostroda in Poland, Banatska Noc in the Czech Republic. I was recently taking to a Serbian magazine that we interested in how an Anglo Serb – my parents are Serbian – could wind up playing for Plan B. They love him too.
Eastern Europe still LOVES Marley. In Novi Sad, where they run the Exit Festival, which I’m working on getting us to, they’ve got a massive statue of Marley. If you listen to some of the music from the likes of the Destroyers, who I played with for a while, you can hear similarities. The offbeat Skank…that can be translated in any number of ways.  And locally, we’d  love to play Reggae City and Mostly Jazz.
Interestingly, one of the critical reactions to 1EYE, following recent support gigs with Jimmy Cliff, took the band down a peg for being too ‘traditional’. But it’s equally interesting to note exactly how 1EYE are mapping out their approach. While they record live, they are underpinned by a well-thought out midi structure… and that allows for a huge number of variations, remixes and treatments – which is the kind of thing they just might be well-placed to exploit.

1EYE - Worries and Trouble

  So while all that's going on with 1EYE, you’re not writing off Del Camino?
Not at all. The next album might well be a bit of fusion between the two. And of course, you’ve got Reggaeton as a musical style.
What are the next steps?
Solidifying the sound where we’re all 100% comfortable. For a lot of stuff for TV and for film, it’s important that your music is midi-tight. I realised that working with Plan B.  If TV or Video wants to put the recorded version to the live images, that lets you do that. Plan B will run stems for a live performance, where nine times out of ten you’re going to be playing what’s on the original track, strictly as it is. It’s what you do, you replicate what everyone knows from the radio as well as you can. 
How do you feel about that?.
An interesting experience. It is an art form – you tuck yourself in the arrangement successfully, where you’re there enough but not too much, and the style you’re playing fits for that track. It requires skills from musicians other from what they’re usually used to. 
But we won’t be doing that. We want to use this to want to experiment with samples, work on the sound, work on the band’s stage presence. 
So this is music driven from the gut… but doesn’t using a click track rip the passion and spontaneity out of things? Does that not limit the possibility of the band cutting loose live?
Not really. The way each track is set, it can extend and loop. If we’ve got a jam on the go, which has happened a number of times, we can accommodate that. With our material, its not likely that the tempo will speed up or get any slower – unless we wrote that into the set. Tell me about that great video
Shot in Dawlish Road in Selly Park! It took us two days to shoot, but we put in a lot of time ahead of the shoot, story boarding, arranging the props, and setting up some old cars and period detail in the house. Me and my brother were the stylists for the shoot.
And the album?
9 out of 12 tracks are full recorded, three of them are polished, the remaining need a bit of sorting. As with all our material Mr Bailiff was recorded live. It’s been tightened and polished, but all the sounds went down live in our studio. No samples at all.
We’re looking at Spotlight, round the corner from The Custard Factory, opposite Air. It’s a small door, but you go in and it’s a massive space. We’re going to do some stuff at the Jamhouse… and Mostly and Reggae City would be just great…And for next year, we’re researching major reggae artists who are touring the UK next year, with a view to playing support on a national tour. Maybe with even a fee, not just expenses!  

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