We catch up with frontman Jazzie B ahead of Sandance
A lot of people are surprised you’re back together – how did it all happen? We’ve been doing gigs together for three years now – it’s just now that Dubai decided to give us a call. When you’ve been together for 25 years, you need to relax. We’re a collective energy. It’s nice to get together and we appreciate there’s still an audience over here that’s still interested and gives us some noise after all these years. What’s it like being back onstage after all those years behind the decks DJ? Its peaks and troughs. There are some clubs I really enjoy playing at. I’ve still got a passion for DJing and sometimes I do that after we play and that goes hand-in-hand with the band. I’m very lucky to be in that enviable position. We’re more of a collective and sometimes there’s an audience (for Soul II Soul), but I’m always out there all the time performing.
The scene must have changed a lot since you started. It’s changed so much. Now it’s almost impossible to be a new artist because it’s so segregated. If you’re doing house and you can only play to a house crowd, R&B an R&B crowd, and so on. What new stuff are you listening to? I’m into everything, new acts: Ed Sheeran, Maverick Sabre. I’m lucky to do a radio show so I’m quite exposed to everything.
Any advice for acts trying to make it today? The industry has changed so much, it’s more like them giving me advice. In my days, it was a case of you went round playing live and built up an audience, now it’s all about having a hit on YouTube. We’re living in a world of reality TV and iPhones.
Now you’re back, any chance of a new Soul II Soul record? There’s always a chance, never say never, but at the moment we’re happy to see the audience and the reaction we get. There’s new material there, but we just do it live at the moment. 25 years and we’re still making music – the melodies and songs are classics. That’s the stuff that’s stood the test of time – we called them ‘club classics’ and it has done what it says on the tin.
The one you’ll be remembered for is ‘Back to Life’ – ever get sick of having that round your neck? Maybe 15 years ago I felt that, but now I’m getting a little bit older. Without that song, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We probably wouldn’t be doing a show in Dubai. That song is just a true blessing.
What was it like working with James Brown? I worked on his 79th album and he was the most intimidating person in what’d he accomplished musically – but he was like a brother to me, always giving me advice. He was a wonderful person, a fantastic fellow. I toured with him and we spent a lot of time together. Maybe he comes across as a diva but that’s not how he came across as a person. The late, great James Brown – without him where would music be? Soul II Soul play at Sandance, Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah on Friday April 6, 2pm-2am. Click here for tickets.