Archives for posts with tag: 80’s

Background3 - My Life on TVAll the Singing, none of the Stinging!
Conrad De Souza explains his new musical project: Macrowasp

Tarantino Panda catches up with Conrad De Souza (who has previously talked to us about the art of songwriting and home recording) to find out what is behind his new album ‘Byte Size Matters’ and his intriguingly titled virtual band ‘Macrowasp’.

So where did Macrowasp come from?

“These names and ideas spring from the weirdest places! My wife Yessica has never been a fan of flying stinging insects and one day, in her native Spanish, she loudly christened a particularly large and terrifying creature that was troubling her round the swimming pool, as a ‘Macrowasp’.

I carefully stored the name at the back of my mind, thinking it was a great name for a band or project. I recall us sitting in a pub in one of my favourite towns, Bath sometime later in around 2009 and over a large glass of red wine telling her how I had big plans for the name!”

What exactly is the concept?

“When I first started thinking about Macrowasp, I had grandiose plans to make an album of my own songs, but differently to my previous outings. I toyed with inviting numerous friends and musicians I had worked with in the past to contribute to the songs. In effect Macrowasp could be a musicians’ collective rather than a band or specific group of people. Unfortunately, I didn’t really think through the practicalities of such an endeavour. Much of my love of recording comes from having a studio at home that I can crawl into at a moment’s notice whenever I have time and slap some tracks down in my pajamas if the mood takes me. Involving a raft of friends and fellow musicians, although exciting, means a good deal of planning, rehearsing and some loss in the spontaneity (and after all, they probably wouldn’t want to see me in my pajamas!).

As a result of this and over time, Macrowasp morphed into something else more akin to what Damon Albarn did with Gorillaz or Paul McCartney did with ‘The Fireman’. It became a vehicle for me to freely explore a direction that I may not have pursued as vigorously on a typical ‘Conrad De Souza’ album. In essence Macrowasp is very much a musical alter ego.”

Psychiatrist ThumbnailSo what direction did Macrowasp take you in?

“On my albums to date there have always been at least one or two tracks that sit more firmly in the ‘Electro-Pop’ bracket than my staple British Guitar Pop. Although bands like the Beatles were my initial and biggest inspiration and the guitar is my instrument of choice, my formative teen years were submerged in glorious and colourful electronic 80’s pop and in many ways that has had a major influence on my perception of a cracking pop tune.

I decided that through Macrowasp, I would surrender to that 80’s influence and combine it with my current style of songwriting and arrangement using the plethora of studio tools available to me in a 21st century home studio.

Songs are at the heart of all my projects and irrespective of musical style, the words and melodies are the most important thing. The new album will be accompanied by a handful of lyric videos including this one called ‘My Life on TV’, which I hope will help listeners delve into the lyrics a little further and let the story stimulate the imagination.”

What else can we expect from the new album ‘Byte Size Matters’?

“As the title suggests ‘Byte Size’ is a direct reference to the increased electronic ingredients on the album. That said, you will still hear some funky guitar and what I hope you will find both infectious and catchy tunes with intriguing lyrics and a satisfying groove! IMacrowasp album cover 2 - CD Baby Proof have aimed at creating an unpretentious, (possibly guilty!), pleasure that listeners will enjoy and want to listen to again. Many of the tunes are new, but I deliberately hand picked a few that I actually wrote back in the 80’s, when I would have been directly influenced by the sound and culture of the time, in order to give the album a little more authenticity and depth. There is an album sampler on You Tube for anyone that wants a quick tour of how it sounds. I just hope that people ‘get it’ and enjoy the fun vibe and tongue-in-cheek nature of some of the songs”

Are we likely to hear more from Macrowasp in future or is it a one-off?

“It’s hard to say at this point. I suppose it’s like asking Daniel Craig if he’ll do another Bond movie when he’s just finished the last one! I feel like I’ve come to the end of the chapter and its time to move on to the next project.

Back2 - Monday Morning MiracleI already have over half the songs planned for my next ‘Conrad De Souza’ album and those are by no means ‘Macrowasp tunes’. I expect I will veer away from the electronic to a more raw and acoustic sound on my next release. It’s good to keep things fresh.

I think the reality is that Macrowasp will return, but only when I have a song or songs that I feel fit that concept and production style. I can’t imagine another whole Macrowasp album for quite some time, but if this one finds an audience, I’d like to think the black and yellow buzzy thing will release the odd single from time to time!”

Byte Size Matters, the new album from Conrad De Souza & Macrowasp was released on 8th April 2016 and is available to download or stream from most online music providers including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, CDBaby and Spotify.

The Panda is definitely buzzing!

TP

Advertisements

nile-rodgers-daft-punk TP 15As I drove home a few weeks ago on a Sunday evening, I turned on the radio and was greeted by Xfm, which is our usual UK station of choice. The DJ was enthusiastically talking about the new single from Daft Punk called ‘Get Lucky’. It has since been a massive number one hit in the UK, as has the album ‘Random Access Memories’ from which it hails. I am by no means a huge Daft Punk fan although I do have a penchant for electro-pop. As the song blasted out of my car radio, something in my musical soul let out a cheer of delight. I LOVED this track.

The song played on and as musicians do, I analysed it in my head, breaking it down to its component parts. It was certainly retro in sound and feel, but I knew the moment I isolated it, that it was the supremely funky, chopping, rhythm guitar that had me hooked. It came as absolutely no surprise to me that as the track came to an end and DJ continued to heap praise upon it, that she mentioned it was a collaboration with Nile Rodgers.

nile rodgers daft punk 2

All Guitarists have stories of how they came to learn and develop their talents on the instrument and who inspired them. It may be different now and the initial urge to play may come from repeated computer gaming on  Guitar Hero. However, most Guitarists have influences, that may have encouraged them to play in the first place, or even inspired them to play better when they had reached a certain level of competence. There are names that repeatedly emerge from our lips as guitar heroes. Clapton, Hendrix, Townsend, Van Halen, Slash, we all have our favourites. We tend to focus on soloists and lead players who can make guitars sing, but the reality is there are so many other aspects to playing guitar and so many diverse influences out there.

When pushed as a teen I would probably have held up Eric Clapton as my Guitar Hero, but the truth is that players like George Harrison, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Johnny Marr of the Smiths and yes…Nile Rodgers, probably had as much, if not more, of an impact by their versatility on the instrument. My ability to be a guitar “all-rounder” whether in bands or in the recording studio is very likely due to my acknowledgement of these more subtle heroes of ‘the axe’.

I had obsessed over toy guitars since early childhood and despite having got my hands on a real one a couple of years earlier, did not actually start to learn properly until age 11. In the couple of years leading up to this point – what was I listening to? I had a burgeoning obsession with the Beatles, but I was also surrounded by 1978’s music of the time. At the age of 10 I was hardly into Punk, but the charts were full of Disco blaring through the radio or on BBC TV’s ‘Top of the Pops’.

nile rodgers - best discoDigging through my old vinyl collection, you will find a slightly battered compilation album called ‘The Best Disco Album In The World”. It contains some of the most remembered tracks of 1978 and Nile Rodgers (although I wouldn’t have had a clue who he was back then) is all over them. Mostly he appears with his own band ‘Chic’, but is a prominent feature on Sister Sledge’s tracks, which he co-produced. At that time he could probably have produced any act on the Atlantic record label that he wanted.

The album opens through the crackly play-in groove with ‘Le Freak’, which is arguable Chic’s most famous track. Even as I listen today it’s that same style of guitar from Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ that hauls me into the groove – although the phenomenal bass-line from Bernard Edwards doesn’t hurt! I was taking notice of those contagious rhythmic strums long before I explored the exquisite blues riffs of Eric Clapton.

It’s not as if the influence ended at that point. I have always held the belief that around the age of 14 is where the impact of music is at its peak on an individual. I was absurdly focused on the pop charts at that age as were most of my peers, but with the added factor that music and the guitar were quickly becoming a major and lasting part of my life. I was of course broadening my influences and listening to music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but as with all young people, the music of the time holds a particular and indelible place in your heart. From being a chart star himself in the 70’s, Nile Rodgers went on to produce, play on and mix records for other major artists of the day. His stamp was on much of the soundtrack of my life back then and throughout the 80’s.

nile-rodgers-collaborate - TP15Over the decade where I grew to adulthood, learned to write songs, formed my first band, met my first girlfriend and moved away from home, tunes were playing in the background such as: ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie, ‘The Reflex’ by Duran Duran, ‘Like a Virgin’ by Madonna and ‘Love Shack’ by the B52s to mention just a few. It’s not until much later I learned the true scale of Nile Rodger’s body of work and just how much of this amazing portfolio had seeped into my musical subconscious.

So I assert, a guitarist does not become a hero through the length of his solo alone! I thank you Mr Rodgers for the inspiration you gave me to slot some funky guitar into a groove filled song whenever I can. I also thank Daft Punk for recognising that a new electro-pop album that seeks to blend retro with modern could only ever be accomplished by inviting Nile Rodgers to join you at the mixing desk.

In closing, if there is anyone reading this under the age of thirty who has not been able to shift ‘Get Lucky’ from their heads during the last month or so, I urge you to click onto iTunes or the download store of your choice and look up the album ‘C’est Chic’. Give yourself a treat and download it. Don’t cherry pick tracks, spurge on the whole album, then edge up the bass on your EQ and click play.

I dare you not to groove!

TP

These musings are the result of three separate experiences over the last few days that coalesced this morning on my way to work.

Firstly, at the tail end of a bottle of wine last Friday night, I was watching highlights from an old BBC TV music show called ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’. Closing the show was a great piece of footage of early 80’s ska band ‘The Specials’ playing ‘Too Much Too Young’. I recalled that they spearheaded a number of bands, who at the time, dragged themselves from the swamps of bleak UK recession and unemployment to become ferociously popular with the youth of the time.

Secondly, whilst driving through the evening streets of my town a few days ago in search of a mid-week Chinese take-away, I couldn’t help but notice the aftermath of the last few years of recession reflected in the closed shops and eateries.

The above experiences came together this morning as my iPod shuffled its musical goodies on my way into Liverpool Street tube station and furnished me with ‘Ghost Town’ by none other than The Specials.

I listened intently to the melancholy but wonderful track as the band bemoaned the state of the country by focusing on the impossibility of a young person finding a job and the fact that in their Ghost Town ‘all the clubs have been closed down’. It struck me that this soundtrack was probably being played out across many urban areas in recession-bound western countries today.

My town isn’t large. It has two or three supermarkets and a railway station, but doesn’t qualify population-wise for a cinema or even a McDonalds! It sits neatly in-between two of the larger towns and cities in the county which as such, host most of the regional amenities anyone would want. Accordingly, it has always had a sleepy town centre. However in recent years, the sleepiness has drifted into an almost comatose state, with once popular pubs closing their doors and shops drawing their shutters for the last time. The remaining retail skeleton of charity shops, cheap take aways and betting shops will hardly put us on the map for the ‘Saturday afternooners’ in search of retail therapy! I do sometimes wonder what the number of betting shops per capita in our town is when compared to the national average and marvel at how they apparently thrive during the deepest recessions. The fact that every second commercial on the TV is for an online gambling site has not bypassed me either. In these grey days, perhaps people need the distraction and perhaps the smallest glimmer of hope that a big gambling win will change their fortunes is enough to get them through the week?

This picture is likely replicated across the country, but the thought that dawned upon me this morning was – where are ‘The Specials’ of today’s generation?

Part of the national memory of those dreary economic times of the early eighties is enshrined in songs of that era. Young people formed bands because other than standing in unemployment queues they had nothing better to do. They wrote songs to express their anger and disappoint with their lives and with the government that they felt had betrayed them. I hear no such outcry today. Has mainstream popular music changed so much that the ‘X factor’ culture has subdued one of the driving forces of pop music as youth culture? Do the young music buying public of this decade now just view music as a neatly packaged commodity to provide a quick and passing injection of entertainment? Does pop music no longer have the ability to be the virtual ‘call to arms’ that it once was – thousands of teenagers scraping together their pocket money or unemployment benefits to make a song ‘number one’ because it represented their deep rooted feelings of the time. If songs like ‘Ghost Town’ gave a voice to the disaffected youth of the early eighties and haunted the government of the time by permeating subversively through our transistor radios and TV sets, then who is delivering the message now? I am straining my ears, but I can’t hear a thing!

Sadly, with no modern day equivalent of ‘Ghost Town’, I very much doubt that David Cameron and George Osborne will be stirred into action from their seats in Downing Street by the strains of  PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ – terrifying though that may be to the rest of us!

TP

%d bloggers like this: