“I know it sounds very diva-ish but I’ve just been speaking to the director of my music video.” Self-proclaimed ‘Soccer-Mum turned Rocker-Mum’ Stacey Jackson is having a hectic day. In the build up to the recording of the promotional video for her forthcoming single “I Hear A Symphony” lifted from her album Upside Down, Jackson has already had a costume fitting and a somewhat challenging meeting with her video’s director when zap! bang! get a moment to chat to the London based Canadian. “I wanted to find a way that I could include my own kids somehow in the video. And he’s all professional and not a big fan of having kids on board, I was like, “You know what, I want my kids involved somehow, so let’s just figure this out.” I have four children, so two of them are completely written into the script and that’s easy. The other two I am trying to find a way that I can even just have them in the video for a split second. I can’t have two kids and not the other two kids in the video because that’s not fair. We’re busy arguing about that.”
“Our music business is different from being a sportsman. Being a sportsman you peak when you are twentysomething. You are old when you are thirty, I have to laugh at that sometimes. A tennis player can be in his late twenties and they will talk about him as if he is 90, which I find quite sad. Or a footballer who is 29-years-old, well I suppose he only has a year or two left, I think how negative, the poor guy. If the poor guy was to really take that in, he’d probably go and top himself. In our business you can go on until you are, I don’t know.” Billy Ocean may turn 60 in January, but Trinidad’s finest is far from ready to retire. Having taken a break from the music industry to raise his family, Ocean decided to finally return to his passion. “Well, I’m getting accustomed to it again. I’ve been back out there since 2007 and I’m trying to make the most of it. Enjoy myself as much as I can. And the people, you know, they come to see me so I have to be the best that I can. On my best behaviour at all times, so I try to do that.”
“Sorry, I’m just laughing cos you said Zap! Bang! It sounds like a 60s superhero or something!” Ella Montclare is giggling, it is a good start to the interview. Trip-hops latest potential superstar isn’t really a newcomer to music industry. “Being background was really nice for me as it was the safe place to be,. They had all the pressure and I could just go ‘la la la’ behind.” Having spent years as a background for the likes of Babyface, Montclare was never sure about the spotlight. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a front person, I wasn’t sure it was for me. But the turning point was when I did those songs for Steve Baughman in America, basically I came back to UK and put them on MySpace. Then, what happened was I got an incredible reaction. I had all these people writing to me asking about the album. I thought I was making music for myself and my friends and I don’t think without MySpace I would have ever got much further. The major turning point was the reaction. I thought I could make an album and people would buy it. It’s such a positive arena. Now being up front is great, it is a dream come true.”
Alex Davies and Ed Minton first had the idea of forming a band whilst students at Uppingham School in York. Davies had been on course for a career as a concert violinist, when Minton introduced him to the world of rock. The pair set about recording and writing, taking a gap year after finishing at Uppingham School in 2005 to focus on their music. During that year, Davies bumped into his childhood chum Dan Hetherton and invited him and his brother Ed to join the group. Then came Ali Paul, another of Davies’ childhood pals to complete the line-up. Initially performing as The Academy, before changing their name to Elliot Minor, the group built up a fanbase locally and online. In 2006 came a life changing competition win, which saw the group support McFly on tour, leading to a record deal and a hit debut eponymous album. Record company issues followed, with Elliot Minor leaving their Warner Bros. deal. Fans waited with baited breath whilst the quintet got their act together. Finally they can breathe, with the difficult second album Solaris finally on shelves. zap! bang! grabbed a few moments with lead singer Alex Davies to find out what really went on.
In 2007, Ryan Idzi thought he had the X Factor. Reaching Boot Camp, he was an early favourite. However, when he forgot his words, his dream was shattered. Heartbroken, Idzi returned to his day job in the British Army. However, it wasn’t long till he got an unexpected letter that would set his singing dreams in motion once again. Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi was about to embark on a new mission. Teaming up with Sergeant Major Gary Chilton and Sergeant Richie Maddocks, they were to form the singing trio The Soldiers. Little did they know that their project would launch them to stardom. Debut album Coming Home has already reached number four in the album charts, while the trio have performed in front of the Queen. Idzi took a few moments out of his hectic schedule to tell zap! bang! all about it.
Ingrid Michaelson is the latest indie queen. Following in a long line of American singer/songwriters, Michaelson’s talent and sheer determination finally paid off when her 2007 album Girls and Boys sold over 400,000 copies on her label Cabin 24 Records. The album’s success was prompted by the hit single “The Way I Am”, which benefited from Old Navy placing it in a commercial. “The Way I Am” went on to sell 1.5 million copies, whilst her song “Keep Breathing” was used in 2007’s season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Having already visited the UK to support Jason Mraz on tour, Ingrid Michaelson has just released her fourth album Everybody as her UK debut. zap! bang! grabbed a few moments with Michaelson to talk about being the latest indie star.
Fans of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing may not know the name Hayley Sanderson, but they will be sure to recognise her silky smooth vocals. Peterborough-born Sanderson’s profile was raised after her haunting rendition of “Moon River” during the 2008 series. Sanderson, who has been a regular vocalist at Ronnie Scott’s and can be heard both as a singer and saxophonist in Pink Floyd tribute band Think Floyd, has finally been offered the chance to record her own record. Her vintage reworkings of timeless classics can be heard on debut album Just Songs. With 2009’s Strictly Come Dancing drawing to a close and an album to talk about, zap! bang! grabbed a few moments with Sanderson to see who she is backing.
Formed in 1992, Walthamstow boys Tony Mortimer, Brian Harvey, John Hendy and Terry Coldwell reached worldwide fame as East 17. Launched at a time when the boyband was prevalent, East 17 were the grittier alternative to nice boys Take That. All went well for five years as the quarter achieved hit after hit — from “Deep” their Gabrielle duet “If You Ever” via Christmas Number One “Stay Another Day”, however things turned sour when in 1997 singer Brian Harvey claimed Ecstasy “can make you a better person”. Harvey saw himself sacked and soon after songwriter Tony Mortimer parted with Hendy and Coldwell due to creative differences. All of a year later, Hendy and Coldwell invited Harvey back into the fold and they relaunched themselves as the trio E-17 with somewhat limited success. Mortimer, till now, has refused to rejoin his former band mates. However, having been asked by Born Free to join Bryan Adams, Peter Andre, Mutya Buena and Gabriella Cilmi in the line-up for their Wild & Live concert on November 14th, Mortimer decided that instead of launching his new solo material he would treat fans to much awaited reunion. zap! bang! jumped at the chance to find out more from Tony Mortimer.
“I suppose in the beginning we kind of expected to be successful otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. No, I don’t think we’d have thought that in thirty years time we’d being doing this, so I don’t think we even imagined it really. So the length of our careers is a little bit of a surprise.” UB40 are one of the most successful British bands ever. Formed in 1978 by a non-musical group of Birmingham school friends, their first instrument was bought with compensation money former lead singer Ali Campbell received shortly after his 17th birthday. Spotted by Chrissie Hynde, the group were offered a supporting slot on The Pretenders tour. 70 million album sales later, UB40 are still going strong with two albums set for release and an impending UK tour, zap! bang! managed to grab a quick chat with drummer James Brown.
Sannie Carlson may not be a name you all recognise. Sannie had studied music before becoming a successful model. A chance meeting with producer Larry Pignagnoli transformed the 23-year-old Dane’s life forever. He decided to rename the pretty blonde Whigfield and launched her with the song Saturday Night in 1993. The song became a phenomenon, with Whigfield become the first non-UK or US act to debut at number one in the UK Top 40. Far from a one-hit-wonder, Whigfield has notched up an impressive five albums with Sannie balancing her work as a performer with songwriting. zap! bang! jumped at the chance to speak to the 90s icon about then and now.
Singer/Songwriter Daniel Hart saw his group Love Revue’s popularity jump when they won the Samsung £400 ‘Share’ Campaign with “Soothe My Soul”. The London-based performers suddenly saw themselves launched into the realms of national radio. Undeterred, they set about recording and releasing their debut album Love Revue — a 70s inspired radio friendly collection — and have teamed up with Swedish songstress Therese and the BBC introduced The Fuel for their UK tour. zap! bang! grabbed a few moments with Daniel Hart to find out more…
Roman Odette is no stranger music. The Italian singer/songwriter started playing piano aged five, was a soprano soloist at nine, went to jazz school at 15, joined a rock band at 16 then a girlband at 19. The girlband, Jungle Gardenia, got signed but never released a record. Her first solo attempts also failed to see the light of day – big names were interested but never delivered on promises. Disillusioned, Odette did a Masters in New York and become an MTV Executive. But the business side of the music business didn’t light her flame. Motherhood bought her time out and Odette got back into writing and recording. zap! bang! took to chance to find if the independent Odette can make it third time lucky…
“I don’t drink it all the time, just a couple a day. It lasts in your body quite a long time.” Charlie Winston arrives at the interview dressed in his eccentric English Gentleman garb, complete with the ever-present Trilby with what appears to be a double shot espresso. Before the interview starts, Charlie assures me that coffee isn’t his way through touring. “Caffeine withdraws on your adrenaline system. Sleep and water, well oxygen, what they do is recharge the system, so if you don’t have enough sleep or enough oxygen in your body then your body can’t produce adrenaline that the coffee instigates. so that’s why sometimes when you drink coffee when you are tired it just makes you more tired.”
With the coffee talk (and the coffee) drawn to a close, Charlie relaxes in his seat and takes a breather from his busy touring schedule. Charlie is not the new overnight sensation, he has been touring for several years – be that as a solo artist or simply playing bass for his already popular brother Tom Baxter (both Tom and Charlie use their middle names as stage surnames — their real surname is Gleave).
Newcastle quartet Little Comets started making waves as the trio Freerunner. Formed of brothers Mickey and Robert, alongside their equally musical mates Matt and Mark, Little Comets are about to land all over the UK. Not only can the dynamic troupe be found supporting both Hockey and The Noisettes on tour, but also the lads are prone to impromptu one-off performances anywhere and everywhere. zap! bang! took a moment to speak to lead singer and guitarist Robert Coles about “Adultery” and guerrilla gigging.
The internet has proved itself time and again to be the new place to be seen and heard. From Esmee Denters to the Arctic Monkeys, it seems that everyone is doing it. Classic boyband Blake are no exception; having been formed through Facebook, the quartet became an overnight sensation back in 2007 with debut album Blake storming to the top of the classical charts. Three years later, Blake have parted ways with Universal and changed line-up via Twitter. zap! bang! spoke to bass-baritone Stephen Bowman about their first independent release Together.
Sondre Lerche may not be a known name in the UK, but the 27-year-old Norwegian singer/songwriter has more than proved his worth on a global scale: 2002’s Faces Down even made the Rolling Stones Top 50 Albums of 2002 list! Now that the chirpy chappy has conquered the States, he is wanting to try his luck on this side of the pond. Bringing with him his guitar, Lerche is ready to unleash Heartbeat Radio (album number six) on the British public. zap! bang! grabbed a few minutes to find out what took him so long.
The world of the television advert and the chart hit have often collided in the past. With the likes of The Noisettes, The Bellamy Brothers, Chairlift and even Babylon Zoo having already reaped their reward (i.e. the top 10 hits), Canadian trio ‘Jon and Roy’ jumped at the chance when VW asked to feature their sleeper hit “Another Noon’ in their new advert. Having released debut album Sittin’ Back (as a duo)in 2005, the boys took a break for solo outings before joining forced with additional member Ryan Tonnelli for new album Another Noon.__zap! bang! grabbed a moment with vocalist/guitarist Jon Middleton to find out about Canada’s newest exports.
Late July saw HMV make a groundbreaking step forward in the world of the music retailer. Having paid interest in the multi-national The Boxer Rebellion, they retailer stepped forward to help with promotional and production costs of the groups much-awaited second album Union. Having been signed way back in 2003, after a sensational reception at Glastonbury, The Boxer Rebellion have had a rocky ride in the business that is show. However, the band’s sheer determination has seen them through and Union is the fruit of four years hard work. HMV clearly think the product was well worth the wait, but now it is time to see if the public agree. zap! bang! took a moment to talk to lead singer, guitarist and keyboard played Nathan Nicholson about the long and winding road that has lead to such a monumental collaboration.
The sun is shining gloriously, perhaps summer has finally arrived. It’s making me smile as I make the call to the “Queen of Do-it-yourself” Imogen Heap. First attempt, the line is busy, so I try again. Thankfully this time I get through. She is bright and friendly, much lovelier than I had expected. After no messing around, we do only have 20 minutes to conduct the whole interview; we shimmy past the formalities and strike up a conversation about life, success and dreams. “I think the secret is that it attracts people who want to do music for a living. I don’t think there was anywhere else in England at the time that did that sort of thing. I went in it’s second year and it was still very much trying to find its feet. Its partly funded by the music industry, the BMI and so there is this sort of knowledge that it is where people go if they want to do well. They are well connected.” Heap is one of the Brit School’s earlier success stories. Having gone at a time when there were few alternatives, she thrived on being able to live out her musical ambitions. It doesn’t take much thinking time before she reveals a liking for “Amy Winehouse. She really feels the music. I hope God willing she will be able to keep going for a long time. The Brit school gets its fair share of celebrity wannabes, but you can tell that she really feels the music.”
26 year old South London rapper Speech Debelle may not have had the easiest of upbringings, but she has not let that hold her back. Instead of bottling up her issues, Speech decided instead to hook up with some musicians and write some frankly honest tunes. Debut album Speech Therapy may be one of the surprise nominations at this year’s Mercurys but upon listening to the softly spoken heartfelt revelations, it is immediately evident how she warranted selection. Speech may not be a name everyone knows at the moment, but current evidence suggests she deserves to be. zap! bang! decided to take a few minutes to find out more about the girl whose name everyone will soon be dropping.
Cross-breeding is fairly common place at the start of a bands life. Therefore it is not a surprise then to hear that the latest Glaswegian indie kids Twin Atlantic have all been heard in different bands before. Formed in 2007, lead vocalist/guitarist Sam McTrusty (Arca Felix), bassist/pianist Ross McNae (LongStoryShort), guitarist/cellist Barry McKenna (Think:Fire) and drummer Craig Kneale (In Ernest), the foursome appear to have made a wise decision in ditching their formative bands. Twin Atlantic appear all set to follow in fellow Glaswegian rockers footsteps by hitting the bigtime. Having already supported the likes of The Subways, Biffy Clyro, You Me At Six, Funeral for a Friend and Lostprophets it seems that 2009 will see them finally having their moment in the spotlight. John Travis (Sugar Ray, Kid Rosck, Static X) produced debut mini-album Vivarium is all set for a September release, with the eye-wellingly beautiful “Lightspeed” and stomping lead single “You’re Turning Into John Wayne” already winning over many a heart. zap! bang! took a moment to find out more from Ross McNae.
“I’m a big big girl, in a big big world”, those were the lyrics to Emilia’s lullaby that took the world by storm a decade ago. Now, a young Israeli girl named Yarden hopes to do the same. Her songs however carry a message; it is not that she believes her songs alone will change the world, but maybe they will do a little to help.
Having only formed in 2007, Ivyrise have already garnered plenty of attention for their breed of stadium pop/rock. 2008 was by anyones standards a phenomenal success. Not only did debut single “Tips” launch them into the public sphere, it also sparked interest from the “white boy with a feather in his hair” and former Run-DMC remixer Jason Nevins. Nevins ended up remixing their second single “Disguise”, helping it reach number two in the independent charts. If praise from the likes of Kevin Spacey was not enough, Ivryrise topped it all off by winning themselves a support slot on the Bon Jovi “Lost Highway” tour. Having entered a competition in the London Paper, they proved to be run away winners. However, post the highs came the lows. Lead singer Ben Falinski kindly took a moment to tell zap! bang! all about what it was that drove him to write about his sense of loss on fortchoming single “1000 Feet”.
When I spoke to him Eric Mendelsohn had only just woken up. It had been a busy time for the TV/TV guitarist. Currently one of the acts on the world famous Warped Tour, Mendelsohn and his band mates are on the brink of the big-time, having become mainstay soundtrack artists for MTV shows including “The Real World” and “The Hills”. TV/TV formed all of three years ago in a small apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. Good mates Josh Ocean (vocals/guitar) and Matt Walczak (bass) used to jam together and eventually decided to get together with some other friends to form the band. They named themselves in tribute to the Berkeley Film group who saw art as a medium to rebel and worked with producers Zach Odom and Kenneth Mount on their 2007 debut EP Something To Get Excited About. The EP set tongues wagging, but Ocean and Walczak felt that the line-up wasn’t working, so they rounded up their mate Camillie Oliver (drums) who knew Mendelsohn from the New Jersey music scene. Since the new line-up came around they have worked with pop producer Bleu McAuley (Boys Like Girls, Jonas Brothers) on the more mature follow-up Not Enough Red.
“I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do musically and I eventually learned that teachers are just the same as me, just older.” Attending the prestigious New York music college Juilliard was an eye opening experience for the extremely talented musician Christina Courtin. “They’re not exactly any more ‘right’ about anything musically than myself.” Her teachers saw her potential, but did not necessarily know how to nurture her talent. Having sung and played violin from a young age, Courtin was torn as to what she really wanted. “I did go to college for violin, but I was still singing in my dorm room at night.” Though she loved playing the violin, singing provided a magical feeling that she was hooked on. “It’s true that I did quit singing upon entering Juilliard, but I soon found myself totally depressed and distant because of it. Once I started singing in public again, things immediately became so much clearer and better for me. I guess I realised that without singing and/or making creative music, my life isn’t really worth diddly-squat.” Thankfully for us and for herself, Courtin did land on her feet after nearly tumbling at an unsettling situation.