Exclusive Interview with UK Soul band Personal Life
E2E music feature writer Matthew Daniel interviews Robert Strauss MD of new music group Personal Life.
Personal Life released ‘Morning Light’ a debut album from these newly collaborating musicians. Drawing influences from Joe Sample, Leon Ware, Charles Bradley and many other artists from the jazz, soul and funk era. Check out what Robert Strauss had to say about his new musical adventure.
Hello, how are you?
Hey, nice to meet you. How are you doing?
Good, lets get to the interview. I haven’t heard a UK album like that before. ‘Morning Light’ is your new album. How did Personal Life come together?
It originates from a live music event called Jazz: Refreshed. It’s a weekly event in West London and it features some incredible musicians. I came across a few of the players there, the drummer and they keyboard player. Who were most notably well known for touring with lots of well-known people but more importantly the keyboard player is a solo artist in his own right. We just connected and wanted to work together. I met Stuart through a musical connection, really it comes from me, Personal Life was about my ambition was rewind back to a period of music that I love. I guess it is old school in the fact that it’s not what’s happening today but as far as what I think of as progressive I think a lot of music from that era is a lot more progressive than so called modern music today.
That’s what I mostly listen to really so I can completely get that…
Well, yeah, without being political or pointing fingers the reality it’s just what I was listening to. I don’t know if you know anything at all about my background. I looked a little bit at yours and I see your doing the music production, which I think is great. Originally when I was in my teens, I was coming from a classical/Rock background. I was very much surrounded in a rural environment. I was surrounded by records by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeplin, that kind of scene. In my mid 20’s/early 20’s I got into electronic music, moved to a big City and started to make success as a producer. Fast forward to however many years, I ended up living in the UK, my connection to the music culture I think developed through my curiosity in terms of wanting to open myself to new things and through failure and through success I’ve come to this place in my own creativity where I have found success in doing things that your not supposed to do. I’ve tried doing things where I feel like I’m more of what people expect me to do, which is modern music. To me it just didn’t work, I found success on my last album, which is out on a label called BBE Music was just went off on my own fantasy. Going off in my own world musically, still connecting to what’s happening on the outside world but more importantly I think just following and taking that risk. Being a true artist, taking that risk of failing, failing meaning maybe people wouldn’t like it or maybe people would like it and inevitably that’s going to happen anyway. I think I’ve just learnt to not about what scenes or peers are doing and just do what I love and that takes courage, experience and confidence.
Why did you go with Tokyo Dawn Records of all labels?
That’s an interesting story our albums out on Expansion Records as well. Expansion is a classic soul and jazz label, the first release was in 1986, they’ve worked with all kinds of people from Don Blackman to Leon Ware to Leroy Hutson. I mean, the list goes on and on. All of those classics from the 60’s and 70’s, they have a lot of new material coming from those goes so a lot of what they do is re-issues so there hay day would have been the Acid Jazz era. It was just great for us to be able to reach two very different audiences, which has been a completely positive experience for all of us. It’s really interesting because I’ve never been in a situation like this before, you know I’m 38 now and I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid, working most of my adult life I’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had two completely different fan bases. This classic soul fan base, which is the Expansion Records thing so guy’s in there 50’s and 60’s and beyond but mostly I think the demographic is 45 plus. This music ticks their box this is still what we listen to but it’s new. Then we’ve got the Tokyo Dawn guys interested just through a mutual friend who suggested we should send them some music.
I think anybody who is really into music knows the roots of music. I think anyone knows I think it’s an age thing, as you get those years to dig and develop as a musician or as a music listener you realise the roots of what your listening today of something popular always originates from something and Mark who runs Tokyo Dawn and feels this way. I said to him are you sure your listeners are going to like this? He said, “I love it. Hopefully our listeners will” and so far it’s been incredible. We’ve got that 20 something demographic, which is totally unexpected.
I wrote a feature article on Tokyo Dawn Records because I love what they do. They do a more hip-hop, electronic sound featuring soulful singers. They don’t really do funk soul in the Personal Life way or haven’t done before….
I don’t know if you can relate to this but a lot of people take our album as really modern, so take that for what its worth, some people hear our album and they say its really retro. I don’t know what to say about that but it’s about 50/50. [Laughs] It’s not for you or I to decide I guess its all-personal subjective opinions but it’s just interesting to see people’s perspective on music these days.
I like Stuart’s contribution to the project. What’s his background?
Stuart is UK born Jamaican roots vocalist who comes from a Dancehall/Reggae background. He came up through a guy named Smiley Culture, who is really well known in the reggae scene in this country and Stuart’s been singing most of his years. It’s a bit like a Charles Bradley kind of story. He’s done a lot of different stuff, some Drum and Bass and UK Garage stuff. He has been around before but it has never really happened for him in this kind of way but yeah he seems to have all the star potential.
E2E Magazine gives a big thanks to Robert Strauss for discussing Personal Life and what not AND a huge thanks for being patient while the interview was getting published.