Eddie and Martin have just released, to a raptuous audience, a compliation of Jazz/funk rarites entitled Jazz On The Corner released on the 30th anniversary of Acid Jazz. Matt Mead caught up with both Eddie and Martin for this exclusive interview for Louder Than War.
Interview with Eddie:
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions on the exciting forthcoming release on Acid Jazz Records ‘Jazz On The Corner’.
First thing first: Eddie, 30 years of Acid Jazz – What was the idea behind getting the Acid Jazz label off the ground? I remember Paul Weller once saying he though Acid Jazz were the mods of their day. Did you see it like Paul saw it?
Of course. By the late 80’s the mod scene (certainly as I knew it) was looking for some fresh ideas and we just saw the whole Acid Jazz movement as a fresh direction and its natural extension. Paul made a couple of early records for the label and always been supportive of what we do over the years. Of course, the fact that many of us were mods helped. You could always see half a dozen scooters lined up outside the old acid Jazz office in Denmark Street in the early 90s!
There must be loads of highlights for you running Acid Jazz. Can you pick out your best 3 highlights?
Ed: “Well, thirty years is a long time for an independent label, most don’t normally last that long. My favourite memory has to be of the soul singer Terry Callier. In 1989 when Gilles Peterson left the label to set up Talking Loud, I wanted to do something special that would make people realise that Acid Jazz was still around. So decided to sign Terry Callier. Nothing had been heard of him for a number of years and we weren’t even sure he was still alive, but he was my favourite singer and so I set myself the task…After work each night I combed US directory inquiries (in those pre-computerised days you had to phone up an operator for each city and each different phone company where the operator would manually look in a directory for you!) After three weeks of phoning every night I finally located his number…That was when it got harder. The first time, a girl answered and told ne “no one of that name lives here” and hung up . Finally after eight calls she relented and handed the phone to her dad. “You seem a little persistent so thought it would be good to take the call”… Having told me he had given up music after some family issues eight years earlier and had no interest in getting involved. Over the next two months and having gained his confidence we eventually brought him and his daughter over to London for a holiday, arranging a band and organising a gig for him at the 100 Club. Well the old venue was sold out and when he forgot the lines to his big Northern Soul hit Ordinary Joe, the entire crowd belted them out and Terry broke down in tears. He loved it, so we released the record and he began a second career, much more successful than the first (including a Mercury prize) which lasted a further fifteen years until he passed away. I am genuinely proud of that achievement.
Signing Jamiroquai was also quite a milestone, he was the biggest selling UK signed artist of the 1990s (selling far more than Oasis having managed tobreak America at the height of MTV). Having discovered him I realised it would be really expensive to record the band. He was a perfectionist and wanted to record things on numerous occasions until he got it right. None of the UK majors approached showed any interest – every single one (including Sony) told me that he couldn’t sing/write songs/dance etc. All very predictable. Eventually a deal with Columbia in the States was signed but because of the way things work, Sony, who had been so dismissive a year before ended up getting him. The pathetic culture at majors in the ’90s used to really frustrate me. They used to treat music like washing powder and wouldn’t have recognised a real talent if it kicked them up the arse. That’s why the independent sector was so important to them. They would let the likes of Alan McGee, James Lavelle and myself do the legwork before buying into the label. It was cheaper than finding artists themselves!
Finally, the fact that we made it to thirty years has to be a major milestone. As I mentioned earlier before, not that many labels last that long as it is a tough business!
What else can we expect in celebration of 30 years Acid Jazz?
Eddie: How long have you got? We have a few ideas lined up in terms of a special label show later in the year, we’ve signed a brand new artist which we are really excited about the first for some while, Corduroy are back with a great a new album. We are really chuffed to be doing the Leroy Hutson reissue series too – there are some brilliant albums that have been unavailable for far too long – he’s got a show at London Barbican this summer, which if it’s anything like the two sold out shows he did at the Jazz Café at Christmas will be absolutely off the scale…
Interview with Martin
How did you first come into contact wirh Acid Jazz?
I first came into contact with Acid Jazz through the seminal JTQ debut album plus Corduroy’s stunning Dad Man Cat album, this would have been around 1992. When did you first come across Acid Jazz? Martin: Can you name your top 3 Acid Jazz releases? The James Taylor Quartet Moneyspyder album – Corduroy Dad Man Cat and The Brand New Heavies debut LP (known as the blue album)
Now onto your joint venture. Where did the idea come from to do a compilation?
We did a fun radio show on Soho Radio, spinning our favourite jazz tunes. People seemed to enjoy it so we decided to take it further. Jazz On The Corner is the end result. Also, people really seem to like it – so we are going to make another one soon!!! Was the intention to release the album in celebration of the anniversary of Acid Jazz? Yes, it has kicked off a whole year of celebrations including tours, gigs, merchandise and reissues! Who’s choices are whose on the album? i.e. Is side’s 1&2 Eddie’s choices and side’s 3&4Martin’s choices? The CD version has my choices on CD1 and Eddie’s on CD two, this isn’t replicated on the vinyl as you need to be careful with track lengths! My favourite tracks on the record are Eddie Harris – Listen Here and Jimmy Smith – A Walk On The Wildside.
Are there any special/significant reasons for the choices that feature on the album?
Not really, they were just the records we were into at the time. With alot of jazz, my favourites change with the weather!
The pictures and imagery on the album look stunning, just like those classic Blue Note album sleeves. To me an album stands out for its sleeve as much as the music, bringing it together as a complete work of art. Would you agree?
The photo was taken by Dean Chalkley who is one of the top photographers in the country and is also well into his jazz. The look is a conscious nod in the direction of those old Blue Note sleeves, so much so that the typeface on the back of the LP is the one used by Blue Note on all their 60’s albums
Would you like to do more compilations/music collaborations? Have you anything in the pipeline?
Yes indeed, Ed and myself have already discussed working on a volume two and as this one took so long to get clearance for, we are going to start crate digging soon….
You can purchase the compilation and keep up to date with all releases by Acid Jazz at their website.
All words by Matt Mead. You can find more of Matt’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive.