Tuesday 20 August 2013

A Pimptroduction to Nick Pride (& The Pimptones)

Originally published on in August 2011

Written by Imran Mirza

Providing further proof that Record Kicks is the label to beat this year – following the release of the independent Italian soul and funk label’s compilation album, ‘Mo Record Kicks: Act 2’ (that we absolutely loved!), Nick Pride & The Pimptones take the baton and sprint towards prominence with the release of their debut album, ‘Midnight Feast of Jazz’.

Displaying far more diversity within their music than the album title suggests, this Newcastle-based band shine a light on jazz but, as Nick Pride will go on to explain shortly, it’s their specific interpretation of jazz as seen through the eyes of a soul and funk band, which is at their core, what Nick Pride & The Pimptones are.
It’s a refreshing and welcome approach and one that succeeds with aplomb.  Ironically, the free-flowing and open-for-interpretation nature of jazz means it’s likely the only genre that would welcome the compliment.  The Pimptones’ efficiency is undeniable as they thrive over the brilliant production and enable their guests (Zoe Gilby, Susan Hamilton and Jess Roberts) to shine – the latter of which appears on the group’s up-tempo single, ‘Waiting So Long’, which serves as the perfect introduction to the band.

The band’s proficiency is immeasurable and their fresh-faced approach will endear them to fans all over, be them from funk or jazz camps, for hopefully many years to come.  It’s Liberation Frequency’s great privilege to catch up with Nick Pride…

How did the members of Nick Pride & The Pimptones come together as a group?
A lot of the Pimptones are professional musicians who I've worked with for years, so when I decided to put a band together I knew exactly who I wanted to get.  I obviously needed people who could really play but, more importantly, I wanted people whose heads were in the right place.
The line-up has changed a bit since The Pimptones first started, but I think that that's helped to keep things fresh and moving forward.

Which artists have been the strongest influences in shaping your overall sound?
Thinking back, the first time I heard The New Mastersounds I found their approach really inspiring, same with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, I love that really low-fi, dirty style and it was exciting to hear people producing such a shamelessly retro sound.  Now those guys are Funk Royalty and it feels like they’ve been around forever, but I still remember hearing them and how it opened new doors for me!
From a compositional point of view, I love Lalo Schifrin and that soundtracky vibe.  On a subliminal level, I think all the Dirty Harry films I watched as a kid had a big effect on the sound (and look) of this record.

Can you talk a little about what went into the making of ‘Midnight Feast of Jazz’?
It really was a crazy process – the project started out fairly small-scale then took on a life of its own.
In previous projects, we’d spent a lot of money in the studio but this time we went for the DIY approach – it was recorded in a very low-tech and downright cheapskate way! We’d been hammering the tunes live for a while so we were pretty confident in what we were doing, but capturing that energy on the recording is always a challenge.
Another part of the plan was to have a lot of the local cats on there, so there are plenty of guest appearances by friends from the Newcastle jazz scene.
Throughout the whole process, I had a good feeling about how it was all sounding, but I’ve been genuinely surprised and delighted at how well the record has been received, especially when I think of how cheaply it was recorded!
The music on ‘Midnight Feast of Jazz’ is so versatile – do you see yourselves as solely a jazz band?

No, I wouldn’t describe The Pimptones as a jazz band at all, but we did set out to make a jazz album.  So what you hear on the album is a soul/funk band hammering out some jazz, but it’s our take on what qualifies as ‘jazz’ – the purists may disagree!!
Perhaps the point of the album is to look at just how many different genres you can get away with squeezing into the category of jazz.
I’m really glad to hear you describe the record as versatile – it’s very easy for a mostly instrumental act to become ‘samey’.  We’re always trying to head in new directions to keep things exciting – it’s our duty to the listener!!!

How did you hook up with the vocalists for the album [Zoe Gilby, Susan Hamilton and Jess Roberts]?
Each of the vocal tracks on the album was written with that particular singer in mind.
Zoe is a super-talented jazz singer from Newcastle and a good mate of mine.  I’ve worked with her on straight-ahead jazz gigs for years, so when I wanted to have a slinky little Shirley Bassey style number, she was an obvious choice.
Jess Roberts is from the North East too but moved to London and is doing really well now.  She asked The Pimptones to be her backing band on some recordings recently so I said how’s about if you sing a Pimps’ track in return.  This was the track which really got us noticed, Jess is great to work with and she did an incredible job on that song.
I think Susan Hamilton is a star in the making!  ‘Brighter Day’ was one of the last things to go on the album and I sometimes wish we’d used Susan on more tunes. Recently she’s been making guest appearances on stage with the band which really pushes the live show through the roof!

Who would be a dream vocalist to have featured on one of your albums?
That’s a great question!
There’s an obvious crowd of ‘big name’ vocalists who seem to guest on almost everything – and while I think those guys are really good, I’m proud that we’ve established ourselves in our own right before working with anyone super-famous!
But there are so many people I’d like to collaborate with.
I would love to hear Ben Westbeech on a dirty break-beat funk track, and someone like Jamie Liddell would be an inspiration to work with, I’d be fascinated to see how he goes about making music.
I met Michael Kiwanuka on a gig in London a couple of years ago – he’s got a terrific soul voice and is starting to really break through now.
I’m a big fan of Laura Vane, Darondo, Choklate from Breakestra too.  And if Mary J rang I would probably be cool with that too.

What have been some of the highlights for the group so far?
Releasing this record and enjoying the attention it’s getting has been a blast.  It’s mad to think about how far the band has come.  Our first ever gig was at a fashion show after just one rehearsal. We didn’t have a name yet.
Since that bizarre beginning there have been a lot of little milestones – first tour, first proper release, first overseas airplay, first semi-naked bloke on stage, etc.  We met Candi Statton and we demanded a kiss each, I don’t think she could understand our accents.
But as for highlights, I feel as if we are really just arriving and all the best stuff is ahead of us.  I’ll have a much better answer for that question in a few years.

Are there currently any follow-up projects in the pipeline?
Yup we’ve got loads of stuff on the go at the moment.  As we were finishing off this current record I approached a load of my favourite producers to each remix a track from the album, so ‘Remixed Feast of Jazz’ should be out soon.  Actually Record Kicks are running a remix competition with one of the songs so there’s the chance for up-and-coming remixers to jump all over that.
Meanwhile, we have a side project where we’ve used some choice acapellas from different artists like Aretha Franklin, ODB, Dead Prez and totally re-imagined the music.  Like a mash-up but with a live band.  The legality of such a release is dubious so we’ll have to think long and hard about how we put it out there, some kind of white label perhaps, but there’s some dynamite on there for funk DJs!
Then eventually there’ll be the next Pimptones’ album.  Where ‘Midnight Feast’ is all about the jazz, the next one is shaping up to be much more of a soul record – more song based, loads of vocals, really tasty stuff.  I get impatient to play people all this stuff so we have a podcast (it’s on iTunes) where I go nuts for half an hour just playing and talking about whatever we’ve been working on recently.
So yeah I can’t wait for people to hear what’s in the pipeline!

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