Reload Festival interview: Jazzie B of Soul II Soul
09:00 29 August 2014
Dance music pioneers Soul II Soul are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a summer festival tour, including a date at Reload at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7.
Emma Lee speaks to founder and main man Jazzie B.
It’s 25 years since Soul II Soul released their album debut album Club Classics Vol 1. And to celebrate the dance music pioneers are joining Kool and the Gang, Rick Astley, ABC, Go West, Hot Chocolate, Imagination, Odyssey, From The Jam, Human League, Billy Ocean, Sister Sledge, Jason Donovan, Five Star, Heaven 17, Aswad, Bjorn Again and The Real Thing for the inaugural Reload Festival at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7.
As Soul II Soul founder and main man Jazzie B explains, the collective is playing dates all over the country during the summer - including shows at the T in the Park and Lovebox festivals as well as Reload.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far - a lot of fun,” he says. “We played Lovebox with Nile Rodgers and Chic and we’ve met a lot of people who I never thought I would never see again. For us it’s been quite emotional to see that people are still around - it’s brilliant.”
Jazzie B started DJing as a teenager and learned about music production from the ground up thanks to a job working at a recording studio belonging to rock n roller Tommy Steele.
Fusing musical influences, the pioneering Soul II Soul soundsystem was born in the 80s out of London’s creative scene, with collaborators incuding producer Nellee Hooper, Phillip ‘Daddae’ Harvey and singer Caron Wheeler. As well as playing at parties and club nights - the collective’s residence at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden is the stuff of legend - there was a clothing range too.
The Soul II Soul soundsystem evolved into making music, leading to a deal with Virgin Records.
“I just remember happy times, exciting times,” says Jazzie B. “It was on the cusp of change to a degree - a lot of new things were happening.”
In 1989 Soul II Soul got their mainstream breakthrough with the release of the single Keep On Movin which reached number five in the UK charts, followed by the number one Back To Life (However Do You Want Me). Both singles were taken from the album Club Classics Vol 1 which, living up to its name, went triple platinum in the UK and double platinum in the US.
For Jazzie B, it was Soul II Soul’s success in America, which included two Grammy Awards, was when it really hit home that things had moved up a level.
“I had already been playing all over the world as a DJ and Soul II Soul was like an elongated version of my sound system. That whole idea of being ‘popular’ didn’t kick in until we went to America,” he says.
In demand as a producer, Jazzie B has worked with a wide range of artists including Incognito, Public Enemy, Sinead O’Connor and Destiny’s Child. But there are two in particular that stand out for him.
“My favourites were probably James Brown and Isaac Hayes,” he says. “James Brown and I became really good friends - we would share lots of different anecdotes. Sometimes when you meet your idols they let you down - he remained very much at the top of my pile. It was fun working with those guys.”
In 2008 he was made an OBE in the New Year Honours and was the recipient of the first Inspiration award at the Ivor Novello Awards the same year. He was also one of the mentors at Jamie’s Dream School in chef Jamie Oliver’s TV series of the same name.
Bringing a 10-piece band to Reload, it sounds like there’s going to be quite a party on stage.
A quarter of a century may have passed since their breakthrough, but as Jazzie B says Soul II Soul’s message is still the same: “A happy face, a thumping bass for a loving race,” he says.
Reload is being held at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7. Day tickets cost from £39 (£18 children), weekend admission tickets cost from £70 (£30 children) and weekend camping tickets cost from £99 (£42 children). Tickets are available without booking fees from Eastern Daily Press offices in Norwich,
Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Diss, Cromer and Dereham.