“Jazz Monthly Feature Interview” Paul Hardcastle
Smitty: I am extremely happy to welcome to Jazz Monthly.Com for the first time one of my favorite musicians in the world. A magnificent songwriter, his music has some serious bandwidth, and his grooves are unmatched. You know him from such great records as Rainforest, Jazzmasters I, II, III, IV, and now he has exploded on the scene once again with a powerful new record appropriately titled, Jazzmasters V. Please welcome Trippin’ N Rhythm recording artist, the incredible Mr. Paul Hardcastle. Paul, how ya doin’?
Paul Hardcastle (PH): Smitty, with an intro like that, mate, I think I’ll have to send you a check.
PH: That was…well, what can I say? I’m doing great now. (Both laughing.)
Smitty: Man, it is great to talk with you and it’s great to see that you’re just continually putting out this great music that people around the world are thoroughly enjoying.
PH: Thank you. Well, I’m so happy that people love my music….I’ve actually started work, believe it or not, on Hardcastle V already.
Smitty: Wow, that’s fantastic news!
PH: So this’ll be ten albums in the Smooth Jazz format, and when I think back to how I first started with it, I just thought….I wonder if I could do something like this? And I’d never even heard of the Smooth Jazz format. That was the funny thing. When I did Jazzmasters, I had never heard anyone else’s music and I guess maybe I’m lucky in that respect because I guess I don’t sound like anyone else.
Smitty: No, you don’t.
PH: I mean, and maybe I ought to, you know, listen to it and thought, oh, I should maybe try and get into that market. I would’ve sort of maybe been influenced by listening to other people, so to actually get into it and do something totally different and have people like it is brilliant.
Smitty: Yes it is. Well, now, take us back, man. Now, you traded in your video camera for a small synthesizer.
PH: (Laughs.) I know where we’re going here.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Now, what were you thinking? I mean, did you ever think that you would be at Jazzmasters V? Here we are in 2006.
PH: Mm-hmm. Yeah, well with the first record I already did under my own name was Rainforest, which was in ’84? And by my math, that’s 22 years ago. And I just I think to myself….I didn’t envision even making successful commercial records. I just did it because I liked, you know, just trying it out. It was all experimental, really, for me. And to be able to sort of now say, well, I’ve been in this business for this amount time and still sort of doing well is quite a buzz, I must admit. It is a really good feeling.…you get a nice sense of achievement, I guess.
Smitty: Yes indeed. And you had a number one single on Rainforest too, great record.
PH: Yes! “Rainforest” was a number one single sort of clubwise and urbanwise. It wasn’t a pop hit. My first pop hit over here was “19.”
Smitty: Yeah, what a song, man, and a totally different track.
Smitty: It had so much meaning and then it had such a beautiful groove at the same time.
PH: Yeah, I do like sort of sticking my neck out and doing bits and pieces that are different. I mean, as we were talking just before we got into this interview, I was telling you about when I was working with a guy called Kid Crab and we did a rap song, but it was a smooth rap, and I think he did it really well. And so I guess I’ll always try and push the boundaries a little bit.
Smitty: Yes indeed. Talk about your reaction to your first number one hit single. I mean, that had to be just an ecstatic feeling.
PH: I think to be honest with you, the first sort of real big thing I had was “Rainforest” and that took off in America.
PH: I can remember someone phoning me up from Profile Records, ‘cause I was on Profile out in New York at the time, which is a rap label. You know, it’s where Run DMC and all those people started out.
PH: And I remember them giving me a call and saying “Oh, by the way, you just knocked Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ off of the top slot on the sales chart.” I was like…I said “Hang on a minute.” I said “Who are you talking to here? Have you got the wrong number?” (Both laughing.) I said, you know, I thought maybe he was sort of speaking to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin or something, you know? Paul McCartney, not Hardcastle, you know? (Both laughing)
Smitty: Oh wow.
PH: That was a brilliant buzz for me. But I think to be honest with you, the real one for me was “19” because, as you said, it was something totally different, and the fact is when I took it into the record company, they looked at me as though I’d just come from the Planet Zorg. They just looked and went “What the hell is that?”
PH: I had quite a big fight with them to put it out. You know, they said “Oh, you can’t do that.” I said “Well, if you don’t wanna put it out, then I’ll take it somewhere else” and I went and signed with Chrysalis Records. Anyway, in the end they sort of said “All right,” you know, their words were something like “On your head be it” or something and two weeks later it’s number one in 13 different countries and they’re going “Yeah, well, we knew that was gonna happen, Paul,” and I thought, ah, this is the music business.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Well, you know, I have talked to people that don’t listen to Smooth Jazz at all, but when I mention your name….
Smitty: .…automatically they’ll say “’19,’ yeah,” you know? So that song crossed every boundary there was.
PH: Sure. I mean, that’s great because I really like the Smooth Jazz format, but it is nice to sort of actually have a few strings to your bows as well and I think by doing “19” and “Rainforest,” which were more dance and stuff like that, I do feel that I’ve made myself more acceptable to listening to different things as well, and maybe that’s why on some Jazzmasters records, like we did a track called “Can You Hear Me?”
Smitty: Yeah, Jazzmasters II.
PH: Right, that was about sort of like, is there life on different planets and stuff? And that was great to sort of start it off in a different way and not just have the normal sort of jazz chords starting something off and I just like to go in a different way. That’s me, really.
Smitty: Yeah, man, absolutely. Now, I noticed at some point you started to incorporate vocals in your music.
Smitty: I mean, you’re known as a great instrumentalist, but then you started to incorporate some vocals, great vocals I might add. What was the motivation there bringing in the vocals because everybody knew you for your great instrumentality, you know?
PH: Yeah, well, number one, I wanna be so straight with you here.
PH: A whole album of just me sometimes, I get bored with myself.
PH: You know, I really do, because I’ve done a lot of them now. And with Helen (Rogers), I mean, we’ve sort of used her voice really as like another instrument. It wasn’t sort of in your face all the time, and I just think it worked. It added color to the project and I think that when I put some vocal tracks on an album, it doesn’t have to basically sort of make it not sort of fit. It just depends on how you use the vocals and so I just thought it would make it a better album, and I think it does.
Smitty: I totally agree.
PH: I would prefer to listen to an album with some instrumentals and some vocals just to break it up.
Smitty: Yes. Well, you couldn’t have selected anyone better than Helen Rogers, let me tell ya. Wow, she’s such an incredible singer.
PH: Yeah, she’s good, Helen. I’m working with another girl for Hardcastle V, a girl called Becky, who’s a really good singer as well so I like finding different sax players and different vocalists. It keeps me fresh.
Smitty: Absolutely, my friend.
PH: A few years ago I went out and bought a saxophone. I thought, well, I’m gonna play this, and then after a while, I thought, why am I doing it? Because, you know, I’ll end up just becoming a hermit.
PH: You know, I’ll never see anyone again, so I gave that to my son and he’s actually doing very, very, very well on it.
Smitty: Oh wow.
PH: He likes sort of the Smooth Jazz sort of thing. He’s only 16 but he’s already sounding very, very good, so I’m sure in two or three years’ time he’ll be on an album and it’ll be Paul Hardcastle all over again.
Smitty: Wow. Very cool, man. So we’ll just have to tell Snake (Davis) to have a seat. (Both laughing.)
PH: Well, the thing is, it’s like, to be honest with you, though, I think Paul will have his own career anyway….so that’s pretty good. I mean, Snake’s a great guy.
PH: He’s a very nice guy, so I like to have fun with people, you know.
Smitty: Yeah, and Snake is one of my favorite sax players. I was telling Les Cutmore the other day how much I admire Snake and would love to have on for a conversation soon.
Smitty: And we’ve talked off and on whenever he comes to The States, but I would love to sit down and just interview him and talk about his career because he’s an incredible player.
PH: Yeah, he’s very good, Snake, but as I said, the best thing about him is he’s a nice guy.
PH: And the thing is, in the studio you could have the best person playing in the world, but if you don’t get on with him or whatever, then it’s just pointless, really.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely.
PH: And that’s the main thing, when he comes over we know that we’re always gonna have a laugh in the studio and have a good time, have a few beers and stuff and just relax, and the thing is with me, see, I mean, I’m a different sort of person when it comes to producing. I’ll have a melody line for him and if he doesn’t get each note, you know, he’ll play it in his own way. I just say “Go ahead” whereas most people stick to their guns. I don’t. I’m very easygoing.
Smitty: Yeah, I love that.
PH: It makes it more fun.
Smitty: It does, a whole lot more fun. Well, I must tell you my favorite Paul Hardcastle song.
PH: Oh, okay.
Smitty: That is a kickin’ track.
PH: Yeah, off the first album.
Smitty: Yeah, Jazzmasters I.
PH: Yeah, there’s a few tracks on there that I like. I mean, that was the first vocal track that we did with Helen.
PH: So there you go. So now you know why I did sort of use vocals.
Smitty: Yeah, I totally get it.
PH: There’s that, there’s “Lost Summer” and “Northern Lights” stick out for me off of that first album.
Smitty: Yeah, fantastic tracks! I also love “Body Heat.” Oh, man! There all good!
PH: That seems like an eternity ago when we recorded all that stuff.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Yes, time flies. Well, man, let’s talk about this new record Jazzmasters V record and first off, I want to thank you on behalf of all of your fans….and there’s millions of them….thank you for Track 10, “World in Action.” Man, we have been waiting so long for such a great long (over ten minutes) song.
Smitty: You delivered! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played that song.
PH: Well, thank you. I mean, see, there again I’ve sort of gone out on a…if you listen to the track, say, halfway through, it changes into a totally different groove.
PH: And that’s what Paul Hardcastle’s all about. I’m not just someone that likes to just sort of repeat something and then repeat it again five minutes later. I mean, that track, I thought, well, how can I really take this off into a totally different vibe, and what I did, I just took all the stuff off and then I just kept the bass and the drums, and I thought, well, okay, I’m gonna change every chord, I’m gonna change every sound, and then I brought it all back in later on, so it holds together quite well. I was a bit worried that maybe this is quite self-indulgent.
Smitty: Yes, and I tell you, that’s a song that you could just get lost in and go so many places.
Smitty: And it’s great for traffic.
PH: Right (Laughs).
Smitty: You know, when you’re stuck in traffic, what a track. It just makes you not worry about the traffic or anything else. You’re just grooving with it.
PH: Yeah, I wrote about it and explained this, but that bit in the middle of the song, it just reminds me of like a sort of Indian reservation type of sound. It’s all these sort of fluty type of things going on in there.
PH: And I did go to Vegas last year and I went over the Grand Canyon, and that sort of gave me a bit of an inspiration, yeah. So there you go. Maybe the Grand Canyon’s what inspired me to do that one.
Smitty: Hey, very cool. Well, that’s a great place to visit too.
PH: Yeah, yeah, we had a great time there.
Smitty: Yeah, and also the track, “Free as the Wind.”
Smitty: Great track and I just love that one. That’s gotta be a number one track.
PH: Well, oh, do you mean chartwise?
PH: Oh, it is.
Smitty: Yes. How about that, huh?
PH: I think, yeah, I mean, that’s three in a row. That’s quite good.
Smitty: Man oh man, yeah.
PH: Yeah, I know, I can’t complain, really. I’m just thinking about it now. There was “Puerto Banus” and then “Serene” and then “Free as the Wind,” so that’s three number ones in a row. Yeah, it’s great.
Smitty: Wow, man.
PH: What more can I say? How happier can I be?
Smitty: I know, man. You’re on a roll. And I have gotten so many requests to bring you onto Jazz Monthly….
Smitty: .…because of the music that everyone has just totally enjoyed over the years, and when I mentioned to some people that we were gonna do this interview, they were so excited, they said “Well, let me know when it’s on because I’ve got to read it. He’s just my favorite musician.” So you’ve got some very, very loyal fans out there, myself included.
PH: Thanks. Oh, it’s great to know. I mean, if the one thing I guess I do…I think I try and reflect that because, I mean, the one sort of comment I’ve had over the years, which is the most pleasing for me, I think, is the fact that they say, well, I don’t put any throwaway tracks on in there. You know, like some people will do three tracks and then the rest are filler.
PH: But I’ve never ever done that and when I’ve been into a shop before and someone that didn’t even know who I was and I’ve watched them buy all my albums, and I said to myself, wow, and in the end I had to go “May I ask you….you’ve bought the whole lot there of II, III, IV, V,” and this guy said “Well, I’ve heard the first one and you don’t do any fillers, so I know it’s gonna be all right” and I thought, wow, that’s trust, isn’t it, really?
Smitty: Yes, and what a great reputation to have.
PH: Yeah, it’s very nice. But I would never sort of compromise and just try and get an album out in time or whatever. If it wasn’t ready, then I would say “Right now we won’t put it out yet.”
PH: And I think people respect that.
Smitty: They totally respect that, I know I do, and I just love putting your records on and just letting them play. You don’t have to hit random or whatever. Just let it play.
PH: I know, there was one funny one, though, as I was telling you about the rap song. We had one crazy guy who said “Is there anywhere I could buy this album without the rap song on it?”
PH: And the fact was, I was gonna sort of…I was gonna e-mail him back but I thought, no, it’s not worth it because it was Track 13. It was a free track anyway.
PH: And I just felt like saying “Do you not know how to press stop?”
PH: “Do you not know how to sort of say ‘Don’t play Track 13’ if you really hate it?” And yet the funny thing is I had other people say that they thought it was great. So there you go. It’s what keeps me interested in the music business.
Smitty: Yes indeed, my friend, and you know, Track 4, “Free as the Wind,” that is such a groove song. You’ve got such a great melody there, a great groove, and then that sax comes in and it’s just off the chain! I love that track.
PH: Thank you. So your favorite track on the album is “World in Action,” is it?
Smitty: “World in Action,” yes, that’s my song. I wish it were 20 minutes long.
PH: Okay, great.
Smitty: And you were talking about not having any fillers. Every song on this new record could go to radio; every song on here could be played in a club. It’s a very complete album of great music.
PH: Thank you. Anymore, you know, I can’t take anymore good comments like that.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Oh, man. Well, you know, there’s one song on here, and I think it is “Free as the Wind,” sort of reminds me a little bit of ….
PH: Let me stop you. Kool & the Gang?
Smitty: A little bit, yeah.
PH: (Laughs). Do you mean “The Summer of Madness Breakdown”?
PH: Well, that’s what I grew up on. I mean, I grew up on, soulwise, Kool & the Gang, you know, the early stuff.
Smitty: “Hollywood Swingers.”
PH: Yeah, exactly. That’s like the stuff I listened to. Lonnie Liston Smith….
PH: So I guess I’ve been molded in that sort of thing, but also I used to listen to pop rock like America.
PH: Because obviously we did a version of “Ventura Highway.”
PH: So I have got quite a diverse sort of musical background influence, I guess. I covered “Ventura Highway” because I wanted to do something that I could make a bit more uptempo, but I’m covered out now, I think. I’ll do the occasional cover.
PH: But I think there are so many covers in Smooth Jazz now.
Smitty: Oh, there’s a ton.
Smitty: Yeah, but this record just has everything and I love the album cover. (Both laughing.)
PH: That’s Les’ creation.
Smitty: I thought so. Well, we’ll have to give him some props on that one because, oh, what a great album cover.
PH: Yeah, it’s very nice. He showed it to me. We went out and had a bit of lunch and he said “I’ve got an idea for the album cover. What do you think?” and I just said “Leave it as it is.” I said “It’s great.”
Smitty: Yes, absolutely. I love that whole feel of it. It’s got such a warm appeal and she’s not bad looking. (Laughs.)
PH: Yeah, I also like the fact that it’s in black and white.
Smitty: Yeah, that’s that warm black and white feel, yeah.
PH: Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s good.
Smitty: I know you’re having a great time at Trippin N Rhythm.
Smitty: And you’ve got some great guys with you like Les, and Jeff Lunt.
PH: Yeah, I’ve known Jeff for a long time. He was the first person to phone me up from the record company and tell me how much he liked the album and said “You’ve gotta come over” and all that so, yeah, me and Jeff go back a long way. We’ve done some good work together, definitely.
Smitty: Absolutely, man. I gotta say that I really expect some wonderful things with this great record. If there was one thing that you could to say to your fans around the world right now, what would you say to them?
PH: Thanks for being so loyal because it’s when you sort of get great comments back and things, it makes you sort of want to go and do it again and do it better. And I think that’s where I get my enthusiasm from, is knowing that what I do people like. It would be a pretty dull thing if all I was doing was making records to play for myself. And that really is the best thing about it, and I guess maybe that’s why if I dare stick my neck out and say I think I do make records for people and radio rather than myself sometimes. I’m not trying to cut a solo out or something or if something’s going on for too long, I like to keep things interesting….there’s only so many times that you can hear a ten-minute solo or stuff, and I just try to avoid the self-indulgence thing and just do what I think people would appreciate, I guess.
Smitty: Yes. And people truly appreciate it. I mean, you have over 11 million records sold to prove it. (Both laughing.) You know?
PH: It’s been a good ol’ long career.
Smitty: Yes, not to mention some of the other great things you’ve done like working with the Spice Girls.
PH: Yeah, that was fun but, I mean, see, I was left to my own devices on that. It wasn’t to make Spice Girls music; it was to basically do a score for their film. So I could do what I wanted on it, really, which was great.
Smitty: Yeah, and then S Club 7?
PH: Yeah, I helped them out, but to be honest with you, I mean, all my other sort of work, I mean remixing like, you know Change and Barry White and stuff like that, that was quite a buzz.
Smitty: Yes. Well, you’ve had a wonderful, just a lustrous career to this point and….
PH: You said “had.” (Laughs.)
Smitty: No, I said “to this point.” (Laughs)
PH: I know. I’m just kidding.
Smitty: And it’s still going, my friend, and, you know, I just can’t wait for the Paul Hardcastle new project that’s coming.
PH: Well, to be honest with you, Smitty, I’m gonna really go all out to make this one because it’s gonna be the fifth one, and I’m gonna try and really make this the best yet, and I think I can do that, actually.
Smitty: Oh, yes.
PH: I’m sort of quite inspired by how things have gone and stuff, so I think I could really and honestly say that I think Hardcastle V will be the best one yet ‘cause I’ve got some ideas down and they are all sounding pretty good, so…but, you know, it’s down to what everyone else to say, not for me to say.
Smitty: Man oh man. Well, you’ve already have given us Jazzmasters V and something to look forward to with Paul Hardcastle V Well, this is fantastic, my friend, and thanks for the great tunes over the years and this recent album, and I expect a lot of great things with it and look forward to getting Hardcastle V, my friend.
PH: Okay, Smitty. It’s been nice to speak to you as well, mate, and yeah, thanks for all your support and glad you like it.
Smitty: All right, we’ve been talking with Trippin N Rhythm recording artist Mr. Paul Hardcastle. He has just released Jazzmasters V. You have got to check out this great book of music. I highly recommend it. Paul, thanks for everything, for the great conversation, the great music, and best of everything in the future, my friend.
PH: Thank you very much. And a very Merry Christmas, and a great New Year. Happy Holidays.
Baldwin “Smitty” Smith
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