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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Oli Silk

oli_silkSmitty:  Well, I am just really excited about a newcomer to the jazz scene, especially in the U.S. He’s about to release his debut CD, and you’ve got to hear this great new record.  It has some very funky grooves and some very nice rhythms, it’s called So Many Ways. I think we’re gonna hear a lot from this new cat and I look forward to him doing a tour in the U.S., he’s got a great vibe, and great songwriting skills. Please welcome Trippin ‘n’ Rhythm recording artist Mr. Oli Silk.  Oli, how ya doin’?

Oli Silk (OS):  Very well, Smitty.  Thank you very much for that lovely introduction.  (Both laughing)  Very kind of you.

Smitty:  You’re so welcome and it’s well deserved.

OS:  I was just beaming from ear to ear as you were talking there. (Both laughing)

Smitty:  Well, the record speaks for itself and the work that you’ve done over the past few years speaks for itself. I mean, you’ve done some great production work.

OS:  Thank you.

Smitty:  Yeah, some great songwriting, you’ve put together a killer band and this music, I think, is going to be enjoyed by a lot of people in the U.S. and beyond.

OS:  I would really hope so, yeah, I really hope so.

Smitty: You started playing keyboards, what, at 11 years old?

OS:  That’s right, yeah.

Smitty:  And then it only took you a couple of years, and 13 at that, to do your first record.  How’s that? 

OS:  (Laughs) when I say it was my first record, that’s kind of a loose term. It was just kind of a cassette recorded in a bedroom and it was just with me jamming away on my keyboard with some things behind it. But it kind of as a teen opened my eyes as to what I could do with a little bit of technology and some knowledge of keyboards. And I sort of started to realize what I could do there and although I would probably keep that album well away from anybody’s ears.

Smitty:  (Laughs)  I think that’s a beautiful thing to get in that deep at an early age because then you start to formulate what you wanna do later on in life musically speaking.

OS:  Yeah, I agree.

Smitty:  Yeah. So what made you want to get into the production side of it? Usually at that age a person is just happy to be able to strike a melody and hold it.

OS:  Of course, yeah. I couldn’t say for sure what drove me toward that side of things. I think it was a combination of things. When I first started listening to music of my own accord….I’ll explain later what I mean by that….when you’re of that age, maybe 10-11, you start to get interested in your own identity in music and stuff like that, what you wanna listen to. At that time, it was 1990-91, what was going on in England was very much a lot of dance music, very much production based music. So for a few years there I was very much into my dance music, into my technological stuff.  I still played the keyboard, I still improvised, and I still played jazz.  I was getting taught at the time but I was playing in a more rigid style. I was playing a lot of shows, theater, things like that. I was very intrigued by it all. I had a very basic computer; I think it was a Commodore. I just used to bash out little dance tunes on there and stuff like that. I had a knowledge of music and basic theory and I could put that into the tune. I used to be very happy then, whiling away the hours. I didn’t get out much, to be very honest. (Both laughing)  I wasn’t the sort to go out and play and get on my bike and do stuff that the other kids were doing. 

Smitty: Do you like to dance?

OS:  Yeah, I can bust some moves.

Smitty:  You can bust some moves, huh?  (Laughs)

OS:  I can bust some moves, man. (Both laughing)

Smitty: Can you leave the keyboard and do a little dance when you do a show one of these days?

OS:  Oh, well, I don’t know about that. (Both laughing)

Smitty:  Hey, you gotta bust a move on stage, man.

OS:  Oh, no, I’ve said that now. I’m gonna have to do something now, aren’t I? Well, I wouldn’t wanna embarrass you. (Both laughing)

Smitty:  Oh, no, I think it would be cool, man, because I think when a musician can bust a move and do his thing on the instrument at the same time, it’s a very cool thing.

OS:  It’s kinda tough with the keyboard, isn’t it, because you’re always wedged to it. You’re always standing there and you can’t really go anywhere. Sax players, they can do the foot movement and the dancing around the stage and stuff, and that always used to make me quite jealous as I sat there at the back standing at my keyboard while the bass player and the guitarist and the sax player are all doing their head bobbing in unison and stuff. But I might get one of those guitar keyboards, you know, the type that Jeff Lorber uses and George Duke used to use. You don’t see them in this country, but I know over there they’re still quite popular.

Smitty:  Well, you can bust a move with one of those.

OS:  Well, you can, can’t you?  I can get out in front. I remember when Jeff Lorber came over to the Jazz Café here last time I saw him and he busted one of those out and you could see the audience, the English audience, like, wow, I haven’t seen one of these since Paul Hardcastle or something like that.

Smitty: Yeah, he’s a great musician. You weren’t always into jazz or Smooth Jazz or Contemporary Jazz, and I know Danny Sugar had a lot to do with that. Talk to me about that experience and working with Danny and how that helped your style and your musicianship.

OS: When I first met Danny we were at college. It was my first experience of actually coming into contact with guys that were my age and also were good accomplished musicians, because previous to that, when I was in high school, there wasn’t really anyone I could relate to. They were playing classical stuff, and then there was me, who was doing full composition work, doing a house music track, a nice smooth groove track or something like that. To my music teachers it wasn’t something quite like they’d ever heard before, a 16-year-old kid doing this stuff.  So I sort of couldn’t relate to anyone else in my class. I was starting to think….I’d really love to get in a band and do something like that.  In college, meeting Danny, specifically at college, and there was another guy called Bernie who used to play the drums and that gave me the outlet. I mean, here’s this guy who can play the bass, he’s only 17 and he’s just got this natural ability to play the bass. So it was me and Danny trying to fuse our Smooth Jazz or jazz ideas with these other guys and what came out was sort of this bizarre trying-to-be-Weather-Report sound.

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