There are bands out there that just have the coolest vibe going into it all. When listening to such a group, the listener cannot help but be totally immersed. During my college days, thanks to Pandora, Down To The Bone (DTTB) became one of my new favourite funk/soul groups around. Every tune that was recommended to me immediately found its way into my iTunes library. I simply could not get enough. Plus, their album covers were so wonderful and hip, which caught my eye along the way. Via an online search, I decided to reach out to Stuart Wade, the architect behind the whole project, to chat about his career in music.
Stuart shared with me how Down To The Bone came about. “It really started off as a remix project. I was with a soul band at the time called Think Twice and I wanted the chance to give it a funkier slant and feel. The others were not so sure, so I took the main track and remixed it myself. I called it The Down To The Bone remix. That version took off and got played everywhere. So I decided to branch out a bit and do an EP under the name Down To The Bone and turn it into something more than just a remix project. [Me] and the keyboardist at the time, Simon Greenaway, did Staten Island Groove as the first track. Because of the success of the first EP the writing was on the wall really for me to continue with it. I also wanted to desperately contribute to the style of music I had grown up with and love so much… I felt this was my chance. So that’s what really gave me the determination to get involved.” I remain thankful that Stuart went off the beaten path and created such an enjoyable sound. DTTB’s music has an unforgettable beat, a mellow horn of satisfaction and a groove that awakens the inner dancer. The music is perfect for any occasion.
I asked Stuart to talk some of his favourite tracks to date. “It’s difficult to have favourite tracks … Once an album is done I just want to put it to bed and not listen to any of it any more… During the process I will have listened to each track over a thousand [times] each. So, I guess I could judge it by those tracks I least want to change every time I hear them, as you are never satisfied with each track and always want to go back and change things… Those tracks would be Staten Island Groove; also because it was the one that really started it all off and there was an air of excitement around it as it was new territory for me at the time. Also A Change Has Got To Come, Gotta Get Back To You, Hip City, Dig It and Electric Vibes. [I was] sooo glad I got one of my idols, Roy Ayers to play on it. [I enjoy] The Flow with Flora Purim, another idol [and] influence of mine. [Other tunes I enjoy are] Funkin Around and Memphis Groove. [Again, I was] so glad I got Jeremy Steig on flute and I’ll Always Hold You Close with Brian Auger, although I would still want to go back again and mix it differently as I do with most… These and others really help to represent my favourite styles that I try to bring through with Down To The Bone… If I could invent a machine that I could hum into with riffs and say, bass lines and then tell it what key it was in and what tempo… then it could play it back to me in audio wave form as a guide to use that would really help me.” Wow, what an amazing list of songs and with an entourage of talented musicians as well. The list above should give many listeners some worthwhile material for these summer days. Oh, by the way, someone please invent that machine for Stuart, the master needs it.
I was curious to hear about Stuart’s ideal performance locations. “I would love to have the band perform at somewhere like Glastonbury because DTTB would fit into the eclectic mix of bands and music that appear at festivals like that. [There would also be] a wider spectrum of music fans [who] would like it [that] would not normally get the chance to hear it. It would open up a whole new fan base. I always get people telling me they love it when they hear it but never knew it existed until they ‘accidentally’ came across it. So there or somewhere like, The North Sea Jazz Fest or The Montreux Jazz Fest.”
Since DTTB has been around for a while, I always love to hear about memorable performances that they have done. Stuart had a rather dramatic one to tell. “Possibly one of the most difficult performances was on one of the first DTTB tours of the U.S. when the U.K band played The Beacon Theatre in New York. During the sound check and about two hours before it was due to start Frank Tontoh, the drummer at the time, decided to jump from the front row seat he was on directly onto the stage when called for his drum check. Unfortunately, he miss-timed it and fell across his back onto the backrest of the seat, [which knocked] him out. He was rushed to hospital still unconscious. With no time left the drummer from the support act offered to step in as he loved and roughly knew the stuff any way. At this time Frank woke up in [the] hospital and after a long argument, discharged himself and managed to get a cab back to the venue where he arrived just in time to walk on stage as the band where about to start. He was only able to do the gig because he had been pumped full of painkillers at the hospital. So that was a fairly difficult performance. Although there was also the time when Neil Angilley nearly broke his ankle during a keyboard solo and had to spend the rest of the tour in a wheelchair… but that’s another story.” Talk about the rock and roll lifestyle. It even happens in DTTB.
Stuart then gave his opinion on the music scene today. “Personally I feel the Internet has been a double edged sword, mostly bad, which has nearly helped to destroy the music business. In one way it has opened up music and made it more accessible but with that comes the huge problem of illegal downloading, the unfair corporations setting up rip off streaming sites that pay next to no royalties and the damaging ability to file share music, leaving the musicians and song writers out of pocket on almost every level. It has helped destroy record labels leaving no budgets for acts to put towards making music and the loss of quality control that labels brought. I feel music has been dumbed down a bit as a lot of acts that are popular today would have been deemed mediocre in the past and not been able to stand up against acts like Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder for example. Also, the fact that most new bands get lost within the quagmire that is all over the Internet. With this lack of guidance, finance and quality control that labels brought, most music will struggle… Why would someone spend a fortune making an album that will struggle to make a return? It really is survival of the fittest out there and you are continually trying to make it on tighter and tighter budgets. I am sure one day people will say, ‘where has all the good, new, music gone?’ Then they will look at all their illegally downloaded files or the music they got for free and realise.”
“Hand in hand with this, I feel it has also helped to destroy the trends and fashions that grew out of music. Large corporations such as Amazon and Apple have helped to try to mainstream music and package it in such a way as to help them to control it and sell it more easily. Squeezing out the chances of new trends and fashions to evolve from music. Back in the day you used to be able to walk down the street and tell the type of music someone liked by the way they dressed or cut their hair. These days everyone is starting to look the same. I feel if I saw a punk or a mod these days I would want to applaud them for trying to stand out. If you ask someone what music they like these days most would say… ‘Oh I don’t know, anything really, a bit of everything.’ People seem to wait to be told what they would like these days. Corporations have managed to switch people’s tastes to the next new, eventually obsolete, gadget on an ever-circling spiral of profit for themselves. Until people get back to realising they have to pay for music and corporations stop trying to give it away as a gimmick to help them make a fortune on their next new gadget, music will certainly struggle.”
Despite the fact that music is everywhere and more accessible, I am comforted by the people who say they like a bit of everything. People are more open-minded now and can sense that there is an endless stream of music from every corner of the earth that is valuable in its own way. Plus, new musicians have a better chance to change their style and explore with other genres. As an artist, multiple influences help progress the medium.
Influences are plentiful for Mr. Wade. “I have an extensive record collection that is ever growing as I find, or discover records I like. Each and everyone is an influence on me that hopefully comes out in what I do and the direction I go in. I like styles such as Soul / Northern Soul / Neo Soul / Funk / Jazz-Funk / Jazz / Acid Jazz / Nu- Jazz / Broken Beat / Samba / Bossa and Brazilian. With artists such as Leroy Hutson, Willie Hutch, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Johnny Hammond, Charles Stepney, Cal Tjader, The Blackbyrds, Donald Byrd, The Mizell Brothers, Kaidi Tatham, Dego, The Rebirth and Mr Day… The list is endless.” Again, this man knows what and who to listen to. He has a wealth of great artists to build off of and has been successful in piecing together all of that work into DTTB.
As for exploring beyond music, Stuart remarked on his thoughts. “I would like to think that I [can] still [be doing] this for the long haul, ha-ha, although maybe you know something about DTTB that I don’t! Music has always been my passion. I think anyone who tries to venture to other things is never really true to the music they do especially if it’s early on in the process. There is still more that I want to do and as I am always learning and meeting new musicians to work with. There is always a fire inside to do more… so far any way. Although, I love horror books and would love to try to write one [someday]. I already have a synopsis to base it on. So maybe one day, if I have time I will give that a try.” I would read that book for sure. DTTB meets horror sounds exciting.
DTTB is one of my favourite bands to jam to. As a fan, I am always eager to hear about new things to come. “I am currently in the process of starting new ideas for the next album. Just putting together basic grooves so I can go through them later to decide the ones I want to finish off. The next album is the next big project, which is untitled and in it’s infant stages at the moment. [However], I am happy with the way it is going, so far. Famous last words.” I am sure it will be a huge success, as always. Listeners of the world, please take a gander at DTTB, if you have not already. I guarantee you will all find a tune within that you cannot get your mind off of. Feel free to dance and enjoy.