Thursday, 6.15pm, and Jason Kay, vocalist, entertainer, mouth and face behind Jamiroquai, has just resumed life in the real world.
At 11am that morning he'd left Hit Factory Studios after slaving all night on the final touches to the band's debut album,
Emergency On Planet Earth. Looking suitably shagged - his eyes doing a nice line in matching luggage - the talkative Kay is
finding it tricky adjusting to the fact that the creative struggle is now over... albeit temporarily, 'cause he has to
complete the shooting of a video the next day. The press, however, is gunning for him...
The video is for the new single Blow Your Mind, one of the ten tracks to be heard on the forthcoming LP released June 14th.
In the last few weeks leading to its completion, the album had become a frightening apparition, partly because the band has spent so long on the road when perhaps they should have been in the studio, and partly because they didn't quite have their shit together.
Jason takes up the story : "Yeah the whole thing was rushed. You know the getting it together needs to be done on the spot
- on the vibe - and it's something we can do, but getting it finished on time as well, was a problem. It's a mix.
Coming into the studio at 11.30 in the morning when your ears aren't working properly... well I need time to get them working.
You basically don't have time to do anything let alone sort your domestic life out!"
It was always going to be interesting to note if Sony, whose last major soul/funk signing was the now defunet The Chimes, would see the funky vibes of Jamiroquai as a marketable commodity, or would they themselves have a hand in things? Indeed, would there be any pressure for more single based commercial material like Too Young To Die, or was Jason given the freedom to indulge himself on a feast of funk? "I don't think that any pressure was clear cut," he says thoughtfully. "As far as I'm concerned there are at least four singles on there. I think we're an albums thing and the position I'm in is that I get to really put what I want on the album. But there will always be
bones of contention. I get frustrated at times when the record company doesn't see sense. Obviously they only want to
achieve onething and that's record sales. I mean that's great - achieve it - but achieve it with what suits the thing.
Don't look to your other acts and think, 'Oh well we'll treat it like that,' because it's not the same thing."
Kay believes that his time spent in the studio, particularly in the final week, taught him a great deal about the "warmth" of music,
and that he feels is reflected throughout the whole of Emergency On Planet Earth. That's not to say, as Jason sharply acknowledges,
it's by no means perfect... "There are a lot of bits in the music that could've been touched up better, but again we didn't have the time.
At the end of the day with some of the tracks, I'd rather they were a bit unshinier than just managed to please everybody else."
"We were writing some of the shit while in the studio! You know booked into the studio - 'what tune are you doing?'
That's hard work, that's pressure."
"So what's the idea?" he questions. "If it's all really shiny and smooth you won't see any fuck-ups in it?
All you've done is hidden the fuck-ups, I'm not really going to hide the fuck-ups so much
because to enable you to capture that essential raw element, you must leave some shit in there.
You must leave the bum note on the trumpet solo, you must leave this and that... but it's there and it gives the album a very 'live' feel."
So does Emergency On Planet Earth cut the cake? Well it begins strongly with the band's flowing first single, When You Gonna Learn,
here in its newly edited form, before we get to track two, single two, Too Young To Die. This is the song that was sent racing into the Top Ten, was played to death by radio and club DJs up and down the country who obviously felt it was about time they too got in
on the publicity act, thus ensuring it was well and truly flogged to death. Yer true funk fan, if he or she was honest enought,
didn't go a bundle on it but there was no escape... Too Young To Die was everywhere. Even respected DJs couldn't go a
night without playing it at least twice. The hype machine had become stationary... in the area marked 'Overdrive'.
"It couldn't have been that bad," Jay laughs, "but it was one that was on the line, introductionary. You've got to do stuff like that because
you've got to get sales, but as long as what goes in and gets those sales, is still not (cue pucking impression) then fine.
Too Young To Die has music in it and it's live. At the end of the day what other music along those lines is live in the charts?
Nothing! I don't think it's a fantastic tune myself, but it's better than a lot of the shit that goes in."
Fury rages in his eyes when he recalls how suddenly, everyone was saying he sounded just like Stevie Wonder. "That bugged me, man" he sighs, before the blood pressure starts to race, "because what an insult to the geezer. I've never ever said I sound or sing like him. I've got my own voice. It's unfair to put so much crap and meanings to it. It's unfair for me to me to have to live with that fucking burden."
No such burden can be placed on Jay for the next track, Hooked Up. Here you are a real stomper of a tune,
one that borrows from people like Patrice Rushen with it's rolling, gliding keyboard work. Echoes of stuff like The Hump but with
some excellent guitar illumination. A good groove helped along by Jay's request to come on and dance to the music.
If I Like It, I Do It finds the band in a joyous state of mind, a real happy vibe tribe complete with DJ scratches before we welcome Music Of The Mind. This is a majestic instrumental, a track that soars in power, depth and finesse with keyboardist Toby Smith in truly excellent form. The whole arrangement will be a joy to those who dig the cosmic vibe - Jay's love of Johnny Hammond , Bob James, Lonnie
Liston Smith and the Mizell brothers is more than evident here, this is unquestionably the pivot in Jamiroquai's cycle of excellence.
Emergency On Planet Earth is an eco-funk workout full of slapping bass, horns, passionate strings and
Moog touches that brings a funked up Family Affair sound to the proceedings. It's Sly Stone meets Pleasure and its happening!
Whatever It Is, I Just Can't Stop is the kinda groove favoured by the Heavies : Lots of bass and rock guitar, but unlike NDea's merry mob, this one eventually becomes muddled and wayward. The song is all about friends, a stab at those who have publicly
accused him of disloyalty. Kay refutes the argument that he jumped head-first into the lap of luxury.
"That's crap because I worked my deal and those people don't know what I had to go through to get it.
It might look like I just walked in and got it, but it isn't like that at all. It's been a constant battle to get the equipment and it's stupid
the way it's been made out to look like I've denied half the black music industry a chance to get a fucking record deal."
The deal is that the next two songs on Emergency On Planet Earth totally dispell the argument that white boys can't do funk.
The beautiful thing about it is that both songs are poles apart in style, but exemplary examples of what can be done with the funk.
From the sun-drenched sweet fusion groove of Blow Your Mind, there follows the live favourite Revolution. This is a ten minute excursion of "trash funk", an out of control rollercoaster ride that takes in, and then bypasses, Wesley's Blow Your Mind and Gil's The Bottle without ever hitting the brake pedal. Quite simply sensational, and it's helped along nicely by the vocal talents of one Vanessa Simon.
The collaboration came about when a friend of Ms Simon's went down to the studio to interview Jason.
Vanessa went in tow, Jay played her the track and the rest is history.
The album draws to a close with Didgin' Out, which doesn't really qualify as a song, more a reprise of When You Gonna Learn with didgeridoo, bass and percussion jamming away to good effect in an earthly groove kinda thang. Emergency On Planet Earth sure is funky, the arrengements impeccably tight and the overall feel is the kind you used to get with all those epic Fantasy/Prestige recordings. Jason has certainly achieved in recreating the sound he obviously loves - from the BlackBirds to Bob James via Dexter Wansel,
Herbie and all those ohter greats - but the point is will it be welcomed by the mainstream public whose last real taste of funk came and went with Brit-funk. Kay is haunted by that piece of musical history and that whole white soul boy syndrome. His music is complex with plenty of depth and scope, but that of course tends to draw in a 'specialist' crowd not the mainstream audience Sony obviously
hopes to target. But maybe Too Young To Die has already laid the foundations down for him and the band.
Kay's immediate problem is to try and repair his relationship with the press which began well enough, but has since deteriorated somewhat dramatically. Things came to a head recently with a piece in The Face magazine which as Jay bluntly puts,
"Fucking wound me up." The paragraph which quoted him as saying "That's why black music from the Thirties
onwards is so fucking good. 'Cause it's come out of shit, out of coton fields and singing in church.
When the only thing you've got left is your fucking voice" now has him hopping mad :
"Do I really look that naive, I'm not a fucking idiot! I was asked to give my definition of soul.
I said, my definition of why black music was so good is that it had come out of such madness. So what did they do?
They printed 'sou', 'why do you like black music' and put three and five together and made ten. I'm not a fucking mug y' know!
That piece was written by the sort of c**t that makes these scenes shit.
They're the kind who fucked the funk scene up last time because they nip on to everything and then knock it.
Nobody's impressed, I think everybody knows it's bullshit."
"What are these people trying to say?" he ask angrily, "I do this music because it's the music that I like and it influences me.
Sorry, because I'm fucking white should I be doing Def Leppard?"
Kay confesses that the recent bad time he's had in certain publication has "brought out a militant side to me."
He freely disses the NME saying, "they should stick to doing what they're good at - fucking covering people who grunt in a microphone and can't sing for shit." "The way some people write, it's like I'm some kind of fraud who can't do anything. That's an insult.
I put all my efforts into it, I'm trying to fight to get a better standard of music to the public, because I'm conviced
when they do hear some pretty good stuff, that'll become the norm. We can sweep all that shit away."
Jason Kay is fighting for a worthy cause, to put funk back in the spotlight , but sometimes his fighting spirit spills over into naivety, leaving certain sections of the media with a green light and a sharp knife to take him apart. Jay Kay has so much to say but he's going to have to become a bit more guarded because all the coverage given to Jamiroquai is starting to focus more abou his views and not the great music they've shown they are able to produce. With the pressure lifted from his shoulders for a while, Jay should chill out and let people dig the band's grooves - before everything that's good ends up being swamped beneath a mountain of bad publicity.
What he's achieved for stage one of what's going to be a long programme is highly commendable, but there's a long way to get yet.