Interview with Jazzie B of Soul II Soul who tour Australia in March 2023
Mention Soul II Soul to punters who went clubbing in the late 1980s and early 1990s and they’ll tell you that the band, or ‘collective’ as they were often referred to, very much epitomised the heady days of club culture.
Alongside rave culture and a resurgence of Britpop, Soul II Soul injected a much-needed sense of optimism just as the world – in particular England – was beginning to sense another end-of-decade recession.
Songs like Back To Life, Keep On Moving and Elevation spoke volumes about the importance of maintaining a positive outlook in life – even when things were looking really grim.
Next year, Soul II Soul will celebrate 30 years on the music scene and will return to tour Australia in March.
Antonino Tati chats with lyricist and rapper Jazzie B about changes in music technology, moving with the times and seeing the positive side to dark moments in life.
Hey Jazzie. Soul II Soul were a part of the resurgence in soul movement of the late 1980s / early ’90s which also incorporated artists like De La Soul and Neneh Cherry. What was the zeitgeist like at that moment?
It’s funny being asked that in retrospect, but during the time we didn’t think of it as a movement. We were just getting along with it; doing what we did. It was just a part of us growing up here in London; a bit of an underground scene. And we just put that into the Soul II Soul picture, be it in a video or on a song. Then it leaked into club culture. Thirty-plus years later, it’s really interesting to see how all that’s evolved now.
Well, the Funki Dred scene which you were apart of, along with the rave scene, both hinted there were major changes in society on the way – mini cultural revolutions, if you like. And then look what happened, what with multiculturalism and multimedia…
I think it’s all been a matter of time, you know what I’m saying? As a society, we evolve. Natural human behaviour leads to political changes around the world. Technology, too, evolves, and with those changes the world becomes a much smaller place.
With that technological evolution, there’ve been some major changes in the music industry, such as the way music is now distributed and downloaded. What do you think of those changes?
It’s got to be a better thing; it’s just something we need to embrace. Change is always a difficult thing to adapt to. Man had to adapt when we moved from horses and carts to cars with engines, so it has been done before. For us, as a band, it’s been wonderful to be a part of the changes in technology in our industry. The internet has made music more immediate, and an even more intimate platform. And it’s way more interactive, which makes it more interesting.
There’s a lot more experimentation at your fingertips in the actual making of music, too. You guys were there at the dawn of sampling but it seems it’s everywhere now.
Absolutely, and what’s great about it now is that we can share files all the way around the world – from Australia to Africa – and it’s amazing to see how music is utilised in different parts of the world.
You’ve had a strong relationship with singer Caron Wheeler. Have you constantly been in touch with one another over the years?
It’s been on and off, really. We’ve all had our distractions, as it were. Caron now lives in the US, Simon now lives in Canada, and I’m in the UK… I guess the wonderful thing is that throughout the years, we’ve been able to get together and share again and again in the Soul II Soul experience.
“It took black days and dark times for optimistic songs to be born from it.”
When you’re writing lyrics and rapping new songs, do you sense the change in style and theme in those songs compared to what it was like writing and rapping in your early days?
Absolutely. You’ve got to write and rap what you’re feeling at the time so it’s constantly changing, as is the tempo at the time. You’ve got to remember, Antonino, that back in the late Eighties, everything was made to fit around a hundred BPM [beats per minute]. If you listen to our album Club Classics Volume 1 again, you’ll hear that consistency. But in saying that, even with the music tempo [and beats per minute] higher today, those classics never die.
Your lyrics in songs written then were rather optimistic, yet some dark shit has gone down in the world since…
We were living in darker times then, mate! Particularly in England. We had the worst economy; a lot of people were having three-day weeks. Those were black days… Strangely enough, that’s what was so amazing about our journey. It took times like that for optimistic songs to be born from it. Those songs came from a time when it was mountains of money, or no money.
I suppose, being in Australia, our recession hadn’t hit yet…
Yeah, you guys were two light years away from it then!
In celebration of 30 years on the music scene, Soul II Soul are playing the Astor Theatre on Friday 17 March, 2023. Information and tickets available here.
One Response to “Interview with Jazzie B of Soul II Soul who tour Australia in March 2023”
Luv this band 👏🏻 Excellent interview 👌🏻