Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Not In The Face"... Howie B Interview!

There's the remix album (a la "I Love Serge" which Mr. B was on) and there's the album remixed, remodeled, and reshaped. One is usually done piece by piece (usually by a smattering of random artists chosen by God knows who)... and the other is a painstakingly involved process that begs commitment and precision, lest the artist ruin the source material...

Glasgow born Howie B did the latter when reworking Casino Royale's 2006
release 'Reale' which he had initially produced. The album did well in Italy but Howie felt there was more potential in the album with a few added tweaks.

This brings us to "Not In The Face", a dub version of the aforementioned album, that has none of the typical "remix album" hallmarks (because it isn't even fair to call it one). None of it feels tacked on or inconsistent... this album is the logical extension of what began when Howie produced the album for the band and Italy... this version is Howie producing the album for himself and the world...

It seems that more and more people are less inclined to listen to albums that are not in their own language. Being a dub album, there isn't a lot of Italian to be found (strains echoing off into the soundscape, or the occasional verse here and there)... but I know despite this fact people will still end up seeking out Casino Royale's other work... "Not In The Face" piques your curiosity and makes you wonder not only what the original sounded like but also what Casino Royale's other work sounds like. One cannot listen to this album, knowing it's story, and help but wonder "How did we get these beautiful sounds? Where did they come from? How did Howie B do this?"...

Despite being a long time fan of Pizzicato 5, and some other non-English speaking artists, I realized I didn't have one album that was sung in Italian! Hell, outside of instrumentals and electronica, I started to wonder if I had much music at all that was sung in another language! Ok, I guess I have some albums in French... and yeah there's Sigur Ros... and I guess I have some jazz albums in other languages but I'm not even sure what those languages are... Suddenly, while listening to "Not In the Face" I'm realizing that, perhaps, I need to make a more concerted effort to get out of the American/British/French music vacuum I'm in!

Whatever thoughts this album may provoke in you there is no question the album is something special. Almost every song on here begs to be put on a compilation of some sort, to be put in a DJ set, or to be used in a soundtrack. With that said, I don't mean incidental music, I mean music that is meant to really draw attention... tracks on this album refuse to just be 'ear wallpaper'. Any one of these songs used in the above ways will draw attention and therefore will no doubt be used for one if not all (provided the label lets them lol)... go on guys, the people at Fabric are nice... licence the shit out this album lol...

ISoA & Howie at the same time Hello?

ISoA: Yup?

Howie B: Hi, Brenden?

ISoA: Yeah, is this Howie?

Howie B: Yeah, this is Howie yeah, hi how are you?

ISoA: I'm doing well how about yourself?

Howie B: Very good very good, it's a nice day in London which is great...

ISoA: Yeah, I was going to say that I couldn't sit around all day doing interviews like you've been doing!

Howie B: Yeah, it's alright it's ok. If it happens once or twice a year it's alright. Those politicians I don't know how they can do it. I'm talking about something good anyway so it's worth it.

ISoA: Ok, first off, your pairing with Casino Royale obviously worked well for them in Italy; were they at all hesitant when you suggested reworking their album?

Howie B: Yeah they we're a little bit but they also, I mean for me, there were two reasons why I wanted to rework it. One was because there was another outlet for it apart from Italy, but I knew the format of the thing had to change for it to go outside. And the other one was whenever I was making it I just felt there was another way that I could express what was happening.

ISoa Were you frustrated at all while you were working on the album? Or did it come after the final product?

Howie B: No, I wasn't frustrated while I was working on it because for me being the producer was to bring the best out of them and make them feel good about what they are doing and make them be the best of what they are doing... feel that they're completing something and expressing themselves. But it was during that process that I felt it could go down another road, but there was no point in me talking about it at the time because it's just a distraction for them. But as soon as we'd finished it I said, 'look I can take this somewhere else, I've really got a strong feeling that this could basically go down another road', and they were pretty supportive cause they're hungry musicians. And They're also very good, and they knew I could do something different with it, and keep the integrity of the band together and their songs. So that was it, that's what I did!

ISoA: Yeah it takes a lot of confidence to let someone rework your stuff like that!

Howie B: I mean it is a lot of confidence, because usually you send a track out to be remixed not the whole bloody album!

ISoA: Right right... both laughing

Your work on 'Not In The Face' will undoubtedly bring Casino Royale's name and their back catalog in to focus for a lot of people who may not have heard their work otherwise. Do you feel that people are hesitant to listen to music that isn't in their own language?

Howie B: I think it depends what language it is, it's really funny... in terms of English speakers we really do entertain the French when listening to music, even though we may not understand it, because there's something really pleasing about the tonality and the words and the language itself whenever it's sung is quite beautiful. But then, in terms of someone singing a ballad in German? I'm not too sure, that's the thing! Or even a ballad in Swedish or Icelandic or in Russian. But French seems to have a certain thing about it, and Spanish as well, there's a couple of languages that English speakers lend their ear towards and are quite comfortable with... and there there's other languages which we can't even begin to comprehend. Even if the melody is good, you think 'wait a minute, this is going right over my head'.

ISoA: Have there been other bands, or artists, that you've wanted to work with in the past but haven't been able to?

Howie B: Eh... not really! I usually.. if a band asks me to work with them, or I get on with them or want to do the project, I always make the time to do it. The only time it has happened, or does happen, is when I'm on tour. Occasionally when I go on a long tour I've had to say no to a few projects. But there's not that many that I say no to because of time restraints or something else because I will make time to do a project.

ISoA: Unlike a lot of your contemporaries in the 90's "electronica" scene your work still as relevant and interesting today as it was ten years ago. This new album is good as your stuff from the last decade. What helps you the most to stay creatively motivated?

I think movement, searching hunger, and non-repetition.

ISoA: This album, as you said, "carries an electronic dub flag" not just the Italian flag. Your body of work has always defied a specific label, what drew you to using a dub sound for the project?

Howie B: I felt it suited the sound we created, and I'm very comfortable with that, and I wanted to challenge myself and put a sort of rock into a dub situation, and challenge them and challenge me, you know by using guitars... you know, but not funky guitars... I mean there are some rock chords and stuff like that. That was the 'challenging thing' for me, that the dub came from. The band has a love of dub and it has a big color in their social life. I mean I didn't want to take it a breakbeat way, or a house way, you know it seemed to lend itself it me taking it on a dub tip.

ISoA: In the same way we were talking about languages earlier do you think there's something about the dub sound that is maybe more universal than other genres?

Howie B: It is. It's universal. There's a love of dub everywhere. It's because of the simplicity, it's because of the instrumentation is very simple. And it's groove based so that as a language is universal. You know we can all get a good groove very quickly! So in terms of 'us' getting intense chord structure, that may be something we have to think about, but in terms of a good groove? That's immediate.

ISoA: Do you listen to dubstep at all?

Howie B: Yeah, of course I listen to dubstep! I listen to it constantly!

ISoA: Is there anyone particularly that you're into?

Howie B: Yeah I like this guy called Marlowe. He's from South of England, he's put out about three or four songs and he's done some mixes for some people. He's good new blood coming out. I like Digital Mystiks, I like Burial... it's different, there's a really good healthy scene here in London and in Bristol just now. It's very British, it's very local, and now it's seeping out now to the States... but it's a very new thing and it's great and it's really exciting. I love where it's coming from, I love the sound and the textures and the people! The guys making it are really cool and not affected by the scene... and it's also a big vinyl based thing as well which I'm really happy about.

ISoA: It's awesome. The sound does seem to be splintering in all different directions which is good for creativity. Hey, this is a cheesy question but I'm still going to ask it anyway. Outside of "Not In The Face", what album of your own do you feel the strongest affinity for?

Howie B: It's interesting because there all so bloomin' different! 'Music For Babies' it think because it was the first time I'd done a total solo project. I'd done albums before but it had always been a joint album, or it was in a band situation, but that was the first self produced album. And I think that was a big one for me, just to have completed that and it have it underneath my belt was a big achievement for me at the time. It gave me my liscence to go make more.

ISoA: And along the same lines, outside of the current project, is there a record you've worked on with another artist that stands out as being one that your particularly proud of?

Howie B: A record I did with Siouxie and the Banshees I did in 1988 called 'Killing Jar'.

ISoA: Realllyyyyy...

Howie B: Yeah reallllyyyyyyy... REALLLLYYYYYY (both laughing). I mixed it in I think 1988, could've been '87. I did two songs with them, one called 'Peekaboo' and one called 'Killing Jar'. I mixed them, I didn't produce them, I just remixed the 7" version. So there's two versions, an album version of both those songs that I didn't do, and then those two 7" inch versions which went into the charts and bum-bumpa-bumpa-bum... and I did the 7" inch versions. And that, again, was a really big thing for me because that was a band I went to see as a kid... when I was 12 or 13, I'd tell my parents I was going to bed, and then jump out the window and go see them in concert! And then 10 years later I was mixing their tracks in the studio. So, that was a BIG one... and it still stands today, I listening to both the tracks a couple weeks ago and I thought 'oh fuck, that was quite good!'

ISoA: That's awesome, I didn't know that about you. I didn't know you had done that.

Howie B: Yeah yeah. I've done a few... I mean, I blasted into public knowledge, musically, probably mid-nineties or something like that, maybe a little bit earlier after Soul 2 Soul and all of that, but before that I'd been working and mixing for 4 years. So I'd been doing stuff with Ryuichi Sakamoto, I'd been doing stuff a few interesting and varied people. David Byrne I did some things with. I did a lot of film work in those days as well, mixing music for film scores and stuff like that. I did probably about 20 or 30 films over 2 years as well.

ISoA: Your body of work is not specific to just music; you've done work with art galleries and have created your own fashion brand. What else is on the horizon in the near future for you?

Howie B: Uh, oil refinery.

ISoA: That's where the money is at!

Howie B: Yeah, think that's what I'd like. I think I can drill for oil! It's in my blood, I can smell it, I know I can do it!

ISoA: Well I wish you a lot of luck with that...

(Howie busts out laughing)

ISoA:'d be in a fantastic position. If you need anyone to help you out give me a call.

Howie B: Ok, yeah, if I need someone to help me drill I've give you a call, don't worry!

Here's an oldie but a goodie for ya... off of "Turn The Dark Off"...
Howie B- "Fizzy In My Mouth" YSI

Howie B- "Fizzy In My Mouth"

EDIT: I got in trouble with because of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) on this post. Which is kind of wild right? I'm trying to plug this artists new piece of work by posting older work and BOOM got nailed. Well I guess you guys can say goodbye to me posting music "freely" under the assumption that record companies are more interested in their artists selling new music (therefore renewing interest in their old work)!

And that was that kids. Hope you enjoyed it. Sorry it took so long to post. You know what's funny? All that shit prior to the interview I had written the day before the interview happened! So that stuff about French being pleasing to English speakers was pretty funny.

Here's the video Howie's "Maniac Melody"...

"Not In The Face" comes from Fabric who are of course committed to bringing creativity to light as much as humanly possible :)

Go to and check out Howie's upcoming events!

Also peep some more info about Howie B over at Resident Advisor! I'll be back with more soon.

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