Interview Paul Bradshaw & Jason Jules – Edge ’09
On a busy night for ukvibe at the Jewel Bar, Piccadilly for Snowboy’s launch of his definitive reference book: From Acid Jazz & Fusion ‘The History of the UK Jazz Dance Scene’. The Dood got a rare insight into the minds of Paul Bradshaw and Jason Jules of Edge ‘09 and Chaser Publications. They divulge their thoughts on Edge ’09, Snowboy’s book, the seeds of UK jazz dance and its future, and how they gravitated toward jazz music in general.
Paul Bradshaw/Jason Jules (Edge 09)/Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards
The Dood: So how did the name Edge ’09 come about?
Paul Bradshaw: We felt that life on the edge was better than life in the mainstream.
The Dood: When was it formed?
Jason Jules: Well we’ve been practicing our edge activities ever since we were kids, but formerly about a year ago. I myself used to go to loads of clubs as a kid and then I started organising clubs. I did stuff at ‘The Wag’ and ‘Limelight’ etc – live stuff.
Paul Bradshaw: Basically we decided to do a launch, not a launch, a fringe to the London Jazz Festival 2008, which was quite a cheeky thing to do. So we planned a series of events which were bringing together photography, film, artworks and music as part of the London Jazz Festival and that was the Edge launch.
Jason Jules: And that’s all happened over the past year.
Paul Bradshaw: So we did like a UK Premiere called ‘Four Hands’ which was a film of Cecil Taylor and Yosuke Yamashita from Japan, a two piano duet…Then we had improvised musician sessions. There were about eight different musicians invited and about thirty to forty musicians arrived on the night! It all came under the banner of the ‘Freedom Principal Sessions’. And that was like the beginnings of the fringe to the (London) Jazz Festival.
The Dood: Are you still on the look out for fresh talent?
Paul Bradshaw: Absolutely! Yeah! Yeah! We had people playing at that event like Shabaka Hutchins, Corey Mwamba, Leon Fischer – a whole new generation of young players, alongside older players, and it’s good. You’ve gotta stay with the youth, you have to.
The Dood: As with Chris Hill. John Wright and Ian Dewhirst who touched on this – it seems new music is and new musicians are the life blood that keeps you guys buzzed and stimulated to go on?
Jason Jules: The thing about that is, is that if you love jazz music, you will also love experimentation. If you love experimentation, then you don’t really age. You’re still looking for that progressive experimental track that may sound like a mistake initially, but actually you’ve just got to tune your ears to something new. So we’re constantly, and always have been, looking for something edgy and new – that’s us by definition. Until the day I die I’m always gonna be looking for that thing that’s gonna surprise me.
Paul Bradshaw & Jason Jules (Edge 09)
The Dood: So on waking up in the morning – a new day, there may be something around the corner that will make you go WOW!
Paul Bradshaw: There is always something around the corner…I mean like Jason said…Jazz is a sophisticated music on a higher level, where the musicians who play it aspire to a higher level, you know what I mean. And I think in that sense you become part of that process.
It’s like the dancers… I mean we’re here celebrating Jazz Dance, and in a way, when you think about Jazz Dance, it is the highest level of all those street dances. Not to put down people who practice Hip-Hop styles and all that because they are also at a seriously high level in terms of skill. But the rhythmic complexities with what’s involved in dancing Jazz, is different. You’re in ‘the zone’.
The Dood: Now, Snowboy’s awesome book, do you feel it’s captured the essence of the jazz dance scene and crystallised a time in history?
Jason Jules: The thing about Snowboy’s book is that for him personally it may have started out as a labour of love. He may have had that internal urge to put this down on paper and get the story told but on a cultural level I think it is a really important document, that actually impacts on youth culture full stop. Way bigger than Snowboy’s original intention.
It’s telling a story that actually hasn’t been documented before, it’s really like one of the building blocks for youth culture and street culture in the UK. And if the UK is one of the most important elements of youth culture on a world wide level then this book is really significant. So it might appeal to people initially who were there at the time, but its relevance is global and that’s the amazing thing about this book.
The Dood: So do you view it as a reference book, a template even?
Jason Jules: Well in order to understand the ‘who done it?’ you have to get all the clues, you have to get all the pieces and pull them together; without this book and those moments – ‘The Goldmine’; the events at ‘Spats’; ‘The Electric Ballroom’; ‘The Wag Club’, without all those events being talked about and actually documented, people won’t understand where British elements of hip-hop or Dance music or House music or Acid Jazz come into play, it would just be like they popped out of nowhere. So you need to understand where the building blocks come from, the actual DNA of that scene is, and it’s in THAT book. And that’s why it’s an amazing document.
The Dood: And for you as an individual, how has the book impacted on you?
Jason Jules: On both levels, on a personal level ‘cause I was there for some of those moments, but also on a bigger level, because it kinda validates what I see going on….and I thought actually it didn’t happen that way. Then I read this book and I think, ‘yeah, this is how it really happened’.
So there’s a lot of miss-information in the mainstream about who was where and what took place and how something started. For instance, the real roots of Acid House were not in Ibiza, it was in Tooley Street. The people don’t know that, unless they can get a grip of this book, so that’s why it’s important.
Paul Bradshaw: What’s good about Snowboy’s book is that it explains how a foundation was built for a particular scene. On the one hand Snowboy writes about Acid Jazz and how Dingwalls to a degree was responsible for the end of jazz dance.
But on the other side, I remember days when for example; Dave Valentin came in from a tour of Europe, where they were playing GRP type sets in clubs around Europe. They came to Camden Lock on a Sunday afternoon, set up and suddenly, they’re thinking, ‘What the fuck is this man? It’s all kind of going off here!’
The early part of the session was always for the jazz dancers, and they (Dave Valentin Quartet) were just hearing these mental tunes. People were just out there on the dance floor, a complete mix of black and white youth. They would never have seen anything like that in the States, and they completely freaked out. So when they hit the stage, they played outta their skins! The Dave Valentin Quartet said it was the best gig they ever, ever played in Europe!
Jason Jules & Snowboy
The Dood: Really! That’s a big statement.
Paul Bradshaw: Yeah! Because the intense energy level of what they were placed into to play, pushed them to raise their game. I’d go there (Camden Lock), every week and I’d still be amazed by what was going on. It’s just that energy which comes from the commitment to the music; that created that scene. Obviously, stuff happens and times change and things go in cycles you know.
The Dood: How did you get the bug for this music?
Paul Bradshaw: Somewhere you heard something and thought to yourself, ‘that’s wicked!’ you know what I mean.
The Dood: How old were you?
Paul Bradshaw: About ten…my Dad was into jazz, well not into it, it was just there. I also liked rebellious groups like the Rolling Stones…when they came out. Then from that it’s a short step to finding Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Howlin’ Wolf freaked me out…I was like, ‘Woah! You know – John Lee Hooker, and from there it just grows.
I’ve never been against Pop music, because there’s good and there’s bad. That era was a very creative time and also we were creating our own culture. Post war times, we had our own styles. People were wearing their hair long….Me coming from Manchester, soul music and all that was big, so you’d hear that on the radio…You’d get involved in the Northern Soul thing, and it just grows and grows. Then you hang with different people at a different time and suddenly you’re listening to something completely different.
Someone says. ‘Have you heard this guy called Sun Ra or Rashan Roland Kirk…?’ I mean Rashan, he was like playing Rock tunes, he wasn’t necessarily just into jazz. His reputation was such that he could play in the Manchester Free Trade Hall and attract a young, almost hippy kinda crowd. People who would listen to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention…wanted to hear Roland Kirk!
That’s the kinda mad history where we’re so used to compartmentalising everything, but people know that when it was all going on in a creative way, it was all GOING ON!!
Jason Jules: That’s when you get people like Roxy Music coming out…the Punk bands coming out playing really aggressive Garage type stuff and Reggae with Jazz and eventually Hip-Hop and all sorts of stuff, because it was all messed up. It wasn’t as if there was a separate genre.
Paul Bradshaw: If we’re talking Jazz Dance, ‘The Electric Ballroom’ was a pivotal place, because downstairs in ‘The Electric Ballroom’, along with Funk was the beginnings of Hip-Hop. There was like Electro and you had all these kids learning to ‘Body-Pop’; learning how to ‘Break’; learning how to do ‘Locking’ and ‘Popping’.
While upstairs, those guys who were the hardcore Jazz dancers would come downstairs and do the same shit. And some of that stuff got carried back into their arena as part of their moves. I’m sure if you talk to Jerry (Barry, IDJ Dancers) or someone like that, they would definitely say that. That’s why what came out of the Ballroom was so unique, because those other influences were there. On a Friday night it was all going on.
The Dood: A buzzing time. Sometimes though when you’re in the moment, you’re not aware of the history you’re making. True?
Paul Bradshaw: Who could have thought that when Jerry and Afro and Marshall and Gary Nurse (IDJ Dancers) and all those guys were up there…in that little room up in the Ballroom, battling against each other, who would have thought that not long after that, they’d be on a stage at Wembley, performing at the Nelson Mandela Concert being watched by fifty-one million people or something like that. There was just something that took them from that room to that stage, and that’s fact.
The Dood: Explain further about the birth of Jazz Dance?
Paul Bradshaw: There were guys who practiced their skills in their bedrooms in front the mirror. I came in at the end of a podcast that Gilles (Peterson) was doing and he asked me, ‘what about dance? Basically, I said just look at it from the point of view of all the kids in their living rooms practicing how to dance to fucking House, Jungle Skank or whatever.
There’s a piece of footage on You Tube where there’s a whole posse of girls in this Community Centre dancing to some ‘Tribal Skank’ or ‘Jungle Skank’. Then they all practice their moves and then split into three groups, and after a bit of time, they’ll come back together and do their own thing as a group. And each one of them has got a lick that they’ve improvised into their routine, which is different from the others, and that’s what dance is all about.
You can learn the basics, you can learn the fundamentals and then on the basis of the rhythm and the way it moves, you just develop a unique step…and someone else is watching and wondering, ‘How did he do that?’ And it’s roots’; it’s what goes on on the ground. It’s nothing to do with dance classes… it’s to do with what happens to people when they dance.
Jason Jules: Absolutely, the thing is you’ve got to remember that like Paul was saying, it’s post-war Britain, but also it’s second generation West Indian and African kids – mainly West Indian kids. And they find their own voice and their language of expression that isn’t based on a reaction to something; they’re just congregating in this one place doing something that’s really unique. It’s like a creative spike, it’s like Be-Bop, and it just seems to come from nowhere.
As a result what they’ve done is given permission not just to other black kids but to other British kids to create their own shit and continue creating their own shit. So that’s why that moment was important…The black element, that moment in the Electric Ballroom was really significant.
The Dood: What year are we talking here?
Paul Bradshaw: The late seventies early eighties around seventy-eight/seventy-nine. I was writing for the NME at that time and I thought, ‘What is that?’, ‘Who is dancing to these tunes?’ That’s what made me go to the Electric Ballroom. I wanted to find out who was dancing to these tunes. And when you walk into that club and into that room, it was a predominantly black room with a few white dancers, and it was like intense.
Jason Jules: What you had before was Rude Boys – that was West Indian kids looking back to Jamaica. If you look at the casuals, i.e. the black casuals and Lovers Rock, there was this British thing but it was sort of referring back to the West Indies.
Then you had this Jazz Dance thing, they didn’t really care about America per se. The way they dressed, the way they spoke, the way they consumed their music was a London thing and that’s why we’re different. This is our authority, this is us!
The Dood: They put their own stamp on it?
Jason Jules: Exactly. So when you try to deconstruct the way they danced, it’s very difficult to apply to any other cultural references. It was very much a thing that they created, that’s why it was unique. Where did their dance influence come from? They didn’t get it off the internet.
The Dood: It was a pure expression of the feeling one got from the music right?
Jason Jules: It’s pure in the sense that it wasn’t mediated in any other way except through the music, so that’s right.
The Dood: Are you happy with Snowboy’s book and will it stand the test of time?
Paul Bradshaw: What I think is it will become a text book. In a way he’s done everyone a favour by laying the foundation for the coming together of black and white youth in relation to the music. It was a unique coming together. At times, it was difficult, at times it was easy. It showed how people could live together, you know what I mean.
The Dood: In closing, are you optimistic for the future of the jazz dance scene and todays youth taking it forward?
Paul Bradshaw: Interestingly enough, I don’t know how many people voted for groups like ‘Floorless’ and ‘Diversity’, but it was like millions. More people than voted in a general election, voted for those groups. Basically, what that reflects to me is that what you’ve got is a generation of parents and their kids, who sat there and thought, wicked!!
And the reason they can say it’s wicked, is because that’s their generation, that’s their style of dancing that they’ve grown up with. Not ballroom dancing! They’ve grown up watching people spinning on their heads and doing robotics and everything else. So suddenly, what you’ve got is a reflection of where a generation of people are at post the Hip-Hop revolution.
In a way Jazz Dance can be part of that revolution. And what Snowboy has done and what we’re, (Edge ’09) trying to do is provide a platform on which it can engage with that dance language that has become common place. So we’ve gotta keep the Jazz in there man!
The Dood: Keep the Jazz alive, keep the candle burning. Thank you.
Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards