“…It’s just the fact that my musical taste is quite varied. You get like a Latin Jazz and Funk, but it’s hidden under John’s vocal. He’s the thing that ties it all together. If you strip those songs away and made them all instrumental, they are actually quite intricate, but it’s his voice that hides that.” Smoove
“And if anybody was to listen to the two albums, all they’ve got to know is bedroom music CAN be done with the producer who is f..king amazing to a really high standard! You don’t have to go to Abbey Road anymore to make really good music. Anyone can do it as long as they take their time.” Turrell
￼Smoove & Turrell backstage at Floridita, London 9-2-12
A more unlikely combination one could not imagine. One man raised on the soulful roots of American Blues ‘n’ Soul music, the other entrenched in hip-hop music and culture and Latin Jazz and Funk flavours. And although they both hail from opposite sides of the river; Turrell is Newcastle born and bred and his partner in beats’n’things, Smoove, a Sunderland native, this dynamic duo has not looked back since forwarding a promo copy of their debut album, “Antique Soul” to Jalapeno Records in 2009.
With their latest long player release “Eccentric Audio” receiving across-the-board acclaim from both critics and punters alike and the Smoove and Turrell live experience being rolled out to the masses, it was time for The Dood to get a first-hand insight behind the momentum being created by these two very likeable chappies.
The Dood: So, how did you to meet and what’s the origin behind your name?
Turrell: When I met Smoove, I was in a singer song-writing band and he heard us and it went on from there!
The Dood: And the name Smoove and Turrell?
Smoove: We couldn’t really think of a name. And the thing is, I had made an album before and it was Smoove featuring a lot of other different singers. So I said why don’t we make it Smoove and Turrell, so that it is not just Smoove featuring Turrell – So that was where the name came from. Originally it was going to be Smoove and John Turrell, but then the record company went naaa, that’s too long! So then we suggested Smoove and Turrell and they went naaa! And we just slapped our hands on the table and said that will do!!!
The Dood: I know you are both music aficionados, but are you both classically trained musicians?
Turrell: Mike Porter is a classically trained musician – the guy on the keyboards.
￼Mike Porter (keyboards)
Smoove: My background is Hip-Hop. I don’t really play, I do more sampling. I’m a scratch DJ; I use a lot of musicians to kinda work with the samples – Sometimes we use ideas and then get rid of the samples you see.
The Dood: Give me some of your idols from the Hip-Hop era?
Smoove: We’re talking the Pharcyde; Schooly D; Sweet Tee; all the Electro compilations; all the Street Sounds series – that’s how I got into Funk and Soul. So I was more into funk as a kid, but then I got into Hip-Hop and I didn’t like the rap actually, I liked the music. Then I started getting into the rap, and I love Big Daddy Kane, I absolutely love him. Now I like stuff like E-Down and the Chemist and stuff like that, the New Skool DJ format.
The Dood: And you JT, where’s your influence from – family members?
Turrell: No, we were just a working class family from Newcastle.
Smoove: I’m from Sunderland!
The Dood: But it works!!
Turrell: That’s the amazing thing about music! I think music breaks all boundaries down no matter what!
The Dood: How long is this group been together?
Turrell/Smoove: Five years!
Smoove: We did one track together “I Can’t Give You Up” that ended up on a compilation and then on a 7 inch – and the 7 inch ended up on eBay for £160! So we were like, “fuck!!”
Turrell: Because it was a limited edition 7 inch, and it was like a Northern soul tune. In the Northern soul scene people are still quite precious about something no one else has got. And it sounded at the time like something that went before. In fact, people were covering up the label.
Smoove: There was a famous DJ, I can’t remember his name who would cover up the label, so that people would start speculating as to who it was… They heard rumours that it was on Acid Jazz. I used to be on Acid Jazz but this release wasn’t you see – although this one was on a compilation.
Turrell: It was on a German label.
Smoove: They rang me up saying do we want to re-press? I said, “No don’t re-press leave it!” Because it was growing and growing underground.
Turrell: Totally! And it was heartbreaking for me, because the one thing I wanted in my life was just to be on a record! That was my dream. Just one record, it didn’t matter if it was a 7 inch or 12 inch, just one record. And we had done it! This limited little 7 inch was just busting out! But they (the label) were skint, absolutely skint! And we were looking on the Internet (eBay) watching it go for £160 odd. I was thinking, “But I’ve only got fucking one!” Then I was thinking, “I could sell this one copy now and do what I needed to do as far as money was concerned.
I was thinking, “Why didn’t I get two, why didn’t I say we’ll have two each instead of one each.” But I didn’t and I’ve still got it! But now we are all right (moneywise). But I still sometimes get that little 7 inch out and just go, “How close you came to being sold is just unbelievable!”
Smoove: I’ve actually got a test pressing as well! I actually collect test pressings; I’ve got like a couple hundred of them. And I’ve got a lot of friends in music who know that I like test pressings. They ring me up and say, “Smoove, I just made a record can I send you a test pressing?” And I say, “Of course you can!!” (Smoove chuckles happily) And my friend Malachi, he did other test pressings. And then we ended up doing Antique Soul in 2005. That only took us a year to make! To be honest 50% of it was already stuff musically that had been left over; ideas that were lying around.
Turrell: It just took a singing maestro to come and put something on top you know! (Turrell laughs maniacally)
Smoove: And then we remixed some more of it. However “Eccentric Audio” took two years to make because it was from scratch. But it was good.
The Dood: So there is four years between the releases of the two albums with Eccentric Audio released in 2009 correct?
Turrell: But that wasn’t down to us, we had delivered the album in two years.
Smoove: It actually came out last year! (2011) We handed it in in 2009 to the record company, but it was too near the Christmas period.
The Dood: How did you go about choosing your record label i.e. an independent versus a major?
Smoove: There were four or five labels that were sniffing, but they didn’t have the clout that we wanted. We wanted someone in the UK… Obviously the guy who put the original 7 inch out, he wanted to sign us, but that was in Germany and we wanted someone in the UK that we could work with
Turrell: At the time me and him were so fixated on being with an English label, someone that we could speak to, have a bit of a joke with etc. so I think it was a wise decision to go with Jalapeno Records.
Smoove: The thing is, I ran record labels, but I couldn’t put the finances in that I needed to properly market it and things like that… And the only one that really came up with the cards was Jalapeno, because at the time Kraak & Smaak were signed to them – so that for me is what really pulled me into that. If they hadn’t had been signed I probably wouldn’t have gone.
Turrell: Oh! Without a doubt!
Smoove: So, it’s been quite good and now we’re working on a third album already.
The Dood: In terms of your writing, are you quite prolific – like Prince always churning out albums in his heyday?
Turrell: To be honest, he (Smoove) needs time to find samples and music, I don’t. So I just keep writing anyway.
Smoove: For example, I’d call up John and say, “John, I’ve got this idea; come round now it’s nearly ready! I’ve got the beach together and this and that.” Then he’d come down and say, “Yeah that’s nice! Move that, change that, he would sing a little and then he’s off. And then I’m left to bring all the other guys in.
Turrell: He (Smoove) needs time, like after the last album, he needs a good six months to recuperate. He then looks at which direction he thinks we should go in next. I mean I’ve done my own album in the middle of that, because I need to keep writing. If I don’t keep writing, then my head starts getting a bit funny.
The Dood: Is your individual material completely different to what you do with Smoove and Turrell?
Turrell: Completely, there’s no point in doing the same thing, obviously it’s the same voice, but it’s a lot more Bluesy!
Smoove: Even before I met him he was doing that kind of Bluesy/Soul thing.
Turrell: The guy I’m working with, Nick Faber, he’s from London; he’s got a different aspect or vision on where my vocals should go really. Same as what Smoove’s vision of my vocal is. I don’t care where my vocal goes as long as the music is fantastic that’s behind me.
The Dood: Share with me some of your vocal influences?
Turrell: Obviously people like Otis Redding; Marvin Gaye. But then there are singer/songwriter’s like Nate James. When you get as good as Marvin at writing lyrics and singing beautifully, there isn’t anywhere else to go.
Smoove: John didn’t grow up solely on Soul music.
Turrell: No, I was also into Steely Dan etc.
Smoove: I know loads about Soul music and Northern Soul and Hip-Hop and Funk, being a record collector. John’s knowledge of music is very different to that. But that’s a good thing! Because if we both like the same music we wouldn’t be as creative as we are.
Turrell: Music is constantly changing.
Smoove: It’s a little bit how I use Hip-Hop and Funk; it’s not groundbreaking, but just the way I do it, it has more Hip-Hop roots. Just the things I liked about music as a kid. And now when John and I are in the studio, we don’t even have to look at each other and we know something ain’t right straightaway. We’d spend like 20 min on just one harmony and then we’d get it and then we’ll look back and go, “It’s shit though! But making those brash decisions are important… Some people never get it out of the studio because they hit these problems.
The Dood: These last two albums where were they recorded?
Turrell: No studio!
Smoove: I think the next album will be called “No Gear, All the Ideas!” (Laughs)
Turrell: Instead of the other way, “All the gear, And No Ideas!” (Laughs) We’ve got a laptop; we’ve got a good keyboard; we’ve got a room which has music on every wall, because it’s just records!
The Dood: Good soundproofing!
Turrell: Aye! Good soundproofing!
Smoove: Basically I just started in a cut-and-paste style regarding my mixing. And then built up slowly from there, learned how to use Cubase and worked on that. And my production has just got better and better. Some critics said that the last album we did was a bit polished compared to the one before. Obviously as a producer you want the sound to get better, what you still want the script and the Funk, you know what I mean. But I think those albums to me are the same. I think if we had released both those albums at the same time, people would never have said that. It’s just the fact that my musical taste is quite varied. You get like a Latin Jazz and Funk, but it’s hidden under John’s vocal. He’s the thing that ties it all together. If you strip those songs away and made them all instrumental, they are actually quite intricate, but it’s his voice that hides that.
Smoove: I’ve actually been there you know. I was signed to Big Life (Records) years ago and we remixed this underground track in this major studio with an SSL desk. And we were like, “This is fucking amazing!” We were in there for three days, and there was a band next door called “Reel People” who are like really big now!
Turrell: But, as long as it sounds like it was done in an amazing studio! That’s why you need an amazing producer and a laptop! (Laughs)
The Dood: And a few words about the band that you’ve got together here?
Turrell: Our band! Ha ha! They’ve been with us since day one.
Smoove: It’s the family! They started out a lot of them as friends in other bands that we were in like which is “The Associates” and they’ve ended up putting their input into the albums as we’ve been writing which has been really good. So they’re involved in the whole live thing really, and we have to showcase it.
The Dood: Who’s on what instruments?
Turrell: We’ve got Oz on drums (Oscar Cassidy); Tim (Mcvicar) on bass; then we’ve got the silent assassin Athol Cassidy on guitar; Dave Wilde on sax; and then there’s the monster Mike Porter on the Hammond B3 organ.
The Dood: So Mike, you must like a bit of Reuben Wilson?
Mike Porter: He’s good, but Alan Price is also amazing!
Turrell: Alan Price is from the Toon! (Laughs)
The Dood: Okay so what’s the next step regarding future album releases?
Turrell: We are working on the new one (album) which is untitled at the minute.
The Dood: What was that title you were going to call it?
Turrell: Oh yeah! “All the Gear and Nee Ideas!” Ha ha ha! And I’ve got “John Turrell – The King Maker” which is yet to be signed, but at the same time it deserves to be.
Smoove: We’re just going to be touring the last two albums with the band for the next foreseeable year and a half at least!
The Dood: The UK and Europe?
Smoove: Everywhere yeah! There’s even chat of America at the minute.
The Dood: Live or in the studio, what does it for you?
Smoove: The studio is good because when you finish the song and you know it’s clicked, you know you’ve put something in history. That’s it forever there, especially when it’s on vinyl. So when you’re dead and gone, that’s you on wax. For obvious reasons some things in the studio don’t always work live and vice versa.
Turrell: But it’s the same when you’re doing a live gig, you know it’s there forever in someone’s head!
Smoove: No one can take that memory away it’s only in their memory. So that’s the great thing about live.
Turrell: That’s the great thing about music altogether!
The Dood: Briefly, what advice would you give to young singers/songwriter’s/producers?
Turrell: I’m working with a guy from Brixton called Grant McLauchlin – Amazing blues! Amazing blues! It’s as simple as that. He’s the next Jimi Hendrix, it’s as simple as that. He’s flipping amazing! To be honest the best advice I could give is learn what you need to learn; sing from the heart; play from the heart; and carry on, just carry on! I’m 34 and battered it! I just kept on going and going! And at some point, someone’s got to grind some arsehole down. And I reckon we’re starting to grind the arsehole down!
The Dood: I have a saying, “Persistence Overcomes Resistance!” That’s my motto.
Turrell: Oh! Without a doubt! Without a doubt!
Smoove: As a producer my advice would be basically what we said earlier. Go buy the gear. Get your laptop… You can download loads of software, it’s there. It’s all about having ideas.
Turrell: Enjoy yourself!
Smoove: Unlike when I was a kid, you couldn’t get the gear! You couldn’t get your hands on the gear. Now you can use the equipment that there and you’re only limitation is your ideas – that’s it! The only thing is you must get some tips about compression and how to use reverb and a little bit of production tips – that will help you no end. That’s it really.
The Dood: Listen guys thank you so much for your time and I’m looking forward to the show tonight!
Turrell/Smoove: Thank you so much for coming down.
Michael J Edwards
￼Smoove, Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards and John Turrell
Essential Tour Dates:
“Had very high expectations for last night’s gig at Floridita, London.
You guys totally exceeded them …. Great job !
The whole place was jumping !!!!
Thanks to the whole band for a great night.￼” Phil
30 March 2012 – Cumberlandsche – Hannover Germany DJ/PA SET
31 March 2012 – Lila Eule -Bremen Germany DJ/PA SET
10th April 2012 – Newcastle – Private Booking LIVE BAND
11th April 2012 – Hoochie Coochie – Newcastle ( Charity event ) LIVE BAND
14th April 2012 – Orange Peel – Frankfurt – Germany DJ/PA SET
15th April 2012 – Frankfurt – Germany Private booking DJ/PA SET
4th May 2012 – Manchester – Private booking DJ/PA SET
5th May 2012 – Anglesley – Wales – Private booking DJ/PA SET
11th May 2010 – Lile – France DJ/PA SET
12th May 2012 – Design & Urban Festival – Rzeszow – Poland LIVE BAND
19th May 2012 – Jazz on the lake – Amsterdam DJ/PA SET
25th May 2012 – The Place – St Petersbourgh – Russia DJ/PA SET
26th May 2012 – Cult Club – Moscow Russia DJ/PA SET
15th June – Leaf Tea Shop – Liverpool LIVE BAND
16th June – Preston LIVE BAND TBC
7th July 2012 – Tynedale Park Festival – Corbridge DJ/PA SET
15th July 2012 – Vintage Festival – Northamptonshire LIVE BAND
4th Aug 2012 – Spraoi Festival – Ireland LIVE BAND
5th Aug 2012 – Spraoi Festival – Ireland LIVE BAND
12th Oct 2012 – Newcastle – Private Booking LIVE BAND