OMAR 2013

“But man, I made a point of it when I was about eight, nine; ten years old that I need to make music that was me! You hear my music; you know it’s going to be me. And I made a very distinct choice to do that. I made a distinct choice to stand out from the crowd – Basically to be counted…”

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

They say wine matures and gets better with time; and absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well in the case of one Mr Omar Lyefook (MBE) this is definitely, positively, absolutely 100 % true! He has definitely matured, having started a young family. And in speaking to lovers of his music and unique vocals, his long hiatus between his 2006 album “Sing If You Want To,” and his current set on Freestyle Records, “The Man,” has most definitely increased their appreciation and fondness for his eclectic and uniquely British sound.

Michael “The Dood” Edwards was invited down to Omar’s back-a-yard studios to find out more about his new album “The Man” from the man and his eventual choice of Freestyle Records as the preferred outlet for his new offering. Mr Lyefook also reflects on his MBE honour; his introduction to Leon Ware; his admiration of Syreeta Wright’s vocals; D’Angelo; his fresh take on his own classic, “There’s Nothing like This;” what inspires his writing and much more.

The Dood: You seem to have been operating just outside the musical radar for quite a while now?

Omar: For about 28 years maybe! (laughs)

The Dood: From the outside looking in, it appears that you observe the masses, but do the opposite. Is this a conscious decision?

Omar: Listen, all I do is just follow my own thing you know. Because if you follow something that is going on now, then sooner or later it’s going to be not now. I learned a long time ago to just make music that I’m going to be happy with, but I feel is going to be something that is gonna endure. My first single, “You and Me,” (I fucking hated that song) came out round about the same time as Five-Star in 1984. I was doing PAs when they were doing PAs and I had to go on afterwards singing a song that I hated. So I kinda made a decision then that I was going to make music that I would be happy to perform again and again.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: So it was a conscious decision?

Omar: Yeah! At the end of the day all you’ve got left is your music. I’ve been through the mill with various record labels and stuff, where they’ve said you’ve got to have a certain song to get on the radio stations; to get plays on the radio; to get TV plays and videos and all that kinda stuff. But at the end of the day YOU’RE left with it! So if it doesn’t make the charts, you’re still stuck with it!

The Dood: So you’ve got to be proud of it full-stop! Whether it makes the top 50 or not?

Omar: Full-stop! So I’m happy with the legacy that I left in terms of the sounds that I’ve made and the songs that I’ve done. I’m very proud with those songs. They’re different to everything else, but they’ve stood the test of time – In terms that I can play them any time and be happy with them. It’s like this album now (The Man) has taken me seven years. Some of the music started from maybe 10 years before, but you can still play it now and is still current.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Still relevant, like your classic track “There’s Nothing Like This.” It has definitely stood the test of time. So you mean timeless in that sense. Just like one of your idols Stevie Wonder’s music?

Omar: Stevie! Exactly! His thing can drop any time…So one of my main goals is to have music with the same longevity. You know what I mean, you’ve got people playing my music out at a dance and it’s still getting a rewind.

The Dood: Why come back now?

Omar: I’ve got a mortgage to pay for and council tax and two kids! No, basically you know what I tried to do, I tried not to take as long as I did for the last album, which was five years i.e. the time between “Sing If You Want to” and “Best by Far” before that. So I tried not to take as long, but things transpire – I had the kids, we moved.

The Dood: Was that planned?

Omar: Having the kids was planned yeah, because we had been together for a certain amount of time. Then she wanted to move, so we moved as well. But then I was writing the music, touring and doing gigs worldwide. Then I started acting… Well I started studying at a place called the Identity Drama School

The Dood: When?

Omar: When? Probably when they (the twins) were born around 2007 or 2008 is when it started. Then I got my first part in a proper musical.

The Dood: So you’ve got your actors or equity card?

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Omar: I’ve got my actors card! So yes, I got my first part in a musical called “Been so Long.” So things just got moving in that direction.

The Dood: So the music went on the backburner?

Omar: Not on the backburner, acting was just another thing that I was doing. Plus I’m always writing music you know. The selection that we’ve used for this album is basically the one that I’ve settled with. There’s another ten or fifteen songs that I didn’t pick for this album.

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The Dood: Would you say then that you are similar to Prince in that he is renowned for his prolific song-writing?

Omar: I’m not as prolific as Prince. My brother is like Prince – Scratch Professer. He’ll write a song. He’ll write about four or five songs in a day, and then do the remixes as well! All in 24 hours! I don’t do that – I need to let my stuff stew for a little while; take a little time to get the vibe going. Then I start breaking it down into sections. That takes a certain amount of time.

The Dood: Was that the case with the single “The Man?”

Omar: “The Man.” Well I started that in 2008. Basically I was getting ready to go on tour with this Danish band. A friend of mine called Jonas Rendbo had a band and we were supposed to go on tour in East Africa and Scandinavia. The keyboardist, his name is Daniel Fridell, he’s actually from Sweden, I just really liked his style and I was like, “Man, we should do something together!” We sat in the studio and there was a track called “Woman’s Gotta to Have It” by Bobby Womack.

And just getting the vibe from that, I thought that’s the kind of groove that I want to go with. So he played all the bits and pieces, then I brought it home here and added the brass and the string section and everything to it. But it took a little while to get through all those stages – these things just take a bit of time. Getting the deal as well – Finding a home and the right label took a bit of time

The Dood: So what attracted you to Freestyle Records?

Omar: Freestyle (Records) just seemed to be in the right place. They were talking serious to me. I was coming to people with a finished album. It was mixed, it’s arranged, there’s nothing else you’ve got to do to it – there it is! So you’ve got to talk seriously to me. I’m a busy man at the same time and they were the ones talking seriously to me. But at the same time Greg (Boraman, Head of Freestyle Recs) is a musician, so that kind of thing I identified with.

It’s a bit like when I was on Talking Loud, you know Giles Peterson and Norman Jay. Those guys are musically led, as opposed to dealing with labels that don’t really know about the music, they are more accountants. They’re business people, where as this (Freestyle) is a home for music. So it just seemed to be the right time and the right place. 2013 and I just got my MBE as well, do you know what i mean. So everything just seems to be at the right time – right now!

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Omar accepts his MBE for services to music

The Dood: You mentioned the MBE. Do you feel like it’s recognition not just for your services to music as an individual, but also as recognition for those unsung UK artists that have been chipping away for so many years – Artists like Rick Clarke, Junior and Carl McIntosh for example?

Omar: No! (Belly laugh) Look, there’s a whole bunch of us out there that are been making music for a long time and I definitely feel part of that fraternity. It’s Brand New Heavies; and Young Disciples; Loose Ends; Galliano; Incognito; Rick Clarke; Junior; Carl McIntosh – the whole board!

But man, I made a point of it when I was about eight, nine; ten years old that I need to make music that was me! You hear my music; you know it’s going to be me. And I made a very distinct choice to do that. I made a distinct choice to stand out from the crowd – Basically to be counted. So I’m seeing it (the MBE) as a reflection of that. But hell yeah, I’m accepting it for everybody else.

The Dood: Respect! The album “The Man” was as you alluded to earlier written over a seven year period. It has an extremely diverse mix of musical flavours. On the beginning of track one “Simplify,” you seem to be musically doffing your hat to your main man Stevie wonder. Would I be right in this observation?

Omar: Yeah! Yeah! Absolutely!

The Dood: Ok cool. And “High Heels,” featuring The Hidden Jazz Quartet (HJQ) from Germany – how did that link-up come about?

Omar: They contacted me through Peppermint Jam, Mousse T’s label in Germany and said that they wanted me to feature on this track.

I had it for a while but I didn’t get the vibe to do it properly. Like I said it takes me a while to get it, but once I got it I’ve GOT it! But it took me like a year! The poor geezer was like after four or five months, “Have you done it yet?! He kept calling at the end of every month… Then Bam! One day it was there, I just got it!

And then when I did it and I was putting all the other tracks in, my missus goes to me, “Who is that?!” I said “Well it’s their (HJQ’s) track isn’t it!” She goes, “Yeah! But you should have that for the album!” And I went, “Yeah! You’re kinda right!” But then when I listened to all the different tracks as I’m starting to put the album together piece by piece, it just fit… Because my thing is a Jazz, Soul, Latin, live, atmosphere! Do you know what I mean? And it’s me singing on top. So it all just links, it’s not like it stands out from the rest of the album – It just kind of fits into the whole concept.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: What’s the Story behind the track “Ordinary Day,” which I saw you perform at Bar 216?

Omar: “Ordinary Day” was a funny one because I wrote that one with a musician called Alan Simpson who I know from back in my college days… How I started it off, the beat was more of a house beat. Then I saw an ad which had that Samba style, and I thought I preferred that direction.

Then my friend Stewart Zender, (who plays bass for Jamiroquai, I’ve known him for years) he was like, “Oh yeah! I want to play something!” – because he played on “Best by Far.” So I said I’ve got this track do you want to put something on it? I haven’t seen this geezer for over 10 years now! But technology is such, I just sent in the track without the bass on it and he played the bass on it and sent it back to me. And bam! It was done! It was just a really sweet nice little thing, the arrangements on it and everything. It was the first one where I’ve really made a conscious decision about the subject matter, because I’m singing about my missus – my girl.

The Dood: So the album turned out to be a more family orientated project?

Omar: “The Man” is turning out to be like that in terms of when you see the video it’s got my missus and my girls in it, but I hadn’t really consciously thought of it. But with “Ordinary Day” I set that out to be that that was what I wanted to sing about.

The Dood: Let’s talk about collaborations on “The Man.” Give us the lowdown on “Treat You,” your duet with Caron Wheeler?

Omar: That was a nice little thing, because I hadn’t seen her for years because she had been in New York… Then I met up with her at the Fridge. It’s not called the Fridge now is it?

The Dood: The Electric, Brixton.

Omar: Yeah! They were getting their blue plaque outside in honour of Soul II Soul. And I just got talking to her and said, “I’ve got this tune that you might want to sing on?” And she goes, “Yeah! Yeah! I’ll sing on it!” I sent her the thing and she said she loved it. Then when she was back in New York she said she’d get onto it. She got on it man and she’s done a beautiful job. And it kind of makes sense in that i find the production is very much similar to Carl’s (McIntosh) Loose Ends type of thing. So it’s perfect that I’ve got a UK singer on it. It just made perfect sense.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Talking of Caron Wheeler, Soul II Soul i.e. Jazzie B and co. have just celebrated their 25th anniversary in February 2013. You yourself have been on the scene for 28/29 years and still churning out good music. How do you account for your longevity?

Omar: I give thanks and touch wood that I’m still here you what know I mean… It’s hard out there, so it’s a blessing I’m still here banging out music. Every morning I wake up I give thanks because I’m in such a position. I’ve got this place where I go and create the music… That’s why I made this place in the first place, so then any time I get a vibe all I have to do is come in here. I don’t have to worry if I’ve paid the rent or mortgage or anything to get it sorted, it’s here. That’s all I needed to do, then anything else is a bonus on top of that.

Because I’ve been in and out of record deals and stuff and the one factor I need to be able to do is create new music. Whatever happens after that is kind of secondary.

The Dood: But you’re a creative person, you need an outlet?

Omar: Well that’s it, I need an output. And a fantastic thing is we’ve got the Internet. That’s the beautiful thing, especially with my kind of music which isn’t main-stream, it’s more underground. It’s the kind of thing where I’ve got access to the masses.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Staying with the collaborations, your flip on “There’s Nothing like This” with legendary bass player Pino Palladino – was that like an anniversary remix?

Omar: It was supposed to be done for the 20th anniversary, which would’ve been 2010 when I started considering doing it. Then I tried it again, I got the original master tape and tried to play everything again – that didn’t work! I wasn’t happy with the vocal on it or anything! So I was thinking, “How am I going to do this again?” Just as luck would have it, the week before I actually started doing it properly, I got a call from Pino saying, “Yo man! I’m back in town let’s do some stuff!”

The Dood: I take it you’ve worked together before?

Omar: We’ve worked together before on the previous album. I said, “Yeah! Yeah! Sure! Sure!” And then the night before he was supposed to come, I got it! I thought let’s try it with this kind of beat. It was a Marvin (Gaye)/Donny Hathaway beat and I was trying to change the chords… Then I was like, “Oh man! Pino is coming tomorrow, (We were supposed to work on something else) shall I tell him not to come.” Then I thought, “Hold on! PINO’s COMING TOMORROW! Get him to play the bass on it!” It’s him on the guitar and the bass – you should hear what he does when he cuts it up. Everything just fit in place, the strings, the brass… He just took it somewhere else.

The Dood: A version excursion?

Omar: A version excursion, you know what I mean! Yeah! Yeah! It was good!

The Dood: You collaborated with your brother, Scratch Professer on various tracks the.” How old is he now?

Omar: Scratch Professer, yeah! He’s almost 40! We’ve been working together since my first album – well before that. He’s got his own style of production which is always good… We work together well. We’re actually working on some stuff together for a separate album. We’ve got to work out a name for that, but that’s a separate thing.

The Dood: Pure white label for now?

Omar: That’s right! He’s got a Grammy you know, he’s got a Grammy for producing Damian Marley’s music. He produced like two or three tracks on his album (Half Way Tree). So he’s got a Grammy – I don’t! So I’ve got to work on that status.

Carl Hyde (photographer): But you’ve got a Gong! (laughs)

Omar: I’ve got a Gong, which kinda weighs it up, but I want one of those (Grammy).

The Dood: Did he push it under your nose?!

Omar: No, but he did actually leave the piece of paper here! He said, “You can put it up on the wall if you want!” “I said no, you f…king take that home with you!” But yeah! We wrote “Eeni Meeni Myni Mo,” together – he co-produced that…He’s playing keys on “I Can Listen;” He’s featured scratching on “Bully” as well. He’s always doing the DMC scratching competition, mixing competition. But he’s always been a pillar of what I do, because it always adds a little dimension to my stuff.

I don’t like to just take care of everything myself, because if I did I would be completely bored… I’ve got like a stable of people that I use in terms of the musicians. Don-e is a guitarist on this; I’ve used the same brass boys that I’ve used throughout the years. I’ve used the same engineer Roy Merchant that I’ve been using for years as well.

The Dood: They’re like family. It’s a bit like these property gurus who when they buy a property, use the same team of people to do it up – the same painters and decorators; the same electricians; the same plumbers etc.

Omar: Well yeah! Exactly! Because you know how they work…What it is, you know you’re going to get the right job done… And it’s quite easy.

The Dood: Expand more about the title track “The Man?”

Omar: Like I was saying, it was influenced by “Woman’s Got to Have It” by Bobby Womack. That’s where it started… I had started that in Copenhagen, Denmark with Danny Fridell.

The Dood: Were you there gigging anyway?

Omar: We were preparing to go on tour… because I usually use a band in different regions and stuff. It was East Africa or we were going to like Holland, as well as Denmark and Sweden for a tour. The way that Daniel plays is just very inspiring… So I was like “Man we’ve got to work something out!” So we went in the studio and I started with the groove and changing the different things. And then he added the chorus, the chords and the middle eight and stuff. Then I brought back everything that he did for me, and I just kinda cut it up.

One thing I loved on my album “Best by Far” is that I loved the sound of the bass clarinet. The bass clarinet goes very well with the bass (guitar). So I was like, “Man, I’ve got to use it!” And I used the same person I used on “Syleste” which is the track – Ben Castle who is Roy Castle’s son.

He played the flute; he played the sax; but he played the bass clarinet on that as well. Once he did that, I added the string sections and stuff. So one by one all the colours got added – It wasn’t all just Bam! Let’s do this, do this, and do this! The initial groove was there you know what I mean, and it made total sense when I did it.

When it came to picking it as the title track for the album, it was like how I picked “Best by Far.” I’m not trying to boast about myself, it’s just kinda like I went through all the titles of all the tracks and “The Man” seemed to be the one. And when you see the video, it’s kind of about me being a man. I’m trying to look after my family; it’s about me being with my family. My family is what comes first being a man, you know what I mean. So it just kinda makes sense.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Where was the album recorded?

Omar: Mostly in here (Back-a-yard studios), but like I said “The Man” was initially recorded in Daniel’s studio in Copenhagen and then I finished off here. “Simplify” was started off in Titan studios in Wandsworth, but then finished in here. I started with Pino in here as well. So it’s basically Back-a-yard studios but we used other satellite studios as well. Like in Brighton, there is a place called Ironworks studios and I mixed some stuff there with a guy called Mike Pelliconi. But yeah, this is the hub.

The Dood: Did you enjoy that album making process?

Omar: Hell yeah! I get into a zone… Once I’m in a zone that’s it. And like I said you don’t have to worry about paying a bill or if someone is going to kick you out or anything like that. You can just get on with it. And I get that fire in my belly when I make the music – you know like when you like what you do? And it’s not just an insular thing about, “Yeah I like myself!” I still get the same energy that I did when I first started making music as I do now. I’ve been seeing some people making music and it’s just like their clocking in and clocking out. They’re not really doing it for the passion you know what I mean. You’ve got to have that love or else what’s the point you know.

The Dood: Who or what inspires you to write?

Omar: Music from the 60s, 70s – live music kind of inspires me, because that’s how I was trained. I’m classically trained but I’ve always been playing with other musicians. So to be in a group dynamic or listening to that kind of thing, you know Latin stuff or funk stuff or jazz stuff. It’s always a bunch of musicians playing and they’re bouncing off of each other. So that’s the kind of thing that inspires me.

The Dood: I interviewed a young man by the name of Leon Ware earlier this year and asked him which UK artists he was impressed by. He mentioned Bluey Manuick of Incognito and a gentleman by the name of Omar. He said there are a few talented people out there but Omar is on a pedestal by himself. He said “He’s a genius! And I can say that, because I’m a genius. And genius recognises genius.” Then he segued into the genius of Stevie wonder also.

Omar: (Laughs heartily) that’s funny!

The Dood: What’s the story with you and Leon Ware?

Omar: Well, you know me and Leon met back in ’93, ’94. I was doing a Festival and it was a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Leon was the musical director for the band. And I didn’t have a clue who he was! And he was like, “I like your style maybe we should do some work?” I wasn’t even sure who he was in particular, then he came to London and we hung out then. I went to LA – that’s when I started going to LA and was working out there. And it didn’t dawn on me straightaway exactly what he had done. But we went to the Roxy and it was me, him and his wife.

The Dood: His wife Carol?

Omar: Carol, exactly! Then we got lead to the front of the stage and it was packed in there. And they gave us a table at the front. Then Gerald Albright was playing and spots Leon and acknowledges him. Then Wesley Snipes walks by and gives it, “Leon Ware” So then I thought, “Right, okay!” So I did a bit of research and found out that he wrote all that stuff for Marvin (Gaye) and Michael Jackson and Minnie Ripperton and all these things. Then I was like, “Right, okay! Now I know who this dude is!”

When I first met him, it was me and him and El Debarge smoking some hash in the toilet in Cannes. So it was a bit f…king crazy at the time! But we’ve stayed friends ever since… It’s just a blessing to know the guy. He’s so down to earth as well.

The Dood: You’ve confessed in the past to loving the vocals of Syreeta Wright. What is it in particular that fascinates you about her voice?

Omar: Well, it’s that baby voice I think. When I knew I was going to get to work with her, she called me and I thought it was a little girl on the phone. I said, “Who’s this?” She said, “Oh! It’s Syreeta Omar.” And I said, “Oh Man!”

Then of course she wrote with me and then I sat down and wrote “Lullaby (This Is Not A Love Song)” for her. I just had to write something that fitted that voice. The first time she sang it for me i was crying; I cried like a baby! It was my favourite female vocalist of all time singing MY song, you know what I mean. So it just kinda blew me away!

The Dood: Has fatherhood affected your outlook on your life and your music?

Omar: Well yeah! Definitely it has affected me, because there is a purpose now instead of wondering aimlessly through life having parties, making music and travelling (laughs). There’s a reason for it all. I kinda wondered how it would change in that sense, but if anything it’s just given me more purpose. It hasn’t really affected my output in terms of my style or how I work or anything like that – other than the fact that I’ve written the Song “Ordinary Day” for them.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

But I wouldn’t change it for the world! Being a dad is just a beautiful thing! I need to get my fix of them every so often. Obviously I’m travelling on the road and stuff, but I’ve got to come back and I’ve got to see them and they’ve got to see me. There’s that bond there you know what I mean. So it spurs me on just a little bit more to pay for their college tuition (smiles broadly)

The Dood: How old are they now?

Omar: They’ll be six in October.

The Dood: What are their names?

Omar: Carmen and Gabriella.

The Dood: What is the status of Kongo records now? Is it still going?

Omar signs some rare Kongo vinyl

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Omar: Only the publishing portion, because my dad’s (Byron Lye-fook) retired. He lives in Ghana now. Root Jackson as well has just scaled everything back, because the business has changed quite somewhat. So everything is just about publishing now, they don’t release anything.

The Dood: They scaled back how long ago?

Omar: Probably about 10 years ago.

The Dood: So these Kongo vinyl records I have are collector’s items?!

Omar: Absolutely! You’re doing well there!

The Dood: Is this super group with you, Junior Giscombe, Don-e, Noel McKoy and Carl McIntosh going to come to fruition?

Omar: Oh! We’ve been talking. I saw Junior at an Africa charity football match last Monday; Don-e has been doing stuff and he’s got all of us in one track. But we’ve kind of been talking that we all need to do something together. So I think like we’re all going to contribute one or two songs and we’ll probably end up with an album.

The Dood: Is there to be a tour coming off of that album?

Omar: Well you know because it’s music you’ve got to do a tour based on that as well. But these things take time and there’s a whole bunch of people you’ve got to get organised.

The Dood: During my interview Don-e said that when he was with you in America a while back, D’Angelo walked in on one of your recording sessions and a year or so later came out with “Brown Sugar” with a similar sound to what you are doing. Do you recall that?

Omar: I don’t recollect it like that! My recollection isn’t like that at all. I’ve known D’Angelo from around about that time ‘93/’94 when I was in New York. I was doing a photo shoot with him for the label that I was on, Brooklyn Funk Essentials on some rooftop somewhere. I didn’t know who he was. I just thought he was some dude, some rapper. As we’re coming down off the roof I heard “Shit, Damn, Mother Fucker.” I thought what the fuck is this! It’s a wicked!

And the guys went, “That’s D man! It’s D! And I said, “Oh man! That sounds fucking amazing!” People say that I’m the father of Neo-Soul – I don’t see it that way! I mean I was part of a movement in terms of the Acid Jazz thing and things like that. But in terms of people copying a sound, I think that him – That’s D’Angelo. All that stuff like the “Brown Sugar” album at that time, nobody’s really changed the sound from then. That’s just how I see it.

The Dood: But did you bounce off each other, the vibes and such?

Omar: I know he’s a fan of my music. Angie Stone is telling me that she is that she is sitting in a car with him listening to “Little Boy” and he’s asking, “Who’s this?!” So it kind of goes in circles; Then I saw him at a gig in London and he was like, “Man! I was going to do “Little Boy” in the show and things”like that. So it works both ways do you know what I mean.

But you know there’s a difference between the UK sound and the American sound – We are influenced by them, and I know they get a little vibe from us as too. There was a time when Don-e was working with Stewart Zender and D’Angelo was supposed to come in and work with them. And they did their little thing together. I wouldn’t say that he took my sound or that he took Don-e’s sound. Maybe D’Angelo went into Don-e’s session, but I wasn’t there so I can’t quote on that.

The Dood: Who of the current crop of music artists should we look out for? Maybe your sister who recently passed through Brit school?

Omar: Yeah! Psalms Lye-fook; She’s got an album coming out as well. So watch out for her. Ego Ella May is also a singer. They’re gonna both be performing at the launch party. Ashanti Smile; Kevin Mark Trail; Sharlene
Hector – those are all names to watch out for.

The Dood: Will any of the collaborators from “The Man” album be joining you at the Jazz Cafe dates?

Omar: Oh! We’re just going to come with me because nobody that I’ve collaborated with is going to be here, apart from my brother Scratch (Professer), who will probably be there. I’m just trying to sort out the rehearsals and everything now.

The Dood: Full live instrumentation?

Omar: Of course! It will be a band! Full band situation for that – You’ve got to come correct!

The Dood: Seven years we waited for the release of “The Man.” Will there be a lengthy gap before the next album?

Omar: I hope not! But listen, I can’t really say. I tried not to do that between the last one as well. But like I said, me and my brother are working on a separate project. I’ve also got an album that I’ve realised of all my productions with a lot of different artist, which sounds pretty tight. But I just have to tidy them up and bring them all together you know.

The Dood: Top and tail them?

Omar: Exactly! Just make sure that everything is in the right space and time.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: What message do you have for the youths out there given your 28/29 years in and around the music business?

Omar: You’ve got to be smart! You’ve got to be smart about it because it’s a business. The industry has changed out there now as well. Downloads and stuff, it’s not like selling CDs. You’ve got to be selling your CDs at the shows – have your merchandise. Because you’ve got to have something that people want to buy – Your T-shirts, your condoms and you’re fucking hats! – Whatever you need to do that. You’ve got to set up your fan base; you’ve got to have your presence out there. So you’ve got to have your Facebook, your twitter and your website – All these things so that people can get to know you. But then on top of that obviously you’ve got to have the talent to do it! There are people out there and they ain’t got no talent, but you gotta have something!

The Dood: Substance?

Omar: Some substance! Something that people are going to be interested in; and you’ve got to stand out from the crowd – So there are lot of fucking boxes to tick! But if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul. It’s not going to be an overnight thing. “… Nothing Like This” was five years after I’d started. People are saying, “Oh! You just started last year.” It had been out for a while before the album came – before people knew me properly. You’ve got to get out there and do the footwork; you’ve got to go and do the PAs in the clubs where you don’t know where the speakers are!
Do you remember “The Hitman and Her?” I’m singing in those kind of clubs, where nobody wants to hear a fucking singer, they just want to have a drink and shag a bird. And then there’s me going La! La! La! La! with the people talking over you and all that! So you’ve got to put in the groundwork! And then from that you get experience.

The Dood: Just like the jazz artists of yesteryear, such as Charlie Parker.

Omar: Exactly! Do the footwork!

The Dood: Well Omar, respect to you for doing the footwork all these years and laying the trail for future artist to follow. And you’re still out here building upon it.

Omar: I’m still getting out there, you know what I mean. Still working at it!

The Dood: And we truly appreciate it. How do you stay healthy and stay in shape?

Omar: I go training. I go boxing training and things like that because I’m trying to fight the good fight. I went training the other night and I saw Chris Martin of Coldplay. I see him in there training hard! Because it is like that, you’ve got to keep on top of your game… I used to kind of sit around in my 30s, compared to now, when I got kids and stuff. I’ve got two girls; it’s not going to be that long before boys come knocking on the door. So I’ve got to be able to stand up. But it is also being fit enough to put up with the work and get out on the road and do singing and all those things.

The Dood: You’ve got to be mentally sharp as well?

Omar: You’ve got to keep your mental thing straight as well

The Dood: And how do you look after your voice? Especially when performing the cappella track “Fine?”

Omar: You mean the per-cappella! – A cross between percussion and a cappella. Regarding the voice, I don’t!

The Dood: No lemon and honey?

Omar: No, not really! You can do that. I mean when you’re on the road you kinda have to do that a bit more, so it is sort of like the tea and the honey and stuff, especially when you doing constant gigs. I suffer in Japan when we have to do to shows a day for a week! That really does kill you, so you have to have your things like that. But for the most part I don’t really do anything.

Omar Lye-fook (MBE) & Michael “The Dood” Edwards

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Thank you for your time and I like many others are eagerly looking forward to your live dates at the Jazz Cafe.

Omar: Cool

Michael J Edwards
Essential Album: The Man (Freestyle Records, 2013)

Essential Websites:
http://www.omarmusic.co.uk/
http://www.freestylerecords.co.uk/

Essential gig dates: “The Man” Album launch party – Jazz Cafe: 27th & 28th June

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