30 DEEP QUESTIONS WITH SY BARTHOLEMEW (THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES)

If you are a fan of The Brand New Heavies why don’t we celebrate their 30th years in music. I know that some of their strong hits are staying in your heart forever such as Dream On Dreamer’, ‘Back To Love’, ‘Midnight At The Oasis’, ‘Sometimes’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’. Really proud to informed Sy Bartholemew has replied my long questions about the lockdown, his , upcoming live broadcast show on 3rd July, the story of “You Are The Universe” and of course, Jakarta! See you here again next year!

1. Hi Simon, it’s an absolute pleasure to speak to you today. I hope you staying safe in lockdown. How’s everything been with The Brand New Heavies?
A: Very good, but a little disappointing we can’t fulfil all out shows ! We had many Festivals around Europe, a UK Tour and a World Tour booked ! BUT ~ We are doing a live broadcast show on Friday 3rd July ~ Please check our social media for details ~ It’s a pay per view concert with all the lights and good stuff !

2. Do you already miss the stage and the crowds?
A: I think we all miss each other !

3. Before we all went into lockdown earlier this year, what was the last music event you performed? How was that experience like?
A: We introduced a Camden Walk Of Fame Star to Jazzy B of Soul II Soul, right opposite Camden Town Station. It was awesome because we used to play at his parties before he was famous. Andrew Levy of TBNH plays keys n bass on the tune Fair Play on their 1st LP. After giving a speech to Jazzy and all cool Londoners who started KISS fm when there was no Black radio back in the 80s and others, we played outside and it was awesome ! That was in the afternoon. Then I went to play in an amazing Curtis Mayfield tribute band called the Custom 6, which was also awesome. I felt ill the next day and may have had the virus, but I didn’t get it so bad or for too long if If did actually have it.

4. Does this situation benefit you as an artist because it gives you some time to breathe and to be creative or does it stifle you because you’re forced to stay in one place?
A: It has been a time for creativity. I wrote a song for #clapforcarers (In the UK, on Thursday at 8pm, the nation goes on it’s doorsteps and cheers and bangs things for the National Health survive. It was for Hello magazine. I’ve been busy working on my house ! With lots of tunes and ideas flying around i my head. It’s beautiful. I have bees on my Blackberry blossom which is so nice.

5. Artists don’t have much opportunity to perform live at the moment apart from through the Internet. Have you been doing many live streams recently?
A: I’ve done 3 of different types ~ I think they’re on our instagram or Facebook. We have the show I already mentioned too ~ The PPV live broadcast ~ A first for us and we’re really excited about and hope people tune in on the 3rd July at 8pm UK time ~ The details will be on our social media.

6. With everyone stuck at home for the foreseeable, what tips can you give to help people get through the next few weeks/months?
A: To relax and enjoy your family if you have one. Maybe take up the guitar ?I’ve been doing some paintings n made a flower press today !

7. Are you thinking much about how the show will be structured when you hit the road after this global pandemic ended.
A: Not really thought about it much. Many thousands die of Flu every year and I think that when their thing has been contained and the real figures are out, we’ll all be back to normal. I hope so anyway. Not the Governments ‘New Normal’ either!

8. Are you working on any new songs right now?
A: Yes ! I’m always working on songs and thinking about music, listening to music and playing my guitar as much as possible.

9. Did you always know that music was your destiny?
A; Well I always loved music from a young age. My parents were into Jazz and Blues n all sorts and the radio was always on, though mainly Radio 4 (more talking). My first love was Rock N Roll but it was hard to hear it then so it had a kind of exotic tantalisation for me. My first riff were Eddie Cochran & Buddy Holly type stuff. And Blues.

10. How old were you when music first became a big part of your life?
A: Probably about 12.

11. What’s it like to walk onstage and see that giant crowd the first time?
A: Well the crowds weren’t massive at all in the early days. Then we got to support Simply Red at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. 70,000 Capacity and was very full. It was awesome and breathtaking ! We were supposed to play at the back part of the stage, but I went down the front and played with my teeth. It took the younger me some real balls to do that ! I wore Orange Flares. Or were they green crushed Velvet ?

12. How and why did you choose the name “The Brand New Heavies”?
A: From a James Brown LP sleep. It said he was the minister of the New Super Heavy Heavy Funk. We kind of adapted the name from that.

13. For anyone new to you guys and wanted to know more about your work, you both have massive back catalogues: where would you point them?
A: Maybe the first LP ~ The Blue LP starts off really cool…. with percussion into instrumental BNH.

14. What’s it like to walk onstage and see that giant crowd the first time?
A: I think that’s the same as Q 11 !

15. You might have already had it but if not, if you could have your ultimate stage fantasy what would need to happen?
A: Maybe crowd surfing ? Never did that!

16. The music industry has changed so much. Most artists today stay relevant for about 40 seconds. How do you manage to stay relevant all these years? What’s your secret?
A: Being a live band has helped keep us going, as there’s no money in record sales etc. Being associated with Jazz and Funk and Soul keeps us getting booked. And we have fans who have the good memories like music gives you and buy our new stuff. Some say our new LP is as good as the first 2 which were seen as the ones !

17. How do you feel about people who imitate your sound and style?
A: I wasn’t aware they did ! I have my influences and people have there’s. If I’m one, then I’m honoured. Mark Ronson told me that his 2 favourite guitarists were Nile Rodgers and Me ! Nile has been a major influence sand is an amazing geezer so that was quite a compliment to say the least.

18. If you could go back in time when you first started to record, the technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today. Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
A: I’d rather go back to recording that way. Onto tape. There weren’t even CDs when we started. Love the ease of the mp3s though. No rewinding for another take! Click!

19. I’ve been listening to your songs for 30 years now. It’s hard to condense that amount of time into just 20 minutes but I’ll give it a go! Is it fair to say that it was your partnership with Acid Jazz Records that opened you up to the rest of the world in the 90s?
A: The Heavies and Acid Jazz are a kind of portal to all the great black american (and the rest of the world). Leads you to Jazz too if you’re lucky. It is backward, now and forward looking. Not a bad way to be !

20. How did you get signed to Acid Jazz? Was there any other interest from other record labels to sign you or was it only your intention to sign to Acid Jazz?
A: We got dropped from Chrysalis because Acid House came along and weren’t that style. So for a Joke Eddie Piller & Gilles Peterson started Acid Jazz! I dunno how we met ~ Probably in a club.

21. Signing a deal with Acid Jazz Records has to be an important development?
A: Absolutely ~ We got our record out! Then Delicious Vinyl heard it in America and we got with them too.

22. “You Are The Universe” was a phenomenal success, were you expecting the critical acclaim that you received?
A: You never truly know how thing’s will go, so it was great it did so well. We’d get fan mail saying how uplifting it was for pope. It stopped someone committing suicide! Good news!

23. Does acid jazz still have validity in 2019? Is acid jazz something different in the 21st century?
A: Well everyone listens to everything now. It has given us all that great music and we can see/hear it all online, YouTube, Mixcloud etc. It’s a music that will always be valid, like Reggae.

24. How do you feel things have changed in the music world – both generally and for new artists starting out – since you started. What’s your view on the current state of music? Anyone that you particularly adore or would go out of your way to see live?
A: Man, that’s a big question ! Easier to talk it out. Briefly, I’d say build a live following because there’s no way to make a living out of it anywhere else.

25. I also wanted to ask about your writing process – is it something that’s fairly set or does it change?
A: We have several different writing processes. Jamming. writing alone, collaborating ~ All sorts.

26. Do you find you go into ‘writing mode’ and ‘touring mode’? Or are you able to switch easily between the two?
A: A tune can come into your head from a dream ~ You could be on tour, camping, or on bus on a rainy day in London looking at Big Ben.

27. Tell me about the “concept” behind the last album? Does the album contain a message or messages? What was the most difficult aspect of producing and recording this album?
A: There’s no particular concept other than that which the work itself creates when it’s all finished. General positivity ! Trying to get the time in when you’ve kids makes it slower as you can’t always work so long hours.

28. If you could have me ask you any question on the planet, what would you have me ask you, but keep in mind you have to answer it?
A: Would you like a Mojito?

29. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you wish to mention?
A: Mojitos!

30. Do you still remember about Jakarta when you performed in Indonesia? Do you think our market is important to your music?
A: Yes ~ We LOVE to come to Jakarta ~ We are so lucky to travel and meet the people and taste the food and play our music ~ That’s amazing. We hope to see you in 2021 and Thanks very much ! Please don’t forget to check out our live broadcast show on the 3rd July!

@2020AldoSianturi/Photo: The Brand New Heavies

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