Source: Rhythm magazine (UK) - January 2002
Long-serving Jamiroquai drummer Derrick McKenzie and percussionist Sola Akingbola take Rhythm on a personal tour of Jay Kay's latest mega-platinum release, aptly titled A Funk Odyssey... We encounter Derrick and Sola along with the rest of Jamiroquai, at a top-secret studio facility near Windsor, deep in the leafy heart of the English countryside. The band have assembled for production rehearsals in advance of live dates, which will include the debut performances of many of the tracks from A Funk Odyssey. The guys are relaxed and upbeat; obviously pleased with the album, and looking forward to taking it out on the road and seeing what the public reckon...
Derrick: "We first started working on A Funk Odyssey after the Synkronized tour finished at the end of 1999, so it has been a long, drawn-out process. It's important to understand that the intention and direction of a Jamiroquai album is wholly and solely with Jay, and the rest of us are there to do our thing around him. Jay sees the big picture from the off, but Sola and I can only see what we are working on at that particular time. Our input will, of course, be inspired by what we are hearing, but quite often the way we picture the track when we are working on it isn't the way it finally comes out."
Sola: "For me, the real impetus on the new record was to get into the technological side of things - more so than I have with the other two albums I've recorded with Jamiroquai. I've always had an interest in it, but have almost had a phobia about it too, because I'm not good with machines! I'm feeling more confident now, though, and spending a lot of time with Derrick has been fantastic, because he's made me realise that technology is a way of representing yourself as a percussionist."
Derrick: "I've been working intensely in my home studio for a while now to develop a better understanding of technology, and I've also been given a lot of good advice by Paul (Stoney), who did all the programming on the album for us. It's really inspired me, and a lot of the ideas for this album that I have taken to Jay have branched out from there. Obviously, the stuff we bring in as a band has to be in the right direction - some things I did were too way out, and Jay just turned me down flat But there were other things that he really liked. "The development of each individual track has varied greatly, but the first step was usually Jay coming to us with an idea in his head. He'd sing the bassline, or the beat, and then I'd play what he was singing and develop the idea acoustically. To be honest, I have actually recorded a lot of A Funk Odyssey blind. "The majority of the tracks have started with the drums and then developed technically into machinery tracks. It's been like recording my actual performances on the album as demos! The advantage of having the computer is that I could play acoustic drums into it and then be cut up and put back together, to form the foundation of the track for the others to build their parts on. Working that way was a real challenge, and I couldn't go too mad -1 had to keep it straight and basic, and keep the groove going."
Sola: "For me, Derrick was the melting pot He had to contain everything and his pot had to be solid. Jay was the one who threw everything into that pot and then poured it all out. "Sometimes Jay can find it hard to explain what he wants from us- it's not an easy thing to do, because it's an idea in his head. He really needs to hear what he is looking for and needs flexible musicians around him who can keep coming up with new things and different versions of them, as they constantly re-interpret that initial idea. That is one of the great things about working with him."
Derrick: "On one level, recording a Jamiroquai album is an incredibly exciting way to work, but it can also be frustrating, because you are constantly worrying about whether what you have done is right! It's a good thing to take on the challenge, though, and I like living on the edge."
Sola: "We are never complacent, because we just don't know what Jay is going to come up with next. You have to be ready, and if you are not really together on your instrument, you're not going to last very long with him!"
Sola: "A real percussion-fest for me! I tried loads of mad shaker patterns and different rhythmic parts on assorted types of percussion, and Toby recorded me and then kept different bits. I'd then play against the original recording and he'd do the same. I carried on playing over it each time, and built up all these different layers. The samples are all over the track, and I'm really pleased with the results. It's great when people approach your thing in a different way, you know? I probably would never have done it like that, but it works and is very different."
Derrick: "Most of the drums on this track are programmed; the inspiration for them came from an old George Clinton loop. I then came in and added a live hi-hat pattern over the top of the track to give it another layer and a live swing. Paul took an eight-bar section and put it through the chorus, where it works perfectly with the bassline. My playing is quite heavily influenced by what I am listening to at that particular time, and here I think I must have been listening to old-school disco and garage -the track has that kind of vibe. I used a huge pair of heavy rock hi-hats to get the sound I was after."
Derrick: "This sounds like it has just been done, but it actually changed dramatically during its development - even the melody, which is very memorable. The original loop has a Trouble Funk vibe, and I came and played live drums across it. Paul and Jay have taken a bit of that and the original loop, and re-written the whole track. It went through three very different stages, but sounds very fresh and spontaneous."
Sola: "The melody shines through on this track and really demonstrates the simpler, cleaner feel of A Funk Odyssey, compared to the last album, where there were a lot of keyboard intricacies.'You Give Me Something' really proves that less can be more."
Sola: "This is one of the few occasions where I have done the whole rhythm track on my own, and it's really nice to play against yourself and get something cool happening. The track is a ballad, with a North African/Spanish feel, and it's my favourite track on the album. I actually used a salt shaker here-Jay came up with the idea when he was in the kitchen! It makes tinny, doingy sounds, but it sounds great."
Derrick: "Definitely my favourite track on the album that I didn't actually play on."
Derrick: "My favourite track, and definitely the funkiest beat on the whole record - it's old-school Meters, through and through. I was just playing around on the drums one day, and Jay suddenly yelled,'That's the beat!' I recorded the whole song and went away. When I came back, it was completely different - it was the same drum beat, but the guitars and lyrics had changed. I'm very glad I used a click on this one!"
Sola: "The drums really breathe properly - it's a great track".
Derrick. "Jay came up with the main hook for this, and then I played drums across the basic loop. I used sixteenth note hi-hats and a four-tothe-floor beat, and then added some rolls and stuff. In the end, all they used was my roll, which leads into the chorus! It's a real disco roll - not the type of thing I'd normally do, but it works. Not many drummers can cope with being chopped up and put back into a machine, but I'm used to it - it's been happening to me since my days with Candyland."
Sola: "It's part of the whole essence of Jamiroquai. The songs start acoustically, go into a machine, and then come back acoustically when we take them out live."
Derrick: An out-and-out programmed dub track, mostly done by Paul and Jay. The sound and the sonics are so good - they have taken the basslines from drum'n' bass and put them into this kind of house/electro beat When you watch it on the computer screen, the 'one' isn't actually on the one, so you have to ignore the dick! The drums come in on what sounds like an off-beat, but it isn't - it's a mad track!"
Sola: Another ballad, featuring guitar, harp and percussion, with a very Brazilian/Portuguese feel to it. For me, our new guitarist Rob has been one of the main creative inputs on this album, and I'm delighted with the results of our collaboration here."
"I've used my usual combination of Zildjian cymbals and Sonor drums. 1 had 10",12",14" tomtoms, 22" bass drum and an array of snares to give me a choice of different sounds. We recorded the drums in the big, live room at Jay's studio with screens around them. "My personal sound would have been the natural sound of the drums-then you have room to play around with it Jay likes his drums dead, though, and the one thing you are not going to get in a live room is dead drums! "He's into that old funky sound from the 70s, but I wanted to create a natural sound for A Funk Odyssey. Across the album, you can hear these two quite different drum sounds."
"I've been using my five set-up of LP percussion and Sabian cymbals. Starting from the left, I have my Bata - Its my home sound, the Yoruba belly sound that 1 love. "Then there's the first conga-from the Galaxy Giovanni Series -and above that are two timbalitos, a 10" splash cymbal, and Brazilian agogo bells. On the floor on my left, I have a foot cowbell, just to keep me on my toes and keep the independence thing happening. Moving round,I have the quinto lead conga, tuned quite high, and then the tumba conga. "Directly in front of the quinto are my bongos, and to the right of the tumba is a mounted tambourine and an everything rack, with another set of agogo cowbells (with different notes), three cowbells (large, medium and small), and 13" and 14" timbales. I have 6" and 8" splashes directly above the timbales, and then on my far right a 14" china crash. Finally; there is another mini everything rack, with two jam blocks and a tiny cowbell."