May 12th, 2011
Gizelle Smith: The Time is Right!
Written by Imran Mirza
Funk. When you think of that glorious four-letter f-word, the names that tend to roll off the tongue include the fellas: James Brown, George Clinton, Prince, Maceo Parker, etc. Conversely, funk is a genre of music where you just can’t fake it. It’s in you or it isn’t, and that’s regardless of gender – old skool fans will certainly know the ferocity of which artists like Vicki Anderson and Lyn Collins commanded a stage with a microphone. Even in today’s climate, the raw skill of funk’s leadings ladies is undeniable, as displayed by the likes of Sharon Jones, Nicole Willis, Randa Khan …and Gizelle Smith!
The UK’s very own funkstress secured herself a suitable musical backdrop with Hamburg’s finest – The Mighty Mocambos – providing the rich landscape of fiery drums and plush horns while Gizelle’s voice swoons skilfully over it all on their debut collaborative album, ‘This is Gizelle Smith and the Mighty Mocambos’.
From the first single, and album opener, ‘Working Woman’ (check for the Kenny Dope remix for even more satisfaction!) to the dare-you-to-try-and-sit-still groove of ‘Time is Right for Love’ and the quirky and seductive rhythm of ‘Snake Charmer’ – the twelve-track pleaser, available on Legere Recordings is perfect at getting in quick, hitting you hard and leaving you wanting more…
More, you say? Well we counted on that so Liberation Frequency is brimming with pride in being able to introduce you to Ms Gizelle Smith!
LIBERATION FREQUENCY: Can you tell us a little about where you're from and where you grew up?
GIZELLE SMITH: I was born in Manchester and I grew up there and in the surrounding outskirts known as the High Peak.
LF: What were some of your earliest memories of music as a child?
GS: Oooh I have so many, I don't know which one you'll find most interesting! I guess my earliest musical memories are of me going through my mum's record collection and I vividly remember coming across the soundtrack to the musical CATS like it was yesterday. It was a double vinyl so the sleeve opened out and revealed stage shots of the cast and I really just couldn't imagine what kind of music would ever come out from people dressed as mental-looking felines. So I played it and it has been my favourite musical ever since.
LF: Who are some of your musical heroes?
GS: The wonderfully forgiving musicians who still understand/remember how hard it is to develop a music project from absolute obscurity and join in the fun – playing and recording for us even when our budgets are really limited. Those guys. I'm so grateful to have these wonderful people around me.
From a different angle, they're not so much 'heroes' but I guess I should mention Holland-Dozier-Holland, Ashford and Simpson... these guys wrote the songs that shaped me from the day I was born and although I didn't really have a choice in the matter, I'm glad for my mother and father's musical choices :D
Of course I could also say my dad since he played on some of these tracks, but he was never happy about his kids going into the music business so he remains off the list ;)
LF: How did you hook up with the Mighty Mocambos?
GS: I was introduced to them by my producer.
LF: Can you tell us a little about what went into making 'This is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos'?
GS: Oooh god, I don't know where to start. They invited me to perform with them at one of their gigs in Hamburg and we got on very well, musically as well as on a personal level. At that stage, it was all very relaxed – no talks of recordings, releases, let alone a whole album. Then the Mocambos released a compilation on their own label where they wanted me to sing on one of their tracks, which I did and one thing led to the next. I think releasing 'Working Woman' was a bit of a defining moment in the whole emergence of the album. We received a huge amount of positive feedback from it: people started having a serious interest in the act and it didn't take long for gig requests to start flowing in. So really, the album was born through our need to have more original material to gig with, because at that point, we played a quite a few covers.
The switch to working on a more serious level, where all of a sudden, people expected things from us, proved to be quite challenging... The band and I were in two different cities, which made recording a bit of a ball-ache and when it came to the actual music writing – you discover all of a sudden, how opinionated everyone is and unfortunately, Björn and I are control freaks, so it really didn't run too smoothly. But I'm proud of how we held it together and I'm proud of our album. Plus, we were all working full-time so it's a miracle we came out with a product at all! Loved it though.
LF: Is the follow-up album continuing in the same vein or will the music go in new directions?
GS: I guess it's all of the above. The biggest difference is the fact that it's a solo album; I won't be working with the Mocambos on this one. Nevertheless, I do love the funk – the basic musical elements, the rhythmical patterns... I'm very drawn to the tension and release pattern of having endless repeating riffs, broken by a sudden change of chord – it suits my surrealistic tendencies... a bit sexual really. But I carry other influences, and for the most part I won’t be able to help but add something very personal to it. Similar in the way that 'This Is...' wasn't your typical 60's replica. My new offering to the 'scene' and beyond, is a step away from the obvious but a huge stride closer to my roots. I'm not overly convinced by some of the funk that's around at the moment because it lacks a source from which is grows, whether that be historical, emotional, geographical...
LF: Is there a song (by another artist) you wish you'd written?
GS: Wicked the musical, by Stephen Schwartz. Yes, I wish I'd written the music to that musical. Writing a musical is definitely on my to-do list.
LF: What music/artists are you currently a fan of?
GS: I am soooo terribly obsessed with the Orchestra Poly Rythmo De Cotonou at the moment. I discovered the album 'The Vodoun Effect' whilst I was on tour with the Mocamobos in France this October and I haven't stopped playing them. The Budos Band keep getting better and better – I've just come across a mash-up project with Wu Tang to form The Wudos Band... YES! The [latest] Roots album, 'How I Got Over', is a pretty nice listen; Arcade Fire's album, 'The Suburbs', is fantastically intense and a good friend of mine recently introduced me to 65DaysOfStatic... they are incredible. Leaves you breathless. I can only describe the listening experience as being hit by a high speed freight train of sound, multiple times over... Oh and I'm also quite enjoying Little Dragon.
'This is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos' is available to purchase now. Gizelle was also a part of February's Live Music Month so check out her highs and lows about live performances