By Lee Gale
Some of us have a love/hate relationship with BBC 6 Music. For instance, you get the feeling that Cerys Catatonia’s eclecticism on Sundays is simply the result of her entering the BBC’s vaults, selecting 20 or so CDs at random with her eyes closed, then playing track 6 on all of them. When a 1911 sea shanty recorded on the Outer Hebrides to celebrate the construction of a jetty is followed by mid-Fifties Alaskan swing jazz, you have to wonder.
Then you’ve got the Craig Charles Funk And Soul Show. The longest-running programme on 6 Music – it started in 2002, in the first week of the station’s existence – has become an essential element of Saturdays. Craig Charles’ soul weekly is where you’ll most likely have come across Daytoner’s northern soul-injected beats. In fact, Charles stated via Twitter, “Daytoner are my new favourite band – fact.” For a man with his track record, this is some claim.
Daytoner is, in reality, a multifacted concept. It’s a funk-and-soul seven-piece but also the working name of music producer Moss Daytoner. Down the years, Moss has re-edited (ie: updated, messed about with and mashed-up) a barmstorming selection of tracks as part of his ongoing Shedits series, often played by Charles. Check out “Keith’s Soup Thing”, “Perfidious” and “Michael’s Incredible Twin” on Juno to get a taste of Shedits – they’re blinding.
This year, Moss is all about the band. The hardest working man in Cornish showbusiness tells BIC about working with Craig Charles, playing Glastonbury and the group’s new album, Off The Hook.
BIC: I think we’re up to album number three now, aren’t we? Could you tell the nice boys and girls at home a little bit about your band members and the band ethos?
Moss Daytoner: Well this is our first album that we’ve written and recorded together as a full band, as the first two were more my releases as a producer, where I’d collaborated with friends on some tracks, but others were my own. We’ve quite an unusual line-up that’s sort of evolved rather than been designed and it varies from show to show, but we’re always fronted by our soul sister Lucy Richards, backed by James Frost on drums, Patrick Redmond on bass, Jamie Graham on keys, Andy Worty on baritone sax and Rich Hume on flute and tenor sax. Oh, and I still lurk in the background trying to look busy with some buttons. We’ve never sat down and talked about our ethos, but I suppose like a DJ, we always seem happiest when we’ve filled the floor and the venue’s jumping.
Why is the LP’s name Off The Hook?
For a few reasons really – musically and legally. As a producer and DJ, I’m used to crate-digging and our live show was originally based on funk, soul, jazz and Latin samples, where the musicians would play off these “hooks”. But also when Lucy joined, she was keen to write her own lyrics to suit these “sketches”, but we always knew that there would be a copyright problem if we wanted to release. So we all decided to try and replace these hooks and use the band’s own skills and my experience with remixing to create our own arrangements. I’ve since thought it could appear an arrogant title as though we’re saying, “Yeah, it’s so good it’s off the hook, man!” But that’d be a bit daft for a relatively unknown act from way out west.
“Needed You”, “Second Stomp” and “Love Wonder” will appeal to fans of northern soul and Motown, and there’s lots of flute, sax and organ in there too. Is the band a melting pot of ideas?
Since Lucy’s a soul singer and some of my most well-received edits were northern soul reworks, it made sense to explore this and “Needed You” was actually the first idea we tried. But generally I’d say most emerged from playing live where we can instantly see how the energy in the room changes with each track, ditching the weaker ones in the show. For the album we shared ideas around, and bandmates then chip in with their contributions if there’s space. Some would supply lots of riffs they’d recorded and others worked in isolation and would then pop in the studio to try them on the track. The phone recordings Lucy sent were particularly great as we’d suddenly hear the band’s instrumental ideas burst into life as a song.
Did you aim Off The Hook at a particular audience?
If you’re willing to listen to our records or dance at our shows, that’s all good.
Your previous LP, Synchronicity, was three years ago. Your task then was to work without samples. You’ve created some old-style sounds on the new album which I originally thought must be samples.
We’ve worked really hard to strip away all the initial sample ideas to leave just the band’s performances along with the additional production touches I’ve added, but there is one track on there that’s based around a sampled loop that was dug from a 1966 Latin vinyl in a pop-up sale at a cafe in Hayle [Cornwall]. There were some good laughs, though, when we tried to recreate certain sounds. The backing vocal sessions were particularly memorable when Lucy and Paddy were hysterical at my bizarre attempts at direction with various undecipherable hand gestures. The replacement of all the samples was painstaking to say the least. I remember a weekend of long nights trying to replace a short piano loop to nail the timbre of the old vinyl sample. Hearing that over and over for days can start giving you audio hallucinations where you start to go too far thinking you’ve heard tiny elements that aren’t there or others can’t perceive.
You’re this country’s most adept re-editor, having modernised, mixed and pumped-up tracks by the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Soup Dragons and Michael Viner, to name just a few. How important is it for you to write original material as well?
Woooaah, steady on! I’d argue there’s quite a long queue of producers ahead of me with considerably more re-edit credentials such as Smoove, Skeewiff and Scrimshire and that’s just the S’s! For this LP we all agreed to throw in any ideas so that we could see if they had potential to become album tracks. We were determined to use as much original material as possible to make it our own and believe me, there’s a hard drive full of bits and pieces that never made it beyond a shared link, but they eventually all got narrowed down to the eleven.
You’re originally from Chesterfield. How did you end up in Cornwall?
Well, I was born in Nottingham, but yeah, I grew up in Chesterfield, went to uni, then moved to London in the Nineties. I loved the excitement of the Cool Britannia years and the Camden area was a magnet, but it could also be a bit dangerous in London and I had the misfortune of being too close for comfort during some IRA attacks. There were lots of reasons to go west, but in hindsight I suppose it’s not that surprising I made a big shift to St Ives. I’ve not looked back, though, and I now live near near Penzance with my Cornish wife and two children in a little cottage with my shed at the back and that suits us, especially as my dad, sister and family live just a few miles up the road too.
We know that Radio 6’s Craig Charles plays your music, but is it difficult getting the message out beyond his show?
It’s been amazing to receive the support of Craig and his team and he’s helped in so many ways, not just with airplay but also with support shows at his club nights. They’re always packed-out venues full of funk-and-soul fans who are desperate to dance so we couldn’t ask for a better audience to play to and spread the word about our songs. We’ve also just started to pick up support from other shows, too, and we were thrilled to hear Chris Hawkins has played “I Get By” on the early breakfast show on 6 and “Needed You” was played on Radio 1 thanks to BBC Music Introducing. This weekend, our drummer had to pull over during his late taxi shift when he heard his own beats on the cab’s radio, tuned to the default driver station of Radio 2. Thankfully the funk-and-soul scene is healthy and there’s still some opportunities to play amazing venues and festival stages but we’d love to do more and play places we haven’t been to. Personally, I hope we get to play some northern venues and events soon, as most shows have been in the south and west.
Are you making a living from music?
I’ll just say it’s getting harder and harder for lots of reasons and the latest is the collapse of the downloads market as most switch to streaming. There’s some compensation from the increase in vinyl sales but that’s always a big gamble for any artist with big losses if units don’t shift in numbers. We’ve looked into funding but a lot of that was cut in the austerity years and EU-backed funds are now ending, too. Obviously there’s still live shows and we recently self-promoted our album launch event at St Ives Guildhall to raise funds for our releases and tour dates. It can be hard to get bookings for a big band with a six- or seven-piece line up but you have to believe in the quality of your show and try to pick and choose the stages where it’ll work and our agents have really helped with that. The last avenue left where artists can still earn some money is publishing and we’re working on that as a means to keep it all going and the van wheels turning.
Are you at any festivals this year?
We’ve already played four this year – Shindig, The Great Estate, Grinagog and Porthleven, but we’ve also got BST in Hyde Park, Boomtown Fair and a show on the beach in Cornwall plus a few more to be announced before the end of summer.
You’re also a half-decent DJ. Do you have a favourite venue – and why?
Half-decent? Fifty percent is probably a tad generous for some but I’ll take it. The most terrifying, life-affirming and top-of-the-bucket-list gig without a doubt would have to be Glastonbury 2016 when I supported Craig Charles, playing after him to a packed Shangri-La Heaven arena. That’s always going to leap to the front of my memory, especially as it was made even more surreal on the day of the Brexit result. I remember nervously waiting for my stage time, seeing a strange mix of artists and their entourages pop in the Airstream backstage, all of whom seemed even more utterly bewildered, shocked and confused than they’d normally be at Glastonbury.
How does the band find the time to rehearse? Do the members all live close by or is it now possible to Skype jam?
It’s an issue, to be honest, as there aren’t many facilities in the area that we can either access or afford to rehearse in regularly, so we just do what we can and when we can’t all get together we’ll often rehearse with three, four or five of us in somewhere tiny like Jamie’s “dub bunker” or my shed. We’ve posted a few videos of Frosty’s drum breaks recorded at Jamie’s bunker. Not tried Skype yet but that’d probably be tricky on Paddy’s Noughties’ Nokia!
Whose band would you like to have been in – from any era?
That’s tricky as a few of the faves that spring to mind had issues that you wouldn’t choose to go through with your own band. I imagine being in The Rolling Stones would have been fun over the years as they stayed playing together so long, and the Spike Island show must’ve seemed a massive wave of euphoria for The Stone Roses, but you wouldn’t want to be shackled from releasing for five years. So I guess I’d have to personally choose to be either Berry Gordy or a member of The Funk Brothers, just to work with some of the world’s greatest ever talent at such a pivotal point in history. Positive pioneers for your people, disarming detractors with eloquence, class and style.
Do you get stage nerves before a gig?
Yeah, but that’s all part of the process I suppose. It focuses the mind, but we were probably most nervous at our last gig, our album launch in St Ives. We’re normally fine when we don’t know anyone but when we looked out at family and friends that night, we didn’t want to let them know. The only person I could see was my father-in-law illuminated by the overhead light at the bar. Terrifying!
Do you allow yourself a few beers before playing?
Frosty talks about the need for “grease” for the show to loosen everyone up into the groove but, that said, he doesn’t drink at the shows and drives the van. We’ve all got a lot more professional over the last three years, mainly because we’ve all tried it the other way and it hurts too much!
Have we any more of your Shedits to look forward to?
Plenty. There’s a folder full on my hard drive that I’ve either used for DJ sets or live shows but they’ve all had to wait until the band’s release schedule and tour is over. They’ve been really useful, though, and we’ve started performing some live such as “Apache Street”, so look out for more later in the year and there may also be a 7” Shedit release in 2018 if all goes to plan.
Off The Hook by Daytoner is out now. For more details, visit https://kud.li/cpr006
Tune in to The Craig Charles Funk And Soul Show on 28 July to hear Moss Daytoner’s 30-minute “Trunk Of Funk” mix.