Mention the name Incognito to your average soul fan— especially in Atlanta — and you’ll undoubtedly get a big, cheesy grin in response.
The UK-based band — helmed by musician/producer/songwriter Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick — has been making some of the genre’s most beloved songs since hitting the scene in 1980.
And these cats have never been the type to rest on their laurels; where some bands with that kind of history are content to just coast on catalog material, Bluey & Co. have seemingly never stopped pumping out new music (including remixed songs by other artists). In fact, the band’s latest CD, Surreal, hits stores Tues., March 27 (featuring the first single "Goodbye to Yesterday").
On top of that, not too long after the new project drops, the band hits the road again on another worldwide tour — making a two-night stop in Atlanta on April 6 and 7.
But before Incognito kicks off on a musical globe trot, we checked in with Bluey via telephone and got the lowdown about the new CD and lots more.
Creative Loafing: What’s the concept behind your latest album?
Bluey: Well this album marks a new beginning for me … it feels like the end of a chapter and the beginning of another one. And that’s because of what happened on the last album. The last album, Transatlantic RPM, allowed me to work with some people that were really at the top of the music echelon — the people that I listened to, you know, like Chaka Khan, Leon Ware … I really felt that maybe from here on is the time to develop young people — 18, 20 year olds … and work with the touring band closer and even allow myself to write with other people. It marked a change with Incognito. And I think because of that the album has its own sound.
Was your desire to work with younger musicians based on a feeling that younger generations weren’t listening to the kind of music you create?
Oh certainly. If you were in the studio on this album, you would have laughed a few times. I was working with a 22-year-old percussionist who had never heard of Curtis Mayfield … because he came from Portugal via China … he’d been listening to other stuff. His introduction to stuff like Curtis Mayfield was on this record. So, it was quite strange, you know, after years of this formative music that had actually been the information I have to put into this music, introducing that to a new generation … it was amazing to me, but joyful.
Well, Incognito has definitely remained relevant over the years — and part of that is due to the numerous remixes you’ve been able to craft. What’s the difference, from a creative perspective, between doing a remix and writing an Incognito song?
My first thing is, this [does not just have to] work with an Incognito audience … or with my live audience. When I’m making my own music, I’m thinking this has got to make a connection when I play this live. That’s where I am. That’s where I come from. That’s my natural process. But if I’m doing a remix, it’s Bluey back in the clubs from back in the days when I used to go there to just listen to tunes and dance to them … it’s all about, “how can I make this tune work in the clubs?” And what kind of clubs? Do we want a soulful house thing or a deep house thing, or do we want something that’s more jazz and broken-beat? It depends. Different artists do different things, and I do all of those things.
Speaking of the live aspect, what can people expect from the live show?
In America, at least a third of the record needs to be heard — because that’s what you’re promoting and that’s what you’re excited about, that’s what keeps you going. But the energy of what we would put in those tracks, even if you … are just hearing it for the first time … it’s still got to hit you in your gut, still make you boogie and still make you want to throw your hands in the air.
What role has Atlanta played in the success of your group?
Well, Atlanta and Detroit have played a major, major part. Those two cities have been like [part] of the reason for our longevity. But in Atlanta, people like [late radio personality] Ken Batie — bless his soul — who were at the forefront, got it straight away. I think it’s where my music came from; there’s a lot of references that Atlanta people get immediately. And Atlanta people have never really turned their backs totally on soul and jazz music — and gravitated to smooth jazz only. Many states kind of just went that route where they only went smooth jazz. Now, I love smooth jazz. I love the music of the Crusaders from back in the days, and that was the origin of smooth jazz. But, that whole funk and jazz thing that exists at the core of the music, you find it in stuff coming from Atlanta all the time. That richness and soulfulness you’ll get from say an India.Arie record and you’ll get that little Brazilian part from people like Khari [Cabral] Simmons. Atlanta is quite eclectic.
Incognito, featuring Maysa, plays Center Stage (1374 W. Peachtree St.) on April 6 and 7. Khari Cabral opens. Tickets: $42.50-$49.50. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 8 p.m. For more info, call 404-885-1365 or visit the Center Stage website.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?