Saturday, 19 December 9.30am – 10.00am
Visit: Jennifer Valentine-Miller @ PRZ FM 109.2
Saturday, 19 December 9.30am – 10.00am
Visit: Jennifer Valentine-Miller @ PRZ FM 109.2
by Jennifer Valentine-Miller (Venue: Cineworld Canary Wharf)
I attended the London premier of the international film “Behind Her Mask”. This is a film based on real-life issues, ranging from God’s divine purpose for individuals, to self-esteem issues, mental health needs and much, much more.
Behind Her Mask’ Movie, an all-female cast film, stylized to explore diverse masks worn by women every day in order to keep up appearances. The film first premiered in Lagos, Nigeria.
Full interview with the co-producer Steve Levy conducted by The British Blacklist (TBB) (http://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/levy)
Epiphany is based on true events. Can you tell us a bit more about that and whose story this is?
SL: The first part of the story is my encounter with a young man called Lenny who I met in Brick Lane. He came from behind with a hoodie over his head and put his hand on my shoulder. As I turned to confront him thinking this was going to end badly, instead we engaged in a deep, meaningful and open conversation about his life, which ended with me praying for him, and him crying. This left me speechless and my heart filled with so much compassion for this young man. One act of kindness can make all the difference.
The second part is based on an ex-family member who was kidnapped by some youths, held in a warehouse and forced to give up his credit cards, eventually they let him go, but the whole event left him traumatised. His story stuck with me, so when I had my encounter with Lenny I thought somehow these two stories had synergy, and I was right.
What are your hopes for your film’s future?
SL: I hope the film goes on to make people think about the power of the Gospel and its ability to change lives. Also, to show my talents as a first-time film director/producer in the hope I will get investment to make a feature film or a Netflix series. I would like to spend the rest of my life making meaningful films that will impact the world and inspire the next generation of young filmmakers like my son. This one is for you Brandon.
(film producers Susan and Steve Levy)
By Damon Wise (Hollywood Deadline)
Of all the films eligible for this year’s BAFTAs, Rungano Nyoni’s feature debut I Am Not a Witch is definitely the least categorizable. An African story strong on social comment and with definite contemporary relevance, it is leavened with scenes of lyrical magic realism and pierced with streaks of scathing, jet-black satire as a nine-year-old girl, Shula (newcomer Maggie Mulubwa), is accused of witchcraft and sent to a prison camp where women are bound by yards of ribbon to keep them from flying away. It is a film unlike anything else in the selection this year; small wonder it finds itself competing for the Outstanding Debut award.
The film also reflects its director; born in Lusaka and raised in Cardiff, Rungano Nyoni, 35, is herself a mix of influences, a self-taught cineaste first introduced to the concept of arthouse filmmaking by Michael Haneke’s heady sado-masochistic 2001 film The Piano Teacher, which Nyoni rented from the world cinema section of her local library because “I liked the picture on the front.” Originally training as an actor, Nyoni switched to directing in 2011 with a trio of award-winning shorts. For her feature debut, Nyoni hoped to find a story to film in her native Wales, but instead found herself in Zambia, making a low-budget film that ticks all the wrong boxes for first-time filmmakers, working with multiple nationalities, animals, amateurs and children in a country with little in the way of infrastructure for doing so. But then, the dryly funny Nyoni has a spirit of adventure; today, for example, she’s speaking on her mobile from her parents’ house. “They never have reception,” she warns, “so if the signal goes in and out, it’s cool. They live in the middle of nowhere.”
When did you decide to make a feature film?
Probably after I made my last short [Listen, 2014]. I just thought, “I want to make my next feature in X amount of years.” I think I actually gave myself a deadline, and I stuck to it pretty much. Regardless of whether I was gonna get the money to do it, I thought I had to just do it, just to get out of talking about it all the time.
Did you always know what story you were going to tell?
No. I was desperately scrambling for ideas at the beginning of the journey. I really was. And I was desperately trying to set it in Wales. And then … I just couldn’t think of anything. I was looking at old notes of ideas that I’d had, so I made a list. It was very pragmatic. I made a list of things that I feel for and rant about.
What was on that list?
Oh, I just wrote random notes. They were all just very basic first feature ideas, I have to say, and it kind of grew from there. I knew that I wanted to make stories based on my aunts, so that’s actually how the feature film started. It was like a series of short films based on women I knew in my family that had gone through certain experiences, because all the women in my family are super-independent and kind of spearheading something. So I started off writing stories based on them, and then it kind of grew into a story about women, and women being limited by something. That’s how it started.
Do you think it’s possible to force yourself to be creative?
I just really wanted to look at it as like a nine to five thing—I’d have to wake up and do it, even if I couldn’t think of an idea. I had to just sit there and stare at the screen. I wasn’t allowed to look on the internet or watch videos. I just had to sit there and face it. But you can’t force yourself to be creative. You just have to force yourself to get up and not kind of wallow and watch Netflix, which I’ve done a few times, thinking that’s being helpful. It never is. So I would just sit there and kind of face it. I read that that’s what the Coen brothers do—just wake up to try to do the act of writing. So I kind of got it from there. I’d write something, even if it was just, like, a thought. I’d write it and stare at it. I would write something all the time, even if it was just a couple of sentences.
What were your biggest fears going into it?
My biggest fear, I guess, was that I wouldn’t get the financing. But then … [Pause] Actually, I wasn’t so scared about that, because I thought, even if I only got a little bit, I would just change my story to accommodate whatever finance I did get. I did everything quite quickly, and I was applying to several places either for development or pitching [all at the same time]. I did everything simultaneously because I had that deadline in mind. At that time, my biggest fear was probably pitching—the act of pitching. I’m always scared about pitching. It really intimidates me, and it still does. I find it very awkward and a strange thing to do.
Do you have any tips for conquering that fear?
I think the thing is to try and be yourself—make it conversational and less ‘pitchy’. I just thought, “Even if they only give me five minutes, I don’t care.” Because, actually, in real life that’s not how it works.” No one ever says, “Five minutes and we’re gonna give you £X million.” It doesn’t work like that. It’s not like The Apprentice. So I just thought, “If I don’t get it done in five minutes, they’re just gonna have to give me more time.” [Laughs] So I just kind of made it into a conversation. And it always took longer than it should have done. But no one said, “Stop. It’s been five minutes.” They never do. So that’s how I kind of got over it. [Laughs] Well, I didn’t get over it. I just made it a little bit better.
What was the biggest challenge?
Just making the film itself. The pre-production, production, post-production … It was just difficult. The whole team were first timers, so it was like the blind leading the blind. And at first that sounds fun. You think, “Oh, we’re just gonna learn through our mistakes.” But it was horrible. [Laughs] And I still feel it. It was really difficult, because it was such a super-ambitious project. We were in a different country, bringing people to a country that they’ve never worked in before, and trying to acclimatize them in a very short space of time with a tight budget. We were bringing people from South Africa and Britain—my DoP is from Colombia. It was hard. It was a challenge.
Did anyone try to talk you out of shooting your first feature overseas ?
They did—when I was in post! [Laughs] People were suggesting, “Well, maybe next time you shouldn’t do that, because it was so hard, Rungano. Maybe you should think about not shooting there next time or making it so ambitious.” I don’t think any of us expected it to be so hard. I think everyone thought it would be OK. And I did too, to be honest. It was more afterwards that they did. But before [we started shooting], they didn’t. It was very encouraging. No one really put up any red flags or anything like that.
How did you find your producer?
The first person I worked with was Juliette [Grandmont]. She’s the person I worked with from before it was even an idea. She contacted me because of my short films, and we were working together in the development stage. And then, towards the end of development, when we were applying for funding, we needed to find a co-producer. And that’s how Emily Morgan came on board. Before that, I was discouraging Juliette from finding a British co-producer, because I thought that we were not gonna get money from Britain. I was like, “Don’t bother. Let’s just find someone somewhere else.” But she insisted. And it’s good that she did, because we ended up getting most of our funding from Britain. I think, 75 % of it. I already knew Emily because she’d done a short [The Mass of Men, 2012], with my partner [Gabriel Gauchet], who’s a director as well.
How long was the entire process?
I think about four years. Four years of my life.
And what was the longest stretch of that?
The writing, for sure. I think it was about three years I was doing the writing, from having nothing to having kind of a script. That was the longest bit for sure. Because I’m not a writer, really. So it takes me a long time.
How would you describe your scripts? How do you write?
Oh, I write very sparsely for sure. And I love reading sparse scripts. I know some of them are like novels. Some people are really descriptive, but I’m really non-descriptive. I kind of leave it open. So I just describe the action and the dialogue. To me, the script is like a blueprint. It’s just an idea of something. So I never describe a scene in detail, like, “When she walks in, the wallpaper’s blue.” Or what she’s wearing. I never do that. Just name, age, what she’s doing, or what he’s doing. So it’s very sparse, which some people like and other people find strange.
Does that mean you like to find the scene when you’re shooting?
Yes. For sure. When I’m rehearsing and when I’m shooting. I like to write the way I like to be treated. I like people to take ownership of whatever department they have. So even though I have an idea of what I want, I really do think [that filmmaking] is collaborative. I really do depend on getting good people who bring something to the project and who will hopefully make my idea better. I want to give them a little seed, but I don’t want to overdo it. I like to get ideas, and I think most great ideas come from collaboration. That’s what I think, anyway. So I leave it open as much as possible. Also, for the actors, I never give them stage directions like “pause” or “beat”. I get as much from other people as possible and then kind of build something from there.
Did you have a lot of non-professionals on this film?
Loads. Most were, apart from the man who plays Henry, the government official. He’d acted before.
Is that something you have experience with? Or was that something that was dictated by shooting on location?
No. There is a big acting community in Zambia, actually. There are lots of actors there. But I’ve worked with non-actors before. I worked with 40 kids for one of my short films, so I wasn’t that intimidated by it. In fact, I enjoy it. I enjoy the process of casting non-professionals, because once you find the right character, it’s sort of easy, then, after that.
Is there a technique to handling non-professionals?
It’s all in the casting. You have to just be patient and find the person that kind of matches the character in the script. And then when I shoot, I give them as much freedom as possible—or let them think they have as much freedom as possible. So it’s important that they feel that they have ownership of the thing and you don’t just feed them lines. And I don’t give them scripts. I think most people that work with non-actors don’t give them scripts either because they’re not actors. Actors can learn lines and make them sound natural. That’s why they’re so good at their job. But these people are not actors, so I don’t give them lines. It just sounds like it. I just describe the scene, and describe the events, and ask them how they would behave. And usually it’s close to what the script is. Then we kind of adjust it as we go along, the dialogue especially. So the dialogue is mostly theirs. After that, I kind of add stuff and change things as I see appropriate.
Did you have to make any compromises on your vision?
Well, I definitely shot less than I had thought, because we had very short shooting days, for production reasons. We had shorter days than I would’ve liked, so we had to compromise on the amount of takes we had to do. A lot of times, we were literally throwing people in front of the camera and saying, “Action!” and hoping it would turn out for the better. We had very few shots. We could do very few takes, maybe three, four maximum, before we had to move on to the next thing. But that’s kind of normal. What else did I compromise? Not much else. Because it’s Zambia, you’re kind of protected. You’re kind of free to do whatever you want. You don’t have anyone watching over you. I just sent rushes, and then I was pretty much allowed to do whatever I wanted.
When did you realize you had something special?
Something special? [Laughs] I don’t know! It’s really weird. On one hand, I get people telling me, “Oh, your film is really strange.” And I didn’t think my film was strange at all. I thought it was a pretty kind of ordinary film. Really, I did. I was trying to make a film that kind of reflected, really, a Zambian fairy tale. And I thought I’d failed. Really, I thought I’d failed. Everything I’d been going on about in my pitches, and it’s really nothing like it. So … I don’t know. [Laughs] What’s good is that it has traveled, which is really nice. I’ll know what it is, I think, when I’m not involved in it so much. Then I’ll be able to answer that question. Ask me in a couple of years.
How did you decide what festival life your film would have? Or was that something your producers had decided?
Oh God, it was not my decision. [Laughs] If it was down to me, it would’ve been totally different, because my film was [shown] unfinished in Cannes. Part of the compromise of going to Cannes was showing the unfinished film, and I was like, “Yeah, OK, but for Cannes only. And then you let me finish and then we’ll release it.” But they didn’t do that. So it was being sent everywhere, which was against what I would’ve done. I was very precious about it. But probably they were right because I was being a bit too precious about it. I was like, “No, it’s not finished.” And then I finished it. TIFF was the first festival to show the finished film. Not that it made that much of a difference! So, yeah, it would’ve been very different, had it been my choice. But in some ways it’s good that it’s not my choice. They sent it to where they thought it was appropriate, and it was out of my hands.
What’s the most common question you’ve heard in the last 12 months?
It’s always, “What made you think of the idea?” [Laughs] And, “What made you think of the ribbons?” That’s the one I get asked a lot.
How did do you feel about traveling with the film?
I’ve traveled, but probably not as much as I ought to have. I was just shattered from the thing, and there wasn’t really a break. So I was trying to kind of pace myself with the festivals.
Did anything prepare you for the festival circuit? Because there’s not really a boot camp to teach filmmakers about interviews and red carpet etiquette, is there? How did you cope with that?
Oh, there were lots of things. Loneliness is one. You’re alone a lot, and totally broke, because they put you up in four-star hotels, which is amazing, but you can’t even afford to buy a bottle of water. So it’s bizarre, because you’re not quite there yet, you know? You’re a mixture, a hybrid of the poor filmmaker and the big star on the red carpet. You’re given a car, but you’re still counting the pennies. You think, “For the cost of that Addison Lee I could’ve eaten for a couple of days!” [Laughs] You’re still kind of in that mode. The Q&As aren’t bad, because I did that with the shorts. They weren’t really a kind of a culture shock. But the funny thing is, when you’re doing shorts, you always compare yourself to feature filmmakers. You think, “Oh, everyone loves the feature filmmakers, don’t they?” But then you make a feature film and you’re like, “Yeah, but you’re still bottom of the ladder. You’re the first-time feature filmmaker, and no one really cares that much.” So it’s funny that you kind of desire this thing. And then you get it and you’re like, “It’s not what I thought it would be.”
What did you learn from that experience?
I think the main thing I have to learn for my next feature film is not to answer questions that I don’t feel comfortable with. I’ll do that next time. This time, I was trying to answer everything and please everyone. You’re always being invited to places. Thank God I have an agent to filter it, because I always feel bad saying no. People don’t realize. It’s an anxiety thing. You say no and it seems like such a big deal. You’re thinking about it for days, and you’re talking about it for weeks after, trying to justify it. I’m going to parties I don’t want to go to because I just can’t say no! But really, I would like to just say no, because I don’t like parties. One day I’ll be brave enough to do it. I’m not quite there yet.
What advice would you give a filmmaker who’s just starting out?
You know what? People are always going to give you advice about what you ought to do. But for me, the only thing that will ever work, which trumps everything, is just to work hard. They’ll always tell you, “Do this, go there, go to film school.” But I didn’t go to film school. They say, “You’ve got to network.” But I hate networking. I never did it. I found my own way and got there. And I just think hard work really overrides everything. Because I’m not connected, nothing. I just put in all the hours. You have to just put in the hours, I think.
And what’s next for you?
I don’t know. I’m having loads of meetings with producers who ask me the same question. I’m like, “I don’t know. I’m so sorry! Do you have anything?” So I’m asking everyone if they have anything! I even had a cab driver pitch me a script. I was like, “Send it! Send it! Just send me whatever you have!” [Laughs] I’m looking everywhere. Searching for my next project.
(The low-budget feature was made with funding from organisations including Ffilm Cymru and the BFI, and it was the first Zambian film to be shown at the Cannes film festival).
Acid Jazz originated in the London Club scene in the mid-1980s. Two of the major acts during that time were the Brand New Heavies and Incognito.
The lead vocalist for both of these bands was the effervescent Linda Muriel. “To be precise”, said Linda, with her large smile and perfect teeth, “I was in Galliano (1984), Plan B (1985), the Heavies (1987-1989) and then Incognito (1990).
My extensive research informed me that the demise of Acid jazz scene was around the late 1990s. Or was it before that for Linda? “It wasn’t demise, it just went underground. Acid Jazz is still with us today.”
There was a bleak period when Linda spent some time in hospital due to a suspected brain tumor – “yes, that period was in 1986, I was constantly getting headaches in the dressing room. What a dreadful time.” Plus there were the artistic differences she had to contend with in-between bands. Linda raises her eyebrows, “Which band?” she asked. “I guess that must be the Brand New Heavies. I was very happy until they felt threatened, because I was getting most of the attention.” Linda thought it was best to set the record straight by highlighting matters, “my problem was I came back to work after two months instead of the nine”.
“After losing my voice I should have taken more time out.” This was recommended by the hospital.
I conducted my interview on a cold and murky November afternoon at Linda’s home which is a large London property, a bit too big for Linda – “it was the family home. Mum and dad decided to immigrate to the Caribbean, so I bought it off them. My sisters pop round from time to time”
Today Linda is very much alive and kicking and singing better than ever with her new band Afrosymphony. Linda adds rather swiftly that “Afrosymphony is a concept, and at present it consists of David Shafe and I”.
“My definition of Afrosymphony is on the basis that every music has soul. We infuse all different types of music with soul.”
For Linda, Afrosymphony means being lead vocalist, writer, Roadie, events co-coordinator and manager! I asked her who came up with the name Afrosymphony. She decided to play one of her Jazz recordings, after that she replied, “I did” – “My definition of Afrosymphony is on the basis that every music has soul. We infuse all different types of music with soul.”
In photo shoots and front covers Linda’s hairstyles look amazing. In fact within all her photos throughout the height of her career her hair design was her best feature. I asked Linda whether she had a personal hair stylist during that time. “Yes, I did during the Incognito days. However the photographer, who brought out my best features, was Simon Fowler. I styled my own hair for the Blues and Soul front cover shoot.”
This year Linda and Afrosymphony were regular guest artists in Notting Hill taking part in Club-SkaVille. What was it like working with the legendary Ray Carless? “It was more of a solo thing” Linda replied. “However David did join me when we did the Mothers Day event in March”
In general mental health is everywhere, especially in the entertainment business.
The Guardian and Observer’s Christmas appeal theme for 2014 is one of the most common and under acknowledged health issues: mental health. Linda commented by saying, “I used to be a member of the charity MIND. In general mental health is everywhere, especially in the entertainment business. What you last said and what you wore is always in the public’s eye 24/7. The Robin Williams’ incident still affects me.”
There are a lot of Pings on the Linda’s social media network page showing her jamming with different bands – are there any projects in the pipeline for Afrosymphony in 2015?
“Yes, the long awaited album will be out next year”, Linda said. “The setback has been the musicians”.
Will it be church or family this Christmas? “Not sure, possibly both”
What will your favourite recipe be over the festive season? “My specialty is stuffing made with beef sausage and tuna stuffing for vegetarians.”
On a serious note how does Linda view herself and does she have anything inspirational to say to the younger generation? “I am a singer, songwriter, and producer. My goal is to revive my songs. My advice to young people is to learn a skill, know the business and the pitfalls. Learn to play an instrument. And learn to drive a car!”
Linda Muriel’s latest co-written track (Soul Personified) can be found on the album
“The Personification of Soul” by ButterflyJazzRecords.
Transcriber: Jennifer Valentine-Miller
Lovelite brings an energetic infusion of euro-pop sensibility and lyrical depth to the congregational worship scene. Led by the husband and wife team of Andrew Polfer and Jen Polfer, two worship leaders inspired by the thought of reshaping the mundane, the band’s anthem, and atmospheric style. There lies a foundation for its heartbeat: to share in the character of God’s creativity. Other members of the band are Brandon Burr and Jonathan Hall.
I: Joining us on the programme today is Jen Polfer from the band Lovelite. Welcome to the programme Jen.
I:The band are based in California, did you grow up in California?
JP:“Yes, I grew up in the Los Angeles area and Andrew in San Obisto in the California cities/ We both now live in San Diego.”
I:We should talk about your growing up, were you brought up in a Christian home?
JP:“I did. Both my parents are worship leaders. I grew up around a lot of music in the Church. I spent a lot of my time hanging around church while my parents played worship.”
I:It was pretty obvious that you were going to be a worship leader?
JP:“I think so. I definitely had music around the house and was encouraged to do that.”
I: Who else inspired you apart from your parents in terms of worship? What type of stuff were you listening to?
JP:“I grew listening to Christian music although the first album I bought was the Cranberries. So that singer definitely influenced me in my start. Also I really enjoyed some Christian artists like Jennifer Knapp in the 90s; I listened in to True Rock which was a Californian radio rock station. In the 90s that is the style I based myself upon and I took that style into my youth worship group.”
I:Was that ok to do? Or did you cause some controversy by trying to do that?
JP:“Ah no, it was ok. I had a pretty good youth group and youth pastor who wanted to encourage everyone to be who they are. And with my style of music he said I want you to lead with personality and what you do. Over the time I found my voice with that Cranberries-esque type and style and the voice is what got me started today.”
I:So in terms of meeting Andrew that happened at High School, did it not?
JP:Yes, we met very young when I was a junior. We started off as friends playing music together and the romance budded from there.”
I: I love a good love story, what did you think of him when you first met him?
JP:“I really enjoyed his personality first off. Our first conversation was talking about guitars, music and worship. We actually met for a conference called ‘True Love Waits’ geared towards young people who were saving themselves for marriage and that’s how we met so that was perfect, He really has a good sense of humour really funny. I love being around his quirkiness. “
I:You and Andrew are co-leaders of this band. You met at High School, got married and formed a band that seems which seemed an eminently sensible thing to do. How did the band form from marriage?
JP:“Originally we used to do a lot of folk-style music, they were not necessarily worship songs but they did have Christian-style themes. After driving back from a venue we both said we had a really good time but what we really enjoyed the most was worship music. We prefer the vain of the music where the lyrics are horizontal rather that vertical. We figured that we love music that is from our heart and directed straight to God. Andrew was at college at the time when we wrote our first worship song together. The worship leader from the Christian college at Azusa South Pacific University started playing the song in chapel and people caught onto it straight away. It was such an exciting and moving moment, we got together with some friends and producing songs from Andrew’s arrangements. I don’t think we sat down and said let’s call this band Lovelite, it just came into being. That was eight years ago and we are still going today.”
I:Why did you call the band Lovelite?
JP:“It came from the book of Ephesians where the passage talks about you were once darkness, but now you are light ….. And walk in love. We had to rearrange and change the spelling in order to come out up with Lovelite.
I:Did your popularity grow organically with all the immense support at college?
JP :“It started off as fun. However there was a time when we shifted with more intention. We used to get together once a week and just play songs. Our keyboard player had a tiny one bedroom apartment. We set up everything in there including all the Amps and drums; he nearly got kicked out. When we started out we were playing people living rooms then we went onto performing in Church’s. Now we are more focused and still very happy at what it is becoming.”
I: Andrew Polfer from the band Lovelite is my guest today, we at Cross Rhythms have been playing “Hearts Start Beating” quite a lot. I would like to know about the song writing process within the band itself. Because of you and your wife Jen the whole collaboration started before you were married because you were writing songs together.
AP: “Often at times when we were working on a song I would have a melodic idea, the chord structure and just the general flow of the song. Jen often works as an editor and helps bring my thoughts to a much stronger point where it is clearer to every listener and not just me. So she has been very helpful in making songs with the ability for all to hear and the lyrics easier to grasp.”
I:So tell me about the process of ’Hearts Start Beating’.
AP:”We have been staying at a camp for the past two years so this was directed towards high-schools. We really just wanted an energetic song that was a collaboration of what God has done and that amazing idea was around the death of Christ which brings us to life and outside the church that very interesting idea doesn’tmake a lot of sense. One of the best truths of our faith is that sacrifice brought us to a point where we can celebrate and where we can have freedom.”
I:So is this a big song for you? Is it a significant song out of all the songs you have written?
AP:”It seems to be catching on and it doing well as far as gaining listeners. It is a lot of fun to play inside the church when we lead it in our worship serviced. The band love playing it and love singing it within the Church.”
I:What is the future like for Lovelite? What do you want to try and achieve next?
AP: “The immediate future is we have a baby on the way in about a month and a half, so we’re excited for that and excited to see where the next stages lead for us in that area. We have some new songs which we are working on and finally, we thank you for playing our song.”
I:Why use Euro-pop as a style, that’s not really the normal way making working music, is it?
AP:“For me there is something emotional and nostalgic about that style. I am a child of the 80s. I like John Huhges films like ’Sixteen Candles’ and the ’Breakfast Club’ were an influence to me as a child. I liked bands from the UK like ’Tears for Fears’, ‘Elbow’ and ‘Doves’. These bands speak to me more from an artistic point of view rather that the stuff here in the USA. It has always excited me and I connected to it emotionally just like a lover of music would be. This music I connect with is based upon love and hope and not necessarily in the eternal form. . I thought that it would be an incredible thing to marry those emotive and dynamic musical styles and to bring it to an internal mind set.”
I:But isn’t there a danger that if you are to create worship music like this that the music you are creating is too creative for that scene for you to succeed in that scene because it is too good in that scene.
AP:“Thank you! Thanks very kind. Hopefully our music is from the too-good stand `point.”
I:When it comes to style of music there is a lot of worship music out there which is pretty banal and generic.
AP:”Benign worship music can often create broad strokes as opposed to the finer points and details; I know that the generation that I am from desires us to bring a little more artistry and creativity into the church because we have a very creative God.”
I:How creative are you being? You are obviously sucking up a lot of European influences and re-hashing them for worship. In the same way people have re-hashed U2 and Coldplay over the last 10 years or so.
AP:“You can water down lemonade so that it becomes a watery form of water and sugar. For analogy sake that source of mixture is the purest and strongest form. Our hope is to take these influences that are often sub conscious and by putting them together this will make a unique expression. Lovelite are not sitting there in the studio saying here is a Tears For Fears or Shakers sound lets create it right here for the next song. When in the studio we say to ourselves, ‘where does this song need to go? For us as artists, hopefully, it’s honest. We do not want to be puppets or just mimicking what others have done before us. However it is hard not to let those aspects show and shine because they have become a part of us.”
Cross Rhythms City Radio, broadcasting across Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme on 101.8FM
Transcribed by Jennifer Valentine-Miller
Cross Rhythms is impacting youth and the wider community for good through FM radio, training, contemporary Christian music and a globally influential website. Tony Cummings is the music editor of the magazine Cross Rhythms via Cross Rhythms Radio, Stoke (101.8 FM)
I: Calum, I am sure you have been asked this question before. Why have an iProject, why do it?
Calum: “This is something we wanted to do for many years; to do a solo. Because of our work and run rate we’ve never got the time to do it. So we took two years off last year. This was an ideal time. Everyone was doing projects and things they wanted to do. This was a good diversion from the band and to recharge batteries, and to fulfil and ambition for us.”
I: There were things that The Band From Rockall was doing that would have been completely different with Runrig.
Calum: “It is completely different. For us it was a case because we are songwriters. We always wanted to do a solo which reflected songs from early contents. We didn’t want the album to be polished or even over produced or to give a massive sound. We wanted it to be just about the songs. We recorded this album more or less in home studios. This was done to give it that home demo feel to retain the heart of the song.”
I: You say it took a long time to put together, was that through the song writing process?
Calum: “No, not really it was because we had the time off from the band and we were doing other things. But we just took our time to do it over that duration. We didn’t rush it. It was a real labour of love. We really enjoyed it.”
I: Can you tell me one or two inspirations behind the songs?
Calum: “Well, the inspiration for the whole album musically and a lot of the songs too was to go back to a time when the Rockall idea came in. Rockall is a rock in the Atlantic half way between Scotland and America. America and the Western Isles is where we grew up. It became a symbolism for us because growing up in the late ’50s and ‘60s in the Western Isles was a fantastic place to be because musically we grew up with a strong Gaelic language. Rock n Roll was coming through the on the radio and the pop revolution was static. Growing up with those things was really exciting, pop and rock was something we never heard before. So we wanted to retain on our album something of that freshness we heard for the first time.”
I: I was talking to a musician from the band Iona, they are a British band. They were hugely inspired by a visit to Iona. Most of the members of the band are Christians. When they visited the place it really fed on their spirituality.
Calum: “I have never actually visited Iona, to my shame. But I have heard many people say that about it. But I get that feeling from many Islands and places.”
I: Theologians say that natural theology is when you get close to beautiful places it does inspire you spiritually.
Calum: “Absolutely, there is a song from album When I Walk Among The Hills that it is indeed all about that.”
I: You have had years and years of touring with Runrig and that has effectively taken you around the world, has it not?
Calum: “Yes, in recent years we have tended to stay in Europe and the UK.”
I: It seems to me that your natural feelings are a long way from staying in Holiday Inns and living a Rock-n-Roll lifestyle?
Calum: “Believe me when I say there is not much of a Rock-n-Roll lifestyle, and is Holiday Inn, well, that is just a by product of a necessary evil. Touring can be tedious and boring and really you could do without it at this stage. But the important thing is when you arrive somewhere for at least two hours every night it really is worth it and that is a fresher thought than it has always been. Holiday Inn is not the natural habitat.”
I: A professional musician once told me that there are only a small percentage of all the hundreds of concerts that he genuinely said he enjoyed. The difficulty is after a while it becomes a job. Is that a feeling you have been able to always resist?
Calum: “It is a feeling that I have always enjoyed. I think that the fact is it is our job. We never had the mentality that you arrived in the rock music business thinking we were there for our two albums and 5 minutes of fame. This was something we wanted to do with our lives. You cast it and work at it and like any other worker you go through phases. We are very grateful it is our job and it is a wonderful way to spend your working life.”
I: It is pretty impressive for the band to keep going as you have. Has the success and popularity of the band sustained you some difficult time?
Calum: “Yes, absolutely. It has been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs. There have been times when it has been more of a struggle and you have to see these things through. Last year has been fantastic. We’re not with a record label or with agents, we can relax more. We are very much our own bosses.”
I: That’s how you first started.
Calum: “Yes, until things got a bit bigger and there was the desire to step up a gear and to step in the music industry in a bigger sense. We did that and experienced that for better and for worse. Now we are back to some aspects of decision making, I don’t think we’ll give that up now.”
I: You are perceived, rightly or wrongly, here in England as being a mouth piece for Scottish Nationalism. Is that a fair observation?
Calum: “No, it is not a fair observation. There was a political tag to the band. Donny Munroe our singer left the band 15 years ago to stand as a Labour representative. He stood for Election twice and was unsuccessful. Peter was a member of the SNP and still is an MP. So that is where our aspect of politics came but not from a Party Political sense.”
I: Your music has always found resonance with Christians because a spirituality comes through in some of your songs. Some of your band members are Christians.
Calum: “Yeah, the common denominator is in our content it is a sense of a spiritual one, I would definitely endorse that.”
I: Presumably you go to church, what kind of church do you go to?
Calum: “I live in an old barn and the church is right beside me, I have no option but to attend. I have never been one to bother about denomination so this is my local church in a tiny village on the Island.”
I: Presumably because of the community you live in you have people who have done little or no travelling outside their immediate environment. How do you perceive being a one time Rock n Roll musician in their midst?
Calum: “I do not perceive myself in that way. You just do a job and that’s it. Unfortunately the area in which God has led you down has hundreds of musicians with egos as big as houses.”
I: I am sure you have met quite a few of them?”
Calum: Yes, you see human nature in its worse excessive.
I: Presumably it is our faith in the Lord which has curbed the tendency in us?
Calum: Yes. I think in life when you confront stuff like that you see the imperfections of what human nature is and I suppose it stems from your desire to seek spiritual answers and to see another way.
I: Getting back to the Band of Rockall, you have got some interesting on the project. Can you tell me a bit about those?
Calum: “To be honest most of the music was done with Ronnie who did all the guitars and keyboards. I did the vocals and drums. Backing vocals was Sheila Laurenson from Denmark we made minimal use of our guest session singer. We used a couple of jazz brass players in a saxophonist and trumpet player. “
I: One of the themes coming from the album is a deep perfection for family. You haven’t told me yet about your family.
Calum: “The most difficult thing about this project was finding songs. We wanted to write new songs but we had decades of stuff sitting on the shelves, which was difficult to tie to a CD of 10 to 12 songs. Certain songs had personal attachments and influences from the wider family as well. Yes, a lot of the songs have a sense of family.”
I: What does the immediate family think of the album?
Calum: “Oh, they love it. We have filmed the process and it will be shown on the BBC in November. It will be called ‘The Band From Rockall’. The film allowed us to broaden the perspective.”
I: There are also instrumentals on the project?
Calum: “Yes, the opening track is mainly instrumental influenced by the elevators of the electric guitar, Hank Marvin and Duane Eddy. It most definitely has that flava to it.”