NINE BEATS COLLECTIVE
One album I overlooked during the course of the bizarre Trump era, Nine Beats To The Bar is a solid introduction to the Planet Earth based pop-rock-world beat band Nine Beats Collective. The 9-piece group features a rotating collective of gifted singers, songwriters, producers and other musicians featuring some quite famous ones at that, including guitar hero Caleb Quaye – the acclaimed early 1970’s guitarist for John Kongos and Elton John, along with other esteemed singer-songwriters Heatherlyn, Barry Taylor and Mikael R. Andreasen (composer and vocalist on title track and theme), who each inject some solid musical anthems into the wide scope of the album. Nine Beats To The Bar also veers into an atmospheric spoken word music zone that kind of grows on you while spotlighting contributions from Ambassada and Eric Leroy Wilson. Clearly, after decades of growth, socially-conscious rappers working convincingly are here to stay and these artists have it down to an art form. Plus, all the lyrics are printed in the CD booklet so there’s no excuse for not understanding the Nine Beats Collective raps. The production by Tony Bean is quite impressive while the CD sound really shines through. The album closing “Give In To The Love”, composed by Heatherlyn and music producer Steve Bassett, is kind of an album-closing culmination moment with its anthemic message of hope. Vocalist Heatherlyn shines on this song as well as the other album tracks she appears on here. 26 tracks on one album, containing a staggering range of music and musical genres might appear overwhelming at first but once you take the time to consider and savor the sheer number of great tracks from the artists taking part, it becomes clear that Nine Beats To The Bar is an overlooked, yet justifiably worthwhile music classic from Nine Beats Collective.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
9BC: This is the Collective’s first release. We have new tracks in the pipeline and some new artists to include. It was always intended to be a loose affiliation of creatives, all of whom have their own solo work so some have become more a part of the “core” and others step in and out. The main Collective gathered in L.A. a while back for an intense weekend exploring what the album might look like and how songs might be created. The album came out initially in the UK in 2017 and has had a staged physical release since then into the USA and now mainland Europe. The amazing band is drawn from the UK with others joining from the states for the USA tours.
mwe3: How has the Nine Beats Collective been coping during the pandemic of 2020? How were you affected by the crazy year of 2020? What is the current state of activities for Nine Beats Collective? Are they taking time out and will they be back with a follow up to Nine Beats To The Bar?
Nine Beats Collective: Crazy indeed with lots of plans shelved. However, there are some new tracks out there from collective members such as Heatherlyn which have been branded under the Nine Beats umbrella. We also did three livestreams with more planned over the next few months. Also been busy on press, radio and social media campaigns to keep some momentum going as well as planning for touring later in the year including the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, Colorado.
mwe3: What did album Tony Bean producer bring to the Nine Beats To The Bar album sessions? How did Tony work with so many artists playing and performing on one album and how did Tony fulfill his job as album producer and did he do A&R too? What was Steve Bassett’s contribution to Nine Beats To The Bar?
Nine Beats Collective: Tony is an award-winning producer at the UK annual MOBO awards [Music of Black Origin]. The Nine Beats Artist Liaison and business manager Rob Taylor had worked with Tony for a few years and we trusted his production skills, especially with gospel, R&B and soul. He was amazing in constructing the flow of the album so it made sense as a progression.
We recorded the vocals for the featured artists in studios local to them so that took us to Kampala Uganda, NYC, Minneapolis, L.A. and Chicago as well as Birmingham, England. Backing musicians and backing vocalists were gathered in the UK to lay / layer the tracks.
Steve Bassett is the originator of the concept and acts as creative director with overall responsibility for signing off on the feel and texture of the album’s songs in close collaboration with Tony. Both are great at supporting artists to deliver their best so in that sense both did the A&R. Steve also co-wrote a number of the songs, and Tony collaborated on others.
mwe3: What is Barry Taylor doing musically these days? Tell me something about that track he did called “Wild World”. I never heard his music before but that track really blew me away and I saw there are at least 2 different versions. What is Barry doing now and what’s his facebook page? Has he made any other tracks and albums?
Nine Beats Collective: www.ukbloke.com is where you can find out more about Barry. He’s an amazing mix of songwriter, theologian, philosopher and cultural maven with roots in rock n roll touring with AC/DC. Barry’s Facebook. Here's the video.
“I had this idea and it just felt like I needed to stretch for it. I think in some ways what I was trying say lyrically and musically was that peace, harmony and justice can be elusive ideas, and you sort of have to reach for them. Sometimes when you are in a recording studio you can just find things about your voice that you wouldn't necessarily try in a different environment. I was as surprised as everybody else, because it's much higher than I usually sing, but it seemed to work out all right.” - Barry Taylor
mwe3: With the rap songs from Eric Leroy Wilson is Nine Beats trying to make a social statement? Is rap music becoming more accepted in the pop and rock and World Beat sound? How does rap and World Music fit into the 9B sound?
Nine Beats Collective: Eric is a skilled playwright and spoken word artist as well as a spiritual formation coach. The song is a call to unmask the false “realities” and narratives we surround ourselves with.
“[One of the] NINE BEATS Collective shared this idea that was just so evocative about calling forth ghosts of those things that need to be woken up in our lives; so I’ve written a piece that’s called Call’ em Out which attempts to call out and evoke those ghosts of our better selves that are inside of us.” - Eric Wilson
The track has really resonated in France where it reached number 23 in the independent radio charts. The flow of the album allows different styles to live alongside one another in the telling of the story
mwe3: Is Heatherlyn a founding member of Nine Beats Collective? What is her facebook page and does she have a web site? Is Heatherlyn planning a new album or new music? Did she play on the other tracks including the tracks with Barry Taylor?
Nine Beats Collective: Yes she is! She’s been involved from the start and has toured extensively with us.
We did an EP with her at the end of Fall 2020 called Dance Of The Deep which is currently being serviced to US College Radio. She only performed her own tracks on the recording.
mwe3: Who is playing the instrumental interlude tracks? Are those tracks composed by Deborah Pritchard? What part does instrumental music play in the 9BC sound?
Nine Beats Collective: Deborah brought together a great classical ensemble to record the tracks. She is a synesthetic composer so she sees sound as colour! To keep the “concept album” feel we wanted some dramatic bridges between the progression of the album and Deborah more than delivered.
mwe3: Tell us about the inclusion of U.K. guitar great Caleb Quaye. Is Caleb a full time member of 9BC and tell us about his composition “The Way Of Peace”. He has such a great resume from his early years with Elton and John Kongos.
Nine Beats Collective: Caleb is definitely the Yoda of the project! What an honour to work with him. He flows in and out as other commitments allow and released a film about his life last year. Gracious, humble and supremely gifted. Top man.
mwe3: How about the track “Nine Beats To The Bar” and the “Nine Beats To The Bar Theme”? How did Mikael R. Andreasen fit into the Nine Beats Collective sound and vision?
Nine Beats Collective: Mikael is a part of a band called Kloster and has been an award-winning songwriter of the year in Denmark. He brings a bit of “Scandinavian Noir” to the album, haunting ethereal tracks that echo in your mind. He went for the heart of the concept and just naturally picked up those key themes and reflected them back to us. Brilliant.
mwe3: Also what can you tell us about the track “Lament” and vocalist Fatai?
Nine Beats Collective: The songwriter is Aaron Niequist. His belief is that we don’t know how to grieve and lament in western culture. Success oriented cultures and a culture of “happiness” can be oppressive and shallow in allowing us to thrive as human beings. We need to sit with our pain before we are able to move forward in a healthier way. Fatai (born Fatai Veamatahau) is a Melbourne, Australia-based singer of Tongan descent. She rose to fame soon after being a semi-finalist on the first season of the Australian version of The Voice. Following her success on The Voice, she inked a deal with Mercury Records Australia, but in mid-2015, following two and a half years on the Mercury label, Fatai decided to become an independent artist. Her website is here.
mwe3: Is there a theme to the Nine Beats To The Bar album? What kind of musical or social statement did the album try to make?
Nine Beats Collective: At a time when religion and Christianity in particular is often seen as oppressive and toxic, we felt that the ancient wisdom of the beatitudes spoken two thousand years ago, offers another way of being in the world. Tender not toxic, inclusive not divisive, welcome not weapon. Full of justice, acceptance and reality. That message has resonated wherever we have performed. A little like the first Beat Poets, it occupies the rub points between faith, culture and spirituality, the gaps where magic and mystery still exist.
mwe3: What is the future of Nine Beats Collective in 2021 and beyond?
Nine Beats Collective: Another album for sure. A theatrical production based on the beats is also in development. Still working at the concept stage but looking to complete a first draft script soon to test out with a group of actors. Touring when we can!
Nine Beats Collective online:
Special thanks to Ken Onstad and to Rob Taylor