Interview / Common Saints

For me, at least, the brilliance of Common Saints came completely out of the blue. World renowned balearic beat DJ / guru, Moonboots, contacted me and said, “Amigo, have you heard this record.” He was so moved, so enthusiastic, that he even penned a guest review. He was right, of course, the Idol Eyes E.P. was / is gold from start to finish. At the end of last month, Common Saints released a second set, Starchild. A further 5 tracks, perfectly played and produced, not one of them showing any dip in quality. Pieces that mix up jazz, rock, and psychedelic soul, that had me pulling in references like Brian Auger, David Crosby, Steve Miller, Eddie Chacon, Lewis Taylor, and Jonathan Wilson. Common Saints is all of this, and at the same time it`s not. So far we’ve been privy to ten contemporary songs, shot through with “hippie” ideals of love and unity, hoping to heal society, division, sung by a singer that seems to really mean it. Flawless and heartfelt. I was thinking who is this person, or persons, making this magical music, under what appeared to be a veil of anonymity and mystery. I figured that it had to be someone from some mega successful band, gone solo, gone underground. I had to find out…..

Where are you from?

I was born in London, but grew up in Oxfordshire.

Where are you based? 

I`m now based in South London.

When did start making music? 

I started playing piano around the age of 6, writing songs at 13 and producing – badly haha – at 14.

Were there any artists, pieces of music, or events that inspired you to do so?

Loads. Like everything I heard, I would wonder how it was created. I loved Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson. A friend at school showed me Reason 3.0, the software, and I was instantly hooked. After that, all I wanted to do was make music.

What instruments do you play? Have you had any formal training? 

I was classically trained in piano, I sung in choirs, picked up guitar age 10 and drums around the same time. Although there was some formal training on piano to start, the bulk of my learning was jamming to be honest.

The production on the E.P.s is amazing. Are they recorded in your own studio?

Thank you! They are, in the various places I have lived over the years. 

Did you have any favourite bits of kit?

I have a ’61 Gibson 335 Reissue which I love. Also, a Bechstein Concert 8 Upright piano, which is my absolute pride and joy. My Tube-Tech CL1b Compressor is just killer on a snare and vocal. Also have a PIE Compressor remake which is a cool piece. Ludwig Black Beauty deep snare is also a banger.

Were you in any other bands before recording as Common Saints?

Many moons ago yes, I had a band called Riot Park when I was 17 years old. Shout out Sam, Mike and Dan.

Are there any artists or pieces of music that have had a direct influence on the music that you make?

Many. This is always a hard question as I draw influence from many different sources. Being a producer, you are constantly challenged to go out of your comfort zone and constantly discover new things. I would have to say Pink Floyd, Grover Washinton Jr., and the Bee Gees would be immediate influences, but as the project develops the sound grows with all the new and old music I listen to.

In the reviews that I put together I pulled in quite a lot of references – Brian Auger, the Beach Boys, Eddie Chacon, David Crosby, Steve Miller, Lewis Taylor, Jonathan Wilson…Were you aware of these artists work? How do you feel about the comparisons? 

The Beach Boys was one that resonated, and David Crosby, but I gotta say you have introduced me to some great artists! Thanks.

Does jazz impact what you do at all? Again I thought I could hear references to Roy Ayers.

I love jazz, and Roy Ayers. I feel that he brought a soul edge to his music that was so unique and cool. 

Is there anybody else involved in Common Saints? I noticed that on the Idol Eyes E.P. you have backing vocals and a sax, which are absent from the Starchild recordings. Was this just simply due to COVID restrictions?

I love collaborating with people on records and try to do that as much as I can. The pandemic was certainly a restriction, but we did a load of recording before the lockdowns for Starchild. Winston Williams does the drums on Mystic and there`s also some brass bits on there from Josh Arcoleo and Simon Beddoe. Come the album, there will be a resurgance of sax for sure.

The Starchild E.P. also features a fair amount more “shredding”. Are you an Eddie Van Halen fan?

Eddie Van Halen is legendary! I remember learning Eruption years ago when I started guitar.

Both E.P.s have been big hits with everyone I know – everyone loves them. Have you picked up any press or national / international radio play?

We have had some strong support from Radio 6 Music, KRCW, and support from Gilles Peterson. Hopefully more coming in the future.

The text on your Bandcamp page talks a lot about division and unity. I get the feeling – from both the text and your music – that this is something that you are passionate about. Can you expand on this at all? 

I feel like music brings everyone together under a common theme. Music is also such a pure melting pot of collaboration, between many different cultures, minds, souls, ideas, technologies, all across the world. It is the universal language – you can go anywhere in the world and listen to music and feel part of it. Sometimes we are pulled away from unity through political dogma, and can miss the bigger picture that we are all on a big rock flying through space, experiencing reality together. 

You’re probably too busy making music to listen to any, but if you do, could you please give me 3 pieces of music that you are currently enjoying?

Yes, absolutely!

Caetano Veloso – Nine out of Ten

Quincy Jones – Summer in the City

Rainer Sheurenbrand – Nana 

Pandemic notwithstanding was there / is there a good music scene where you are? If so, does it centre on any particular venues, or say record shops? Are there any other local artists were should look out for?

Not particularly where I live in the South. There is a great record store called Wanted Records nearby, which I occasionally go to. Generally I go into central London for gigs and events. The Jazz Cafe, in Camden, is always a vibe – I saw Dexter Wansell there pre-pandemic which was amazing.

Has the lockdown period been creatively productive for you?

It has. I actually made a whole album with Vancouver Sleep Clinic during lockdown. He managed to get a flight from Australia and we spent 4 months making the record together.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on an E.P. with Mychelle, and piecing together the debut Album for Common Saints.

All being well what are your plans for near future? Do you have any plans to play live?

The plan is to finish the debut album and then start gigging it out! I cant wait to play live, but I want to make sure the live show is perfect before we commence on that part of the journey.

Common Saints` Starchild E.P. is available now on Bandcamp. I do believe that the much coveted Idol Eyes E.P. has been repressed.  

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