YO! Thank you – pleased to be here. We’ve been good, busy, excited; but mostly good.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Hard Work Dedication”?
Sure. Hard Work Dedication is an up-tempo, funky, James Brown inspired groove. Full of gritty vocal lines, horns, and a stinking back beat.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Well, Harry called me to say he’d formulated an idea for a real funky song at about the same time I’d watched a documentary about Floyd Mayweather’s boxing career. One thing they always did in the gym was chant “HARD WORK! DEDICATION!” to encourage and inspire the boxers, and I thought it would not only translate to a real catchy, layered vocal – but offer an important philosophy on life, too. I went away and wrote the lyrics and melody, Hazza added some punctuated, funky-ass horn lines across the intro and verse, and I added some James Brown’esque horns in the bridge. Before we knew it, we had a song.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Stressful? Haha… I suppose it’s to be expected when you’re working with 9 musicians and 7 or 8 crew members. Plus, it’s a live session, so we had to be extra prepared and on the ball musically as well as visually. Really happy with how it came out though. We had fun and I think that translates, which is the main thing for me.
The single comes off your new album Toast – what’s the story behind the title?
I’m just a massive fan of grilled bread to be honest… ha!
Nah, in all seriousness, funk music was always pretty quirky and different in its nature. I wanted something that kinda tipped the hat to a past genre of music that has inspired us so much. ‘Toast’ meaning to raise a glass in celebration seemed apt. Plus it literally means touched by fire – which I’d like to think applies to some of our tunes!
How was the recording and writing process?
Pretty long and varied. There was no steadfast formula to our song writing, except that most songs were written collaboratively. I got together with Harry and/or RJ for the majority of the tracks. Others were first imagined in a rehearsal room with 4 or 5 people, some I wrote alone in my bedroom. The recording process was awesome. We all piled into Derek Nash’s ‘Clowns Pocket’ studio in Bexley. I’d originally budgeted for 6 days, but we ended up spending 15 days working on the album. Recording, mixing etc. When it’s your baby, you tend to want to tweak bits and pieces for infinity. We probably spent at least 2 or 3 days deciding if we wanted a tambourine 1 or 2 decibels louder or quieter.
What role does the UK play in your music?
I suppose the very nature of our music is pretty American-centric, but what is 100% certain is that funk and soul music has always had a really special place in the hearts of music lovers in the UK. There’s a real strong following for our type of music here and we look forward to taking advantage of that audience.
How has James Brown influenced your writing?
James Brown is the reason I wanted to be a performer. I bought my dad a CD for his birthday when I was like 14 or 15. James Brown: Live at Chastain Park. When I learnt to drive, I picked a few CD’s out of the rack at home for my little red fiesta. That CD was one of them, and boom… I was hooked on the funk. I must have played it 1000 times over. The rawness, the soul, the energy, the sweat. Huge stages, captivated crowds, the tightest band. For me, this is the what it’s all about.
What is it about the 70s that you find so fascinating?
It was a time when funk was still strong, soul was still strong and disco funk was emerging. It wasn’t just about the music. Sure, the music is disgustingly good, but it was the performance; the show. People came to be entertained. You had to have the whole package. The look, the moves, the music.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
People I know, people I’ve met, situations I’ve been in, situations other people have been in. My philosophy on life. All in a spirit of fun and love and expression.
Any plans to hit the road?
We really want to hit the road next year. The album has just been released, and I’ve had countless messages from people asking when we are touring it – so this is something we definitely want to do. Plus, festivals are a huge draw for us, so we’re looking to do lots of those next year. Basically bringing our music to as many people as possible. Stage bookers, Promoters, hit me up!
What else is happening next in The Ashton Jones Project’s world?
Loads of promo for the new album. We’ve got a new music video dropping in the next few days, too – so I’m looking forward to that. We filmed it on a random basketball court in London, furnished with sofas and tables from a charity shop. Plus we have brand new merch for the album. A limited edition transparent amber vinyl LP, along with CD’s and T-Shirts available at ashtonjones.com. We also have some cool gigs coming up. 5 of us are heading down to Kansas Smitty’s on 31st October for a Halloween Funk Special, plus we’re performing at The Cambridge Junction for Cambridge Jazz Festival on 13th Nov.