Miriam Doona catches up with Jan Kincaid; drummer, keyboardist and vocalist for the Brand New Heavies.

Brand New Heavies, pioneers of the Long acid jazz scene

Founded by Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy, Brand New Heavies was formed in the London suburb of Ealing in 1985. The vocal stylings of N’ Dea Davenport, Siedah Garrett, Carleen Anderson and Dawn Joseph have all been employed to enhance the Brand New Heavies’ music during their excess of two decades illuminating the UK scene with their musical conglomeration of funk, soul and jazz.

Miriam Doona: Your sound has been in a constant state of evolution. The first album back in 1990, Brand New Heavies, emphasised the instrumental as opposed to vocals. As time progressed vocals became a huge part of your music as your style also evolved. Would you say that is an accurate observation?

Jan Kincaid: Yes, definitely. Musically, personally I am very open to all types and genres. I like jazz, soul, funk, folk, electronic and all good quality soulful stuff and I always look out for new stuff. There are so many bands today so it is hard to find the good ones coming through as everything is so spread out, being internet based.

MD: As a band you gained cult status in the late 80s working the London club circuit. Do you think that the internet as a way of getting the word out about new bands and music is leading to the demise of that live club music scene, which has launched so many bands like yourselves in the past?

JK: As music is very internet based, it is easy to build an online community, but it means less venues and less of a real community for bands. Back in the day the club scene was so organic and less commercial as it can be today. There was such a cool little underground scene when we started, with DJs just turning up to venues.

MD: The band's stateside connection was a very significant one, where you were signed to the label Delicious Vinyl. Do you think that connection launched you as a more mainstream band?

JK: Definitely, back in the day as a result of doing the live circuit and we became a cult band in the UK. We became a mainstream band as a result of our association with America. The word got back to the UK about us, and the buzz grew from there.

MD: You also experienced a stylistic twist which is very evident with the album Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol.1, on which you collaborated with popular rappers, such as Main Source and Gang Starr. What was the inspiration in incorporating such a strong element of hip- hop in the album?

JK: We were on a voyage of discovery, musically speaking and it was the golden age of hip-hop at the time and our record label shared a press agent with those guys. The inspiration was a show in New York with MC Serch and Q-Tip. They thought we were an old band, an old cult band, and talked about the soul and funk element and were surprised we were a new band because of it. They hung about after the show and we jammed and the energy was amazing. We brought it into our music. It was a natural progression musically for us.

MD: Seeing as you mentioned funk and soul, I will go off in a bit of a tangent! The name Brand New Heavies is a homage to James Brown, once billed as “The Minister of New Super Heavy Funk”. You also supported him in Wembley. Are you looking forward to seeing the film about his life that is currently in production and due out this year?

JK: Yeah, I am. I am interested to see how it turns out and hopefully it is done right and made the right way. His story is a fascinating one, both musically and personally, and it will be a great watch if it is made and directed in the right way.

MD: It has been seven years since the release of Get Used to it. Your latest album Forward was released earlier this year in April 2013, and you played The Jazz Club last January. Will you be touring more this year?

We have a new [album] in the works and again we are aiming for April this year to release. N’ Dea featured heavily on that album, Forward. She is in America and based there so it is really hard, logistically speaking and considering schedules to have her involved in the new album. We have a new vocalist on our new album, Dawn Joseph. She has such a great voice and has real style too, and glamour is a big part of what we do. We will be touring a lot this year with the new album, we have a lot of gigs planned.