hip hop - mma - rap - R&B - ufc - IFL - pride fc - MUSIC - SPORTS - ENTERTAINMENT - thaformula.com - sweetback

hip hop | sports | art | mailing list

LAST UPDATE: 09.20.2007    / 13.30 p.m.                                               Web        Thaformula.Com          


"We played this game with the record companies to gain more interest and you can't do this nowadays, but what we did was this gig, where we invited all our friends. We had a lot of friends in the club scene and everyone did something. The fashion designer or photographer or musician or the drug dealer, everyone did something within the posse. So we invite everyone down and we invite all the record companies. Now the record companies knew there was this kind of buzz but they didn't know what it was. Then we told the guy at the door, "even if they are on the list, don't let any of the record companies in." So they all turned up and were on the list, but they couldn't get in. So that made them want her (Sade) even more. Then eventually we signed to CBS which is now Sony and I don't know if they knew what to expect.."
music features

Print | E-Mail Story

Hip Hop
feedback: info@thaformula.com
September 2007

thaFormula.com - This is an interview I have looked forward to for years…we mainly cover Hip-Hop, but we have the utmost respect for Sade and Sweetback.

Stuart Matthewman - Everything we do from like Sade and Sweetback and the stuff I do with Cottonbelly, you know we all listen to Hip-Hop or are influenced by it. We just don't do it ourselves because other people do it better. But it's cool because Hip-Hop people listen to Sade when they go home or they listen to Sweetback. People think that people only listen to one kind of music and it's just not true. Whenever I speak to anyone like friends or ask people what music they like or listen to at the moment, everyone says the same thing. Everyone says all sorts of shit and that's what we thought we would do with Sweetback, all sorts of shit. You do what you want to do to please yourself, you don't think about the record company and you don't think about radio. That shit sorts itself out afterwards. That's the important thing, please yourself.

thaFormula.com - So let's take it from the top Stuart, let's start with Pride, what exactly was that and how did it get started?

Stuart Matthewman - Pride was an adventurous thing that we were trying to do in the early 80's. There was about nine of us in this band and it was a couple of guitarists, I was playing Sax, there was a guy who was a lead vocalist, and two backing vocalists, one of which was Sade. There was all sorts of stuff and we were doing this mixture kind of like Funk with Latin influence and we were just kind of all over the place, but it had an edge to it. We weren't really good musicians, we didn't come from like a jazz background and we weren't college musicians. We just kind of picked up the instruments and wanted to do some dance music. Sade was one of the backing vocalists and I kind of vibed with her and we would hang out and listen to like old Al Green, Marvin (Gaye) and Nina Simone and you know the old kind of mellow stuff. It's like when you finish with your dance music you just want to chill out for a minute and we would listen to that and we would say "you know we should write some stuff of our own." So we started writing these real kind of chilled out, kind of really sparse kind of songs and we ended up kind of surpassing Pride. Like we would go on first and do this little set and people in the audience just had their mouths open with Sade. Because they hadn't seen anyone like her really and plus they hadn't heard anything like it. It's like this beautiful black girl with these three skinny white boys doing this kind of alternative stripped down soul kind of funky jazz stuff. No one was doing that kind of thing at the time. It was all about Duran Duran and all that kind of stuff or it was like Michael Jackson which is a really highly polished Quincy Jones, you know the big production thing? We just weren't capable of doing that because we weren't that good of musicians. We didn't have the resources to have a production like that. So we had that stripped down sound but people just latched onto that. So eventually there was more interest in Sade then there was in Pride and the other guys they just said "you know you should just go ahead, we don't want to hold you back anymore."

thaFormula.com - Did you guys actually cut any demos as Pride?

Stuart Matthewman - We did a couple of demos. I guess some of us probably have one on cassette. Sade has got one definitely locked away. She's not gonna let you have that one (laughs). She was just one of the backup singers though.

thaFormula.com - Did you guys have the usual struggle in getting that record deal or was it something that happened real quickly?

Stuart Matthewman - It wasn't that quick. We knew that nobody was doing that kind of music, but we knew it wasn't particularly commercial single-wise or radio-wise, but we thought we had a vibe. We were just happy if we could get any deal just to record it. We weren't thinking of playing big places or playing in America or anything. We were just thinking of recording anything. So we had a little bit of interest from record companies, but what we did is we played this game with the record companies to gain more interest and you can't do this nowadays, but what we did was this gig where we invited all our friends. We had a lot of friends in the club scene and everyone did something. The fashion designer or photographer or musician or the drug dealer, everyone did something within the posse. So we invite everyone down and we invite all the record companies. Now the record companies knew there was this kind of buzz but they didn't know what it was. Then we told the guy at the door, "even if they are on the list, don't let any of the record companies in." So they all turned up and were on the list, but they couldn't get in. So that made them want her (Sade) even more. Then eventually we signed to CBS which is now Sony and I don't know if they knew what to expect. We just did our little sound and they just released it and people picked up on it and the next thing you knew it was coming out of every store and every car. All of a sudden we went from playing in front of 50 to 100 people to playing these big places in Europe and it was crazy. We came up to America and the record company didn't know what to do with us at all when they saw us. You know these white guys doing this kind of music and you know just the look of it, it just wasn't slick (laughs).

thaFormula.com - What was the first single in England?

Stuart Matthewman - In England it was "Your Love Is King" and "Smooth Operator" was on the B-Side. I think in America they put out "Hang On To Your Love" and then they put out "Smooth Operator" and I remember my brother saying "no one is gonna play 'Smooth Operator' on the radio, it's not gonna happen, you're kidding." I remember my brother calling me up later, he was working in Miami at the time and he said "you've got to listen to this" and he was flicking through the radio stations and it was playing on three different stations at the same time and we were like "oh shit, (laughs) we better get out there!"

thaFormula.com - How was it doing in England at that time?

Stuart Matthewman - In England the album was doing really well, and in Europe it was also doing really well but the company kind of sat on it in America for a while because they knew that if it wasn't done right, it would just get lost and people wouldn't get it. We were saying "nah just put it out and people will vibe with it" because our philosophy from the beginning all the way through the last Sade album "Lovers Rock" to Sweetback is that the most important thing is you please yourself. You do music for yourself to make yourself feel good. If other people like it, that's like a bonus and if they don't like it, it's tough. But you're not thinking of an audience and doing it for them, you're not trying to please the record company, you're not trying to please radio and if it's good they will latch on eventually.

thaFormula.com - You guys worked with Robert Miller on the first album and other albums afterwards right?

Stuart Matthewman - He worked with us on the first album, the second album and the third album as well. See the thing about Robert Miller was that we recorded "Your Love is King," "Smooth Operator" and a couple of other tracks before we even had a record deal because he liked us, he thought we were good, he wasn't sure if we were gonna get signed but he just wanted to record us. He produced and recorded the first tracks almost like a demo and then we took that to the record company and they released exactly what we had done as a demo. So those were our original kind of demos.

thaFormula.com - When did you start really getting into the production?

Stuart Matthewman - Well the thing that we realized from the start was that because we weren't really good musicians, like we weren't really jazz trained or anything like that, we just wanted to sound good together as a vibe. So no one really wanted to show off and we just knew kind of how we wanted to strip it down. I would always play these guitar parts and then we would lose most of them and just keep one little riff and it was the same with the keyboards and Sade's vocals and we all would put our little bit in, but Sade is the one. She could make me play stuff on the guitar that I wouldn't think of. She doesn't play herself, but she could get you to do stuff. If someone doesn't like something then it probably doesn't end up on the record. You know everyone has to kind of like it really. I mean it could be frustrating, you know you could do a whole piece and then people aren't vibing with it, and you just lose it but you know its cool it's gone because it all works out in the end.

thaFormula.com - What is a real producer in your eyes?

Stuart Matthewman - To be a producer you don't have to play an instrument. It's all about vibing and getting the band to do the best they can or getting the best out of them. Even some producers have other people that do the beats and they will sit with them and go "look, I want it to sound like this" and someone will engineer it or program it, but that guy programming it or engineering it might never have thought of that idea on his own. The hard thing, which is so rare is to get is someone who is a producer and a technician as well, someone who musically has taste and can get a vibe going and then can program the shit. People like The Neptunes have got it down because they get a good performance out of the artist. Like Kelis, they will get an interesting performance out of her and that's what it's about. Anyone can listen to (Dr) Dre or The Neptunes or whatever it is and try and do something like them. You can sit down and program the shit and go "oh shit this sounds as good as that man," but being as good as it doesn't cut it, you've got to sound different. Anyone can sit down with a fucking manual and try and sound like Timbaland, but your not Timbaland because Timbaland is the originator, he came up with the sounds, same with The Neptunes. It doesn't make any difference if it's as good as it or not, it's got to be better or different and that's the thing. You've got to be an originator, those are the people that stand out and sell the music.

thaFormula.com - Why do you think it's so much harder today to find quality music?

Stuart Matthewman - There is always people who are shining through. There has always been people like Common or Timbaland (who comes up with beats). So there is always cool stuff out there. Outkast has been doing its stuff and Dead Prez too. There is always people doing different stuff. Me, I listen to whatever. I don't just listen to Hip-Hop or R&B. But that's what it's about is listening to all sorts of stuff. But yeah, as street as everyone says "Hip-Hop" is, it can't be street anymore because you have to have the money to go out there, you have to have your posse around you, you've got to have your money, you have to have your big studios to impress the record companies enough to push it because the record companies with Hip-Hop and R&B, they just want to spend money, then they want to see money. They find it so hard to get somebody underground. Even if it sounds like the guy doesn't seem to be spending money, they don't think they can push it for some reason. Even in the videos it's all leased. You know the cars are leased and they've still got to show they've got money. I mean yeah you have to search more now, but you can't blame anyone, it's everyone's fault. It's the record companies fault for not taking a chance on the artist, its the radio stations fault because they've only got so much music they can play, they need to have that advertisement to pay for the show, they are getting pressured from the record company, they are being pressured just to play like the few ten tracks for that particular month over and over again. Then it's also the artists fault for playing to those people because they are thinking "shit, I could do this completely cutting edge music, but I don't want to rock the boat right now, I just want to make my money so I'm gonna sound like everyone else." It's like everyone is striving to be mediocre apart from people like The Neptunes, Outkast or Dead Prez who are trying to do something different.

thaFormula.com - After the "Promise" album, you dropped "Stronger Than Pride" in '88, was it always a plan for you guys to drop an album every 3 years?

Stuart Matthewman - The thing is we kind of work around Sade's time schedule. She is from Nigeria so she has this other time schedule thing. It's either gonna happen sooner or later. She has no conception of time. She is just a total homegirl just hanging out at home with her friends and chilling out and she has no drive to be the center of attention and to be in all the press. If she comes to New York and hangs out with me at my house and maybe she goes shopping and she walks down the street, people will see its Sade and come to say "hello" or whatever but they don't freak out on her because uh, if she had a couple of security guards and limos following her and a whole bunch of people, people would start freaking out. So she just does this because she likes doing music and because of that she writes from the heart and she writes from experience and if she doesn't have anything to write about or she doesn't feel like it, she doesn't bother, and to be frank she doesn't need to, she's comfortable. She doesn't have that drive to keep making more money and have the clothing line and have the perfume and to have the fucking cars. She doesn't need that, she is just doing her music and when she is ready to do some more music and do the whole tour and the video thing and be Sade, she will do it, but she has the same problems as other people. Doing music isn't always the high priority.

thaFormula.com - Did you get even more involved musically on the "Stronger Than Pride" album?

Stuart Matthewman - Yeah, we all started getting a lot more involved with the production and then we all started understanding the engineering part of it and started getting the whole midi thing and computers going. So instead of like waiting for the whole band to get together, I could do come up with something at home on my own and bring it to the band and go "hey you like this?" and then they can work on it. Before I would just strum some chords and everyone would play their part, but now I could come up with sounds at home which is the way it is now.

thaFormula.com - Was "Love Deluxe" your biggest album in the states?

Stuart Matthewman - I think it reached a larger audience. It reached a more cross-section of people. We lost a lot of the Smooth Jazz kind of people and then we gained a lot of younger people and I was really happy about that and so was Sade I think because we didn't really wanna be tagged with this Jazz thing. Because of the stripped down sound with the sax and everything, it had a jazz vibe to it but we weren't jazz. On that album we kind of made a conscious thing of stripping the sound down even more, just kind of breaking it down and as far as the bass lines, they were just more kind of hypnotic. It was almost more kind of like a reggae vibe even thought the songs weren't reggae, it had a kind of reggae vibe to it the way the bass was played.

thaFormula.com - Yeah the "Sweetback" album, the Santessa album and the Cottonbelly album you did seemed to have a lot of similar sounds to the last two Sade albums.

Stuart Matthewman - Yeah, just using a few more effects. Like instead of filling something up with keyboards or a sax line, maybe we just put a bit of echo on a snare drum or something. Playing with the space more is what it was about and using effects a little bit more.

thaFormula.com - One of the things I enjoy most about Sade is the heavy bass lines...

Stuart Matthewman - Yeah it's Paul (Denman). It's like he is as a person, he's just really chilled and he's real solid and reliable and he doesn't want to show off, he doesn't sit at home practicing his bass 8 hours a day to show off. He just plays to keep the groove down you know and he keeps it real deep. He will play one note where someone else will play 8 notes and we keep it really simple and it's more hypnotic. You get more into the song that way.

thaFormula.com - Why did you guys take such a long break between "Love Deluxe" and "Lovers Rock?"

Stuart Matthewman - See Sade wasn't ready to do the whole thing of being "Sade." She had got a new man in her life and stuff was going on. She had a kid and things changed, the dynamics had changed. We still talked to her every other day but we were doing different things and she has no ego as in like "oh you guys can't do anything while I'm not working." Because she is cool and she knows where our loyalties are. Everything that I do, any music, I always send it to her first to get her opinion. It's got to pass Sade's test before I let anyone hear it, same with Sweetback. I will pass things backwards and forward and she will make comments and it's cool. Bear in mind that Sade is International. If she has a record out, you do the world tour man, you have to go all over the world. You've got to Japan, you do all that stuff. You do your videos, you do your TV, you do your remixes, you do all that stuff. You do the live DVD and then we put out the "Best Of" and you know there was all that stuff going on for Sade. Then I met Maxwell and I started doing music with him.

thaFormula.com - How did you connect with Maxwell because it seems like you guys have a great chemistry?

Stuart Matthewman - From day one it was really cool. It's funny because I got sent a demo of the track "Til' the Cops Come Knocking." I got sent the demo of that by the record company and they said "look we got this new kid, he is the shit and he is gonna be the next whoever." I said "I would love to hear it" and they sent it to me and they said "would you be interested in producing?" I heard it and I'm like "what the fuck can I do with this? It sounds amazing." The production was great, his voice was great, the lyrics, everything. "What do you want me for? It's done man," and they said "yeah he just wants to try and do more songs." But it kind of didn't happen and then this guy who was a percussion player with Sade was in town doing some sessions with Maxwell and he just brought him over and we just clicked and the next day we just started writing songs. We did like three songs in a week and that ended up on the record. Then because I was hanging out, I was like "I wanna play guitar on this song," and "oh let me play sax on this song." I was like all over his shit, it's funny.

thaFormula.com - Was the Sweetback project something that you planned or is it something that just happened?

Stuart Matthewman - It just kind of happened. You know I was doing the Maxwell thing and I was doing the Cottonbelly thing, but I remember I said to Paul and Andrew (Hale) "why don't we just sit and do some music because we can always use it some other time, let's do some tracks" and we were just doing tracks and then one day Maxwell came over to the studio and he heard the track that I had been doing, "Softly, Softly" and he was like "Oh! Let me sing on that shit!" So he sang on that and that was one of the first vocals we had, then we thought "maybe we should do this and get some more guest vocals in" and it just kind of happened.

thaFormula.com - How did your connection with Amel Larrieux come about for the Sweetback album?

Stuart Matthewman - Amel, I had seen really early showcases of her with Groove Theory and I just totally fell in love with her vibe because she was obviously about her singing and about her songs and she wasn't about being a star. She just sang from her heart about what she felt and it just really rang through and there was no doubt about her voice so we kind of kept in touch and she was into the Sade thing obviously. Then when we came to do Sweetback we felt that it would be nice to do a couple of tracks with her so she came in and did her magic.

thaFormula.com - It was crazy to us how good the chemistry was between you guys and every artist on the Sweetback album, even the Hip-Hop influenced track with Bahamadia felt natural.

Stuart Matthewman - It was a good connection, but the only problem with that was that it was really hard to get anyone to do shit live. You know you want to play live and then "oh we can't get Maxwell because Maxwell is doing this other thing" and "Amel has got to do this" so we never managed to get everyone together on the stage at the same time. We went on tour with Amel and she did like half the tour though.

thaFormula.com - As far as Bahamadia, was Hip-Hop something that you guys were interested in experimenting with?

Stuart Matthewman - Kind of. We weren't kind of thinking about it, but me and Andrew both had heard the "Uknowhowedo" Bahamadia track and we were like "oh shit!" Because she wasn't in your face, she sounded like she was leaning back and we were like "oh that would sound so cool with us." So we called out to her and I don't know if she knew what to make of us, I think she thought we were funny man, these funny guys from England. She came in and did her thing and it was really cool. She came and did some gigs with us and it was a lot of fun.

thaFormula.com - Why didn't you continue to try and do more Hip-Hop tracks after that Stuart?

Stuart Matthewman - I love Hip-Hop, but I love house music and I love reggae and you know other people do it (Hip-Hop) well. I do what I do which is a different sound and yeah, I could do Hip-Hop but then I would "just be doing Hip-Hop" because it's not what I do naturally. I have to sit down and think about it and then it won't be true.

thaFormula.com - So when you wrapped up the first Sweetback album, were you happy with the results?

Stuart Matthewman - I was happy with it musically, but I wasn't happy with the way it was put out there too much. I think they put R&B blinkers on it which meant they could only see the R&B in front of them and they couldn't see the Dub stuff, they couldn't see the trippy stuff and they couldn't see the other music that was on the record, they just kind of went for the R&B thing. They just didn't go for all the other people that could have been into that record, which is cool but I didn't have any say in that.

thaFormula.com - Now let's get into "The Roots Remix" from the Sweetback album, how did that come about?

Stuart Matthewman - I was a Roots fan, I mean I loved what they were doing, you know the idea of playing live and they are kind of the same thing as us, I mean they are playing live and doing Hip-Hop, but no one is showing off. The keyboard player is just playing the basic chords, the bass player is just laying the deep-ass groove, the drummer is just keeping it real simple and I just loved that sound. It's just basic which I love. See we thought it would be really cool to get them to do a mix, but what I didn't realize is the process. I hadn't seen that before and it was just eye opening for me, it was funny. Because when we are in the studio, it's us and whoever else is recording, there is no one else in the studio. But you go in their session's man and there is like 20 people in the room and there is always food being delivered and always people coming around. I was like losing track of who is in the band and who was who. Then there would be all these fine girls, like these three girls that were sitting around and I'm like "wow!" One of them just starts singing and I'm like "shit that is really beautiful" and then the other girls just start singing in harmony and one guy goes "hey get in the studio and record it." Then I found out they were the Jazzyfatnastees. They were just like hanging out in the studio just doing their thing and they definitely had no plan, they didn't know what they were gonna do, they just went in there and did their thing. Then Bahamadia came in and you know when I hear "remix," I presume you are gonna keep the same vocal and change the backing. But she changed the vocal as well and I was like "oh shit, it's like a whole new song."

thaFormula.com - It amazed me though how they remixed the track completely and still made it sound similar to the original.

Stuart Matthewman - Yeah, you know I put the sax in there a bit and played a bit of guitar. I was in there, they were producing it and doing it but they got me to play a bit of sax and do a bit of guitar and shit.

Be sure to check back with us real soon as we bring you Part II of our Exclusive Interview with Sade's Stuart "Cottonbelly" Matthewman.

feedback: info@thaformula.com



  Performing Live In Los Angeles @5pm Sharp "Straight Outta Queensbridge" Cormega Backed On The Turntables By DJ FM Of Sick Symphonies   Sounds Provided By: DJ Lord Ron...

Plus: Live Graffiti By EZRA & More TBA, Cookout (Caribbean Food),  A Sneak Preview Of Cormega's Upcoming DVD  "Who Am I" & More...
When: Saturday September 22nd, 2007  Time: 4pm-8pm  Where: 33third L.A. 5111 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles 90013  Info: (310) 694-3460   Cost: $10   NO TICKETS  SOLD AFTER 4PM DAY OF EVENT!!!


  sports features
Nick Diaz. 

They might win but that's gonna be a whole fight...


Quinton Jackson. 

I don't care about what Chuck is gonna do or how he...


Dan Henderson. 

That fight was probably an example of how the sport...

  music  features
DJ FM Of Psycho Realm.

It's a game of politics with this music, but what can you do...


Devin The Dude.

I am really true to it & I try to do the best that I can...


Bishop Lamont.

There are many more brothas like me, but they never get heard...