"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.."
- This is an interview I have looked forward to for years…we
mainly cover Hip-Hop, but we have the utmost respect for Sade
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.
- So let's take it from the top Stuart, let's start with Pride,
what exactly was that and how did it get started?
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
- Did you guys actually cut any demos as Pride?
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.
- Did you guys have the usual struggle in getting that record
deal or was it something that happened real quickly?
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).
- What was the first single in England?
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!"
- How was it doing in England at that time?
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.
- You guys worked with Robert Miller on the first album and
other albums afterwards right?
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.
- When did you start really getting into the production?
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.
- What is a real producer in your eyes?
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
- Why do you think it's so much harder today to find quality
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
- 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?
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.
- Did you get even more involved musically on the "Stronger
Than Pride" album?
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.
- Was "Love Deluxe" your biggest album in the states?
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.
- 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.
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.
- One of the things I enjoy most about Sade is the heavy bass
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.
- Why did you guys take such a long break between "Love
Deluxe" and "Lovers Rock?"
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.
- How did you connect with Maxwell because it seems like you
guys have a great chemistry?
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.
- Was the Sweetback project something that you planned or is it
something that just happened?
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
- How did your connection with Amel Larrieux come about for the
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.
- 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.
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.
- As far as Bahamadia, was Hip-Hop something that you guys were
interested in experimenting with?
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.
- Why didn't you continue to try and do more Hip-Hop tracks
after that 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.
- So when you wrapped up the first Sweetback album, were you
happy with the results?
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.
- Now let's get into "The Roots Remix" from the
Sweetback album, how did that come about?
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."
- It amazed me though how they remixed the track completely and
still made it sound similar to the original.
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.
sure to check back with us real soon as we bring you Part II of
our Exclusive Interview with Sade's Stuart
In Los Angeles @5pm Sharp "Straight Outta Queensbridge" Cormega Backed
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"Who Am I" & More... When: Saturday September 22nd, 2007 Time: 4pm-8pm
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