Part 1: Fragments of Freedom / Playing Live / Pen to Performance
Morcheeba's sultry debut CD, Who Can You Trust?, was released in 1996, two years after Portishead's influential Dummy changed the face of trip-hop. Not surprisingly, Morcheeba was then immediately lumped into the Portishead-clone category, along with bands like Lamb, Olive, and Hooverphonic.
With their latest, Fragments of Freedom, the British threesome (Skye Edwards and brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey) will permanently lay all those Portishead comparisons to rest. However, they may now have to deal with similar references to acts like Donna Summer and Kool & the Gang. That's right, Fragments of Freedom finds Morcheeba tapping into the rich terrain of American R&B, disco and even hip-hop for inspiration. The first single, "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day," is the catchiest, toe-tappingest single to come along in ages, laced with perky, rich horns and husky background vocals complementing lead singer Skye's sweet voice. And several big-name MCs make guest appearances to the delight of Paul Godfrey, who says he grew up on hip-hop. Among those lending their talents to the disc are Biz Markie, on the jumping "In the Hands of the Godz"; Mr. Complex on "Love Sweet Love," and Bahamadia on the multi-layered "Good Girl Down," which builds from a tantalizing mid-tempo groove to a dance-y chorus.
With their more up-tempo sound and diverse musical collaborators, Morcheeba has found renewed enthusiasm for their music. Paul and Skye spoke to Electrowerks.com about rediscovering their passion for music, the new album and playing live.
Musician.com: How long did you spend recording this album?
Paul Godfrey: About nine months, but it was written and recorded in those nine months, where the other albums were written before they were recorded. Big Calm was written before Who Can You Trust? was released, so this was the first new material we'd really done for at least four years.
Musician.com: How has the new material been going over live?
Skye: The new songs are going down like a treat, especially "Be Yourself." Everyone's been getting into that; "The Sea" has become a bit of an anthem. It's worked really well with all the songs from Who Can You Trust? side by side.We've only done a handful of shows; we started off in Athens, went to Italy, then did one in London, and then did Glastonbury, which was our biggest show by far in this cycle.
Musician.com: The albums have such different moods and tempos.
Skye: It kind of adds a nice roller coaster feel. It works amazingly well having "Shallow End" and then "The Sea" -- it brings the audience up, takes them down to the mellow level and then back high again with "Be Yourself" and we do a cover of "Season of the Witch." I love singing that.
Musician.com: When you're writing, do you consider how the material is going to translate to the stage?
Godfrey: It was very difficult to get our enthusiasm up to play the old stuff live every night because it was so slow. It was quite important to have more upbeat, energetic stuff, just for our own interests and our careers really.
Musician.com: Have you found that the time off and the changes in your personal life have returned your enthusiasm for the music?
Godfrey: I think what it basically did was put it in perspective. Obviously, we got into music because we love making music and all our dreams and goals about elevating ourselves out of the shithole situations we were in were put into that. And then the reality of getting caught in the middle of the music industry [mergers] was quite shocking. We didn't have a lot of freedom and we certainly weren't getting very well paid. We just realized how important it was to just enjoy the music side of things as that was the only fun that we could really get out of it. And we tried learn about the business and the more we learned the more we didn't want to be involved so this was kind of celebrating our innocence and naivet·.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3