Bristol has been the gateway to many DJ’s, live bands, art scenes and downbeat vibes for years and in 2011 it seems nothing has changed. The West country will always be laid back especially if the music scene continues to look back in time and remix every flavour on offer to create a new ice cream for the stoned ears of the UK’s sweet music scene.
Malachai is the collaborative work of both Gary (Gee) Ealey and Scott Hendy who have spent their lives trawling music of every genre to magically fuse their own take on what can be found from the classics of old to the futuristic and psychedelic sounds of new. Following the release of the second Malachai album in February Mark Beckett caught up with Gee down in Bristol to discuss what makes this blend work so well.
So I guess we should begin with the obvious question of wow did your musical tastes developed to inspire you to create such a distinct sound when you were growing up discovering music, what was on the decks at that time?
Not to give our ages away but what was around then is now getting its revival haha! It’s funny ‘revival’ because it always seems to focus on the blah stuff. 80s to most people is legwarmers and neon and at the time it was everything we hid in Hip Hop to avoid. On the decks we had a lot of militant Black Power rap, London Posse’s first 12″. I was learnin’ me chops as an emcee then and Scott was playing with early bits of kit, still wide-eyed to the world with a good dose of anger.
Did you ever pick up a skateboard back then or even now?
It was my introduction to Bristol. A guy came from here to my town in ’89 to run a branch of Rollermania, I met a lot of people through him and ended up in a band here, which caused a permanent move. The local Hip Hop scene always ran parallel with the skate scene so I’ve met plenty of you crazy bastards in my time.
Any good skate stories from back then?
As a Bboy I was in one of the Bristol 411 vids doing windmills at night down College Green. This other time a little kid wound me up one day, I’d always seen him skating round, chatting to my mates and for some reason he said something that pissed me off, maybe it was his way, kind of ‘too cool’ about shit, I don’t mean like a poser but detached in a way that said “I don’t need you”. As it was a small town mentality it felt kind of undermining to have this little kid with a plaster on his forehead looking coldly at me, so I made myself look big and stepped to him, I towered over him and said “do you want me to smack the fuck out of you?” giving my meanest eyes and he just looked up and shrugged his shoulders and said “you can if you want, it isn’t gonna change anything, shit happens.” I laughed so hard, I could see it in his eyes too, he wasn’t scared of anything and I remember the respect I had for him that day and to this, my boy Paul ‘drown ya’ Carter, PROPER!
Ha, we were not expecting that. OK let’s talk about the album. In the writing process for your latest one Return to the Ugly Side did you have initial ideas for the songs that you tried to capture or is there more experimentation?
It’s a mixture of both really, brainsperm trying to punch its way through the egg of boredom to fertilise something that doesn’t grow up to be a tubby letdown.
Amidst all the dark imagery and morbid tones, lyrically your new album sounds like an uplifting album that is burying its past. What was the catalyst for this feeling?
Well a lot of music I was doing leading up to Malachai was quite introverted and melancholic and I felt I wanted to break through it little and challenge myself to be more upbeat so Ugly Side of Love is kind of (hopefully) putting a few things to rest. As Return to the Ugly Side was shaping up it did seem to feel the way you called it so it seemed fitting to tie the two together. I don’t think I’ll ever get fully away from that reflective thing though, it’s just part of my make up.
Did you lock yourself in your studio or did your allow yourself time for inspiration and reflection?
For me and Scott it’s a generative thing, we keep each other excited about it, we keep in touch daily and try to keep producing stuff that feeds each others enthusiasm. If it’s not meant to be it won’t be, we don’t hammer away at it but we try to keep ahead of time so we don’t chase our tails. we impose our own deadlines and hit them with enough room around it to feel spontaneous. It’s a lot of work nowadays, you have to be everything: writer, performer, press officer, artwork administrator etc but in another way it’s cool cos you’ve got a handle on every last detail, there has to be some discipline involved though to keep it ticking.
What were you listening to in-between the two albums?
I think Scott was getting into stuff like Griz Bear, Bees, Deerhoof and Elvis (in the car) and I was converting old reggae soundclash cassettes to mp3 in between watching Loose Women.
Is it exciting trying to capture the sound at live performances? And how does it go down?
We tried it live with instruments and it didn’t feel right really. The problem is there’s a lot of de-tuned stuff in our set which is murder for musicians, or when you correctly tune what we do it sounds too safe and normal. We’ve got it going now with MPCs/keys/effects so it sounds a lot more honest, no click-tracks, and lots of freedom. It’s only recently that we’ve got it going so we’re looking forward to playing it out. We did 3 tunes to camera in the shed which will be up on youtube or wherever soon and it sounds heavy.
Bristol keeps on churning out innovative music, does its music scene feel like an exclusive club?
Like a dark smokey cellar with Tricky in a red dress draped over a piano singing ‘Je Nes Regret’? ze Breestol rezeestonce! VIVE LA TREEP HOPE? noh? No the truth is we’re all tucked away doing our thing so by the time it sees light of day it’s very different to next door, so it really isn’t that ‘club’ mentality, just a wide spectrum of people trying to do something interesting. There’s plenty of ‘doers’ among the ‘talkers’ and peeps work hard here.
Where are you planning to take your music conceptually in the future?
Neither of us are that calculative about it really, it’s just as it comes. Staying out of the pigeon-holes works against you in this game, people like you to pick a lane and stick to it but not doing so gives us free reign to go where we like, whatever suits.
Finally, who has the most punchable face in rock and roll?
Well ‘the Huck’s too obvious isn’t it?! Personally I’d go for the ‘inbetweenies’ the Fearne Cotton’s/Jo Whiley’s. Instead of interviewing or doing links, various struggling bands could just come along and slice bits off them. I’d go for the top lip just to see the comedy effect it would leave as they try to shape the bits left to make the words understandable!
Malachai’s album Return To The Ugly Side is out now on Domino Records