JESSE RAE / SEPTEMBER 2014
Following Jesse’s brilliant show at the Star And Shadow last month, we caught up with St Boswell’s finest once again to quiz him about his beginnings in music, some of his many collaborations + his thoughts on the up and coming referendum.
Hello, Jesse. Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. I wanted to begin by asking about how you first started out in music. Did you sing or play in any groups when you were growing up in Scotland or did you always just aspire to be a singer/songwriter/producer/ performer within your own right? I was also wondering about your time in America, ie: what led you there, how long you lived there for and how you got got acquainted with the likes of Bernie Worrell, Michael Hampton and the whole P-Funk family.
The first band I did was ‘Clockwork Orange’ at Kelso High School – a Soul /Stax band. I was at art shool in Dundee at Duncan of Jordanstone School o’ Art dae’n etch’n and lithography. Got a call tae join ‘Camel’, then answered an ad in the Melody Maker for a heavy metal band in Cleveland, Ohio. They broke up, so I stuck in Ohio for 3 years dae’n the Club Circuit. I then brought John Waite (saw his picture on yer decks) across (we were in a band taegether in London) He went ‘babies’, while I continued on tae seek the Funk. Moved tae Boston then New jersey tae be int he band for Ruth Copeland (record’n a album with Daryl Hall for her) introduced tae Bernie Worrell then a’ the P Funk Lads. I’ve a monster Handclapp! Did back’n vocals/handclapps on a lot o’ their hits. Lived in NYC work’n wi Jimmy Douglass at Atlantic Studios (through the Average White Band and work’n wi Slave, wrote ‘Inside Oot’ for them, then Odyssey. Meanwhile – I set up Scotland Video inc’ tae pioneer music Video (but really Audio Visual Art) in 1979, work’n wi’ Todd Rundgren
Wow, that’s quite an impressive CV. I find it especially interesting that you’ve worked with Ruth Copeland, who was originally from Consett in Country Durham. Can you tell me more about working with her and your work with Todd Rundgren?
Well I met Bernie Worrell by bumpin’ intae him in the lift o’ a Holiday Inn in Boston. We exchanged cassettes/hit it off straight away, then he invited me tae The Sugar shack where Parliament/Funkadelic were Play’n. He told me that this lassie Ruth Copeland was look’n for band members /writers, so I made my way tae New Jersey. I wrote ‘Win Or Lose’ for her Album and did the backing vocals wi Daryl Hall. She was a wild woman but very passionate aboot her music and a talented writer.
As for Todd, naw sorry – I didnae dae music wi’ Todd, I just was the first person tae use his new Music Video Studio in bearsville for ‘Rusha’. I didnae get tae see him that trip, as he was be’n robbed and as he and his family were tied up, the robbers untied him momentarily so he could sign an Album. They were steal’n along wi’ a’ the other stuff.
Having studied the credits for your first single D.E.S.I.R.E, it says that it was recorded in London and released by the Miami based Bold Records in 1979 and that you played all the instruments on that record as well as co-producing. What promoted you to go solo in the first place and what memories do you have of that time?
D.E.S.I R.E I did at Pete Townsend’s studio in Goring. It was before click tracks and drum machines, so I used a brush and cardboard box for bass drum and my voice for percussion. I got a deal wi’ TK records and Henrey Stone. I have never really thought aboot when I’m solo and when wi’ a Band. I just had my own agenda and worked wi’ who I needed tae achieve the required end result but tae be quite honest, just like D.E.S.I.R.E – it was a soundtrack tae a video I had yet tae film. I always write Music wi’ the Visuals in mind at the same time and that was my first Production. Unfortunately I have had tae pay for a’ my productions as I was too early in the game for the industry tae understand Music Video. I didnae see it as a promo, I saw it as a new art form with a much longer shelf life. That is why I signed wi’ Sony as A Music Video Artist, then with Columbia as a record’n Artist. My ‘Rae Formula’ is a special chart o’ timecode and symbols I invented, which I use tae direct and shoot tae. My stuff was too oot there at the time but I won a few top awards – The Endowement o’ the Arts frae Washington DC For Pioneering the fronteers o’ Audio Visual Art ment a lot tae Me. Unfortunately I was too early in the game and couldnae get the Investment tae develope my work like I wanted tae dae. ‘The Thistle’ is still not finished.I have always based my life on ‘The One’ and it’s a’ aboot perfect time. I was in a lot o’ places just at the right time and fortunate tae be work’n wi’ the best in the World o’ Funk
Wow, that’s funny coz I was listening to D.E.S.I.R.E just the other week and I was trying to work out how you did the backing, ie: whether the bass drum sound was from an early/primitive drum machine or whether it was done live on like a muted drum kit. That’s also really interesting about you producing songs with visuals in mind. Could you tell me more about how the video for Over The Sea came about and your memories of making it?
Over The Sea was a jam/track that I was dae’n wi’ Bernie at the Power Station in NYC in 1982. Bernie did a solo sound on the synth and I immediately thought Claymore fly’no through the air! I cut up the 1/4″/copied over sections and taped it taegether. I got the lassies sing’n on it, filmed it a’ in Scotland top tae tail; then overplayed the USA stuff on top. Steve Jordan and masel climbed up the bridge cable and the rests history.
I was also wondering about how your collaboration with David Bellamy on ‘Some Things must Change’. How did that come about?? Did you write that specifically with him in mind or did you come up with it together?
I wrote ‘Some Things Must Change’ for David Bellamy but it was collaborative thing . Love the line “what chance o’ peace, when we wage war on the world that feeds us”. Deep David. Love the bloke
And finally, what are your thoughts on the pending referendum? I saw that you’re playing a show up in Glasgow on Thursday 18th, which I thought was brave, given the emotional intensity of the build up. Do you think we’re entering an enlightened age and that Scotland can lead the way for us all?
Referendum? For yer love! A Deliberate act o’war is being created in order tae blackmail oor position. When really a strong and equal Nation, equal tae England – only makes a Greater Britain – but they Dinnae get it. Yes a fresh start and an example tae follow is the way oot. Micheal Patterson is oor friendly neighbour. Safe journey, ma pal. Yours Jesse Rae.
Cheers, Jesse! All the very best to you too