British duo Tracing Arcs is probably the jazziest trip-hop act featured on this blog, but at the same time I would not file them under category “nu-jazz”, however vague that category might be. There is nothing “nu-” about their jazz. Both Fran Kapelle (vocals/lyrics) and Paul H. Addie (programming/keyboards) have an extensive jazz background going decades back. And this is exactly what makes them stand out among electronica/jazz projects – they manage to preserve that warm, live jazz sound even when it’s surrounded by electronic beats and samples. Paul’s experience working with genres ranging from traditional folk to reggae reflects in him creating fresh and unusual arrangements for Fran’s enchanting vocals. Here are some questions that I asked Paul H. Addie:
tipkin – I usually ask about history of the band, how it all started etc. But people can find this info on your websites. So I wanna ask to just go back to that moment when Fran answered that ad for vocalist. What where the first thoughts, impressions?
Paul – I had seen a few vocalists, and all had their own strengths, however when I met Fran it seemed obvious that when it came to creating material, a greater level of thought and integrity was important to her, as it was too me. In particular the depth of lyric writing along with an ability to listen to the music provided and find a suitable empathy was both refreshing, and exciting. It also encouraged me to listen better (it’s very easy to lose sight when you’re writing purely instrumental material, that you have to think what is workable for a vocalist). Plus of course the excellent quality of Frans’ voice, and we also had many influences in common, from music, film, literature, art etc.
t. – Can you talk a bit about your experiences with finding a label (or trying to)?
P. – We had been lucky in that our first forays (working together) into the music world met with positive reactions. And we are also pro-active in getting our work out there, and this resulted in us appearing in UK music magazines, and us “massaging” any contacts we had, no matter how slim. So we ended up with EMI listening to our stuff (but not knowing where to put us). This was the time when people such as Portishead, Massive Attack etc were just coming on the scene, and that whole style of music was in its infancy. I wrote to the management of David Sylvian and was surprised to get a phone call saying they liked it. They passed it onto 4AD record label and we had an A&R guy from them interested along with Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree etc) who expressed an interest in working with us if we got a deal, along with some of his friends. The guy in 4AD left and we were passed on to Resonance record label, but again people just could not figure out where to put us. And things just did not happen. We had made inroads through our persistence and audacity, however the industry then, as now, is difficult to break into, unless you know people, or are prepared to sleep with them! And many of them are unprepared to take risks anymore, and are looking for quick returns.