Osaka is a hefty plane ride from Bournemouth, England. But with Christopher Pedley's feet currently kicking bamboo in Japan for an unfathomable fourth tour round with his dirty funk act 'The Baker Brothers', its small sushi. Besides, with the trio (he met the brothers Dan and Rich Baker six years ago) striking an audience abroad and being handed plane tickets by the likes of 'Fred Perry', whose to drag them in to comprehend the grandeur of these minute opportunities. In the midst of introducing the Japanese faithful to his bands now fourth album, Chris put down the sake and his bass to grace me with his perspective.
Quite lame to ever having shown an appreciation in the Jazz, am extremely interested in knowing how you came to playing as such?
The Baker Brothers started out as a weekly jam session at a bar in our home town, Bournemouth. We would jam anything from TV themes to funked out 70's rock classics. There was a good social buzz which kick started things for us. We were just having fun really making a couple of quid while chasing the girls.
My love for Jazz, Soul and Funk started in my mid teens when I was introduced to Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, James Brown, Herbie Hancock and Marvin Gaye. Also during the early 90’s there was the thriving UK Acid Jazz scene, where I got influenced by The Brand New Heavies, Soul To Soul, Omar, Jamiroquai, Mother Earth, Coudroy Incognito and Galliano. Gurus Jazzmatazz introduced me to the likes of Donald Byrd and Roy Ayires and kind of educated me about the inseparable link between Hip Hop and Funk. From age 18 I loved listening to Gilles Peterson on radio one, he was a huge influence.
How did you initially garner recognition?
When the band started there were lots of record shops, where people bummed around taking the piss and talking about music. Avid Records was where I hung out and met lots of people who educated me on funk and beats. We released our first 3 x 7” records and an album on ARSE records. We started doing gigs at funk nights all over the UK, it was kind of hip and lots of fun so we went with it! We unexpectedly got picked up by a Japanese label called P-Vine records who have been licencing us ever since!
Noticed your on an independent label 'PEDDLERS', is that yours?
It is our own label.
How much responsibility does that charge you? Is it added pressure to make the $ side of the band thrive?
To be honest, it does often distract me from the music. I am a musician and I find numbers boring and tiresome, although I find it hard not to get too tied up in it. Funk or Jazz music is unlikely to make us financially rich; however, we have to try and be clever with what we have to get where we want to go. It is hard to make money with music, so instead of sitting around dreaming about getting a deal we decided to set it up ourselves.
Respecting your about to embark on your fourth tour in Japan, how did all this come to be? Why is Japan the place you clamour to so often?
I met our Japanese manager Kats Okada in my home town when he was studying at the Bournemouth Arts Institute, we got into DJing together and put on a few nights. When we got the deal with P-Vine he acted on our behalf and sorted our deals out etc. We found that our market in Japan was a lot more fertile so decided to keep pushing. We have now released 5 albums, a DVD and tour as much as possible here to keep that market alive. It’s good to make records, but playing live and touring is the way to keep fans interested!
How do you afford these excursions?
I guess it’s mainly from the venues and promoters that support our music, our record sales have made our audience and I guess the venues put up the capitol to keep us coming back.
Employ me to how/why your music resonates so well with the crowd overseas?
We just play from the heart and people just seem to connect with that here. We have worked hard to nurture relationships with the people who have kept the flame burning.
Having recently encountered the conservative behavior of Japanese fans myself, I implore your take on their reception of live music.
I find that the Japanese people are very committed and when we bring what we have, the audiences seem to feed from our energy. Although on the surface they might seem reserved, they are the people who seem to connect with it the most. We have always had a very energetic connection here at our gigs!
Any acts or brands of music being played in the J-pan you are down with?
We have played along side some great Japanese acts such as Sleep Walker, Osaka Monorail, Kyoto Jazz Massive and UFO. It is a real privilege to meet and play with these people.
Is there a unique advantage or niche the Asian music culture has over alternatives abroad?
People here still seem to buy CDs and actively support bands that they love, I’m doubtful this is true of other Asian countries but Japan works for us!
Knowing this a focal market of yours, is it quasi impossible to fairly promote your band from half way round the globe?
Well we have good management and solid label backing so we just do as much here as we can, and we will keep making the records till people lose interest, but for now we must keep pushing, so far so good!
Have a take yourself at the sounds of the Baker Brothers, with video for Chance and Fly and live look at Keepin' Together
I'm gonna get behind the full reins of the music...
Amadou Et Mariam - politic amagni
Cheesy french tunage? Nah...maybe you'll maintain the cheesy claim, but replace the latter with African! Regardless, its catchy and worth a second listen.
Blind Pilot - the story i heard
The tired Portland voice sounds bored of Jo-Jo, until a sudden blink worthy outburst "Oh No I cannot tell" helps him carry on and find accompaniment. I'm entertained the whole way and also wishing to make
one red thread available.
Bound Stems - winston
They're doing Chi-town proud on this latest album 'The Family Afloat', I'm just not sure there is much backing behind it. Ah well, if we can grab a few, hold them close to our ears and move on, are we not better for it?
Grouper - heavy water/i'd rather be sleeping
I'd rather be listening to this action on a train travelin cross-country looking past the window contemplating my happenings.
High Places - head spins
This Brooklyn duo reassures that two minutes can jet by, luckily one can countlessly repeat those hypnotic two minutes to their hearts content.
Noah & The Whale - give a little love
English Johnny Cash? I think I'm behind to catching on to this one, but I'm here now!
Shugo Tokumaru - button
Thought it clever to throw a Japanese artist in. But, not outta fruitless will, Shugo brings merit for having also caught waves in N.A.
Shugo Tokumaru - parachute
Is Santa coming down the chimney so soon? Is that Sigur Ros? Doesn't matter, the instrumentation and arrangement is somehow appealing.
White Denim - sitting
eerily similar to 'Man Man' on this effort. But otherwise, they have their own Austin, Texas language, not sure I like the accent much.
EXTRA: An icon has stepped down. Nic Harcourt host of 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' on KCRW, has moved on to other endeavors. The shows live sets with today's pertinent bands will persist, but without its ever soothing voiced host.