Interview with Miles Newbold / The Natural Yogurt Band (english version)
Miles Newbold / The Natural Yogurt Band
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - May 2011)
Everything began three years ago at the Music Library down to my house. There I met Gerald André, The Norvins’ drummer. “Hey Nicolas, you should listen to this, man. It’s very good and I think it’s really your stuff” he said, picking a CD from a shelf. On the sleeve were two men dressed like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a Victorian-like black and white photo. The name of the artist was The Natural Yogurt Band, the album was called Away with Melancholy and it was filed in the acid-jazz section.
I went back home with this find in hand and sat to listen to the record. I was immediately mesmerized by this weird music. Though it was hard to describe, it reminded me at first of the instrumental Beastie Boys albums for the strange grooves, of Perrey & Kingsley for the fun, and of some obscure TV or movies scores I loved in my childhood (like François de Roubaix’ Chapi Chapo). There was nothing regarding the musicians on the record itself. I remember that I tried to get some more information on this band and found almost nothing. The only thing I discovered was the fact that the band was actually a Nottingham-based duo formed by the former Little Barrie drummer Wayne Fullwood (playing also bass) and Miles Newbold playing keyboards, flutes, vibes, kalimba and the other instruments. Away with Melancholy has been a heavy rotation for me since, and a real cult album. I was steadily checking news from the band, but except the re-release of the album with a few extra tunes on the cool Now-Again label, nothing really leaked.
Then last February a follow-up came finally (Tuck In With…), as strange and good as the first album was. I had the idea of doing an interview of Miles or Wayne either a long-time ago. I just needed the occasion. So I sent a mail to Now-Again with my request and I was answered to ask Gerald Short at Jazzman Records. I wrote a few messages to Gerald and got no answer. I went back in vain to Now-Again. So there will be no interview… I lost faith and I began to doubt about the whole thing. Was The Natural Yogurt Band some kind of hoax cooked by Jazzman, with the help of drummer Malcolm Catto and DJ Format (both loved the album and their quotes about the band were on a few sites)? The kind of funny hoax John Lurie has done with Marvin Pontiac, for instance… Why should I succeed where the others have failed ? But like in Edgar Poe’s Purloined Letter, the key was lying in front of me. I noticed that both NYB’s albums were recorded in a studio in Nottingham called The Chicken Shack, so I sent one last and desperate message to the studio. A few days after I got a message saying : “Hi, this is Miles speaking, may I help you ?”… So here we are now, with one of the very few interviews Miles has ever allowed, and a groovy mix he cooked exclusively for Paris DJs, downloadable here.
Miles Newbold / The Natural Yogurt Band
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - May 2011)
01. We know little about you except your music. Can you present yourself and Wayne ?
My name is Miles Newbold, I am the owner of my studio «the chicken shack», in Nottingham. Bands rehearse and record there, and I also teach piano and hammond organ. I have been into music ever since I can remember. To me making music is as exciting as recording it, so being in the studio is my favourite environment.
When I was growing up,the house was always full of music, from folk to jazz and all things in between and beyond. My collection of vinyl comprises of stride to gospel, library and jazz through to early hip hop.
02. How did you meet Wayne?
I met Wayne when we both played in Little Barrie. Although we cannot remember each other, (probably all the booze) !! then I saw him a couple of years later, and I said, "fancy making some music??" and he said "yeah, why not". So we got in my studio and had a giggle and made the first album for a bit of fun.
Perhaps at this point I should say that the track listings on the "Away with Melancholy" album are incorrect!!! I dont know how this happened, so the names do not correspond with the music. If you go to my studio website (thechickenshackstudio.com) I will put all the correct track listings on there.
03. Did you have a precise idea of the kind of music you wanted to make when you began the NYB?
No,we didnt. I am more into the jazz and library side of things, where as Wayne is more of a soul guy. Most of the NYB stuff was made up there and then,some had more of a structure, but alot of it was just on the fly, you know just improvising, which is my kind of thing really. We both like a funky beat, so that was sometimes a good starting point! ha! but the spirit of improvisation and of freedom was also important.
04. Where does this strange band name (the NYB) come from?
The name is just a name that I plucked out of the air, it means nothing, perhaps sub consciously I called it something fun and stupid on purpose! ha!!
05. What kind of music did you listen to when you were a teen?
When I was growing up there was alot of jazz in the house, then I got into early hip hop, by listening to my brothers records. Things like Grandmaster Flash, and the electro compilations. Then I started buying records with just breaks on, so I could rap or beatbox or put something over the top, and funnily enough a lot of the records I have now are the originals of what I used to listen too. So it’s gone full circle in a way.
06. What’s your favorite instrument?
That’s a though one, piano or Hammond organ, hold on maybe moog... ermmm no sipsi or flute.It all depends on what I want to play, for example there are some things that sound great on piano. 'Stride piano' for example sounds great on piano, but try playing it on the Hammond organ and it just sounds uncomfortable... there's a challenge for me!!
07. You play kalimba on the records, which is quite uncommon.
Not if you live in parts of Africa, yes the thumb piano, I have a few of them all different.
08. Tell me about the keyboards you use on the records.
At the "Chicken Shack" I have too many keyboards to mention! All the usual suspects, and also a large aray of vintage recording equipment. I think I have probably had about ten Hammond organs by now!! I have had most of my equipment and instruments for years and years now.
09. You and Wayne are playing a lot of instruments on the two records. Do you plan to play live or tour a bit ? If so, in which kind of formation?
Yes, Wayne plays drums and electric bass. I play the other instrumentation, and record it. This puts us in a difficult position for playing live!!! as we cannot play ten instruments at the same time!! ha ha !! we never had any intention of playing live it was just studio fun, it seems to have been well received. NYB was asked to play the world wide music awards last year, which Gilles Peterson invited us too. I did think about putting a band together for it, but decided to leave it as it was and keep what "mystique" we may have had intact.
It is the same with radio interviews, we did the Jonny Trunk one at Resonance FM, and loved it!! Jonny is a really nice guy, and most interesting too. He made us feel very welcome.
I don’t get the time to do interviews generally speaking, because of work etc, and also going back to keeping what little « mystique » we may have, by not exploiting ourselves too much. It’s funny because I don’t see what all the fuss is about, as I have always done music like this and have reels of tape in the vaults gathering dust.
I only got a computer a year ago and don’t go on the internet very much, perhaps I am not fully aware of any impact NYB may have had, friends have told me that there are people talking about it, and it was causing a stir. I don’t hang on to the music I have done, I like to move onto the next thing that I’m doing, like "the sign of 4", I actually started the first album before the first NYB one!! and now I have 2 done. i will be working on my next thing when i get time in between recording other bands.
10. The music you play is full of power, weird and rather hypnotic, but it’s also fun and humorous.
Ha ha !! weird and hypnotic.....that’s a good compliment, I think! A lot of the music I make is quite tongue in cheek, I like to inject some humour sometimes into music, I just can’t help myself. Hee hee!!! I have a lot of fun when playing, perhaps sometimes it comes across in the music.
11. Your music is quite impossible to file. What are the NYB’s influences behind the records?
I think perhaps the Italian and French library music from the 60's and early 70's, is a big influence on me ; Gianni Mazza has done some great things in the past. Of course I cannot forget Galt McDermott,who has such a distinctive style. I don’t want to emulate anybody in particular, I just do what i think will work for that particular piece of music.
12. On 'Tuck in With…' there are some short pieces called 'Biscuit', like sketches of something bigger to come (A cake? or not).
Going back to when I used to buy beats breaks and scratches records and other "DJ" records as they were called, and on side 2 at the end there would be a load of breaks and noises etc that you could mess about with!! I always liked that idea, being able to have instrumental parts that you could play about with. They are all from NYB songs... see if you can tell which they are from!! fun eh?
13. How do you choose your tracks’ titles?
That’s the most difficult part....seriously! the names usually appear when they are ready too!
14. On the original artcover of the first album, you and Wayne appeared dressed like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a Victorian-style photo. You also got another project called The Sign of Four. Are you some Conan Doyle fans?
ha ha !!! yes we are. We just thought it would be a bit of fun. I’m a big fan of Sir Conan Doyle, nobody quite writes like he did, I’m also a massive fan of Sherlock Holmes when Jeremy Brett was playing it... he was the best period!!
"The Sign Of 4" is my other band, I have 2 "The Sign Of 4" albums in the vaults as well as other things that I have done many moons ago.
15. There’s a pleasant story telling that you sent a demo with just a few informations to Gerald Jazzman and he loved so much that he decided to make the record. Is that true?
When we did the first album, it sat in the vaults at the studio for a while,with all the other stuff. Then I think we just decided "oh well let’s just send it to Gerald at Jazzman records and see if he likes it", so we did, and we communicated on the telephone, and that was that, he said he wanted to put it out, I was amazed. So yes it’s a true story.
16. Can you recommend a few unfamous bands or artists you love ?
OK, erm.... "The Soundcarriers" which I’m currently recording at the moment, "The Simonsound", I would like to collaborate with them, I think it could be interesting.
17. Tell me more about your studio.
Ok, it is based around old fashioned methods and technology, because that is what I have been used to working with. There is studio 1 which is 750 sq ft and is quite dead sounding, and then there is studio 2 which is about 4000 sq ft, it’s like an air craft hanger, it’s that big!! there are other rooms for storage, and rooms that people can hire out. I teach piano and Hammond organ, as well as bands rehearsing and recording there.
18. What do you do when you don’t work at the studio, give music lessons or playing your music?
I think a lot about the studio and how to improve it all the time, it’s a constant pain having your own business, takes up all my brain capacity!! Music and sound is always going on somewhere in my little head!
Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau. First published on his now defunct website in May 2011.
Free download of The Natural Yogurt Mix on Paris DJs
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