Lack of Afro talks crate digging and shares some tracks

Lack of Afro, the production moniker and live outfit of musician and songwriter Adam Gibbons, emerged in 2007, with the release of the debut Lack of Afro album Press On. Picked up on by Bonobo, Mark Lamarr and Craig Charles alike for it’s modern blend of funk, soul and jazz, it established Gibbons as one of the UK’s funkiest newcomers. Since then he has collaborated with artists like Joss Stone, Juliette Ashby and Herbal T, on his four subsequent Lack of Afro albums, and has surged forward with additional projects like his own LOA imprint, which has established a strong and diverse roster since it’s formation last year. A longtime favourite of Craig Charles, he’s looking forward to making his Funk & Soul Club return this month. Ahead of the night we caught up with Adam for a five-track playlist, and discussed collaboration, golden eras in music and digging in the crates.

Tell us about the music you’re currently enjoying and the tracks you’ve picked for this playlist.

Well, I’m promoting an album so I had to have one of the tracks from it on the list right?! I’d wanted to collaborate with Joss for a long time – she has one of the best voices of her generation so I count myself incredibly lucky to have worked with her. I’d always wanted to hear her voice on more of a rough R&B tune, so thought I’d write one for her. Fortunately she liked it and it turned out well. It’s definitely one of the more popular ones from the new album.

‘Up Above The Rock’ is one of my favourite tracks – such a vibe about it. That piano melody is just killer, and those horns when they come in – the whole thing gives me goosebumps. Weirdly I was thinking about doing an edit of it for my own DJ sets because the original is a little lacking in bottom end, then I heard this. It didn’t need much, but these guys have given it just enough to make it kick. It’s now a regular in my DJ sets & people love it & I get asked about it a lot.

So ‘The Gene Dudley Group’ is actually the work of one man – my mate Rob Jones. A talented dude – plays a lot of instruments and we actually wrote ‘Hello Baby’ and ‘(Searching For) Peace & Love’ from the new Lack of Afro album together. A lot of modern funk & soul leaves me a bit indifferent as a great deal of it sounds the same. “Saturday Shifting” (the album that this track is taken from) is actually one of my favourite albums of the last 5 years – it’s just awesome. All instrumental but some of the melodies are just amazing. ‘The Fawcett Negotiation’ is one of the best cuts on it. SO good.

Taken from his debut solo album ‘Lo-Fi Blow Dry’, I produced “That’s That” for Herbal T back in 2013. He’s one of the best rappers out there, hugely underrated. It’s great for me as I can carry on working with him before he makes it big & has his beats made for him by Madlib or whoever! He also plays a mean bass and guitar too, and has featured on every Lack of Afro album since 2009. We actually have a separate project together called ‘The Damn Straights’ & have recorded an album in New York back in March. To be released on LOA Records later this year – funk, rock, hip hop and soul. Watch this space!

Chaka Khan, I mean it’s a stone cold classic isn’t it? But this version, bam! It removes any fat from the original and just gets down the nitty gritty. It just hits so hard. The build-up, then when that chorus comes in – just a great arrangement of a classic tune. You have my personal guarantee that if you drop this in a club when DJ’ing, the dancefloor will be full. If it’s not then you’re clearly playing to fools!

Do you consider there to be a golden musical era, or perhaps several, in terms of your own musical taste?

Definitely – late 60’s to early 70’s were probably the golden years, certainly in terms of production and the sort of music that I gravitate towards. Probably ’68 to ’74 – give or take a year or two either side. There are just too many great albums to mention that got made between those years. I also think 1956 to 1961 was another golden era as that was when Blue Note really hit its straps as a label and released some of the best jazz music of all time, at least for me.

When you established you LOA imprint last year, what were the guiding principles, and were they informed by your experiences producing and releasing music?

Defintely – I’d been producing and releasing music for a number of years and so thought that I knew enough about the business to start my own label. I’m still learning though! There’s nothing like going out on your own to make you sink or swim. At the end of the day it’s a new business and starting any new business is stressful – the combination of nerves, excitement and sheer terror are the same whether you’re selling books, making furniture or selling music!

The principles are the same – the business has to be profitable to be viable, all that changes is the product. The guiding principles behind the label are to just release good music with an open door policy – no genre limitations. Starting the label has also given me a chance to sign and work with some incredibly talented artists such as Elliott Cole and Emma Noble, both of whom are featured on the new Lack of Afro album ‘Hello Baby’.

Collaboration is important in your music and plentiful on your latest LP. Is every collaboration predetermined, with a song made specifically for a particular collaborator, or do you collaborate more freely?

It’s a bit of both. Sometimes it’s predetermined; the track with Joss Stone for the new album for example…I put that instrumental together especially for her as I knew her voice would sound amazing on it (to be fair her voice sounds amazing on anything). I didn’t actually think she’d go for it but luckily she liked it and it went from there. Most of the Elliott Cole tracks on the new album were written for him (although ‘Now I Feel Good’ was originally a remix for Flo Rida that got turned down and that I ended up coming back to as I thought it too good to waste).

‘Walk In The Sun’ featuring Professor Elemental was a track that I’d had on my hard drive for about 3 years. I just didn’t know what to do with it, then I suddenly thought of him – he’s been a friend of mine for many years so why I didn’t think of him sooner I’ve no idea! So yeah, it tends to vary from being planned out collaborations to happy accidents.

What’s the best blind musical purchase you’ve ever made? Are you the crate digging type, or more of an online discoverer?

From a purely ‘great album’ point of view I bought the Donny Hathaway ‘Live’ album way before I knew who Donny Hathaway was. I mean, how lucky was that? One of the greatest live albums of all time – I think I got it for 50p in a charity store when I was crate digging for samples. Result! I don’t do so much digging these days as I don’t really sample that much anymore – it’s mostly all live playing – but I do remember an LP that I took a punt on many years ago. It had an awful cover and didn’t look like it was going to be much at all, but when I got it home it had all these amazing percussion samples on it. I used a lot of those for my early Lack of Afro tracks. Best 20p I ever spent!

This is your second time playing live at Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club, what are we going to hear on Saturday night?

Now that would be telling wouldn’t it? Well we have a horn section with us this time so expect a couple from back in the day, a lot from the here and now, and some instrument swapping!