Anthony Joseph & The Spasm Band
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Anthony Joseph & The Spasm Band

Paris, Île-de-France, France | INDIE

Paris, Île-de-France, France | INDIE
Band Spoken Word Funk


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Leggo De Lion / 2007 / Kindred Spirit
Bird Head Son / 2009 / Naive
Rubber Orchestras / 2011 / Naive



Anthony Joseph, the Creole griot

The griot is the sound of universal culture. The opening words of his new album are key to understanding the universe of Anthony Joseph, a poet and musician born in Port of Spain on 12th November 1966 the day of the Hindu festival of Diwali, which celebrates the passage from darkness into light. This anecdote sheds some light on the life of this preacher-soothsayer inhabited by a vision of the world as a cosmic whole where music creates an organic communion. He grew up on an island full of troubadours, oral legends and carnival convulsions before setting out across the Atlantic and arriving in Great Britain in 1989. He soon became a city man, but never forgot his country roots. A record collector and lover of Great Black Music, from blues roots to deep house, the Londoner soon made his mark on the black rock scene, then in the spoken word movement, all the while refining his writing, as can be seen from his first poetry collection, Desafinado, in 1994, followed four years later by Teragaton. Anthony Joseph cultivated a distinctive style, Creole in nature, drawing on every form of artistic expression. In 2004 he was selected as one of 50 black and asian authors who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature to pose for the photo A Great Day in London, which mirrored the famous jazz picture taken in Harlem in 1958. That was the moment things really started to take off for this wizard of sound and sense as he girded his passions into a single project.

This was the Spasm Band, a band of variable geography and geometry. For me poetry is music. It has to be chanted, sung and declaimed. After publishing a novel entitled The African Origins of UFOs, Anthony Joseph recorded Leggo de Lion in 2006, an album that made his international reputation. On it he played the soundtrack of a place where all the black diasporas come together. Mixing congo punk and voodoo funk, esoteric jazz, calypso, soca and rock, his syncretic approach set stages ablaze. Three years and many a fiery gig later, he brought out a second album called Bird Head Son, an allusion to his nickname as a kid. Another couple of freethinkers were added to the mix, such as trombone player Joe Bowie and the guitarist Keziah Jones, without losing any of the nuclear energy that fuelled the originality of the Spasm Band, a name derived from the spasms triggered by Spiritual Baptist chants . The same could be said of the groups irradiating performances.

After one such long European tour, Anthony Joseph and the Spasm Band locked themselves away for a few weeks during the bleak London winter of 2011 to cook up some of the blazing grooves that light up Rubber Orchestras, his new album. The band may have changed drummer Michel Castellanos and conga player Oscar Martinez have joined saxophonist and flautist Colin Webster, bassist Andrew John and guitarist Christian Arcucci but the alchemic formula is still the same, as are the intentions that ring out between the lines of the title. The idea for Rubber Orchestras was inspired by some lines by the surrealist poet Ted Joans. A spark went off inside my head when I read them. I knew immediately that this poem summed up everything I wanted to do with my poetry - a kind of flexible meaning, a mutant style based on spontaneous language. Like rubber! It also refers to the range of different atmospheres and grooves on this album, on which new Cuban rhythms give a more calypso rock overlay to the voodoo funk base. Even if the Caribbean sounds and the jazz are still there, this album comes across a bit rockier and the sound is heavier because of the drummer and guitarist. Weve also tried to concentrate more on the songs. Its a natural shift - to try and harness the bands energy by really structuring the songs. As they mine this rich seam, the lyrics grow increasingly political. A book will be coming out in November; its called Rubber Orchestras too. Not autobiographical like the previous one, but a far more experimental text in three parts. It tackles the Caribbeans colonial past, its Amerindian legacy and the African past and how it all ties together. The language is more surrealistic and the text is more political. But fans of the groove need not fear, for therell be plenty of talk of music, jazz, calypso and much more.

Lets say more about the music first. To tackle this change of direction, Anthony Joseph has called on the talents of producer Malcolm Catto, drummer and lead singer with The Heliocentrics, relying on his knowledge of analogue sound and his ability to listen. We recorded in his studio in Dalston. Having a producer around means theres a fresh pair of ears to come up with some different ideas, especially as hes a musician and likes the same music as me, starting with the sounds of the 70s. It wasnt certain to work because it meant leaving the decisions to someone else, but in the end Malcolm