What made you want to be a musician?: My brother Rom was my first influence. He was a man of so much style and always around music. He was a DJ at first and used to spin all those funk and soul jams when we were in Africa. He would be get them from the states and everybody would come to him for the latest and the baddest. He then went to University for production and had a bunch of musical equipment in his basement and when I used to get there for vacation, I was blown away at how cool it was.
Did you always want to be a musician?: No. I never thought I would and never took music seriously. I remember clearly the day it all switched for me. I was evacuated from Africa couldn't really speak to my parents and find out how they were doing cause the phone lines were messed up due to the war. One day, I was hanging with my cousins and we passed a construction site that was really loud, but through the noise I could clearly hear this symphony. I could hear the stings, and piano, and vocals and whatever else was there. It was incredible because it was like I developed musical antennas all of sudden and I could pick up any frequency that I wanted. Kind of like a musical superpower. I knew at that very moment, that that was what I was put on earth to do. After that I could pick up anything and intuitively play it. I feel blessed.
Is Africa in your music? How?: I would say it's in the rhythms but most importantly in my non judgment of musical styles. I love mixing different instruments and using them in a way that isn't traditional like the use of the Banjo in a rock song like Build myself again. Cause I grew up to so many different styles. My brother was playing funk, my dad classical and outside you'd hear the African styles like "Zaiko langa langa"
Who influenced you the most? Not just musically, but in life.: That would be Prince. When I was evacuated from Africa at 13 and couldn't speak to my parents, things were rough. It was all so foreign and so sudden in Canada that I started rebelling and hanging out with the wrong crowds...and then I remembered that one moment when I climbed a chair by my brother's turntables back in Zaire when I was 5 or 6 and I put on the album "For you" by Prince...I felt something so incredible. I remembered that I wanted to be like him and reach the massive success with integrity that he reached, so I changed my whole environment, put up a poster of him in my room and I would burn with this fire to succeed. Till now, I thank him for saving my life and I hope one day I get a chance to tell him face to face.
You have been working on different projects for several years, yet this is your first commercially released album? Why?: My friends like to say that that this is my 4th first album. First I did one in my basement and got some attention from Universal who wanted me to redo it in a big studio, so I did, I didn't have an official deal with them at the time, but they kept in close contact, but by the time it was done, my new management took it to Sony US through Richard Marx, who loved it and wanted to redo it again but using top players and studios using Sony backing. So we did that, and then that never got released....so there I was again, with a cd in my hands, lots of broken hope and a mountain to climb. But this time, I did it differently. I didn't wait for anyone and buy into anyone telling me to wait because things were going to happen. I went and did it myself on my own terms with my own uncompromised vision. I feel like now that I took the reigns, things are starting for real and are not about to stop.
Describe your new album to me.: I wanted an album that took you on a little musical journey, and was not stuck to one style. It is very difficult for me to like one thing more than the other. I like all musical styles. So I wanted to reflect that in my album but still keep one common thread. Sounds like "Build Myself" take you on aggressive rock journey about not letting people bring you down, and songs like "Living a Lie" show more of my urban east coast soul influences. "Make it Real" is my Al Green old school soul style and then you have songs like "She Knows Me" which is a singer songwriter story telling genre. "Dirty Man" which is a comical beat box influenced prince funk jam that talks about the needs of being a man. Lastly, you have "Who's the Man" which a political acoustic broken down song with some Middle Eastern influences I carefully picked these songs on the album to reflect a full rainbow of styles. I could never be one of those artists that has one sound and sticks to it. I want to build my career around my talent and not my sound. I'm always going to have a unique sound, but I want the freedom to move and reinvent myself and I guess I'm already setting the standard for that.
Tell me about the members of your band. Are they fun guys? Good musicians? Etc.
They're best musicians in town in my opinion: Tim Proznik is this cool little guy that's just too cool for school. He listens to Reggae all the time and kills on the drums. He brings the band together and plays it like it's a top showcase every time.
Scott Tucker a.k.a. Krypt, has been playing with me for a long time now. He's an unbelievable bass player, there is nothing he cant do. And on the road, OMG he can be one of the funniest guys I've ever met.
Chad Taylor, I don't think I've ever seen him out of style. Well, maybe once in LA when he was wearing beach shorts with dress shoes...but besides that he's like this ska punk circus trumpet keyboard hyper dude who's down for whatever. I love him
Alex Maher and I are very tight, we hang together all the time. He is incredibly funny and incredibly talented. Replacing him would take 2 people. A fat lady on vocals and an amazing sax player that can beat box like a monster. He always has the line that gets you cracking up on the floor
Dan Ross, our new edition to the band...I needed a guitar player that could do the funk thing and could do the rock thing and Dan Ross could do both...as for stories about him I'll let you know after this tour.
Do you like being on the road with your band?: Yes, my band is my family, and I treat them that way. We all hang around as friends back home anyways, so its not that big of stretch going on the road with these guys. They're amazing.