With a long list of credentials to validate their considerable talent, Incognito has retained a massive fan base from their "not-to-be-missed" live shows. For Bluey, it’s a chance to get close to his audience. It’s not about playing the tune just to get audience applause. It’s about communicating, making sure people get it. It’s knowing that everyone shares a strong feeling of wanting to be together and experience a little utopia, something that’s not there in our daily lives.
I had the opportunity to interview, via email, the group’s Mauritius-born guitarist/founder/front man Jean -Paul Maunick, better known worldwide as Bluey.
JAZZREVIEW: What do you contribute to your many years of success?
BLUEY: The main reason for the band’s longevity is its originality and the fact that we have remained true to ourselves!
This is something that is often overlooked by bands and artist who are too busy trying to be popular, by trying to copy the success of others. They bypass originality in the creative process and never attain individuality.
Incognito has been making records for 30 years and you immediately know it’s us when you hear one of our tunes, even when we cover somebody else’s songs. We have our own sound.
Beyond that, the quality of our remix albums has kept us in touch with a club audience throughout the years whilst the reputation of our live shows world-wide has gone from strength to strength, bringing new faces to our established audience.
JAZZREVIEW: Tell me about the British Jazz funk bands How do they relate to each other?
BLUEY: We interact, sharing musicians, ideas and resources. If someone has a studio we make it available to each other. Brand New Heavies and Incognito have shared many musicians over the years.
JAZZREVIEW: Tell us how incognito was formed? What does it stand for?
BLUEY: Prior to forming Incognito, I had been in a lot of London bands.
I felt that most of these bands had a gang mentality and their band name was their badge of honor. It was as though we were at war with other bands.
I did not have the same vision. I saw the possibilities of collaborating with musicians from other bands. I wanted to create an interactive musical community.
Incognito is more than a band it’s a collective.
The name was chosen for that reason. Incognito meaning unknown The music created as a whole was more important than the glory of the individual.
So much of the music business places great importance and relies on the appearance of the artist. With us it is not merely the way we look, but what is inside each and every one of us that is fruitful to our sound and ideals!
JAZZREVIEW: What came to your mind when you were recording More Tales remixed?
BLUEY: A remix album is an extension of the original album. Remixing allows a composition to be presented in a totally new way to our fans whilst reaching a broader audience.
Incognito has always been a band that has worked closely with DJ’s from its conception in 1979 when legendary UK DJ Chris Hill signed the band to his Ensign Records label. Our second wave was only achievable by working closely with visionary DJ Gilles Peterson and his Talkin’ Loud label.
Our biggest chart success to date has been DJ David Morales remix of "Always there" featuring the most famous voice in club land The one and only Jocelyn Brown!
DJ’s and the club connection has been as strong a point of reference as our live performances throughout our history.
We have released about half a dozen remix albums in the past. Remixes by Louie Vega and Kenny Dope, Roger Sanchez, Pete Rock, Blaze, Tom Middleton and Carl Craig has ensured that Incognito’s name will always be held in high esteem in the dance world.
Many DJ’s and Producers most of whom are friends of mine were constantly asking me for the opportunity to remix tracks from our Tales from the Beach album so I contacted a few like Yam, and Ski Oakenfull from my neighborhood, and then called some of the big guns in the dance world like Dimitri from Paris, Tortured Soul from New York and Christian Promner from Germany.
I was also interested in working with new people whose work I admired. Some I contacted via mutual friends and some I discovered on myspace this past year.
JAZZREVIEW: What track inspired you the most?
BLUEY: I love them all, or they would not be on this album.
But I have a particular soft spot for Dimitri and Meme’s remix of "Step aside".
Mixed in Rio de Janeiro and Paris, the combination of lush strings over uplifting beats had me uplifted right from the get go.
I remember receiving the final mix, and half way through the first listen I phoned Dimitri in Paris to let him know that I was in heaven!
JAZZREVIEW: What made this a successful CD in comparison to others? Or was there no difference?
BLUEY: When it comes to music, success is in the ears of the beholder.
I love the music I make, and if someone else enjoys it, that’s a bonus.
JAZZREVIEW: What makes Incognito stand out? What don't we know about Incognito?
BLUEY: I think that our live performances over the years has been our flagship, and the fact that there has been more than 1500 musicians and singers in this band over the past 30 years, makes us rather individual.
What you might not know is that we will release a live DVD in March.
As well as working on our new Incognito album, we are doing some extensive touring to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary. Some selected performances will feature an orchestra.
I am also writing for various artists worldwide. All this will be in combination with our humanitarian efforts as we use our talent and fame to raise funds and create educational programs for those in need.
JAZZREVIEW: When going on tour with the group is it more of a job or an inspiration or both?
BLUEY: When it comes to playing live we all realize that we each hold a little piece of a puzzle that can only be completed when we become one on stage!
There is a joy for the music and friendship like no other in this band. Touring not only allows us to earn, it feeds our souls!
The best thing about performing live is that it takes us back to where we first fell in love with music.
It’s instant communication, and instant gratification!
It’s the absolute truth and there is nowhere to hide. And when it comes down to it, it’s our reason for it all.
JAZZREVIEW: Artistically, how did you approach Remix?
BLUEY: I sometimes choose an individual for a remix just out of sheer curiosity of what may result of our combination of sounds and vibes!
Here’s my theory on Remixes
They are not created for comparison Their purpose is not to compete with or enhance the original. They have their own identity and will take you on their own individual journeys.
JAZZREVIEW: What future collaborations can we expect from Incognito?
BLUEY: This year I have plans to invite some of my peers to contribute to our 30th anniversary album. So far Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and many more have said yes, but time will tell.
The bottom line is that I am going to have a great time making this next record, my head is spinning with ideas!
There are always goals and ambitions. The day that I have no more goals or lose my sense of wonder will be the day the music dies.
Music is my sanctuary Music is my life!