The Kaje talks dynamics to The Ex-Senators

The Ex-Senators first came to The Kaje‘s attention with their politically charged romp “Start A Fight”, but really won our hearts when he heard their sincere and diverse eponymous album. Having hung out with D-Mac and Van in Central London for an acoustic session in the park, we decided to use the opportunity to also find out a little bit more about what makes The Ex-Senators tick, and how they source inspiration for their songs. BE WARNED: The Ex-Senators are far more than just a riotous political act! Exciting!

First things first-how have you pieced together the record?

D-Mac: Some of the songs on the record are started with Van, who is really my writing partner, he will throw down an idea. Several songs on the album start with him writing something.

Van: I will send D-Mac my demo and if he likes it, he will get back to me right away with an idea. If he doesn’t like it, then I show up to rehearsal with my head hung low. They will just act as if I am not there.

D-Mac: Generally I like what he sends me, so the songs that work like that are always the same. They start with what he sent me, usually a guitar loop and a drum part, then I write the verse, the chorus and together we come up with a bridge. I often write a lyric in my car. I write a lot in my car. When you are driving, you are thinking about the road, then your mind gets loose and all of a sudden lyrics just start to flow. That is one way that I write.

Some of the other songs, like “Start A Fight”, they just appear. I wrote one of the songs, “Disappear”, the last song on the record, I wrote that the day after my best friend past away. I wrote it in a hotel room. The demo I did on my phone is almost exactly the song that is on the record. We just re-recorded it and added bits in.

Some songs come to us in five minutes, others we are constantly working on and reworking as a group.

There is no defined method. Would you say it is more a reactive process?

D-Mac: There are a couple of songs on the album where I would say that happened. They are very immediate reactions to things. Consciously sitting down and being pissed off at something I saw or read, then writing my response. I try to find a solution. Those songs come out very quickly.

The interesting thing is that those songs tend to be the most open to interpretation. What I am saying is not always what people are hearing. They interpret what I say in terms of they feel. That is one of the most interesting and exciting things about music.

You have all worked in the industry in various forms over the years, what prompted you to get together on The Ex-Senators?

D-Mac: Va and I have played together in various things and we did an acoustic thing together, which we recorded in a hotel in LA and toured for a while. But the impetus for this band came in 2008, we were writing some songs and he had just moved back from LA to Chicago. A mutual friend of ours, my best friend, Kyle, had passed away unexpectedly, he committed suicide. So we had an Irish Wake, Kyle had a hell of resume from playing with people, everyone from John Mellencamp to Dinah Carter and George Jones, and everyone showed up in this club. So the core four guys in the band-all knew this drummer so we got up and jammed.

A few months later Fabulous called me and said let’s do this. So we were all in, then Brian came along a little later on. We went through a couple of guys playing bass, and Brian just fitted in. We had already recorded half of the record, then he came along and we went back in to re-record and made a huge difference. It was an organic thing. It all rose out of a tragic situation.

It is very easy for us doing this together, and it is nice that everyone already has a career outside of the band. We are not all competing.

Van: We all come from different musical places. We are not going to approach it all in the same way. We are not bloodhounds playing for attention.

Does the friendship at the core ensure there is no room for ego?

D-Mac: There is no one wanting to write all the songs. What I love about “Angel” is that it is the first song that everyone wrote together. It was just a matter of throwing things around and it locked in.

Van: With the other players in the group you have to have respect for where the others are coming from.

D-Mac: What I love about being in this band is that in rehearsal everyone will do something that makes me laugh as it is just so good. I am just a basher, I can do things with my voice, but not with the guitar. I just look to the others to make things good.

With the album finally released, will you be heading over here again for some live shows?

D-Mac: We will be over again in October for a full tour with the whole band. We want to do most of the UK and try to figure out Ireland as well. We are talking about Dublin and Cork.

“Ex  Senators” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

ALBUM REVIEW: The Ex-Senators “The Ex-Senators”

There is far more to The Ex-Senators than first meets the eye. The Chicago based fivesome may be represented in comic form and carry superhero-esque pseudonyms, but their songs are meaningful anthems.

Having kickstarted it all with the political surge “Start A Fight”, “The Ex-Senators” has much more to it than musos making a change. Filled to the brim with enlightened social observations (“The Kids Are Trouble”) and moving personal tales (“Angel”).

While The Ex-Senators more than showcase their ability for the riotous romp, charismatic frontman D-Mac is at his finest when he channels his emotion. Without question the album peaks as it draws to a close with the tear-inducing, spine tingling ‘Disappear’.

“The Ex-Senators” proves the old cliché; never judge a book by its cover. The Ex-Senators could not be further from 2D.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jeremy Williams

The Kaje Sessions: The Ex Senators

The Kaje Sessions presents The Ex Senators. Having been blown away by The Ex Senators  latest single “Start A Fight”, The Kaje could not resist hooking up with D-Mac and Van when they hit London for a brief visit. With a promise that they will return later in the year for a full-blown UK Tour, we jumped at the offer to record an exclusive performance of album track “Angel”, a number which immediately highlights the group’s versatility. With the album set to hit in August, we hope you enjoy this spine tingling rendition…

Where did you record The Kaje Session? 

At St James Square in London. 

What made you choose to use this location?

We needed a quiet space in London and St James presented itself quite nicely at the time. 

What is the most unusual live date you have ever played?  

Too many to count. But most recently we played an acoustic set at a club while the Semi final with Spain in the Euro’s ran long And we had to start the set while the giant screen was on above us.  So in mid song the whole crowd yells Oi!  Or a big “aaaaah”.  And you kind of look over your head to see who scored.   

What made you choose song title for the session?

Since The Kaje so kindly featured our first single “Start A Fight” last month we thought it best to play the next single “Angel” which kicks off the album.  Incidentally the album kicks off August 7 at online retailers everywhere (shameless plug there!).

FEATURE: Blue Angel “Everyone is human and we deal with human emotions, not just physical location.”

The rain is pouring outside as I sit in the warmth of Angel’s Candid Cafe enjoying a relaxed latte with new London based duo Blue Angel. The location is not far from the fateful meeting place of producer/composer Jake Jansen and vocalist Bella Bennett. Had the two of them not been rehearsing in different rooms at the Backstreet Studios on Holloway Road, the chances are their paths might never have crossed. At the time Bella was rehearsing some songs to sing at a friend’s wedding, whilst Jake “was rehearsing there with a different band at the time, but I had some extra songs, which didn’t fit in with that sound. I remember I had popped out to get a drink when I heard Bella singing in one of the other rehearsal rooms as the door wouldn’t close properly. I hung around for a few minutes, liked what I heard and then popped in to say hello. I guess if the door hadn’t been broken, we may never have met!”

The chance meeting led to the discovery of the mutual liking of mojitos. Several drinks later, the seedlings of a collaborative project had been planted. Bella, who was more accustomed to performing live jazz was about to enter an electronically inspired world she knew little about.

“I guess if the door hadn’t been broken, we may never have met!”

With a musical direction sorted, the project started to take shape. Two strangers in the middle of London had found their common ground. A passion for music would bring them together, but what did they have to say that no-one had said before. Neither Bella nor Jake are true Londoners. Bella hails from a “relatively sleepy” town and is enamoured with her adoptive home. Yet “in spite of the liveliness and opportunities that London holds, it can be a tough and sometimes isolating environment – and we really wanted to reflect this contrast in our music.” Using their surroundings as a mutual inspiration, the pair set to work on creating the music.

However, Jake had one last ingredient to bring to the table. The deal had been done, they were now to perform as a duo, yet in order to do so, they needed a name. “I have always loved the film ‘Blue Angel’ with Marlene Dietrich and wanted our music to sound like the melancholic feel of that film.” So strong was his connection with the fi lm that it inspired him to put finger to keyboard. In order to express to Bella why the name related to their notion of urban isolation, Jake penned a “moving short story. After reading the story about two friends who used to meet up in the ‘Blue Angel’ pub to share their life-stories and memories – a meeting cut tragically short by the untimely death of the protagonist, the melancholy the story evoked fitted with the mood of the sound we wanted to create.”

“In spite of the liveliness and opportunities that London holds, it can be a tough and sometimes isolating environment.”

It was a story of another type that inspired the duo’s lead single “43 Days”. Filled with combating harmonies, the piano opening brews into an internalized war. The stark reality of a lost life is further explored in the stunning black and white Julian Bowman music video. Having read about yet another needless stabbing, this time on the number 43, a route Jake uses most days, he felt compelled to express his inner anguish at the everyday occurrence of needless violence in the city he loves. “’43 Days’ was written because I used to catch that bus every day to work and the sheer randomness and apparent danger of something as mundane as sitting on a bus just highlighted the urban environment we now live in.” Far from trying to correct a situation, Jake and Bella are mere observers of a tragic situation. However, Bella stresses that though ‘43 Days’ will not right any wrongs, she hopes “that this single does cause people to stop and question unnecessary violence in society today – particularly the recent rise in knife crime.”

Whilst Bella and Jake can only record their own experiences of urban living, they are not afraid that their London lives will feel alien to people in different circumstances. Like everyone else, Jake says that they only “write about what we know. Wherever they are from or wherever they are living, I would like to think that people could relate to the lyrical themes in our music. Everyone is human and we deal with human emotions, not just physical location.”

43 Days is out now.

Words & Image: Jeremy Williams

NEWS: The MOBO Tours Line-Up Confirmed

A powerful line up of the hottest names on the UK underground has been added to the bill for the inaugural MOBO Tour which will hit six major cities around the UK this October.  Headlined by Skepta, fans of Grime, British Hip Hop, UK Funky and Dancehall will be counting down the days to see him share the stage with buzz artists of the moment Aggro Santos, Scorcher, Donae’o, Mz Bratt, Jodie Connor, Maverick Sabre and freshly tipped newcomers The Ruff Diamondz and Angel.

MOBO founder, Kanya King said: “As part of our 15th anniversary celebrations, we are delighted to reveal the full line-up of the inaugural MOBO Tour which will give fans across six UK cities the chance to discover some of the UK’s hottest new acts. In partnership with PRS for Music Foundation, Urban Development and Arts Council England we’re proud to celebrate the amazing talent of these rising stars who reflect the unstoppable success of new black music.”
·        Skepta’s reputation as the ‘King of Grime’ has recently been bolstered by chart success with records ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘Sunglasses at Night’. He has been championed by Radio 1’s Tim Westwood and is part of the Roll Deep and Boy Better Know crews.

·        Aggro Santos is a Brazilian born British rap artist and pop producer who scored a massive top 5 hit earlier this year with ‘Candy’ featuring Ex-Pussy Cat Doll – Kimberly Wyatt. He combines signature dance floor rhythms and fiesta party beats to his records.

·        Scorcher is a recent recruit to the highly credible label Geffen. His slickly produced videos have received well over a million hits and he has collaborated with Wiley, Bashy and Devlin.

·        Like the name of his recent album, ‘Party Hard’, Donae’o makes sure his live performances get the party started. His record, ‘Watching Her Move’, was on the Radio1 Xtra playlist and he recently performed at Glastonbury and Radio One’s Big Weekender.

·        MZ Bratt is already an inspirational female figure to many in the world of UK Urban/ Dance music, having featured on remixes and records with artists including Wiley, Tinchy Stryder and Grammy nominated US star Jazmine Sullivan.

·        Jodie Connor is a stunning singer with a powerful vocal range that has graced club tracks from the likes of Roll Deep, Devlin and most recently Tinchy Stryder’s, “In My System”.

The MOBO Tour with its partners Urban Development, PRS for Music Foundation and Arts Council England are committed to shining a light on new talent. So the tour will feature brilliant new breakthrough acts including:

·        Maverick Sabre’s name is ringing round the world right now and rightly so. Recently described by Huw Stephens as a male Amy Winehouse and with Music Week declaring him the highlight of SXSW 2010 his gritty yet soulful voice is drawing audiences in and leaving them hooked.

·        Ruff Diamondz (RD) musical style is formed from their own distinctive sound, incorporating original UK Mc’ing with real RnB vocals. This exciting three-piece combine classic RnB influences like TLC, 702 and Total with inspiration taken from home grown talent such as N-Dubz, Chipmunk, Wiley & Ghetto.

·         Angel – Singer/songwriter Sirach Charles, better known as Angel has just signed to Island Records and is quite possibly the UK Pop and R & B industry’s best-kept secret.

Tour Dates:

·        Tuesday12th October – Norwich Waterfront
·        Thursday 14th October – Birmingham O2 Academy 2
·        Friday 15th October – Manchester Moho Live
·        Saturday 16th October – Liverpool O2Academy 2
·        Sunday 17th October – Glasgow Garage
·        Tuesday 19th October – London O2 Academy Islington
**More names to be added to the line up in each city. Check Facebook and website for more info**

Tickets are £10 regional (£12 London) and are on sale now and are available at / 0844 811 0051

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