The Kaje talks who, what, where, when and why to Ex Senators

The moment we heard Ex Senators riotous single “Start A Fight” and followed through to their colourful song clip, The Kaje knew we had found an act that were far more than simple chart fodder. While the Chicago troupe clearly know how to write a hook and are more than a little bit addictive, the group have more to say that simple ‘you look fly tonight’. While we may have to wait a fair few months before we get to hear an Ex Senators album, we are happy to make do with a quick chat to Dmac about the who, what, where and why of the Ex Senators…
Let’s get the formalities out of the way, please can you quickly introduce the Ex Senators…

Introducing The Ex Senators! All the way from Chicago in the United Corporations of America, we present to you a rock / funk / punk extravaganza of global proportions.

Comparisons to The Clash and Bruce Springsteen are being bounced around-how do you relate to these?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be related to Bruce or Mick Jones?   Seriously though, a few journalists have made those comparisons, Considering the way social and political observation in music and the arts have devolved we take it as a hell of a compliment.  But the only way I can relate to where that comes from is in the sense that we are collectively not afraid to speak our minds. Through different roads we all come from blue collar beginnings and have that DIY spirit that embodied that punk ethos of The Clash, The Banshees or The Damned (who are so often overlooked… love The Damned).

If you had to select your own comparisons-who would they be to? 

I’ll leave comparisons to the musicologists out there.  We are what we are.

Why? 

I don’t think we sound like anybody else.  You can hear the influences across the record.  But comparisons are just a way to put yourself into a box artistically.   Van and I said early on when we were writing songs for the album that there were no rules other than letting the songs take the direction that they wanted to take.

Who/what have been your biggest influences?  
When I was growing up my mom played lots of Elton John, Billy Joel and The Beatles, so I learned to play piano, while my Dad (a very Irish Chicago Cop)  was always playing stuff like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Clash and the Stones…. so I learned to play guitar.  There was always music around the house.  One of my first jobs in music,  I was working in a recording studio with bands like Ministry, and R&B artists like R.Kelly.  (Crazy combinations of experience).     For the whole band the influences are varied from The Police, Joy Division, George Clinton & Parliament, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay Z, Guns N Roses (original lineup),  Miles Davis, The Jam and The Beastie Boys.   We have to take into account the people we’ve worked with through our careers (Bowie, Janet Jackson, Mary J Blige, Sting, Ministry)  as those are very strong influences as well.  It’s hilarious and fun playing in this band because there is a constant musical conversation going on.

Can you tell us a little about your current single ‘Start A Fight’? 

The song came about as a way to say “piss off” to all the politicians, commentators and blowhards on TV and radio and blogs constantly ranting but really saying nothing.  People like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin were jump off points, but both sides of the aisle are in the sights.  Its just that the hard right nutters have a lot more sound bytes while the left are windbags and don’t fit in a three minute song.   These people serve up their hyperbole as fact,  then reporters report on what was said as fact and all of a sudden what was a completely insane thing to assert has somehow become a  “factoid” because its in the news.   That is insanity and its one of the biggest reasons people like Rupert Murdoch have grown an empire on quasi newstainment.  People love a good show, and a bunch of people arguing makes great TV.   So why have any substance there right?

How did you choose it as the introductory single from your upcoming album?    

We had considered leading off with a single that was less political because the album is not all one note.  There are 3 or 4 tracks that definitely hit some of these political themes and the rest of the songs are more personal tracks.  But the timing was right to kick the door open and just say Wake Up.

The video is very colourful-what were the thoughts behind it?

The song started as a reaction to absurdity and we decided it would be fun to take that a step further with the animations and blowing up the characters as much as they do themselves.  MTV censors asked us about the pin on Michelle Bachmann’s outfit that says “Slavery is a sound financial policy”  but insane as that sounds, she actually said that and tried to backpedal the next day.  She also said she wanted everyone in Minnesota Armed and Dangerous. (but that’s not inflammatory rhetoric right?).    So we gave MTV all this information about it and they let it pass.  Which was in itself hilarious that they were reading every button and sign in the video. ( They go by kind of fast).

Is ‘Start A Fight’ an insight to the upcoming album? 

If you’re asking does the whole album sound like “Start A Fight’,  then no.  It’s definitely a taste of one facet of the band which shows very strongly in about a third of the album.   We chose the flow of the songs and the material carefully so as not to be a one note yawn fest.   Even if you’re rocking out at warp speed, at some point that gets boring to a listener and we really wanted to make an “album” in the sense of it being a body of work, so there’s a little ska influence and some funkiness thrown in for good measure.

Tell us a little more about the record and the thoughts behind it…  

There is a theme running through the record. Questions about authority, about life,  and not always finding answers.  The songs tie together for me because it was my own experience as a songwriter coming through.   I’ve always believed that the best songs are the ones that felt honest and a little like the writer put some blood into the tape.  There is a bit of social and political observation or commentary and there are songs that are much more intimate.  The last track was written in a hotel room,  the day after my best friend had died.  The track is “Disappear” and was the toughest thing I’ve ever worked on in music.  It was hard to finish but I’m glad we did it.

What are your hopes and intentions for the record?   

The Ex Senators intend to make a lot of noise,  and our hopes are that people will join us for the ride.

What is the overriding ambition of the Ex Senators?
Global Domination.  Or at least a few square blocks of beach-side property to start.
And the one goal you’d like to achieve by the end of 2012?   
I’ve always wanted to learn to juggle.   Seriously our one goal is to engage people in a conversation that is meaningful and musical and since we’re already doing that I’d say 2012 is off to a roaring start.
Interview by Jeremy Williams

The Kaje talks December Sessions to Kelly Rowland

Kelly Rowland is no longer only known as one third of Destiny’s Child. While early solo success included the irrepressible Nelly duet “Dilemma” and the tender “Stole”, Rowland was for a long time the victim of her earlier success. However, rather than run away from the critics, Rowland stayed her ground and ensured that with each release her material stood the test. With her judging role on X Factor and numerous David Guetta collaborations having served only to raise her profile, Rowland has unleashed her finest work to date in the shape of “Here I Am”. With Rowland ready to right the wrongs, she talks openly to The Kaje about her early days…

Can you tell us about the one moment that gave you a big break in your career?

It was firstly meeting Whitney and secondly performing on the Grammy’s for the first time. You feel like you’ve really arrived in that moment because you’re performing in front of your peers and these are the people that actually vote for you to get a Grammy Award. I respect the Grammy’s so much.

Was performing live important for you when you were trying to get a name for yourself?

Absolutely. I just remember coming up with Destiny’s Child and we would watch video tapes of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, The Jackson 5 and the Supremes and look at how they were having fun above anything but how they just commanded the audience and you have to embrace that as a performer and constantly work on that as well.  It’s pretty hard to go out there and do your first live performance. I mean you’re performing in front of so many people but it’s also important to have fun. You have to have fun.

People are saying right now that we need to nurture new talent more than ever because of record companies wanting to take less of a punt on new acts due to reduced budgets – would you agree and if so why do you think new talent is so important?

I think there are new ways to invest in new talent. I’m investing in myself. There used to be a time when record labels would shoot so many different video’s and have more of a budget but it is all stripped down now. But when you believe in something you put money behind it.

What advice would you give to up an up and coming act trying to break through right now?
Definitely self promote, find places to perform and get out there. Perform everywhere. And YouTube – I constantly go on to YouTube to find new things and ideas, it’s such a great inspiration.

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