By Velanche Stewart
A couple of years ago, a tune on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show made me happy whenever it appeared. The tune was called “Perfect Season,” by Break Reform. Now granted, I wasn’t familiar with the group but I knew was that I was looking forward to hearing what goodies were to come. “Fractures,” the debut album from the London-based trio, has upped the ante in a big way. Some would undoubtedly make immediate comparisons to Portishead, and I suppose to some degree that may be valid. But to make that easy comparison would be to simplify things, for at the essence of it all is a deeper shade of soul. It’s a very modern take on old-school-soul with a touch of jazz, complete with nice musical arrangements as well as compelling vocals and lyrics from Nanar. Simon S. & J. J. Webster are the main producers behind Break Reform, with Hahar rounding out the trio. Simon S. was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the band…and then some.
Most of us haven’t heard of Break Reform until one of your tunes found its way into Gilles Peterson’s record bag and, ultimately, his radio show. What was your reaction when you’ve found out that he was playing the tune “Perfect Season”?
We were amazed. Gilles is someone we always looked to for fresh and exciting new music, and all of a sudden he’s playing our stuff. It just blew our minds!
How did Break Reform come about?
We all knew each other from being involved in other music projects, and decided to see what we would come up with together. We found almost immediately that it would be the start of a very productive and unique project.
The music from Break Reform seems rooted in soul and jazz…very much like old-school soul with a modern downbeat flavor.
We have various influences musically, the main ones being hip-hop, jazz and soul; so it stands to reason that our music would have these flavours. Modern downbeat stuff or current jazz and beats are stuff that I play djing and listen to generally so there are elements of that in there too.
How long did it took the group to record “Fractures”?
About 2 years in total to write and record and eventually release.
Tell me about the challenge of putting out the album. It was released in Japan in September 2002 but it took until March 2003 for the album to get a release in Europe. What obstacles, if any, did you had to overcome to ensure that “Fractures” finds its audience?
The initial problems were the obvious financial ones, but we found a good independent distributor at the right time to handle the album on CD and LP. Also we felt we should release the album in early 2003 to ensure more of an impact because 2002 was full of great albums which at the time we thought we could not compete with.
You’ve been very involved with both production and DJing for well over 15 years. Looking back over that period, what are some of the most profound things that you have seen as a DJ and producer?
As a dj, it has to be my recent spots at the Jazz Rooms in Brighton with Russ Dewbury, seeing a mass of people getting down to hard core jazz and funk. I usually dj in London and believe me, this is a rare sight. As a producer, it’s no one thing. But being able to work with such an array of talented people is very profound and inspirational.
What was your reaction when “Fractures” was received with critical acclaim.
We were overjoyed and also relieved, as you never know if people will actually like what you work so hard to do.It also inspires you to keep at it and produce more music.
Describe the label’s Abstract Blue & Furious Styles.
Abstract Blue is all about soulful, honest music that people make because they want to, not because they have to; ie, not using music as a fashion accessory but as a geniune expression.
We are surrounded by a lot of talented people and want to have a way of presenting what they do to the world, ensuring that the records are produced, manufactured and designed with quality, which is what good music deserves.
Furious Styles is the label responsible for the excellent D’nell. They have the same outlook as we do, so we thought we’d join forces to release their records too.
Break Reform has been touring during the summer and fall, yes?
We did some gigs in London at the Spitz, Rubylo and the Notting Hill Arts Club. We had a great time, the people involved were all fantastic.
The band has released new material since the summer. Tell us about it.
We released a new 12″ of unreleased material, which included ‘Ghosts’, ‘What Do You Do’ and a remix of ‘Metropolis’. These are all from the forthcoming Fractures remix album called ‘New Perspectives’ released in January ’04.
Will Break Reform embark on a tour beyond Europe soon?
We will hopefully be touring the US, Canada and Japan in the new year,
but we’ll probably do some of the festivals in Europe first.
Reflect, if you would, on all of the attention that Break Reform has received this year, and what you hope will be coming in 2004.
Well, 2003 was a great year for us, we released the Fractures album which received great reviews from the press and dj’s and went on to become very successful. It’s still selling!! We managed to collect some great remixes for the New Perspectives album by some excellent artists for which we are very thankfull. Also, we had the opportunity to release music by the excellent D’nell and Low Budget Soul through our label, Abstract Blue Recordings.
The support and encouragement has been our motivation and without it, things may have turned out very differently.
2004 will hopefully see a debut album by D’nell, a second studio album from Break Reform and a debut album from Low Budget Soul, as well as a whole bunch of 12″s from the above artists plus Aztec Productions, Julie Dexter + more.
Purchase Break Reform releases at Groovedis.com