Scottish soul singer Joseph Malik burst onto the scene in 2002 with his sparkling neo-soul debut “Diverse”. Produced by David Donnelly it was a stunning blend of acoustic and electronic elements. Its melancholic and introspective mood gained critical acclaim for Malik and showed a new side to his label, Munich’s Compost Records. “Diverse” became a favorite of DJs and listeners alike and Malik toured extensively in its support. After the mellowness of “Diverse”, Malik has switched gears on his follow-up “Aquarius Songs”. Again working with David Donnelly, the sound is more up-tempo and lush. With a high-pitched voice that is both soulful and vulnerable, Malik voices his feelings on personal and social issues in the tradition of Marvin Gaye. It’s a recording with resonance and purpose: to move you both literally and politically.
Mundovibes got the lowdown on “Aquarius Songs” in a recent e-mail interview with Joseph Malik.
Mundovibes: Can you tell us what you set out to achieve, in terms of the songs and
production, on “Aquarius Songs”?
I wanted to make my version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album, but a 2004 version and also I wanted to stand out from the current music artists of today by singing about the war and how it effects all of our lives on planet earth.
Mundovibes: What are some of the influences that have shaped you?
JM: My main two influences have always been Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. For this album I listened to Miles Davis, Randy Weston, Al Green, Gil Scott Heron & Public Enemy.
Mundovibes: The themes of your songs’ lyrics are very personal, dealing with family, love, feelings of separation. Can you comments on how you write your songs?
JM: It’s a very spiritual process for some of my songs. I feel like I’m cutting myself with a knife and using my blood as ink so I can write the lyrics. It comes from my very soul!
Mundovibes: “Aquarius Songs” is clearly shaped by recent events in the world, yet you avoid the trap of being too preachy. With this recording was it important to address political issues?
JM: Thank you! It’s great to hear someone who understands what I’m trying to do. It’s my job to write about what’s going on in the world we live in. I just felt that someone should make a stand and say something. Much like Marvin did in the 70s. After doing love songs he wanted to do something real.
Mundovibes: How have you changed/grown as an artist since “Diverse”?
JM: I have become a better singer in the studio and live on stage.
Mundovibes: Your music is very lush and atmospheric, including your voice. What is the philosophy or concept of your “sound”?
JM: Well, I make lots of music with different people. Some are very hard, i.e. techno, drum’n'bass, hip hop producers. But when I work with David Donnelly – my producer – on the Compost projects he is like a Gil Evans or Leon Ware. He just seems to bring out a lush dream-like vibe to my voice and to the music he produces.
Mundovibes: There are a number of influences on “Aquaruis Songs” ranging from tango
to flamenco to blues to urban soul. Please comment.
JM: I travel the world all the time so I want to represent this in my music and also I think albums with just one style of music are boring.
Mundovibes: “Diablo” is dedicated to the Glasgow Celtics, your home city football team. You are a big fan?
JM: I was born a Celtic fan. They are the first Scottish club to have black players and also the first British club to win the European Cup.
Mundovibes: How was it to grow up in Glasgow? How did the scene and the music shape
JM: Glasgow is a rough place but I stayed in a mixed area where I was exposed to Jamaican music and Punk music first, then soul, hiphop, jazz, and house & techno later in my early 20s.
Mundovibes: What do you enjoy most about creating music, as opposed to DJing?
JM: The fact that I can write lyrics that people sing in the shower. And it sticks in their head, even if it’s not playing on the radio. It’s with them and part of their lives and I am the person who made this happen. All this still freaks me out, even now.
Mundovibes: Your music is almost the antithesis of DJ culture, since you are creating “real” songs, as opposed to tracks or grooves.
JM: As I said before, I’m here on this planet to stand out from the rest. Not to lead the way but to show that the lost art form of how musicians made music in the past can still work today.
Mundovibes: Describe the creative collaboration you have with David Donnelly, who plays a great role in your music.
JM: He is like a brother to me and he also brought me out of my self by saying positive things about my early singing in the studio. David plays 80% of all the music on this album. I could not have made these two long players on Compost without him.
Mundovibes: What are you hoping to acheive in the future?
JM: To be around for a long time, to always bring out a new album every two years and to pass on my knowledge to younger artists who are just starting out in music.
Aquarius Songs is available on Compost Records
The vinyl version is available at Groovedis
Hear samples of Joseph Malik’s music at Compost Records