Charles Stuart has recently released his new album, The Man Who Likes Watching, on the Slowfoot label. Its a record of startling beauty with an immediate feel, an aura that you can feel right up close to. His voice is significant, and striking, as for all its warmth, tone and spirit, there is a subtlety as well a dynamism at work that sets the moods and equally guides the swings. Some resolve has clearly gone into pushing the musical boundaries here, as the organic and electronic flecks and splashes summon all the nuances of a kaleidoscope, tipping the mirrors and the balance just enough to push the forms in and out of shape, to keep you guessing just when you think you assume where Charles`s songs are taking you. Makes the mood and the vibe very interesting, different and not at all predictable without interupting the stream. I like that.
Charles is performing more gigs in London, and working with other projects, including stablemates Snorkel. I was fortunate to catch up with him and chew hard on the global fat ..........
So, Charles, hows things from where you are sitting ?
Well....right now I'm sitting in the living room and its very peaceful. The sun is out the birds are singing and what would really top it off nicely would be a lovely cup of Cinnamon tea! The album has been out a few weeks now and we're steadily starting to gig the songs with a mostly new band. I'm feeling good about the way things are starting to sound. I guess you could say we're starting to sound a bit like a band!(lots of chin stroking) Oh, and my local football team were almost relegated but managed to stay up thanks to some divine intervention. All in all things are working out. But hey, they always do.... right?
Sounds all good Charles, tell me something about your background, your roots ?
I grew up one of eight children in Upton Park, East London. (this might give you a clue as to what my local football team is)
Yes indeedy, it has to be West Ham United.
My parents came to London in the late 50's early 60's from Dominica to live and work. There was a fair sized West Indian community in East London in the 1970's, so there was always a generous helping of Reggae, Soca and Calypso in the air well as Soul, Funk, Jazz, and Rock.
One of eight, bet that was busy round the dinner table ?
Coming from a big family had its plus points ! It was generally a creative household so there was always something going on. My older brother was an actor, my younger sister was a dancer and we all brought different kinds of music into the house. I guess looking back that was where my appreciation and education started.
What instrument did you first learn Charles?
Well. There was an old piano in the house, it was brought in for my younger sister to play but I think she was more interested in dance, So I decided to have a go. By this point I already had song ideas in my head, lyrics on paper and vocal ideas scattered around on old 90 minute cassettes. I started to try and learn some chords, concentrating closely on the white notes only and writing roughly 5 to 10 songs per new chord.
That`s prolific by most musicians standards, so who were your musical heroes or icons?
There were so many heroes and icons; musical and otherwise. People who touched my life. Some who are no longer here, some who are still here and some who are not quite still here.
And what was your first band like?
An absolute fucking mess.
Lets go off piste a bit, just for the hell of it. What are your thoughts on the current Iraq War situation?
My thoughts are pretty much the same as they always were. Put simply, greed is a very bad thing and greed on this scale where thousands of innocent people have been losing their lives over an extended period of time ? I can't think of a word to describe it really....
know Charles, all I can think of is a crime, but Bush, Blair and the
war mongers tend to have a big say in the enforcement of the law, and
seem to make new ones at the drop of a Hijab, so that may not stick,
but I believe its a crime all the same. Talking of Bush, who would you
vote for in the US presidential elections?
Well... Richard Pryor passed away recently so I'll have to get back to you on that one.
He sadly did, and what`s your eco-footprint looking like?
I don't do too badly. There are a few things I could polish up on like eating less processed food, using less electricity and water wastage but generally I think I do my bit.
gonna be big business soon, fines for not recycling are on the way. I
read it in the paper, so it has to be true... don`t it ? How much TV
did you watch as a kid ?
I watched far too much TV growing up. I would be sat in front of the screen for hours on end and I swear I was being hypnotized. I would come away from the screen with these messages in my head. I am so thankful that these messages were only telling me to go out and buy the latest and newest and most delicious chocolate bar....
Some might say that was still overt political brainwashing, you know? How political should musicians/artists be?
Thats a tough one... I can understand people getting annoyed when some superficial pop star decides that its his or her job to tell them who to vote for. But if any musician or artist is in a position where he or she can shed light on or raise the profile of a particular cause directly or indirectly then I think that should be welcomed.
isn't a musician or an artist, but do you think the Australian Prime
Minister was right to order their cricket team not to tour Zimbabwe?
I didn't even know about this. I was going to say that I don't follow cricket anymore but this is about politics is it not?
Yeah, to do with the rule of despot Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANu-PF Party
I guess the question is when does Sport become political ? And do Sportsmen have a conscience ? I think by all accounts Mr Howard did the right thing.
Yeah, I agree with
you Charles, I think if you have that platform, then use it positively.
Are there any more drugs you feel should be legalised ?
I think I'll abstain from answering this question as the only drug habit I ever had was my non usage.
Do Premier League footballers piss you off?
Only the ones who don't play for West Ham United. Other than that most of the players at the bigger clubs do need a bit of a reality check from time to time.
The reality TV show Big Brother could be seen as a defining set of images and values of our culture - what do you think?
I think we are all doomed.
(laughing) Does Myspace work for you?
I'm not really sure yet. I guess it means that I have to spend a little more time in front of a computer than I had to spend when I never had a Myspace. I guess its just one more thing....
And finally Charles, having just talked about Myspace, its traditional this question; The Devil, is he all bad?
I want to say no.
Good man, thats good. You are saying no....... arent you ? So what plans do you have for the coming year?
Try to stay healthy, try to be as polite as I can to everyone that I meet, try not to go mad and get a dog.
And there we break off, spit out the husks and go our seperate ways. Charles has a couple of London gigs coming up 21st June at Leonards, 42 Northampton Road, London EC1 and on July 17th at The Comedy, Leicester Square, London.
As your friendly attorney, I strongly advise you to buy the album The Man Who Likes Watching. Available from Slowfoot and all the good music vendors and a fair sprinkling of so-so outlets too.
All undertaken with zero stress and a slack bowline.
Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.