The Beauty Room
British producer and all-round musical genius Kirk Degiorgio is a fixture on the electronic music scene. Back in the mid-1990s, when novel and innovative styles like trip hop, breakbeat and acid jazz started to take over Europe’s dancefloors, he came to fame with his project As One. Championed by seminal labels like Mo’ Wax and Clear, such free-spirited sound adventures provided a welcome counterbalance to the then ubiquitous techno movement.
Ever since, Degiorgio has been a driving force in the music business with genre-busting releases veering from electronica to house and techno. At the same time, he felt the growing and irresistible urge to try his hand at the traditional singer/songwriter and band format. So, back in 2006, he joined forces with singer Jinadu to start The Beauty Room after a previous collaboration on As One’s eighth album 21st Century Soul (Ubiquity Records, 2001). Nowadays, Jinadu not only supplies all the lyrics for their joint project, but also lends The Beauty Room his spellbinding voice.
The resulting sound adds a generous dose of emotions, melancholia and dreamscapes to songs reminiscent of the expansive folk, pop, soul and rock ballads of the 1960s and 1970s – paying stealthy homage to the likes of Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, David Crosby or Brian Wilson … yet enhanced and updated by Degiorgio’s unmistakably modern electronic touch that suffuses all tracks and anchors his subtly hippiesque output in the here and now. A fact celebrated by renowned music mavens and critics like Worldwide radio show host Gilles Peterson.
At the same time, the new album The Beauty Room II owes much of its time-travelling authenticity to the wealth of experienced guest musicians who have contributed their own chapters to pop music’s rich history. For example, drummer Chris Whitten who provided a rhythmic backbone for Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney or the Dire Straits, among others. Or guitarist Rob Harris (Jamiroquai) and bassist Brian Bromberg (a. O. Elvis Costello, Herbie Hancock) who joined Jinadu and Kirk for studio sessions in the UK, USA and Netherlands. Finally, and completing the impressive all-star line-up, we have Paul Buckmaster, whose goosebump-inducing string arrangements already graced songs by Elton John, David Bowie or the Rolling Stones. For flawless sound, Degiorgio asked Grammy winner and sound engineer Peter Henderson (Supertramp, Frank Zappa) to add his finishing touches to the mix.
In our interview, Degiorgio talks about the new release, his musical background and inspirations.
Kirk, the first time I heard Jinadu sing it reminded me a little of Sting’s voice. Would you agree?
Yes, sometimes he does sound like him. In fact – during the recording of the debut album, the owner of the studio we were recording in came into the control room because he thought it WAS Sting singing!
All of the songs on the new album are bursting with emotion and a dreamy, melancholic quality. Who wrote the lyrics?
Jinadu takes care of all our lyrics – with very few minor adjustments by myself. I generally take care of the instrumental parts.
You are also well-known for your house and techno tracks. What prompted you to try your hand at a straightforward songwriting project?
It came about as a continuation of collaborative work I was doing with Jinadu on more dance-orientated material, so it had its roots in my Techno projects – but as you may know, I am also a huge soul, funk and jazz fan, so my influences are drawn from a wide spectrum.
The Beauty Room could be considered a modern homage to the 1960s and 1970s. What is the difference between pop then and now?
Nowadays, pop is more about creating a marketable brand. It’s no longer about music but about entertainment and celebrity culture. The music is probably the least important consideration with pop acts compared to the sixties and seventies.
Will you perform live with the band anytime soon? If so, when and where?
I am not a musician, so I let the band perform without my stage presence – but I drill them rigorously in rehearsals, re-arranging the tracks for live impact. There are some exciting plans for live shows to be announced shortly …
How did you get all those famous musicians involved on The Beauty Room II?
I am fortunate to have connections via Chris Whitten and Peter Henderson – two guys who have been involved in the very top echelons of rock and pop production for more than three decades. Chris was a fan of my techno material, actually! It’s a strange world.
What was the best thing that happened to you this year?
Easily the release of this album – after five years of hard work it really is a joy to see it released on a great label with beautiful sound and artwork.
A way of life.
Describe your own sound in three words!
Applied rhythmic technology.
Any tips on talents to watch or up-and-coming artists this year? Especially those hailing from London?
Yes, Mr Beatnik is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Name your personal musical faves/current top albums or artists?
My favourite artists right now are the techno producers NX1 and Jonas Kopp.
Which music did you grow up with – and what is your main inspiration?
Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Miles Davis … the list goes on forever!
The new album The Beauty Room II (Far Out Recordings) oozes with soul – a wonderful album brimming with highlights like We Can’t Throw You Away, All In My Head and Walking The Fine Line.
More on the eclectic band project: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Beauty-Room
Album snippets: www.soundcloud.com/faroutrecs/sets/the-beauty-room-the-beauty