Ask yourself this question – when was the last time you connected with a piece of music? And we don’t mean picking up a slab of vinyl or scrolling through the playlists on your iPod. Think back to the most recent occasion when you really listened to something, felt it, bored down into its soul and let a little bit of it seep in to you: maybe it made you laugh, cry or well up with pride. Still not got it yet? It was a struggle for us too, swimming back through our own transient relationship with music to reconnect with a moment when a song grabbed us round the navel and made us feel alive.
This connection between music and soul is not something that AMIQUE struggles with: his knowledge of the spiritual importance of music is profound, and the opening up of this pathway has enabled him to produce yet another collection of touching, uplifting songs on his new EP Oh! The Ecstasy. The songwriter and former Sense Of Sound vocalist has brought a heady brew of soul, funk, gospel and a fierce spirituality to his latest clutch of songs; in a bid to find out how he did it, we engaged in some of Amique’s cosmic wisdom.
Bido Lito!: When we last spoke to you, in June 2013, you said you wanted to follow up your Conception EP with a new one straight away. Why have you made us wait so long for Oh! The Ecstasy then?!
Amique: I’ve spent the past year studying my craft and striving to perfect the translation of music as idea to music as reality. I think the journey music makes from the spirit, to your fingertips, to your speaker box is a deeply fascinating and engrossing one, and I wanted to release something that reflected the journey as a whole and not just a singular moment. I could easily have compiled some tracks straight after Conception and released them, but why repeat the same thing to the same people in the same way? I had to study. Also, when you’re an artist still in the embryonic stage of your career, that chip on your shoulder and desire to prove yourself has a tendency to keep you in the studio and the rehearsal room a little bit longer, perfecting the vibe, so to speak,
BL!: There are a few more dimensions to the sounds on Oh! The Ecstasy compared to Conception. Were you always looking to be a bit more ambitious with this one?
A: Conception was always going to be a much more organic piece of work. It was supposed to reflect the natural conception of life and, as such, synthetic instruments would not have worked. For this EP, my sense of artistic translation was at a much higher level and I was ready to express that in whatever way was appropriate. The recording of this EP was so easy: I was able to create exactly what I heard in my head with no interruption between the head and the hand. When that starts to happen you have to be courageous and allow the song to form itself.
BL!: I was struck by the strength of the message each track was built on – nothing is throwaway. Do you think, when used properly, music can be used as a tool for positive change?
A: Yes sir. And thank you very much. The evolution this EP went through meant that I was constantly striving for a purposeful piece of work, no filler or throwaway, so I appreciate your kind words. We need to stop worrying about how many Twitter followers we have and start talking about what’s really going on. Too many people are suffering and getting a raw deal. We, as artists, can respond with truth and uplift our communities. Marvin Gaye, The Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, Public Enemy, Joni Mitchell – these are artists that stood up and represented the truth and used their gift to implement positive change. Cher once said, “If I’m not worrying about whether there’ll be food on my table tonight, I should be worrying about why there won’t be food on other people’s table tonight.” We all need to follow that. There has to be more to our gift than promoting ourselves. In the long run, what do you have that gift for and who are you serving? I try to ask myself this question as often as possible.
BL!: Another thing that stuck out for me was the line “Unaware of exactly why we are existing” from Just Babies. Can you explain a little more about where this came from?
A: I realised that no matter how good or bad a person’s actions and words may seem, everybody is ultimately just trying to make their way through life. We’re all asking why we’re here, and looking for an understanding as to what our contribution is supposed to be. True satisfaction arguably comes from understanding what that contribution is. No one has all the answers. All anyone really wants is to be loved. And sometimes we do crazy things in an attempt to find that love. That line is interesting to me now because I’m currently reading a book about past lives: it explores the idea that we do make a choice to be born but, the older we get, the more about our pre-life decisions we forget. I wonder why…
BL!: Your spirituality has a complex but great relationship with funk on Oh! The Ecstasy. I get the impression, though, that for you it would be difficult to separate the two vibes as distinct entities…
A: I am one person and, as such, an honest piece of work will reflect that truth. Also, people need to understand that funk is a deeply spiritual genre of music. History teaches us that funk was always about uplifting people and implementing positive change, both spiritually and socially. It’s important to note as well that, conceptually, this EP is about the relationship between artistic and spiritual ecstasy. Same chemicals released in the body, same reactions, same feelings. I wanted this EP to give YOU a sense of ecstasy and therefore break through any walls you put up, and maybe inspire that third eye to open a little…
BL!: Do you think we could all do with a little bit more cosmic wisdom in our lives?
A: Yes. Know thy self. There is something much bigger going on around us and within us; we need to get smart.
BL!: A few years back you worked on a production about American human rights activist Bayard Rustin at Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum (A Reflection Of Time On Two Crosses). Could you see yourself doing more production work like that in the future?
A: Yes, absolutely. I’m currently working on a production with some incredible writers that will take me in another direction artistically and tell a hugely important story. As for Bayard, I’m so honoured to be an instrument in telling his story in some way. He is someone we NEED to be talking about and learning from.
BL!: What do you prefer, performing or creating?
A: They are one and the same thing, and I am in a state of constant gratitude that I can do both. Both are like meditation for me and keep me simultaneously grounded and in a state of ecstasy. What a blessing!