Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes: Sabatta

Sabatta's kick-the-door-down black rock, reveals regal roots in the fertile soil of early rock's acoustic masters. Front man Yinka took a moment to kick it with Ultraviolet Underground to share his perspectives on the black rock movement, and his influences.

1 When did you discover music was your chosen medium? Were you always
musical (w/makeshift instruments in the kitchen for example *_^), or artistic (w/other mediums)? How did Sabatta come to be and who are your influences?

When i was a child i used to write short stories, then i started drawing and painting but at school they didn’t like what i was painting so I took up music. I used to hear high life music in the kitchen at my parent’s house. My mum bought me my first guitar at 7 but really didn’t like it then (it was short stories time) and then at 13 i decided i wanted to play.

Sabatta was my idea but i first started the band with a guy called Andrew John AKA Stone – who now plays for Anthony Joseph and the Spasm band – that was in the beginning of 2006. I was doing vocals and guitar and him bass. We recruited another guitarist and a drummer – these two posts changed pretty regularly but we set up camp in a “rough” part of South London called Bermondsey (not too far from where i was living) and recorded an album – Princess Raw. Stone left at the beginning of 2007 and I recruited Hugo – who has been in the band ever since – we went through a couple more guitar players before decided to become a 3 piece and got Oli on drums.

My influences are quite diverse but musically they fall into three categories – rap, rock and Nigerian popular music. I was always into hip-hop – and I liked artists like Tupac, Nas, Public Enemy, NWA, Geto Boys (i also used to rap and make beats on the MPC). My older brothers were into Rock and I was exposed to bands like Metallica, ACDC, Guns n Roses, Motorhead.

In my parent’s house especially on Sundays i would hear high life and juju music playing in the kitchen and i heard artists like Fela Kuti, Sunny Ade, and that is in my bones – the rhythm – so it’s a big gumbo!

2 What is your vision for Sabatta? Do you prefer the Indie experience or see yourself expanding into the mainstream? Do you find it relatively easy to work together as a group, or is it a challenge finding harmony in your individual artistic perceptions? What can we expect from Sabatta in coming days ?

Sabatta is designed to be the baddest badass rock n roll group on earth! That is the vision – that is the hope and the goal – whether we reach it is down to what people think but that’s what I’m gonna die trying to get to! Rock n Roll is Soul music to me – it comes straight from the soul. It doesn’t try to be too clever but it’s highly emotionally intelligent in that it communicates emotion like no other medium. There’s not a lot of it about – we hope to add a little more into the mix.

The indie experience is definitely an experience. It’s a really interesting question because it’s put in a way that it actually makes me consider what the mainstream is – no one’s actually done that before! Wow! So to me the mainstream is actually just access to widest possible audience – but I and many other think of it as “pop” or “commercial” (with all the attached connotations) because of who controls it. Major labels have had a major strangle hold and now with the internet it’s harder for them but ironically it’s making them revert and the major artists coming out now make it look like the 50s – SAFE! What would be great for SABATTA would be if we could reach that audience AS WE ARE and not have someone try to make us SAFE – because that just won’t happen but music wise i think we already have tunes that will do fine in the mainstream without us having to change – hope that all makes sense.

The next question is equally as interesting because the album was recorded together as a group but we lost the drummer after that. The creative process mainly starts with me – I’ll have melodic ideas and riffs or i may come with a whole song structure but i won’t dictate the bass and drums – though what i have written may do that to a degree and i suppose it does. But i would jam it out with Hugo and Oli – and that’s what you hear on the recordings. I would generally arrange but the other two would throw their 2 pennies and we’d take it from there! So it’s pretty organic. One thing that really helped is that as a band we into a lot of the same music – particularly queens of the stone age and that really helps. Hugo and I both have a visual arts history too – i also create websites – I did the Sabatta one and Hugo is into 3D – so we’re working a some stuff for some SABATTA videos in the works, which brings us on to the next question.

The plan for SABATTA is to release videos for a few songs off Emperor’s New Clothes. We’re gonna have a pretty big hand in these – creatively. I think that the music video as an art form is woefully underused. Our aim is the create interesting videos that enhance and reinforce our songs and also stand up on their own. So we’ll be releasing videos for the “singles” Didn’t C it and Emperor’s New Clothes in the 1st quarter of ’09.

3 How do you feel about the Black rock coalition, Urb Alt and AfroPunk movements? Do you feel they are bringing great progress to a genre that in reality has its roots in African-Americana? Do you think the suppression of shining lights in 'Black arts' from mainstream industry is on the decline, or do you feel we have a long way to go to enjoy fair treatment and mainstream display?

Honestly i can say that i have only good things to say about BRC and AfroPunk – I’ve met the heads of both organisations and they have both showed me a LOT of love. Which is great to me considering I’m from London, but i got my hustle on and went out to New York twice last year – Sabatta is currently on the AfroPunk front page. I’m not really up on Urb alt but I’ll check them out now too that you’ve mentioned them.

All i can say to this question is that i came out in July and saw a bunch of events celebrating all this stuff and for me it was close to Dante’s Heaven – where there are 7 levels i believe (7 levels of inferno too!) and it wasn’t live the top it was like 4.5 But THAT’S ONLY BECAUSE IT AIN’T THAT BIG yet! In terms of what i saw i'd put it up there – in the UK you really don’t have it YET! In terms of African Americana I’m not American so it’s hard to say but I’d say that African-Americana has influences from all over the African Diaspora and in terms of pushing through diversity the movements you mention they seem to support individuality – but I think it’s always hard to have every single point of view heard but at least some are getting heard.

Well i think we – “black arts” still have a long way to go because the mainstream industry is controlled by an establishment in which we’re not greatly reflected. I do think we’re starting to come through the cracks a little. I actually co-host a show on the largest independent arts radio station in London – Resonance Fm and we do a show called Is Black Music? It was started by Art Terry – a musician from LA 4 years ago and it gives us a little bit of a voice but it’s really a case of perseverance and hopefully making some friends in high places. Passing Strange getting o n Broadway is def a big step and AfroPunk begin featured on MTV is great too – we just gotta keep shouting LOUD!!

Thankyou for allowing us to pick your brain, Yinka *_^
Please keep us posted on further developments with Sabatta and Is Black Music?

Visit Sabatta's dimension:

Found another recent interview w/ Yinka
conducted by the darling Kaos Blac here.

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