Kool & The Gang's Robert 'Kool' Bell Rewind 80s Festival Australia Interview
Kool & The Gang has sold over 70 million albums worldwide and influenced the music of three generations. Thanks to songs like Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness and Open Sesame, they've earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits, and 31 gold and platinum albums. Kool & The Gang has performed continuously for the past 35 years, longer than any R&B group in history. Their bulletproof funk and tough, jazzy arrangements have also made them the most sampled band of all time.
In 1964 Khalis Bayyan (AKA Ronald Bell) and his brother, Robert "Kool" Bell, joined Jersey City neighborhood friends Robert "Spike" Mickens, Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith to create a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk. At first calling themselves the Jazziacs, they went through various names - The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band, Kool & The Flames - before settling on their moniker. Over the next several years, they solidified their musical chemistry on the rough-and-tumble East Coast music scene, supporting acts like Bill Cosby, Ritchie Havens and Richard Pryor. Their self-titled 1969 debut album introduced their signature instrumental sound and fierce horn arrangements, and spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single, Kool and the Gang.
In 1969 Kool & The Gang released their self-titled debut album. It was the introduction to a theme, music is the message, that Kool & The Gang stands by today. The instrumental album was an expression of their deep love of music. It was also an introduction to their signature sound and the fierce horn arrangements created by Khalis, Dee Tee, and Spike. Their debut album spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single Kool and the Gang and later Let The Music Take Your Mind.
In 1970, their audacious sophomore set Live At The Sex Machine peaked at #6 on Billboard's R&B chart and yielded three hit singles: Funky Man, Who's Gonna Take The Weight and I Want To Take You Higher. Next came The Best Of Kool & The Gang Featuring The Penguin, Kool & The Gang Live at PJ's, Music Is The Message, and Good Times, all of which helped solidify a sound that wowed not only fans but such contemporaries as James Brown and Nina Simone.The band's stellar reputation grew with each album, but 1973's gold disc Wild & Peaceful took Kool & The Gang to another level (#6 R&B, #33 Pop), spurred by the immortal party anthems Funky Stuff, Hollywood Swinging and the platinum smash Jungle Boogie.
Hits like Higher Plane (#1 R&B), the classic Summer Madness (featured on the Grammy-winning movie soundtrack Rocky) and LPs Spirit of the Boogie, Love & Understanding and Open Sesame followed. The latter's title track was featured on the top-selling movie soundtrack of all time, Saturday Night Fever, earning the group their second Grammy.
In 1979, Kool & The Gang unveiled a smooth new sound with Ladies Night. Produced by the legendary Pop/Jazz musician Eumir Deodato, it became their first platinum album. The #1 R&B title track also reached #8 at Pop. It was followed by Too Hot (#3 R&B, #5 Pop). The '80s would see them dominate the mainstream, starting with the double platinum-selling album Celebrate (driven by the international monster hit Celebration, which spent six weeks atop the R&B chart and became a #1 Pop single). Celebration, which played as the American hostages returned from Iran, remains de rigueur at joyous occasions worldwide. The smashes Get Down On It, Take My Heart, Let's Go Dancing, Joanna, Tonight, Misled, the #1 R&B, #2 Pop giant Cherish and the #1 R&B anthem Fresh (these last three from the multi-platinum LP Emergency) solidified the group's international superstardom. Kool & the Gang landed global commercial endorsements, supported countless charitable causes and were the only American group to participate in Band Aid's 1984 Do They Know It's Christmas project for famine victims in Africa.
With the explosion of hip-hop in the '90s, Kool & the Gang's incredible catalog of grooves made them DJ favorites, and they were second only to R&B icon James Brown as sources of rap-music samples.
2004's The Hits Reloaded found the band collaborating with such acolytes as Lil' Kim, Sean Paul, Ashanti, and Blackstreet, among others. Kool & The Gang continues to perform to packed audiences of new and old fans around the world.
The band re-entered the Billboard R&B chart with 2006's Steppin' Into Love. In 2006, Kool & The Gang received the NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) Chairman Award for lifetime achievement in record sales.
Kool & The Gang releasted a new studio album titled Still Kool in July 2007 on New Door Records/UMe.Rewind 80's Festival
The UK's iconic Rewind - The 80s Festival is heading to Australia for a new weekend music event to be held at BlueScope Field in Kembla Grange from 28 to 30 October, 2011, boasting the biggest live outdoor line-up of 80s recording artists and performers ever!
Originally launched at England's Henley-on-Thames in 2009, the 80s Rewind Music Festival was the surprise success of the year attracting 30,000 people. In its second year at Henley-On-Thames (2010), the festival grew to capacity at 40,000 people saw the biggest line-up of artists since Live Aid.
Now the organisers have announced that an Australian version of the Festival will be launched at the beautiful BlueScope Field on the New South Wales' south coast and will feature a massive line-up of international and local 80s artists as well as loads of other festival fun from Silent Discos to Live Karaoke bars along with Camping and "Glamping" options, with more on all the additional festival extras, opening times, stalls etc to be announced.
The confirmed line up for Rewind 80's Festival Australia is as follows:
Saturday, 29 October, 2011: Kool and the Gang
: With their first release back in 1969 Kool & The Gang are one of the most successful RnB groups, selling over 70 million albums worldwide, have won two Grammy's and have influenced the music of three generations. Their funky soulful jazzy hits Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness, Ladies Night and Open Sesame are some of the most sampled songs of all time. Sister Sledge
: Forming in 1971 in Philadelphia, four sisters, Debbie, Kim, Joni and Kathy better known as the RnB act Sister Sledge hit the music scene with their first single "Time Will Tell". There big hit came with a new disco sound in 1979 when they released "We Are Family" which put them in the commercial spotlight leading them to produce more pop flavoured songs like "Frankie" which went top 20 in the US and Number 1 in the UK charts for 4 weeks. The sisters continued performing together throughout the 90's and recording their 9th studio record.Bananarama
: Formed in 1982 as teenagers they came to the attention of The Specials' Terry Hall, whose band Fun Boy Three they later collaborated with on the hit Ain't What You Do. They went on to take the world by storm, with solo hits including Cruel Summer, I Heard a Rumour, Robert De Niro's Waiting, Love In The First Degree and Venus - their first US No.1. Today they still hold the record for the world's most successful girl band with over 30 UK Top 40 hits and 40 million record sales.ABC
: Fronted by the dapper Martin Fry, their debut album The Lexicon of Love crashed straight into the UK charts at No. 1, showcasing a string of hits including The Look of Love, Tears Are Not Enough and Poison Arrow. AfterKoo five further albums and a Greatest Hits collection, ABC bowed out of the spotlight in the early nineties, only to resurrect the name at the end of the decade much to the delight of their fans. Whether performing as a band or with an orchestra in the Albert Hall, Martin Fry is the consummate show man.Midge Ure
: Slik, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Ultravox, The Rich Kids and Band Aid are all part of the musical successes of Midge Ure. Silk's single 'Forever And Ever' knocked Abba's 'Mamma Mia' off the number one position in the UK charts in 1976. Midge was then asked to join Rich Kids in 1978 before moving on to become the front man for Ultravox in 1979. In 1984 Midge produced and co-wrote the world wide smash hit 'Do They Know It's Christmas with Bob Geldof, which sold over 3 million copies world wide helping raise £8 million for the Ethiopian famine relief. "If I Was" topped no 1 in the UK 1985 under his own name and a number 2 solo album. Midge still produces for various artists in the UK and was awarded an OBE in 2005 and is the MD for the Princes Trust at the Royal Albert Hall.Ross Wilson
: With a career spanning over four decades it's clear to see why Ross Wilson is one of Australia's most respected musicians, writing the rock anthem "Eagle Rock" with Daddy Cool in the 70's. He formed Mondo Rock and continued writing chart topping songs throughout the rest of the 70's and the 80's along with producing other legendary Australian acts Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep and The Johnny's. In 2010 Ross released 'I Come In Piece' and continues to tour the singles release from this album. Mental as Anything
: The Mentals started their career with a year long residency at the Unicorn Hotel in Sydney, using the pool table as a stage in 1977, followed by another year long residency at the Civic Hotel before releasing their debut album 'Get Wet' which hit top 20 in Australia. The band then released 'Fundamental As Anything' which had the hit "Live It Up" in the mid 80's that sent them on tours around Europe and the UK. Fast forward to 2009 the Mentals were inducted into the ARIA Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and their Greats Hits entitled "Essentials As Anything" is released through Warner Music.
Sunday, 30 October 2011:Human League
: David Bowie wasn't wrong back in 1979 when he described The Human League as "the sound of the future". With contemporary artists citing them as hugely influential, they're as relevant now as they were back in 1981 when their debut album Dare! took the world by storm.30 years later, with four UK top 10 albums and eight UK top 10 singles to their name including Love Action (I Believe in Love), (Feeling) Fascination and the iconic Don't You Want Me, the band continue to produce new material and wow audiences worldwide.Tony Hadley
: Lead singer of the recently reformed Spandau Ballet, Tony is one of the eighties' best-known names and voices. Selling over 23 million albums, the band topped the charts around the world with such timeless classics as True, Gold and Through the Barricade". After the band spilt in 1989, Tony went on to have a successful solo career and continues to perform his favourite Spandau Ballet songs to enthralled audiences worldwide.Nik Kershaw
: Nik released his platinum selling debut album "Human Racing" in 1984, which included the hits Wouldn't It Be Good and I Won't Let the Sun Go Down on Me. The equally successful The Riddle followed and in 1985 Nik performed at Live Aid. As well as a career as a performer, Nik is still a highly respected producer and songwriter, working with such artists as Elton John, Imogen Heap, Gary Barlow and Ronan Keating amongst others.Go West
: Starting out as Cox and Drummie, Peter Cox and Richard Drummie quickily changed their name to Go West, bursting on to the UK music scene with their debut single 'We Close Our Eyes' which reached no: 4 in the UK charts and became a top 10 hit in the states. Their first self-titled album GO WEST sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide helping them earn a Brit Award in 1986. The duo went onto release 4 more albums together and in 2010 released the 25th Anniversary album of the band's first self-titled record back in 1985.John Paul Young
: In 1972 John Paul Young's signed to Albert Productions and joined forces with Vanda & Young ex The Easybeats who wrote "Pasadena" kick starting JPY's music career forcing him to put his job at Clyde Engineering on hold. In 1975 "Yesterday's Hero" was released giving JPY his first top 10 hit. "Love Is In The Air" followed in the 1978 hitting number 3 in the Australian charts, number 7 in US Billboard charts and number 5 in the UK charts. This single soon dominated the European charts crowning JPY the king of Pop in Australia. In 2009 Young was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame performing all his hits.Pseudo Echo
:They were the first and only unsigned band to be featured on the legendary Australian music show Countdown, becoming one of Australia's most influential electro bands during the 80's. The band had a string on hits with "Listening", "A Beat For You", Living In a Dream" and their biggest hit "Funky Town", which sat on top of the charts for 12 weeks in Australia and break into the top 10 in the UK and US charts. Pseudo Echo are still hitting the stages with the classic line up of Brian Canhma, Pierre Pierre and James and VinceLeigh.
Tickets from www.moshtix.com.au
For more information see: www.rewindfestival.com.au
Interview with Robert 'Kool' BellQuestion:
Are you excited to be heading to Australia for the Rewind 80's Festival? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: Yes! We performed in one of the Rewind 80's Festivals, last year around Christmas time and really enjoyed it.
We are looking forward to performing alongside the acts at the Rewind 80's Festival. We were together with Sister Sledge at the England Rewind 80's Festival; it will be great to perform with them again along with great acts such as Bananarama and some of the acts that we haven't performed with in many years. We are very excited. Question:
What should audiences of the Rewind 80's Festival expect from your set? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: A lot of high energy with a lot of hits of the 70's and 80's with songs like Jungle Boogie, Hollywood Swinging, Summer Madness and then our hits from the 80's such as Celebration, Get Down On It, Ladies Night, Cherish, Fresh, Too Hot and Joanna! Question:
When you first started playing music, did you ever think you'd still be playing music 40 years later?Robert 'Kool' Bell
: Well we were very young and we were having a lot of fun with what we were doing in the beginning and a couple of years into our career we realised we could probably make it happen with the music business and everything ever since has been history. We have been very blessed to still be around after over 40 years in this industry. Question:
How did it feel to still hear your songs played all over the airwaves? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: It always feels good, always when you still hear the music. In the States they play a lot of our 70's and 80's music, on the radio. We have had some new music but it is sometimes harder to get our new music played on the radio, than our old stuff! Question:
Do you prefer performing live or recording? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: Both! We are working on a new album, for 2012 for CD and download - we are recording and performing, at the moment.Question:
What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: Too many to name (laughing)! The whole experience of growing up in the music industry has been my favourite part. We have had the opportunity to work, all around the world, and see our fans appreciate what we do. I really enjoy all the music festivals including Tokyo Music Festival where we won an award and the American Music Awards. We have worked all throughout Europe and have been in Australia ten years ago (except for the one time we were there in February, of this year). It has been great! Question:
Are you still writing songs, what's your inspiration? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: Yes, our inspiration is our ideas; when travelling around the world we listen to some of the other music, that is out there, and we gain ideas from what is happening in the industry. Question:
What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: I listen to a little bit of everybody including some of the hip-hop artists such as Jay Z, Kayne West and female acts such as Beyonce and Lady Gaga. I also enjoy listening to Chris Brown, Coldplay and U2. I listen to it all, all genres of music.Question:
Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel? Robert 'Kool' Bell
: No, not really. There have been tough times in our career because there are always ups and downs. The songs are alive and we have been able to hang in there even during the rough times in our career.
Interview by Brooke Hunter