Us3: The Struggle Continues
"I don't think that encourages any cross-pollination of styles, which is something the UK's always been good at. A lot of musical genres come out of this country because people are willing to experiment with other things. They've grown up with Radio One playing all sorts of different music, which I don't think can be underestimated compared to major radio in the States. There's no such thing as any station that would play a rock record next to a hip-hop record next to an R&B record next to a house record. You just wouldn't get that over there because it's all too segregated. And there's a danger of that happening here now, with more and more channels becoming available on TV and radio and everything becoming more specialized. I don't think it's healthy.
Despite this tirade, Wilkinson remains optimistic. "I'm not unhappy as to where I am now, he states thoughtfully, "but it's frustrating that I'd like to be able to take it to another level which is proving difficult with an independent label. So what would he do if a major record company came knocking again? "I'd like to think I'd say no but I've seen the other side of it now and I think there's a real glass ceiling you can reach putting things out independently. In the last three years I've learnt more about how the industry works than the previous ten before that; I've become a small businessman in many ways. However, I still don't think I would do it unless somebody put a ridiculous sum of money in front of mewhich I know isn't going to happen because major labels don't do that nowadays.
Wilkinson also has bright words about the future of jazz and hip-hop, in his brand of fusion and as separate genres. "Both types of music are experimental and they are both heavily influenced by other types of music. Certain collaborations change the face of both types of music; for example, Dizzy Gillespie writing 'A Night in Tunisia' and working with Cuban musicians probably upset a lot of purists at the time, but that's the kind of thinking I like. Jazz and hip-hop aren't afraid to liberally borrow from other types of music, they're both in a constant state of change and it's only natural they would come together in different forms. I think there's a lot more to come.
"I also think the jazz scene in London is probably the healthiest it's ever been, and the same goes for British hip-hop.
Us3 at the 2007 Black Sea Jazz Festival
So how does the fertile state of his two dearest genres relate to immediate and future plans? "I'm hoping to put the next album out around September-October 2008, I've already been working on potential tracks and putting a few grooves together. I haven't decided what vocalists to use yet, but I have a few ideas, he continues mysteriously. "I'm totally open to new possibilities as well, it's all in the developing stages; anyone can contact me through the MySpace pagenobody else runs it for me.
Looking to round things off after a revealing thirty-minute discussion, when asked if he has any personal highlight from the last few years, Wilkinson pauses to think. "The fact I'm still here, he says with a chuckle. "It would have been very easy to just stop because of the Sony thing, and I did think about it, but I refused to lie down and it's worked out well now. This is going to be the seventh Us3 albumnearly hit that magic eight!
Us3, Say What!? (Us3, 2007)
Us3, Schizophonic (Us3, 2006)
Us3, Questions (Us3, 2004)
Us3, An Ordinary Day In An Unusual Place (Universal, 2001)
Us3, Broadway & 52nd (Blue Note, 1997)
Us3, Hand On The Torch (Blue Note, 1993)
Courtesy of Us3 on MySpace