"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited."
Plutarch (46 - 120) Greek "philosopher, author"
If there ever was a doubt that music truly is an international language, you just have to refer to the story of Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate. Put together at a festival in Marseilles, the two couldn't communicate in a common tongue but understood each other exceptionally through the magic of their music. Joe Driscoll is on the line with more on the incredible recording project Faya.
worldbeatcanada radio: Nice talking with you Joe. were there other challenges to your collaboration other than language?
Joe Driscoll: Oh ya, there have been so many. The love has helped us through, but a lot of passport and visa issues because Sekou is obviously from Guinea in West Africa. With the touring schedule we have, doing Italy and Germany one day and then France, the US and Canada the next week ... it's been like that for a while so, that's been another stress as well. But, through the power of music we've managed to prevail and we keep holding on, you know?
WBC: So, after that initial collaboration, how did the band come together which in turn spun off 120 concert dates?
Joe Driscoll: I used to run an artist collective in London, just improvisational nights where different artists from different genres would come together. We had beat-boxers, violinists and poets and all sorts would come up and just do improvised music. And, the house drummer was a good friend of mine, James Breen. He had been working on another project and he was leaving that and we just teamed up. Then I asked him who he would prefer for a the bass player and funny enough, it was another good friend of mine whom I had known for the past 7 years but never worked with as a musician. It worked out great, and now as a four piece it has a whole new dynamic and a whole new vibe and the writing for the second album has been a lot different. It's still in the same vibe but the process is different with more people. Ya, it all came together very fortuitously as I find when you're in the right right steam in life things tend to come together without much effort and that's the way it's been for this band.
WBC: Were you aware of the kora before meeting Sekou?
JD: I think I became aware of it about 3 or 4 years before meeting him. I was turned on to artists like Toumani Diabate and I had taken a few trips to Africa before that, so I had seen it around. But, once I met Sekou and he was playing it with distorion and wah-wah and all these crazy effects I was like, "Wow! I've seen the kora before but I've never actually seen it played like that!"
WBC: When you think of musical duos, the first impression is often something like Simon and Garfunkel, but there's a real spark of energy lighting Faya, deep grooves and electricity. Is that your musical leanings shining through?
JD: I think it's the two of us, you know? Both of us float across genres, feelings and vibes, and I felt there was a real spark when we met. Really, I was kinda searching for a sound like his and he was kinda searching for a sound like mine. I think we were also inspired by the fact that we couldn't speak and that we found each other through such a random pairing. And, the reason we called it Faya is that it kinda felt like that; like when you put baking soda in vinegar there's a chemical reaction that occurs.
WBC: What a great story! worldbeatcanada radio is on the air and on the pod with Joe Driscoll. As we record this they are currently in Italy. The tour takes them to Canada for 2 dates in Quebec City on July 9th for Festival d'Ete and Montreal on the 10th at Club Ballatou. Connect with Joe and Sekou at the homepage joeandsekou.com. Read our review of Faya at worldbeatcanada.com under Album Reviews. What are your plans for the future of this project, Joe, your mentioned a new album is in the works?
JD: Luckily we teamed up with Cumbancha Records for their Cumbancha Discovery program. They're a great label, a real supportive family. And, the plan is to hook up with them in December, January and do some recording in Vermont where they're based. The tour schedule like you said is totally insane. The fall is already booked up and already summer festivals for 2015 are lining up, so neither of us have any plans about how long this will go on but as long as it's fun and people continue to get inspired, we'll keep making albums and keep going.
WBC: Well it's a great disc. I'd like to wrap this with one of my favorites from Faya which just happens to be New York. What can you tell us about this song and how has that city informed your personal style?
JD: I was raised in upstate New York. I come from Syracuse. But, all my family, my parents were born and raised in Staten Island. So, I spent most of my summers visiting family in New York City. And, then when I was 17 or 18, I moved down to New York and just felt totally overwhelmed when I moved there. I wrote a lot about the city back then. It was kind of a song that I thought came out right, but I just never had the arrangement of version that I wanted to record of it that sounded quite right. And, then I played it with Sekou and it came to life like it never had. New York is such a part of my influence and character that it's beyond mention. All the artists; the Beastie Boys, Nas, De La Soul and all these artists who came from the east coast New York area really defined who I am. And, also you know, romanticizing about Dylan in the West Village and all that stuff; New York is a hub of energy and I've fed off it tremendously and I think this song is just kind of my ode, my prayer to New York and my thanks for giving me so much.
Joe Driscoll was interviewed by phone, July 7th, 2014 for worldbeatcanada radio