The Brand New Heavies


Wednesday 18th September 2019

Name, where are you from?
Sy Bartholomew - London

Describe your style in three words?
Funky, Feeling, Gritteeh.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
I use to go to this place on Great Portland Street called the Mary Magdalene Church, and in the crypt of that church, they had this jazz night, and this is like the late '80s. There would be people like John Stevens playing this avant-grade jazz kinda thing that was getting big in London at the time, it was a precursor to rare groove and the funky thing. I went down there one night and Courtney Pine was playing with Mark Mondesir on drums and Juilan Joseph on piano. He did circular breathing where you can just play and play, breathing in through your nose, like playing the didgeridoo. My jaw was open for an hour. Like seeing John Coltrane for the first time or something - it blew my socks off. I went home and did a drawing of it because I was at art college at the time. Very memorable indeed.

If you could be on the line up with any two bands in history?
That's a double-edged sword coz your gonna blown away by your favourite bands, but, Jimi Hendrix, just so I could see him from the wings and to keep it funky, maybe George Clinton coming out of the Mothership or Earth, Wind & Fire. Maybe George, Wind And Fire Clinton?

Which Subcultures have influenced you?
When I was eleven or twelve, the reason I started playing guitar in the '70s - was I was really into rock'n'roll. There was one show on Capital FM called Cruisin' that I would record on my cassette deck. In middle school, I was brylcreeming my hair every day, luminous socks and creepers. Then, later on, I got into ska and stuff and the Two-Tone thing. I got my ticket stolen outside a Madness gig. The Rudeboy look was a bit of thing as well. Fred Perrys, Sta Pressed and loafers. Then I went through my hippy thing, exploring the mind, and grew my hair a bit. Then there was the funky thing and Acid Jazz - which I was part of - finally.

Wop babaloo bop a wop bam boo - John Lennon said that when he heard 'Tutti Frutti' the world changed from Black and White to colour.

If you could spend an hour with anyone from history?
I'd love to play with Hendrix, to play some funky beats behind him. Check out the Last Poets 'It's a Trip'.

Of all the venues you’ve been to, which is your favourite?
La Cigale, Paris. We played there in the early days when we first got known around the world and people were pogoing to the music, people just going crazy. It was near where Toulouse Lautrec lived and worked.

Your greatest unsung hero or heroine in music?
My friend Aurora Dawn. I was in a band with her. My friend had the idea that of a DJ playing beats, a guitarist over there, a keyboard player over there - In Ministry Of Sound on podiums. Aurora joined the band as vocalist. She does a lot of stuff with Alabama 3 now. Check her out - she's a killer songwriter.

Simon Bartholomew is the guitarist with The Brand New Heavies who came to fame in the late '80s and early '90s as one of the prominent bands of the Acid Jazz movement, signed to Eddie Piller's influential Acid Jazz label, scoring hit records including 'Midnight At The Oasis' and 'Dream On Dreamer'. The band's latest album 'TBNH' is out now featuring contributions from original vocalist N'Dea Davenport and producer (and fan of the band) Mark Ronson.

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