LANCE FERGUSON Keeping it raw

The very busy Lance Ferguson of The Bamboos, has just released the first album under his own name, a concept record of sorts, exploring the making of music through samples. Over two discs Raw Material includes The Originals, featuring tracks made by Ferguson, and the ‘reworked’ tracks of the first half, where musicians, including Ferguson himself in some cases, have sampled one of the original tracks and created something new. NEIL SOLACE chatted to Ferguson about the making of the record, taking the album on tour and what’s next for the prolific musician.

The record reminds me of a bunch of friends hanging out and spinning records for each other. I was wondering what the inspiration was behind the record?

Well, for me the original inspiration was, I suppose, a love of the art of sampling, and the way music is made that way, and I guess my way of finding jazz and soul, disco and funk music was initially via the way of hip hop, and tracing those sample sources down from listening to bands like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest and those things. So that very sort of process of making music led me to discover all the music that I love and cherish today. I wanted to make a record that somehow celebrated that musical process. I started with the idea of “I want to make an album of new stuff, made through the sampling process”, but then as I thought more about that I thought “Hey, what about if I actually make the samples myself”, and that’s led me into this whole project.

How did you pick who you collaborated with?

Back to the whole sampling thing, I really did target people who I knew where into using the process of sampling in their music. People like Katalyst, who’s one of this country’s great hip hop artists, sampling is a really essential part of his music that I love. Also, a great duo, that I’ve been a big fan of for many years called Javelin, who are out of Brooklyn in New York. So, I targeted people who I knew were big samplers, but also people that I really loved and that I’m a big fan of, and luckily, I got to tick quite a few of those boxes on my wish list. Which was nice.

Did anyone reach out to you?

No, not really, I pressed up what we call the originals, which were the tracks to sample from. In some cases, I even had the collaborator in mind when I was actually coming up with the original. You know, sort of massaging something into an area that I thought someone would particularly like. So, it was very much me approaching people.

You’ve said before that you saturate yourself in a certain type of music that you’re hoping to produce, before making an album. What were you saturating yourself in before making this?

The construction of the record came in two phases, so the first part was I made all the music to sample from, which is called The Originals, (which) comes out as the companion piece. So, when I was coming up with these songs, I was sort of focusing on the tropes of the great sample heavy tracks. You know, classic break beat tracks and things like that. So, I was listening to a bit of that stuff, but I was very careful not to be too gratuitous to making any of those pieces sound, you know, something like a loop CD or something, so it was really important to make sure they were proper songs and fully fleshed out songs.

So that was that process, and then when I was sampling from those records – because of half the record I did myself in terms of the new stuff and half I sent out to these producers we talked about before – but then I listened to a lot of contemporary electronic music, so I was listening to all that kind of stuff and just seeing how I could reconstitute those originals into something that was of 2017, I guess.

How do you compare the two discs, like the original and the reworked, do you see them fitting together as a whole?

Well, my plan with this record the whole time was always going to be this original concept, which was new music, but made out of samples. To me that was always the album, but then later I thought “to have all the original music that I sampled from as a companion piece to it would be really nice”. I guess the focus was always on the end result, but now I think it’s nice to have the music I made to sample from there, as a companion piece to draw the link between that. As I was saying, I think those songs, I aimed for them to stand up as complete finished songs, so I hope that they function that way to a listener. But I think it could also be interesting for someone to draw the links and see where the little bits came from as a listening experience. So, I do see them as two quite separate things, but you know, obviously they’re deeply linked as well.

Are you planning on touring this album?

I’m not sure if we’re going to tour it, there are plans afoot for some sort of live show, and I think that it’s going to be based around the concept of almost… This record has been about reimagining music and I think the live thing might be something along the lines of almost remixing the remixes, or reimagining the reworks. So, the plan is to have a turntablist at the core of the band and that person might either play the role of playing actual beats, or sometimes the drummer will play beats and the turntablist will play textures over the top. I think it’s going to be quite a big band, which I’ve got to be careful of. I’m used to touring with a big band already.

Apart from the potential tour, do you have any other projects going on at the moment?

Yeah actually, I’m sitting on a few things at the moment. I have this jazz project I do called Menagerie. I did a record on Tru Thoughts a few years ago, and I’ve got another one of them that’s going to come out on a label called Freestyle, out of the UK, pretty soon, in a few months, or before the end of the year. And also, for that same label I do a series of cover versions, classic sort of funk, soul, Latin covers, it’s called Black Feeling, and I’ve got another edition of that coming out, it will be the fourth volume. And, most exciting, is the next Bamboos record, the eighth Bamboos record, and it’s already in the can, and mixed and done. So, we’ll be, I think, releasing that at the start of next year, but hopefully a single out this year and I’m really looking forward to hitting the road with those guys again.