What is your name and role within The New Mastersounds?
I’m Simon Allen, drummer, co-founder, co-frontman, label manager.
How did you start?
In a Leeds (UK) funk/soul/jazz/latin club night in 1999 providing live musical interludes to the DJ sets.
Where are you based?
As individuals, the four of us currently live in Leeds UK (me), Buxton UK (Joe, keyboards), Menorca, Spain (Pete, bass) and Denver, Colorado (Eddie, guitar). We have a support team spread across NYC, Denver, and New Orleans (which is also where our gear currently lives).
Please give an example of your music writing process?
We usually book a week in a studio in a country and city that fits in with our touring schedule. On day one we get everything set up and then anyone who has an idea plays it to the rest of the band. Some ideas are brought in more or less fully-formed (these are usually Eddie’s) and only need to be arranged and learned by the rest of us before we record them the same day. Some are grooves or sketches that need to be fleshed out and structured. Some tunes are developed from spontaneous jams in the studio when we’re messing around. Most of our music is instrumental but whenever there are vocals we are writing lyrics in the control room on bits of scrap paper.
What are you working on right now?
The next studio album (our 12th) was recorded partly in New Orleans last May and partly in Denver in March of this year. As the label manager (One Note Records was set up by me in 2003 as a vehicle for the NMS) it’s now my job to nag Eddie – who produces all our records – to get on with mixing, editing, and mastering, after organizing any overdubs or last-minute guest performances. I will then co-ordinate graphic designer, manufacturer, distributor and publicist to attempt to turn it into a vinyl record release by the Autumn. It currently doesn’t yet have a title so that might be amibitous.
What is your gear setup?
Ok, dweebs, here goes:
DRUMS: Preferably, but not always, Ludwig silver sparkle – 22” kick, 13” tom, 16” tom, LM400 14”x5” snare, 22” vintage Paiste ride, 13” Zildjian Mastersound hi-hats, 20” Paiste “giant beats” crash, 17” Zildjian medium thin crash.
BASS: 1970s Fender Precision Bass Guitar, Aguilar Tone Hammer amp, Ampeg 810 cabinet. If it’s rented gear Pete will use an Ampeg SVT classic tube head, but those things don’t last long in a bumpy trailer.
GUITAR: 1965 Gibson 330, Fender Twin Reverb amplifier, Jim Dunlop Wah pedal, some kind of compressor pedal and a delay for reggae space effects.
KEYS: Hammond B3 organ with Leslie 122 speaker; Clavier Nord Stage 88 Piano
Two Stagg tambourines (played by Eddie and Joe)
What do you like to do outside of music and does it affect your music?
I’m also a photographer, but I recently hauled my camera and lenses around 3 different countries for a month-long tour and only took it out once. My damn iPhone is so much more convenient for most casual photographic situations. I still do the occasional professional gig in UK which actually requires the proper gear.
I’m also a keen cyclist (Middle Aged Man in Lycra) It doesn’t affect the music, but the touring has enabled me to cycle in some really cool places, most recently New York City and Hawaii. Last year I bought a hybrid bike in San Diego at the start of a long bus tour and was able to explore quite a few of the cities we visited. That bike now lives with my drum kit in New Orleans.
How would you describe your music genre?
Funky soul-jazz. Scratchy funk. British boogaloo.
Do you know any music theory?
I know quite a bit more than your average drummer about harmony / chords because I also play some piano and I’m currently teaching a friend piano chord theory from scratch (teaching is the best way to learn, of course.) But I know way less than Eddie (guitar) and Joe (keys). Pete (bass) claims to know none, but his intuitive grasp of theory is immediately apparent when you hear him play.
What are your plans for the future?
The immediate future: summer shows in USA, UK, Spain, USA and carrying the new record to term.
The medium-term future: to continue doing this until something breaks or people stop coming to watch us play. (We’ve survived 18 years so far.)
How did you get into music?
We had a piano at home that I developed an interest in when I was about 8. That was the gateway drug.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Funk / soul / jazz LPs: Billy Preston “Music Is My Life”; Aretha Franklin: “Hey Now Hey”; Melvin Sparks “Akilah!”
Podcasts: The Adam Buxton Podcast, and “Waking Up” with Sam Harris. On the lookout for more podcasts, but these two always deliver.
Who are your top 5 influences and icons?
This sounds cheesy but Eddie, Pete and Joe are definitely the first three.
Then the Leeds DJs & collectors who played groovy funk and soul 45s that I dance to at clubs in the early 90s. Then Steely Dan.
When are you playing next?
The next NMS show is in a month – July 14th – at Grand Targhee Festival in Alta, Wyoming. Prior to that I’ll be playing drums and piano on my own at home.