Smitty: I am extremely happy to welcome to Jazz Monthly.Com for the first time one of my favorite musicians in the world. A magnificent songwriter, his music has some serious bandwidth, and his grooves are unmatched. You know him from such great records as Rainforest, Jazzmasters I, II, III, IV, and now he has exploded on the scene once again with a powerful new record appropriately titled, Jazzmasters V. Please welcome Trippin’ N Rhythm recording artist, the incredible Mr. Paul Hardcastle. Paul, how ya doin’?
Paul Hardcastle (PH): Smitty, with an intro like that, mate, I think I’ll have to send you a check.
PH: That was…well, what can I say? I’m doing great now. (Both laughing.)
Smitty: Man, it is great to talk with you and it’s great to see that you’re just continually putting out this great music that people around the world are thoroughly enjoying.
PH: Thank you. Well, I’m so happy that people love my music….I’ve actually started work, believe it or not, on Hardcastle V already.
Smitty: Wow, that’s fantastic news!
PH: So this’ll be ten albums in the Smooth Jazz format, and when I think back to how I first started with it, I just thought….I wonder if I could do something like this? And I’d never even heard of the Smooth Jazz format. That was the funny thing. When I did Jazzmasters, I had never heard anyone else’s music and I guess maybe I’m lucky in that respect because I guess I don’t sound like anyone else.
Smitty: No, you don’t.
PH: I mean, and maybe I ought to, you know, listen to it and thought, oh, I should maybe try and get into that market. I would’ve sort of maybe been influenced by listening to other people, so to actually get into it and do something totally different and have people like it is brilliant.
Smitty: Yes it is. Well, now, take us back, man. Now, you traded in your video camera for a small synthesizer.
PH: (Laughs.) I know where we’re going here.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Now, what were you thinking? I mean, did you ever think that you would be at Jazzmasters V? Here we are in 2006.
PH: Mm-hmm. Yeah, well with the first record I already did under my own name was Rainforest, which was in ’84? And by my math, that’s 22 years ago. And I just I think to myself….I didn’t envision even making successful commercial records. I just did it because I liked, you know, just trying it out. It was all experimental, really, for me. And to be able to sort of now say, well, I’ve been in this business for this amount time and still sort of doing well is quite a buzz, I must admit. It is a really good feeling.…you get a nice sense of achievement, I guess.
Smitty: Yes indeed. And you had a number one single on Rainforest too, great record.
PH: Yes! “Rainforest” was a number one single sort of clubwise and urbanwise. It wasn’t a pop hit. My first pop hit over here was “19.”
Smitty: Yeah, what a song, man, and a totally different track.
Smitty: It had so much meaning and then it had such a beautiful groove at the same time.
PH: Yeah, I do like sort of sticking my neck out and doing bits and pieces that are different. I mean, as we were talking just before we got into this interview, I was telling you about when I was working with a guy called Kid Crab and we did a rap song, but it was a smooth rap, and I think he did it really well. And so I guess I’ll always try and push the boundaries a little bit.
Smitty: Yes indeed. Talk about your reaction to your first number one hit single. I mean, that had to be just an ecstatic feeling.
PH: I think to be honest with you, the first sort of real big thing I had was “Rainforest” and that took off in America.
PH: I can remember someone phoning me up from Profile Records, ‘cause I was on Profile out in New York at the time, which is a rap label. You know, it’s where Run DMC and all those people started out.
PH: And I remember them giving me a call and saying “Oh, by the way, you just knocked Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ off of the top slot on the sales chart.” I was like…I said “Hang on a minute.” I said “Who are you talking to here? Have you got the wrong number?” (Both laughing.) I said, you know, I thought maybe he was sort of speaking to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin or something, you know? Paul McCartney, not Hardcastle, you know? (Both laughing)
Smitty: Oh wow.
PH: That was a brilliant buzz for me. But I think to be honest with you, the real one for me was “19” because, as you said, it was something totally different, and the fact is when I took it into the record company, they looked at me as though I’d just come from the Planet Zorg. They just looked and went “What the hell is that?”
PH: I had quite a big fight with them to put it out. You know, they said “Oh, you can’t do that.” I said “Well, if you don’t wanna put it out, then I’ll take it somewhere else” and I went and signed with Chrysalis Records. Anyway, in the end they sort of said “All right,” you know, their words were something like “On your head be it” or something and two weeks later it’s number one in 13 different countries and they’re going “Yeah, well, we knew that was gonna happen, Paul,” and I thought, ah, this is the music business.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Well, you know, I have talked to people that don’t listen to Smooth Jazz at all, but when I mention your name….
Smitty: .…automatically they’ll say “’19,’ yeah,” you know? So that song crossed every boundary there was.
PH: Sure. I mean, that’s great because I really like the Smooth Jazz format, but it is nice to sort of actually have a few strings to your bows as well and I think by doing “19” and “Rainforest,” which were more dance and stuff like that, I do feel that I’ve made myself more acceptable to listening to different things as well, and maybe that’s why on some Jazzmasters records, like we did a track called “Can You Hear Me?”
Smitty: Yeah, Jazzmasters II.
PH: Right, that was about sort of like, is there life on different planets and stuff? And that was great to sort of start it off in a different way and not just have the normal sort of jazz chords starting something off and I just like to go in a different way. That’s me, really.
Smitty: Yeah, man, absolutely. Now, I noticed at some point you started to incorporate vocals in your music.