What is your name and role within Project Mama Earth?
My name is Jonathan Joseph. I am the person that presented the idea of this project to Joss. I am also the drummer / percussionist on the project.
Where are you currently based?
I reside in both the US and the UK. I am a US citizen but I also enjoy what’s called Indefinite Leave To Remain in the UK, which means I can come and go as I please.
Please tell how about how the EP was created in 10 days and why did you choose to go with a short time span?
When Joss agreed to do the project, we discussed how we wanted to proceed. We knew that we wanted to invite specific people to be involved and arranging schedules was going to be tricky, starting with Joss. She only had ten days available in her schedule, my time was limited as well as I was starting rehearsals for a tour with Jeff Beck two days after we finished the recording.
The recording process was a bit of a risk in that Etienne, Jonathan Shorten and myself never played together prior to being in the studio. I’d worked with them both in different different projects but never together. (At this point, Nitin was not with us. He did not arrive until day five of the recording. )
On the first day, I didn’t know what we were going to do since part of the remit was not to bring in any songs that were already written. We wanted to start completely from scratch. Once we were set up, both Jonathan and Etienne looked at me and said, okay….. now what? I then suggested we just start playing something….. anything just to get a feel for each other. We then played for about 45 min and decided to go in a take a listen to our work…lol!!! We listened, and picked out the grooves for what would become the title track, Mama Earth.
Where did you record and who with?
We recorded at Joss’s home studio in Devon. The band members are as follows:
Ettienne Mbappe bass and acoustic / electric gtr, Nitin Sawhney acoustic & electric guitars, Jonathan Shorten keyboards and myself, Jonathan Joseph drums / percussion.
What equipment / programs do you use?
Joss’s studio is quite powerful for a home studio. She has all the usual kit, 4 Neve 1073s, 4 Neve 1084s, 8 API mic pre, 2 Avalon 737s, 1UA 1176, 1 Neve 3309 stereo compressor, 1 LA 2A optical compressor, 1 SSL G compressor, 2 API mastering Eqs, 1 Neve 8816 summing mixer, pro tools 11, etc………
Please tell us a little about your writing process and the Dynamic between yourself and the other band members?
As I mentioned, the process was completely organic. We generated one track each day as a result of being very open and transparent with all of our ideas. There was no ego involved. We simply discussed any and every idea that came to mind. We tried all types of things until we agreed on what the next step in the process was.
Once we had a fully formed idea, we would put the track on a usb stick and send it next door to the kitchen where Joss’s would develop the melodies and lyrics in between cooking….lol!!! It was a very cool process. I’ve never done a record quite like this before. It could have easily tanked but we choose well. Each member was respectful of all the others. That’s how we rolled for the first five days. By the time Nitin arrived, Etienne, Jonathan and I had formed a pretty cohesive working dynamic. We weren’t sure how Nitin’s presence would change things.
Once Nitin arrived, we sat in the studio and gave him a bit of a brief on the concept and the approach we established. He offered a very interesting perspective as to how we could include some classical rhythms from India to the mix. That’s how we created the song Entanglement. Both Nitin and Etienne worked extremely well together in creating the acoustic and electric gtr parts on that track. The guitar work is simply stunning!
What influences your sound?
I have studied various types of music in my 44 year career. I started playing in church and then joined a neighborhood rock band in my teenaged years. I then went on to study jazz and played a number of high profile jazz gigs in the 90s before meeting another bassist from Cameroon, Richard Bona. The time I spent with Richard was transformational. Richard introduced me to the rhythms of Mangambe and Bikutsi. I was so inspired by the rhythms that I wrote a book entitled Exercises In African American Funk. This book is actually what inspired this record. The rhythms on the record are based on the rhythms in my book.
What was the original idea for Project Mama Earth and has the original idea come to fruition years later?
The original idea is exactly what you hear on the record. We recorded the project in June of 2016. We mixed it in November of 2016 and now it’s been released in Nov of 2017. That’s the process this particular project took.
You wrote the lyrics for the album, what inspires your writing and how do you like to approach the writing of lyrics?
No, all the lyrics were written by Joss with a bit of help from Wendy Joseph on certain songs. I didn’t have any input on the lyrical content.
What can we expect for the future?
I hope we will be able to do a few live performances. I suppose we will have to see how well the project will new received.
When are you playing next?
There’s nothing confirmed for the Mama Earth band at the moment but maybe early next year….I’m not really sure.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
I enjoy cus cus / lamb tajine
I’m a bit of a beach guy so I like being around beautiful bodies of water. Cancun, for example!
Mama Earth title track official video :
The Making of Mama Earth video