BTD Interviews the Al Boulton Band
Written by Matt Zin on December 16, 2022
BTD Interviews the AL Boulton Band
Hello Al Boulton Band!!! All the way from Cairns, Australia!!! Nice! Totally looking forward to our chat.
It’s a pleasure to chat with you T Dawn, thanks for your interest in the Al Boulton Band!
Let’s get started with introducing all the band members, tell us your names and what your role is in the band.
Well we currently perform as a 7-piece with these members: Al Boulton(Bass/Vocals), Leon Tussie(Drums), Lutalo Kyingi(Keyboards), Madonna Davies(Vocals), Charlotte Davies(Vocals), Nicole Willinger(Vocals), Dave Breeze(Guitar) I am the bandleader of the Al Boulton Band
How did the Al Boulton Band come about? Where did you meet, all that good background history stuff.
The whole project started around 2004 with myself writing songs in my bedroom on a laptop DAW with the intention to release an album in 2 years- it actually took 7 years. My first album ‘Bang Bang Macau’ was released under my name as a solo artist, Al Boulton. Off this album I released a video for ‘Party at the Disco’, where I put together a band to perform at the video launch party in 2013. From there the band has played many of the festivals in North Queensland. Two band members from that original line-up are still in the band, Madonna and Lutalo. I knew Madonna from the local music/theatre scene in Townsville, I begged her to do backing vocals at the launch gig. I met Lutalo at a gig where he was playing keys for a band I was doing sound for, I loved his keyboard playing and asked if he would play at the video launch party, which he agreed to. Fast forward to 2022- Leon Tussie is a professional working drummer in Cairns, I recorded his drums on our new single ‘She Just wants to Dance’. I booked him to play a string of recent gigs as I wanted the same line-up for these gigs, we were very lucky that he was not booked on those dates and agreed to play the gigs. Nicole Willinger is a singer I met in the Atherton Tablelands Music scene around 2018. I needed another backing singer for recent gigs, she is fun to work with and has a professional attitude towards music so I hired her. Charlotte Davies is a recent addition, daughter of Madonna Davies she has spent her teenage years seeing my band perform, she knows my material and has a great voice like her mother so kind of joined by default. I have been playing gypsy jazz with Dave Breeze since 2019, he plays in many bands around Cairns. After another musician pulled out of a gig in 2021, I asked Dave if he was available. He agreed to the gig and has been on guitar for our live gigs since then.
Who are your musical inspirations?
Acid Jazz music and 70’s Disco. I discovered disco when I bought some old disco records from a charity shop in Townsville around 1994. These albums opened a door to another world to me. At the time I was very ill with Ross River Fever, Dengue Fever and Glandular fever combined. The music uplifted my spirit at a time where I felt dreadful every day. One song that sticks out to me was ‘Happy People’ by the Temptations. A wonderful song that talks about going to a better land, with incredible amazing black funk music that a white boy from Townsville could not comprehend. A couple other albums I bought that day was KC & the Sunshine band and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I loved the happy vibes and the fact this disco music was designed for dancing. I also became a fan of Jamiroquai which got me into acid jazz, I started on my mission to track down more of this type of music. This was before the internet so it really was a hit and miss affair to find my music. By this time in 1995 I had moved to Brisbane to play in a band with my brother, although still struggling with my health. As a bass player, I love acid jazz and disco basslines, the bass is a driving force in both genres and I love the 16th note accuracy required to play some of the basslines. To compare disco and acid jazz broadly speaking, I would describe disco as a disco beat with jazz chords, and acid jazz is jazz chords with a disco beat. Where the line between acid jazz and disco blurs- this is where you will find my favourite music and the inspiration for my music. My favourite band on the planet is Incognito, this is the template I am aiming for in my band, although I love how our band sounds different to Incognito. It took me years to uncover the fact that the Rhodes Electric piano plays a big part in the music that I love. It is the cornerstone and underpins of all my songs. Nile Rogers and Chic are also a big influence, I love the deep rich extended jazz chords he plays on guitar. Rhodes piano, funky bass, funk guitar and funky drums are the building blocks to the Al Boulton Band sound.
On your website. There is a quote “The Al Boulton Band will take you on a journey, where the worries of the world will be left in a puddle of sweat on the dance floor. Disco balls and funk grooves will penetrate your soul and make you the star of your very own disco dream.” Love it! I enjoyed watching your videos. Everyone looks like they are having a lot of fun! My worries were left behind! What is the one most favorite song your band loves playing live to the audience, and of course our BTD listeners would like to know why as well. Enquiring minds want to know. LOL
‘We got the Love’ is a favourite of the band for a few reasons. It has a simple message to remind us all that if we all operate from a love vibe, we don’t need war. It is also a platform for Madonna to launch her vocals into the stratosphere whilst the band plays as a very funky ensemble underneath. The entire audience wakes up at when Madonna lets loose on this track. I get to slap the bass, the keyboard lets loose with a funk rhythm, it’s great to unleash this beast at a gig, and no one sees it coming.
If a little old lady was to ask you what your music sounded like, what would you tell her? You can’t quote the line above.
– I would tell her to listen to Incognito to find where I stole all my ideas from. I got asked by a gentleman at my gig ‘I like your music, but what type of music is this?’. I told him: ‘acid jazz, and to listen to Incognito to hear where I get all of my ideas from.’
“She Just Wants To Dance” is a fun song. What was the inspiration behind that track? How long did it take to write?
How the song came about was that I was playing bass in a band at this venue and I noticed this lady on the dancefloor getting hassled and grabbed. The words formed in my mind ‘She just wants to Dance’. I knew that this lady loved to dance to live music and this was the entire reason she was here. Over months I noticed this same lady getting hassled by different guys and I thought it was terrible behavior from the guys. This was a song that sat on the backburner but I knew I had to write it, it took me a few months all up to craft it. Even after I recorded drums I rearranged the song by shortening a couple of sections. The song is for all the ladies who like to go out dancing. It’s great to see the ladies out having fun. God bless them.
Speaking of writing, who does the writing in your band?
I am the sole songwriter in the band. I have a knack for writing great disco songs with big choruses. I create the songs in my home studio as a complete finished song, then send them to the band to learn. Sometimes the band adds to the arrangements afterwards.
Is the studio time just as fun as your gigs? What does the studio time look like for the Al Boulton Band? If I was invited to watch, what would I see?
I love creating original songs, and I then get a big kick out of performing these songs live to an audience who’s never heard them – and see a positive response from the crowd. These days studio time would look like me working hard in my home studio playing Rhodes piano, bass, guitar and recording vocals. I invite singers and other musicians to record their parts on the songs. I have recorded with the entire band at bigger studios than mine, and hope to do this in the future again when the budget allows.
“Your song Bossanova Number One” is different than your other songs, smooth, silky. What’s the story behind that song?
I have always loved bossanova music and spent a bit of time learning classic bossanova songs. I got a couple of French backpackers to record them speaking French at the end of the track, they are talking about travelling around the world. The song conjures up visions of foreign places. At the time of writing that tune, my life was not stable and I was looking for ways to escape, so this song helped me escape to other places- it can help you escape too! I recall recording the vocals around 1am in the morning by myself in a studio space I had rented in Townsville.
When the band is not in the studio or out playing music, what are you doing for fun? Do you all hang out together?
Myself, I do mountain bike riding on the weekends to keep fit which I enjoy- there’s lots of interesting trails to ride near Cairns. No, we don’t hang out together, we only get together for gigs these days. Mainly because many of us live in different towns around Queensland and we all lead busy lives. About 6 years ago we were all based in Townsville but that all changed when some of us had to relocate for work. Since I relocated to Cairns, the band has been getting bigger and bigger opportunities so I have decided to keep the band going and continue writing new material. The band members are just an airfare away!
Can you share with our BTD listeners a strange or adventurous thing that happened at one of your gigs?
– At our recent gig at Savannah in the Round, which was a high stakes, high pressure, high profile gig- we encountered an issue onstage that I would never had dreamed of. Sound check was fine, we could hear well onstage. The first song started, and this song starts with guitar and drums only. When the keyboards came in, they were just totally wrong notes. Our keyboardist Lutalo is an amazing player who never makes mistakes, so I thought this odd at the time. As the first song continued the keyboards dropped out for a bit, I didn’t know what the problem was but was confident it would be fixed quickly. I turned around at some point early in the show and saw the stage crew putting a new keyboard onstage, after then everything was fine. After the show I learned that the backline keyboard we had been given had been transposed to another key, and no one there knew how to reset it. Due to the pressure of the gig, this event really rattled Lutalo, I have nothing but respect for him dealing with it- he had to transpose songs on the fly and played well despite the pressure of this gig combined with the incident. We now know in future to check that the backline keyboard is not transposed by referencing it against our other instruments. I have worked on countless shows as a musician and sound engineer- I have never encountered this particular issue before! To give you an indication of the magnitude of the gig we played at Savannah in the Round, Brad Paisley (USA) was headlining the festival. We went onstage directly after the Eurogliders, who had huge hits in the 80’s here in Australia, reaching 21 in the US charts in 1984 with ‘Heaven (must be there)’.
Al, where do you get your cool outfits from?
Well I’m not going to lie, the diamante captain’s hat and the gold cape both came from the sex shop. The captain’s shirt came from a hospitality clothing shop that supplies reef boat captains in Cairns. I’m going with the funk genre in my appearance, inspired by bass player Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone.
How long have you been playing bass? How many bass guitars do you have? How about the other band members, how long have they been playing?
I’ve been playing bass for 32 years, should be a better musician by now but am pretty good all the same- still study courses on the bass and have a goal to master this instrument. I own a 4 string and 5 string electric bass and a bass banjo acoustic bass that I play gypsy jazz on. Haven’t delved into how long my band members have been playing as I employ members on musical ability- but I know that Dave Breeze has been playing professionally since the early 1980’s.
So what’s the Al Boulton Band going to be up to in the next coming years? Do you have plans for more new music? Videos? Projects?
I plan to finish off some half-finished songs and write new material, the events over the last couple of years have given me plenty of ideas. I feel that as a musician it is my responsibility to write songs that express what many people feel/think- ideas that people may be too fearful to express.
What can you share with our BTD listeners that you have never shared in another interview before?
I feel that my musical journey is a personal one. I am not here to compete with other musicians, only competing with myself to become a better musician and write better songs.
Coming to a close of this funky, disco feeling interview… what else would you like to share? Any shoutouts? Where can our listeners find your music?
I’d like to give a shoutout to Joe Viglione for connecting me with your station. And to Brian Pitcher from Audioscam for connecting me with Joe Viglione.
To find our music:
Latest video ‘She Just Wants to Dance’
Debut Video ‘Party at the Disco’
Video ‘Don’t give up on the Love’
Spotify artist link
Keep us posted on your musical journeys!!
It was a pleasure interviewing you!
Thanks T Dawn, we appreciate you taking the time to interview the Al Boulton Band