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Un-Cut Q&A


Feature by Jack Foley

FOLLOWING the release of acclaimed debut single, Midnight, Indielondon's Jack Foley got to hang out with Un-Cut while they were in London recently. Here's what they had to say...

Q. The lyrics in your songs are intensely personal. Are there ever times, when performing them, that you feel a little too exposed?
Jenna:
Yeah, when the person that I'm singing about's in the audience usually. It's a little bit scary - thankfully, that's only happened once. But no, not really though. Especially when it's quite emotional, I kind of just shut my eyes and get on with it. More often it's the people in the audience that look like their going to cry or something.

Q. What has the reception to your music been like in Manchester and how does that compare with your fanbase in London?
Daren:
Manchester's a funny place because people know us. They know we're actually rubbish [laughs], they're quite close to it. They see us and talk to us every day. It doesn't mean as much to them as to people who come into it fresh and who know us just for our music. But they're definitely supportive.
2D: For me, personally, there's been most support when it's got to a friend of a friend of a friend who see us on TV, or hear us on the radio, or see us on a poster and they're ringing someone to ring me - we've got our own little team.
Darren: That's it. It's a different kind of support; it's more like 'oh - he's a mate'. Here it's like we really like the music - over there it's like, 'you're an idiot but..'
2D: Within the drum 'n' bass scene everyone who's heard the stuff, and a lot of people haven't heard the stuff apart from Midnight, but the people who have, have been really supportive.

Q. Which of your musical influences do you find yourself drawing upon most heavily when writing new material? Who pens most of the lyrics? And what does the creative process involve?
Jenna:
I write all the lyrics.. only because their ones are too smutty. When I'm writing, I tend not to listen to music because I'm really forgetful and I'll write a song and be like, 'It's a bad melody', and then put it on a CD and it'll be the biggest tune!
For song writing, my influences definitely come from people like Prince and Cole Porter and Nina Simone - the topics they wrote about and the way they delivered them, there's so much different style - not conforming.
The creative process starts with Darren and 2D messing around in the studio with a loop, or they'll come up with an idea or style they want to do, and then fling it to me and then I fling it back to them with a verse on, and then they'll fling it back to me with some more bits on…
Darren: A lot of flinging! I don't thing we're totally influenced by one thing or one sound - it's everything a, mix of styles
D2: You can hear it on the album - we flick from doing a little drum 'n' bass thing, to a soul thing, to a ragga thing. Everything - all the influences we grew up to.
Darren: And it's not just musical. We might write a song because of the way we're feeling one day, or because of a film we've just seen, or even a photo you look at. It goes beyond.

Q. You've been dubbed as being the UK's answer to The Fugees?
Jenna:
I think it's just because it's two guys and a girl.
2D: And you've done a film.
Darren: You can call me Wyclef from now on as well! [laughs]
Jenna: It was film for the BBC2 called 'Strumpet'
Darren: Sister Act 3 [laughs]
2D: Back in the habit again [laughs]
Jenna: It was directed by Danny Boyle, from 'Trainspotting' and 'The Beach', and it was really good actually, fabulous.
Darren: It's a compliment, really, if people are saying we're like them - their album was massive.
2D: We feel like we're like nobody, we're unique - we just do our own thing.
Jenna: Everyone always wants to put a label on you, and that's what's happening right now. Everyone's throwing stuff at us and seeing what sticks… and it's just slipping right off!

Q. Question to Jenna: It reads in the promotional material that Darren and 2D spent the best part of six months taking the piss out of you. How did you find that and did you play any practical jokes back? Or have you since?
Jenna:
See, I am quite a funny person, but compared to these two, I'm just pale in comparison, so in the six months I learned how to deal with their sense of humour. I haven't really played any practical jokes on them. I get drunk a lot and make them put me to bed, and I throw up in their person, that's what I do to get them back. And make them watch me be sick.
Darren: The balance has shifted now, so I think we're owed a few more practical jokes really.
Jenna: When we come down to London, no one really gets it when we first meet them; the way they lie and tell massive stories - that's what's so funny, watching other people adjust to their sense of humour. People believe everything 2D and Darren sell them.
2D: Basically, we just lie, yeah. It's not a sense of humour… Yeah - we're not actually Un-Cut.. [laughs] Their actually still in Manchester!

Q. The paths you took before meeting up appear fairly different, and in some cases difficult, what advice would you give to other people starting out in the industry? And were there times when you felt like you might not make it?
2D:
I think advice, I'd say just keep doing what you're doing. Producers, just get some tunes out, get some demos tapes, go to your local record shops, coz they usually have contacts, go to your local DJ, if there's a big DJ playing in your town, give him a CD.
Jenna: I think there's a massive emphasis on fame at the moment and I think a lot of people want to be a singer to be famous and I think the main thing is you've got to love music, you've got to love to sing.
I've been in and out of contracts and doing stuff since I was 14 and I've had so many knock backs, but there was never a time when I though 'I cant do this'. It's a hard slog. It doesn't seem like it when we're drinking Champagne in TOTP's Star Bar- but if you're really consistent, and you're really determined, and believe in yourself, then eventually it'll pay off because that's exactly what happened to us, it's exactly what happed to me.
Darren: We've all been on the breadline, just totally skint, no money at all. You've got to stick to your guns.
2D: I used to give myself an ultimatum, 'if I'm not doing it in 12 months' - but then I'd lie to myself and say, 'well, you're nearer now than you were at 12 months, so you can't give up'.

Q. Further question to Jenna... You have such an amazing voice, at what point in your life did you begin to realise its potential and decide to pursue a career in the music industry?
Jenna:
Thank you very much first of all. I still don't think I can sing; I enjoy opening my mouth…
Darren: Erm?
Jenna: You didn't let me finish. I enjoy … singing. Probably, when the first person said 'that was really good', that was probably when I thought I could do this. I always wanted to be a singer, though. I used to dress up as Diana Ross and sing Chain Reaction. When we signed the contract, that's when I thought, 'wow'!
Darren: It sounds cliché, but we'll have written a backing track and Jenna'll say 'I've got this idea - I don't really know about it', and she'll sing and we'll be like, 'this is amazing', and she'll say, 'you think so?'
2D: Yeah. When we interviewed her for the.. err .. open position. [laughs] No. When we all got together, someone was already in our studio, so we couldn't hear her sing there, so we went to this room and put this little drum 'n' bass record on and she just sang in the room and me and Darren just looked at each other and were like 'this is it, we've made it!
For us, it was always the insecurity that we couldn't get a backing track good enough for her voice.
Darren: Yeah, in retrospect though we're actually pretty good!

Q. Do you feel lucky to have met the way you did and gelled so quickly?
Darren:
As soon as we leave here we're in separate cars!
2D: A lot of people are thrown together - but we were always friends first.

Q. Do you feel like you have arrived and how does it feel to have such a big buzz surrounding you?
Darren:
It's kind of weird, I don't feel like we've done anything - and I'm not trying to play it down. Being in Manchester as well, being away from the whole London thing, the media frenzy; all you ever see is a magazine, and you read it, and put it down and forget about it, I've only seen it on MTV once and that was kind of cool.
I suppose you're always looking forward, so you never concentrate on what's happened. And what people say, you just let it roll off your back; otherwise you just worry too much about what people are thinking and not enough about getting on and actually getting down and making the music.
Jenna: I feel almost like a tourist - that's why I'm always nicking things from places we go, souvenirs.
Darren: I definitely feel like it's a case of 'you actually want us to do it?' But we don't have a clue what we're doing' and it's almost like everyone thinks 'ah.. Un-Cut, bless em' Give em' a chance, let em' do something. We won't actually put it out on the TV. The three of us will have a moment when we're doing a TV thing, and when no one's watching, we're like 'Oh my God, what are we doing?'
2D: You know these reality TV shows. Well, can you imagine if someone took it one further, saying there's this new band with a really great album. But no one's actually heard the album, just a couple of tracks and everyone thinks it's this massive album and it isn't; it's just us being secretly filmed, promoting this so-called massive album that doesn't exist.
Jenna: Like a music-based Truman Show...

Q. What are your future plans? Touring? Europe? America? Are there any plans to take on the US music scene?
Jenna:
I definitely think we're going to do Europe; we've had a lot of interest for Europe international. I think we'd definitely like to take it to the US. We'd like to take it anywhere, anywhere who wants to listen to it; that's where we'll be going in the near future.
Darren: America's like a landmark and if you can break America.. you're rich. [laughs]. It's all about the money. [laughs]. The more people hear it the better - I've said before, I genuinely think it's a good album and if people hate it and no one buys it, I'm still proud of the fact we've made this album.
Jenna: [Interrupts]. I'd be gutted, cos that just means I've got better taste than anyone else in the world!
2D: I forgot to tell you.. my numbers came up.
Darren: What, for the Lottery?
2D: Yeah, So I'm cool! [laughs]

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