“It is all John Peel’s fault..” answers musician Blu when asked how he got into the music business.
Alongside fellow Eastbourne musician Skreen the duo’s band the Cuban Brothers were championed by the BBC Radio 1 DJ in the late 90s.
“We had been on the fringes for a few years with various projects but it was only when John Peel started to champion our band that the big players in the music industry started to take any notice,” he adds.
Having continued to work with one another over the years their latest project is Life As Surface Noise, its EP The Night Watchman was released in October 2018.
“The first recordings we have done are a suite of dark, spoken word pieces with a menacingly spooky piano-based backing,” Skreen says.
“We recently released them as an EP called ‘The Night Watchman’ and the feedback has been surprisingly positive.
“We have started collaborating with a German artist called Daniel Hartlaub on creating an animated short film based around The Night Watchman recordings.
“His illustrations suit the music brilliantly, we are really excited about the project, as the sound we make is very visual, if that’s not an oxymoron?”
Blu adds: “LASN is going to be eclectic.
“It knows everything and can be a chameleon. We have no expectations to live up to, not even our own.
“Skreen suggested something different and it seemed intriguing. I’ve always wanted to do something like an audio book, so making music along with spoken word.
“It’s a different discipline but one which is very open, close to radio plays and film music. It’s nice to be able to shape a world inside people’s heads and invite them in.”
As well as giving them their first taste of fame John Peel is also the inspiration behind the band’s current name.
“It is derived from the John Peel quote: ‘Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, *life* has surface noise’,” reveals Skeen.
“Apart from being an obvious doffing of hats to our much-missed friend, John Peel, the band name is also us acknowledging that, as an act, we sit above the mainstream, away from the limelight. It reflects our lifelong passion for sound and our desire to create pieces which have not been sanitized to make them more palatable.
“The words and music may have imperfections, but that’s what gives the recordings character and integrity.”
With 20 years in the music business it is fair to say the industry has changed and shifted a lot.
“I think it is more difficult to stand out from the crowd now,” answers Blu.
“Having said that it’s easier to control your own musical destiny and easier than ever to create excellent quality music at home on digital systems with great sounding plugins etc.
“You can also find your own audience better than ever before, especially niche styles of music, through all the online platforms and YouTube.”
He adds: “They should never have cancelled Top of the Pops. I have no idea what goes on in the charts and haven’t for years.”
Passionate lovers of music they are also keen to help others get a foot in the door.
“Over the last year we have been volunteering as DJs for Dandelion Radio (www.dandelionradio.com), an Internet station set up after John Peel’s death which aims to continue his legacy by supporting underground music,” reveals Skeen.
“We do the show in our guise as The Beatbox Saboteurs and feature lots of unsigned and emerging acts.
“Playing so much great new music from all around the world re-ignited that creative urge in me, I simply wanted to make interesting and uncompromising music with Blu again and so we formed Life as Surface Noise.”
They are already thinking about the EP’s follow up.
“The next recordings might be completely different in style,” enthuses Skeen.
“If we wish, we can incorporate sounds from all types of genres: classical, electronica, shoegaze, drum & bass, ambient, pop, rock.
“Thanks to Blu’s skills, we have a wonderful box of toys at our disposal.”
For more information on the band visit its website
More about the Cuban Boys
“The Cuban Boys is the music project for which we are most well-known, mainly for battling with the likes of Sir Cliff Richard, John Lennon and Westlife for the Christmas/Millennium number one spot in the singles chart,” explains Skreen.
“We formed the band in the late 1990s with Ricardo Autobahn and Jenny McLaren from the synth-pop band, Spray. The madcap music the Cuban Boys created was quite pioneering and John Peel really championed us. We built quite a close relationship with him and even went to his 60th birthday party at Peel Acres.
“The Cuban Boys popularity grew rapidly and within about year of forming we had been signed to EMI, scored a Top 5 UK Chart hit, won the Festive 50 and found ourselves on Top Of The Pops. The media attention we received was amazing, they even had an intellectual debate about us on Channel 4 News.
“The single ended up selling over 200,000 copies and we all got presented with one of those framed silver discs. I keep mine under my bed.”