Being emailed by Chris Jaspers manager was the most exciting thing that has happened to me this year, next to getting the Faith Evan’s interview. Replying straight away, I soon got an email from City Gold Records in America, Chris’ record label, and soon was to interview the legendary Chris Jasper keyboardist (solo recording artist) of The Isley Brothers. Chris has released his latest album Everything I Do released on City Gold. Please see interview with me below:
Welcome to my soul music blog Soul Discoveries. It’s a special time to be interviewing a member of The Isley Brothers. How is it going solo from the group? Is this you’re first time?
It is great being solo, but no, it is not my first time. I recorded my first solo project in 1987 entitled Superbad. The title single went number 1 R&B and was a great start to my solo career. Since that time, I have recorded 7 more solo projects, four of which were urban contemporary gospel. I also produced some other artists for my Gold City label. One was a group named Out Front, which was an R&B Gospel group and the other was Brothaz By Choice, a quartet similar to Boyz 2 Men. I also produced an album called “Vicious and Fresh” by a female R&B singer, Liz Hogue, for the Gold City label. Currently, we just released a dance/pop CD by my son, Michael called “Addictive” and my own compilation CD, “Everything I Do.”
You are known as the keyboard player and Moog synthesizer in the 70’s & 80’s in The Isley Brothers. What made you decide to get away from the group and sign to Gold Records?
I didn’t really decide to get away from the group, there were problems between the older brothers and the younger brothers that caused the group to split up. After the split, I formed Isley-Jasper-Isley with Ernie and Marvin Isley. We recorded three albums, most notably Caravan of Love, which was a #1 record here in the U.S., and then the Housemartins covered the song and took it to #1 in Europe. Then, after Isley- Jasper-Isley, I started Gold City Records and have continued to record and produce my own projects and other artists for the Gold City label.
I’m recently signing a major contract in London as a composer (keys/piano) and songwriter, but I’m 23. What advice can you give to me as an up coming producer?
I think the most important part of producing is the material being recorded. Care has to be taken to make sure the music you are recording is marketable and meets professional standards. It’s also important that you get the right person to perform the songs. Also, step back and be extremely objective about the quality of the product you produce.
What do you think of UK Soul artists like Omar and Amy Winehouse?
I haven’t really followed their careers closely but I know they have had international success with their music and that’s good.
You studied music (like myself) before getting famous at Long Island University in New York City. How did studying music help develop your musicality?
Chris Jasper – I first studied at Julliard School of Music in New York City and then obtained my degree in music composition at C.W. Post, Long Island University, where I studied with the renowned pianist, Billy Taylor. As a composition major, I had to both analyze and compose many different types of music. I had to write for all of the instruments in the orchestra. This broadened my knowledge of chord structure, melody, musical form and the use of counterpoint, all of which I utilized in my songwriting and arranging. For example, in the songs that I wrote for the Isley Brothers and Isley-Jasper-Isley and my own solo projects, I would often incorporate chord structures that were reminiscent of harmonies used by composers like Debussy, Ravel and even Gershwin. This gave our music a little different sound than other groups, especially the ballads.
You’ve had hits like ‘Superbad’ and ‘Deep Inside’. What inspires your songwriting process?
Well, a song like Superbad was inspired by the need to say something positive about education because a lot of young people need to be reminded that education is necessary in order to succeed. So many times they get sidetracked by peer pressure or what’s going on in the streets. As the song says, it is “education that really makes you cool.” Songs like Deep Inside and the other love songs are inspired by my wife of 27 years, Margie.
Discuss with me a bit about your son Michael Jasper…when did he begin singing/performing? Does he write his own songs? How long has he been doing music?
Michael began taking piano lessons when he was four years old and he performed at a number of piano recitals. He also began studying martial arts at the age of three, and has earned his adult black belt in kung fu. He just turned 17, so he has been “performing” for most of his life. In high school, he studied music technology, which introduced him to recording. On his debut CD, “Addictive”, he wrote and performed all of the music. We co-produced the CD and I accompanied him on the talkbox and background vocals. It has been a very good experience and I’m very proud of him and what he has accomplished. I think his CD will do very well, particularly among young people. It is very upbeat and dance oriented.
What does it feel like to be apart of a super soul group The Isley Brothers who have gone down in history as the most famous/popular soul group, well at least in my opinion, of all time?
It was a great experience. I learned a lot during that time and really enjoyed recording the records. Even more than touring, I enjoyed creating the music in the studio. I guess that’s because I am a composer first and foremost.
You’ve worked with the legendary Chaka Khan album ‘C.K’ on her song ‘Make It Last’. I love Chaka Khan as well, obviously I’m going to have to ask what was it like being in the presence of a legend and working with her?
I wrote and co-produced “Make It Last” specifically for Chaka’s C.K. album. Not only is she a great singer, but I found out that she is also a pretty good drummer.
This is something I ask all my artists I interview. What do you think of Soul Discoveries?
I think it’s a good place to go to listen to great music and find out about singers and musicians that you may not hear elsewhere. So much good music goes unnoticed these days and it’s promising to find that Soul Discoveries provides a platform for those artists.
Do you have a message for your fans and readers of Soul Discoveries?
Thanks to everyone who has followed my career with the Isley Brothers, Isley-Jasper-Isley and my solo projects. I plan to continue to record and produce the same soulful sound for Gold City Music and hope to tour the U.K. in the future…a “Caravan of Love” tour.