Since the release of the three-track EP by The Haggis Horns, which was unveiled in July of this year, anticipation was high for the third studio album release by the UK’s “7 piece live funk extravaganza”.
The EP – featuring the tracks, ‘I Can’t Stop The Feeling’, ‘Return Of The Haggis’ and an exclusive Haggis/JD73 remix to ‘Hot Damn!’ – reaffirmed the band’s breakbeat, funk & soul aesthetic that they have established over their previous album releases, ‘Hot Damn!’ (2007) and ‘Keep On Movin’ (2010). These releases, along with their reputation as tireless and exuberant live performers, have already solidified their status as one of the UK’s premier acts within the genre that we cherish so dearly.
Should there have been any doubt about this as a fact, then the third album by The Haggis Horns, ‘What Comes To Mind’, comfortably silences any disbelievers.
The album boasts an impressive showcase to – not just the skills of The Haggis Horns – but also a great line-up of UK funk and soul talent including Smoove & Turrell vocalist, John Turrell, who guests on ‘It Ain’t What You Got’, vocalist Lucinda Slim whose appearance on ‘I Can’t Stop The Feeling’ from the ‘Return of The Haggis EP’ also finds a home here, and long-time friend and collaborator of the band, John McCallum, who appears on two songs including ‘Outta My Head’ and very possibly the album’s show-stealing number, ‘Give Me Something Better’. Pete Shand, bass player for The New Mastersounds, also appears throughout as does UK percussionist, Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove.
The Haggis Horns have unveiled potentially their career-defining release thus far: buckets of funk, soul and boogie displayed over a standout release of the year. The Blue-in-Green Blog was thrilled to catch up with The Haggis Horns guitarist, Ben Barker, to discuss the new release, the new label and what went into the making of ‘What Comes To Mind’…
The Haggis Horns' are amassing such a body of work now: do you still feel the pressure of releasing new material?
No, we don't feel pressure apart from the fact that we have high standards. We wouldn't release anything that we aren't happy with and we set our own schedule. It might be different if we a had a big label breathing down our necks but we are our own bosses and our own fiercest critics so that all helps to keep us motivated to make better sounding records as we learn our craft more.
What prompted the group to start Haggis Records?
It just seemed to make sense for this third album. We felt we'd established ourselves enough with our first two albums that the time was right. It's taken a lot of work but it's definitely given us a better understanding of the whole process of releasing a record from start to finish. Ultimately one of the main motivations has been to try and earn a bit more money from releasing music which would in turn enable us to be able to make more music more regularly and to pay for other things that are needed for the band. Making money from releasing records is an ever increasing challenge for any artist these days but we felt that this would give us a slightly better chance of achieving that goal. We will definitely be looking at releasing other artists and other projects through the label in the future so watch this space!
How was the process of putting this project together?
This project actually took us a long time for a variety of reasons. The first being that we decided to invest money in creating our own studio so the setting up of the studio after we had done the initial writing took time. Then there was the question of trying to get a sound that we were happy with. After that it came down to schedules of the people who have recorded with us, we were hoping to have a guest on the album we had written a track for and after waiting almost a year to try and find a time when our schedules were free at the same time we had to decide not to put the track out on this album and hope that we will get it finished for the next album. Also people have had families and other things in their life which means that it is sometimes harder to all get together to work because of other commitments.
How would you say the creative process in writing, producing and recording new music usually work for you?
We (Malcolm, Ben and Atholl) get together in the studio and just come up with ideas - we have a chemistry that enables us to get rough ideas together quickly and we usually know straight away if they are worth pursuing. In the past we used to come up with whole tracks individually and take them to a rehearsal but now the entire process is much more of a collaborative combined effort which goes to and fro and feels very organic.
How did you go about picking the collaborators for this album?
We are very lucky that we have some amazingly talented friends who we work with so it’s really a case of just getting your mates on your albums!
How would you describe the relationship between The Haggis Horns and John McCallum seeing the amount of times you have collaborated together?
John and us started working together 20 years ago (Malc and me have worked together for over 25 years now!), we were playing in bands with Dan Goldman (JD73) at college and, again, we are just incredibly lucky that one of our best mates has this unbelievable voice and can write really catchy melodies that fit with our vibe and ideas without feeling contrived. He is so talented and creative it just comes together really quickly.
If you could hook up with any other vocalist for a full album, who would it be?
There are a lot of talented people out there, someone did a mash up of a track of ours (‘The Jerk’) and the Kendrick Lamar track, ‘King Kunta’, and that worked so well it would be great to work with such a great rapper as we love our hip hop. I'm a big Lianne La Havas fan so I'd love to work with her!
What one song from 'What Comes To Mind' would you play to win over a prospective new fan?
I think the track 'Give Me Something Better' appeals to a real wide range of people, hip-hop heads, funk and soul fans but with a real pop sensibility to it so possibly that one but I'm equally happy with every track to be honest!
For more information on The Haggis Horns, click below for the band's website, Facebook and Twitter profiles: