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Music Monday: The Heavy’s Lead Singer Kelvin Swaby On The Songs That Shaped His Career

Music Monday: The Heavy’s Lead Singer Kelvin Swaby On The Songs That Shaped His Career

June 29th, 2010
Posted in Lifestyle By

It’s no wonder that UK band The Heavy became wildly popular stateside. Mixing American influences from the blues, funk, rock and soul music and putting a gritty British spin on their music, The Heavy struck a unique balance of retro and grit on their sophomore album, The House That Dirt Built. The entire album is sprinkled with dynamic loops and punctuated with blasts of horns and guitar riffs. Lead singer Kelvin Swaby‘s raw vocals add a little edge to the music a sort of deliberately controlled wild sound.

The Heavy are most quickly recognized by the TV viewing public for their placement in a KIA car commercial featuring the toys of Yo Gabba Gabba reenacting The Hangover. Check out the ad featuring The Heavy’s gritty, “How You Like Me Now” below, then scroll through the album covers as Swaby shares with us his top 10 favorite songs of the moment!

“I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles (Full Time Love)
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When I first heard the title track from this album at a blues party in a creaky old house on Thomas Street, I felt as if I had been struck with a bolt of lightning. The way it starts with just bongos and her aching vocal is something we still love to hear in contemporary music today. The ease of how she’s singing the line, “I can’t stand the rain, ‘gainst my window, bringing back sweet memories…” and then for the rest of the band to come in on the fallout of the next line was something that felt familiar, though I hadn’t heard the track before.

As soon as I had managed to get hold of the album, I realized she was signed to my favorite label, Hi Records, and that’s why her style felt familiar because it had been produced by Willie Mitchell the man who introduced us to Al Green.

The album comes in at 28-ish minutes and was such an inspiration to the way The Heavy like to make short, memorable and mind provoking albums. I will always be truly grateful to the DJ that night (Monkey Man) for introducing Ann Peebles to me.

Click here to purchase.

“I’m Still In Love With You” by Al Green (I’m Still in Love With You)
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My father used to play this album when I was a child, and I always remember that aside from Al Green’s amazing vocals and songs, it was the beats and horns that really struck a chord with me even as a child. As I grew up and followed my own path of music, this album lived with me like the skin on my body.

My tip is to play this album with the bass turned up so that it sounds like Al is singing on hip hop beats. Producer Willie Mitchell again, GENIUS!

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“Agony” by Pinchers (Agony)
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Our house always had different music in every room, and you could go from room to room and musically learn something new. I remember my brother Tony playing a Yard tape from the Bodyguard Sound System in Jamaica and aside from having artists like General Tree’s, Major Mackerel, Ninjaman and Gregory Isaacs performing on the system’s dubplates, there was one DJ that stood out for me and that was Pinchers.

Pinchers had a style where he would toast like one of the guys above, but he would sing in this amazing falsetto tone. I managed to get hold of his first studio album and became hooked on his style Studio One style rhythms with raw Jamaican patois singing over the top. It’s probably aged a little now but still one of my favorite albums and singers. Check out his dancehall classic “Bandelero” and you may think the same.

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“The Symphony” by Marley Marl and The Juice Crew (Re-Entry)
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Sampling Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle” and setting the likes of Craig G, Master Ace, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane upon it, was an absolute genius move from producer Marley Marl. As early electro was amalgamating into Hip Hop, the samples were coming thick and fast, but Marley Marl had his crew, The Juice Crew, featuring all the above plus Biz Markie making seriously amazing tunes. One of my favorite producers from one of my favorite labels. Simply D.O.P.E

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Enter the Wu Tang Clan – 36 Chambers by Wu Tang Clan
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On a trip to London (which is a two and a half hour journey from Noid on a coach), this entry was played continually on my Walkman when it was originally released, with my mouth almost agape for the whole journey in disbelief. So rough, so raw, but with so much soul within the musical and vocal delivery that I couldn’t wait to walk the forthcoming chapter of Hip Hop with these men that had been selling this album out of the back of their cars before becoming internationally known.

What I love about this album is that RZA’s style reminds me so much of Willie Mitchell of Hi Records with his attention to detail with the use of beats and horns. It’s an incredible album and could also include Liquid Swords alongside this.

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“The Witch” by The Sonics (Maintaining My Cool)
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I used to DJ with a few friends in a place called The Ruby Lounge in Kings Cross, London, and when this track was played out of the blue one evening, it felt like a hurricane had blasted its way into the room, destroyed the dance floor, torn open the speakers and made the room of people lose their minds for just under three minutes.

After finding out what the song was, I trawled my sorry ass all over London looking for this song by The Sonics. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found an extra heavy weight, double album featuring about 25 songs. I think it was about this time that I decided that the Scream had to make a comeback.

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“Shaking All Over” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates (This is… 1960)
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A Pop’s Swaby classic in at #7. All I can say is that I remember doing some serious rockn’ and rollin’ to this when I was real young and have made people of all ages do the same since I’ve DJ’d it too. It could be the surf style guitars, could be the Elvis Presley style vocal or just the unnecessarily heavy bassline that just couldn’t be from 1960. Pure dope. Simple.

“Can’t Truss It” by Public Enemy (Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back)
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Here’s the music video link to “Can’t Truss It” by Public Enemy just because I feel that the mainstream need to watch to realize how lost they’re getting on the path that they’re walking at present. There used to be a time when Hip Hop stretched boundaries and people were not afraid to be innovative.

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“My Conversation” by The Uniques
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My father’s record collection has had a very strong effect on me, and as a result it manifests itself in what we do. This song by The Uniques is a song that used to be played around the Swaby household in the Seventies and has always had the same effect on me every time I hear it.

The falsetto on this song goes in and out of tune, but the vibe is undeniably amazing. This will always bring a smile to my face, as well as shake a foot in spring, summer, autumn or winter. Big, big tune of mine that deserves to be sampled if anybody can make anything out of it better than the original…

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“The Earth Died Screaming” by Tom Waits (Bone Machine)
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I could go on about Tom Waits all day long and the way that he’s taken my mind through some of the most dark and funny times of my life. Probably my most beloved songwriter ever he still continues to blow me away. The man has a song for all my moods, it would appear.

I choose “The Earth Died Screaming” as he uses bones to play the percussion on this monumental track. Our bones all go back to the earth at some point, so what he’s singing about on this particular track is very poignant. He probably wasn’t thinking that but…

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Related: Matt & Kim’s Infectious Summer Playlist

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