Feature: SK Radicals

Picture of SK Radicals

Interview by Tasha TP

Return of the Radicals

With troubled times now looming over us, it’s more important than ever that we use music as a source of escapism and a way to unite people. Music as a way of connecting people, places, times and spaces, is something Sean Khan – the driving force behind the SK Radicals - has experienced throughout his life. Accompanied by a varied musical soundtrack, Sean’s life journey has seen already seen success for the SK Radicals in the form of singles, an album and plenty of praised live performances. And now, following a five year hiatus, the SK Radicals return with a new single, ‘Troubled Times,’ and an album, ‘Urban Eclectics’ – proof that even in troubled times quality soulful music is at hand to motivate, educate and excite us all.

The original SK Radicals was formed, about six years ago, as a result of a previous failed studio project and a discussion in Sean’s kitchen with his best friend, Victor Starkey. The unnamed band missed out on various breaks until a gig at the Notting Hill Arts Club opened the door to some positive opportunities which Sean explains, “After playing the gig, Phil Asher introduced himself and Mike Slocombe and Spencer from People (Goya) Records. I went to meet Mike and Spence, and then after five minutes Mike wrote me a cheque to pay for studio time with a view to recording a single. It was simple as that! ‘Reachin 4 da Farside’ was the resulting single and it sold very well. So Mike and Spence gave SK Radicals a record deal to record the album ‘When Will We Belong’ with Daz I Kue from Bugz in the Attic producing. It sold very well; I was bit taken aback by the reaction.”

Next it was time for the SK Radicals to hit the stage and boast their live performance skills – something Sean feels passionate about - playing gigs at the Jazz Cafe and ICA in London, the Porto Jazz Festival in Portugal and the Nancy Jazz Festival in France. “SK Radicals is very much a life project,” says Sean, “playing live is the most direct you can be as a musician, music is at its most relevant when it’s live.”

However, Sean found it difficult to maintain this momentum and various factors – not least the changes taking place within the music industry – meant many of the plans for the SK Radicals could not come into fruition. “The changes taking place within the music industry affected everybody not just the SK Radicals,” reflects Sean, “Importantly the one label that had supported all of my ideas, People Records, had to cope with massive changes; Mike talked of sending me to Cuba to record but this didn’t come to fruition due to the general down turn in the music industry. After the initial recording successes, I was hoping to take the band to a big label with Mike’s blessing, but lots of labels went down, so I have had to refine my strategy, as Truffaut says you want ‘life to be absolute but by its nature it’s provisional’.”

So the journey didn’t quite go to plan but now the SK Radicals are back! The band consists of Sean Khan (saxophone, keys, vocals and production), Jacob Eggay (vocals), Susan Allotey (vocals) and Derek McKintyre (bass) - who between them have, impressively, worked and played with artists ranging including Jamiroqui, Roy Aryes, Bugz in the Attic, Recloose and even Boney M! The first single from the new album is ‘Troubled Times’ a track which is already making a mark on the underground soul scenes. “These are indeed troubled times”, says Sean, “the impending changes brought about by peak oil, a massive crisis in the fallacy of global capitalism and the ubiquitous shallowness of the merchandising culture.” Something we can all relate to... And as for the completed album, ‘Urban Eclectics’... “It’s an attempt by me to put my personal stamp on as many genres of urban music as I can, and connect them together with the SK Radicals sound; I have tried to experiment with sound, vocal textures, combined full-on live playing with electronica, groove and tried to get some ‘avant garde’ soul going on.  In a small way I want it to be an antidote to all the cynicism I hear in urban soul music now, unfortunately this music no longer wants to challenge, politically or socially so it remains materialistic and formulaic. I haven’t got a deal for the album but the crazy visionary that is Rui Torrinha bugged me to put out the singles on his label, Groovement. What happens from here on in is any ones guess, so I am open to offers.”

Sean is keen to reinforce his passion for performing live and has been working with Groovement’s Rui on a live imprint called Jazzment for which he has recorded a jazz album as the Sean Khan Quartet – something which he hopes will see the light of day at the end of 2008. “Again it is my natural position to be eclectic but using a full-on jazz quartet, there will be some great live playing on there, and some vocals from the undiscovered Susan Allotey, who is now a member of SK Radicals.”

So, if you'd thought you'd heard the last of the SK Radicals, you were clearly mistaken! The single "Troubled Times", complete with the massive Bugz in the Attic remix, is already out on vinyl with download available from 28th July.


Tasha TP, Jul 2008

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