Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Framework - Power Up

Interview: UrbanSpaceLab

1 October 06 interview: Amanda Young
photos: Dom Henry

"Often a tune comes out in one hit. Some of the most cohesive tunes take five minutes to write and two years to perfect"

UrbanSpaceLab are a funky poppy dub-funk-triphop band who have been swinging their sounds around Nottingham bars for the last three years. Their debut album Bossanova UK is a rare treat which has led to an appearance on a Chillout compilation, as well as a shortlisting for the Channel 4 Digital Music Unsigned Award. They play LeftLion Presents at the Orange Tree in early October, so we caught up with three of the four for a chinwag…

How would you define the music you make?Michael: Some of our stuff is drum and bass to dance to and some of it is sit down on a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine and chill to. We occupy that middle ground.
Charlie: What we do is different. People say that’s a bit like dub, reggae…
George: We will often write tunes through improvising.
Michael: Often a tune comes out in one hit. Some of the most cohesive tunes are made out like that. Quite often a tune takes 5 minutes to write and a few months to perfect.

Who plays what in the band?
Charlie: I’m the singer; George is bassist, Michael is on drums, and John-Paul who isn’t here plays keys. JP did the studio mixing too.

Tell me how Urbanspacelab came together.
Charlie: I put an advert up in Screaming Carrot looking for a bassist and drummer. Michael got in touch.
Michael: George and I also met through an advert on a wall. I knew John Paul from a long time back.

Who is your biggest influence?
Charlie: Nina Simone, Portishead and Bjork. All powerful women really, who have been through a lot of grief and are having a good shout about it.
George: Herbie Hancock
Michael: Sly and Robbie are my number one. I’ve been to Gambia in West Africa spending a lot of time drumming which has shaped me. I’m just texting JP for his response to that…
JP: Bjork and Can. 

What’s your favorite track on your album Bossonova UK?
Charlie: Picture perfect, it’s got a lot of high energy and is really cheerful.
George: I really like Bossonova.
Michael: I’m with George on that. It contains the high energy that people get down and dance to which for me as a drummer is what it is all about, but it also goes right down low to jazz. It has proper highs and lows.

What is your favorite venue to play in Nottingham?
Michael: Rock City but it’s not a regular venue. Nottingham struggles for venues. It is loaded with pubs but we are not a pub band.
Charlie: We played at the fleece a couple of weeks ago and every one was all ahh… and I had a wonderful time!

Where else in the world would you like to play?
Charlie: Somewhere in Spain at a festival
Michael: Yeah, outdoor stages. There is a lot of dub in our music and you need that enormous bass sound which is clear in an out door space. We are a bit trapped in Nottingham but that is just where we are at.
George: Somewhere warmer
Charlie: Somewhere in Japan if there is a link out there?
Michael: We have a link in Hawaii!

If you could get anyone to play with you, who would you choose?
Charlie: Maybe a male rapper?
George: JS Bach.
Michael: I don’t have a specific artist in mind. It is important that here is a lot of space in the music that allows for people to go inside it. I could hear some trumpets.

What makes you different from other bands?
George: We don’t have guitars, a stylist or choreographer.
Michael: What we make is totally live sound in a genre that is normally computer controlled. We use drum and bass rhythms and actually play it.

What can people expect from your live performances?
Michael: It is shaped by the energy of the audience the nuance is dependent upon how people take it

What has been your most memorable musical experience?
Michael: We got to play at Glastonbury Jazz lounge in 2004.
Charlie: Being in this band. I’ve grown a huge amount.

What have you been listening to at home recently?
Charlie: Amy Winehouse’s album Frank. She is right sassy!
Michael: I’ve been listening to The Roots and Photek ‘98 Drum n Bass stuff. I’ve been taking in some super tight music by Doudon N’jaie rose too
George: The Cappo and Rukus Regardless CD

What tea do you drink?
Charlie: Earl Grey and chamomile.
George: I don’t like tea it tastes like leaves.
Michael: I’m not a big tea drinker, I like coffee.

What is coming up for you for the rest of the year? 
Charlie: We are out playing new tunes on 21 October at the Malt Cross, The Marcus Garvey on 27 with Dreadzone and Highness Sound System. Trent Uni Bar on the 9 Nov. Also we playing the Maze on Oct 6 and your ‘LeftLion’ Night at the Orange Tree on Oct 7. So we’re quite busy!
Michael: We’ve got a second album pretty much there out next year. And hopefully we’ll be on the telly if we win the Digital Music Award so get on line and vote for us.


We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now