By Geoffrey Rowlands
Britain’s Got Talent has produced a wide variety of winners. Unlike The X Factor, which concentrates solely on musical acts, people who possess any kind of talent are free to audition for the show.
Only four of the 11 winners have been singers or musicians. The most recent of these was Tokio Myers who won Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year. The London-born multi-instrumentalist received 250,000 GBP and the opportunity to appear on the Royal Variety Performance before members of the British Royal Family.
Tokio, real name Torville Jones, was already a veteran of the music business. A graduate of the Royal College of Music, he earned his living as a touring and studio musician. It was a profession which he found by sheer chance.
“I was in my final year at college,” he recalled. “I was doing some work in a studio and could hear a band in the next studio. It was really cool stuff. When they took a break, I went in to say how much I liked their music and asked if I could join in.” “They agreed so I laid down some piano. Two weeks later, I got a call from the main guy to say they were going on tour and would I like to come along. That was how I got to tour as part of Mr. Hudson and The Library.
“This experience opened up a whole new world for me. I toured with artists such as Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Sting and Amy Winehouse. I was able to learn about technology, live performance, working with guitarists and drummers all of which fed into what I’m doing now.”
Amy Winehouse had a particular influence on his career.
“I was totally in awe of her. I could hardly speak to her at first. But she was really sweet and lovely, just like a big sister. She would always come up to me and give me a hug.
“I think Amy saw something in me, something unique. I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do in my career but Amy encouraged me to go solo. She also told me to stay humble and keep being myself. That’s definitely ingrained in me.”
Solo success did not immediately beckon. After leaving Mr. Hudson, Tokio continued his session work and touring with a number of artists but gained less satisfaction from each gig.
“I felt pop music had changed. I found it dull and boring. I wasn’t able to express myself. The chord structures were becoming too basic and one-dimensional. The sound wasn’t doing anything for me. I didn’t like being a session player anymore.”
Having given up these well-paid jobs, Tokio still had to earn a living. He found work playing background music at the Westfield shopping mall in London’s Shepherd’s Bush.
“It was quite a comedown. I’d gone from playing for thousands of people who hung on every note to having most of the shoppers walk past ignoring me. But Westfield was really where I found myself. I bought an electronic drum pad and played that in addition to the keyboard. It didn’t matter if anyone was listening. I had the chance to express myself and develop the essence of what I do now.”
Trying his luck on Britain’s Got Talent had never occurred to Tokio. It was his sister who suggested he should audition for the show.
“I never imagined I could win. I didn’t even know if I’d get through the audition. I’d developed a style of fusing classical music with contemporary pop. I didn’t know how the judges and audience would react to this.
“My dad is from Jamaica and his record collection stretched from reggae to The Beatles and on to Led Zeppelin. I loved these diverse sounds when I was a child.
“Dad bought me my first keyboard when I was nine. I found I had a natural ability and flew through all the music books. I then had piano lessons at school under Mr. (Joe) Morgan, a wonderful man who was so much more than a teacher. Mentor, friend, he played such a big part not just in my musical development but in steering me along the right lines as a person.
“These lessons exposed me to the classics. If I’m ever asked about my musical hero, I say it’s the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
“I performed a mix of Debussy’s Clair De Lune and Ed Sheeran’s Bloodstream as my Britain’s Got Talent audition. I had no idea what the response might be.”
He needn’t have been concerned. Everyone in the theatre was stunned by his performance. The audience and judges stood as one to deliver a standing ovation.
“That was something I will never forget. Everyone on Britain’s Got Talent was so positive and so kind to me throughout my time on the show. The audience response was amazing. The reaction to my audition will live with me forever.”
After signing his record deal with Simon Cowell’s Syco label, Tokio began working on his debut album, Our Generation, in early June. This has now entered the UK chart at number four.
But Tokio had already been involved in a UK chart-topping single. He played piano and co-produced Artists for Grenfell’s charity cover of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.
“I grew up living on the 16th floor of a council tower block. It was the equivalent of Grenfell Tower. I was so pleased that Simon (Cowell) asked me to work with Artists for Grenfell. I wanted to do anything I could to help.”
Tokio’s sense of community and wanting to give back is evident in his desire to set up a music school for disadvantaged children. Proceeds from his album should help to fund the project.
“I’m so happy with the response to my album. I wonder if some people who saw me on Britain’s Got Talent might have expected more classical and pop fusions so I hope they’re not too disappointed to find it’s mostly pop.
“I’ve had tons of messages. I get sent videos by parents with my music on and these tiny kids with mini keyboards trying to copy what I’m playing. How cool is that? It’s truly humbling. It makes me feel I must always try to create music that really touches people and makes them feel alive.”
English quartet Artificial Pleasure has been attracting considerable critical acclaim during the last few months.
Formed by childhood friends Phil McDonnell and Dom Brennan, the line-up was completed by the recruitment of drummer Lee Jordan and bassist Rich Zbaraski. Their funk-punk and soul-pop tracks are entirely self-produced and self-mixed.
The band’s debut EP, Like Never Before, was released last April. It can be heard in full at (no www.) soundcloud.com/artificialpleasure Also here is Wound Up Tight, the title-track from their new EP which will be issued later this week.
The video for Wound Up Tight can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-NX1oNrrok
Accompanying videos for two more songs are also on the website. All I Got is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=inBdYfY9XvII’ll Make It Worth Your While is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9oJL295r90
It seems that former Smiths front man Morrissey has given his last newspaper or magazine interview.
The singer/songwriter has been promoting his new album, Low In High School. The LP has sold well reaching number 20 on the Billboard 200 and number five in Britain.
While in Germany, Morrissey gave an interview to the Der Spiegel news magazine. Some of his quotes seemed to defend the recently reported disgraceful acts of film producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey.
His words attracted a good deal of criticism. While not specifically denying what he is alleged to have said, Morrissey told the audience at his recent concert in Chicago that the Der Spiegel interview was the last he would ever do for a print publication. He said if his fans do not actually see or hear the words come out of his mouth then he didn’t say them.
The video for Morrissey’s latest single, Spent the Day in Bed, can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rmAi9XmlIo
There are also videos for two more songs from his new album. A lyric video for I Wish You Lonely is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0tJ0rc3zKY while an official audio posting of My Love, I’d Do Anything For You can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z13FURjttI
Described by Lil Yachty as his right arm, emerging rapper K$Upreme has just released a new mixtape, Sorry 4 The Flex. It can be heard and downloaded for free at www.datpiff.com/kupreme-Sorry-4-The-Flex-mixtape.873582.html
If you enjoy his work, many more tracks are available to hear at (no www.) soundcloud.com/1ksupreme
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