Boogaloo with Ivana Santilli
Copyright © Stephanie Dickison 2010
The room is dim. You can just make out figures standing close. The music starts and all of a sudden, the crowd is one. The movement is contagious. Shake it. Move it. Boogie. That’s right. That’s what I said. Boogie.
It’s been awhile since ‘boogie’ has been the word of the day, but Ivana Santilli is about to change all of that. The sexy lady that can play trumpet, keys and can sing like no other is changing the face of soul. She spoke about her past (Bass is Base) and her present (Corduroy Boogie which has a host of talented contributors such as Kaidi Tatham of Bugz in the Attic, King Britt, Dego of 4Hero, Dwele, James Poyser (the Roots), and Stuart Matthewman (Sade, Sweetback). This album is going to move you and it might just change your life.
Q: Was this album a more positive experience than Brown?
A: Brown was a great experience. It was all the legal and financial complications that happened after the record. It has nothing to do with the artistic side of it..
Q: What happened?
A: Well, my distributor didn’t pay me for my record. And we had to get into some legal dealings with them and when you don’t get paid for some work that you put all your time, money and effort into to, you pretty much end up in a very difficult position. When you invest the money yourself, whatnot, and at the end of it nothing comes back, you’re in a worse situation than you were when you started. You know, financially.
Q: Did you get compensated?
A: No, that’s still pending. It caused for some really, really difficult times. Really difficult. I mean, financially, it’s obvious how that could cause problems. You invest all of your money, your life savings into something and no money comes out of it and you have no money left in the bank. It’s pretty nasty. And then the legal stuff is just wrong, and this idea that it’s something that you own, that you worked towards and earned, like I totally earned those sales and what money was coming to me, and someone kind of takes it from you. It’s the way it’s set up. It’s kind of a lot of details involved, but it’s actually happened to a couple of other people in Canada.
Q: What it the result of the label or the distributor?
A: It was the distributor. It was Song, Corporation and Page. It was mostly Page. That was the difficulty. So it’s still pending. I don’t want to get into the details of it, but what ends up happening on a spiritual level and creative level, is that where music is supposed to be your comfort and your solace and where I find security and confidence in my life, I could no longer go there because that ended up being the source of all my problems and all my pain. Sitting at the keyboard and writing a song just seemed useless and hopeless. That was kind of the downward cycle that I was in for a good long while after Brown. Like Brown I toured for two years, which I was lucky to do, because they say with independent records the life span is about six months. Even with major labels, a year and if it’s a great record, then a year and a half, two. I could even tour this record even up until 2002 I went on a jazz festival tour. It did really well. To me, it was a real success. ‘Cause we didn’t have a huge amount of support by a label or anything, but we reached a lot of people on a very raw level. Then I went through the turmoil of a couple years, and what kind of brought me out of it was I went on a writing trip to Philly and I worked with some people there and it just reminded me how valid I was, and how valid my talent was. And that that’s something that could be taken away from me and it still existed if I could turn to it. And then I went on tour with De La Soul and that just reminded me, just excellence. Just how amazing it can feel to just live up to your potential. And to give, to give again.
Q: Does Brown now have a negative connotation for you because of that?
A: No. There’s no way. See what happened could never do that to me because to me it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the album; it has to do with the industry and how things are set up. It’s business. I can still go back and listen to Brown and think, ‘I’m proud of it.’ I think one of the things after a couple of low periods during that time, but I was coming out of it at the end. One of the things that I learnt after I went through all my turmoil is the whole idea of really trying to separate the business from the music.
Q: I would imagine that’s hard to do.
A: It is. But I managed because I tried to have life outside of music, because all of my friends, everyone I hung out with was in music.
Q: So your life is more even now?
A: It’s more balanced because I have friends outside of the music industry, which is really important. I didn’t realize that importance of that until I went through what I went through.
Q: Do you have good memories of Bass is Base?
A: It was good and bad. When I look back now, it was a very necessary part of my growth. It really helped me evolve. I learnt a lot.
Q: Do you plan on staying in Toronto?
A: I plan on it being one of my homes. My family is here. All of my natural resources are here.
Q: What was touring with De La Soul like?
A: Unbelievable. Honestly, they are legends. To watch them every night and how they carry themselves – they are professional.
Q: What about touring in Japan? Was that completely different?
A: It was wicked. It was seven shows in four days. It was very intense, but as is the culture. They have an incredible work ethic, they’re incredibly professional, efficient, everything, so you can’t help but live up to their standards. Tokyo was especially amazing. We can honestly learn a lot from their culture.
Q: How did you come up with the title, Corduroy Boogie?
A: I like it too, actually. Well, for the first record, I figured the music I was making was, it was very much about a colour. But this time it was more about a texture, because I dug in more, as far as the groove goes. If you look at corduroy, you can grab onto it – and there’s more groove to grab onto on this record, more beat driven. Corduroy at the same time, is always in style, it never goes out of style. And it can be very hot at times – it being the it fabric to wear, but it never goes outta style and that’s the type of music that I want to be making. Like for me, it’s a combination of past and future. And corduroy having a bit of a nostalgic feel to it, because my influences are from the seventies and eighties, but I’m very much moving into the future taking what I’ve learnt from the past.
Q: Why the resistance to drum programming on the album?
A: I’m based in live music. I’m a live musician, and so I play with so many incredible drummers that it kind of felt wrong for a bit to use a machine. It felt a little mechanical at times, when I’ve heard some stuff. But then I started hearing the drum programming coming out of West London and West Germany and Philly – and I was like, what these guys are doing is on another level. It’s actually it’s own instrument so I started appreciating it for its own thing, because it does express a lot of things that maybe you couldn’t necessarily do on the drums. Which is really interesting because it takes groove and beat further.
Q: You did a little drum and bass didn’t you?
A: Yeah, and now I kind of embrace broken beat, which to me, is where drum and bass couldn’t evolve to.
Q: Did you always think trumpet was cool?
A: I don’t think I would put the word cool to it. I just love the instrument. I loved the way it sounded. Whenever I walked through a mall and I heard Muzak or whatever, the trumpet would always perk my ear up. Louis Armstrong was one of my favourites and I realized I just adored the sound of the trumpet. One of the reasons I probably chose it is also because it’s loud. I’m the younger of two children so it’s really necessary to be heard. I’m a Leo too, so a boisterous instrument kind of suits me.
Q: You’ve been doing a lot of stuff with jazz festivals. Is that something you still want to do?
A: Yep, definitely. I think jazz festivals have really great audiences. First of all, they’re really well organized and the audiences are really open and they’re very adventurous. They’re willing to, and looking forward to, listening to new music. I think it’s a great forum for a musician to express themselves in because it’s very much a give and take situation.
My purpose is back. I’m living up to my potential again. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and that feels good.
You can vote for the video ‘Deserve’ at http://www.muchmusic.com.