Interview with

Tony Windle 



  • What do you think about reviews in general?

I love reading other people's thoughts on my project. Most of the time it boosts my ego, and sometimes it brings me back down to earth. If the reviewer is a legitimate smooth jazz fan, I trust their opinion. I have found however, that reviewers who gave my album a great, positive review, have also given the same 'thumbs-up' to other albums that I feel are less than standard or weak musically. Then, I get confused.
  • Does the reaction of listeners and critics influence your choice of music?
Yes. Many of my listeners enjoy more of my acoustic based style. So, in concert I tend to sway more that way. I also noticed that when I play songs like "Up Home" and "Never Never Land" more people run to the CD stand and purchase the product. Emotion sells.
  • Some reviewers and critics prefer natural sounds like piano instead of keyboard sounds, drummers instead of drum-programming. Does this influence your decision, what you play and how you play?
Well , then - those reviewers ought to pay for the recording as well. It is very expensive to use real instruments, and when you are making a radio album, which tends to be mostly "wall-paper" music, most people do not know the difference between my Roland machine and my friend Bruce on drums. I actually enjoy the drum machine and synth sounds - as long as you use original patches, the music tends to sound brilliant.
  • What are your experiences with labels?
Labels are great for two reasons: money and money. If you are set-up with a decent deal, you can forget about all junk like book keeping and tour planning, and just focus on your art and selecting a fine wine for the evening... or afternoon. Problem is, I have not found a label that is decent... or, they have not found me yet. I would actually love to sign with a major - to alleviate the headaches.
  • You have produced your record as an Indie-production. What experiences have you made?
One of the most difficult aspects of recording on a self-owned label is that radio stations and major press do not recognize you. Since the ballot box is filled with so many contenders for smooth jazz 'whatever of the year', the competition is rough. I think that if my name was "Really Horrible Music" and I was signed to Verve or Warner Brothers, I would get major air play because of the 'label.' The best part of owning the label is that I make all the money. The worst, I also spend it.
  • Which advises would you give a beginner in music business?
Always know that you do not control anything, nor can you predict anything. Program directors are your best friend, if they play your music. You cannot make a PD play your tune - the PD has to love your music or be presented with the fact that your single will be  beneficial to their station and it's demographic. Remember, smooth jazz radio is not about the music, but about a lifestyle. It encompasses the commercials, music and the disc-jockeys. On the other hand, do not take no for an answer. Try grass-roots marketing and go directly to the people. At the end of the day, it's your fans that buy the CDs and come to your shows - treat them with the highest respect - stay in touch and give them gifts. They are the best marketing team in the world - word of mouth.

  • Which faults should a young musician avoid?
Don't wait! Do it now! If you want to be a successful musician and earn a stable living playing your art, then get off your ass and start doing it. Remember, it takes money to make money, so if you have a cool day job, keep it (especially if you play smooth jazz). Tour on your off days and build a name for yourself. If a label comes up with the cash to support you long term - emphases on the word 'long' - then go for it and enjoy it while you can. Remember, old musicians never die - they just go from bar to bar.
  • Do you prefer to make an album with all musicians in the studio at once or adding instrumental part one after another?
I prefer total control over the sounds that I use - building the tracks layer by layer. Me and my producers record each track using samplers and synthesizer. If we decide to use a real drummer or bass player, we will have them add that track at the end. I am working on a Samba tune right now - we will use real musicians to create a live feel - it will be tracked all at once, then some overdubs I am sure.

  • How did you play in your new album?
It was done in simple steps - I recorded a dummy piano track first - then added a basic drum loop. I built each part up from there, added and subtracted as I went. I then took a sampl CD-R with me into the car, drove around with the music in different environments, then repeated the process if necessary. After this, I uploaded each Cakewalk file onto an FTP server. My engineer/producer Scott Reams then tweaked, edited and mixed down the tracks. Of course we added real musicians as well. Kashiwa was a pro! In and out - perfect takes.
  • Don't you miss the interactive part, playing in an album live ?
There was plenty of interaction - between me and the various producers I used. On "Sunday Brunch" the majority was recorded live, so that was a cool vibe. Nick Willow on bass and Bruce Spencer on druns - an awesome team! And the interaction between me and my computer was completely different story. I am glad it is not human, otherwise I would be in jail for abuse.
  • How did you come in contact with the musicians on your album?
Mombo Hernandez and I have played gigs with each other for about 8 years now - Scotty and I have known each other for 15 years (high school) - and Jeff Kashiwa and I met through Mombo. I met Eric Marienthal when I toured with David Benoit as his keyboard tech.
  • Did you have to pay the musicians or do you play on their album too and it is a "do ut des"?
Money baby - I treat musicians like doctors... they spend years learning their craft, thus they should be payed accordingly. Club owners - are you listening???
  • If you could play in a Fantasyband (All-stars), which members would you choose?
Oh - this is fun!  On drums I would feature: Manu Katche. He currently performs with Sting on his Brand New Day tour. It would be awesome to have him playing the kit. On bass I would have Scott Ambush from Spyro Gyra. On sax, it would be a hard choice between Greg Vail, Jeff Kashiwa, or Eric Marienthal. I think as far as a 'running-around-the-stage' type performance, Jeff would be perfect. But since he has a new project and Marienthal is with the Rippingtons, I would be very comfortable with Vail. Vail has played live with me many times, and he is totally awesome! Of course, Mombo Hernandez would be playing the percussion. I am not sure I would use a guitar player, but if I did, I would chose Chieli Minucci. And for really special shows, I would bring my buddy Roger Smith to play Hammond B3 and sing a couple tunes - I bet you did not know Roger could sing, but man, he has a great voice. Now that would be an awesome band.
  • Do you think the internet is a possible way to sell and promote albums?
I think the internet is the best way to sell and promote albums. Instead of CD liner notes, the customer gets an entire interactive web page - much more exciting than a piece of paper. Also - downloading samples is thee coolest! A virtual listening station! The fan can also interact with the artist. The artist's management can collect information, buying patterns, and quirks from each customer - then use that information to create a more improved product.  It is the perfect scenario for both the artist and fan.

  • What do you think about the term Smooth Jazz?
The term Smooth jazz equals 'commerce' in my opinion. I prefer the term: Contemporary Instrumental Pop. But, by naming my label "GO SMOOTH" I knew that I would grab attention of the listener who spends time on the various American smooth jazz stations. Smooth ride home, Smooth afternoon, - it all is a lifestyle, so I am hoping that people will see my label and think, "Hey, I am going smooth.... Go Go Smooth Jazz!' That's my mantra, and it allows this rather dull format to have a little fun.
  • Your last answer is  flabbergasting. Don't you identify with the format Smooth Jazz you are playing?

I identify only in the fact that I think I write and perform pretty good instrumental music. The best way for me to market my music is through the smooth jazz vein. I enjoy music on the smooth jazz radio format - but only a small amount. Most of the music is pretty dull. My world revolves around music, not just a specific format - I just happen to choose the smooth jazz road at this time. As a business and marketing standpoint - the average smooth jazz listener is extremely healthy and fun - easy going and enjoys the finer things in life. I love catering to that type of audience. But... every once in awhile, I enjoy getting down and dirty with the rock and pop!

  • If you state Smooth Jazz as a dull format, isn't it better to give the format a new sense instead of searching a term which isn't introduced and well-known?
I think that instrumental pop, or contemporary jazz is not dull. The labeling of smooth jazz tends to make me think that I am going to the dentist's office. Since most radio hits are designed to 'lighten your day' or , ease the stress of the workplace, it tends to be dull. But, I am a culprit as well.
  • Talk about your music influences.
I am heavily influenced by rock bands from the 70's. Although I am only 30 years old, the early pop music is tops! E.L.O., The Beatles, Harry Nilsson - those are the best. Plus, in the 80's, I fell in love with the music of Howard Jones, Icehouse, and Duran Duran. Actually, Paul Hardcastle was a big influence in the 80's as well. Then, in the later 80's, I got into Yanni, Kitaro, and Patrick O'Hearne. They really influenced my instrumental side. One of my mentors, Steve Giovenco, who plays guitar on both of my CDs, introduced me to the fusion of Spryo Gyra, David Benoit, and The Rippingtons when I was in high school. I tried my best to mimic their style. I actually wrote the tune "Spring's Hope," which is on my new CD, in 1988. I took over 10 years to record it. My first contemporary jazz band, Altosyndrum, opened concerts for The Rippingtons, and David Benoit. I then later toured with Benoit as a tech, and he was a huge influence. Now I am influenced by rock music again. I find myself listening to Tool, Vast, and, brit artists like the Manic Street Preachers, Robbie Williams, and Travis. Man, I would love to play keyboards in Travis or with Robbie. That would be brilliant!
  • Which 3 tunes on your new album are your favorites?

My favorites are: Never Never Land, Spring's Hope, and My Dream.
  • My Dream 
I totally love "My Dream." It still moves me when I listen to it. It is so outer space-like and exotic - reminds me of a lucid dream.
  • Never Never Land 
Never Never Land - I love watching the audience when I play that tune. They get mesmerized. And Greg Vail really kicks ass on the sax. I identify with Peter Pan, so I had to write a song about the place that I have always wanted to fly to.
  • Up Home 
Up Home - It means so much to Mombo and his wife, Kim. To see Kim's face when I play this song live is so priceless. It makes me feel wonderful to make someone feel so good.
Tony, I thank you for your frank words.
You are welcome! It is my pleasure to speak candidly about my art and business. Remember, Go Go Smooth Jazz!

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