Music interview! Bluey of Incognito shares insights on music, legends, and making a difference

Incognito, the renowned British band known for their eclectic blend of jazz, funk, and soul, is gearing up for their highly anticipated performance at the Rochester Castle Concerts on Thursday, 6 July 2023. Joining them on stage will be the legendary Nile Rodgers & Chic, creating an unforgettable night of music. In preparation for the event, I had a chat with the talented singer-songwriter Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, the heart and soul of Incognito.

Incognito Groupshot

During our conversation, Bluey’s passion for music was palpable. With a voice that imitated his guitar, he effortlessly conveyed the love he has for his craft. His music, he says, is an extension of his soul, which is the driving force behind his longevity and success as a musician. Bluey believes that true inspiration is essential to keep the journey alive in the music industry, and he is grateful that both he and his band can continue to find that inspiration. Unlike some artists who release albums but lose their fan base, Incognito’s audience continues to grow because of their constant live performances and new material. According to Bluey, without inspiration, one cannot progress further in their musical journey.

The sweet thing about Bluey is that he has the biggest heart in the music industry and during our chat he imitated his guitar with his voice. Such a great way for me to glue his words in my memory forever. 

When asked about the unique blend of genres in Incognito’s music, Bluey explained that his own musical influences played a significant role. Growing up, he was influenced by artists like Steve Wonder and the sound of Tamla Motown, which gave him purpose and shaped his perspective on life. Additionally, the music of Santana’s collaboration in 1975 at the Hammersmith Odeon was a game-changer for him. Dance music has always been a part of his life as well, as he was a clubber and dancer, surrounded by people who shared his love for dance.

Jazz, on the other hand, found its way into his music through Herbie Hancock and his album “Head Hunters,” which introduced him to the world of improvisation and funk.

Chaka Khan

Throughout their extensive career, Incognito has collaborated with numerous renowned musicians, but one collaboration that stands out for Bluey is his connection with Chaka Khan. From being a fan and having her poster on his wall to becoming her musical director, it was a dream come true for Bluey. Travelling the world with Chaka Khan, making music, and developing a friendship with her were milestones in his career. Bluey recalls a special moment at Ronnie Scotts when they performed “Destiny” together, and Chaka Khan expressed her appreciation, saying, “You made all the right choices.” It was a heart-pounding experience for Bluey, and he considers the outro of “Destiny” as one of the best singing outros from any vocalist in the world.

When it comes to Incognito’s creative process, Bluey emphasised the importance of being open to inspiration from various sources. He finds inspiration in everything around him, from observing the world news to listening to people’s stories and experiences. Even something as simple as a poster or a conversation can spark a song idea. Sometimes, the creative process starts with him picking up a keyboard or a guitar and letting his inner voice guide him. It’s a difficult process to explain, but artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers can relate to the inner voice that guides them in their creative endeavours.

 

Stevie Wonder

Reflecting on memorable moments from past concerts, Bluey recounts two incidents that left a lasting impression on him. Recalling a performance at the House of Blues in Los Angeles in the 90s, he shares an extraordinary surprise. As the band prepared to play “Don’t You Worry About a Thing,” Bluey’s eyes closed in anticipation of Macey’s vocals. To his astonishment, he heard the legendary Stevie Wonder’s voice instead. Stevie Wonder had joined them on stage without prior notice, making it an unforgettable and exhilarating experience for Bluey.

 

George Benson

The second story Bluey shares involves his work with the iconic George Benson. While playing a show in Germany, George Benson unexpectedly appeared on stage, picking up Bluey’s spare guitar and joining in. These unexpected moments of collaboration and musical camaraderie hold immense significance for Bluey, reinforcing the power of love and friendship in his life and career.

Bluey believes that love and music serve as great equalisers in life. Regardless of one’s background or profession, experiencing true love can heal even the deepest pain and wounds. Love has the power to mend broken souls and bring people together. Bluey expresses gratitude for the love he has received and emphasises that love surpasses monetary success in the music industry. While financial stability is essential, love remains the most significant driving force behind his artistry.

 

Rebellious spirit

When asked about rebellious moments within the band’s career, Bluey offers a unique perspective on rebellion. He believes that rebellion is not limited to mere acts of defiance but can also manifest as a constant fight for awareness. Bluey’s rebellion lies in his commitment to help others, particularly in his local community of East End, London. He confronts issues such as gang activity and aims to provide a positive influence through his music. Bluey takes school kids into his studio, offering them an opportunity to explore and connect with music.

Bluey stresses that rebellion stems from within, and it is about standing up for what one believes in. He recalls instances where his band, Incognito, outperformed rock bands through their sheer passion and dedication. Beyond music, Bluey assumes the roles of counsellor, doctor, father, and even grandfather to band members and individuals who look up to him. His rebellion lies in supporting and uplifting those around him, encouraging a better quality of life and caring for others.

 

The STR4TA project

Looking towards the future, Bluey shares exciting projects and collaborations. Incognito has just completed recording their new album, generating immense anticipation. Bluey also reveals a full band retro-futuristic project called Str4ta, in collaboration with Giles Petersen and featuring some Incognito members. Str4ta represents a return to Bluey’s musical roots, capturing the essence of his earlier work while presenting it in a contemporary context. The project has gained popularity, outselling Incognito in recent years and attracting thousands of fans at festivals.

In addition to concerts, Bluey expresses his interest in DJ gigs, aligning himself with his passion for both performing and spinning records. He shares his excitement about the upcoming Rochester festival in July, where he hopes to jam with the legendary Nile Rodgers.

 

Nile Rodgers

Bluey admires Nile Rodgers for his humility and ability to connect with others, describing him as someone who embodies the qualities of a true legend.

Excitement and admiration filled Bluey’s voice as he discussed the possibility of sharing the stage with the legendary Nile Rodgers. Although unsure if they will perform together, Bluey expressed his desire to jam with Nile, recounting emotional moments when the iconic musician watched him play from the side.

Reflecting on the concept of legends, Bluey emphasised the humility and genuine character of Nile Rodgers, contrasting him with other legendary figures who may possess inflated egos. Nile’s impeccable body of work speaks for itself, earning him the utmost respect and admiration from the music community. Bluey believes that the term “legend” is often overused, and we should show our love and appreciation to these icons while they are still with us. He fondly remembered the recent loss of Tina Turner, the Queen of rock ‘n’ roll, describing her as someone who truly embodied the title of a legend. Bluey highlighted that these extraordinary individuals transcend their musical talents and serve as examples of dignity and resilience in the face of personal challenges.

Continuing his reflecting on music and its impact, Bluey shared his reverence for Stevie Wonder. He credited Wonder not only for his musical genius but also for the lessons in history, geography, and humanity that he imparted through his words and interactions. Bluey marvelled at Wonder’s big heart and genuine connection with people, describing him as a beacon of inspiration.

 

The healing power of music

Music, Bluey believes, possesses a divine quality that emotionally touches and uplifts listeners. It serves as a constant companion, never failing to deliver profound sounds and words that resonate deep within. The unifying power of music has been recognised for centuries, leading people to gather around musicians and stars during election times. Bluey pointed out that politicians may try to align themselves with music to win favour, but it is the musicians who have the ability to nourish the soul and bring people together. He recalled how even Bob Marley, despite being exploited by politicians seeking to harness his influence, remained true to his pure-hearted message of love.

Acknowledging that not all musicians are saints, Bluey stressed that it is the message conveyed through their music that holds true power. Their personal lives may be at odds with these messages, but the impact of the music remains undeniable. Bluey encouraged listeners to form their own opinions about these individuals while recognising that the music itself is separate and should not be dismissed.

Reflecting on his own journey, Bluey expressed gratitude for the blessings in his life, explaining that a blessing is something greater than oneself, serving a purpose beyond personal desires. While he acknowledged making mistakes and unintentionally hurting others, he emphasised the importance of finding healing and striving for personal growth. Bluey believes that the journey of life is not one of perfection but rather a path filled with imperfections, where the goal should be to bring people together, foster healing, and avoid becoming desensitised to the needs of others.

 

Mother Teresa

Shifting gears, Bluey commented on the current state of global leadership, expressing disappointment in governments that prioritise economic gain over the well-being of their citizens. He criticised leaders who are disconnected from the everyday struggles of the people they serve and urged individuals to act in whatever capacity they can. He quoted Mother Teresa, who famously said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” emphasising that meaningful change can be achieved through persistent and heartfelt efforts. “That’s how we achieve things. I never give up because I have faith in the little things that I am doing”, he adds.

Bluey concluded the interview by emphasising the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Mother Teresa, highlighting her strength and determination in contrast with the image of her as a weak lady.

 

Now that’s what I call an inspiring chat!

 

Incognito play at Rochester Castle Concerts with Nile Rodgers & Chic on Thursday 6th July 2023.

Tickets via: www.rochestercastleconcerts.com

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