The psychedelic funk of George Clinton, the brooding menace of Massive Attack, the rolling hypnotic beats of Happy Mondays and the vision and flow of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five are all essential ingredients to the sound and style of The Winachi Tribe, a sonic soul, electro funk collective who are unconstrained by boundaries or formulas, musically or culturally. I caught up with the Winachi Tribe's lead singer Liam Croker to hear more.
How did The Winachi Tribe get together?
We have been around for a few years under the name China White, we took the name from the song ‘White Lines’ by Grandmaster Flash who we were really big fans of when we started, but little did we know that China White was street slang for Heroin, so as you can imagine there was limitations being called China White. The Winachi Tribe itself only formed or rebranded in January. We were supporting Zak Starkey in London, so we went on stage as China White and left as The Winachi Tribe. China White have been around for about 7 years we are all local lads who knew each other from the neighbourhood that we live in, that’s how we got started really.
Me and Anthony the keyboard player started getting stoned in his shed and listening to Pink Floyd and Primal Scream, just jamming with guitars, that’s how it started. I actually met Ant in a pub in Warrington town centre called the Barley Mow, 2 nights before I had been in Blackburn, I got jumped and got my head kicked in, so I was in there with a broken nose, cuts, bruises the lot and he was for some reason attracted to the guy in the corner who looked beat up (Laughs), but The Winachi Tribe itself has only been around since January, we signed with management in America.
Our manager Harry is a cockney lad but he lives in LA, he was going to publishing meetings, he had a meeting with Disney about using one of our songs in something, and they were like “Hey man we really love the band, these guys are great what’s the name of the band Harry? “Harry says “They are called China White“ and Disney said “Man you can’t put a band named after Heroin in a Disney film”. So Harry called us up and said, “For me to do anything with you guy’s, you are going to have the re brand the band”. It feels like a breath of fresh air to be honest, what China White couldn’t achieve in that time, The Winachi Tribe has done in 6 months, it’s fucking brilliant.
Why The Winachi Tribe and what does it mean?
Well ‘The Winachi’ not the 'Tribe' bit is an anagram of China White, we are a collective, there is 6 members who are a constant in the group, we have collaborated with so many people over the years, different musicians different vocalists, different producers, so we have always had a collective mentality. We are a mixed race band as well our percussionist is a Sikh our bass player is Jamaican and we are 4 white lads from Warrington.
With such a collective you must have a lot of influences, what bands have been influencing your music?
All sorts really, we are not tied down to any specific genres, we like George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic , Sly & the Family Stone, Massive Attack and Tricky. Primal Scream are also a big influence on us because they totally reinvent themselves with every album they do. When they did Screamadelica it was like an acid house album, when they did Vanishing Point it was a dub album, but no matter what music they are making you know that it’s Primal Scream, and that’s what we have always tried to do, one minute we could be making an electro funk track and the next one could be a stripped down acoustic thing we try and tie it all together with our own unique stamp. We just try and mix things up, we have got good record collections and at the end of the day I think you can only be as good as your record collection.
No one else seems to be making the kind of music you are making at the moment.
I think it’s a bit of a hybrid what we are doing, we are a crossover band and that’s not consciously we never set out to be that, music covers such a wide range, I’ll not say “Were going to be a rock band or were going to be a reggae band”, as a musician I find that crippling, especially creatively. If I went downstairs into the front room in my stereo I've got The La’s, Stevie Wonder and Tricky, so I think there’s a real wide scope of music that we listen to and that's what we have always tried to do really. Everyone wants a massive record deal to be signed to EMI or Sony, and don’t get me wrong if one of them gave us a million to do an album I wouldn’t stick my nose up at it, but one thing that worries me is if you sign to a major label, they might listen to ‘Time For love’ for instance and say it’s kind of poppy electro funk kind of thing, we want ten of them, that would cripple me as an artist, definitely.
I like bands that constantly reinvent their sound, it keeps the fans interested.
Yes definitely! I would love to get over to Ireland to play a few shows, the next thing is getting out of England and getting on the road around Europe and hopefully over to America at some point as well. That’s what we are looking at doing with our management and agent.
How do you approach song writing as a band?
The main core of the song writing is done by me, I have always written the songs from the early days up to now. Then I will go to Anthony with the ideas I have in my head, then we will sit down in our studio and start bashing about ideas musically, or sometimes Ants got a piece of music that he has arranged and ill just write over it. There’s no set way, I’m constantly writing all the time, I’ve got stacks and stacks of songs sat there which we just start jamming out in the studio, then it naturally progresses to the rehearsal room and we start playing them with the full band and quite often they just take on their own life. We just start off with the skeleton of a track then start adding guitars, percussion and bass to it, there’s no set way. We just catch the songs in nets as they go past us, music has a life form of its own we are just the medium that it gets itself out of really, that’s what I think anyway, we have this antenna that it uses to get out into the world.
Noel Gallagher says he goes fishing.
Yeah he’s right there, he goes fishing and we go around catching fireflies with a net, it’s a similar thing, those songs are already out there. Sometimes I will write a song and ill think to myself, how the fuck has nobody else already done that track? It just seems so obvious but yet it’s so fucking magic. I still believe in the romance and the magic of rock and roll. To me rock and roll isn’t about being sat in a corner with a fucking needle hanging out of my arm, it’s a mentality a lifestyle and a belief a faith in what you are doing, I believe in that, it’s a very powerful tool.
If you have collected all these songs together surely there must be enough for an album is there one album planned?
Yes there is we’ve probably got about 16 tracks for an album that we think we could use, and more lying around, so now we have to wind them down to about 10 or 12 the majority of it is recorded it just needs mixing. After ‘Time for Love’, ‘Plant the Seed’ is probably going to be the follow up single in the autumn, and id like to think that maybe in early 2016, and I’m putting myself on the line saying this but I’d like to think we would have a finished album ready for release. We have a few different avenues we can release it through now as well, so next year will definitely see our full debut album.
How did it feel when your song ‘Plant the Seed’ was chosen for the forthcoming movie documentary ‘Do You Own the Dance Floor’ about the iconic venue the Hacienda?
It was mind blowing to be honest the nature of how it got in the film was really flattering. It was put forward in a Hacienda run competition, they were asking for a current artist, obviously all the music in it is from back then, so they were asking for one current artist to put their music forward.
As you can imagine being from between Manchester and Liverpool there was a hell of a lot of bands putting stuff forward. We got an email to say you have been chosen out of them all to be featured in the film, I was like “fucking hell!”it blew our heads off! It premiered at Glastonbury at the weekend and the next time it's on is at Latitude, before Noel Gallagher comes on stage, so the big screen behind Noel Gallagher is the Hacienda film with our song in it, we are blown away that we are in it to be honest.
The song sounds like it could have been out at that time.
Yeah definitely! That’s what they said; the girl Jo who dealt with us regarding the track and getting it to the Hacienda people, said it was perfect for the sound of the film. When we wrote the song we were listening to a lot of ‘A Guy Called Gerald’ and Ed Wilson the DJ. Before E’s came in and Ecstasy took over and the music got faster, people were still taking acid and going clubbing on trips, so we purposely made the track slightly slower, the best way to describe it is when you’re running in a swimming pool and you just can’t get your speed up. It’s a really slow dance song and it worked out well, you can definitely tell it’s a band and not a guy in the studio with a computer it’s a proper band and it’s got a live feel to it which I like.
Had you ever been to The Hacienda back in the day?
Nah! I was too young, I’m 32 and I think the Hacienda shut in 1997 and I would only have been 14 then. I was going clubbing in the early 2000’s and you could still feel the influence. When I was growing up round here the influence was massive, even to this day you can walk down my street and you will probably still hear the Happy Monday’s blaring out of someone’s flat. We have collaborated with Kermit from Black Grape a number of times, he has performed with us live, we met Kermit through Danny Saber who produced Black Grapes album, we were in LA working with Danny and that’s how we met Kermit; there is a strong connection between both our bands.
Have you recorded any tracks with Kermit?
Yeah! We have recorded with Kermit and Danny Saber, under the name of China White, it was the first time they had worked together since Black Grape.
What is your preferred medium for listening to music, Vinyl, Download or CD?
I’m probably lazy, I prefer a hard copy definitely, vinyl to look at CD to listen to. Vinyl records have got a place and I think it’s great that it’s having resurgence, it shows that the public aren’t fools the quality is in your hard copy music, and you want to be able to hold it. I spent hours as a kid looking at my dad’s vinyl at the front covers and reading the credits and everything, it was part of the experience of listening to music, so I’d say definitely vinyl to look at CD’s to listen to.
Are you happy for The Winachi Tribe to have your music on music streaming services?
Yes I am, I leave that to the label and trust the people around us to get our music on to the right service. One thing I was thinking of was using Beatport the dance service for DJ’s, ‘Plant the Seed’ for instance would work perfectly on Beatport, where people can go on and listen to the track and if they want to use the song in their DJ set or sample parts of it or remix it, then they have got to pay to use it, but they can use it. I think Beatport is quite a good tool.
I think your music would definitely be a gift for remixes.
Yeah we have had a few good ones; Keith Allen has done a few for us which are quite interesting.
For the concept of the video for ‘Time for Love’, we were in Runcorn which is a little town next to ours, there is an old ex servicemen’s club there which runs Northern Soul dances. In the video the first half of the tune is us set in the 70’s, so the video looks quite grainy and after the first chorus it spins around and its Keith Allen and a lot of older people all dressed as us, but Keith’s dressed as me, he does a really camp version of me in 30 years time, still dancing in the party (Laughs).
Watch 'Time for Love' featuring Keith Allen BELOW:
Is there a particular gig coming up that you are looking forward to?
Our next big show that we are rehearsing for is on the 18th July at the Electric Carousel, bang in the middle of the West End, London, that’s for the 'Time for love' single launch. The 27th August we are playing the Victoria Festival in Portsmouth, there will be 100,000 people there, we are playing the main stage opening up for Primal Scream and The Flaming Lips, and later on that day we are playing ‘The Introducing Stage’. We are the only band who has been asked to play twice because the promoter is that into us, so that’s a really big show for us.
It must be a big deal for you supporting Primal Scream.
Yeah it’s brilliant! We are over the moon, later on in the year in November we are playing Minehead Arena opening up for the Happy Mondays and the Stereo MC’s, it’s been a mad roller coaster year since we changed our name, being called after Heroin didn’t do us any fucking favours (Laughs).
Drugs are so connected with music you have got to be careful. Our percussionist Inder Goldfinger was Ian Brown’s percussionist for years, they are really close friends, so when the Stone Roses reformed he said to Ian “I’ve got this new band that I’m working with, could you give them a leg up with a support slot with the Roses shows?” Ian said “I’d love to but I can’t have a band named after Heroin supporting us on our comeback tour”, so the warning signs were there from then on. We put it to the back of our heads and thought we will deal with it when we have to, and it got to that point this year when we said “Look lads this is great but we have to change that fucking name”, so it’s worked out well, I can’t complain really.
What music are you currently listening to?
I feel quite ashamed and embarrassed to say this being a North West lad, especially a lad who was born in Liverpool to a big scouse family but I’ve only just discovered The La’s, its fucking mad! Obviously I’ve grown up listening to the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses and stuff, I’ve always known The La’s were this legendary Liverpool band but I’ve never got round to listening to them. For the last 2 months all I have been listening to is that first La’s album on repeat, its fucking blown me away! I’ve researched Lee Mavers, I’ve found all the B-sides, and I’ve become such a La’s geek. Lee Mavers the lead singer from The La’s is a song writing genius! There is a B-side called ‘All By Myself”, its fucking mind blowing! Nearly made me cry the first time I heard it, it’s that good.
It’s crazy to think that Lee Mavers hates that first album, when it’s so brilliant.
He fucking hates it, he hates everything they ever did and they were fucking brilliant. He was the one person I could have seen to go on and challenge John Lennon, he was that good. I never realised that Liam and Noel Gallagher’s favourite band were The La’s, I didn’t know that until I did some research. I’d love to get Lee Mavers off his couch and into the studio with us lot to feature on a song with us. So if you give him a push on Xs Noize and get people to discover that album I would really appreciate that.
ITUNES PRE ORDER LINK FOR 'TIME FOR LOVE' SINGLE - HERE
The Winachi Tribe - Live Dates:
18th July - Single launch at Water Rats, London with 'Alabama 3' DJ set and support from Italian Band La Strange TICKETS
27th August - Vinyl launch, The Ruby Lounge, supports TBC
29th August - Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, opening for Primal Scream & The Flaming Lips
5th September - Manchester Met Uni, 'The Second Coming' with Aziz Ibrahim, The Clone Roses, Cressa (DJ Set)
7th November - Shiiine On Weekender, Minehead Arena, Somerset with Happy Mondays, Stereo MCs, 808 State