Kool and the Gang
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Kool and the Gang

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To put it quite simply, Kool and the Gang are one of the world’s all-time funkiest, infectious and entertaining bands.

To put it quite simply, Kool and the Gang are one of the world’s all-time funkiest, infectious and entertaining bands. The group whom are renowned for their flavourful infusion of multi-genres and their hook-laden records have spent the past 5 decades releasing some of the most vibrant and effervescent tracks, ranging from Jazz to Disco to Soul and everything in between. On the eve of their long-awaited return to Australia, Robert “Kool” Bell shares where their musical past has led them after 46 years since their formation.

“We’ve been touring a lot the last six months, we just finished a tour in France” he shares with a gentle smile, “We’ve also been working on quite a bit of new material. We’re working a new single that will be released around the time we come to Australia called I Want To Dance. Things are still very busy and most importantly we’re still enjoying ourselves. We’re very lucky and we always remember that.”

One of the most influential names within any genre containing an essence of Funk or Soul, Kool and the Gang are revered for their abilities to consistently write pure and unadulterated records which encompass not only a multitude of genres, but an undying passion underpinned by compositional and technical dexterity. An invaluable skill, Bell attributes this prowess to their earliest days as a group where there performances and exposure to the musical world around them defined their direction and who they are today.

“In the 60’s we were very young. It was like a training ground for us. We played a lot in Jersey City in a place called The Coffee House which would have Jazz artists every Sunday. So pretty much our first love was Jazz and one of the first names we called ourselves was the Jazziacs. Then we moved into more Soul territory and we changed our name to Kool and The Gang when we released our first record in 1969. We got involved with the Soul Town Band and at that time the different artists working with the group were doing the Mo-Town so we had to learn this sort of music as we were the backup band. We began to find that our music was changing from Jazz to R n’ B; and of course we were listening to bands like Sly and the Family Stone which was another major early influence for us. So from the beginning we were writing and playing tracks ranging from Jazz to Funk to R n’ B, it was all quite different but that’s how we learnt. That was the beginning for Kool and the Gang and still influences us on how we continue to make records.”

These records are not simply artistic explorations and ingenious song writing, but soundtracks of harmony, revelry and dare I say it, Celebration. Whilst selling an astounding number of 120 million records throughout the length of their career the impact and message conveyed is unmeasurable, an impact that Bell believes undoubtedly conveys their mantra throughout the globe.

“We try to make music for people to enjoy and that music brings people together. We’ve had so much love and understanding, the world can always use a little of that. Our mission statement would be that in a way we try to bring about world unity.”

At the common age of 60 years old the group are remarkably continuing to play astonishing shows around the globe. Still embracing the playfulness and soulful performances of their youth, the Gang have spent the entirety of their lives refining and evolving their performances. With 2011 marking their 47th year of playing together, Bell reveals that the fundamentals of their show remain unchanged.

“We keep a high energy show. There’s a lot of dancing going on, there’s a lot of costumes and it’s generally quite a party with a really good feeling about it” he explains gleefully, “When we play a concert we try to cover the whole catalogue. We play stuff that we wrote all through our career from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s right up until modern day. It usually works for us. People appreciate the old Kool and the Gang and the new Kool and the Gang.”

“We’re really looking forward to coming back to Australia, we’re really excited. We haven’t been there in quite a long time so we’re really hyped up about returning and looking forward to seeing our fans and playing a lot of fun shows. It’ll be a great experience, it always is.”

Still continuing to be one of the most dynamic forces in worldwide music Kool and the Gang show no signs of slowing down. Constantly evolving and reinventing their performance and compositional techniques, the Gang prove time and time again that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Whilst the future remains unpredictable, it is undeniably invigorating. Optimistically looking ahead, Bell tells his plans and just where he believes the Gang is heading.

We’re excited about 2011. We plan to play a lot more shows around the world and tour a bit more. We’re also working on a new album called Still Kool and my brother is currently working on an online television show Real Kool TV. We’re also possibly talking about doing a musical in Las Vegas called Lazy Nights” he shares before pausing and laughing with an ambitious sigh, “What can I say? Kool and the Gang have a busy schedule for the next few years.”

Kool and the Gang [US] play with their full 12 piece band along with Roy Ayers [US] at The Palais on Thursday February 17.