Jules Buckley is a grammy-award winning conductor, composer, and orchestrator. Well-known for co-founding The National Heritage Orchestra, Buckley has a discography of over 70 albums. His incredible talent for all things related to music has led him to work with the likes of Quincy Jones, Stormzy, Paul Weller, Pete Tong, Chaka Khan, Michael Kiwanuka and many more. Alongside all of this, Jules Buckley also spearheads the BBC’s Symphony Orchestra.
Now, with the help of his long-time collaborator Chris Wheeler, The Heritage Orchestra, and percussion collective, Ghost-note, Jules Buckley is releasing his debut record, The Breaks, on September 3rd. The album acts as a love letter to the roots of hip-hop and it’s undoubtedly one you need to keep on your radar. House Of Solo chatted with Buckley all about the record, his favourite moment with the BBC orchestra, and more.
Hi Jules, your debut record The Breaks is out September 3rd. You’ve made the LP with your friend and long-time collaborator, Chris Wheeler, as well as the Heritage Orchestra, and percussion collective, Ghost-Note. What would you say you really wanted to achieve with the record and what made you decide to make it in the first place?
We really wanted to help to shine a light on the breaking scene and specifically on the music that helped to create that scene which has grown into a global phenomenon.
We decided to make the record off the back of the BBC Proms in 2019 where we performed the original concept with an orchestra surrounding breaking crews from the UK, in particular the Soul Mavericks.
In every city worldwide there are breaking crews but it’s not necessarily apparent to the common man and we felt like by putting some of this music down on record today it would help to shed a light on it.
For anyone who doesn’t know, you co-founded The Heritage Orchestra in 2004 with Chris. Why was it important for you guys to utilise the orchestra rather than putting this project under a different name/collective?
We felt it was important to show off the unique skill set of both The Heritage Orchestra and Ghost-Note by putting this record out at a time when orchestras worldwide are demonstrating more and more that they can do different things.
The record celebrates the roots of hip-hop, so which hip-hop acts were you obsessed with when growing up?
When I was growing up I was into jazz, grunge and heavy metal for a while until I slowly learned about the history of hip-hop through many of my friends and crate-digging in my late teens.
Can you please shed some light on how Chris and Ghost-Note helped you on making the record? What do you admire about your collaborators?
I admire the rhythmic feel and understanding of Ghost-Note, Sput was taught by Clyde Stubblefield for around six years and the lineage of this funk understanding runs through the core of hip-hop music. Both he and Nate brought an incredible infectious funk energy along with Adam and John from The Heritage Orchestra.
Chris and I created the concept for the original live concert at the BBC Proms back in December 2018 over many in-depth conversations. The conversations included things like “what is a break?” or “what makes a break?… “Is this break authentic or is this one a red herring?” We ended up properly diving through hundreds and hundreds of different tracks to come down to the eventual track list for both the live show and the record.
We worked closely with Chris and Russell (Elevado) on producing this record and our angle was always keeping one eye on the detail and one eye on making it as feel good as possible.
As a Grammy award-winning composer, what advice would you offer to your younger self when it comes to the music industry?
Be relaxed, be patient and trust your instincts. Start to build your sound and your concepts early on and trust in the fact that many of the musicians that you’ll be working with you will still be working with 20-years later and that feeling of a crew and a development of a scene will springboard you into the professional music industry.
You also spearhead the BBC’s Symphony Orchestra. Can you tell us about one of your favourite moments so far from that project?
One of my favourite moments so far has been stepping on stage with Lianne La Havas at the Barbican just weeks before the global pandemic hit and having only Lianne with her guitar and a 90-piece BBCSO performing at the peak of their powers together.
It was emotional and a breakthrough concert in a way because I had rarely embarked upon looking at really unplugged orchestral concerts, I often had a specialism in fully amplified gigs which combine electronic and acoustic instruments and this time it was taking it back home to the roots of the tree. One singer, one guitar and a massive stack of strings haha!
Who else would you love to collaborate with?
Too many to name to be honest but I’m always looking to work on a concept or a sound that’s as far away from the last project I worked on as possible.
What unreleased tracks are you really excited for people to hear from the record?
I am super excited for people to hear ‘More Bounce to the Ounce’ featuring Mr Talkbox. It’s one of the most important tracks of the popping scene and the performance of The Heritage Orchestra, Ghost-Note and Mr Talkbox comes together beautifully to help shine a light on this incredible scene.
Also check out ‘It’s Just Begun’ featuring the mighty Kamasi Washington. Incidentally, this tune was composed by Angelo Badalamenti who also randomly wrote the score for Twin Peaks.. a break can be a classic from any neck of the woods!
Orchestras are normally associated with classical music which is not a bad thing at all but it might mean that some audiences may miss out on what a fantastic musical experience it can be. But excitingly, you’ve helped lead by example as you’ve proven time and time again that the orchestral experience can go with so many different music genres, like when you performed the Ibiza classics concerts with Pete Tong. Why would you encourage different demographics to give orchestral music a chance?
Nobody owns music, no one can claim ownership of a specific music and as far as I’m concerned orchestras at the peak of their powers are so inspiring and mind bending-ly amazing that everybody should get into the concert hall and try to hear one as soon as possible. It’s not even that something has to be opened into a debate, it’s just obvious.
Following on from that, it does seem a lot of contemporary acts are trying to utilise orchestras for special musical projects, for example The 1975 have done it before, Royal Blood at Abbey Road, and so many more. Are there any bands or artists that have done something orchestral which you just loved?
Absolutely! Efterklang made a record Performing Parades with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. Scott 3 which is Scott Walker’s third solo album. The latest album between Pharoah Sanders and The London Symphony Orchestra Floating Points is off the scale.
As I was into heavy metal, you can’t go anywhere without quoting Metallica’s albums with the San Francisco in the 90s – S&M and S&M2. I also love Joni Mitchell’s Travelogue as well.
Can we expect you to tour The Breaks album in full when it’s possible? And is there anything else you want to do for the record around its album launch?
I hope we can tour and perform to as many people and as many places as possible to continue the mission of the record. We’ve got a few things planned for the album launch, so watch this space!
Finally, your initial ambition was to become a jazz trumpeter when you were a kid growing up. Now, after everything you’ve achieved, what is your next ambition, your next goal?
My next goal is to try and be the best Dad I can be, work on my next album and to help to lift up and support the next generation of young writers and conductors.