Alabama 3 are quite possibly one of the most individual and idiosyncratic bands in the UK, if not the world. Hailing from Brixton in London (rather than Alabama), this seven-piece mixes blues, gospel and country music with dance and hiphop. In theory this blending of music should be unlistenable, and in lesser hands it would be. Yet through unabashed skill, and a tenacity to continue doing things their way, Alabama 3 have proved that not only can it work, but it can work very well.
Following the success of their 1997 first album, the wonderfully idiosyncratic 'Exile on Coldharbour Lane', Alabama 3 were dismissed as merely a band with a gimmick playing off their boundary-defying music. Yet, success followed with later albums, from the darkly brilliant 'La Peste' (2000) to the hedonistic 'M.O.R'.
Despite the brilliance of their music, Alabama 3 have remained on the periphery of the music scene. In spite of their low-yet approach, Alabama 3 have still occasionally found their way into the mainstream. Their most notable exposure was through 'Woke Up This Morning' being used as the intro-music to 'The Sopranos' TV series, and 'Too Sick to Pray' played over the radio in a scene from 'Gone in Sixty Seconds'.
Operating as they do on the periphery means that they are not influenced by the whims of music industry executives. This lack of influence means that they continue to remain in tune with current affairs. Their latest album 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus' is incredibly prevalent, given the recent occurrences in the ongoing SOPA/PIPA debate.
Alabama 3 are at their best when they are angry, yet their anger is not projected as screechingly impotent vocals. Rather it is a muted snarl, a cold rage that percolates the album. With 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus' they are angry about the global economy, digital piracy and the London riots.
Unlike some bands that merely claim to support digital piracy, the Alabama 3 go one step further by actually sampling other musicians (most notably Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister roaring “That's the way I like it” mixed into Alabama 3’s track 'Wrong is Right'). By all accounts no royalties were paid for this privilege: if nothing else, this audacity shows Alabama 3 have balls of steel...
During their latest tour, Pennyblackmusic caught up with Larry Love from the band to talk about'Shoplifting 4 Jesus', and just why “wrong is right”.
PB: With your reputation for always touring, how does it feel to be on the road again?
LL: Feels like home...fighting, fucking and funky. Pass the pain killer.
PB: Alabama 3 are one of the few truly independent outlaw bands in the music industry; how did this come about and what effect has this had upon your creativity?
LL: Nobody would market us as we don’t fit into any easy category. DIY was the only option. We have always remained outside of the establishment because we do future music.
PB: Alabama 3 have continually evolved since the acid/country-fused 'Exile on Coldharbour Lane' to R 'n' B/Gospel in 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus'. How do you blend these elements together?
LL: We have always believed that country/blues/gospel has a place in most dance genres...hence our tenacity.
PB: Like much of Alabama 3's music, 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus' addresses contemporary issues, but how was the album first conceived?
LL: In a low lit bordello, in bad company, with good drugs and an unwavering belief in the feral youth of our community.
PB: Listening to 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus', the music verges on echoing other artists by sampling tracks. What reaction has this had from the other bands?
LL: We’re that slick they ain’t copped on yet. We wait for litigation.
PB: Would you say the phrase “Wrong is right” encapsulates the album 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus' – and if so why?
LL: Bankers take bonuses; single mothers’ benefits are cut.
PB: One of the issues you address in 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus' was the London riots. As a band uniquely identified with London, what do Alabama 3 consider as the cause of the unrest?
LL: Bombarding young people with acquisitive notions whilst denying them jobs, housing etc.It’s bound to stir something up.
PB: Given the themes in 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus', what are your thoughts on digital piracy?
LL: We are all pirates now. Steal what you can...don’t get busted.
PB: 'Shoplifting 4 Jesus' has an undertone of hope that runs throughout the album – does this reflect your own thoughts?
LL: The biggest threat to middle England seems to be young people. Alabama 3 believe the opposite. Middle England is burning and the youth are the fire brigade.
PB: What does the future hold for Alabama 3?
LL: Life without parole. Remember Alabama 3 are not just for Christmas, they’re for life.
PB: Thank you.