For an album closely intertwined with death, loss and personal turmoil, Morcheeba Productions’ first album, <Cool Your Soul> is remarkably upbeat. Resolutely so. The LP explores enormous emotional themes through drifting soul, silvery Francophile pop, and pagan hip hop but it was recorded with a grin as well as a furrowed brow.
“We spent most of our time together in the studio making each other laugh,” says producer Paul Godfrey. Singer Rachel Cuming grins and agrees. She explains, “We have always been comfortable in the studio together, and have similar ideas about music. When we first knew each other I learned so much and soaked up Pauls energy and inquisitiveness for production and sound. I don’t think that’s ever gone away.”
Rachel and Paul have been friends since the early 90s, meeting as teenagers in Saltwood, Kent, where they first made music together – Rachel was Morcheeba’s first singer. Their lives took them in different directions as they pursued separate careers, until they finally started working together again five years ago, when Paul returned to the UK after living in France. Paul says writing songs again felt as natural as when they first met, “We hooked up some beats that harked back to the early days. We spent our youth getting stoned and sharing hip hop, funk, reggae and psychedelia we had discovered, but now we just share music! The songs were all written very quickly as we didn’t want to labour over it. We wanted it to flow naturally.”
That playful, exploratory studio relationship enabled the pair to complete this album at a painful time in their personal lives – Paul was recovering from a near-brush with death, after his hospitalisation with an acute pancreatitis attack. Paul says, “I spent two weeks in a coma and a month in hospital. The doctors didn’t think I was going to make it but after having curiously positive coma dreams I knew I had to come back for my family and music. It gave me a new lease of life and a stronger will to live than I had ever felt before.”
In addition, Rachel’s brother and Paul’s friend and inspiration – the artist Danny Pockets – had recently lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Rachel says that it was perhaps Danny’s death that spurred the collaboration to greater heights, “Danny influenced and shaped my existence, and I haven’t known what to do with the loss of him, I don’t know where to put that loss, if there is even a place. Danny loved Paul. Perhaps Paul standing me in front of a microphone and seeing what comes out of my mouth has been the best thing a friend could do.” Paul, in turn, praises Rachel’s versatility and fearlessness. He says, “No other singers go out on the kind of limb that she does, especially when that limb is a broken one.”
From the mid 1990s until 2014, Paul was the founder of trailblazing trio Morcheeba who fused hip hop beats with psychedelic guitar explorations and soulful, heady vocals into what became known as trip hop. The band seared into the music world with the stoner beats of ‘Trigger Hippie’, an iconic son of the mid-nineties, starting a label bidding war. They went on to sell over 8 million albums worldwide and toured the globe.
However, the brothers found their sibling dynamic was making life difficult, professionally and personally – Paul was more at home in the studio, bored with the plentiful downtime of life on the road. Paul says, “There was a legal battle with the other members of the Morcheeba band after leaving hospital, which was extremely painful but solidified my determination to continue and succeed.” That determination led to him establishing and building his own state-of-the-art recording studio in Hastings, on the south coast of the UK. Housed in a converted church, Sacrosync Sound is now a world-renowned facility, and the moonbase for Morcheeba Productions.
<Cool Your Soul> is a triumphant, optimistic release, with timeless production, a creation born out of family rifts, loss and near-death experiences. Paul says that Rachel’s lyrics are “moving emotional mountains – she’s the bravest woman I know. To have been through everything she’s been through and maintained a sense of humour and used her pain in a positive creative way is really quite unbelievable. Most weird is that subconsciously her lyrics have somehow tapped into my coma dreams – many of her songs have themes that echo those that ran through my head in hospital. Lots of witchcraft, hills, ceremonies and humanity.” Paul’s shining pride in the album is evident. He says, “I feel as if I’ve come back from the dead with possibly the strongest piece of work I have ever made. It feels good to have left the city and returned to the sea.”