RELISH from N. Ireland have sold platinum albums, have won prestigious music awards, have written global hits, graced some of the world's most famous stages and have fans stretching from Paul Weller to Brian May, to U2 and more and are virtually unknown beyond Ireland.
Relish comprise of brothers, Ken and Carl Papenfus and Darren Campbell who hail from the picturesque County Down, N. Ireland.
The Papenfus brothers are sons of South African jazz singer Jane Londis of Golden City Dixies fame as well as subsequent solo releases on the EMI label. Jane was winner of the prestigious Miss Entertainment award in 1969 and performed and translated into her native Xhosa what has been voted as South Africa’s most popular indigenous song “Master Jack”. Their Father who later became a doctor of psychology and author featured as percussionist on the Kwella Kids releases, having built up a reputation for being the white guy who could out play the black guys.
Of mixed race with black African mother and white African father, home would become Belfast for the exiled couple and son who had fled South Africa's race laws that deemed interracial marriage illegal.
The most prized possession for the couple was their extensive record collection of music that stretched from Ray Charles and Charlie Mingus to The Beatles and Joni Mitchell, to world and roots music and beyond. This musical palette was to inspire the young boys to venture into the world of music and to embrace without prejudice all that music in it's many wonderful forms had to offer while giving solace to their often homesick parents. This blending of cultures resulted in an eclectic mix of musical tastes and influences in their up-bringing which was likewise to be reflected in their music. Their first love though was rock music. Effortlessly preserving the legacy of their rock inspirers such as The Black Crowes, Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Police and The Beatles, while, on the other hand, as any music lover will also appreciate, mixing rock with other genres as veterans AC/DC or Led Zeppelin did, and in that tradition Relish also followed.
N. Ireland was to become a land of opportunity for the brothers who after coming through various local bands, building a reputation as prodigious instrumentalists from an early age and finding themselves constantly alone due to driving band members too hard and always ready for more, had run out of bodies. With demo time booked, interested labels and no band, the brothers
asked a local bass player who worked in his dad's music store to help out for a while until they at least recorded some more demos for interested labels who instead suggested a friend who "really loved his art, but played a bit of bass on the side", as a quite unattractive offer. But this was their only option. Darren Campbell was more than just a part time bass player. This guy could play like Flea, then Jaco Pastorius with influences from the Beastie Boys to The Pixies. This was a magic moment that would prove the most important meeting for the band that would mark their future. Having lost their vocalist, keyboard player and bassist, Darren was a welcome comfort but the line up was incomplete and London management companies and labels were awaiting new music. It was suggested that Ken, having sung backing vocals for the band, for the purposes of the demo, sing the three tracks on the demo. Horrified at the prospect but desperate, Ken reluctantly agreed.
This was to become the demo that changed their lives. London management took the band on, and on the back of the tracks a horde of record labels began to travel to N. Ireland to hear them in rehearsal/ mum & dads living room. At one point there were something like eleven or so A&R and even label MDs coming to the house in that one week. The result was a deal with EMI Ireland that allowed for the complete creative and artistic freedom, which in the end sold them the deal.
Extensive and relentless touring ensued and a year later they had begun recording the beginning of their debut album with John Leckie who had just won a Brit award for producer of the year on Radiohead's The Bends album. The album, which was to be titled “Wildflowers” was subsequently finished by the young new kid on the block Al Clay who had come from the world of movie soundtracks with Hans Zimmer as well as having just finishing mixing The Stereophonics seminal album Performance and Cocktails. With album complete, a string of Irish radio hits followed resulting in a platinum album, awards, glowing reviews live and album, and numerous high profile endorsements from U2's Larry Mullen to Queen's Brian May who paid them the courtesy of a hand-written letter expressing his appreciation. U2 personally invited the band to play at their first Slane Castle show in front of 80,000 and they also played support to Stereophonics, Coldplay, Kelis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Ocean Colour Scene. The album, and particularly its lead singles, "Let It Fly" and "Rainbow Zephyr", brimmed over with direct soul and gospel influences, soft in tone but with a clear rock edge.
Troubles began at EMI with the band's second album Karma Calling being overlooked in the UK and under delivered in Ireland but still managed Gold status due to a hardcore fan base that had stayed faithful to the band during their grueling four year tour schedule. Following this, the band had successfully negotiated with the label about the prospects of the label not taking the next third album option and for RELISH to be released from the label. Much to their disappointment a number of months later the band were tabloid news in a major local N. Ireland paper, where the centre pages had filled a fictitious article about how EMI had dropped the band. The band gracefully didn't respond, having firmly believed that EMI Ireland had done their best for the band but circumstances beyond all their control at the label were at fault and that their future mattered more than correcting fictional rumors.
An out of the blue request from Westlife to cover the band's hit Rainbow Zephyr as Hey Whatever as the first single on the band's new album, was given the thumbs up by the guys as this would give their work a new lease of life, particularly in the UK where the label had completely ignored and failed to release their second album Karma Calling. Hey Whatever was a no. 4 UK hit and a worldwide hit to boot that launched what would become Westlife's most successful album to date.
After parting ways with EMI Relish as a collective took a hiatus.
Ken and Carl lent their talents to the British jazz/funk group The Players, consisting of members of Paul Weller’s band and Ocean Colour Scene, they also featured on childhood friend and ex band member’s Steafan Hanvey’s first two albums, Ken toured as guitar player for Paul Weller as featured on his Studio 150 DVD, Darren had a cameo as bass player for Weller on the Jonathan Ross Show, and Carl lent a rhythmical hand to the likes of Paul Brady, Hal, Lesley Roy, Juno Falls and other major label artists.
Some of Relish’s biggest achievements include, both their albums (“Wildflowers” & “Karma Calling”) both going top ten and achieving two top ten and two top twenty singles; single “You I’m Thinking Of” reaching no.1 in the international airplay chart in Japan and no.2 in the national airplay chart in Japan, as well as no.7 in the Spanish charts; being played on UK Radio 1 and being A-listed on Radio 2. Most overlooked though is how an act as out of the box as Relish have defined their own musicality and permeated the hearts and minds of a new generation of music lovers at home. Relish were truly a breath of fresh air. On the Irish airwaves we now hear soul-tinged songs from Belfast and Dublin artists, some now breaking internationally that surely owe their freedom to their pioneers Relish. Down playing the breadth of their influence, Relish simply claim to be a branch of the same tree shared by Van Morrison and Phil Lynnot who were doing it with style twenty years before them. Despite some attempts to pigeon-hole Relish under various banners, camps and clichés, they have joined the arena of a sample of other black rock artists with the same attitude like, Lenny Kravtiz, Ben Harper, Prince, The Commodores but remain independent in their own delivery of finely crafted songs.
Now, Ken, Carl and Darren return with their new album on their own label, major distribution and finally a real opportunity to bring their music to the world on a global level.
Their new album "Connected" sounds more like a debut album. The band has a renewed excitement and love for music again and the future looks bright as for the first time ever the true cultural impact that this band was able to deliver at home can be an experience shared worldwide.
|IT'S YOU I'M THINKING OF Relish|