Standard Sounds

When the Lights Go Down

Noir jazz meets midnight blues in the music of Twin Danger, a jazz duet made up of Stuart Matthewman, the Grammy-winning co-founder/songwriter/saxophonist for Sade, and sultry singer Vanessa Bley. Their debut album is launching in March and they're paying a little Grammy weekend visit to mmhmmm at The Standard, Hollywood this Friday. Los Angeles DJ Tony Okungbowa (The Ellen DeGeneres Show) sat Stuart down to talk about Sade, song-writing, and Cambodia.

TONY OKUNGBOWA: How did SADE come about?
STUART MATTHEWMAN: I moved to London from my hometown of Hull. The first band I auditioned for and joined was called Pride, and Sade was one of the backing singers. She would sing one song solo with the band - it was called "Diamond Life"...later to be named "Smooth Operator". We started hanging out a lot, listening to music and kinda fell into writing songs together. We used to do a little set before the main band played and everyone seemed to love the stripped down, jazzy, soulful sound - very different to what everyone else was doing at the time in the 80’s, and I guess she kinda looked good as well.

I notice you have co-written a lot of your hits over the years. Is there a process for writing with the other members? Especially since you're all spread out?
The process of writing for the band Sade is different for nearly every song. Sometimes a song will emerge from a late night session of laughing, crying, and talking together - or, maybe just me strumming some chords on the guitar or Andrew on the piano. Other times Sade may already have a melody and lyrics. And sometimes I might have an almost finished backing track that Sade then writes over. We usually all get together in a studio in the UK. We like residential studios in the country side - kinda cut off. It's like being sent away by your parents to boarding school.

From your work with Pride, Sade, Sweetback, Cottonbelly and now Twin Danger, it seems like you have gone full circle. Would I be correct in saying that you have come back to your true love of jazz, even as it always lingered in the background?
I’ve always had kinda bi-polar taste in music - from punk and reggae to soul and jazz, with a splash of metal, rockabilly and country just for good measure. I’ve always loved listening to jazz - I just didn’t have the patience to practice all the scales for hours on end, so I concentrated on my tone. I always loved song-based jazz - Billie, Chet, Frank, etc. - rather than the fast, show-off style. Twin Danger was never really meant to be a jazz project - it just turned out that way when we were using upright bass and brushes on the drums.

Twin Danger: “Coldest Kind of Heart". Video by Io Tillett Wright

How did you meet Vanessa and come up with the name Twin Danger?
I met Vanessa through an Estonian artist who we were working with separately, called Kerli. She told us that we should meet because we had the same dark sense of humor. We were friends for a while without ever thinking of writing together. We kind of fell into creating music together by mistake. We started with one song and just carried on with no plan for an album or live shows. Twin Danger is really the name for the alter ego that most people keep hidden away - everyone has one - could be dark, could be naughty fun. It just needs to be set free sometimes so it doesn’t escape at the wrong time with bad consequences.

I've known you for a while now, and recently you were telling me about your trip to Cambodia, and how amazing it was. What's one thing you took away from there?
The culture and sights are magical. Even though the people have been through so much horror in the not too distant past they are so warm and friendly. Women and men work together with no weird, competitive aggression in the cities. We were driving down a busy street in the back of a Tuk Tuk surrounded by bicycles and motorbikes in the rush hour traffic and I saw a policeman standing very stoically and seriously in uniform on the pavement. As we passed him I gave him a large smile and waved. He saw me, paused, and then broke out into a beaming smile and waved back. Oh boy, imagine that in the US.

Finish this sentence: Twin Danger is ____ ?
Twin Danger is perfect for when the lights go down…
Twin Danger will be performing live in mmhmmm at The Standard, Hollywood on Friday, February 6th. To attend, please RSVP to

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