First there was an interview with website thequietus here and you can also read the Damon extract by clicking 'Read More' below.
Secondly, Tony talked on BBC6Music radio yesterday on the Gilles Peterson show. You can 'listen again' to the show online here for a week. The Tony Allen segment is from 1:32:00 to 2:3:00 and the Damon-related discussion is at the start. You can also click 'Read More' below for a transcript. Perhaps most interestingly, Tony mentions that RJATM were originally set to play dates in 'April' (the Mojo magazine article about RJATM had said they were going to meet up in March for preparation for more live dates). Currently Flea is on tour with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He would have had March 17th - April 26th inclusive off from the tour originally but on January 11th there was the announcement that RHCP member Anthony Kiedis had broken his foot and the RHCP dates had to be rescheduled, leaving Flea which much less time off around the time the proposed RJATM dates were due to take place.
6Music: You've been working quite a lot with Damon Albarn as well, right?
6M: And tell me a little bit about how that came up, how you came up with this amazing project Rocket Juice And The Moon.
TA: Well it's Damon and everything, everytime we're experimenting, you know, anytime I'm in London, in his studio, you know, making music, we don't know what we're going to do with it. We kept on doing music. I think we started from before The Good, The Bad & The Queen, we went to Nigeria, to Lagos for recording a world album. Which was never released. He preferred to put that aside and then we started The Good, The Bad & The Queen. And then the Good, The Bad & The Queen gone, and then he [Damon] said, well, it's not finished yet, it might not be the follow-up for The Good, The Bad & The Queen it's going to be something else. And we were doing Africa Express round the whole world anyway. So this time we were doing it [Africa Express] in Lagos at the Shrine, of Femi [Kuti]. So Femi's manager, called Jason, asked me, he said, have you met Flea before? I said no. He said, well, he's going to come to this Africa Express, he would like to play his bass with Tony, you know? And then we met.
6M: Did you know Red Hot Chilli Peppers?
TA: Yeah yeah, I knew Red Hot Chilli Peppers before. I knew they had a funky bass player. From the beginning, I observed that. And this guy, I always feel him anyway, even if he was playing rock, but he has some nice touches, you know. I found out he was able to relate to my groove. Because not everyone can relate to my groove, you know. It depends on the way you are thinking. And he was able to do something. C'est cool. I find him very interesting. Then we finished the Africa Express in Lagos, then back in London, Damon said oh, we should go to the studio. So I had to stay three days more. Then we went to the studio. I set up my drums. And ok, it's good fu.n.
6M: So with most of the tracks that you recorded in this session, would they basically start off with the drums and then they'd add after that?
TA: No, no, him and me, every time, him and me we'd go direct. It's direct. It's not overdubbing you know. Direct, and Damon comes later. Sometimes Damon is with us from the beginning, laying down his keyboards, and sometimes he does his overdubs after.
6M: Are you doing to do some live shows?
TA: For sure. We should have done a few this April. But it's because of Flea. I think he had 2 week's break or something like that. Which really is not enough for him to jump down here. Finish with that and go back to.. it's not sane.
6M: So Rocket Juice And The Moon, whose concept would you say it is? Is it all three of you or..? Who came up with the name?
TA: I just asked Damon. I said whose idea was Rocket Juice And The Moon. He said it was the artist. The guy who did the jacket. He created that name for the album.
6M: And the band itself, would you say it's the three of you, Damon, Flea and..
TA: Yes. Before bringing in other guests.
6M: It sounds amazing. There are some guests on the album, do you want to talk to me a bit about who's on it, first of all, tell us a bit about Cheick Tidiane Seck, because I'm a fan of this guy, from Mali, was he somebody that you've worked with before?
TA: Yes, I mean I've been working with him, he was my keyboard player in the past, in Paris. And he was with Salif [Keita], playing with me. And after, he started his own thing, you know, and he was producing other Malian artists, like Fatou. So with him it was just a coincidence. He was rehearsing on that street, Latimer Road, I think it's called Unit 10 or something like that, just very near Damon's studio. So he was there with Marc-Antoine [Moureau], so when they finished the rehearsals there, they were just passing by us in the studio, and we were busy recording, Flea, me and Damon, you know? So Cheick came in and Damon went 'oh yes, let's check out something', so that was the thing, so Cheick came in and he went on the keyboard. And so, that track you had there it wasn't like overdubs or anything, everything was live, direct. So we created that track with Cheick. Maybe 2 tracks like that, just like that.
6M: There are some quite magical moments in the music. You must have had a lot of moments where it happened and it wasn't meant to happen.
6M: With Fela, did a lot of strange episodes occur that..?
TA: No no no. With Fela it was a strict thing, you know. It's not like everybody comes in. You can't be a guest on Fela's music like that.
What can you tell me about Rocket Juice and the Moon?
Tony Allen: Rocket Juice and the Moon, right now, is the latest thing I’m involved in. We started after the seven day long Africa Express Festival in Lagos in October-ish 2008. That’s where I met Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time. He had been looking forward to playing with me for some time apparently and on this occasion came around. We got together in Lagos and played. I really liked his approach, you know as a white guy playing bass in the Afrobeat movement. It all clicked, so when we arrived back in London we went into the studio with Damon [Albarn] and tried to work out how his bass would fit with my drumming, and that was it. We started to build it up from there.
You work with Damon quite a lot. Did you meet him after he name checked you in Blur?
TA: Yeah, someone played me that song [‘Music Is My Radar’ a single released in 2000, which ends with the repeated phrase: “Tony Allen got me dancing.”] That was ten years ago you know! It goes by just like that! Anyway, I was looking for someone to sing on the last song on my album Home Cooking in 2002 as a guest, and a musician introduced me to him. And it was as simple as that. He just came down and did it. The first day he was in the studio, we did two or three songs together and after that I just said to him, ‘I’m looking forward to the day when we can get together some time and do a project from scratch. Do it from the beginning.’ He said, ‘Why not.’ But he had his career with Blur and Gorillaz at the time and he had to wait for that to finish. But then he called me and said, ‘Tony. I’m free now.’ And that’s how we started working together [as The Good, The Bad And The Queen] and we’ve been to Lagos together maybe three times since then.
He’s really into music from Nigeria and Mali right?
TA: Oh yeah, many things. He goes to Mali a lot and with me it’s the Nigerian connection.
You’ve hinted before a few times that you’ve been recording a second The Good, The Bad And The Queen album – when are we likely to see that?
TA: Ah well, I don’t know you know? For now I just have to deal with Rocket Juice And The Moon, you know? There’s no point in trying to write any of that other stuff while we’re still playing Rocket Juice. We need to get that out of the way, and then see what happens.