The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is a powerhouse outfit poised to blow through Lancashire tomorrow night. TONY DEWHURST hears from a band maintaining a noble family tradition.
A hefty dollop of hip-hop, a dash of rap and a morsel of funk, the Cohran brothers are as bold as brass.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are eight horn-playing brothers from Chicago, and thanks to a priceless musical education by their father and master trumpet player – a co-founder of the Sun Ra Orchestra – they are forging a worldwide reputation with their pumped up brassy dance groove.
“We always said growing up that music was our religion,” said trombone player Cid, who stops off at Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre on Saturday night (June 13).
“It was like a monastery or a church at home.
“With dad about, it was part of everything we did.
“All of us were given instruments – from about the time when we were old enough not to drop them.
“Music was always in our lives.”
On paper, it’s a curious marriage of sonic sound, but on stage it certainly works and every song is a relentless surge of sparking energy.
“We like to blow people away, whether it’s a house track, some favela funk from Brazil, or a jazzy number – and I know you British love a live gig.
That period, Public Enemy, NWA, Grandmaster Flash was definitely the golden age of hip hop and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is very much built on that era and you can hear the lyrics in our horn lines
“We just want to make people rock out and we look to create that ‘Oh My God,’ moment.
“We are a party band, so we don’t write the set list until we get to the show – we like to get the vibe inside the venue first.
“But one thing I can guarantee is that you’re going to dance, you’re going to sing, and you’re going to sweat, because the Hypnotics are in town.”
Growing up, the brothers bottled up the street heat power of Public Enemy – particularly Fear of a Black Planet, Public Enemy’s first album – and fused it into a mighty sound clash.
“That period, Public Enemy, NWA, Grandmaster Flash was definitely the golden age of hip hop and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is very much built on that era and you can hear the lyrics in our horn lines.
“Looking back it was unproven, you had industry and awards societies that didn’t even recognize hip hop as music.
“There wasn’t much money involved for the artists or producers, so it was more about the culture. Originality was encouraged and similarity was shunned.”
Cid says the band is fully aware of the brass band tradition in the north, and has studied the history.
“I’ve never seen a brass band play in Lancashire, but when we first came to England everyone would tell us about the history of our instruments and I know about that rich heritage of how a brass band could play a significant role in a town’s identity.
“Although what we do takes a modern approach, we consider ourselves to be a continuation of brass’s musical expression. We are ambassadors of brass, if you like.”
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble have enjoyed big name collaborations, too, with De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, Gorillaz and The B52’s.
“We never wanted to be pigeon-holed, but if you like good music and artists who put every drip of sweat into their music – then you’ll like Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.”
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Clitheroe Grand Theatre, June 13. £13.50. 01200 421599.