Cookin’ on 3 Burners: “we’ve always wanted to make the best music that we could”

Few band names can be as accurate in describing their sound and overall attitude as ‘Cookin’ on 3 Burners’. Melbourne’s sizzling organ trio has been handing out grooves for two decades now, with no intention of slowing down. Just before hitting the stage of Howler, where they’ll perform alongside Craig Charles (a legend in his own rights), the trio’s organist, Jake Mason, ponders on the bands 2o years.

20 years ago:We didn’t start with a 20 year goal, that’s for sure. When you’re 21 you don’t have a lot of forward thinking. We just enjoyed playing the music for what it was and had a great time.We started off in the jazz tradition; we kept the instrument line-up of the hammond trio, with the guitar and drums and the hammond organ covering the bass lines as well. I first came across the hammond when I was at the VCA. I was studying saxophone, my flatmate was playing the hammond and I was drawn to it. The hammond is probably the opposite of the saxophone and I was hooked. I love that you’re a force within the band. Because you play the bass and the chords, you can take the harmony wherever you like.I love the feeling of getting amongst the groove of the band; it’s a feeling, a sweet spot that I’m always searching for. When the three of us play together we have this underlying musical language, we can communicate and interact and have a kind of empathy.We can really take a lot more risks and follow where the music wants to go.That approach keeps us within a certain sound but as we’ve come through the years, there has been a natural progression. We use our collaborations with singers, producers, DJs – or even dancers – to put a different twist or a different perspective on what’s essentially a classic organ trio. It’s been wonderful; we’ve had a lot of lucky breaks and success but one thing that stayed true is that we’ve always wanted to make the best music that we could and perform at the best level we could. That’s our constant motto”.

Today:We have come from the very jazz based hammond trio to a kind of more funky-soul inspired stuff these days and along this journey, ten years ago, we met this BBC radio DJ by the name of Craig Charles, who, as well as being a funk and soul aficionado is also a poet, an author, a comedian and an actor – hes been on Coronation Street, Red Dwarf and other high profile TV shows. He does this Craig Charles funk and soul show in the UK where hes mainly DJing, but hes obviously a comedian at heart, so theres a lot of that coming through. We’ve had this ongoing relationship and we’ve done a bunch of things over the years with him. Craig is coming to Melbourne to promote Red Dwarf so we thought of doing a show together. Hes done a bunch of shows in which he tells some wonderful stories over music. So were cooking up this thing where were going to play live with him. Were not 100 percent sure how its going to work out, but we definitely have a plan of attack. The idea is to provide a backdrop to his spoken word eccentric tales, but also do some stuff in the foreground. Well be tapping into our jazz improvisation roots, thats for sure”.

In 20 years: “Well probably continue on this path of exploring, with sometimes unorthodox collaborations. Its always good to try to find a fresh approach. We havent worked with any electronic artist yet, for instance. Hopefully, this collaborative pursuit will lead us to some new material and take us in many different scenarios, while we still play hommage to us being essentially funk, soul and jazz musicians playing in a hammond trio”.

  • The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club. Feat ‘Cookin on 3 Burners’ is on Saturday 4 February at the Howler. Get tickets here.