Simon Emmerson

(producer, composer, guitars, cittern)

Simon has been a stalwart of the London music scene since 1978.  As a child, his father managed a psychedelic blues band called “Screw”, in this context, he was brought up on folk music, jazz and avant garde rock (Captain Beefheart, John Fahey, Soft Machine etc).  In the 70’s he would take time out from being a punk to visit the London based reggae sound systems (Jah Shaka, Coxson etc), Forest School Camps, and Martin Carthy gigs.  It was at a Martin Carthy gig that he joined his first band, Scritti Pollitti, that started his long career in music.

After leaving Scritti Politti, he became involved in various bands on the fringes of the pioneering London independent label Rough Trade. Simon formed Stepping Talk and Methodischa Tune with NME journalist Ian Penman amongst others.  It was through this scene that he met Alison Statton from The Young Marble Giants and went on to form Weekend with her and the Welsh guitarist and fiddle player, Spike, changing his name to Simon Booth up till the start of the Afro Celt Sound System in the mid 90’s. Weekend went on to become one of Rough Trades bestselling acts. It was at their first recording session that Simon met Larry Stabbins who Simon later formed Working Week with.  Around this time, Simon also played the guitar on Everything But the Girl’s 1st album, Eden and co-wrote some music with Sade for the film Absolute Beginners.

As a founding member of Working Week, Simon was also involved in the inaugural initiatives of the Acid Jazz movement and its predecessor, British Jazz Funk, producing the first and second Acid Jazz albums: Acid Jazz and Other Illicit Grooves Volumes 1 and 2.

Working Week toured extensively worldwide, won many European awards, headlined at the Montreau and Nice Jazz festivals. He has always had a love of African music and started investigating African sounds in the early 80’s whilst working at Mole Jazz Records.  Simon was involved with organising some of the Rock Against Racism concerts and toured with Red Wedge in Working Week  where he struck up friendships with Paul Weller and Billy Bragg (both to contribute music to the Imagined Village in 2007). African Afro Jazz pioneer Manu Dibango sought him out after hearing Simon’s production work on the seminal album Acid Jazz and Other Illicit Grooves Vol 1.  Around this time, Simon started collaborating with Femi Kuti, son of Nigeria’s afro beat star, Fela Kuti.

In 1991 Simon went to Senegal to produce 3 tracks on Baaba Maal’s Lam Toro album.  This was a life changing experience, Simon felt the connection between African and Celtic music in Senegal, and on returning to the UK, he met up with Irish piper and whistle player, Davy Spillane, to explore these musical links. In 1992, Simon formed Stone Grove with singer Janette Sewell, the art work for the CD was by Jamie Reid, whom Simon had met through his interests in Druidry.

Jamie Reid then went on to become a founding member and artist of the Afro Celt Sound System.

Simon has worked extensively with Peter Gabriel’s Real World record label as a musician, remixer and record producer.  In 1995 he was nominated for a Grammy for his production work on Baaba Maal’s Firin in Fouta album. He has written and produced music for Comic strip’s feature film, Super Grass, Channel 4’s Arena documentary, Ligmalion, BFI film, Out of Order and TV historical documentary about British / African relationships called “State of the Union’.  Simon has also written and produced the music for many adverts for TV.

In 1995, The first Afro Celt Sound System album was released to great critical acclaim,  over the next 15 years there would be a further 6 albums released on Real World Records, being one of their top selling artistes of all time.  Two of the albums, Release and Further in Time were both Grammy award nominated. In 2007, Simon released the first Imagined Village album on Real World Records.

This was an exploration into his English roots and what they mean today.  This album was followed by more and extensive touring of the UK and Europe.

After being invited to an Imagined Village gig in Poole via his Dorset bird watching group Simon was headhunted by Mark Constantine (founder of Lush Cosmetics) to work as the Lush musical director composing, directing and producing a variety of music, spa treatments and campaigns within the company.  He has helped write and produce over 8 scores for their ground breaking internationally recognized spa treatments- all available as CDs and 3 currently in vinyl format.  At the end of 2014 Simon directed the first Lush high definition film, The Experimenter that won a BAFT ASFF  (Aesthetic Short Film Festival) award in November 2015.

In 2008 Simon and Mark started the record label Emmerson, Corncrake and Constantine  – later to be abbreviated to ECC Records. The intention was to release albums by the Imagined Village and artists within the band such as Jackie Oates, Barney Morse Brown, Sheema Mukherjee and Simon ‘Palmskin’ Richmond. The label went on to release albums by UK rapper Dizraeli and The Small Gods and steampunk collective Gaslight Troubadours. ECC records now has a vinyl off shoot ECC100 who released One Eskimo’s album ‘Faster Than Turtle’ on vinyl mid 2015. ECC100 will be releasing the new Afro Celt Sound System album as a double vinyl.

In 2015 Simon got together with N’Faly Kouyate and Johnny Kalsi to make the new Afro Celt Sound System album, The Source,  to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band.  The intention was to write a more afro centric record that brought N’Faly and Johnny into the creative and business partnership.  Starting in April 2015, by November the album was mixed and mastered for release in April 2016.