Title: This bloke had a no. 1 hit
Author: Alex Kadis
Source: Smash Hits
THIS BLOKE HAD A No.1 HIT
But nobody knows who he is…
INTERVIEW: ALEX KADIS
PHOTOS: PAUL “RIDER” RIDER
He’s a bit of a mystery, Seal, isn’t he? He’s the chap with the spooky markings on his cheeks who sings on Adamski’s hit “Killer” but no one knows a thing about him.
Indeed, when Smash Hits wanted to interview Seal no one seemed to know if he was even on the phone. After much “investigative journalism” (hem hem) a tip-off led us to a small recording studio in West London where Seal is masterminding his solo career.
One might be forgiven for thinking that Seal is a bit of a recluse but it only takes about three seconds to realise that he’s nothing of the sort. He breezes into the kitchen brandishing a new jacket in one hand and a pack of cigarettes in the other. He’s amazingly tall (6’4”, to be precise) but quite the friendliest bloke ever, though a bit shy. (Aw.)
“Look — I’ve bought a new jacket to have my picture taken in. It’s quite colourful — you need something colourful for photos, don’t you? I’m afraid I’m not a very colourful person so I went out and got this today. Is it all right?”
He hovers about nervously for a moment. He’s not used to this interview malarkey. After making a quick cup of coffee “All I’ve had today is some vitamin tablets and some royal jelly” — Seal lights a ciggie on the toaster (!) and finally sits down. He chats away amiably in a voice which goes from being quite loud and cockney one minute to husky and almost posh the next.
Seal is actually Sealhenry Samuel, one of six brothers and sisters. “There’s one set of people that call me Seal and one set who call me Henry, ‘cause I always used to get the piss taken out of me at school — you know — ‘Seal art arf arf!’ ha ha!”
He was born in London in 1963 but his family actually originate from more exotic climes. “My mum’s a nursing sister in a hospital. She lives down the road (in Kilburn) and my dad died about ten years ago. They came from West Africa but my grandparents on one side came from Brazil.”
Is that where the marks on your face come from then?
“Hah hah hah!” (?)
Hm. The very mention of Seal’s much wondered about spook marks immediately sends him into fits of laughter. Looking rather embarrassed and not a little mischievous, he twiddles the many rings on his fingers.
“Let’s just say they’re tribal. (?) Yeah, I know what they are but I don’t wanna reveal it!”
Have you had them since you were young? “Er… no. They appeared quite recently ha ha haaa!” (??)
Perhaps we should quiz him instead about his hairdo.
“I was in Asia last year, in Thailand, and people just put them in my hair — they’re bits of silver and stones. Most of it’s fallen out now. People were just freaked out by my hair over there. They’d never seen a black person I don’t think much less a black person with a funny hairdo. It’s all my own hair — no extensions. I didn’t intend growing dreadlocks but I got tired of combing it in the morning. I just used to wash it under the shower and then it went like this.”
Seal lives in a flat in South West London with his girlfriend — and a seal collection!
“Yes, I collect seals. Toy seals. Little porcelain things and stuffed toys. I’m not quite sure how many I’ve got but everyone seems to think it’s an appropriate present to buy me. I really like it though. In fact, one of my most treasured possessions is this little seal which Adam bought me.”
Ah, yes, Adamski. How did you actually meet him?
“I’ve read various different things as to how we met but the truth is I met Chester, Adam’s rapper, in Clapham Common last year…”
And, so the story goes, Seal played one of his tapes to Chester who played it to Adam. He liked it and thought they could work together. It wasn’t until almost a year later, after bumping into each other in nightclubs and renewing their promise, that Seal and Adamski wrote and recorded “Killer”. Is it true that Seal made up the words on the spot?
“Not really. Adam did the instrumental side of it and because he said it was called ‘Killer’ it sparked off these lyrics I’d written about three years ago for a rock song called ‘Killer’, I was convinced it needed something more so I racked my brains and came up with the ‘solitary brother’ bit. Adam wasn’t convinced that it was right but I kept telling him it would be OK.”
Adam finally agreed and the pair had a Number One and everything was roses. Except that Seal is reported to be having a major tiff with Adam over the credits for “Killer”. Seal goes a bit pensive and, after an immense pause, says:
“I’d like to set the record straight on this one. I’ve got no grievances with Adam. First and foremost we were friends. I think, initially, just through lack of communication between my management and Adam’s record company, we couldn’t come to an agreement over how I was credited on the single. It was supposed to say ‘Adamski featuring Seal’ but it didn’t. Now it’s all rectified and it’s not that much of a problem. There’s no hard feelings — me and Adam are definitely still friends.”
But Seal still looks a bit upset so we move on to the life he led before becoming a singer/songwriting type.
“I used to do electronics, and I did architecture for a while at South East London College. I didn’t really want to go to college, but I was getting pressure from the Nigerian side of my family. They value education very highly. If you’re not a doctor of this or a professor of that, you’re not going to get on in life. I wasn’t really into it. I was in the fashion industry for about five years, making clothes for a Kings Road designer. But I always wanted to be a singer first and foremost. I remember when I was 11 my teacher put me on the stage to sing a Johnny Nash song, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, in front of the parents and teachers haahaa!”
But now he’s singing his own songs and he’s aiming to take the world by storm with his first solo single at the end of July.
“I s’pose you could say I’m aiming to be quite… massive,” he says a little shyly. “But being Number One is nothing. When ‘Killer’ drops out of the Top Ten people will soon forget who I am. I don’t think I’ve made it yet.
“‘Killer’ was like a hint of Seal. The new stuff is like progressive dance music, major energy type stuff. It’s atmospheric. Before it was the Adamski show so I couldn’t really do a lot of the stuff I wanted to do on stage. I’m looking forward to really letting myself go.”
So, do you think you’ll be a super mega person then?
“Well, I think I’m quite exciting. Erm, and I do think I have star quality, but only in the way that everyone has. Everyone could be a star… but I’ve realised that I could be.”