Its been 10 long years now and finally Damage are getting the respect they deserve. When they're not hitting the charts with classics such as "Ghetto Romance" and "Rumours" they're hitting the headlines with Jade and Ms Bunton. We caught up with Russ to talk about the  new single "So What If I" and to find out about this new alternative direction which could take in collaborations with unlikely artists such as Texas and Starsailor. Read on about how R&B's hottest act are mixing it up with the indie kids.

Q: The last sort of 12 months. You could definitely call it Damage's year?
A: Yeah, it been a very productive year for Damage. We've released 3 singles, the albums selling like hot cakes and were about to open it up internationally with the single "So What If I". Between the five of us were definitely enjoying ourselves , because its work that we've been doing for the 3 years we were out of the publics eye and its now all coming to a light and its all being received very well. Were very happy with it and its good that people are noticing the talent and giving us recognition that we deserve for this album.

Q: You're playing live now as opposed to the old DAT tapes scenario?
A: Well that's how we have to go cos' at the end of the day we see ourselves as vocal performers more so than anything else. It was when we was doing the move between Big Life records and EMI it was "moving on we have to be seen with a live band when we can. Are you going to be able to give us the funds to support a life band". The majority of record companies were into that and that's where they saw us going.

We look up to the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire, the Temptations - all those old Motown greats!!!! They all started out with live bands and took it back to the music and it was all about the music. And that's where we see ourselves. Its all about the music. Bottom line!!!

Q: You've been around 10 years now. What's the secret?
A: I'll tell you the secret and its very simple - Friendship. You can't really be in a group for 10 years and not really have that bond or friendship. That's how we started out, as friends more than anything else, and the love of music just keeps us going.

We all went to school together. When we was rehearsing we would go round to one persons house, we would rehearse for about 10 minutes and the other hour and a half would be playing about and fighting with each others. Absolute stupidness, but those days were the grounding days - those days were setting the foundations between the five of us, allowing us to know more about each other - so when record companies actually go involved the five of us knew where we wanted to head.

Q: R&B has always traditionally been about love songs. Taking it back to Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield they broke that tradition and wrote what are considered great political songs. Can you Damage going down that route in a few years?
A: I don't really know if were going to get political but I understand what you're talking about when you say most songs by R&B artists are all about love. I think its just the nature of the music at the end of the day. The groove of R&B music it makes you want to sing about love or making love - do you know what I mean?

I think as we get older and our knowledge about certain political issues broadens then we might dabble in it. But its a very touchy issue to touch on when you're a singer because it can either go one way or the other. Now if you're talking about Marvin Gaye and the likes of "What's Going On?", as in what's going on in the world today about the pollution and aspects like that - then of course we would like to touch on that because at the end of the day we live and breathe that stuff everyday.

Q: Why do you think US R&B artists have such a bigger degree of success then our home-grown acts?
A: Believe it or not most American artists don't really respect this country for its music and what it's about. That's why when they come over they just take liberty's when its comes to their show. They come over and do 4 or 5 songs and then head home.

Missy Elliot - there you go!!! But its not only Missy Elliot. The likes Mary J Blige when she first came over she didn't put on a hot show for us. Because whatever her reasons was - it was just like the next time she came over she knew she had to put it right.

Q: We've heard various rumours about the next album. What can expect from Damage in the future?
A: Well when we started writing for this album some of the tracks were a bit too advanced so we've already got songs ready in line for the next album. The record company may want to release another 2 singles of this album but were hoping to get in the studio and put it together in a month. Just get it out there as quickly as possible.

Were R&B heads first and foremost but right now were listening to some diverse stuff like Coldplay and Starsailor. Even the Fun Lovin' Criminals and Limp Bizkit. When it comes to listening to music we listen to a lot of things cos' at the end of the day we consider ourselves writers.

Q: We've heard that you could be having a few bizarre collaborations and taking a new alternative direction for the next album?
A: The people we worked with on "Since You've Been Gone" were the original R&B Heads - JP, Siamese, Kelle Le Roc and Emma. They'd all dabbled in the R&B or hip-hop field and I think for the next album we definitely want to take it more diverse.

A few of the guys want to work with Alanis Morrissette cos' they like her vibe as well. I think in the future duets we want to take it a bit more left-field and not the run of the mill. In saying that we do want to work with some of the great classics like Stevie Wonder, Maurice White and Quincy Jones.

Q: Starsailor and Texas are a few names flying around at the moment?
A: Right about now Starsailors schedule has gone through the roof so we'll give them a little time before we go and ask them anything. But that will be dope, definitely. We got the first listen in of the Starsailor album - there's some hot shit right there!!!

We actually met Sharleen the first time on the National Lottery and she is so cool, really down to earth. We asked her if she wouldn't mind doing a duet with us so it may be happening. We've loved Texas since the day they did that track with Method Man so we definitely want to hook up with Sharleen Spiteri.

"So What If I" is out now
Watch the video here

Official Damage Website