Tue. Sep. 28, 2021

Joey Negro: Remixed With Love!

Joey NegroThe one we’re welcoming this week is far away from being one of those guys! His tribute to the Dance Music on its whole is priceless. Therefore, giving him a well deserved seat on the UK Music Hall Of Fame. This, alongside Norman Jay, Ashley Beedle and Dr Bob Jones. But also Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson, Gilles Peterson and Keb Darge. Not to mention Patrick Forge or Barrie K. Sharpe. He stands as the British ambassador of Disco/House. Ladies & Gentlemen, Joey Negro!


The first time I got to hear about Joey Negro brings me back by the end of the 80’s when comin’ to listen to Jeff Young‘s Friday eve Big Beat show on Radio 1. Back then, the latter was enthuzing about a compilation titled ‘The Garage Sound Of Deepest New York’ on Republic Records.
I would get to know soon after this happened to be Dave Lee‘s (Joey Negro‘s real name) label. Meanwhile discovering an impressive list of irresistible goodies there. From Turntable Orchestra‘s You’re Gonna Miss Me’ to Phase II‘s ‘Reachin’ (a Blaze produced gem). And also Life On Earth‘s ‘Can’t Give You Up’. A cut which sounded like a brilliant extrapolation of Mystic Merlin‘s Disco classic ‘Just Can’t Give You Up’.

A few years after, once House Music had made its place in the UK, Joey Negro would nevertheless put an end to Republic Records and launch Z Records from its ashes. Meanwhile, as an artist, he would produce an ever growing series of classics under various guises such as Doug Willis, Raven Maize and Z Factor. But also Sessomotto, Jakatta and Akabu. Not to mention putting together The Sunburst Band. A versatility which, no surprisingly, happened to be one of the keywords on the tracklisting of his ‘House Masters’ compilation for Defected…

“I’ve made many more commercial records like Jakatta, Raven Maize etc. Producing more mainstream material isn’t easier. Just a different set of rules and objectives. I don’t mind doing it, but not all the time.”

Consistency seems to pay off, as said by Roy Ayers in these columns back in the day. Any comment?
“If that’s what Roy says then I’m not going to argue. I’d be interested to know what Lonnie Liston-Smith has to say on the subject though.” (Smile)

Got another example with Blaze back then whom you’ve licensed tracks from on your Republic Records label
“I still like some of their records…”

Ever felt the will to relaunch this fantastic data base?
“I seriously doubt it. Most of the tracks were licensed from American labels and the contracts have expired now. So it would be expensive to start again. Also worldwide sales of House Music have unfortunately declined quite drastically since those days. So I don’t know if it would be financially viable.”

How do you see all the records that you’ve released under this banner some 25 years ago?
“I still like most of the stuff, especially tracks like Arnold Jarvis’s ‘Take Some Time Out’, bringing back memories from that period.”

This so called (New) Jersey sound (equally remembered as Garage) you’ve championed had been touted by some observers as to become the counterpart of the Motown era at the time. Alas, things have shown the contrary. How come?
“There are so many reasons. I don’t think the songwriting in New Jersey / Garage was in most cases quite in the same league as the best of Motown. Also there wasn’t much radio support or real Pop artists, which is really essential nowadays. Ultimately, I think much of the NJ stuff was/is too gospelly, jazzy and underground sounding. Maybe with a Berry Gordy and a Holland/Dozier/Holland type of song writing team things could have been different…”

Do you still believe it could meet the media attention and get the investment it deserves?
“Maybe with someone with a lot of money decided to invest in it. There is still some good music coming out of that scene…”

You alternate studio concepts with albums such as in regards to The Sunburst Band which require finances, judging by the amount of people involved. Would this mean, like some of your alter egos tend to say, that whenever doing an album, you always have in mind the fact that it could be the last?
“Whenever I’m in the studio working on an album, I always try my best to make the best I can. It maybe wasn’t as expensive as you think for the session singers. For example regarding the ‘Until The End Of Time’ album (released back in 2004), the track with Linda Clifford was recorded a few years earlier when she was in the UK. The Chic girls just happened to be over in London for a gig. So there wasn’t any flight/hotel costs.

What did cost money is the amount of time it took to make the LP, which stopped me doing any other more lucrative work at the time. Also working with musicians is more time consuming. As it does take ages (re)sizing takes and therefore select the best performances out of people…”

Funny how you’ve managed to establish yourself among the ambassadors of a Disco-influenced sound. And even at times when people here or there would come up with heavy critics such as the famous ‘Disco Sucks’. Not to mention by the time of the so-called electroclash sound as remembered with French guy Ivan Smagghe who released a compilation titled… ‘The Death Of Disco’!!!
“I think Disco may have become un-cool at a moment, with all the trendy idiots jumpin’ into 80’s sound-alikes back then. Some of it like Chicken Lips or Metro Area were great but most of it was nonsense. For me a good record is a good record. Whether it is the “cool” sound of the moment or not!”

Is there still place for what has to be taken as Modern Disco in the times we’re living?
“Jamiroquai made a pretty good living out of it. But it will never be as big as it was in the 70’s.”

Have you ever felt hard to stay true to your roots? Tempted to chose some reputedly easier path?
“I’ve made many more commercial records like Jakatta, Raven Maize etc. Producing more mainstream material isn’t easier. Just a different set of rules and objectives. I don’t mind doing it, but not all the time.”

Never thought about asking you what’s been the first record you’ve ever bought? Your heroes?
“The first record I bought was Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’, a UK Glam Rock record. I still like that style. I love people like Earth, Wind & Fire, George Duke, Roy Ayers, Mtume/Lucas, the great 70’s producers!”

Can’t help myself thinking about a weekly show on Radio 1 called ‘Discovatin” as hosted by Al Matthews at the end of the seventies. Was one of my favorite with Jeff Young’s ‘Big Beat’ 10 years after.
“I used to listen to Radio Luxemburg in the late 70’s. They had ‘Disco’ shows on 5 nights a week. A shame the reception was so awful. I used to check out Jeff Young when he replaced Robbie Vincent on Radio London on Saturday Lunchtimes. Those were the days!”

Chosen few
Here Comes The Sunburst Band (Z Records) – Joey Negro Presents The Sunburst Band
Until The End Of Time (Z Records)Joey Negro Presents The Sunburst Band
Moving With The Shakers (Z Records) – Joey Negro And The Sunburst Band
The Secret Life Of Us (Z Records)- Joey Negro And The Sunburst Band
The Phuture Remixed (Z Records) – Joey Negro Presents Akabu
Southport Weekender (SuSU) – Joey Negro
The Kings Of Disco (Rapster Records) – Dimitri From Paris & Joey Negro
House Masters (Defected) – Joey Negro
Remixed With Love (Z Records) – Joey Negro

Interview: Joey Negro

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