Joey Negro (real name Dave Lee) just released Produced With Love, his first album in 20 years. We’ve written many a story on the House and Disco maestro, but it would be a massive understatement to say that Produced With Love is the pièce de résistance we’ve all been waiting for.
Produced With Love features vocals from divas such as Linda Clifford, Melba Moore and the recently passed Diane Charlemagne with whom Dave has had many collaborations with throughout the years. Dave is one of the few modern artists on the scene that have produced original Disco, and the music is warm, feel-good music with lots of lush vocals.
Produced With Love is out now, and we caught up with him to talk about it.
Right now there’s too much regurgitation in House music. I hear many “new” releases that are just a popular song from the ’70 or ’80s with added drums. Unless it’s done exceptionally well I’m bored with that now. It’s more satisfying to know you’ve written a new song that didn’t exist before.
I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is not only your second album, but that it’s taken 20 years? Your output is staggering that it’s hard to believe that there aren’t more albums.
Well there are, just not as “Joey Negro.” There are four Sunburst albums, one Doug Willis, one Akabu, one Jakatta and then there was quite a few comps of purely my productions and remixes like “Many Faces Of,” “Can’t Get High Without U” and “Back to the Scene of the Crime.” This is the second ever Joey Negro artist album.
What was your process of selecting songs? Did you know exactly what you wanted or was it a process of making a big list and then trimming it down?
I normally have a few initial ideas for songs in my head. I write notes on my phone regarding the tempos, titles, lyrics, harmonic ideas and sometimes I’ll also hum in melodies and basslines. To end up with 15 album-worthy songs I’ve probably started 30 or 40. Not every idea works as well as you thought it would do. Some tracks you give up on fairly quickly as experience has taught me that if it ain’t happening in the early stages, often it won’t ever quite gel. But other times I might get as far as recording vocals, even completely finishing something before deciding it’s just not quite good enough.
It was mostly started, written and mixed in my studio. The oldest song in here is actually from around ’93/’94. I wrote “Dancing Into the Stars” with Ann Saunderson for an act that didn’t ever come to fruition, so it never got beyond a cassette demo. It’s very Disco and I always liked it so this seemed like a good time to finally record it properly. Otherwise many of the tracks have been going between six months and six years. After my initial year or two of making music for an album I’ve got maybe six or seven tracks which, though not 100% finished, I know will make the end product. Then I look at what I have and what I’m missing.
At that point I might start off a few more that in theory will fill in the gaps. Of course I’m not solidly working on the album for the whole time: I’m doing other studio stuff, releasing some singles, remixing, the album projects go on in the background for a long period. I was working on Remixed With Love Vol. 2 and 3 whilst also doing this. It’s one of the great things with modern digital technology: it’s possible to instantly switch between different songs and projects in the studio now without having to take the tape off the machine and reset the desk.
One of my favorites is the “Must be the Music.” How did you rework that?
It’s a remake of an old track I had out about 15 years ago, but the only thing that remains is the chorus backing vocals. All the drums, music and verse vocals are new. The original sounds pretty dated now: too fast and with that Subliminal Records filtered sound. However, it was a big hit here in the UK at the time, got into the Top 10 of the singles chart, so I often get asked to play it when I DJ. I thought it would be cool to do a radically different remake my own song, produce a new version I could play in my sets alongside original Disco. The idea was give it the vibe of Chic or Change.
So do you do absolutely no sampling whatsoever? Every part is played over by a musician?
Of course there is some sampling across the 18 songs, but not so much. I’m not someone who can say sampling is a bad thing, as I’ve done a fair bit of it! I’m certainly not against it in principle. However at this stage in my career starting a song with a sample and the path it tends to take me on in the studio doesn’t excite me like it once did.
I guess back in the ’80/’90s there were loads of great records that hadn’t ever been sampled and due to the limited space in the sampler often the end production was a combination of a several smaller samples from different sources. Right now there’s too much regurgitation in House music. I hear many “new” releases that are just a popular song from the ’70/’80s with added drums. Unless it’s done exceptionally well I’m bored with that now. It’s more satisfying to know you’ve written a new song that didn’t exist before, recorded vocals etc, not that it necessarily means it better musically but at least there is an attempt to make something original.
The passing of Diane Charlemagne is so sad, it’s wonderful to see your music is keeping her alive in our ears and our hearts! Do you have any particular fond memories of her?
I have many fond memories of working with Diane as she was a laugh and always got into whatever it was we were working on. She was originally from Manchester with a wry northern wit and used to refer to everyone as “Chuck.” One thing I particularly liked about our relationship was she listened and took on board your ideas and concepts. If one of us came up with a catchier line or better lyric there was no ego about scrapping what was there. The thing is with Di is she was pretty good at most things – words, melodies as well as the actual singing. It’s a great shame she didn’t make more money out of her talent.
Which songs do you plan on having remixes done for? Who are some of the producers you may be enlisting?
Well, we have remixes in or coming from Ron Trent, Andres, Crackazat, Lay-Far. I’m sure there will be others over the course of the next few months. Also Z Records has had quite a few of the remixers I rate already. Money-wise remixing isn’t as lucrative as DJ work so prospective remixers have to really want to do it because they love the track and think it’s good exposure. You can always get someone to remix your release, but finding the right person isn’t always that easy.
Any plans for an album tour?
Not specifically. I’m spinning most weekends and usually play four or five songs from the album in a set. To do an album tour properly I’d need to have a singer with me which isn’t that straight forward right now.
Produced With Love is out now on Joey Negro’s Z Records.
First published in issue 149 of 5 Magazine featuring Pomo, Joey Negro, Paul Oakenfold, Adam Warped and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music for only $2 per month.