A massive spring looms for an artist riding on the crest of a wave
One of our favourite Scottish producers is getting ready for a very busy few months indeed. His current collaboration with Soul II Soul diva Victoria Wilson James is a re-fix of Malcolm McLaren’s 80‘s club smash ‘Deep In Vogue’ and boasts remixes from two of New York’s finest Tom Stephan & Honey Dijon as well as UK house legend Mr Terry Farley. Spring 2012 sees the re-release of ‘When You Tell Me That You Love Me’ on Ross Allen’s Meltdown Music Recordings with the package including mixes from club-kid-done-good Kris Di Angelis, Deep Medi Music’s Silkie and Giles Peterson favourite EVM128. Other releases include an EP called ‘Five Takes’ with queen of electronic soul Billie Ray Martin, an official full-length solo album, a guest vocal on Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris’s Afrikanz on Marz project, a slew of major festival appearances plus a remix package of ‘Fa Fa Feel’ coming out on Time with versions from Olene Kadar, Sgt Slick and the mighty X-Press 2. DMC checks in...
Words: Dan Prince
Dude, it is quite fair to say you are in the middle of a very busy time in your life at the moment - so much going on! But before we talk about all of the new material, let's go back to where it all began. A multi talented musician and dancer who has performed around the world on many a stage. Did you come from a musical/creative family up in Clydebank?
"Well, both my parents are great singers but they never pursued it professionally. There was always loads of music going on in the house though. Dad is a jazz nut so i was brought up hearing a lot of Billie Holiday, Ella, Jimmy Scott, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah etc. My mum is into Broadway show tunes but also Roy Orbison, The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Aretha and a lot of the more soulful end of 60's/70's music. My great uncle, Robert Wilson, was the known as 'The Scots Tenor' and was really famous in Scotland from the 30's to the 60's and everyone in the family was really proud of him. Plus my Grandparents were majorly into opera and classical music so it was all going on all the time and was most certainly encouraged and very diverse! I also played violin, piano and sung in the church choir! Haha! Get me!"
What was your first love in the world of the arts?
"I suppose my very first love was MGM musicals.. Gene Kelly was my idol and I watched his movies all the time. Growing older though my loves were dancer and choreographer Michael Clark, British dance company The Cholmondeleys, DV8, Matthew Bourne plus I was obsessed by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Warhol and whole idea of that Downtown NY art/fashion/music scene."
What music were you into growing up?
"When I really got into my groove I was into Grace Jones, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, Electribe 101, Tricky, Massive Attack, Bjork, Malcolm McLaren, Public Enemy, De La Soul, Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hatthaway and all house music (natch). I also continued my love for the jazz vocalists I grew up listening to as a small child."
You were a dancer in Matthew Bourne's magnificent New Adventures theatre company. What memories from there will you always cherish?
"I was and I loved it all!!! Great company, great choreographer and the most amazing concepts! The first ever run we did at Sadlers Wells was brilliant and the UK tour that followed sticks in my memory as an amazing time. But I guess for me, the outstanding memory has to be our 6-month, TONY-award winning run of 'Swan Lake' on Broadway. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'll never forget how magical it felt."
What clubs were you losing it at this point? Were other cast members from the various productions into your late night dancefloor shenanigans?
"Well in NY there was amazing club called Jackie 60 in the Meatpacking District but there was hardly anything else there at that point. Like, it was literally blood on the road, an old leather bar and an experimental cinema! Only in New York! But it was really kooky and Debbie Harry would quite often be there so that was enough of a reason for me to go! I also went to The Warehouse in The Bronx which was amazing!!! Proper NY house music with a great sound system and I seem to remember it would be on all day. Plus there was the last legs of The Limelight - it was kind of shabby but what a space! AND - Twilo!!! AMAZING!!! Kevin Aviance ruling the floor, lights, amazing music! I remember Junior Vasquez playing that old acapella of 'Hurricane' by Grace Jones over a huge tribal beat and the whole place falling to their knees!!! It was like church!!! And yes, the other cast members were mos def into partying with me! Dancers have a lot of energy!"
At what point in your career on stage did you think it was time to begin a parallel career making music?
"I had always wanted to do it to be honest. But I really wanted a dance career also so I figured I had to do that when I was young 'cause it's so demanding on the body. I was working professionally as a dancer at 16 so knew I had loads of time. Then I'd thought I move into music properly when I was much older. As it happened I started doing it at the same time (albeit more as a hobby to be honest) because opportunities arose and I just went with it. Then the dancing stopped (early retirement as a dancer) and I carried on with the music, took it more seriously and it just kept going from strength to strength so I stuck with it."
So we come back to your gaff after the gig. What is the Waterson Back To Mine Top 10 you spin us to carry on the groove…
'Bang Bang You're Mine' by Bang The Party
'Nightclubbing' by Grace Jones
'Loft In Paradise' by Danny Tenaglia
'Moody' by BPT
'Burning' by MK featuring Alana
'Slow Jam' by EVM128
'I Know You, I Live You' by Chaka Khan
'Street Halo' by Burial
'In The Stone' by Earth, Wind & Fire
'Im Hip' by Blossom Dearie
Have you ever been starstruck?
"Yes! All the time actually. I was so starstruck when I met Billie Ray and Victoria for sure! I was such a huge fan of both of them that when I met them and then got to work with them I was like "this is too much"!!! I couldn't believe it! I was also very starstruck when I met Ashley Beedle. A friend of mine Jo Wallace (the best Northern Soul DJ on the planet!) arranged for Ash to remix 'When You Tell Me' and when I had to call him to arrange I was so nervous! Then when I got to meet him in person I was even more starstruck. I kept think to myself "Oh my God - he's from X-Press 2!!!" Hahaha!"
What is your guilty pleasure song?
"'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' by Kylie."
What was last west end show you went to, do you still keep in touch with friends from that part of your life?
"Can't remember the last show I went to I'm afraid but I still keep in touch with friends from those days. In fact I went to Connecticut for someone's wedding only last year with whom I danced. Yeah, I became friends with so many amazing people during those times and I'm in touch with a lot of them."
2005 saw you jump headfirst into the world of acid house - how did it all kick off?
"I had started providing live vocals over the sets of DJ's in clubs and this led to me writing and performing top-lines to house tracks. One DJ in particular happened to be Smokin' Jo and she asked me to make a track with her. That was first big track I did. It was around 2006 I believe and it made me think much more seriously about making music. It came out on Junior Boys Own and was really popular with the after-hours set both in London and NY. This led to me making more house tracks, then writing electronica, soul and more traditionally structured songs."
The new tune 'Deep In Vogue' is blowing up everywhere - talk us through the tune? How did you hook up with Victoria Wilson James?
"Well, we met through another project we were involved in but that didn't work out and we stayed in touch and planned working on something together. I went to her studio one day and was listening to 'Deep In Vogue' and thought we'd be great doing it together. I had always loved Malcolm McLaren and always wanted to cover something of his. I put it to her and the engineer and it just happened all that day! Victoria busted up the phrasing and put some extra soul into it as only she can and it just sounded great as it unfolded. So we decided to put that out first. I also co-wrote an amazing song called 'Never Give Up Hope' which is on her new album! Wait till you hear it! Her vocal is amazing!!?"
What is your favourite album in your collection?
"'Nightclubbing' by Grace Jones."
The Spring sees the re-release of "When You Tell Me That You Love Me' on Ross Allen's Meltdown Music Recordings - tell us about the mix package?
"Yeah! So excited about this one! Ross is wicked - we get on really well. The mixes come from Silkie and EVM128. Silkie is this amazing dub step producer on the Deep Medi label and has had two full-length albums out - to much critical acclaim. Then there's EVM128 who is a very eclectic producer who has a very unique sound which is quite hard to describe but it's kind of a fusion of hip hop, electronica, funk, dusbtep and house. Very heavy and musical. Very original!!! It's gonna be great to hear what people think of the new package. Also the amazing Kris Di Angelis mix from the original release is gonna be the main mix - spruced up a little bit. And we're making a music video which I'm really chuffed about!"
Dead or alive, the six people you invite to dinner and for what reason...?
Stephen Fry (to see if I could keep up with his cleverness), Jennifer Saunders (from the scream of it), Grace Jones (to make it as outrageous as possible), Klaus Nomi (to hear him sing 'The Cold Song' by Purcell live - if he didn't mind giving us an impromptu number), Jean-Michel Basquiat (to nab a painting from beyond the grave), Warhol (to discuss wigs obviously)..."
Who is the most fabulous person on your mobile phone?
"Well, everyone on my mobile is fabulous! Hehe!"
Tell us about the work with Miss Billie Ray Martin…
"Well, we've worked on two projects together so far. It's me as a writer and producer. The first one is called 'Five Takes EP' and is our tribute to Warhol. It's coming out in April sometime and is basically five different vocal takes with five different arrangements/productions to match AND videos and Warhol style art direction too!!! As with everything that Billie does it's thought out really well and executed brilliantly. There's not many singers where you could actually use all five takes to be honest but with Billie each one is fab. Plus she is recording a duet with Aerea Negrot from Hercules and Love Affair which I'm mega excited about!!! Again, it's my music/production with the two divas singing about being 'Off the Rails'!!! They are shooting the video at a disused railway line in Berlin! Don't know when that'll come out but it's gonna be great when it does."
We hear you are off to SXSW to perform for Rolling Stone Magazine?
"Yeah, Victoria and I are launching a new music technology product in conjunction with Rolling Stone. It's called MusicROVR and we're really excited about it. Not least because we get to go to SXSW. And it's not too shabby performing at a party by the most famous music magazine on the planet either!!"
What is the last great film / book or theatre show you really enjoyed?
'Another Year' by Mike Leigh - fabulous!!!"
What exactly does your after dinner performance with a tambourine and gypsy scarf entail?
"Hahahaha! Who told you about that??? Well, it's my homage to Isadora Duncan! She was a fan of the silk scarf - both in life and in performance. Actually she died when her scarf got caught in the spoke of one of her wheels when she was holidaying in Nice. She broke her neck and died. But that's not in the after dinner show you'll be pleased to know!!! The tambourine is my own part just to jazz it up a bit! I have a really silly streak!"
What has the rest of the year got in store for us musically from you?
"Well the EP with Billie Ray comes out in April sometime, re-release of 'When You Tell Me' around the same time actually, hoping to have an EP together with EVM128 and the Billie/Aerea collaboration should come later in the year. I'd love to do something else with Victoria too - an original this time would be good so working toward that. Plus I'd love to have my album that I'm working on ready for later in the year if possible. I'm working with Silkie, Quest, EVM (mainly - we're doing a lot of great material together) and the lovely Kris on the album and so far so very good! I'm thrilled with how it's sounding. All my little stories coming together as one big story - it's not exactly as concept album but it has this theme throughout which ties in with the individual stories in the songs. And I literally just got an email from Terry Farley saying that Pete Heller really likes my voice and can we do something together!!! Um...Hello??? Legendaaaaaaaary!"
If I could change one thing about myself it would be...
"My addiction to Coco Pops! How childish! But true..."
The dancefloor has already seen a bunch of storming tracks from Waterson including 'I Love Linda' which Pete Tong was all over, after hours anthem 'Strip Down' and underground smash 'Fa Fa Feel' - what though do you think is your finest tune to date?
"Defo 'When You Tell Me That You Love Me'!"
"Grace Jones, Marvin Gaye, Erykah Badu, Bjork, Tricky, John Cage..."
What artist out there would you really love to get in the studio and make sweet music with?
"Well I'm already thrilled to pieces about working with Victoria, Billie, Kris and EVM. I guess I wouldn't mind if Grace called up one day and asked me to come over to her place in JA and lay down some laid back reggae infused electronic material with her! Hahaha!"
Not many people know this, but Waterson is really good at?
Which country do you love visiting the most and why?
"Well, it's not a country but I adore New York. Always have. The clubs are a bit dull these days but there's such a buzz in that city - it's an amazing place."
It's your birthday, what 3 DJs do you invite to play?
"X-Press 2 (with Ashley Beedle coming back for one night), Tony Humphries and Kris Di Angelis (he really is amazing!!!)."
It may not be good for my image, but I really love...
"'Murder She Wrote'!!!"
What song do you want played at your funeral?
"'La Vie En Rose' by Grace Jones."
And finally, do you really believe all roads lead to love?
"YES!!! Without a shadow of a doubt! We're all destined for Paradise! Wooohoooooooo!"