In the world of House music, the names Jazz-N-Groove, Soulfuric Recordings and Traxsource are spoken in reverential tones. Marc Pomeroy and Brian Tappert have made a phenomenal contribution to the dance music world for over a quarter of a century. Together they have crafted a stunning repertoire of now classic productions, were responsible for one of the most loved label brands in House and launched one of the world’s first music download stores. Now Soulfuric Recordings are to re-launch courtesy of Defected Records, who have re-mastered all of their classics ready to present to a new generation and Marc and Brian get set to release their ‘House Masters – Jazz-N-Groove’ compilation packed with timeless gems.
Ratha Gud checks in with the men behind one of most prolific and well-respected partnerships in dance music…
Hi Brian & Marc, a warm welcome to DMCWORLD! How is life in sunny Florida?
MP/BT: – Thanks for having us on DMCworld, life in Florida is great, we love it here.
What was the first piece of music you heard today?
BT – This morning I put on “Age Of Consent” LP by New Order… It’s a favourite of mine since it came out and always makes me happy – looking forward to hearing the IMS keynote.
MP – Thelma Houston – You Used To Hold Me So Tight (- was feeling nostalgic)
For our younger generation of dance music lovers who may not be familiar with Jazz-N-Groove and Soulfuric Recordings, tell us a little about your music history.
BT – I come from a DJ background, growing up in New Jersey in the mid 80s… I was exposed to all kinds of music. A main influence for me was Tony Humphries and his show on 98.7 Kiss.
MP – I was a recording engineer in Hollywood Florida. I was into freestyle in the mid 80’s (still have all my records). I then delved into some R&B and Hip-Hop productions with my previous production partner, Drew Mossop. He got me into House music. I was hooked.
How would you describe the Jazz-N-Groove sound and did you ever anticipate you would become pioneers of a scene and more still thereafter?
BT – TBH, we never dreamed our productions would stand the test of time, it’s a humbling experience to have made music 20+ years ago which still has relevance in an industry that has undergone such cataclysmic change. If I had to describe the Jazz-N-Groove sound I would call it “musical, modern & dancefloor friendly”. The main thing was always to make the track rock the floor, but to do so using quality musical elements and to always treat the song with respect. Essentially with our Jazz-N-Groove alias we would also try to incorporate whatever was the current trendy sound of the moment, be it UKG, live instrumentation or disco elements, etc. This was in complete contrast to other aliases we produced under like Urban Blues Project, which we didn’t do this at all.
And fast forward to present day, what are you doing now?
BT – Today our lives are quite different, with Traxsource being the focal point rather than being in the studio all the time. Saying that… Marc and I work on the site very much the same way we worked on our productions – we are both very hands on and overly opinionated haha. With our music productions, Marc has always been the musical and technical genius. He mostly was locked in the studio with his keyboards and mixing board and I would do a lot of the traveling and Djing, presenting our music to the masses and coming back to tweak this and that. With Traxsource, it’s a similar thing, Marc is the technical genius who mostly is locked in his development office, only now it’s with with his computer keyboard and servers etc.
MP – Brian is the ears, eyes and voice of Traxsource and is my compass in the industry. Everything we do is for the benefit of our House music culture, reflected through Traxsource. It’s a daily motive now.
Was it a natural progression to launch a new concept music download store whilst in the middle of a successful recording career and owning a highly acclaimed set of record labels? What fuelled it’s inception?
BT – They say necessity is the mother of invention and this is exactly the case here. Traxsource was born out of a very basic need which was – How do we (as Soulfuric) fill this growing digital demand for our music? At the time (2000-2003), CDJs were just coming out and there was a lot of change happening in the DJ booth with software and technology, but there was no way to sell CDs or to deliver a digital product of any kind. The entire industry was very vinyl focused. For us this was fine as we were selling tons of vinyl with Soulfuric and even pressed and distributed 15 additional labels, but we could see things were changing and we knew that something had to change in order to adapt. It was actually Axwell, who was a Soulfuric artist at that time and also quite a bit younger than us, who said “Don’t worry, someone smart will figure out how to make money from Mp3s”. This was the seed which got us thinking about alternatives to the CD. We decided, If we cannot sell CDs, and the current distribution model is overlooking digital, and piracy is everywhere… let’s just skip over all of what exists and sell our music direct to our fans. So we set out to accomplish this one simple thing – to make sure our fans could get hold of our product in a digital format. We never intended to start a digital download store (which at that time was not invented yet), we just wanted to make sure as a label (Soulfuric) we could supply our fans with our music. But this idea grew and grew and before we knew it – we had to call it something else…
Would you say your recording career and Soulfuric Recordings became a victim of Traxsource’s success? What fuelled the decision to stop writing and releasing, don’t you sometimes get the urge to just dive back into the studio and create?… We miss you!
BT – Thanks for the kind thoughts and in many ways we both miss it too. But, Marc and I always wanted to put our brands first. At some point everyone has to choose, either you are your brand or your brand is THE thing. For us, we realized it’s tough to stay hot and our goal was to build the brand. We put a lot of effort into finding new talent and loved to develop artists and producers. People like John Julius Knight, Axwell, Hardsoul, Copyright, Richard Earnshaw really got started with us. By the time Traxsource came into the picture – its success did kind of take us by surprise and it was not long before it consumed all of our energy every day and this remains the status quo. So to answer your question, we never decided to stop, we just have been saying not today for like 10+ years… Saying that, you never know.
Then would it be safe to say that Traxsource fulfils your creativity in other ways?
BT – The work we do keeping Traxsource & #RealHouseMusic alive really is more important than any of the records we may have made. To us, we are thrilled to be in the position we are currently with Traxsource being maybe the last place on earth where authenticity, quality and craft matter. We don’t care about hype or how many followers or whatever. We care about the music and that’s all… and yes it does fulfil a creative outlet for sure.
MP- Absolutely… planning and development of the store is my new creative outlet. But it’s a bit different. Now keeping our users in mind is first priority.
Defected Records have bestowed the honour for you to create a Jazz-N-Groove House Masters compilation, which is packed full of classic gems we love! You must feel very proud of your great catalogue of music, what can we expect to hear on the album?
MP/BT – It has been an extremely humbling experience to relive a lot of the music we made over the years. Its funny how some sound really fresh and some, well – not so much, you never know what will age well haha. We hope you hear some quality tunes which have stood the test of time and make you want to move.
You’ve produced with and remixed an amazing array of artists over the years including, Frankie Knuckles, Louie Vega, Michelle Weeks, Axwell, Donna Allen, Shakedown, Michael Proctor, Keith Thompson, Arnold Jarvis, Loleatta Holloway, to name a few. Which of your own productions/remixes carry the most precious memories and why?
BT – Wow, so many of them have so many amazing memories, a couple highlights for me would be “Deliver Me” as this was the real first collaboration Marc and I made together from scratch and it was magical. The record made itself and when it was done we both were amazed and realized that we had to work together more often and we did and have never looked back.
MP – Yeah, I have to say the first one brought the most nostalgia. It solidified what we could do as a team.
Aside of Jazz-N-Groove, you have also produced as Urban Blues Project UBP, Soulsearcher and Cleptomaniacs (with John Julius Knight), tell us more about each guise and your key releases from the time?
BT- It’s true, we had a lot of aliases over the years. Basically, Jazz-N-Groove was started in 1992 by myself and Roy Grant before Marc and I hooked up. In those early years we met Marc at a studio we hired to record in, from that first day we all became friends and remain so to this day. We would swap mixes and hire him to engineer whenever we could – he was a real mentor. Then around 1994, he and I decided to collaborate on our first original production together which we needed a name for – and Urban Blues Project was born with “Deliver Me” featuring Michael Procter. Marc became the other half of Jazz-N-Groove around 96ish. In those same early years, John Julius Knight and I became friends and he used to rent my home studio and I would do the programming etc. One day we sampled up some bits and the track sounded so hot I said, “let’s do something together” and that ended up becoming “Agitate It” on Bassline. That was the beginning of our collaborations which we eventually called “Cleptomanics” because they were very often Sample based. Marc would later jump in on Cleptomanics too, we were all like a big family. Soulsearcher is and always was Marc’s solo project and I’ll let him tell that bit…
MP – We definitely had too many monikers LOL. Soulsearcher was always an experimental project. A few things worked, but most didn’t. Getting Donna Allen voicing a few of the ideas really blossomed. But Brian had a lot of influence and helped quite a bit in advice and creativity.
As a creative musical duo and partners in diverse activities in the music business, what are are your strengths and weaknesses as a team and what’s the secret to your ongoing success?
BT – Marc and I have an amazing team around us, this has always been the case (Megan and Sheldon have been here since the 90s LOL). We could never do what we do without each one of them. I would say that what makes us a good partnership is that we are very different in our skill sets and we each let the other get on with their area. This makes our collaborations end up greater than the sum of the parts. We are as opposite as a knife and a fork, but you can’t eat a steak without both…
MP – Well, Brian and I have been through the fire together. We’ve built a brotherhood that cannot be shaken. We are definitely complete opposites… but we also complement each other in our thoughts and tasks. I’m grateful.
You’ve had a long relationship with Defected Records, with Marc’s Soulsearcher ‘Can’t Get Enough’ being their first ever single release back in 1996. They have now acquired your full Soulfuric back catalogue and are re-launching the labels with re-issues and brand new material. How did the partnership come about and how do you feel about the resurrection of the legendary Soulfuric brand?
BT – Simon is a long time friend for sure. We all met way back in late 1994 when he was at AM PM, where he signed one of our records Mone – “We Can Make it” from Strictly Rhythm. Throughout the years we have worked on tons of records together and there has always been a mutual respect and admiration. Since the launch of Traxsource, it’s been nearly impossible to give the Soulfuric the love it deserves and Marc and I have always felt if anyone could get it rocking again it would be Simon and his team… We could not be happier with the relaunch and have total faith that under his guidance Soulfuric will be a major player again.
Is now the right time, have musical trends come full circle and is it time to re-introduce full songs onto our dance floors again
BT – Everything goes in cycles, for example… When I was young I wore skinny jeans, now I’m older and I’m wearing them again so we certainly hope so…
What piece of precious advice would you give to upcoming producers and songwriters?
BT – Be consistent and work on your craft. So many are looking for the quick way..it doesnt work, just dig in and keep at it.
MP – Be relentless in your efforts. Become an expert in the craft. Have integrity in all you do. Be grateful you are able to do something you love.
Do you remember your first ever DJ gig, how did it go?
BT – haha, yes i do… I was hired by my friend who was the drummer in a band to play between their sets for a private event around 1984, it was such a fun night. Though the next year they hired me instead of them… We still laugh about it today.
Your Soulfuric parties at Miami WMC back in the day are legendary, tell us about some of the highlights and who was there?
BT – Oh man, these were really fun times. We had so many from the late 90s – early 2000’s it was our family gatherings. We called it “Friends Of Ours” and that’s exactly how it was… It was the one time in the year where our whole family would come together. We had everyone there and djs which come to mind are JJK, Grant Nelson, Sheldon Prince, Copyright, Jask, Ron Carroll, Bobby D, Knee Deep, Tommy Musto – I could go on for days… I miss those parties.
‘Defected presents House Masters – Jazz-N-Groove’ will be released on May 12th 2017 on Defected Records
The Soulfuric back catalogue will be released digitally on May 5th 2017.