Joey Negro is the most well known pseudonym of master British DJ/producer/remixer, Dave Lee. Under a plethora of other monikers including Akabu, Doug Willis, The Sunburst Band, Jakatta, Raven Maize, Sessomatto and Z Factor, Dave was one of the first artists to incorporate disco samples in house music when he began his production career in 1988. Indeed, he was in the studio making credible British house music when many luminaries around him were still busy getting to grips with their decks. Little has changed since then and Dave is still widely regarded as one of the forefathers of the UK dance scene who is still as productive as ever in the studio and behind the decks most weekends.
Electronic Groove: Hi Joey, thanks for talking to us. Your album ‘Produced With Love’ is out now, after so long in the making, how do you feel now its nearly out there?
Joey Negro: Thanks. In most ways it’s great, as it’s been a tremendous amount of work and the fan reaction has been pretty much universally good, which I wasn’t sure it would be. Though at the same time not having this big batch of unreleased music on my studio hard drive feels a little strange. I’ve been thinking “what shall I do next?” in terms of my own original music and I’m still not quite sure.
EG: You’ve recorded under many different guises since the last Joey Negro album, why do you think it took so long for a second one?
Joey Negro: There isn’t really an answer. I’ve released quite a few Joey Negro singles since then and seven artist albums other under other aliases. It just felt like the right time to produce and release a new JN album. Looking forward to making another one in 2037 😉
EG: Disco went through a particularly maligned period in the late 70’s/early 80’s – do you think the image of ‘tacky’ disco records is one that the genre has found hard to shake in some quarters?
Joey Negro: In the USA more than Europe. Disco was a dirty word there for a long time, probably still is in some quarters. I guess the disco thing took hold more in the USA in terms of taking over radio stations, mainstream clubs and it became a craze. Often it wasn’t even the better stuff musically that was getting played. There is no denying there was a lot of rubbish disco made, cash in cover versions manufactured by labels looking to make quick buck rather than good music. Plus, there were plenty of very derivative copies of the popular songs. However, if you were genuinely into the music these sort of releases were easily avoided.
EG: What is it about disco that gets under your skin?
Joey Negro: I assume you mean gets under my skin in good way? Before I really understood music in terms of how to make it, chords, harmonies etc. I was drawn to disco because of the way it made me feel. It’s hard to describe that sensation you get out of a piece of music you love. I liked some punk and rock but in general it didn’t have the same effect on me. When I say disco I mean the stuff that was crossing over into the UK charts in the late 70’s – Heatwave, Narada Michael Walden, Rose Royce, The Jacksons, Earth Wind & Fire. I soon discovered non-chart disco via the radio and magazines and became a big vinyl collector and used record store digger. I love many types of music, though also find a lot of stuff painful to listen to. To make distinctive music I believe you need to have strong likes and dislikes.
EG: You’ve been a major player in Defected’s Glitterbox night since it launched. Does the success of a night like that demonstrate that there’s still a real love for disco and older music to be listened to in clubs?
Joey Negro: I think a lot of people want to hear something a little lighter and more vocal than tech house when they go out to a club, even in Ibiza. One of the reasons for disco is being revived is very few producers are making modern music of that style with the same calibre of songs. That being said, when I play at Glitterbox I try to make sure at least 30/40% of my set is new, I’m not interested in doing sets of all old music.
“To make distinctive music I believe you need to have strong likes and dislikes”
EG: You’ve been involved with some huge pop artists over the course of your career. Is that something that interests you now, or do you prefer to focus on your own productions?
Joey Negro: I have mixed feelings about it. Having major crossover success as either the act or the producer is exciting and it’s great hearing something you created all over the radio. It can also be very lucrative if the song sells well, so I’m definitely grateful I had the success I did. However, when I’ve been the artist it often was easy to get sucked into doing a lot of promo work, going for meetings about artwork, marketing, videos, etc., it’s fun for a while but I ended up getting frustrated that I was not in the studio as much as I’d like. When working with pop artists they do all the promo, which is much better but there’s lot of pressure to produce a hit and often you’re working to a tight deadline. Experience has taught me it’s also quite likely I’ll need to be prepared to return to the project to make many changes, redo stuff I think is fine and generally do whatever the label and management want for as long as they think is required. They might even end up taking it away and get someone else to mix it. I understand it’s nothing personal, that’s just the way it works and in retrospect I might agree with the decisions that were made, but it can be quite stressful. So never say never, but it’s not something I’m desperate to get back into.
EG: Do you have any particular favorite records on the album, or is that something that changes?
Joey Negro: I don’t particularly. I was really happy with most of the songs on there. If you like what I do then things like ‘Stomp your Feet’, the new version of ‘Must Be The Music’, ‘Won’t Let Go’ are classic Dave Lee & Joey Negro. I’m also pleased how ‘Distorting Space Time’ came out different from anything I’ve done before and that I eventually managed to get that about right in time for it to make the album.
EG: What’s in the pipeline for Joey Negro?
Joey Negro: My next album is ‘Remixed With Love Volume 3’. All remixes, so totally different from this in terms of not actually originating the songs from scratch, no lyric or melody writing. In that way it’s easier but the big hurdle with RWL is getting the multis and clearing the remixes with major labels, which can take FOREVER!
Joey’s Negro ‘Produced with Love’ LP is available on Z Records.
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