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Joey Negro- I Still Love House Music ::

Reported by Trackitdown TID on March 2, 2005

“Some people slag off dance music saying it’s boring, whereas to me there’s boring house music and brilliant house music; Just like there’s boring rock and great rock and boring and good indie.”

Chatting down the line from his North London studio, UK super-producer Joey Negro admits he’s as committed to club culture today as he was when he started his career pushing records for legendary independent record cartel Rough trade in the mid 80s.

“Some indie groups that people hail as great new bands just sound the same as the old ones, but at least dance music uses all the innovative aspects of technology,” he points out, “I still love house and I happily align myself to it.”

While he’s recognised in clubs as DJ Joey Negro, Dave Lee (his real name) is better known in the charts as Jakatta, Raven Maize or Z Factor and he also happens to run one of Britain’s most respected house labels Azuli, giving him ample credentials to pontificate at length.

“Clubs are always full wherever you go in the UK, but I think what’s happening is that ‘trendies’; fashion type people, don’t follow house music as much as they did in the late ‘80’s early ‘90’s,” he suggests, “But that doesn’t mean that club culture has disappeared like I’ve read on some articles; lots of people still go out every weekend.

Maybe the journalists writing these articles weren’t aware of soulful garage back in the days when it started and what they consider as club culture is bands like Faithless; perhaps that scene is no longer as big as it once was.”

‘Soulful garage’ is the subculture he’s most familiar with, and it’s one he’s explored cheerfully on his new Defected Records compilation Joey Negro In The House. Covering three CD discs, the set includes edits from the likes of Roxy Music and te O’ Jays to Pete Heller and the Salsoul Orchestra, in keeping with his goal to keep it mixed.

“I wanted to include old style tracks such as 80’s material, disco and old Italian house,” says Joey, “You want to make sure it doesn’t sound boring, it’s got to be varied but not disjointed, without putting the riskier stuff at the end of the CD.”

Skrufff (Benedetta Skrufff): Starting with the new compilation: it’s a triple CD, described as being ‘carefully crafted’, how long did you work on it?

Joey Negro: “Maybe a couple of weeks, since I’d already done all the edits previously for my DJing purposes. I’ve mixed the album through my computer and then added all the effects on top. I’ve just tried to get it as right as I possibly could, since I’m not one to mix it spontaneously on the decks overlooking possible mistakes. I personally try to spend time on it to make sure it sounds right.”

Skrufff: How do you visualise people playing it?

Joey Negro: “I guess people might listen to it before going out or maybe when they’re driving (pausing). I don’t necessarily know when people might like to listen to music, particularly when it’s garage or soulful house. The way I do it is to start with maybe 40 records to end up with 30, but it’s all about how you put these tracks together, that matters; you want to make sure it doesn’t sound boring, it’s got to be varied but not disjointed, without putting the riskier stuff at the end of the CD. You can have ten great records in a row, but they may not sound good together, because they’re too similar or have too many vocals, it’s a question of balance, taste and experience I guess. There’s no right or wrong way either, that’s the thing with music, it’s not mathematics.”

Skrufff: How many records do you own right now?

Joey Negro “Not as many as people might think, maybe 15,000. Some people keep everything they get, but I don’t and if I had the time to go through them all, I’d probably get rid of two or three thousand as well. I like collecting records, but I also like to listen to them, not just have them to look at them.”

Skrufff: you’ve done a re-edit of Roxy Music’s Angel Eyes on the extra CD: have you been inspired much by the emergence of electro-house/ 80s tinged music?

Joey Negro: “Yes, a little bit. I like that stuff, obscure Italo-disco, electronic bass line and I have a couple of singles coming out in that sort of genre, I don’t want to jump on the band wagon, but I like it. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it’s a bit repetitive, they have good bass lines, yes, but then not much else happens. I want to do some tracks with more grooves and these two tracks coming up are more song based, especially one of the two. They’ll come out on my label (Azuli) initially and maybe I’ll get them licensed to another one afterwards.”

Skrufff: What was your entry into club music?

Joey Negro: “When I first got interested in music, as a little boy, I was really into glam rock. I used to like the really long hair and people thought I was my mum’s daughter, not son, though that wasn’t something I liked personally. Then when disco music became popular, in ’79, ’80, I started going out clubbing in Essex, where I grew up. At the time none of my friends wanted to come with me since clubs had a reputation for being violent but I still went by myself occasionally just to hear good records played on a big sound system.”

Skrufff: How did you end up working at Rough Trade in the 80s?

Joey Negro: “What happened was that Rough Trade took on a dance label called Rhythm King and wanted a dance specialist to work on their catalogue, since everybody there was more specialised in indie music. I was working at a record shop at the time, went along for a job interview and although I was totally inexperienced was the best candidate they could get for the money they were offering. Initially I was just running around record shops trying to place records did that for 18 months but I also had loads of ideas and was often giving people tips on new bands to sign, many of which became quite successful, like Cold Cut for example. After a while, I decided to start signing them myself, since you never even got a ‘thank you’ from those people as they wouldn’t even remember you even told them in the first place.”

Skrufff: 20 years later, you’re working harder than ever, what motivates you to keep on working so hard?

Joey Negro: “I wonder that myself, to be honest. I think I work hard because I have many ideas and I like seeing things through, which means I end up making more and more records. Then there’s the money of course. If I’m offered some decent money for a gig I’m unable to turn it down, to be honest. I get paid for something I enjoy doing, so it’s not a big deal for me to accept the money. That’s more about the Djing side of it, obviously there’s not so much money involved in making compilations.”

Skrufff: Have you had moments when things had gone wrong?

Joey Negro: “Of course. Many times. We all do, don’t we? Sometimes tracks don’t work out, sometimes gigs are not that enjoyable, the travelling might turn out to be a nightmare so I might think that I’m sick of DJing, but we all have moments of insecurity, then we ask ourselves ‘Well, if I don’t do this, what else would I do’?”

Skrufff: You told the Sunday Times a couple of years ago: “You don’t meet that many people in this job who you get on with. A lot of people are sycophantic- you could behave like a complete dickhead and they’d still like you’, do you catch yourself behaving badly from time to time?

Joey Negro: “Sometimes, especially when I get a bit drunk or high I tend to talk absolute rubbish. I mean, not rubbish, but I might talk about something which I think is funny at the time which turns out not to be funny at all. I guess sometimes even if I say outrageous things I can get away with it, other times I end up looking like a bit of a wanker, I suppose. I remember once I ended up having one of those conversations with someone very similar to me, who was talking rubbish and people around him were laughing at what he was saying when I thought, actually this guy is not funny at all, so I started questioning myself and thought maybe that’s what I’m like too? You hope you’re not but . . .”

Joey Negro In The House is out now on Defected Records.

Benedetta Ferraro (