How did you come to work with Challan Carmichael?
I met Challan through a mutual friend of ours and good friend of mine called Dane Bowers. I met Challan about 12 years ago, maybe even more, maybe about 13 or 14 years ago. At the time I knew that Challan was a dancer and very musical but he wasn’t in the music business at the time. I found him a very interesting person, being in the army and being into music and dance, I just found that an interesting combination for a person. You meet a lot of people on the road, but you don’t usually come across a person who’s been in the army and like to dance at the same time. It was quite strange; from a war zone to dancing in a nightclub, it’s kind of crazy.
We found a good friendship then Challan started doing some tour managing for me while I was still doing a lot of shows for Phats & Small in the space of about 2 and a half years.
How many tracks have you created with Challan?
I’ve been in the studio with him also, the first time he went into a studio, I took him to writing room down in London with my brother who’s also a musician and we played around with some ideas. I’m working on his LP, at the moment so I’ve managed to have the privilege of recording about 3 tracks with him.
What are your thoughts on Challan and his music?
I am a big fan of Challan and Challan is a big fan of music, and I am also a fan of music. Challan reminds me of MC Hammer and I think that the world needs another Hammer. Another ‘feel good in-your-face-performer’ and musician who you can’t help but to dance to; you can’t help to have a good time and dance. Challan has that kind of energy and if he can take his personality and put it into the music, which is what we’re trying to do with this track and that track, I think he will be ensured by a success. I think that with Challan, although its music, it’s kind of about the experience. I think it’s the music, the performance, the energy; I think Hammer was a 360 artist in the way that he was 3 dimensional. I think Challan is a 3 dimensional artist as well so it’s just to do with the whole package.
Challan had the skeletons of the tracks, some people call them demos, and sometimes I call it the skeleton of the track. You know, he trusts me musically, so I listened to them and I just gave him my interpretation of where I think that the tracks should go. I was heavily involved in a band called Phats and Small and in the late 90’s to the early 00’s, and we made that sort of music that got people out of their seats and they dancing; we sort of gave that whole energy and vibe and feel. Challan felt that was the way that he wanted to portray himself and bring toward that sort of energy so I kind of did the same I did with Phats and Small; alongside Challan, and alongside the producers of Phats and Small back in the day, I kind of add my own sort of special spice and hopefully it works.
How did you get started as a singer?
I could always sing when I was a kid but where I was coming from, singing wasn’t very cool, and singers seemed so far away and distant from me. I’m quite old now, so I was kind of there at the beginning or popular stages of Hip Hop and I was very influenced by Rappers like Run DMC and LL Cool J. What people would say the Godfathers of Hip Hop; I was influenced by them because they had a whole street swag that I related to. So I got into rapping first because I thought that that was a lot cooler, then as time went on I naturally fell into singing because that what I originally was. But my first record deals were for rapping, yeah, I had a few rap deals before I was a singer.
How long have you been singing for?
I’ve been singing professionally, my first record deal came in 1993, so that’s around 20 years.
What genres of music do you have the most passion for and why?
I like music. It’s a weird thing to say but it’s definitely honest, I like all genres of music and depending on what mood I’m in, is the passion I have. So it just depends what mood I’m in. I suppose that I can do something that a lot of people can’t do, where I can just listen to a rapper and a beat; I still have that, which many people can’. So there doesn’t have to be any music production or anything like that, if someone’s got good rhythms and a plain drum beat; I can still listen to that, which I think a lot of people find hard to do, if there’s no musicality.
I think good songs really. Good melody, great vocal and minimal production. I think if the song is fantastic, and the melody is good and the vocals are good, the production doesn’t need to be overly produced; if you look at ‘Turn Around’ by Phats and Small, that wasn’t overly produced. If you look at the Adele album, that wasn’t overly produced. Even the Tings Tings ‘That’s Not My Name’, that’s not overly produced. Great songs are not to do with the production; they’re to do with the song.
Do you mainly work solo or in a team?
In the studio there’s always a team, I think one person can’t make a great record on their own. I think you’ve got to be incredibly talented, maybe Pharrell Williams could probably do that or Kanye West. But I find that I always work with a team of people to get different views, different angles, different ideas, etc. But I like to perform on my own really. I like to hold the stage; you know that’s just my direction in life, that’s my calling. I been in bands and stuff, but as a front man I like to have control of the stage and the show.
What do you consider your finest skill of music to be, or do you have more than one?
I think my best asset is energy and performance. So if I’m in the studio, I’m thinking about how I’m going perform a song, I’m thinking about the stage show. Some people are thinking about the video, or some people are thinking about the vocals; I’m thinking about how I’m going to perform it, how I’m going to put the energy up. That’s my thing.
What is your favourite track or tracks that you have sung?
‘Feel Good’ and ‘Tonight’ by Phats and Small, and all works by the Intenso Project. I had a house group by the name of the Intenso Project and we had a few charts hits there; there was a track called ‘Love the Sunshine’ and another track called ‘Your Music’. Another called ‘Get It On’, which I actually recorded with a girl out of Steps called Lisa Scott Lee; it is a fantastic track and was on Ministry of Sound, you know, they were club thumpers.
I liked working with Dane Bowers, I think he has one of the most underrated R&B voices in the country; I think he’s got a great R&B voice but I still that he’s very underrated. I liked working with Frankie Knuckles, R.I.P. Frankie Knuckles. I worked with Frankie Knuckles back in the 80’s remix of move your body. I think he’s an absolute legend and he was great at what he did. There was an old band called Stakker Humanoid in the early 90’s; these are all the Godfathers of house music. I liked working with them, I thought that they were great; they’re Mancunian guys, very musical. I like working with loads people but I like writing songs for people as well.
Are there any UK artists that you think you’re music would be suited to?
I’d like to do a real, big, classic male soul group. I’d like to be in a band with Lemar, Simon Web and Craig David; I think that that would be a really cool thing to do. But Soul, not so much R&B, not like a Jagged Edge or a Jodeci. More like a Soul band, like a Soul version of Il Divo.
Do you sing for any other forms of performance? (TV, films, musicals, choirs, etc)
I sing in different bands a Hyde Park functions and I’m doing Panto as well this year in Gravesend, I’m doing Aladdin. I’m playing the Genie and Genie’s brother; so I’ve got a double role. That will start in December, get into rehearsals and just work it out really.
I’m also a TV Agent, so I put people on Telly basically, I’ve got a fairly big roster. I do a lot of phoning up people and sticking them on reality TV shows.
Have you received or been nominated for any music awards?
I was nominated for a couple of MOBO’s in my time. I’ve been nominated for Ericsson Sony award, and won it. I’ve won PA of the year, Performance of the Year (personal appearance), by the Music Industry. That’s about it.
Where have visited in the world, or your favourite place?
I love Dubai; I’ve been there about times, it’s really lovely.
What is your take on music today?
I think the internet has made it great because it gives the little man a chance but I think it’s sad that’s there’s so many outlets, that you can’t concentrate on one thing anymore. Like the number one record at the moment, I don’t know what it is. But in my day, everyone knew wha the number one record in the country was, you know. The internet has given everyone their own personal number one which is good and bad.
Tell us something about yourself that may not be known?
I am very religious. I’m a Christian since 1991; about 19 years old. Yeah I think it gave me direction, it gave me answers to all my questions. I had many questions about life that I couldn’t quite work out and for me, Christianity answered them.