Joey Negro is the most well-known pseudonym of master British DJ/producer/remixer Dave Lee. Under a plethora of other monikers including Jakatta, Akabu, Doug Willis, Raven Maize, The Sunburst Band, 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.
In 2012, little has changed. Dave is still topping charts and widely regarded as one of the most commercially successful and in-demand artists on the global scene. We caught up with him for a chat.
Hello Joey, You've been doing your thing since even before the inception of Cream so it's great to have you headline the 20th Anniversary Tour in Leeds. How have you managed to stay current and on top of your game all this time?
I’ve always had a strong work ethic and through my label ZR I release a lot of music - singles, albums and compilations. Many producers seem to slow right down on the productions once they become busy DJing, maybe because they are travelling or just that there is much more money in spinning these days. I love being in the studio, so that will always be a big part of me. Musically it's important to keep up with new styles but at the same time be true to what you actually like. I'm a "don't believe the hype" type of guy and would not play something because it's trendy.
You have released tons of tracks under very many different pseudonyms. Which has been your favourite name and why?
Purely as a name I think I like Raven Maize the most, I actually wish I'd used that for "do it, believe it" back in 1990 instead of JN. I'd prefer people to call me Raven or Mr.Maize rather than Joey. Musically, I have enjoyed making loads of tracks but as a body of work I think Sunburst Band is my favourite. There have been four albums now.
OK, you mentioned Z Records earlier, how are you finding running the record label with the digital and online revolution of the past few years?
In some ways it's better since the digital thing took hold. In the past we'd often had problems getting paid for sales of records and distributors going bankrupt on us. Much as people get romantic about vinyl (and we still do small runs) it could be a time consuming, frustrating experience pressing and attempting to sell records. Now, with the likes of Facebook, you have direct access to fans and it's a great way of promoting your work. We sold a few hundred of the recent Sunburst album direct to customers on our website, that's all very positive stuff. However, the big problem is the way music has been reduced to a digital file and how easy that is to copy and share online. It's very hard to compete against 'free', and we have to rely on people's moral compass making them do the right thing and pay for music. I think some people only look at file sharing in terms of the major label’s big million selling acts and don't really see the reality of it for more niche styles of music. We used to sell on average about 4000 of most of our singles on Z in the 90s, some a lot more, but it was never 'retire on it' money. Now the average is probably somewhere around 1000 downloads, which doesn't provide much income for the amount of time, money and work that goes into producing a single - especially stuff with vocals, live instruments etc. If you love house music please pay for it, and not from one of those illegal subscription sites which are really hurting the indie labels with their disgusting behaviour.
Which DJ/producers out there are really doing it for you right now?
There is a female singer from Brisbane Australia called Princess Freesia, who plays on and produces her own music. She is a talent and her CD The Rainbow Ride is definitely worth checking out. I like some of this new UK electronic house like Disclosure and Floating Points. He is more traditional but Sean McCabe is very good at soulful house and some of the old guard like Grant Nelson and Richard Earnshaw still consistently make good music. We just had a remix in from this guy Opolopo, he is based in Sweden and is a name to watch for boogie synth type material.
What has been the highlight of the year so far?
Managing to finish the 4th Sunburst album The Secret Life Of Us just in time for a summer release, and it being very well received by the fans.
Catch Joey negro at Mission in Leeds on Saturday 22nd September for the Cream 20th anniversary tour.
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