When I’ve launched the new version of Mix Collectors on WordPress at the end of 2011, Evan Landes, the man behind Groove Junkies, was one of the first artists I contacted. He showed immediate interest and continues to be a supporter of my blog, sending me some promos from his label MoreHouse Records (aka MoHo).
I am deeply honored that Evan has accepted this interview, since I always considered him as one of the top US producers of what we now call Soulful House.
In addition to co-owning the label with wife and recording artist Solara since 2002, he has produced numerous chart topping hits and dance floor anthems.
In October 2010 his critically acclaimed artist album « In The Zone » shot up to the #1 position on the Top 100 Album Downloads chart on Traxsource within 4 days and received ‘Album of the Year & Month’ kudos from numerous industry publications.
Let’s start with a description of your background and how you got into house music ?
Before I answer, let me congratulate you on all your years of service to the global house music community! Your insightful reviews and user friendly approach is a breath of fresh air and your support for our label and myself is greatly appreciated !!
OK, on to the matter at hand – I had a deep appreciation for all types of music growing up in New York (ie ; rock, soul, funk, latin, jazz and standards). Everything from the Beatles to Chick Corea to the O Jay’s to Fanya All-stars to Sinatra to Stevie Wonder and everything in between
When I started DJing in 1979 I was more of a disco, soul, funk guy. In the early to mid-80’s I started to add new wave cuts, rock and early hip hop into my repertoire. Admittedly, I was a little late discovering house, but as the 80’s came to a close I started to get into it. My initial knowledge was limited to a few of the pioneers from Chicago, but eventually my record collection and love for the genre grew. It’s been running through my veins ever since! I started to produce house in the mid 90’s and eventually started my label MoreHouse with my better half Solara in 2002. Here we are in 2013 and we’re still doin’ our thang. It’s been a wonderful journey thus far and I feel like the best is yet to come!
Could you say more about your DJ experience… how did you get to DJing and did you have some residencies in some clubs ?
I was sneaking into New York City clubs with fake I.D. in the mid-seventies when I was 16! Back then you only had to be 18 to drink. Ahh, the good ol’ days 🙂 I already had a pretty solid appreciation for various genres of music as previously mentioned. When I left NYC at the age of 19 to embark on a new chapter of my life in Minneapolis I was already a bit of a club veteran – lol. It was shortly after the move to the ‘Mini-Apple’ in 1979 when I got the DJing bug. Incredibly, December 2013 will mark my 34 Year Anniversary as a DJ. Early on in my career I never would have imagined that I’d still be doing this well into my 50’s. Like any other aspect of life there have been some bumps along the way, but for the most part my career has been a true blessing. Over the years I’ve had many residencies here in the States (too many to mention) and I’ve been afforded the opportunity to play at some of the hottest clubs and festivals throughout the world. At this point it would be foolish to say that I’m going to hang up the headphones when I reach a certain age. I guess I’m going to keep on going as long as I can hear and I’m having fun!!
For all booking & general inquiries, you can contact Maria L at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who are the singers, musicians, DJ’s or labels who have influenced you the most?
I love Teddy Pendergrass! For me he was the quintessential soul singer. Other singers that come to mind are Loleatta Holloway, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Donnie Hathaway, Ella Fitzgerald and….. there are too many others to mention – lol! Musicians such as Stevie W., Motown’s Funk Bros., Salsoul Orchestra & Vince Montana Jr., all the Philly cats, Masters At Work and Dennis Ferrer are a few who have had influence on me. DJs such as Louie Vega, Frankie Knuckles, David Morales and Joe Clausell (again, to name a few) certainly have made a lasting impression on me and labels such as Salsoul, Philly International, Soulfuric, King Street, Defected & Z are a few who I’ve always admired.
The most important year of your career and why?
Probably 2002 when we formed our label MoreHouse Records. We were the 1st imprint to get distributed by the highly respected Soulfuric Records which was a really big deal and it gave us access to the industries ‘crème de la crème’.
A close 2nd would be in 2010 when my solo artist album came out after parting ways with my former partner. Aside from having to re-design an entire album that was in mid-production, I also had to deal with the loss of my father and other personal family issues. Working on it was a very cathartic experience. When it finally came out it thankfully received global critical acclaim and hit the #1 slot on traxsource’s Top 100 albums. It was a new chapter in my life and career & was a very gratifying moment in time for me.
What has been your greatest success in terms of sales, or ranking?
We’ve been blessed and had quite a few Top 10 hits, and a few top 5’s & #1’s on some highly respected charts over the years. Titles such as “Deeper” & “Sunshine” feat. Solara, “Oh Lord” & “Music’s Gotcha Jumpin’’ feat. Indeya and my artist album “In The Zone” probably top the list. And nominations for Breakthrough Producers at the London House Music Awards in 2005 and Breakthrough DJ’s at the Ibiza DJ Awards in 2006 were very cool kudos to receive as well.
If you were to pick up 3 of your best productions or remixes to describe your style to someone who doesn’t know you at all, what tracks would you choose?
Tough question. I’m going to have to make it 4 productions because we’ve tinkered around with quite a few styles over the years.
Here it goes – “Inside My Soul” (the 1st release on MoreHouse) feat. Solomon Henderson showcases my soulful / uplifting side, “Dr. Feelgood” feat. Diane Carter was our tribute to Salsoul and sported a funkier style that GJs were known for, “Sunshine” feat. Solara incorporated latin, afro and touches of jazz which was yet another shade of GJs and the soon to be released “Conch” 2013 remix I recently did for Richard Earnshaw points to a more current, deeper production approach that I’m very excited about. The one common denominator throughout these 4 tracks is that they all have that that an undeniable soulful element & GJ hump!
Manutek’s Extended Selection
With songs such as Unified (As one) or Black Man In The White House you delivered us a message of brotherhood and unity. Is that important for you to be « politically engaged » as an artist ?
I don’t think it’s the focus of my world, but there are times when it just comes pouring out. This happened most recently with a song I wrote titled “I’m Dying Inside.” Amongst the various subject matter that I do write about, I have to admit that I get a great deal of satisfaction when I write and produce uplifting songs that have the potential to move the listener on an intellectual, spiritual and physical level. If there happens to be the occasional politically based tune that comes out like “Black Man” than so be it.
The last release on MoHo, Guerilla Science feat. Anume « Changes » was released commercially in early September 2013. How did you sign this record and could we expect a GJ remix of this track within a near future ?
It started with one of the guys from Guerilla Science (Kevin Jhagru) sending me a demo of « Changes » in the Spring of this year. Prior to this he had sent me material a few years back and I gave him some some constructive comments about his tracks. Although we didn’t sign anything then we were impressed and thought the fellas had great potential. And they were equally impressed that I took time out to respond in a timely manner and give them honest feedback. This one act of good will resulted in them gaving us first dibs on signing the song. The moral to the story is treat people with kindness and respect because the universe has a way of rewarding good deeds. And regardless of the outcome it’s cool to ‘pay it forward.’ As for producing a GFJ Remix – probably not in the near future, but who knows, maybe down the line. We’re already looking at the next potential Guerilla Science single. 2 b continued…
What are some of your new original productions and remixes that are forthcoming?
The aforementioned Conch 2013 remix for Richard Earnshaw’s 10 Year Anniversary (“The Remixes”) album should be coming out late 2013 on Duffnote.
There’s also another remix I did titled Miss Your Love by The Funklovers feat. Charles Dockins for The Brothers label out of Switzerland, which is due out in Oct. 2013.
And last but not least, I just finished a new project with my good friend Keith Evan titled Times Up which is slated to drop in mid-October on MoreHouse under our new collabo name ‘Cranky Owls’ . It’s soulful, but deep and has a big room appeal. I’m very excited about this one and the early buzz has been fantastic! I slowed the tempo down to 120 on this one. It’s def a different vibe for yours truly and one that I’m going to fully explore.
What are your favorite instruments, or plugins of your home studio ?
In no particular order – Massive, Absynth, Lin Plug – Element 3, Kontakt 5 instruments, Rob Papen’s Sub Boom Bass, JP8000 keyboard and Brainworx XL to name a few.
Is there an artist, DJ or label which would be for you a dream to work with?
It would be an honor to work with the likes Stevie Wonder, Nile Rogers, Prince, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys. A guy can dream ….right?
4 records, or absolutely essential tracks in your collection that you’ll take with you for a trip to Mars?
Your killing me – lol!!! OK here goes – “You Can’t Hide From Yourself” Teddy Pendergrass, “Love & Happiness” River Ocean feat. India, “I Need Your Lovin’” Teena Marie and “Dr Feelgood” Groove Junkies feat. Diane Carter (DJ Meme’s remix). I’m sure I’ll be reading this one day and will kick myself for omitting something. That said, I stand by my choices
Evan’s favorite records:
An artist or a label that you would like to recommend for the quality of his work?
There are soooo many, but if I have to pick one I’d have to give the nod to Richard Earnshaw (aka Spiritchaser) and his Duffnote / Guess imprints. He’s been on a roll and shows no signs of letting up the pressure.
How is the House scene in your country? Are there still many clubs and radio shows that play Soulful?
There’s a pretty healthy deep and soulful scene here in Los Angeles. Brands such as DEEP, West Coast Soul, Soul & Tonic, Funky People and Niteshift come to mind and there are soulful & deep house parties in virtually every city throughout the US. There are also various specialty shows on the FM dial that feature soulful and deep house. That said, they don’t come close to the number of choices for clubs / events and radio shows that feature Electronic Dance Music.
The way to listen and buy music has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. How have labels and artists had to adapt to this new situation?
You have to have a formidable presence online with social media and your music has to be available on all the relavent download shops (and in vinyl shops if you’re fans are still demanding it).
As a label you have to create an interesting and interactive environment for the fans, otherwise your brand will get lost in a sea other labels that are out there and all the new releases that come out every week.
It’s also worth noting that illegal downloading is still a huge problem. It has and will continue to put people out of business and water down the quality of the finished product. There’s not much you can do to adopt to this phenomenon other than send cease and dissist letters to the sites that are hosting your music.
Solara (who has recorded one of your best songs called Sunshine) is now like the second half of the Groove Junkies duo you previously formed with Parrish Wintersmith. Are the recording sessions looking different since the day you’ve been married? (more seriously tell us here about Solara’s involvements in the development of More House Records and Groove Junkies projects).
Thanks for the kind words about “Sunshine.” It’s one of my favorites too The song was a beautiful tribute to her father who had recently passed away before it was written.
As for her being the new 2nd half of the Groove Junkies – well not exactly She certainly has put an indelible stamp on our label and has contributed her talent on countless songs and mixes in our catalogue (as did Parrish, who incidentally was not part of the original Groove Junkies when it was formed in 1997).
I guess you can say that she, along with other various singers, producers and musicians that I’ve worked with over the years are all honorary Groove Junkies if you will. I’ve always viewed Groove Junkies as a collective of producers, singers and musicians. As the founder of GJs I’ve been the constant, but I’m truly indepted to the countless array of extremely talented people who have passed through my studio door (Solara included).
Aside from her studio chops and other miscellaneous label oriented duties that she tends to, she’s also been responsible for the look and feel of MoreHouse. All the cool graphics & artwork for every release in our catalogue, as well as the design and maintenance of our website (which she’s currently re-designing as I write) is all her.
As for the infamous recording sessions with my wife , they are always interesting & fun, but we don’t always agree on lyrical and musical direction so it can get a little dicey at times – lol!! The bottom line is we love each other and that gets us past any minor disagreement.
DJ, music writer, label manager with MoreHouse Records, what is the most exciting part of your life ?
It’s a toss up between putting the finishing touches on a song that I’m feeling really good about, or spinning for a packed house and literally feeling that electricity in the air during those special sets.
And the most boring ?
Social media. It’s a big look at me fest, but a necessary evil I’m afraid I’d rather be playing, or making music!
Could you tell us few words about the collective of musicians and singers working closely with you ? You team up regularly with Diane Carter and Indeya, but you also like to try new collaborations with some artists not coming from the House music family, right ?
Yes, I’ve worked with both Diane and Indeya on many MoreHouse releases. They’re natural born singers and a joy to be around. Diane moved to North Carolina a few years ago, but still visits Los Angeles periodically. We were able to knock out a couple of tunes last time she came out (« I’m Dying Inside » and a dope cover of the Beatles « Let It Be). I always look forward to working with her! I’m happy to report that Indeya and I have finally started to work on a new project after a bit of a hiatus titled « Always Runnin’ Back. » She truly delivered the goods on this and I’m hopeful that this will see the light of day in late 2013 or early 2014.
As for all the other musicians and singers that I’ve been lucky enough to work with….what can I say. They’re all fantastic in their own right and many of them don’t live in the ‘House’ world. Singers such as Chellena Black, Baskerville Jones and Alexander Sky are perfect examples. They write and perform all styles of music, have enjoyed success as solo & session singers and have also collaborated with a who’s who list of top tiered artists. This also applies to many of the musicians I’ve been blessed to have worked with over the years such as Les King (bass), Corey Allen (keys), Roman Johnson (keys), James ‘Silky’ Gardner (guitar), Romeo Brune (guitar), Katisse Buckingham (sax, flute) and Rick Keller (sax, flute) to name a few. Not surprisingly, virtually all of them love to work on House music. It truly is addictive….thus the name – Groove Junkies
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