B&S CLASSIC INTERVIEW: LYNDEN DAVID HALL (MAY 2000)
“PETE LEWIS MEETS AND GREETS A MAN AT THE PEAK OF HIS POWERS”… ran the headline to accompany the late Lynden David Hall`s 'B&S' interview around his 2000 sophomore album 'The Other Side'. With EMI this month making an EP of his work available once more, we fondly recall our meeting with the now-sadly-missed,hugely-talented South London soul singer/song-writer
As any regular `Blues & Soul` reader knows, back in issue 789 - almost a year ago to the day - history was made when, for the first time in the 30-year-plus history of the prestigious Readers` Annual Poll, a Brit walked away with the much-coveted Best Male Artist award. Surely the ultimate proof that, following the 1997 release of the now-Gold debut album `Medicine 4 My Pain`, Wandsworth-born singer/song-writer Lynden David Hall - by following in the footsteps of such personal heroes as Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Stevie Wonder - had made an unprecedented impact on the discerning tastes of the Brit-Soul fraternity. Indeed, following a two-and a-half-year period in the industry (which has seen him also garner a MOBO Award plus a Brit nomination; in addition to breaking new ground internationally by playing his own headlining shows in South Africa) David Hall is today without doubt the undisputed King of contemporary UK soul.
All of which makes the release this month, via EMI`s Cooltempo imprint, of his new sophomore album `The Other Side` undoubtedly one of the most eagerly anticipated in Brit-soul history. Yet the man himself refreshingly remains as calm-mannered and humble as ever, as `B&S` discovered, on reacquainting itself with handsomely chiseled Mr. Hall within the confines of EMI Records` Hammersmith HQ. Where - decked in his trademark long tan leather coat and as shyly soft-spoken as ever - Lynden (recently described in a leading Black Women`s publication as "The sexiest brother to ever come singing out of South London"!), in between customary silent pauses, discusses his new LP in typically-relaxed style.
"When `Medicine 4 My Pain` first came out, the `Nu Classic Soul` tag kept being bandied around it. So this time, instead of trying to keep within any kinda musical category, I just wanted to make a soulful album that would tell a story through the songs", begins the 25-year-old reluctant sex symbol, while bravely nursing a steadily-growing toothache: "And really the concept of the title `The Other Side` came about because, while at the time of recording we were approaching the new Millennium, the album`s actually here and finished the other side of that. While the title song really takes that whole thing on to a relationship level, in that it`s about taking that next step; taking it all to another place, and the goodness of that move. Musically I think I`ve definitely progressed and stepped up a level from `Medicine 4 My Pain`. At the time of completing that first album I was still pretty young, having just signed my first record deal at just 21. Whereas since then I`ve done a lot of extensive touring and playing in different environments to different people which - as well as developing my style a little bit further - has also made me a lot more confident about doing my own thing. So this time around with the new album I was able to approach everything in a more focused manner and I was really able to pour my heart fully into it."
Certainly, in addition to musical moods ranging from the sing-along, quirky funk of the new single `Sleeping With Victor` to the measured downtempo blues of `To Be A Man`, lyrically `The Other Side` expresses a vast range of personal emotions. The darkly resentful intensity of `U Let Him Have U` contrasting with the left-field Gospel positivity of `Where`s God?`.
“Yeah, there`s a lot of different moods and emotions in there. Basically, the album is a journey that takes you from one place to another”, confirms Lynden: “While songs like `U Let Him Have U` and `Hard Way` express the pain of being in that dark-corner place, people can respond positively to `Where`s God?` which has more of an uplifting kinda vibe. Then `Dead And Gone` - which could be misinterpreted as being morbid - is actually very positive about the kind of everlasting love that goes beyond this one reality of life. Though `Sleeping With Victor` is definitely the one whose title has grabbed people`s attention the most! It`s basically a lighthearted sexual song that`s prompted so many people to ask `Who Is Victor?`, or `WHAT is Victor?`! I mean, people have come out with some very strange interpretations! But I have to admit that this is exactly the kind of reaction I was hoping for.”
“I actually got the idea after one day I overheard some girls saying some stuff about sleeping with this Victor character. And then, when my girl explained to me who exactly Victor was, it made me laugh! So it`s a very playful kinda vibe that doesn`t really have any conclusion. At the end of the day, Victor can be whatever or who-ever you want it or him to be.”
With acclaimed American Me`Shell Ndegeocello contributing bass to `Sleeping With Victor` plus the rootsy, punchy opener `If I Had To Choose` (both of which were co-produced by David Gamson), `The Other Side` is almost entirely written/played/ produced by Lynden himself. The organic, funky feel of many cuts (including a duet cover of The Staple Singers` `Let`s Do It Again` with UK soulstress Hinda Hicks) evidencing the influence on Lynden of what he regards as “Soul`s golden era”, 1970-1975.
“Well, while I`m not trying to recreate music of the time as a carbon copy-type vibe and I do want to keep everything moving in a year 2000 direction, at the same time that was the music I grew up listening to”, he acknowledges: “`Cause while my mum - who`s from Antigua - played a lot of calypso, and my dad - who`s from Jamaica - played a lot of roots reggae, like Bob Marley and Gregory Isaacs, it was his collection of early Seventies funk - which he hardly ever played - that most fascinated me. I mean, I`d sit in the house alone for hours just listening to those albums. Like with Sly Stone`s `Fresh`, I`d play it once and just listen to the bass; then I`d play it again and listen to just the keys; then the vocal… It was like my escape. I really got a hunger for the music of that era to the point where I`d go to my local record shop and just buy, say, every single Ohio Players or Curtis Mayfield album on the shelves in one go.”
With Lynden`s many high-profile live performances (which, in addition to his own headlining dates, also last summer saw him playing at V99; plus supporting pop-soulers Simply Red on their tour of Britain`s stately homes and castles) having helped pioneer a domestic live arena for British R&B acts, his 1998 highly-publicised headlining shows in Johannesburg and Durban additionally broke interesting new international ground for a contemporary UK soul act: “Yeah, for me as a black man that was heavy”, he recalls with obvious pride: “The fact that I hadn`t been to Africa before and that I was going there for the first time playing my music made me feel good inside. It was kinda like there was a purpose to me being there - especially when I got so much love from everyone. It`s like they took me out on drives to places that interested me - like Soweto, where I just strolled about talking to the people. In a funny way - in the sense of the reasoning why he went there to do his thing - I guess it was almost like a Mike Tyson in Brixton vibe! Except I didn`t have QUITE the same crowd and amount of minders around me!”
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MOST INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS:
FAVOURITE SEVENTIES SOUL/FUNK ALBUMS:
Sly & The Family Stone - `Fresh`
Curtis Mayfield - `There`s No Place Like America Today`
Marvin Gaye - `What`s Going On`
Stevie Wonder - `Music Of My Mind`
Ohio Players - `Skin Tight`
(Lynden is a major fight fan)
Sugar Ray Leonard
MEMORIES OF SOUTH AFRICA:
First touching down in Johannesburg.
The anticipation of playing in Africa for the first time.
Meeting/playing support to Janet Jackson.
The inescapable beauty of Cape Town.
Doing a lot of promo while my band were doing a lot of sunbathing!
SEXIEST FEATURES IN A WOMAN:
A sense of humour
Mum and Dad
Martin Luther King
REST IN PEACE SWEET PRINCE
The digital EP 'Sexy Cinderella' is released April 28 through Cooltempo/EMI
Words PETE LEWIS