Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Roland Clark
Roland Clark

With his voice having been described as âwildly erotic, soulful, loving and deepâ, New Jersey-raised vocalist/songsmith/prod-ucer/DJ Roland Clark will unquestionably go down in history as one of soulful house musicâs earliest and most enduring male pioneers.

Indeed, through a series of aliases like Urban Soul, Digital Pimps, South Street Player, Dark Clark and (the current) Jesus Jackson, over a 17-year period Clark has become acclaimed by some as âPresident of the House Nationâ via a series of classic dancefloor singles; in addition to being a prominent contributor to UK DJ/pro-ducer Fatboy Slimâs big-selling opus âHalfway Between The Gutter And The Starsâ (âWhat Da Fuckâ and âSong For Shelterâ). A musical chameleon - whose styles currently range from soulful sultriness to hard house and techno - Roland is add-itionally today a successful club DJ. Whose latest on-record productions match the darkly-pounding, electro-flavoured âBoyfriendâ with the gospel-tinged fervour of âRevivalâ, a soulful house collaboration with former 10 City falsetto frontman Byron Stingily.

Performing at the recent 42nd Southport Weekender (as part of the 15th Anni-versary of New York dance independent King Street Sounds), a fast-talking Mr. Clark relaxes on-camp in the mid-evening Lancashire sunshine to discuss with âB&Sâ his ongoing legendary career.

His current musical activities

âRight now Iâm DJ-ing more than Iâm being an artist. But the two do kinda coincide with each other. So, as an artist, I wake up, I turn on the computer, and whatever comes out comes OUT. For the most part I write and record all my songs at home by myself from scratch. Then, like everyone else, I get it remixed. And, with me having my own label Delete Records, these days Iâm kinda dropping a new track independently every two or three weeks, always hoping for that next big one!â

His early background

âI first grew up in a rural area in Farmville, Virginia. But, after my family and I moved to New Jersey, during my High School years one night I snuck downtown to the club that everybody used to talk about and wish they were old enough to go to. Which turned out to be (pioneering Eighties house music venue) Club Zanzibar. The music they were playing was new to me; it was lively, something Iâd never heard before because they didnât play it on the radio... So it immediately felt like my own little secret! I became attracted to people that were in the music industry, and I basically started living at a recording studio in Manhattan. Where I met people like Merlin Bobb, Caroline Harding and Paul Simpson. And those people - though a lotta those names donât get mentioned much these days - became like the early foundation of my house music career.â

A brief overview of his career

âAs far as standout records go, Iâd have to start off with a 1991 release called âAlrightâ, which I recorded under the name Urban Soul. After that came a song I recorded as South Street Player called âWhy Canât I Change My Mindâ that came out on Strictly Rhythm Records. Then the next big one was âFlowerzâ, which I did with Armand Van Helden. After that I worked with Fatboy Slim on his album âHalfway Between The Gutter And The Starsâ, which kinda put me more in the progressive/ techno world. So, because I wanted to capitalise on that, I then also started doing more progressive mixes with my records and working with more progressive artists. Because I just felt that to continue pigeonholing myself into doing just soulful house music - when I love more than just that - would be kinda like professional suicide!â

How house music has changed over the years

âItâs changed in that these days - because of internet downloading and people sharing files - itâs not so much a BUSINESS but more a DELIVERY system. Which also means thereâs not a lot of money-making going on now, besides third-party money. In the sense that, if you do a great record and youâre also a DJ, then you get to gig. I also feel the CULTURAL divide has gotten smaller. Whereas it mostly used to be just African-Americans that loved soulful house and the techno was left to the Europeans, today itâs not so DIVIDED anymore. The same people that love soulful house can also go home and listen to a nice progressive record. So in that way thereâs been a growth - not only in peopleâs understanding of the MUSIC, but also in peopleâs understanding of each OTHER. The music itself has actually brought the cultures together.â

Long-term career plans

âRight now Iâm very excited about my DJ-ing. Because - while a lotta DJs take it for granted that they can actually stand in one place, put on some music and people will look at them with admiration - I genuinely feel I do make a CONNECTION with my audience. Whereas as far as being a vocalist goes, while I do love singing, Iâve never been a great fan of singing ONSTAGE - unless I know Iâm appearing at a venue where people will appreciate what I do. Which is why Iâm here at the South-port Weekender, where Iâm basically giving back to people who I know have admired my music for years. But while I am pretty much a studio rat - I always considered myself a producer who knew how to sing, rather than an artist per se - Iâd still love to be able to come back out every now and then, when Iâm say 50 or 60 years old, and see people - who are like just eight/nine today - still loving my music! Because, to know that I helped start a musical movement that lasted for decades and decades and decades for me would be the greatest reward of ALL!â

The Dj Roland Clark Feat. Christina K. single 'Boyfriend' is released August 10 through Delete Records (US). The Dj Roland Clark & Byron Stingily feat. Carla Prather & EI single 'Revival' is released August 19 through Stingily Music (US)

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