Simon you have had and continue to enjoy a rich and prosperous career. The analogy ‘still waters run deep’, could describe you. How would you describe yourself using no more than five words?
“Small town boy big dreams”, or better still, “Still lucky to be here” lol.
I am intrigued to find out the story behind your nick name “School boy”, or “Schooly”?
This all started when I would jump on the bus before (Secondary) school, get the no 21 at 8.30; which would get me to the door of the record store just at the doors were opening. The import guy would usually arrive the same time, sometimes I’d get there a few mins before and hangout and flick thru the racks, they would always say “shouldn’t you be at school?” As time went on they’d be like “Schoolboy’s back!”… and it kinda stuck.
Most children talk about what they would like to be when they grow up. Did you have any idea what you wanted to be? Is it nature or nurture that you became a DJ / Producer?
Looking back now, for sure!… My mom still claims my first 2 words were “PLAY RECORD’s”, which I thought was a joke until my aunty, who now lives in The States, confirmed it. Records were like food in my house, my mom is worse than me,and there are 4 DJ’s in my family. On Saturday morning my mom with my aunty would go record shopping and there was always music playing. Mom’s collection (which I have a lot of) was so diverse, and with the passion they had, I’m surprised they never thought of setting up a PA sound lol.
It was a natural thing which I thought every family did. Saturday nights we’d go to my aunty’s house religiously and it was a party. I was 3 maybe 4 and still remember clearly the energy it gave me. My aunty sitting with me reading through the credits and explaining to me about musicians and reading the lyrics to me. I still remember the moment my aunty bought ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ and sat me infront of the speakers and dropped the needle and the crackles seemed to go on for ever; then the horns hit, even as I type this the feeling is something still to date is so strong for me. It was from that point that I knew nothing else would do. I knew I had to create that feeling for someone else some day.
Schooly you are renowned for your passion for contemporary RnB, urban beats and Soulful House. What is it in particular about this kind of music that inspires you?
I think it has a lot to do with the introduction to it! The passionate people around me, that rubbed off on me. It has always been my way of thinking ever since I can remember. I’m very serious about my music but kinda hard to put my finger on an exact reason, but my approach to every genre whether Hip Hop or Jazz is the same; it’s the elements the instrumentation and how its evolved and continues to evolve. There’s always something new! How it’s made! The beats, most of it is organic: it’s realness, sincerity, that it can be anything it wants to be. Music tells a story that touches your soul, can make you laugh or make you cry. The passion “comes” from the music and its like I mentioned; once you understand what it “is”; it’s a very powerful thing!
Over the years you have been no stranger to the TV lime light, with appearances on programs such: MTV Base, The Wright Stuff, The MOBO awards and The Brits. What does it mean to you to be a part of these programs? What impact did it have on your career?
It’s incredible that a small town boy got to be smack bang in the middle of such an important part of a changing landscape. Not only musically but culturally! TV opened so many doors as I was pretty much an unknown entity when I joined Capital. Being a club DJ people have preconceived idea’s that we are not that clever lol and it just snowballed really. “The Wright Stuff” I must say really helped as it gave me a face, up until then I was a voice and a name. Matthew and I got on so well he kept inviting me back, despite getting in some mornings an hour before we went on air. It opened a few doors on the more mainstream channels like BBC and MTV as a music pundit etc.
Never In my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined that. Especially as it was never something I wanted to do, but enjoyed. It’s only looking back that I see it, at the time it was part of the job. I was not really thinking anything else other than making that moment the best it can be and not making an arse of myself. There was so much going on including voice overs, radio shows, clubs, and trying to live. Once one thing was over; it was onto the next thing pretty much without time for reflection.I think the first time “the penny dropped”, was when I got to see my first Mobo nomination on TV and how proud my parents were. Also when my first cover with Trevor Nelson & Spoony titled, “The Men Who Killed Pop”. They were the 2 moments when I actually thought “blimey! Whats going on here?”…
In Britain we have fought hard for the success of Black music. At this years Southport Weekender you will be sharing the bill with a host of British artists: Omar, Brand New Heavies, Terri Walker and Zara McFarlane. What makes British artists such strong contenders on the global stage?
There are 2 distinct things, the music we had inherited and our upbringing. Our parents were SO diverse in their musical tastes from, Jim Reeves to Bob Marley, Soul and Jazz. Yet we found our own sound and fused it all together! In turn we were able to create our own scenes: ‘Acid Jazz’, ‘Street Soul’, ‘Garage’ and Jungle, our capabilites are limitless. My perspective was a natural thing to be open without even really knowing, music was the center piece for the UK’s late 70’s, to the late 80’s. At school I’d be bombarded with Duran Duran, Madonna, etc and be listening to Dennis Brown, Jacksons & Minnie Rippleton on my Walkman.
Secondly Our fearlessness! I’ve always said it, were not afraid to take risks and do things that suit who we are and create things, sometimes by mistake or create scene’s and trends, we’ve always done it and always will.
Our UK industry/scene is a lot smaller than the US and in turn makes us more unique, more talented in some ways. There is a need to stand out and to be noticed, due to the lack of possibities at labels etc. All the successful UK artists: Mica Paris, Terri Walker, Beverly Knight, Shola Ama, Shea Soul, Omar, Paul Johnson, Lemar, Craig David, etc, you could put them all on show and they are all unique in their own way and style.The UK has always lead the way in pioneering new artists.
With an illustrious career as a club DJ, radio DJ and TV host, and now you are producing music under the name of Soulful Sessions. When did you first take the step into making music?
I’ve kinda been doing bits and pieces from early days; a few dubplates for my DJ clashes and specials for club radio/sets, but really got the bug in 2004. I bought my G5 and logic, set it all up recorded a few bits (actually 3 albums lol). I couldn’t fully commit due to my workload with radio & TV, plus I had a lot of people asking me why I wanted to do it when I already had a great career. I was being pulled in so many directions but ultimately I was being pulled away form my music. Sadly I then I lost a few family members that threw me into a complete spin, so I moved to Dubai to clear my head which was meant to be for a year or so. I got married in 2009 to my wife who’s from a musical family herself, she really got me into it again. She heard some of the demo’s and encouraged me back on the horse. My wife could see how passionate I was about music, plus I had time now to do it away from any other distractions. I’d already had my Soulful Session nights DJing heavily here in the UAE, so I started making tracks to play for my sets. I got into remixes and worked with a few singers here; later I did some work for Andy Wards ‘Friends of The Booth’ EP and Tony Humphries’ label Tony Records, the rest is history as they say.
Having started your career as a club DJ then working behind the scenes as a producer, which medium do you prefer to work in and why?
They both fuel each but everything comes back to DJing, I couldn’t live without it! it’s an instant gauge to all aspects of my work, plus nothing compares to the feeling of unifying people with music. Your style can bring out so many emotions through your influence and the dancefloor NEVER lies! The smiles, the cheers, the euphoria; it’s a real addiction.
Music trends/styles will come in waves, and as a producer, what was made today may not be relevant tomorrow. However being in front of a crowd will always give you a good indication of what works or doesn’t. I don’t think I could have made those records, had I not been in that position and knowing how music moves me or a crowd. The production can be very introspective and artistic so it helps to keep a good balance.
Soulful Sessions have enjoyed success over the past year, with the dance floor smash “Hostile Takeover”, featuring Lyn Lockamy. Not to mention the numerous collaborations and remixes. I hear there is an album in the pipe line, with an assortment of vocalists. What can we expect from to hear from this album?
What started off as a few tracks for single submissions turned into 16 tracks, and I’m super excited about this project especially as ‘Tony’ (Humphries) and Jacko & Maurizio at Tony Records have been “super” supportive and encouraged me to grow and just see what happens. I haven’t had the mad stress of labels guiding it, asking for this and that, I have really been able to just make music, they’re all about the music too. Its been a great 5 months working on it, style wise, its mainly soulful house, with elements of my street soul/Jazzy roots. I’m all about the song and that’s evident when you hear it, I’m growing as a producer musically, so it reflects where I’m at now, but I know a good song and at the end of the day, that is what it’s all about. Roster wise I’ve got in touch with some of my really good friends who have been so gracious to invest in me including: Natahsa Watts, Heidi Vogel, Michelle Escoffery, Selina Campbell, Gee Morris of Innocence (YUP) and Rainy Payne. I’ve also included some super new or unheard voices in the mix aswell watch out for: Adrienne Hughes, Nahon, Ali Cat, Chelsea Como, Lizzie Nightingale, Cheryl Lee, Louise Golby & of course my boy Mikie Blak.
I’d like to think of this more as a compilation, of Soulful Session & friends rather than an album, that sounds far too serious lol. At this stage simply because each elements in it’s own right is strong and it really isn’t about me it’s about the artists. They are the real stars.
Schooly you will be performing in Funkbase, what musical delights do you have in your playlist?
My 32gb USB Is fully loaded and ready, (yes already) I’m not really one to have a game plan, especially when it comes to the Southport Weekender. I’ve learnt that the hard way over the years, it’s the best crowd in the world. The plan is to play my ass off. This year I have 3 different sets so lots of time for expression. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to play a Southport yet and that’s saying something. It’s a huge celebration, expect a few anthems, I will be digging deep to play from my past 15 years, so expect a few “WOW’s!” And “what was that” moments!
Treat wise, I’m working on a steppers remix of Hostile Takeover as we speak. Made especially for the funkbase as it’s done its job on the house circuit but its a crossover song and will be great if I can get it on both sides. Its sounding pretty good so far and I am looking forward to road testing it.
I must take this opportunity to give you a cyber bow, thank you for your time. I wish you all the success for the following year ahead. Next time we meet it will be to shake a leg on the dance floor. Big love.
Angel Mel. X