As the main Funkbase resident DJ, and a favourite face at SuncéBeat, our Croatia sister festival, Gavin Kendrick invited Ronnie Herel to put together an exclusive selection for the Southport family, and asked him a few questions about his musical direction and plans for the year ahead.
It’s been a while since we spoke, can you give us a rundown of your last 12 months in music?
2012 was a great year for me DJing – I spun at some great parties: The Lick Souplay parties in Switzerland and my “It’s So…” party sessions residency at London’s ‘The Drunken Monkey’. But I also envisioned 2012 as a set up year for some inspirational things to come in 2013 and beyond! I always tend to look to the future for things that appeal to the soul. My favourite gigs without doubt are the Southport Weekender and SunceBeat. They are massive annual events that you crave for the minute they are over. Always great times.
This year I’m looking forward to going out there and getting musically expressive on the decks. I’ve just started a great residency in London’sOld Street (London) at an intimate new spot called The Common Bar. The night is called “iLLMatic” where I drop all things hip hop and soul, as well as ol’ skool funk, deep house grooves and classic 90s R&B cuts. It gets pretty messy when I’m spinning in there.
I’m always impressed when I hear you spin because you effortless cover so many styles and eras while always keeping things cohesive. From all the genres you draw from, is there a single album you can pick out as a favourite?
It’s far too difficult to choose my favorite album of all time because there are so many I can pull out and listen to from start to finish depending on the mood. It would disrespect too many albums and artists in my collection to narrow it down to one. I can however tell you about some of the albums that have influenced certain periods in my life where I have had to have those albums in my life.
The Dirty Bakers Dozen albums I cant live without!
Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life
Donny Hathaway – Everything Is Everything
Tania Maria – Come With Me
Earth Wind & Fire – All ‘N All & I Am
D’Angelo – Brown Sugar
The Brand New Heavies – The Brand New Heavies
Maze – Live In New Orleans
Prince – Sign Of The Times
Dwele – Sketches Of A Man
Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott?
Donald Byrd – Steppin’ Into Tomorrow
Teena Marie – It Must Be Magic
A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
And if I was to pick three favourite tracks…
Maze – Before I Let Go
Stevie Wonder – As
Shabazz – Glad You’re In My Life
What about new artists coming through?
I’m pretty torn between Frank Ocean & Miguel as they are both pushing the boundaries in song writing and music production in this, the age of manufactured radio records. Don’t get me wrong, the likes of Berry Gordy did the manufactured thing back in the day but the strategy was different and the quality of record made was obviously better.
Frank Ocean producers all his own material where Miguel sometimes has a little help from the likes of the great Salaam Remi and Jerry Wonda, but I have had the pleasure of interviewing Miguel for my radio show “The Big R&B Show” so I’m going sway towards Miguel for best new artist, especially with 5 Grammy nods for Kaleidoscope Dreams and his Grammy-winning Single ‘Adorn’ in 2013.
What are your top tips for up and coming UK artists?
Watch out for Shea. I’ve been a fan of her voice for a long time. She has worked on Phil Asher’s project, the Restless Soul Fun Band as well as being the voice on the funky house classic ‘Make It Funky For Me.’ She has an album dropping in the summertime called Grey Skies & Rainbow Fingernails that’s going to be hot. Soul with a hint of jazz… danger!
Super talented singer Daley (or the Mancunian Soul boy as I affectionately tagged him) at last seems to be making an impact on the scene. His re-working of Mica Paris’ ‘Shoulda Known Better’ for his hit ‘Remember Me’ dented many a radio playlist, but check out his rendition of Maxwell’s ‘Pretty Wings’ online just to see what he is really is capable of. The boy is sik!
And another UK 3 to watch:
Kaleem Taylor is someone I rate highly.
Typesun from Bristol… destined for big things.
Tanya Lacey – another Bristolian talent who could be the UK’s answer to Lauren Hill. She needs some radio support out there!
You had a top ten hit producing for Quartz in the late 80s, do you have any plans to return to the studio?
Yes I had a few hits with Quartz. It all started in the ’88 summer of love. I had an underground house banger called ‘Meltdown – many thanks to Centre Force radio for smashing the hell out of that! I signed to Polydor Records as a result and released a cover of the Carole King classic ‘It’s too late’. After staying at number 8 in the national top 40 for a couple weeks, I put out an album. My true passion lay in DJing at the time, which is where I decided to take the reigns further, but I’ve recently been back in the studio so I’ll be coming at you from all directions in 2013. I’m looking forward to you guys hearing what’s been brewing in the lab. Watch out for a collaboration with the legendary Phil Asher coming soon!
After a longstanding, celebrated residency on 1Xtra, you have taken your massively popular show to Gordon Mac’s new radio venture, Mi-Soul. How are you enjoying the new project?
I’m loving the new experience at Mi-Soul. Monday’s “The Big R&B Show” is going from strength to strength and being part of a station with like-minded people is so important. Kiss FM founder Gordon Mac is a radio legend that knows how to build radio organically. He also happens to be super passionate about what he does musically and otherwise. When you see someone with that kind of energy it really rubs off on you.
So here’s an exclusive for you. We’ll be making independent radio history from April 1st 2013 when my ‘The Big R&B Show’ will be simulcast on www.mi-soul.com and Bang Radio 103.6 FM from 10pm til 1am every week. Never in the UK has there been a weekly broadcast of an R&B show across two totally independent stations. I’m grateful to Gordon Mac, Ray Paul, Mike Anthony & Treble T for making this shit happen. Happy days!
Primarily known for your encyclopaedic knowledge of soul and R&B, you have surprised a lot of followers with your somewhat sensational house sets at SunceBeat over the last few years. Has 4/4 always been a secret indulgence?
Aside from Country & Western, I’ve always loved all styles of music. 4/4 has never been a secret indulgence at all. I produced the aforementioned underground club hits with Quartz and also ‘Let’s Get Busy’ under the pseudonym Clubland feat. Quartz.
House is what I started out making and playing many moons ago, but when I started my first West End residency at Bar Rumba (KAT KLUB) in 1993, we started out as a soul night because there were so many house nights in the West End at the time. The R&B path opened up for me in so many beautiful ways that it seemed like a natural progression in the journey.
What is your take on the SunceBeat phenomenon?
If I may use this analogy, It’s like the perfect ingredients for ultimate meal. An incredible location, perfect timing, amazing weather with beautiful people who just want to party to great music and have fun. Bless up to Alex and Dave who dreamt this up by supplying the DJs and acts of the highest caliber for an incredible event.
I get the impression that there are so many emotional moments and experiences at the at the event that the growing SunceBeat family ends up rebooking: spreading the word, meaning the phenomenon continues to grow organically.
As the main resident for the Funkbase at Southport Weekender, and an integral part of the crew, how do you see the event developing following its relocation to Minehead?
The Southport Weekender is annually a landmark event in the party calendar and the key to this is the fact that it has always approached the next event with a fresh outlook. It’s about who’s hot and right for the party!
The move to Minehead alone gives fresh perspective with a different part of the UK to conquer as well as new and advanced surroundings on site.
As long as I’ve been spinning at the Southport Weekender, I still always feel as excited as I was when going to my first one. It’s a massive privilege to be part of an institution like SPW.
Can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for the Southport Weekender site?
I nearly did a house mix for you guys but then realised that I haven’t done an R&B and hip hop mixtape in a while and you probably haven’t had one up on the website so far. I’ve aptly titled this 60 minute R&B / hip hop blast as Ronnie Herel Presents… “It’s About That Time.” It’s made up of some of my big tunes of the moment, some timeless gems including a couple of the UK cats mentioned above, as well as a few club bangers on right now. Enjoy!
Tune in to ‘The Big R&B Show’ on Mi-Soul every Monday night from 9pm – Midnight. And from April 1st, 10pm til 1am simulcast with Bang Radio 103.6FM.