Glitterbox Spotlight - Joey Negro

Posted on August 05, 2014

House titan Dave Lee continues to enthral dancefloors across the globe under a dizzying array of aliases including, most notably, Joey Negro. He began his studio career in 1988 with school friend Mike Cheal and DJ Mark Ryder as trio M-D-Emm. Their debut cut Get Busy (It’s Partytime!) led to follow-ups and Lee’s solo breakthrough under another guise, Raven Maize – pivotal Maize track Together Forever was one of the very first to incorporate disco samples into house music. Sampling Exodus’ 1982 disco-stomper of the same name, the track quickly accelerated Lee’s fledgling career as DJ-producer.

Since then, Lee has conquered clubland under names ranging from Sessomato and the Hed Boys to Z Factor, The Sunburst Band and Raven Maize via Akabu, Doug Willis, the chart-topping Jakatta and, of course, Joey Negro. Lee’s work has always maintained an impeccably soulful and funky core despite the carte blanche his various aliases have given him to explore house and disco’s most interesting extremes.

Nevertheless, Lee commonly DJs as Joey Negro, his calling card for a lively mix of uplifting soulful house and dance. This neatly reflects Joey Negro’s prolific output in the studio (much of it attached to those other aforementioned production guises) – including everything from 1991’s Do What You Feel to this year’s inspired Horse Meat Disco clash Candidate For Love. In between sits majestic collaborations with Taka Boom, Akabu (Don’t Hold Back for example) and Sessomatto (Moody), further solo anthems like Make A Move On Me and remixes of MAW feat. India, Jon Cutler and Blaze.

This summer, excitingly, Lee – or rather Negro – is bringing his considerable experience to bear at Defected’s Saturday night Ibiza extravaganza Glitterbox, where he is resident. Negro’s remaining dates are 2 August, 30 August, 13 September and 27 September (the closing party) – click for tickets.

How did the Glitterbox tie-up come about?

I’ve known Simon [Dunmore] for a long time and he talked to me a while back about this new party that would buck Ibiza’s current trends whilst reflecting the dance scene’s wider rediscovery of soulful house and vocal records. The party was to be at Booom, this great new venue, and well organised. Crucially it would allow me to play freely...the sorts of records that really inspire me. So, all in all, it was well up my street.

You’ve played once so far, right?

Yes, and it was a brilliant night. Pippi played before me and had the crowd in a beautiful place...not too heavy or too slow, absolutely perfect. The crowd were really responsive too. I played to my usual strengths, mixing classic soulful house and disco with current records in those genres. I think that’s what Glitterbox is all about, capitalising on that reignited love for those classic tracks but integrating them with tasteful modern records that compliment rather than obstruct.

What can we expect from your upcoming dates?

More of the same! I think Glitterbox’s power comes from having experienced DJs like Dimitri [From Paris], David Morales and I. Perhaps that’s the biggest difference...the fact we’ve all been doing this for so long now, we’re through with fashions and trends. We’re comfortable in our skins, and not too fixated on one thing. That doesn’t mean Glitterboxis a retro night, not at all, but there is a sense of freedom to play the best records regardless of genre or era. The main Ibiza trend today is for that druggy techno and house sound; some of it probably disappears up its own arse, but I think with Glitterbox the onus is on fun and good music. Basically there is only good or bad music....

So what is your take on Ibiza today?

I’ve been there many, many times and it still has a fantastic atmosphere...pretty beaches, nice restaurants and special parties. But it is much more expensive than the late Eighties and early Nineties when I first started out. And things are more commercialised. I was at a restaurant on the island recently and they were playing banging electro which didn’t make any sense and sounded awful. Of course, everywhere in the world is more commercialised today - look at Croatia and the price rise there for example. This commercialisation is true of wherever you go, so things need to be put in perspective. Ultimately, there are still amazing times to be had in Ibiza; you just need to find them. And how can you truly compare the island now to how it used to be? Different generations of people have visited at different times and taken what they want from Ibiza – to them, in their particular time, they’ve always had a good experience.

What else are you up to?

Busy as ever in the studio and with Z [Lee’s record label]. I’ve been working on an Earth, Wind & Fire remix for the second volume of Z’s compilation series Remixed With Love [due next year]. Over the next few months there’ll be releases for Under The Influence Volume 4 and Supafunkanova Volume 2, as well as artist albums from Sean McCabe and Opolopo. Then there’s the question of my next album....

Tell us more!

Well, I’m only just past the beginning stage; I won’t release anything until next year. It’s going to have some disco angles and live musicians but it’ll be different to The Sunburst Band. It’s also going to be eight or nine tracks rather than dozens. There seems to be a tendency today for artists or labels to release double-albums, perhaps because they feel they’ll stand out better if there’s more music included. But sometimes that’s a distraction. Some of the great disco albums only had a few songs because it was basically 20 minutes per side of vinyl. That helped focus things and ensure every beat was memorable.

You’re in the studio loads, are you still getting to DJ as much as you’d like?

Yes, absolutely. Of course I’m in a unique position where there’s no financial pressure to play. It’s tough earning a living from releases but I’m lucky enough to have had some crossover hits before now so I don’t need to DJ for the sake of it. At the same time I can make the records in the studio that really interest me. Everything I’m doing therefore is what I want to do. I’ve always been slightly biased towards the studio but I still absolutely love DJing. No DJ gets to play everything they’d like to play but I certainly get close; the places I visit generally know what I’m about and what I’m feeling. Glitterbox is a sparkling example. I like great parties like that.

Joey Negro plays Glitterbox throughout the summer.