Thursday, July 27, 2017

Marshall Jefferson: Open Your Eyes!

Strange as to how many of the best things to occur happen by surprise. Speakin’ about Marshall Jefferson, curiosity would kill the cat as he bought his first sequencer before soon to become one of the most charismatic producers House Music would have, providing people like Kym Mazelle, CeCe Rogers and Ten City with never equaled quality compositions to date…

Marshall JeffersonQuite prolific as a producer in the early days of House, Marshall Jefferson has never been that talkative as far as press is concerned. Probably coz’ he felt better in his shoes while in the shadow, producing faceless concepts like the mythic ‘Open Your Eyes’ behind some Marshall Jefferson presents The Truth guise or leaving the centerstage to the people he would work with. From his hat would come out such masterpieces as CeCe Rogers‘s ‘Someday’, Kym Mazelle‘s ‘Useless’, not to mention Ten City‘s first and second albums including the anthemic ‘That’s The Way Love Is’, ‘Right Back To You’ and ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’ to name but a few…

Therafter, what Ten City‘s falsetto lead singer Byron Stingily declared in 1993 while releasing ‘No House Big Enough’, their first LP without Marshall‘s input. “We only had instruments at the beginning and we’ve started collaborating with Marshall because he had a sequencer. He helped us developping our ideas to some stage we thought he was trying to make a sort of Marshall Jefferson presents Ten City! We eventually ended up having a full band on ‘State Of Mind’ (their second album). We were into it although we thought that the production was too rich. We then decided it was time to go back to some more oriented club music.. To what was our idea of House Music…”

“Whatever you do, you have to have a certain term vision of the things. This is exactly how artists like Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna have made it. Producing tracks on tracks is nothing of an achievement. You gotta get an imprint that’ll allow you to be different from the mass, include elements to reach a superior level. I’m fed up with all these wank*** doing the do on TV shows while not related to what’s happening in the clubs!”

Marshall‘s view of the things is, no surprisingly, slightly different. “As you know, Ten City had split and Byron has soon after signed a record deal with Nervous. Gotta say that this situation was already predictable at the time. I would say economically speaking, further to the release of our first album which had been gold certified. But also in terms of egos. I guess the group had the wish to show that they could do as good without me…” Jefferson  leaving the Windy City two years after to find a new home in the UK. “I’d ended up being unable to focus on anything. Maybe because I had everything I wanted. A nice house, big money… I started getting the feeling that I was slowly falling asleep.  Had to take some distance, watching then the arrival of new Chicago cats from his new London hometown… “I have no regret as I felt like I needed to bring House Music to another level. I’d decided to put my hands on big projects. I wanted live instruments, chords, strings, guitars…”

Marshall Jefferson‘s background is quite one of a kind. Not really into Black music until 1981, meeting vet DJ Ron Hardy would be the revelation for him. “I had never heard anything like this so far. It had been to me like THE big bang!”, seeing him following the footsteps of the aforementioned for 5 years before getting into production with no knowledge at all… “I was as with some friend of mine at a music store where I got caught up by a salesman. Once again, I didn’t know anything about making music. He then showed me a Yamaha Sequencer (the QXI), saying we would be able to make music like musicians. My pal didn’t believe him, but I left the store with the machine. It had costed me a fortune and all my people had a laugh at me as they didn’t understand seeing me getting my jacket on this stuff that I was unable to play with at the time…” He would then write his first composition ever the day after, and within a year, he was considered as a reference by numerous keyboardists around. “I could play in different ways even though I never tried to know was I was exactly able to play. I ended up playing what I wanted. I was searching to have my own sound and I reached this stage. He eventually would sign Lil’ Louis‘s first cut (‘Video Clash’), but what he wanted was far more ambitious: getting House music to the same level as Hip-Hop and R&B…

Everyone expects something new to happen and I think I know how to do it. It’s not necessarily a matter of formula but more of a careful preparation and organization. Whatever you do, you have to have a certain term vision of the things. This is exactly how artists like Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna have made it. Producing tracks on tracks is nothing of an achievement. You gotta get an imprint that’ll allow you to be different from the mass, include elements to reach a superior level. I’m fed up with all these wank*** doing the do TV shows while not related to what’s happening in the clubs! We gotta find the same kind of resources promowise without forgetting about what makes the essence of club music!
It took about US$ 150,000 to promote a single Stateside back then, and I’m not even talking about a music that is considered as new! Its promoters simply didn’t have the resources, which led them to target Europe
(and more and more Japan nowadays!). Hip-Hop had been more lucky at the time, as Def Jam’s Russell Simmons has had some substantial financial support. We never got to this stage. No films as compared to Hip-Hop and R&B where you could have a House oriented soundtrack, no video clips… This is what has been cruelly missing to reach the Black neighborhoods. The only stuff that has been promoted over there was the so called Eurodance with acts like Snap and M-People! And this is what has decided some of the biggest singers to establish themselves abroad…”

Balanced between ambition and disenchantment, Marshall couldn’t hide his scepticism regarding the current state of the House Music scene… “You have on one hand all these new kids on the block, who don’t give a sh** about anything as long as they’re putting out a cut per day. And, on the other, these guys in NYC like Frankie Knuckles and David Morales who, although they’re big, have unfortunately never really been in the position to be provided with consequent lyrics. They couldn’t go any further apart from getting 30,000 Bucks to do a remix for some Pop star back then! I’m afraid this is not enough to get a wider crowd. Of course, we’ve had Masters At Work with their Nuyorican Soul project but we’ve seen how, despite their incredible line-up and the finances which have been needed to put this concept into reality, their labels(Talkin’ Loud in the UK and Giant Step Stateside) simply didn’t have the necessary resources to get them to the next level…”

Chosen few
Marshall Jefferson – Day Of The Onion (KTM)
Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk And Marshall Jefferson – Real House: Hot Mix CD ‎(4 Liberty Records Ltd.)
Marshall Jefferson / Joey Beltram – Move Your Body / The Start It Up (Trax Records)
Marshall Jefferson ‎– Timeless Classics (Fierce!)
Marshall Jefferson – Legends Three – Marshall Jefferson ‎(D-ROM)

You might also like…
30 years of House Music – Ten City
30 years of House Music – Ce Ce Rogers
Frankie Knuckles: And House Music was born!

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