Monday, May 01, 2017

Timmy Regisford: Shelter NYC!

Timmy RegisfordFrom his early days that saw him joining Frankie Crocker‘s team of presenters on WBLS to his contribution as A&R for various labels including Motown, and his marathon sets at the Shelter Club, Timmy Regisford has become the depository of an inestimable legacy in the history of Dance Music. Along with Body & Soul the day after (on Sundays) and at the same venue back then (The Vinyl), they would be seen as the Holy Grail of NYC nightclubbing, and the not to be missed events by music lovers from all around the world (including yours truly)…
Timmy Regisford never felt inclination for the spotlights though, finding his pleasure in feeding his crowd with what he believes to be the best. It is to say how I felt blessed when he managed taking some time to respond to a few questions…

“No matter what, wherever you go and whatever the music is, it’s about People dancing, and all of this music comes from the roots of R&B, Soul, Disco, Jazz…”

Hi Timmy. You’re far from being a nu comer. What gives you such an energy to keep on after so many years?
“This is simply my favorite hobby. The love of what I’m doing…”

Can we talk about passion?
“Nope. Passion is inspiring as compared to a hobby which is something you may do at any time.”

You keep on talkin’ about a hobby, in a period when the so called Dance Music (or should I say the Club Music) doesn’t have the same exposure as it used to have some 30 to 35 years ago in the States. How do you explain such a situation?
“Dance Music comes out of a period when we used to have people to write songs… Stevie Wonder, The Trammps, The Spinners, etc. All of those into R&B at the time (Donna Summer, Cher) were making Dance Music, but first of all songs. Then the things have started to change with the arrival of beatboxes, synths, computers and people who’ve then written music with no lyrics because they were not authors.
We ended up having stuff around that the crowd was unable to sing which makes the things quite hard in terms of promotion, knowing that there’s nothing like being able to interact while singing. We can’t simply promote an instrumental. The scene looks like having assimilated the technology on one hand, meanwhile turning its head as far as songwriting is concerned.”

Some label managers tend to say that the lack of exposure is mainly due to a lack of investments…
“I find this a bit of simplistic… Let’s take for instance Europe as a whole. You’ve got France which to me appears as a place whereas you have multiple influences at the same time, thus making it the most open country of the planet in terms of ‘World Music’. And then, we have the Brits who could come up with a new form of House Music (Speed Garage, Trip House, Acid House) like every two months! No matter what they called it… it was still Dance Music! Afro, Rock, Jazz, Brazilian… It all has danceable elements and it takes knowledge of all of it to play it but, in the end. It’s all dance music!
I remember when I first started in my house with Boyd Jarvis, I suppose we were listening to and making… House Music too, huh?
No matter what, wherever you go and whatever the music is, it’s about People dancing, and all of this music comes from the roots of R&B, Soul, Disco, Jazz…”

Isn’t that one of today’s signs, having us surrounded by an ever evolving technology which is said to be already out of date when launched?
“This doesn’t have anything to do with music. Music to me is supposed to be able to be considered as a reference. I myself have made my incomes while remixing records. I could make a Disco track out of a classic song, transform a Reggae tune into a House concept etc. But the only thing which I can’t do is change the lyrics…
You can rework the music as much as you want, but what someone is singing is something that’s gonna represent him/her till the end of his/her life. And if ever unable to sing what I would call a proper song, whatever the genre whereas you express yourself, then don’t expect to get much credit out of it! People listen to words. They sing vocals and remember them, that’s what makes good music last…

I don’t believe impossible the fact of seeing Dance Music going back mainstream, as things always evolve one day or another. That said, I don’t see the majors seriously going back to it before we have 2 or 3 really breaking artists. Songs with lyrics will come back to the forefront. It’s inevitable. Let’s not forget that it’s the labels’ obligation to have a repertoire out of which people will have the capacity to get what they need. Music just needs to have consistency, whatever its formats may be…”

We’ve ended up having somehow the feeling that the NYC production was making rounds and rounds…
“The lack of creativity! Some 35 years ago, Stevie Wonder used to write what was considered as Dance Music at the time and everybody was performing live. This tends to come up again with people such as Ron Trent who started working with live percussions or Joe Claussell.
What we need is a record label to put out this music, but when talking about this music, I mean music with lyrics… You simply can’t develop artists on the basis of simple tracks. We could count of the fingers of one hand those coming out of the Dance Music who’ve really emerged. Once we had C&C Music Factory, CeCe Peniston, the Weather Girls and Robert Miles, but what about the others? And I’m not talking about about all these works from a vast majority of DJ’s being first and foremost followers!!!

Going back to those people like Ron Trent who’re more and more working with musicians, it gets them in the obligation to have more and more resources to give birth to their projects. Joe Claussell who’s been working for years and years on the recording of his first artist album said to me how expensive it was to put shapes to his project…
“Everything is relative. For me, when working for Dreamworks, I needed an approx US $ 300,000 to sign a new artist/group. And I’m not even talking about an artist who would come to me with a top producer, thus meaning budgets able to be multiplied per 10. So I would tend to say that putting US $ 75,000 to 100,000 on a Dance album is something of reasonable to me.”

But not necessarily for a small structure…
“The problem is somewhere else. If the DJ’s have a certain knowledge of music, it’s quite different when applied to business. Why not for instance signing license agreements with equally sized structures and share the costs as long as you have an idea of the potential of your sales? Then, we also have the compilations…”

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