Thursday, September 21, 2017

Alexander O’Neal: (What Can I Say)…

Released back in 1988 ‘(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me’ almost sounds premonitory regarding a man – Alexander O’Neal – who, alongside the late Luther Vandross, led the R&B scene back in the second half of the 80’s, responsible for a memorable series of sold out concerts at the London’s Webley Arena in 1989. A performer seen by many as the best singer Minneapolis famous Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis have ever produced. A star who, soon after parting way with his producers, got off the radars. Eventually getting into drugs, and obviously unable since to regain the status that was his despite various attempts…

Alexander O'NealParis, by some freezing day at the beginning of 1991… I got given a phone call to have a chat with Alexander O’Neal who was in the city to support the release of his ‘All True Man’ album. No need saying how, despite the cold outside temperature, I jumped on the wagon without a single hesitation. Excited at the perspective of meeting such an accomplished talent, renowned for an already impressive list of classics such as ‘Criticize’, ‘Fake’ and ‘(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me’. Not to mention ‘Never Knew Love Like This’ or ‘Saturday Love’ along with Cherrelle

 

You’ve been one of the original members of Flyte Time along with Monte Moir and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, although you’ve got replaced by Morris Day soon after the group signed to Warner and turned into The Time, because of disagreements with Prince…
“I’d been thought to become the lead singer of a group, but not necessarily the one of The Time. We started working in that sense, but Prince and I have got into a disagreement because of financial reasons. It hasn’t affected me more than that the end even though the perspective of working with such a great team was definitely exciting. I’ve always been conscient of my own abilities and said to myself that time had come to do my thing…”

Have you felt it hard back then to have failed finding an agreement with Prince?
“No. Prince and I were good friends. He’s without a single doubt the Godfather of the Minneapolis scene.”

You never thought of calling him to produce one of your singles/albums…
‘Nope. Even though I appreciate his music. I’ve never been worshippin’ anyone in particular. I am Alexander O’Neal and I’ve got my own career. So why would I have ever felt like radio-controlled by Prince, knowing our styles of music are so different from each other?!?”

You’ve integrated elements of Rap for the very first time in your 1991 released ‘All True Man’ album. Sign O’ The Times?
“Definitely.” (Laugh) “This was like New Funk to me. I got my deepest influences from the P-Funk. I think R&B needed that. Besides, Rap was not anymore what it was at the very beginning. It had evolved. I like Rap that talks about reality and everyday life. People like NWA even though their music could have sounded rough to many. I never thought the integration of Rap in my compositions could alterate the reason why the public loves me.”

How about House Music…
“Never felt concerned about it. It has never been my trip, although this didn’t get me away from thinking it’s an efficient dancing process…”

Some parts from this ‘All True Man’ album have also seen you surrounded for the very first time by producers other than Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Like Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy…
“Well, life is made of people like these getting on the same bus as you to go to their office, who happen to be talented. Jam & Lewis have always had a precise vision of the limit of their skills. I would say they’ve made proof of a real open-mindedness when coming to invite potential competitors in the production of this album. This experience has been really rewarding. There might be less spontaneity with Jam & Lewis as they do nothing by coincidence. It could have taken days to get rid of that little detail which the would see as an obstacle to perfection. Therefore, I felt like I got left more freedom when recording ‘Midnight Run’ with Foster & McElroy…”

I’ve read back then in your biography that by the time you started you seemed more interested in what music could bring you than the reverse. Then you’ve come to evolve…
“That’s true! I wondered at times if I ever had anything to do in music, but I suppose it’s quite natural. It has become different after a certain time in the business, due to the fact that I’d reached a status which allowed me to feel more comfortable, and that has helped me to become more so to say “competitive”, as freed from these preoccupations. I felt more responsible because of my recognition by an ever growing audience. I wanted to be the best Alxexander O’ Neal I could, with the best music I could come up with…”

I still have in memory the souvenir of your sold out concert at Wembley Arena back in 1989 where you were singing with a girl…
“My daughter!”

She was lying on a bed…
“Ah, that was not a little girl.” (smile) “I had picked her in the crowd…”

Speakin’ about the man (Alexander O’ Neal), how do you react in regards to things in life such as love, hate, sex, religion, politics, woman, children???
“This brings us back to the definition of the real man (‘All True Man’), the title of this album…
A real man is someone who’s learnt to respect himself, who loves his family and cares about his children. Someone who can make abstraction of himself for the others whenever needed. Someone considering the others the way he would like to be considered. This is all what makes a true man. As for making yourself a better idea as to who I am, I suppose the best way is to come to see me on stage, where I feel like I can express myself the fullest. To me, it’s more explicit than telling you I’m like this or like that…”

Last but not least, suppose you would have to interview yourself. Which question would you formulate and which answer would you give?!?
“I would wonder what I’m doin’ here, when I could relax in bed.” (laughs)

Chosen few
Alexander O’Neal – Alexander O’Neal (Tabu Records)
Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay (Tabu Records)
Alexander O’Neal – All Mixed Up (Tabu Records)
Alexander O’Neal – All True Man (Tabu Records)

Interview: Alexander O’Neal

You might also like…
10 essential New Jack Swing classics…

About indamixworldwide 2191 Articles
Story teller, record pusher, compiler & web designer...

Be the first to comment

Speak up your mind!

%d bloggers like this: