Thursday, August 17, 2017

Robert Owens: (House Music) Visions!

Robert OwensBeginning of the 90’s Paris… The definitive place to hang in when searchin’ for deep vibes in the French capital is BPM (Bastille Paris Musique). A record shop, the owner of which – Sal Russo – stands as the definitive spokesperson of the burgeoning Chicago House scene at the time. A man delivering rare reviews about its actors – beginning with Robert Owens – in front of an ever growing amount of disciples.

One would therefore feel a real emotion when the man came to talk about artists such as Marshall Jefferson , Ten City, Lil Louis, Larry Heard and the likes. Coming up with some of the most hard to find gems in the genre… Robert Owens, of course, would stand among those on the top of his crates. And how could it ever be different, when comin’ back then (and even nowadays) to listen to gems such as the mythical ‘Mystery Of Love’ (under the Fingers Inc. guise). But also ‘Tears’ or ‘Visions’ to name but a few. Not to mention ‘And I Loved You’ featuring Arnold Jarvis which he co-wrote with Frankie Knuckles and Satoshi Tomiie!!!

An obvious generosity which certainly was (and still is) Robert Owens‘s main quality. As ironically, his weakness in the meantime, judging by the inevitable opportunists who happened to take advantage of him. Pushing him to relocate in the UK where he would set up his own label (Musical Directions) a few months before our Parisian meeting…

“I was a member of the Voices Of Corner Stone under the direction of Reverend James Clinton in California. I just had basic tuition though. But havin’ sung in choirs has for sure been for much on my search for deepness.  It’s probably still around nowadays when comin’ to give a translation to the emotion(s) I feel…”

Your source of inspiration???
“Nowadays? My numerous travels. I’m almost always on the way! I can’t really say I’ve established myself anywhere. Yes, my travels are my main source of inspiration. Such as the people I meet who, for most of them, don’t speak English but dissolve in emotion. Which gives me an indication as to where to go musically…”

The power of Soul, so to say…
“Yup (he smiled). The reactions of all these people I met are the fuel that makes me want to keep on forward… Which wasn’t the case though when I started spinning with many people suggesting me to stop and focus on my activities as a singer…”

That didn’t stop you from spinning though as it’s obviously the case tonite. So what do you play? what to expect from a man the vocal sensibility is first and foremost the key attribute?
“It’s hard! Not what I’m playing (he smiled). But to give you a proper description. Coz’ I’m probably far from what you’ve ever listened to. I’m dealing with what can be considered as progressive House. But this has no connection with these stereotypes and clichés around like handbag! Probably because I’ve started at a time when music had a different dimension. What I’m up to play is related to that period…”

Which brings us to your debut…
“Waow. That brings us a while ago already! I started while spinnin’ in the suburbs of Chicago at House parties, then at college. This was like 1983-84!” 

Has your family been for anything in you as becomin’ who you are…
“Not at all. But the fact that I’ve sung in church choirs has been quintessential as far as my perception of music is concerned. I was a member of the Voices Of Corner Stone under the direction of Reverend James Clinton in California. I just had basic tuition though. But havin’ sung in choirs has for sure been for much on my search for deepness.  It’s probably still around nowadays when comin’ to give a translation to the emotion(s) I feel…”

Fingers Inc. (Robert Owens, Ron Wilson, Larry Heard)
Fingers Inc. (Robert Owens, Ron Wilson, Larry Heard)

Seems like we tend to talk more about House divas than male singers, who are not as numerous in comparison… 
“All these people you mean, like Ce Ce Rogers, Michael Watford and Byron Stingily, are fully livin’ what they sing. Meanwhile many others are just around with the will to make fast money. It’s quite easy to make the distinction between what’s sincere and what is not. It’s not necessarily what you write that counts but rather the way you’ll sing it. Between Larry Heard and myself, everything came like naturally. It was a matter of emotion that we would share at a specific moment. Him via the fluidity of his compositions, and myself via the lyrical emphasis they were suggesting to me…” 

How did you get to collaborate with Larry???
“We were like livin’ in front of each other back then. We just had to cross the street to meet up. He would come to my place with a keyboard, askin’ me what I thought about this or that line. We were very close. Myself, I would tell him what I was diggin’. We were working just like that and this is how the whole came out…”

I had another listen to 3 of your songs before comin’ to meet you. ‘Tears’ with Frankie Knuckles and Satoshi Tomiie. ‘Visions’ taken from your album on 4th & B’Way, and ‘Too Much For Me’…
“The latter should never have been released. It was just a vocal demo. It has been issued without my consent in regards to the arrangements. They just used my vocal references…”

So, verdict, your Honor…
“I can’t really say I shouldn’t have done this song, as since it has reached the crowd. This is what counts for me first, with the contractual problem comin’ after. I’ve done things I’m not particularly happy about as far as business is concerned. But I suppose we all grow from the mistakes we’ve done. I’m always surprised but also happy when people come to talk to me about these old songs…”

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