Filed under: Interview
Kevin Hedge and Josh Milan have done everything together. They’ve lived together, chased girls together and most importantly produced a hell of a lot of records together. Since 1984 the duo best known as Blaze have locked themselves away in the studio churning out hundreds upon hundreds of original Blaze tracks, remixes and also plenty of music for other artists like the 3 million copy strong ‘Hideaway’ which they kindly pieced together for popular 90’s group De’Lacy.
From humble beginnings, to being played by Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage and ultimately to being one of the longest running and most successful house units out there these New Jersey boys have done it all. In 1989 they made a wise decision and remixed ‘People Hold On’ by Lisa Stanfield which helped catapult them into the public eye. The next year their album “25 Years Later” was released on Motown cemented them firmly into the scene and the rest is, as they say, history.
Now in 2006 Blaze are doing the tour circuit including a recent week long jaunt to Japan to promote the release of their newest compilation album “Most Precious Love”. Josh and Kevin hospitably opened up their hotel room door for us so that we could take a deeper look into the Blaze phenomenon.
> Interview & Introducion : Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : Thank you for talking to us today.
Kevin : It’s a pleasure.
Josh : That’s ok.
HRFQ : We wanted to ask you about your CD that is coming out on Victor in Japan. It’s called “Most Precious Love” and a lot of people will know that single already but can you tell us about this album?
Kevin : This CD was actually put together by Hisa from King Street. It’s a collection of originals and remixed songs that have been done by us over the years. There’s stuff from Slip n Slide and other labels that we’ve worked with. I guess they feel that it’s a very good representation of our sound and the interpretations of our sound by other people. So I’m excited to see this being released. This is almost number nine. I stopped counting.
Josh : This is about the fifth Blaze compilation.
Kevin : Of songs that we did, remixed or had something to do with in someway. This one is a compilation of our work that encompasses the last maybe five years or so.
HRFQ : You guys seem to be just as popular as ever since you started in ’84 and even seem to get a little bit more popular every year. Can you explain it?
Josh : I don’t know what that is. I think so too.
Kevin : You think so?
Josh : Yeah. When I get on mySpace…You know mySpace? I have a mySpace page and I get hits everyday, so I don’t know what we are doing. Maybe it is just our positive lyrics, I don’t know. I appreciate it, it’s nice but I don’t know why that is.
HRFQ : Yeah it just seems to be growing more and more.
Kevin : Really? From your mouth to the creators ears! (laughs)
HRFQ : Well we see your name come up more and more often on compilations.
Kevin : I think Josh and I are very lucky and very blessed. We have recorded a lot of songs over the twenty years. When you have a catalogue of over 200 original songs and over 300 remixes that’s a lot of stuff for people to get into I guess. We’ve probably got over 500 works. I guess we have just been lucky and have been able to maintain our interest and our passion for the business. But I hope we are getting more popular. I’m really looking forward to being more popular.
HRFQ : De’Lacy ‘Hideaway’ was a song that you wrote and produced and it sold over 3million copies. Now a lot of artists tell us that it’s difficult to shift more than a few thousand copies of a single. What do you think?
Kevin : I think it’s the music business over all. The public’s buying habits have changed. When you are in the music business you are not just in competition with another group like Blaze or another musical style, you are in competition with the internet now, you are in competition with the TV, you are in competition with the movies, you are in competition with Playstation and iPod. You are in competition with a lot of different media and entertainment forms. The music business is just a smaller piece of the larger entertainment field. There is so much more competition for the entertainment dollar. And you also have to say that consumers are becoming more savvy in that they are spending their dollars more wisely. The buying public has become more aware of the labels that have taken advantage of them over the years by putting one or two valuable tracks on a CD and making them buy the whole CD as opposed to trying to make great albums like they did in the past on Motown like Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder or any of your great artists, Sting and the Police. Those artists tried to make great albums as opposed to one or two tracks and then filling it out.
HRFQ : Over the years you’ve had a few different project names like Stardust and Funky People but people say that your sound is so unmistakable that they can pick it anyway. So what is the reason behind choosing different names?
Josh : That was totally Kevin’s idea. I had nothing to do with it. (laughs)
Kevin : I don’t know, we always felt like Blaze was soulful vocal records that made a statement and maybe some vocal instrumental records that made a statement. So I think we developed those aliases to produce a different sound. Well obviously half the people out there knew it was Blaze anyway but that was my thinking behind it. If we were doing that sort of thing we should name it something different so Blaze fans didn’t get out of whack about it being something totally different. Now it kind of worked out to our advantage because I feel like we are one of the few producer/writing teams whose fan base will accept a completely different sound. They don’t expect us to have to be four to the floor 125 beats per minute. We can do it like ‘Found Love’ or…
Josh : ‘Here With Me’
Kevin : ‘Here With Me’ and those records are just as popular with Blaze fans as ‘Do You Remember House?’ and ‘Most Precious Love’. Mainstream may not know the real Blaze. The people just finding out about ‘Most Precious Love’, they may not know. But the Blaze fans who love the album that JVC put out “Spiritually Speaking” as well as “Keep Hope Alive”, those fans they know. They love both of the sounds just the same.
HRFQ : You’ve been working together since the early eighties so we wanted to ask you what is the secret? Surely you’ve had some arguments how do you keep going?
Josh : Sure, but the thing about being friends is that it supercedes the business altogether. That’s just it in a nutshell. A lot of producers, they meet and they become producers and not friends, just business partners.
Kevin : A lot of people don’t know but we were actually roommates. We lived together.
Josh : For fifteen years.
Kevin : Almost as long as we’ve recorded. I think we were also young when we first started and he became like a little brother to me, even though he is bigger than me, more than just a songwriting partner. We hung out a lot and we had a lot of the same interests when we were younger. You know, chasing girls together that kind of stuff. It really started with us working together and me teaching him about house music and then him teaching me about jazz. So it was like a mutual give and take. And now we are just old (laughs).
HRFQ : Are you finding it a lot easier in the studio now? Can you sort of read each others minds?
Josh : Definitely.
Kevin : Oh my god yeah.
Josh : That is crazy. We don’t even talk, we just look at each other.
Kevin : When somebody is working in the studio with us they find that unbelievable. Because he shares with me the music he listens to and I share with him the music I listen to we can kind of know.
Josh : It’s just magic.
Kevin : It’s sort of like you can know what he’s thinking at the time he’s thinking it. Sometimes you develop a trust too. He might start the project and it might not turn out like I originally heard it but I let him go ahead and do it because I know that he knows what I’m going to like eventually.
HRFQ : You were talking about when other people are in the studio, is it hard for them to break into this psychic connection?
Kevin : Unfortunately for us the older we have become, the less and less we produce other people. A lot of how we work is that him and I will write and produce the track, give it to the artist and then usually one of us will be in the studio with the artist. Hardly ever are we both there trying to do vocals with the artist. I find it difficult when he is there because he can sing it and he can do it without me saying, ‘Oh no do it like this’. But if the vocalist can’t do it then I’ll get frustrated. Without him there I don’t think like that, I’m not antsy or anything so I can let them try to be themselves. But usually we don’t really try to let the artist…Well there was one artist who kind of got into it.
Josh : Stephanie? Yeah yeah.
Kevin : Stephanie is really close to us in the studio in terms of vocally and songwriting wise she can be just amazing we think our tracks are (laughs). She was always really good to work with. But usually we just make the tracks and he’ll be there doing the vocal or I’ll be doing the vocal. He doesn’t work with a lot of vocals because it is frustrating for him to.
Josh : You know, if I can do it then I’d rather do it myself. You’ve got to wait, tell them to do it one more time and it’s too long.
HRFQ : We’d just like to ask one quick question about the Paradise Garage. A lot of people talk about how important Larry Levan was for example we had Manuel Gottsching tell us that his music was pushed thanks to the Paradise Garage.
Kevin : You know what that is, “E2-E4”. That’s the only track that we actually know but he did a lot of other music. That track is from the early eighties but that track is so far ahead of its time even today. It’s like a track that was made today.
HRFQ : So was the Paradise Garage as important as everyone says it was?
Kevin : I grew up wanting to be Larry but as much as I loved it I have to be honest he was influenced by people and there were a lot of people at that time doing similar types of things musically. However, the Garage was the most commercially successful and therefore he got the most praise. I am sure at the same time there were people doing similar things to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker but they just didn’t have the same access to the media. The main reason Larry was the most important was that he really was the architect of the DJ superstar culture. He took DJing from being just a guy playing records to being an artist. He made the DJ an artist. Musically he was phenomenal but making the DJ an artist was his real contribution in my personal opinion. The Garage itself was important because it was the architect for our culture. Before that you had places like oft that were the seed but being as the Garage was the most commercially successful it was the blueprint for what people do around the world. Honestly, that’s how important it was. The way people dress, the way people talk when they go to a club even done to the ethos, you know that utopian idea that comes out of house music and the club lifestyle. That idea was born in the Garage. So that’s why the Garage and Larry together…because the Garage wasn’t just Larry. It was Michael Brody who had the vision to put it together, it was the staff that worked there, it was a lot of people that went into creating that specialness. Larry was the star, he created DJ stardom.
Josh : I’ve just been to the Garage twice because I was too young. We performed there twice. I got to hear Larry after the Garage and he was probably the first DJ that I heard and I’m not as deep into the club scene and you would probably think I am. He was the first DJ I heard to play different music. He would play a slow record or a Curtis Mayfield record. That to me was important. That was his contribution to my musicality. When I realized that you could do that sort of music in a club situation that opened up a new world.
HRFQ : Well that’s all we’ve got for you so thank you very much for talking to us.
Josh : Thank you.
Kevin : You’re welcome.
End of the interview
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