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COOL MILLION/ROB HARDT 2010 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
JK: I’ve been over to Germany once. What part of Germany are you in?
RH: This is the North Coast, near Hamburg. I’m close to the UK.

JK: How far are you from the UK?

RH: In miles, I think it’s 250, but it’s water between us.

JK: It’s pretty quick then. So, tell me about the concept behind “Back For More”, which I’ve been enjoying quite a lot. What is it that makes the music special about this CD?

RH: For me, what makes it so special is that I actually work with people I looked up to let’s say 20 years ago, and this is for me, where I actually come from, because there was a time when I went out as a young man and I enjoyed this music and at that time I didn’t have a chance to produce, because I wasn’t so good at doing music like I am now. Now after all these years, a lot of connections, plus these older artists don’t get contracts anymore, it’s much more open to meet them and get them to join in for a project like “Cool Million”.

JK: It’s refreshing for me just to have the chance to speak to a lot of the artists who have been involved, because some of them do put out product occasionally, but there’s usually not a lot of support for it from a label standpoint, so it’s nice to hear them in their element with the kind of sound that you and Frank Ryle are crafting for this. I was reading somewhere where your partner Frank Ryle had mentioned influences like the S.O.S. Band and Midnight Star and Mtume in developing the sound. Are there any particular artists or producers that come to your mind when you think of who has influenced your style perhaps?

RH: I think it’s a lot, starting with Leon Sylvers III, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, and a lot of these people, you know? I really like Change.

JK: The Jacques Fred Petrus sound?

RH: Right, because the fun, funk and (the) dance floor was always my kind of thing. Good music, you know? You can listen to it at home, or you go out and you just want to dance, and that’s what it’s all about. Today, everything is really cool, just bling bling, talk about tits and boobs and all that, not about fun anymore.

JK: I think one of the main benefits of this style of music -- aside from the lyrics -- is that the melodic structure is there, because to me it’s not even so much that the lyrics are always bad in today’s music, because there are some songs that have good lyrics. But, a lot of the time, I just find that it’s not very melodic. It’s strictly the beat, if you could call it that, and it’s not really arranged, it’s just strictly programmed. I know that obviously programming is a part of the sound that you do, but it’s only one dimension of it.

RH: Just imagine now, in 20 years if you’re sitting with your girl and having a good time, you won’t put an Akon record on. I’m pretty sure you would have a Luther Vandross or Teddy Pendergrass, you know?

JK: Yeah, something that really captures the moment, not a trend. So, let’s talk about the artists who are on this album, because it’s quite an impressive lineup, and it should be mentioned that you had another CD out in 2008 called “Going Out Tonight” where you started this concept, because I noticed you had some underrated talent on there in the form of CJ Anthony. But this time around, you really pulled in some big names as far as 80’s R&B, Soul and Funk goes. Starting with the first single that you put out, ‘Sweet Baby’ featuring Meli’sa Morgan, tell me how did you decide to work with her, and how did it come about that it actually happened for you?

RH: With Meli’sa, she is one of the voices for me that I always loved. There’s Chaka Khan, Meli’sa Morgan, Jocelyn Brown, you know the type of belting ladies actually, I always loved, and we got in contact with Meli’sa, like most of the artists via Myspace, which is for us the best thing that happened, that we have the Internet now. We asked her and she was all up for it, and then we said, “Okay, we’ll do it. How do we do it?” We sent the backing track over to her, she wrote the lyrics on it, then she said she was finished and I had a chance to go to New York to record with her, which is not an average thing in this production, because most of the artists, I never saw.

JK: It was just done sending the files back and forth?

RH: Right, that’s what we did most of the time. We had a big problem as you can see, even with this lineup we are still an underground group, so the budget was not allowing me to fly to Miami (laughs).

JK: You just happened to be going to New York that Meli’sa and you could be doing that, right?

RH: Right, my cousin was there for two months and I could stay at his apartment, so everything was quite cheap and we had a chance to do it. I met her in the studio there, and she came in, was a beautiful, nice lady still, and we just set up the microphone and she started singing, and I knew why I’m here. She was so damn cool! She talks like a little angel, but when she starts singing…

JK: I know, the talking and the singing voice are two different worlds.

RH: Absolutely! I was so surprised.

JK: What kind of studio did you record it in?

RH: It was a high-class studio we booked in Manhattan called Skyline Studios.

JK: Did you do most of the initial tracks in Germany, Denmark, or where did you do them?

RH: I’ve got my own studio at home where I produce all the stuff. I’m a keyboard player, actually. I do all the programming and keyboards. Except the guitars and live music and horns, everything you hear on the record, I played. We do the recording sessions over here, but the recording session varies whenever you book a studio. This was a good high standard studio, but these days you don’t need it anymore for vocal recordings. You need a good mic, you need a good pre-amp and you have a hard-disk system, so these days everything is easy.

JK: Did it make a difference in how that song came out as opposed to others that weren’t done in that kind of studio? Is there something different about the feeling of it?

RH: For me there is a difference, because if you go as a German to a city like New York, record with Meli’sa Morgan who I’ve always looked up to, I had the feeling like I was at West End Records in the 80’s or something. It was great (laughs).

JK: You mentioned the lyrics, but did she write the melody, as well, or do you write the melodies for the songs?

RH: No, she writes the melodies, I just give some guidance there. Most of time we give the artist really 100% freedom and it works, because a lot of the time they are waiting for the right music, like for example Eugene Wilde. He just popped out the track in one day. I think he was just waiting for these types of backing tracks to write on. It feels so natural to hear them on the kind of music like this, you know?

JK: Tell me about, when you mention Eugene Wilde, what was that experience like, connecting with him?

RH: Actually, I never talked to Eugene, we were just mailing, and it seems like he is a really easy, down-to-Earth person.

JK: I spoke to him the other day thanks to you, and he is.

RH: I think he brought his whole family in as well: Al Broomfield, Dee Dee, Audio, it’s the whole complete family reunion on our record.

JK: Was that intentional, or did it just happen by coincidence?

RH: It happened by accident, but I’m happy about it because it’s a really talented family. So many different talented singers in one family, it’s really rare.

JK: I know, and they’ve all had records out but not necessarily all of them have gotten big attention outside of the collectors’ circle, maybe. Let’s talk about Leroy Burgess, because he’s a man who has been involved in so many soulful R&B, Dance, Soul and Funk records over the years, from Black Ivory to so many things. Tell me about that experience.

RH: Leroy is a living legend, nothing else to say for me. He’s got such a unique voice, a unique style, when you hear the first two notes, you know it’s Leroy Burgess. Actually, he was the last one who came on our record, because I have my own label in Europe called SedSoul where we released “Cool Million”, and I signed Leroy’s newest album to my label. This was a connection, and then I asked him, “Why don’t you come and join us?” We had 15 tracks already, which is more than enough for an album these days, but he said, “Yes! No problem!” I sent over the track and the same thing here, on the next day he came with the track.

JK: It’s interesting, because the name of that song is “Cool To Make A Million”.

RH: That’s what we all wish (laughs).

JK: Was that something that he just came up with on his own?

RH: Absolutely, his idea. I just told him that the project name was “Cool Million”, and he actually he made a title track out of it, so we have a theme now.

JK: Peggi Blu?

RH: Yes, she got mentioned by Ralph Tee from Expansion Records, and he said, “She is such a lovely lady. Contact her and work with her” so we called her, she was all up for it, her husband Ted Perlman has his own studio, so that was the easy way. If I listen to the backup vocals she did, I can just melt; I’m just melting when I hear it.

JK: That song is a little bit different from the rest of the songs on the CD; it’s very mellow. It’s probably the most mellow song.

RH: It’s the most mellow track, yes. Actually, I like mellow tracks, but we wanted to create a first-rate ‘going out’ record, you know something you’ll enjoy playing in the car and stuff like this. A lot of R&B or Soul records have for my taste, too many slow songs on them. I love the slow songs, but if I listen to an album sometimes, I want to go out.

JK: Tell me how the name came about.

RH: Oh, the “Cool Million” name? That’s much more about Frank. He watched a movie and somebody mentioned, “It was a Cool Million” and it was the same thing like Leroy, it would be so nice to make a million, so we have to make a Cool Million now.

JK: So that’s the goal then?

RH: Right, but the main thing is really to have fun. This is actually what I think you can hear on the record: we don’t care if a major record company likes it or not, we just do what we want to do and we feel really happy about it. The reactions are really great. We know we don’t have the sales like a major act right now, but actually this is one step after the other. We started in 2008 and that was our first record, and that was actually the initial thing for artists like Leroy Burgess to check us out, what we can do and how the sound can be.

JK: Did you play the music from that for a lot of the artists that you asked to do this so they have something to go off?

RH: Yes. A lot of these people, I don’t know where they heard it from, but they heard the tracks already, so the music grabbed their attention first, and when we came, we had opened doors, because there was a lot of “I know it and I love it”. I think this new record will open even more doors for the next one.

JK: Tell me about the label, SedSoul. When did you start it?

RH: Six months ago.

JK: So the previous CD was on a different label?

RH: It was on Expansion Records, one of the best Soul labels in the UK with a really cool guy, Ralph Tee. We are still really good buddies and work together, and we met at the Baltic Soul Weekender, which is a big weekender in Germany, and I told him for us, it makes no sense to give it away to a record label, because right now we have 100% control; we can do remixes and all that. It gives us a lot of trust and freedom, and we can work on compilations. Really, especially this year, Ralph has a lot of good releases on his label. You should check it out!

JK: Is that the Soul Togetherness Compilation that he has out?

RH: Yes, also Togetherness, but they also have right now, a lot of good stuff; a new girl called Dira, a really good record produced, I believe by Incognito. It’s jazzy, soulful, really high-class music. JK: When you mentioned the control to do the remixes, that brought to my mind something really special that happened for you and Frank, which was when you were approached by the legendary Tom Moulton, the father of the disco mix, to remix the first album, “Going Out Tonight” in its entirety. What was that experience like, and how did it start for you? RH: Again, Myspace. Tom got a Myspace page set up and I wrote him how much I really liked a lot of the records from the 70’s and 80’s that I have, and I said it would be an honor if one day he would do a mix of mine. He replied on the same day, because he went on our Myspace site and said, “Okay, I would like to do this track and this track and this track” and I was like, “He’s joking” but he was serious. So, we settled it, and actually to this day, we consider Tom as the third part of “Cool Million”, actually because he became our friend. We mail about three or four times a week, we talk about a lot of stuff, I visit him in New York and he is the coolest person I know. Actually, for me it’s cool to see someone who is now 64 or 65 or something like this, to see somebody with so much soul, still doing music.

JK: I know, because when I first started noticing that he was doing your remixes, I thought to myself that he’s got to be a little bit older. Even when he started in the Disco era, he had been doing stuff before that, so it’s nice to see that, especially for a producer. You don’t see that a lot.

RH: He’s sitting in Manhattan, got his nice big Pro Tools system, watching out the window, seeing New York and still doing cool music.

JK: Were there any particular records of his that made an impact on you when you were growing up, or when you were listening to his music back in the day?

RH: It was too many to mention, really. I just looked through my vinyl, and I think I have 40 that he mixed.

JK: For people who don’t know, one of the big milestones for him was when he did the mix of the first side of Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” album, because that had never been done before I think, where all of the songs on one side of an album were mixed together for continuous dancing or listening. It’s just interesting, because a lot of times when you say the word disco, you think one thing, but there are a lot of facets to it, like we’re talking about how he mixed what is considered a real Soul and Funk classic, “Do It Till You’re Satisfied” for BT Express.

RH: BT Express, I got that one and it’s so beautiful. He is really a soul man. Even though he produced a lot of disco, I think from his heart he is a soul man.

JK: He’s definitely got that in him. Is Soul Food Music part of the distribution for you? Is that a company that’s doing PR for you?

RH: That’s our promotion company Steve Ripley is doing all our UK promotion.

JK: Promoting it to press and radio?

RH: Right, he’s doing press, radio, making connections for us. He’s been in the business a long time; he was Product Manager for CBS Records.

JK: I recognized his name.

RH: There’s a lot of stuff, from Michael Jackson to Sade that he did promotion for. He has a lot of experience, connections, and I have to say with him, we really have a brilliant team together, with enough creative sense to help us create the whole thing. We made a big step in the last six months with the project.

JK: Steve Ripley was involved with the career of Haywoode. Do you remember her?

RH: Yeah.

JK: They just did a re-issue of her album and there were a lot of liner notes about how her career was going, and his name was mentioned. She’s doing a new album, and part of it is a throwback to her 80’s Boogie sound records. It’s funny how things come around like that.

RH: You know how it is. If two or three people are starting, and people say, “Why not?” then it can become 'overground' again. You put today’s mix to it, but the music is a good Boogie, it’s got no season actually. It’s good mood party music, that’s what it is.

JK: You also have some newer talent on the album, and I think most of them come out of Europe. I’m speaking of Laura Jackson, who sings on a track called “Love The Beat”, Clare Evers with “You Got Style”, and Paul McInnes. Tell me about those artists, how you found them.

RH: We always look around at what is next to you. There is some real talent, with the younger guys and ladies who don’t get a chance, because they love this old type of music, but there are not many people who will produce it, and especially not many record companies who will release it after somebody produced it. So, Laura is with us since the first record.

JK: “Damn Beautiful” was that the song?

RH: Right, a little Mtume-influenced (laughs) and Laura is from the UK, is a beautiful, talented young lady, is a good songwriter, she wrote all the songs with me & Frank together, so she’s got a lot of talent and I’m pretty sure we will produce a whole album with her.

JK: Is that a different process, working with her where you’re starting from the ground up, or is it the same basic structure where you make the track and pass it on to her?

RH: It’s the same basic structure, the only thing is the outside recognizes a known artist more than an unknown artist. If we had a Cool Million album with just Laura Jackson and people from Europe, there’s no name and nobody would take too much notice, I guess. For us, it was really a good step to get the original singers from back in the day and mix it up with some newer talent.

JK: You do have a guy on there who is very well-known in Europe, although he may not be as big of a name here in the States, and that’s Noel McKoy. He’s been involved in a lot of things in recent years besides his own projects. I know he was involved in a recent Disco 2008 I think for Ian Levine’s label. I forget the name that it’s going by, but that was interesting to see him pop up with you guys now.

RH: I think for us, it was like, “Who is known in the UK, and who is interested in working with us together?" Noel said from the first moment on, “I will do it. I like what you guys are doing,” so for us, the vibe was really important, that somebody really commits themselves to something, He was there from the first minute, and actually all of the artists, it was such a quick delivery time. It was so easy for me, because I just received brilliant vocals. I don’t have to work on Auto-Tune, or stuff like that.

JK: You can definitely hear the difference today in things with that, and your project.

RH: It’s important to me.

JK: That organic sound makes a difference, and maybe you don’t realize until you’ve had enough of the Auto-Tune.

RH: Yeah.

JK: What was it about a singer like Noel, what quality in his voice attracted you to him?

RH: Personally, I like guys with a mature, male voice, so he got this, and I’ve known him, not personally but through the music, since 1993 or something when I had a little Acid Jazz record that he was a singer on. I always liked his style, and that we now bumped into each other was just luck (laughs).

JK: So was he one that you worked with in-person?

RH: No, that was because of what he had going at the time, because he was working on his new album at the time, and he just did our thing on the side, because he was in the studio.

JK: There are two artists that I was surprised to see show up on the CD that have done records over the years and are really great talents but haven’t quite achieved perhaps the same name recognition as some of the other artists, and I’m speaking about Rena Scott and Yvonne Gage. Tell me what of their work were you familiar with, and about connecting with them.

RH: I knew Yvonne Gage’s tracks, but I never knew it was Yvonne Gage. Sometimes you go to a club and you hear a track, but you never know who it is. Actually, we have some fans in France, and they mentioned to me that Yvonne was coming to France to perform there and I said, “Yvonne who?” and they say, “Yvonne Gage” and I said, “Sorry, this name is not familiar with me” and then he sent me a link over and I said, “Wow! What a voice!” and then I read about her, what she did, the records she did already and stuff like this, and then I wrote her and she was on the way back home to the States, and the next day she wrote me an email saying, “Okay, I’m on it!” It was an easy production. I can say nothing else. It was a good vibe from beginning to end.

JK: What about Rena Scott? What was it about her?

RH: Rena Scott came over to Frank, and he had a lot of tracks from her that he liked, and I think we talked to her the first time and she didn’t have time. Now, this time it happens that she came to it, and she is another one that was really good and fast, because we told her we have not so much time, because from production to release, sometimes the schedule is getting tight. She said, “No problem! I’ll go to the studio” but I said, “It’s a week before Christmas and New Year’s Eve” and she said, “I don’t care! I’ll go on New Year’s Eve” and she was in the studio on New Year’s Eve recording the vocals.

JK: That’s amazing. It’s interesting, because her first album is something she produced with Mtume and Lucas, and then with that being an influence on your sound as you mentioned with the Laura Jackson track, that’s really kind of cool.

RH: James Mtume had so many good tracks over the years.

JK: He’s definitely a pioneer of sorts.

RH: Yes, yes. I always liked the beats he was doing. I’m a keyboard player, and they had really good keyboards in Mtume. I always liked it.

JK: Tell me about you, about your background, because I’ve read that you’ve done production and/or mixing for the likes of Chaka Khan, Roger & Zapp, even Newcleus, so tell me what you did for each role, for those artists.

RH: For Chaka Khan, I worked as a remixer. That was ‘Never Miss the Water’ and we did the US and UK remixes for it.

JK: Were these the Dance remixes, or were they a Pop mix?

RH: We had some soulful, and some house mixes for her.

JK: Was that the Maxi Single release?

RH: Right. That was a funny situation, actually. Warner Brothers Germany gave us the opportunity to remix her, which I said before, Chaka is one of my favourites, and I felt really honored to do the remixes, so we did the remixes and sent them to Warner Germany and they were, like, “What the fuck kind of remixes did you guys do?” and I said, “Oh shit! I love these remixes.” They were like, “No” but they still had to pay us for the remixes and the money came from Reprise. They said, “Yeah, we’ll pay, but we want to hear the mixes” so the German Warner had to send the mixes to Reprise, and then they flipped out and called us directly, they didn’t call Warner Germany, they called us directly to say how much they love the mixes, paid for it and released it! (laughs) JK: I’ll have to go back and listen to the remixes now, because it’s been a long time. RH: It’s the Stylus remixes and the Candy Station remixes; that was my old company. That was our name in the 90’s that we worked on.

JK: What about Roger & Zapp?

RH: It was actually right after the thing with Chaka Khan, the product manager from Reprise called us and asked if we would be interested in Roger & Zapp, and she tried to explain who Roger & Zapp is, and I was like, “You don’t have to, because his records are with me.” I like ‘More Bounce to the Ounce’, I like Soul but I’m a Funk head. She was quite surprised to find that somebody in Germany knows about Zapp.

JK: I guess this was a little bit before everything was on the Internet, whereas nowadays they might not be surprised.

RH: Yes. Then we did ‘Living For The City’ and that was one of the last things he did before he died.

JK: That was very sad.

RH: For me, it was the best talkbox ever.

JK: Oh yeah, without question, the whole vocoder sound.

RH: I saw him live two times, and they were both amazing. He was a good entertainer. That’s what I miss a lot of times with the newer groups, they don’t entertain, they go onstage with jeans on…

JK: They stand around.

RH: Stand around, that’s it. I had that experience. I saw Earth, Wind & Fire four times, and I saw them two years ago and they came in jeans and leather jackets onstage. The whole glamour was gone. They played brilliant, lucky to say, but the whole show effect they used to have was gone.

JK: Is Maurice White still performing with them?

RH: I don’t think so. When I saw them it was just Philip Bailey and a younger dude who took Maurice’s place.

JK: What about Newcleus’ ‘Jam on It’, because that’s a really legendary record, especially when you talk about Electro, so what was your involvement in that?

RH: With Newcleus, I did House mixes, and that was not so long ago -- two years ago. We did House mixes for Newcleus, and for me a lot of the problem with House mixes is that it has nothing to do with the brilliant original. It was fun to do it, but nothing can touch the original. This is for me: with most of the tracks it’s really tough for a remix to come close to the original track.

JK: I imagine it’s a real challenge for a remix to preserve the feeling of the original, but still make it work in the genre that you’re remixing it in.

RH: You bring it to a new audience, but the original has got the magic, why people want to hear the track.

JK: Were you also involved in doing one of Keith Sweat’s hits from the 90’s?

RH: Yes, ‘Twisted’, but as a remixer.

JK: Was that also in the House vein?

RH: No, that was R&B remixes for ‘Twisted.’

JK: Okay, you’ve covered a lot of different styles with your remixing.

RH: Yes. I was lost in the 90’s; I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go.

JK: How did that come about, with Keith Sweat?

RH: That’s when, let’s say the G-Funk era was big, like ’96 and over here in Germany, there was a hype where you need at least 10 remixes before you can release it you know? (laughs) There was a time when I did a lot of remixes and was always well-paid, but for me, it’s not as important as producing a whole album or producing a track for somebody altogether.

JK: Tell me, what’s in the pipeline? Is there anything else that is coming soon, or are you just taking it one project at a time?

RH: Right now I’m producing an album with a guy called Ferry Ultra and we already have a track out, it’s called Ferry Ultra featuring Gwen McCrae, ‘Let Me Do My Thang’.

JK: I love some of her 80’s records as well.

RH: The whole album is, let’s say, five years back in time before Cool Million, as we go more to the end of the 70’s, and we have on there Ann Sexton, who is a really brilliant singer.

JK: Is Ferry Ultra a singer?

RH: No, he’s a DJ and he has a club called Palo Palo in Hannover, Germany, and every time he had Soul parties with these artists, he recorded in the basement the tracks, and then I got it to make music out of it. They just recorded it on GNOME playbacks, and then I threw all the playbacks away and did new music to it.

JK: What was it recorded on when he did the original recordings?

RH: It was actually recorded on hard disk, on Logic. I don’t know if you know Logic.

JK: I know what it is, but I don’t really know the details of it.

RH: It’s just a microphone, a good pre-amp and a lot of fun.

JK: So then you took it into the studio and re-mastered it?

RH: No, I just kept the vocals. I kept the vocals and the tempo of the track and I started from zero with the music. I recorded the keyboards, the bass and the horns to the whole vocals. It’s like a remix, but you are re-building because there is no original.

JK: So these were live recordings? The singers were giving a concert or something?

RH: Yeah, they were giving PA’s like when they sing in the club with t a DJ and stuff like that.

JK: So was it songs that they hadn’t released before?

RH: No, they just went to the basement later on and jammed. It was not during the shows, it was after the shows. We have Roy Ayers on there, so some really good guys from back in the day again.

JK: Tell me a little bit about the business side of this. How does it work when you’re working with so many different artists and I don’t know, is everybody like a free agent, or do you have to do the whole contract thing with the different label sthey’re with? How does that work?

RH: Actually, from the artists we work with now, no one has a deal with a company right now. We just set it one way, so it makes it easier to work with them, because we just do a basic agreement where you have “Who is doing what, what you get when it sells and all that.” That’s normally what we do; we don’t have 80 pages like Sony Records or Atlantic Records or something like that. We don’t bind the artist with us, because I think it’s unfair. I cannot promise to do anything for them except putting good music out, so for me it makes no sense to bind somebody to us.

JK: How are you distributing it, exactly? Where is it available and what are the main ways you are getting it out there?

RH: We have in Japan a distributor, we have in the UK a distributor, now in Europe, and since two weeks, things will be available in the States over our German distributor who got a contact with Alliance Entertainment in the United States and they do US distribution now.

JK: Are you talking about digital distribution?

RH: No, CD’s. Digitally, we are available worldwide.

JK: And you do that part yourself?

RH: I do it myself, yes.

JK: So the CD will actually be available in the US, for example, in record stores here or on Amazon.com or something?

RH: I just saw that Amazon, Barnes and Noble and some others listed it today. It should be there soon.


JK: Do you have a wish list of artists that you’d like to work with in the future?

RH: Chaka Khan, George Benson, Mary Davis is one of my favourites.

JK: We just did a feature on her; I spoke with her recently.

RH: I love her voice! She’s so unique, you can hear the first two notes and tell it’s her.

JK: She mentioned that she was working on doing a Gospel album, but there wasn’t a definite timeframe, so who knows, she might be up for it.

RH: This is something I realized, all the artists are now doing Gospel albums, because that’s the only genre that they can release. I think a lot of them would like to do a good record, not that Gospel records are not good.

JK: Another artist I talked to who is actually recording again is Millie Scott, and she’s working with Bruce Nazarian, who did a lot of her records in the 80’s with that Detroit Soul sound. She’s another great voice to me. She’s sung with Aretha Franklin for years on tour now, and she’s just a classic voice.

RH: It’s amazing how much you get out of these ladies and gentlemen. I realized that when we recorded with Ann Sexton when we recorded her in Germany, how much energy this woman has. It was her first recording in 30 years, because she was all pissed about the music business, she got fucked and she never made any money with it, they never claimed her writing rights and all that, and I don’t know how many times you heard this story, but I heard it a lot of times. It was really a situation where we said, “Come on, you get this and this, we pay money up-front” so she gets the feeling that it’s not always so bad. When she started singing, it’s like a good Blues singer or a good wine, the older they are, you believe what they are singing, because you know they can tell stories. This is what I miss sorely with a lot of young people. When 14-year-old girls sing about love and life, I don’t care (laughs).

JK: It’s such a different definition now of what people will accept as good talent.

RH: Because they go for beauty, slimness, this is more important than a real good singer. I’m really glad at least Jennifer Hudson made it in the US, but still I wish she would do Classic Soul albums, because these are albums I can listen to in 20 years, If you just have the newest beats to it and all that, you date as quickly as you come, but she’s a brilliant singer when she does a ballad or something like that. I recognized her for the first time in 'Dreamgirls.' When she hit the notes there, I was like, “I love this girl!” She is brilliant.

JK: Speaking of that, have you met with any resistance at all, since you’re doing a sound that classic? Do you ever encounter people who say, “That’s an outdated sound and that’s not relevant right now?”

RH: No, it’s the opposite right now. I think most people say they’re glad we bring it back with a new twist. That’s what I hear from all sides, but maybe the other people don’t tell me. I have the feeling it’s long awaited, because I have never had as many interviews as I’ve had in the last two weeks. A lot of the people are 35 or older, but most people at radio stations I talk to are in their early 40’s. They actually went out clubbing when this type of music was hot and they say, “You bring back memories. You bring back memories to the people of a time that was a little more optimistic, going out.” Today is like really, you have the Hip Hop kind of thing, you have bouncers who don’t let you into the club, it’s not like you go to a club. It’s like you go to a high security airport or something; the fun is actually gone. We bring, with Cool Million, some sweet memories back, but what I realize now is there’s a big problem with a lot of American artists --it's that they want a million bucks up front; they don’t realize that times are changing. If we talk right now about Soul music, talk about the underground. If you talk about R&B or something like this, we don’t have the sales and big amounts of money right now. I think a lot of people have to recognize what they want to do. If it’s for the money, then they should go and sing the Top 40. I think it’s a matter of the media; they have a picture in mind from movies, where you live large and all this stuff, and if they have a name, they have to start almost from zero. It’s a long way, and sometimes if you’re in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, sometimes you don’t want to go the long way anymore. You would deserve something else, I do agree 100% with that, but life is like life is; you cannot force it to be different.

JK: "Don’t Push It Don’t Force It"

RH: Right (laughs).

JK: It’s all really cool and I’ve been enjoying it, so I hope people pick it up. I thought it was cool, and I just want to mention that you put out the vinyl singles of ‘Sweet Baby’ and ‘Back For More.' Is there anything memorable about that for you, or was that easy to do, because vinyl is something that at least here in the States, it’s been reported on that it’s been increasing in sales, and of course it still doesn’t touch digital downloads or CD’s, but it’s something that even people of my age and younger appreciate. Was there a particular thing that prompted you to do that, and how difficult or easy was it to do that?

RH: It’s quite easy to do it, but it’s quite expensive from the production costs, because you don’t have the amounts that you press anymore. You have small amounts that you press, but if you know how much you can sell, and we sell it to Japan and UK mainly where there are a lot of collectors, then I think it’s okay. It’s a good promotion tool and if I remember, I have records from my Grandpa from 1902 or 1914; they still exist and are playable. I have CD’s from 1996 that you cannot play anymore because they are shit and you cannot read them anymore. The CD or Hard Disk is not as long lasting as a vinyl record.

JK: If you treat them well, they last a long time.

RH: That’s the main concern: you have to treat them well (laughs).

JK: I know that you’ve done a couple of remixes already on ‘Sweet Baby’, right?

RH: Yes, we have a House session coming. We have House mixes because it fits really perfectly to her belting vocals. We do soulful house; we’re not really interested in Techno House.

JK: The Eugene Wilde, did you do some remixes on that, too?

RH: This is the next project now: we’re looking for the remixes for this. Because we release it on our label, I want to add his class to our remixes, so it won’t be a wack remix, uninspired or something like that. I just made the release ready today. I think the first week of May, we’ll have the digital release, but we’ll put no vinyl out because in the House scene, the vinyl is almost gone. We have Richard Earnshaw, who is a big name in the UK remixing, we have John Morales who is a big remixer from back in the day; he’s a second Tom Moulton kind of guy, and Tom Moulton did a mix again.

JK: That’s the 12-inch mix, right?

RH: Yeah, since he’s a family member (laughs). Jonny Montana, who is a young guy from New York did a mix.

JK: Cool! Well, I wish you a lot of good luck with it, and the promotion goes well. Do you think you’re going to do some promotional tours for it with some of the artists, or you’re not sure about that yet?

RH: Actually, we’ll do a live PA at Baltic Soul here in Germany and we’ll film it and see how it works for us, because we can’t get all the artists onstage. That’s the problem with the setup of Cool Million, because we can’t tour with Eugene and Meli’sa and all these people because it would be so expensive, nobody would book us these days, especially if you have a major hit; if you have a major hit, nobody cares and they book you anyway.

JK: So you want to get them to do a one-time thing and film it?

RH: Yes, what we do now is we play half Live, half playback sounds to it, just because we can’t pay to play with a full band right now. In these days, the only problem is that it always costs money and nobody’s willing to pay it. We’ll strip it down as much as possible, but as good so that you don’t feel poor onstage.

JK: I think it works when you have a combination, because that’s even kind of the sound of the album. With the album, was there some live instrumentation used?

RH: On every track, we have real guitar and on some live horns, but most of the time it’s keyboards and drum programming. Live percussion is on most of the tracks. There’s saxophone, trombone and trumpet.

JK: I could hear some of the horns in there, but I didn’t know which one was which at the time. What is your partner Frank’s role in the creation of the sound?

RH: Actually, we do a lot of the playbacks together, the basic playbacks, I would say the basic playbacks comes 80% from Frank, then we send it to the artist and from there, my job starts. I polish everything, I make chord changes to it, I re-arrange the music and then I mix it myself; I’m also the engineer on the record, and to the final master, after this is always my part, and then again, the promotion we do together, and other stuff like collecting the artwork for the releases, so we have a 50/50 job on it. For us, networking is the main thing. The only help we have right now is free people like you writing about us. This is actually where we get our standing, and if we don't have each other -- who else will?

About the Writer
Justin Kantor is a freelance music journalist with published works in Wax Poetics and the All-Music Guide. A graduate of Berklee College of Music's Business and Management program, he regularly writes liner notes for reissue labels.
  
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