Sandra St. Victor has been making great music for a good twenty years. The 'voice' behind The Family Stand who also spearheaded the successful 'Daughters Of Soul' tours, Sandra's solo career has been marked by a series of 'almosts'. The creative freedom ushered in by the emergence of independent artists suits this multi-talented singer, songwriter and producer well as she shares with David Nathan...
David Nathan: I am delighted, for the second time in a day, to welcome to Soulmusic.com, a lady whose music has just been such an inspiration, and I consider one of the greatest vocalists and songwriters of her generation. I am saying for the second time today because we did this incredibly great interview earlier today, and due to fabulous technology, it went into the void, never to be heard again. So, my guest today at Soulmusic.com so graciously agreed to resume and repeat as best as we can, the interview we did and cover the subjects we covered. As I said, when I spoke with her this morning, I think of the work she’s done, particularly in the 90’s with her album Mack Diva Saves the World, and the work she did in the 21st Century with her album Gemini and the work she’s doing now with a series of EP’s (which we’re going to talk about extensively), I consider her to be one of the truly great artists of our time, so welcome to Soulmusic.com, Ms Sandra St. Victor.
Sandra St. Victor: Hey!
D: Hey back.
S: I have a big smile on my face now. I always love your introductions.
D: Well, they’re heartfelt and I really do believe it to be true. This isn’t just because I think you are a great human being, I really do think you’re a really great artist and one that hasn’t been fully recognized by mainstream audiences and really by some of our Soulmusic.com community, who really need to know who you are and what you do. Instead of going backwards, let’s go straight to now, and then go a little backwards.
D: Just so folks know, Sandra currently resides in the Netherlands, and has a brand new series of EP’s coming out, and the first one is now out, I believe.
S: Yes, it came out on my birthday.
D: And your birthday was?
S: 28th of May.
D: What a great time to put out new product. First, tell us about the whole concept of doing five EP’s and tell us about this first one.
S: Well, the idea basically came to me because in my career, I’ve done Rock, I’ve done Soul, I’ve done a plethora of different things and I love them all. I enjoy them all and I feel them all. Every time I decide to put out another record, I sit down and say, “What am I going to do?” I have to make this decision and that deciding moment is a little much at times. As an artist, the industry expects you to make this deep decision at an insanely young age; they want you to decide in your early-20’s, late-teens even, what you’re going to sound like for the rest of your career, get in your lane and stick to it. I think that’s kind of crazy so this time I decided to do short EP’s, because it gives you the freedom to put out more music in a shorter period of time. It takes a year, sometimes two, or a decade to get out a full-length record, but if you do EP’s, you can do bite-sized pieces of things, so I’m doing four-song EP’s, with a couple of extra pieces, and each one is in a different genre, so I can do this one now, and in five or six months, I’ll put out another one and feel my artistic energy continually moving and flowing and not have to make that insane decision.
This first one is Dance, which is kind of surprising to some people because they’ve never heard me do anything in the Dance genre, but it’s something I totally dig. This one was produced by Mark de Clive-Lowe, who I think is a beast of a musician/producer/DJ/guy; he’s just extremely talented. We’ve been talking about doing something for a while and when I came up with the idea of the EP’s, he was the first person that I came to, because he’s just really good at shaking creative things loose from the tree. I started working with him and things started happening. That’s actually how we hooked up; we got together on a freestyle onstage, and I was like, “What do you want to do?” and he said, “Let’s just do something!” and I said, “Okay.” It’s not even like you do something with a jam where you get in on somebody’s song and you sing their song with them, this wasn’t that. There was no song, he makes it up as he goes along and you get in where you fit in. It was so much fun to do that, so you can imagine writing a song with that energy really gets your juices flowing.
D: He is British, correct?
S: He is from New Zealand, actually.
D: Where is he based?
S: He was in the UK, and they were calling him one of the ‘Godfathers of Broken Beat.’ He now lives in Los Angeles.
D: Where did you end up recording?
S: He was here for a while, so we did some recordings here, and we of course did the 21st Century recording technique of “you do a piece of yours there, and I’ll do a piece of mine here and we’ll put it together.” The EP is actually California, Rotterdam, Arnum, Brazil and the UK, between mixing, mastering and recording.
D: Wow! It’s an international recording.
S: An international product.
D: What is the name of it?
S: At My Spheres.
D: Tell us how that title involved, and for the benefit of those who will be hearing them, what some of the songs are about, and describe the tracks themselves.
S: The title, I’ve had in my back pocket for a minute, because this whole life journey of mine - and I think for everybody - is about self-discovery, just trying to figure out who you are and what your purpose is, and I think everybody has that. Mine is creative as well, and I think I’ve come to a point in my career and my personal life where I’m not figuring out anymore, I’m just going to be it. The atmosphere that’s going to be around me, it’s my sphere. Wherever I go, I’m taking my sphere with me. I dig it in here! Even in the song, ‘At My Spheres, I say, “You can come in for a moment, and let’s just let it.”
This particular EP is focusing on that energy, with being free with who the hell you are, and not really caring or trying to please or fit into any system or idea or concept of what you’re supposed to be. At My Spheres is supposed to be saying that, and at the beginning of the song, I quote a piece of Leonardo da Vinci. I say, “You can’t see stars if you look below,” he said, “Like the Sun can’t see its own shadow.” If you’re shining and doing you, you don’t even realize the darkness, just shine and be yourself. That’s the beginning of the EP, and the next song is called ‘FMAO-osity’, and that’s a cool song for me. I heard from several people in my life that, “Sometimes your lyrics are too deep.” Well, this song is called ‘FMAO-osity’, which stands for For Mature Audiences Only, and what I really mean is, it’s not dirty, it’s for a thinking audience only. The chorus to that one is, “It’s that FMAO-osity, for mature audiences only, that turn of a phraseology, some ol’ transcendental fuckery” (laughs). I’m really just saying what I want to say and using whatever big words I want to use, because I felt like it. The last song, which is my favourite, ‘Cosmos’ really sums up a lot of things, because again in my career, there has been a lot of comments I have personally heard from other artists and fans is, they don’t like when I talk about sex. Booo! I used to have a conflict with how to impress my deep and heartfelt spirituality alongside my deep embracing of sensuality and sexuality; that’s been an issue, but I’ve decided it’s not an issue. That’s what I’m saying. The planets divide and lovers collide, I kiss the sky right by my side. It’s all the same thing for me.
D: We referenced earlier, the battle between sensuality and spirituality is one that many artists have had to face. The late Marvin Gaye, you mentioned Prince, and it’s not uncommon, and a lot of times it isn’t easily resolved, but clearly you’ve had a little grappling with it.
S: Yeah, definitely. On Gemini: Both Sides, I tried to put it on one side or the other to make it easy for people to digest. At this point, I think, why not be in one song?
D: The new EP is available digitally, correct?
S: Yes, it’s available through all digital outlets through Believe Digital, which is the biggest distributor of independent artists in Europe.
D: That completes the first one, so what can you tell us about the subsequent four that will be coming out?
S: Of course I’m going to do rock; I’m going to explore that energy as well, and it’s going to be produced by Vernon Reid, so I’m very excited about where we’re going with that.
D: Vernon Reid of Living Colour, correct?
S: Yeah. We have our Skype writing sessions. That’s really a lot of fun. Of course I’m going to do some pure Soul music, collaborating with some of my other colleagues in what I call the gut bucket, underground Soul Circuit, like Rahsaan Patterson and Lalah Hathaway, and I’m going to do a duet with Dave Hollister, his voice is amazing. I want to do a Blues EP. I want to sit on the porch and sing the Blues.
D: I’m right there with you. That sounds really great.
S: I’m really looking forward to that. Those are the beginning phases of where I’m going with these EPs.
D: Because of technology, and because of the deconstruction of the music industry, you actually are in a better position to do this than any time ever.
S: You’re right. It’s the perfect time, because we’re all figuring out what our paths are. There are no road maps anymore, no formula, and you have to figure out what works for you. What worked for Radiohead may not work for you. You have to figure out what works for you and your supporters. It’s different.
D: One of the things that I was thinking about while you were sharing your whole concept of what you’re doing, and knowing you as an artist, I would imagine that this is probably particularly great, because it’s giving you the kind of freedom that you’ve probably been seeking for your entire career.
S: Absolutely. When I think back to Family Stand, especially on [the album] ‘Moon in Scorpio’, we really tried our damnedest to put everything we felt on that record. The people who love that record love that record because of that, but there are people that don’t get it saying “What is this?” First of all, it’s three different people who all have a collection of influences and ideas and we wanted all of that to be expressed. We were almost rebelling against the expectation for us to do a follow-up of ‘Ghetto Heaven’.
D: That’s a great point of departure for us to step back for a moment and give people who may not know your entire history a little bit of a snap-shot of how our relationship has developed. My first awareness of you, even though I know you had been working prior to this with Roy Ayers and Chaka Khan and other people, but my first knowledge of you was of course with Evon Geffries and the Stand. That would have been, if my memory serves me correctly, 87 or 88. That truly to me was one of the best albums of that decade, thanks to songs like ‘Witness’ ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Sex Without Love’.
S: Yes, “Sex without love is like a book without pages.”
D: I remember the head of Atlantic at that time, Sylvia Rhone sent me a copy before it came out and I said, “What is this?” and I was like, “Woooah! This is some great stuff!” I remember having a conversation where she said, “I think it is great, but I’m not sure how we should market it.”
S: That was always the problem.
D: She was really honest about it.
S: Let’s take us back to the relationship with Family Stand, and what you were doing with Roy Ayers, and then Chaka and then Family Stand. Is that the correct sequence?
S: Yes, and between there, I was touring with Glen Jones and Freddie Jackson, and I was doing a lot of background sessions in New York with all the great divas.
D: Tawatha and Audrey Wheeler.
S: Yes, and Cindy Mizelle, Brenda White King, it was a great group. When I started working with Chaka, she asked me to put the background section together for her, and I called Lisa Fisher and Brenda White King, so that was a slammin’ section.
D: The Family Stand really evolved out of you doing demos, correct?
S: Yes, with Peter Lord and Jeffrey Smith. They were producers, and they had worked with Donna Allen, and the first thing we did were demos for Miki Howard, actually, I sang on those demos for Miki’s first record, ‘In Too Deep’ or something. They were all for Atlantic Records, and then Merlin Bobb at Atlantic Records said, “Why don’t you guys form a group?”
S: No, the guys had already been signed as producers, but then Merlin decided they should be a group, so I was signed separately, via an induction letter. We were a group, but not really a group contractually on paper, if you know what I mean, a prelude to what happened later.
D: After the first album - that people didn’t really know about - came the first Family Stand album.
S: We decided that name was stupid, and we really got tired of Evon Geffries and The Stand, and people would say, “Hey, Evon,” and I would say, “I’m not Evon. Read the bio.” (laughs) but it’s our own fault, because we made it too difficult. We recorded ‘Chain’, which is the album that had ‘Ghetto Heaven’ [on it] and I think I told you earlier about how ‘Ghetto Heaven’ came about. We had finished the record and done a Funk/Rock thing that we love - it was us - but the label said, “It’s great but we don’t hear any singles” so we went back into the studio and I was a little downtrodden and disappointed. I was like, “They want us on R&B radio. We just need something really simple. We can be us of course, with our lyrical statements and say what we need to say, but Peter’s like, “I’m going to write a nursery rhyme.” That was the beginning of Ghetto Heaven. vJeff put a beat on it, I had a bass line, and after we finished, we were like, “This is kinda hot.”
D: It was a major international hit.
S: Thanks to Frankie Crocker. He was on leave from whatever station it was, he was on leave in the UK, he was a guest DJ there for a month, and he heard the song there; some other DJ played it for him. He blew it up! He started blasting it. He brought it back to New York and played the hell out of it. He really is the reason that song was so huge, because we weren’t getting that promotion, they weren’t paying for it, but Frankie blew it up.
D: You made a mention of “Moon In Scorpio”?
S: People really love that record. It’s been on several “Best of the Decade” lists. That record is a lot of people’s favourite record of the 90’s, which is a huge honor.
D: After that, it was time to make some decisions, so why don’t you share that with us, exactly how Family Stand stopped.
S: We were on tour here in Europe: we realized that - not that we didn’t already know - that we weren’t getting supported but the European tour slapped us in the face with it. It was like the R&B version of Spinal Tap. I don’t know if people know what Spinal Tap is, but it was horrible. We would show up to record stores and our records weren’t even there. Why are we here to do a record signing with no records to sign? I had a journalist show up to do an interview at the club before the show, and he said, “Tell me about yourselves.” Well, first of all I don’t like that question to begin with, so sometimes one or the other of us would take the lead, so Peter took the lead, and I sat back to listen to the questions that the guy asked, and I was really hearing silly questions, so I said, “Have you ever heard of us?” (laughs). “Have you listened to the record at all?” He looked like a weight was lifted off his shoulders, and he said, “actually, no.” (laughs). He said, “I’m sorry. I’m not even a reporter. I’m the roommate of the journalist who is supposed to do the story, but your label told him that you probably weren’t going to show up, so they wanted him to go interview Tori Amos across town, so they booked us with this guy, and Tori’s thing was booked, but they said, “Never mind Family Stand, go see Tori Amos.” So he sent his roommate with a pen and pad. I guess he thought it was polite by not cancelling us, but it was apparent that that guy interviewing us had no clue who he was talking to.
D: That is amazing.
S: I’m telling you, it was a Spinal Tap Tour, and there are several more like that. At the end of this tour, it was actually the middle of the tour, we were at the hotel after the show, and I was sitting on the floor and we were talking about how hard it was, and they [Peter and Jeffrey] adamantly didn’t want to go on. They were like, “We just don’t want to give this label any more music.” They were like, “You do a solo record,” and we’ll work on a solo record, but I didn’t want to do a solo record. I’m so used to Jeff and Peter being the pillars on my left and right. I was babbling and crying like a baby, but they talked me into it. They said, “We just don’t want to give them another record.” Because I was signed separately from them, I was free and they weren’t anyway. That was a piece that the label missed, but I was free to go. I could have re-signed if I wanted to, but we saw this as an opportunity to go and do something else. There was no big fight or fall-out, it was like a hard breakup between people who love each other, but it was too painful to keep bearing that cross.
D: Where did you go from there?
S: I ended up first signing to Elektra with Bob Krasnow who loved him some sistah singers. On that roster, he had Natalie Cole, Tracy Chapman, Lisa Fisher, Cindy Mizelle, Anita Baker, a roster of singers, and he added me to the group. They were doing wonderful things and spending money, and then he stepped down. I remember they sent me to Jamaica to do a photo shoot, and on the way back, my A&R person called me and said, “You know Bob Krasnow stepped down, right?” and I was like, “No!” because he was really in my corner. We were so far in, the record was done, but he said, “Do you know who took his place? Sylvia Rhone.” I said, “Oh, okay.” It was a big surprise, because of course she was the person from the other label we just got away from. Not that I was trying to run from her, but it was the whole system I was trying to move on from, and then she was right there in my face. That can’t be good!
D: And it wasn’t, because it didn’t come out.
D: That album was called Sanctuary, correct? Sanctuary stayed in the sanctuary.
S: Pretty much. That album has been picked over, because songs off of it have been used by of course, Chaka and Prince and Tina Turner. She sang “Whatever You Want Me To Do.”
D: That’s your song?
S: I wish it was! That was the only song on Sanctuary that I didn’t write. I wanted to re-do some of the lyrics because I thought they were a little trite, but I never got around to it.
D: Which of the songs did Prince do?
S: Prince used ‘Sanctuary’, the title track, and he changed it to ‘Soul Sanctuary’ and put it on Emancipation. We were both on Warner Brothers after I was on Elektra, and we met and started doing stuff together. He liked several of the songs and he also had a band called Van Gogh, and the band’s name came from a song on my record called ‘Love Is’ because I quote Van Gogh. He too the name from that song, and used another one of those songs on that band. The Chaka song was written by Vernon Reid and myself and was called ‘I’ll Never Open My Legs Again.’ Prince thought that title was too blunt, which is funny coming from the guy that wrote ‘Head’ but he changed the title to ‘I’ll Never Be Another Fool’ and put it on Chaka’s record.
D: Even though the album has never come out, it has been picked apart as you said. Do you think there’s a chance people will ever get to hear it?
S: Absolutely! By hook or by crook, I’m putting that record out. We hope it’s not going to be by crook.
D: Your next stop on this journey, and you made reference to Warner Brothers at the top of our conversation, which was Mack Diva Saves the World, which I thought was an incredible album with great songs, great production, and everything about it worked for me personally. When you made the record, you had a lot of support from the people you were working with at Warner.
S: The whole contingent there was just these beautiful, strong women and they were really intent on putting out high quality music from their artists, and they really loved the concept of Mack Diva Saves the World, because it’s a woman speaking about her confidence and sensuality, and political and social things, and spirituality. I had Denise Brown head up the department, and Joy Bailey as my A&R and Karen Lee and Juanita Washington and it was just a really wonderful group of women. We were really gung-ho and were going for it, but right before it came out, they had a lovely shakeup there at Warner and it changed everything up. The person who was brought in to head up the promotion, he didn’t get it. He said to my manager’s and my face, “I know everybody else seems be loving this thing, but I don’t get it.”
D: Did he have a Southern drawl?
D: I just figured out who it was, but we won’t say for the purposes of the interview, because he’s one of my Facebook friends! Anyway, he said this to you in a meeting, and how did you deal with it when you put all this energy, love and passion into something and then have someone say, “No.” How did you deal with it in the moment, and afterwards?
S: In the moment, you’re in the shock of the moment. Had I been Ice Cube or Eazy-E, I would have pulled my gat out and that image flashed in my head right now. What would someone crazy do right now? Pimp-slap him or something? I didn’t because it wouldn’t be productive. After the meeting, my manager tried to talk to me about how we can go around the whole system and do our own grassroots promotion and really make it happen. They’re all great ideas, but at the time the system was really entrenched. Anyway, I went home and let that brick hit me, because I know what that means; I’d been with Family Stand before that. I really immersed myself in things that did not have anything to do with my music. I listened to a lot of old music that I dug as a kid and buried myself in something else for a while, and it wasn’t to escape, because reality was stark. I didn’t want to escape from it, I just wanted to wallow in something else. After that little period, I worked with my manager to try to go around things and get the most out of it, because I knew without the machine, it was not going to do what it should do.
D: When I listen back to it, particularly ‘MPH’ and ‘Knocked Up and Locked Down’ and there’s another one, that’s got the lyric about thousands of years…
S: ‘Since You Been Gone’.
D: That’s it! That’s the one. You have to remind me about the exact lyric now.
S: I don’t remember, I just remember thousands of years.
D: Anyway, it was a really great record and I’m hopeful someone will re-discover it. I’ll have to do a mixtape.
S: You’ll have to do a mixtape, because you know the vaults, man!
D: Just send me Sanctuary so I can do a true mixtape. It’s good stuff!
S: Fo Shizzle!
D: I know we’re going to talk about one more album, but what amazes me when you share these stories is how someone continues and doesn’t get beaten down enough to quit.
S: I think I’ve quit several times!
D: Well, not permanently, because we wouldn’t be taking about a new record. What is it that has you keep coming back? I can think of many people, in the face of having a record executive tell them they don’t get it, would just go take a job, like, ‘Why should I do this?’
S: I literally cannot stop creating and the energy that I encounter when I share my music with other people is priceless for me, it really is. Some people say if it’s just about the singing itself, you can sing at home or at church, but the energy of being onstage and singing something that you’ve created, and seeing the effect of somebody feeling it, because you can see when somebody is feeling you, that’s priceless for me, and I feed on that. It helps me to contain and create. I cannot not do this.
D: After that experience…you did work with Chaka. You mentioned the song ‘I’ll Never Be Another Fool’ which came out on her album, which wasn’t the most promoted Chaka Khan album Come To My House, but then of course you had the album Gemini.
S: Oh, we’re skipping over the duet with Curtis Mayfield. If anything is the jewel in my crown, that has to be it.
D: Tell us how that came about.
S: It was the sistahs on Warners. They hooked me up with Prince and Curtis Mayfield. Curtis was working on his last record, New World Order, and he did something with Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, and they suggested he do something with a new artist as well, and apparently they sent him me! He decided, we’re also label mates, that we’d do this duet called ‘I Believe in You’, and for me, it’s not like I [just] looked up to him, he was somebody that I got. Of course I looked up to him, but I got him! I understood what he was doing at the time and how special and courageous that had to be. I really respected him and it was an honour of a lifetime to work with him.
D: As you mentioned it, I think it makes perfect sense given that I think of him as a poet as well as an amazing producer and artist, but I think that a lot of the work that you’ve done reflects that same sort of poetic approach to writing songs.
S: Yes, I think all the skills of songwriting have that element. I like thinking man’s and thinking woman’s songs.
D: So after that, we get to Gemini, right?
S: Yes, and Gemini was started under Warner Brothers’ umbrella, the same lovely gentleman, and we got busy with it, but we never finished the record before I was unceremoniously escorted out of the Warner Brothers offices with security (laughs) Just kidding, but we started it there and then I finished it later. I called my friends, Roy Ayers and asked The Roots to come and help, and Mark Batson who is brilliant, and we finished that record. I initially just pressed some copies myself and was selling them at shows, and Ralph Tee over at Expansion heard about it, and he offered to release it there, and then JVC heard about it in Japan, and they released it in Asia.
D: Some more songs to be added to the mixtape.
D: After that is when you moved to the Netherlands, correct?
D: What prompted you to make a move to Europe?
S: At this point, I had a daughter who was grown, and she was in college living on campus and I was in a big house with a Rottweiler myself, and the energy around me was heavy. I wanted a break from my immediate surroundings and breathe some fresh air. It was right after George Bush stole the second election, and 9/11 had happened, and I felt a literal cloud over my head. I really was planning on gypsying around Europe and stopping off in some of my favourite cities where Family Stand had been, and just living off my wits. That was my idea, Paris, Berlin Copenhagen and just all over the place. The first stop was going to be Amsterdam, because I love this venue, Paradiso, and I stopped here and ran into a Dutch man.
D: And the rest they say is history.
S: Yes, his story and my story and our two kids’ story (laughs).
D: That whole idea of just getting up and going, as we talked about earlier, reflects a spirit of a gypsy. Is the gypsy settled, or is she still wandering?
S: Oh, I’m a wanderer and a wonderer, always. If I’m not physically wandering, I am absolutely spiritually traipsing all around the universe.
D: When you look at all that you’ve accomplished and the ups and downs, and you recognize the amazing amount of music that you’ve done, how do you feel now?
S: I’m at a place where I can take a step back and realize the blessed existence I have. Even amidst the turmoil and the several setbacks I’ve had, I am blessed! How many people can say they’ve done and survived on what they love? My entire life, that’s not a common thing. Also to be at a place where I am so comfortable in my own sphere and my own skin, and I still consider myself a young woman. I’ve still got the second half of my life living comfortably in my own skin, not looking over my back hoping somebody likes me or gets me. I just want to live and let it. I’m good with that, with whatever comes. I’m good!
D: I just want to share one thing, Sandra. After we did our disappeared interview this morning, I went onto Facebook like I do regularly, and I just posted something about doing an amazing interview with you that had disappeared into the void, that we were going to redo it, and I immediately got a few responses from people in London, who said, “I love Sandra St Victor!” and she’s a booking agent here, so I said, “We’ve got to figure out how to get her to London!” That was the first thing, and a singer in London called Bashiyra, she saw that post and she said, “Look, if you get a show for Sandra St Victor in London, I’d be honoured to open for her!” Even without a big hit record and everything that comes with that, what you have created is a body of work and a presence that comes with that, and it has made a difference and contributed to a lot of people. Obviously the mention of your name elicits great praise and appreciation.
S: It always humbles me.
D: Absolutely. Well, I think we’re about done. We started doing this I don’t know how many hours ago.
S: 8 hour interview, baby! (laughs)
D: We’re going to wrap it up, so any parting words you have for the Soulmusic.com folks?
S: Everybody get on David’s case about making a mixtape. I’m telling you, if David made a mixtape, it would be the most slammin’ mixtape of the decade. That’s what I’m talking about.
D: It will be the Sandra St Victor Anthology. You didn’t think you’d be Anthologized yet, did you?
S: Not exactly. We can do Part 1.
D: Exactly. I just want to say again, it’s wonderful speaking with someone who is so versed on music and poetry and who obviously really creates extraordinary music that’s not run of the mill, and it’s really great to share with you and have you share with us. All I can say is, people at the bottom of the Soulmusic.com page where this interview will be placed, you will find a link to At My Spheres and be able to click it on and by the MP3’s. Have a great rest of your evening, Sandra!
S: You too, darling.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.