After 7 years of collaboration, and methodically gaining support from a "Who's who" list of industry taste makers and a legion of fans throughout the world, Evan Landes & Parrish Wintersmith (aka Groove Junkies) have amicably parted ways to pursue individual interests. Their collective success story and achievements have made an indelible mark on dance music's history – one can hardly imagine soulful house music without thinking of the inimitable Groove Junkies sound and the uncountable classics they are accountable for.
A new chapter though has unfolded as founding member Evan Landes now represents the highly regarded Groove Junkies brand in a solo capacity. Right in time for the release of the debut artist album "In the Zone" (out October 4th on MoreHouse Records), Evan took the time to answer our questions.
Don't forget to check out our Review of the album and Fresh Grooves 598 featuring selected tracks from the album.
Question: Would you mind having a few words as an introduction to whom you are, and where you're from?
Answer: As you mention above I'm the founding member of Groove Junkies and co-owner of MoreHouse Records. I was born and raised in New York but live in Los Angeles now.
Question: What are your influences and heroes (producer/artist/musician…)?
Answer: Well there are sooo many. In no particular order - Gamble & Huff, The Beatles, Quincy Jones, George Martin, Jam & Lewis, Louie Vega, Jazz n' Groove, Frankie Knuckles, Tito Puente, Leonard Bernstein, Teddy Pendergras, Steven Sondheim, Frank Sinatra, Chick Corea, Holland/Dozier/Holland, Giorgio Moroder, Vince Montana, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis……to name a few.
Question: Where do you find ideas and inspiration for your projects/productions?
Answer: I listen to the sounds of everyday life. It could be from a show I'm watching on TV, or from a conversation I've overheard, or from a line in a book. I write words and phrases down or into a handheld recorder so I don't forget them. I always try to start with the title of the song and build it from there. In reality it's all about trying to re-tell a story that's been told 5'000 times already and putting a new twist on it. The same thing can be said for production ideas. I get inspired all the time from the little nuances in other peoples work and will sometimes take a little idea and turn it into a whole new idea.
Question: How would you best describe/characterize the Groove Junkies sound, how did it evolve over time?
Answer: It's basically soulful house with various influences ranging from funk, r&b, jazz, rock, gospel & tech. It evolved over the years from being fairly 'pedestrian' in approach and content, to being way more polished. Plain and simply the tracks and songs are just much better now. In part the evolution is directly related to the cast of characters I surround myself with. I write, engineer, arrange, dj, program and play some keys but I always call in the serious 'cats' to take my ideas to the next level. My hope is that I continue to evolve up until the day I die!
Question:What distinguishes the Groove Junkies from the rest? What is the secret of your success?
Answer: This is a tough one because there are so many talented writer, producers and DJ's out there. Many of us approach our craft from a similar place but have unique characteristics. I guess what sets me apart would be related to my age and my life's experiences. There's only one me who has lived my life and subsequently there's a direct correlation to that, and what you hear on my original productions, remixes and DJ sets. I try not to get too caught up in trends and the 'sound de jour.' At the end of the day I have to stay honest with what's inside my spirit and soul. Being versatile is one thing, but trying to fit a square peg in a round hole is another.
Question: Groove Junkies have been working with many highly talented artists, many of which you've discovered. What excites you to work with fresh talent?
Answer: Truth be told we've all discovered each other. It's no accident that a higher power has paved the way for our individual paths to intersect with one another. For me to be able to help introduce artists like Indeya who has shared the stage with Patti Labelle & Stevie but never sang house music is a privilege. Other artists I worked with like the multi-talented Solara, who started singing later on in her life and was able to capture a #1 Hype Chart Hit on DJ Mag with her debut MoHo single "Sunshine" give me a whole different sense of pride. What's exciting and cool is that everyone brings their own unique flavour to the table. When I wear my producer hat it's up to me to try and bring out the best in someone. This requires a different approach for each individual. You have to be a little bit of everything; a friend, a counsellor, a motivator. It's all part of the process.
Question: Wouldn't it be easier to collaborate with established artists?
Answer: Yes and no. Some are so jaded that they are impossible to work with. They're expectations and demands are crazy. Don't get me wrong established artists should get what they deserve and I have a lot of respect for them, but they have to understand it's a new day for EVERYONE. Those that get it are mad cool to work with. For example I just had the pleasure of doing a collaboration with Joi Cardwell and she was a pure joy to work with (no pun intended).
Question: How did you choose the artists for the debut artist album?
Answer: The artists are a collective of musicians and singers that I've worked with over the years. Singers and co-writers such as Solara, Diane Carter, Indeya, TC Moses, Alexander Sky and Solomon Henderson have all been on various GJ's single releases over the years and were a no brainer. My long time bass player Les King and new keyboardist Corey Allen have put their stamp on quite a few of the album's tracks. And there's been a few new additions that helped round out the collective (my honorary GJ's if you will). Joi Cardwell, Chappell, Titus Fotso and DJ Meme who did an amazing remix on one of the cuts "Dr Feelgood" all made valuable contributions to the LP.
Question: Since the first announcement and the actual release date of the album (October 4th 2010), quite some time passed. Is there any specific reason for this, or did you just wait for the right moment?
Answer: Yes it's been in the works for a couple of years but I'm thrilled to say that the 'Re-Designed' Groove Junkies "In the Zone" album is done n' dusted and will be available October 4th in both mixed & un-mixed formats on all quality digital download sites. The album was close to being finished in mid-2009 but a lot of unforseen things happened that necessitated putting the release on hold. I lost my Dad, and around the same time I parted ways with my former partner who I originally started to work on the album with. Once the dust settled I felt that it was important to showcase a crop of brand new material that better reflects where I'm at now personally and professionally as a solo artist - thus the delay.
Question: How important was it for you to release a full artist album, would you consider this a milestone in your career?
Answer: At the time it seemed like a good idea because we only released singles and compilations over the years. It seemed like a natural progression but I must admit it has taken a lot out of me, considering all the crazy drama from the past year. In the end though I must say I'm very proud of the outcome and it has received some amazing critical acclaim (I thank you again for tagging it as your ALBUM of the YEAR!). And yes, I guess this would be a milestone.
Question: You've also made yourself a name as being a top remixer, how is this different from producing?
Answer: I don't do as many remixes as I used to but for me it's the same approach I take when I write a song. Throughout that process you marry music with melody & lyric. The only difference is that when you remix you don't have to write the song!! The only other thing I try to keep in mind is producing a music bed that will compliment the other remixes on the release and to do my best to keep the integrity of the song intact.
Question: Besides being a renowned producer and remixer, you are also a DJ and have played all over the globe. How important is this for you?
Answer: It's how I got started and I actually celebrated my 30 year anniversary as a DJ last December. So yes, it's still important and there's no other rush like being able to rock a crowd, taking people on a journey and having them eat out of the palm of your hand. It's nice to know that I can still hold it down and handle my biz after all these years, although I must say that globetrotting is a lot harder on the body these days.
Question: What can we expect from both Groove Junkies and MoreHouse in the future?
Answer: We're working on connecting the dots for select album tour dates, putting remix packages together for the various singles from the album, and doing a bit of A&Ring for both MoreHouse and our sibling label MoHo 180. We're also looking at locations for a 2011 re-launch of our branded MoHo night here in LA and will be launching our new website and on-line store by the end of 2010. Oh and there's a nasty little collabo that I just did with DJ Dealer and singer extraordinaire Chezare coming out on LAY Records and workin' on a new TC Moses project which is HOTTTT! Lots of cool stuff comin'…stay tuned!
Question: When you launched MoreHouse in 2002, vinyl was the preferred media used by DJs, now we are celebrating the digital era with all its ups and downs. How do you feel about it?
Answer: Digital CD's and MP3's are very convenient for the consumer and the travelling DJ, but it has really hurt the industry with all the illegal file sharing going on which is way out of control. Vinyl sounds better and playing it is a much sexier visual experience for fans, but is cumbersome as hell for DJs on the move. So to sum it up - there are many pros and cons for both forms of media. Pick your poison!!
Question: How important is media coverage (reviews, interviews etc.) these days? Isn't it more important to be on top of the charts in online stores and on DJ playlists?
Answer: It depends. If you're a label or artist that is strictly pandering to DJ's, than charts and tastemaker playlists are quite important. I do think however, that consumers are more influenced by media (magazines, e-zines, blogs and social networking).
Question: What is your perception of the current situation of the music scene and the things which need to evolve:
Answer: There's too much cookie cutter music out there in all genres so my advice is to encourage artists & producers to be more original. Take the extra time to explore writing a good lyric. Study the craft of producing, arranging and engineering. Technology is a beautiful thing that can enhance a project when used correctly. That said, to rely on the latest software or plug- ins alone without incorporating anything of substance is just a gimmick. Technology notwithstanding, great original songs will ultimately stand the test of time and is the only way to go if we want to leave our creative footprint on future societies. Additionally, governments have to make a concerted effort to shut down illegal file sharing sites or the music will continue to get watered down. When there's no money to be made it forces a lot of talented people to fold tent or simply put out crappy projects. This is bar none the biggest challenge we face moving forward.
Question: Anything else you would like to share with us:
Answer: Do the right thing and buy the album (don't steal it!!). The good news is that if you love house (and I know that you do) than you're going to love "In the Zone"! No filler, just prime cutz throughout. And don't forget to check out my monthly MoHo Stereo show/podacst AND follow us on facebook, twitter and our website - www.morehouserecords.com
Interview taken by Mike Fossati for Spirit of House