INDIA - Q n ASaturday, 25 February 2012 09:37
GROOVE ODYSSEY INTERVIEW WITH INDIA
Interviewed by Bobby & Steve in February 2012
Bobby - It’s time to cross the pond via telephone link and welcome the true house legend and undisputed Queen of Latin Soul, it’s the one and only India! Welcome to Groove Odyssey Sessions, how you doing darling, you alright?
India - Thank you! How are you?
Bobby - I’m very good thank you, how are you?
India - I’m very very happy and pleased to be talking with you
Bobby Babe, it’s a pleasure to be spending this time with you, we’ve had this whole India buzz from way back in the day, I think the first time we met was back in the early 90’s, 92 it might have been, when you performed for us at a party at the Coliseum in London. We had about 1500 people and you blew everyone away and throughout the whole years you have still been getting on stage and blowing everyone away. What we’re going to do is talk to you about your past – your career now is spanning over 25 years, what was your introduction to the music industry?
India - My introduction was collaborating with Louie Vega and Jellybean on a song called ‘Dancing on the Fire’ that was recorded in the early 80’s and we did like a hip hop freestyle dance version to it. It was done at a time when Vega was remixing and producing a lot of freestyle artists back in the day. It was really exciting for us and it was my first project after me being with the group TKA, of which I was the background singer. It was the beginning of the 'go on the road' to perform singing background for other artists which was really interesting and it was the era of collaborating in the studio and watching these masters, the Latin Rascals work with Vega and also Masters at Work in the studio at an early age
Bobby So that was it, just at an early age? So obviously then you was doing a lot of freestyle Latin music?
India - Yeah, it was really interesting, I don't think Vega's going to talk about it that much cos I always thought him to disguise all that cos when he was at Master's people would look at him like a master in their world. You know, during that era the music had taken the move from being really mainstream to underground house and I always used to perform in the clubs.... we'd never stay in one club, we'd always go to different clubs.
Bobby - So you were checking out the Paradise Garage back in the day I suppose, yeah?
India That's right, yes I was. I would also doing dance in a club that was really retro. It had funk music, one floor had, you know, underground dance, and then you had authentic rock n roll. So it was really interesting, the scene, the New York scene back in the early 80's
Bobby Uh huh
India It was really (fertile?) and they purposely opened them to make it to the next day!
Bobby Absolutely! So your vibe back in the day when you got introduced to music and your singing style was in the Latin side and then the dance side obviously but prior to that what was you growing up on soul?
India It was actually my singing in church with my grandmother singing Gospel to the Lord and from there it went to me wanting to sing popular music what was happening. And I loved listening to Blues; I loved listening to Jazz, and dance music and also Latin music. It was just a lot of fun, it was personal because there was so many different genres of music to listen to.
Bobby - And obviously you're in the House arena now, you have been for a long time, but one thing you do which is so special and unique is the way you switch from the straight house English singing to your Latin. You always seem to incorporate a bit of your Latin roots vocally into your thing. Is that something you do consciously or does it somehow just happen?
India Well there's so much to work with, the fact that I love music and I love experimenting with different rhythms as well. Latin music with the note feel being created on the rhythm 'clave'... the clave is the rhythm of Latin music. And the horns, the horn arrangement, and there's the opportunity to story tell what you feel. That's also what I love about the dance music I've been working on for the past couple of years. But it's also a bridge for me – I can work on Latin music and then come back and experiment with different producers as well. I'm currently working on an experiment do more dance music and go to the studio and work on more rhythms and mixing with today’s music and producers cos music has changed a lot
Bobby Yeah yeah, definitely
INDA - And back in the day, as you know, my collaboration was with Masters at Work, also having the music on the Latin side of things I've got to meet and work with a lot of interesting musicians which I also introduced to Masters at Work. I'm still collaborating with American musicians and musicians from Africa as well and mixing that in with the Afro Caribbean rhythm which is really interesting.
India - Now working with a project called 'Mama Africa', …... all the Caribbean’s are together which is really innovative and also for the clubs for DJ's to mix.
Bobby Looking forward to hearing that. So the project's called 'Mama Africa'?
India 'Mama Africa' is the great collaboration that I'm doing with an Italian musician by the name of Barbarian that we have been working with. It's just been a lot of studio work, mixing and doing a lot of voices and we get to showcase my side of things and learning the African rhythm. I've been learning how to also go in there as a percussionist and playing with some instruments and looking for sounds. I love the Djembe, it's one of my favorite Afro instruments and I have this ring that I used to use to use....
Bobby - A ring?
India - This ring's really interesting, it makes a lot of noise and the noises are really interesting to sample
Bobby - What, percussive?
India Yeah, I've used it, it's my percussion ring! (Laughs)
Bobby - Ok! (Laughs too)
India - Very trendy looking as well, that's why I want it!
Bobby - It's a ring you put on your finger?
India - Yeah! The first time I used it was for Vega back in '91 hahahaha! He said 'yeah I like that ring, I want you to play it for me in one of my tracks!'
Bobby - So that's it, the ring is getting royalties now, yeah cos you play it with the music hahaha!
India - It's so popular!
Bobby - You've done a little publishing deal, you know that! Now listen, here's a good story for you.... I said to my wife 'let's Google India, there's some decent stuff on YouTube’, I was looking for some live performances.. But what was interesting to me, I'm a big Philadelphia fan, both me and Steve. Teddy Pendergrass, all these kind of people I'm into big time, and what did I see? I saw India doing a cover version of Teddy Pendergrass 'Turn Off The Lights' it was fantastic!
Bobby - That version, it's definitely something to be proud of.. I loved the original on Philadelphia Records and your version as well. I can tell you're equally side-by-side. So we're going to hear you perform that, what else are we going to hear you perform on Saturday 3rd March?
India - Well I got to tell you, there was this song that I wrote and I sent it to Masters at Work, which is 'backfired'. I'm singing 'To Be In Love' as well because a lot of people seem to remember that song and listen to it, a dance classic
Bobby - It is a dance classic. Worldwide dance classic!
India - There's a lot of songs as well - 'I Can't Get No Sleep' which people will always expect India to sing the song and I'm like, 'I'm ready to give Loopy a blast from the past'
Bobby - And 'I Can't Get No Sleep'? Is it true what I heard that that's got some relevance to Mr Vega? How did that song come about?
India - Let me tell you – recently I went for an interview and they had their side of the story but what really happened is that Louie Vega came up with a sample track and I was in the studio waiting for him to finish working at the time. We were married and I was so sick I was just sleeping on the couch, a sofa couch in the studio. Louie Vega was working on this rhythm and he got up and said 'India, please, I need you to get up and listen to this idea and tell me what you think.' So I got up and said 'I feel terrible Vega, I need to go home and rest.' He said 'please listen to this' and when I got up and listened I said 'well, that's hot, I love the way that sounds.'
Bobby Uh Huh
India - So he said 'Can you please go into the studio and sing an idea' and I said 'Louie, I don't feel right, you know, I'm just vocally outta touch and I need to rest.' He said 'India, please go in' He begged me! And I went into the studio. I put on the headphones, opened up my mouth and began to improvise and what came out was 'I can't get no sleep. You're touch is making me weak', and from that moment on I just kept improvising. And that's how 'I Can't Get No Sleep' was inspired.
India - It was inspired by improvising. Just on the spot, on the spot, feeling it and improvising.
Bobby - And you were feeling sick and that was your medicine. And you felt better afterwards?
India - I felt much better! And he said 'Oh my God, I'm popping', and then he gave it a couple of la la la la lah’s and he became a scientist. He went in there and worked all the mixes and overdubbing the voices and all the ideas. Ultimately that's how the song became a hit. The second I went into the studio put on my headphones and began improvising it became a song that a lot of people loved when dancing in the clubs. It went number one for us on Billboard dance chart. So it was really exciting to have that success.
Bobby - Definitely. I mean Masters at Work, they are what it says, they're the Masters at Work, end of. India is the number one vocal house, end of. The collaboration between the three of you is just magical. Masters at Work have made a lot of great songs with a lot of different collaborations. All of them great songs but the one they did with you is just out of this world.
India - I think it was the fact that I brought a lot of ideas. Louie will talk about my influences these days, but it's not because of the fact we've moved on now and he's married and he doesn't want to get spanked!
Bobby - You're a naughty girl!
India - Yep! The two things, we were going to the studio together, it was mad, Vega/India, India/Vega, always with ideas, and then we'd take the ideas into the studio.... I would get up sometimes and start singing a melody and he would love it.... that's how 'Backfire' was created. The Barbara Tucker song, 'Beautiful People', that's how it was written. And having Barbara Tucker improvise in the studio to come up with 'Deep Inside'. So it was really interesting when we would get together because we would take it to the studio and Kenny would bring his idea of hip hop influence into the drums and drum patterns into the collaborations. That's what made it really innovative as well. Everybody was feeling it, we were young, it was fresh and we wanted to keep it real for the club goers, because a lot of people had stopped believing in club music. They were thinking about crossing over to pop as opposed to keeping it real in the dance clubs. So the fact that Masters at Work was keeping it real and I was keeping it innovative was interesting. Today it brings me a lot of joy to see that people still remember these songs. Today I'm live on the phone to you and I'm able to talk about these songs that were recorded with Masters at Work.
Bobby - Definitely, when good things happen in life you have to talk about them. I could hear the excitement and enthusiasm in your voice. Like I said, Masters at Work did a lot of big songs with a lot of big artists but the ones with India are the ones.
India - There's also a lot of stuff I was proud that they did, like the remix for Ray Charles, I loved that. Once when they remixed Michael Jackson I thought 'This is a great job'
Bobby - Definitely... I'm going to ask the question you have probably been asked a million times... would there ever be another record with Masters at Work featuring India?
India - Well, as far as I'm concerned my arms are always open. They know that. I know they are getting back together again, I hope they can go into the studio and create music and bring back the magic. I continue to respect them and I would love to work with them again, they are family to me.
Bobby - Ok, here's the plan. Louie and Kenny are going to get back together and then you come into the scene for a couple of projects and that's what's goanna happen. All right! That's the plan! Hahahaha!
India - I've wrote a couple of songs that I've saved in my archive of music and I believe that when the time is right I'll be able to go in there and then form up. I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to work with them, I love them very much and I'm very proud of the projects that we done in the past. Today they have turned into classics.
Bobby - All good. So what's happening with India now, you said you are going to tour? Are you touring right now?
India Yes, I'm touring a lot, and doing a lot of studio work, which allows me to grow and learn a lot about what's happening today. Dance music has changed a lot. Dance music has never been a commercial thing to me, it's always been for the clubs. Clubs will always stay, the DJ's are remixing and I love working with the remixers so the can do different versions of my voice and the idea. Every time I put out a single I have different versions from the producers and DJ remixers and this is wonderful, I'm having a great time.
Bobby - Good, you're in control, that's the main thing.
India - It's good... if I don't like that version I won't put it out but if I like it we'll put it out
Bobby - Well everyone's got to watch out for India's forthcoming stuff and remember to check out that Teddy Pendergrass record
India - Why don't you do a remix on it? Do a club version
Bobby - Yeah, 100%, we'll definitely be up for doing that, we'll talk about that. It was interesting with Teddy Pendergrass; you're from the Bronx originally, yeah?
India - I was born in Puerto Rico and was raised all my life in the Bronx
Bobby - And they actually named a street after you, is that correct?
India - Yes, a couple of years ago. I have a story to tell – when I was 8 years old a friend of mine was part of the Zulu Nation, an organization by Africa Bambaataa, and they used to wear these coloured beads. But you couldn't wear them otherwise you would get into trouble! The Zulu Nation were auditioning singers and I know Rica, Rica was a friend of mine because his girlfriend was my cousin's friend and knew of my voice. So I auditioned when I was 8 years old and Africa said 'you have such a pretty voice but you're so young! Keep on studying and keep on working on it and tomorrow, you never know, you might become a big star.' Next thing I know I'm standing next to the same man who I went to audition for...
Bobby - You said 'you remember me, the little girl'
India - Yeah, you remember me! He said 'Well, I didn't know you was going to get this big!' We hugged each other and it was a really memorable day because you never know what tomorrow can bring, so it was a really beautiful experience for me.
Bobby - Absolutely fantastic, so, listen, we're all excited about Groove Odyssey, The House Legends, Saturday March the 3rd, and you are undoubtedly the headline act. With the stage you've set it's ready for you and people are going to be attending in abundance, it's going to be absolutely fantastic. We can't wait to have you on stage there, it's gonna be one hell of a night. India, it's been great talking to you, thanks for sharing your time on your busy tour, I know you are on your tour bus now, travelling. Do you want to say Hi to anyone in London?
India - I would like to say Hi to all my beautiful fans in London, I love you all very much and I can't wait to be in front, I'll be the first one dancing! Many blessings to you, your wife and family and to all the wonderful promoters and people who work with you. I think all the fans are really excited to see what happens next!
Bobby - I could talk to you forever, you know that, and I can't wait to do this again, we'll get it on camera! Tell your coach driver to drive safely because we don't just need you on Saturday March 3rd; the whole world still needs you
India - Thank you, and I love you very much!
Bobby - God Bless