In the lead up to his set at GO Ibiza in May, we sat down with Josh to find out where he’s at right now.
One third of the famed Motown Records group Blaze, Josh Milan is known for his exceptional talents as a vocalist, songwriter, producer and composer. Hailing from Brooklyn, Josh’s roots in music stem from his experiences in church. In 1984, Josh was introduced to Kevin Hedge by Chris Herbert, a member of his church choir, and the three formed Blaze. Achieving worldwide success with their remix of Lisa Stansfield’s ‘People Hold On, the group went on to work with the likes of Louie Vega, Diana Ross, Barbara Tucker and Jody Watley. Having long since parted ways, Josh is now head honcho at Honeycomb Records, which he set up to help restore the integrity and quality of real house music in 2010. Making it his mission to inject some soul back into the industry, Josh continues to draw upon his spiritual base to cement his status of one of the world’s best loved soulful house figures.
Here’s what went down when we caught up with Josh earlier on in the week.
Josh Milan, thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with us. How are you today?
I’m doing super well thanks.
Growing up your first taste of music and performance was at church, and it was at church that you first performed in front of a crowd. What were those first experiences of live music like for you?
I did grow up in a church. However, I was more of an apprentice. My cousin was the musician who I watched every Sunday. I didn’t play in church till much later on. My first performance in front of a crowd was in school at the tender age of 10. I sang in a school concert. Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”. I was so so scared that I didn’t remember to dance.
At what time were you aware that you wanted to make a career out of music?
In my teens. It was and still is the only thing I felt good at in terms of a profession. I was 15 and a full time musician.
So what drew you to house in particular?
My musical partner at the time was a house music DJ. And it was him that turned me onto Marshall Jefferson, and the entire Chicago House music sound.
You’ve spoken before about how music can help and even heal people – that it has this innate ability to change peoples’ lives. Do you have any anecdotes about people whose lives have been influenced or changed by your music?
I’ve been told more than enough times that what I do has helped people during troubled times or even carry them through cancer. I’ve heard that many times. I think it has something to do with the lyrics. And mostly where my heart is when I make the music. I do it because I love it. Simple. It’s a high for me. It heals me as well.
And is there specific moment in your life that you remember music having that same kind of effect on you?
I’ve been in some situations where I’ve listened to a song over and over for hours. Just because it gave me a happy feeling. A sort of euphoria. One particular time, I had just finished recording and mixing “Music Is Love”. That day I sat in my studio listening to it for at least an hour. Feeling a very euphoric sensation. But there’s other artists that effortlessly give me that same high. Liz Wright, Becca Stevens, Glenn Lewis are just a few.
You’ve been quite vocal about how you view the business side of music industry, and it’s not always been positive. I’ve noticed that quite a few times you’ve asked that people new to the industry sit up and learn about the business side of things. Why is this so important?
This is important because artist are usually spiritual people in the sense that they are creators of music. That is the side they love. Anything outside of creating is boring and in some cases overwhelming and artist would rather not deal with it. They “check out” mentally. But what they don’t understand is that this industry is a BUSINESS before it’s anything. For every amazing singer/songwriter/musician there are at least 10 wolves waiting for the opportunity to take full advantage of their ignorance. And once an artist has the rights and benefits of their creations taken away from them, the reality is, they’re so hurt and damaged that sometimes the music they once made no longer has the glimmer it once had.
The love and joy they once felt making the music is now replaced with brokenness, anguish, frustration, pain, and rage. It’s synonymous to having your child kidnapped and never seen again. I’m no expert in the business of music. But I know enough to ask when I don’t understand something. Confrontation is a big part of this industry. Another thing artist don’t like.
If you could change anything about the music business to make it a better place what would it be?
Transparency across the board.
Has there ever been a time where you’ve wanted to quit the music business?
Absolutely. The feeling of more thieves than music creators is always disheartening. However I’ve never wanted to quit the music. Just the business.
In 2010 you launched Honeycomb Records. What sort of struggles have you faced with running a label? Does it get a lot easier as you gain more experience?
I’m certainly getting much better at running a business. I made some really really bad decisions early on. But you live and learn. The biggest issue for me is time. At Honeycomb I wear more than one hat. I juggle being a label head, a producer, a songwriter, an artist, and a DJ. We have 9 artists that need to feel prioritized. So it’s a struggle there.
What is the ethos and core values behind Honeycomb Records?
Transparency, which I’ve learned very early on, is almost extinct in this industry. Most companies and business men take advantage of the ignorance of their artist. It’s an ugly truth that most people will never discuss because they will be exposed to their dirty play. Artists won’t tell either because they’re too embarrassed to admit that they signed an agreement that they didn’t read and found themselves in a mess.
It’s pretty rare when you get an artist who conveys as much raw soul and spirituality in their work as you do. Has there ever been a point where you felt like you lost or risked losing that, however momentarily?
I did. I did a jam called Be Your Freak. It was a fun record I did with the super producer Kenny Dope. That record was very successful. I felt like I did something outside of my norm. This record talks about being a freak! Ha!! The reality is that it’s a Dope record. And I didn’t do anything wrong when I did the record. It’s something I’m proud of. But at first I was shaky about it because I believed that an artist should be consistent with their message. I feel like everybody needs to be a freak with the one they love. Ha!!
There’s been a lot of negativity in the world lately, especially with the current US political climate – has this had any effect on your music and how so?
I feel a responsibility to speak out about the injustices and greed of America. Anybody that has a platform that masses of people pay attention to should use that opportunity to put some good in the world. I do a song called ‘Red White and Blue’. And that’s just one song done in response to the climate in America.
Now it’s our absolute pleasure to have you play for us at GO Ibiza in May. Can you describe your upcoming set for us in three words?
Wait and see.
What do you want people to walk away feeling after hearing your set?
I want them to feel the universal love for each other that I feel for them. Blacks, Whites, Latin, Asian, whatever. I want them to stand together and enjoy each other as well as my set without fear of each other.
Finally, before you go, what have you got coming up for us that we can look forward to in 2018?
New artists, some poetry, some Latin jazz, some hardcore 4 the floor, some funk. And mostly live instrumentation. I will be doing more live performances with my band.
Thanks for having brother. Love and respect to you.