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#1 European Dance Music Star VICKI SHEPARD:

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"Somewhere 2000"

NAJM Dance Culture
Vicki Shepard is no stranger to dance music business. After three consecutive #1 hits including "Somewhere" (1990), "All I Ask of You" (1991 and 1999), and "Never In A Million Years" (1991 and 1999), Vicki is embarking on a new project "Somewhere 2000"! The single is now available and is sure to follow in the footsteps of her past successes.
NAJM:  Who are you and how did you get involved with dance music?  

 

VS:  That’s a very interesting question. Well, I think I am just a diva who loves music. I started out with a different background. I didn’t start out in dance music; I started out doing Top 40, pop, Broadway and everything. I branched out into Jazz; R&B, that type of thing. What led me to dance music was the time I did one show at a gay bar. I fell in love! I was hooked after doing a one track show. Oh man, I was there! I guess it was the fact that the people were so wonderfully responsive. They loved you to death and let you know they really like and appreciate what you’re doing. You have the freedom to do everything you want. That’s where I really came into my own. Beyond being a singer, I became an entertainer, and that’s really important to me. There are a lot of people who are just singers and I think that it’s really important to entertain your crowd. At least in my book, that’s one of the things I strive to do in my shows. Make it fun and make them feel like they are part of the show. That’s basically how I got into dance.
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Connecting with a Project...

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NAJM: How did you connect with the "Somewhere 2000" project and David Lawson?
VS:  David Lawson was the DJ at the Hide ‘N Seek in Colorado Springs and that’s where we first met. David said, “I have a beautiful song that you should record” and we should do this project together. I said, “cool.” Ken Miller, my pianist did the music and that’s how I got “officially” into dance music in the sense of recording. I just started working the bars and fell in love with it.
dot_clear.gif (43 bytes) NAJM: I know that you’ve had a lot of success with your dance music, particularly in the UK. Dance music is so much more of a dominant genre in the UK than it is here in the States. Why do you think the dance scene is better in Europe?
VS:  The people in Europe tend to have fewer distractions in their life. Here (in the States) we have so much to choose from. Our economy, our standard of living, is different. In the US it seems people have more money to spend. There are so many more things to do here than in other places around the world. Clubbing in Europe is a big thing. I think they have more focus on enjoying their clubbing. Every little place in the UK has a dance club. Here in the US, dance is dying out. We don’t even have that many clubs and forget dance clubs that are really, really nice.
NAJM:  Really!
VS:  Over in the UK they have big corporations called “Leisure Corporations” who put multi-millions of dollars into these clubs. Some are just incredible. I’ve seen lighting units that come down like a spaceship and fold open, just unbelievable. Some clubs hold between 3,000 – 4,000 people. It’s just a whole different scene over there. Because it’s corporate they put a lot of money into even the smaller clubs. In Europe, there’s more focus on people going out. In the US, we don’t do that anymore. People in Europe buy club music records, they are out in the clubs, week after week, and night after night and they pay attention as well. They long for artists to come and entertain them. Look at artists like Eartha Kitt or Josephine Baker, they are black women who had to go to Europe to be able to be loved and recognized and appreciated for their talent and not labeled because of their color. Europeans are a lot more liberal in that sense and that makes a big difference. It’s a great place to work. Our cities don’t have as many good nightclubs, or as much mass transit. I think the whole drinking and driving issue affects our business as well. I think in Europe it’s easier to get around without driving. If they’re going to spend their money they want to do it clubbing. We have a different focus here. Our dance scene seems like it’s slowly but surely being phased out. Look what it used to be like 10 years ago – 15 years ago and compare it to now. They used to have fabulous nightclubs and people would dress up and go out and it was just great. Look at it now. Nobody bothers – there is that little dance scene happening, but it’s sad that it’s not like it was. I miss that.
NAJM:  Well, like you said, there is still that small dance scene, but unfortunately in many cases here in the US you have to be in a fairly large city to find it. New York, LA, Chicago, and Miami.
VS:  Yes, unfortunately, it shouldn’t be that way. I think our focus on entertainment in the US has changed. I don’t think people value live entertainment as much as they used to. Such as going out to see a live show, people have so many other types of entertainment and attractions in the US as well as having more money to spend on them.
NAJM:  I’ve heard that it’s easier to break into the dance music scene in Europe than it is in the US. Can you give us some tips on what it was like for you to break into the scene?
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Breaking into the Dance Music Scene...

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VS:  Actually, I debuted in the US. “Somewhere” came out on Disco Net. They did a remix of it and put it out. That in turn, led us to Let the Music Play in Atlanta, which was the domestic label that “Somewhere” initially came out on. I started out in the US, but then it went over as an import to England and to Canada. I called up the guy who licensed it and made a deal with him. Loading Bay Records signed it and by the time I came over to England it had already been to #1. It sort of laid the groundwork for me. That was mainly on the gay scene. Most dance artists – all these divas who are out there preaching how they don’t want to do the dance scene anymore, all got their starts in the gay clubs and they better be damn well thankful! That is what launched their careers. Most of the really big dance records started out on the gay scene. When I was in Europe, the gay scene knew me, but I had to slowly but surely try to integrate myself into the straight scene. By the time I left there, I had done some of that, but it was difficult. The main reason it was so difficult is the fact that I was labeled a Hi-NRG Diva. It’s the same old labeling and stereotyping. People should be concerned that it is good music, not whether it is “gay” or not. By the way, what is “gay music?” I think it’s easier on the whole to break into dance because the gay crowd is so responsive to music. They really love their divas – and they pay attention.
NAJM:  Another very valid point.
VS:  Gay people love their diva’s so much, they respect and give us the recognition. I am very grateful for my gay crowd. I love and appreciate them for supporting me, as well as the straight crowds. Gays have been the ones who have really launched my career as recording artist.
NAJM: There seems to be a lack of passion for creating good dance music. How do you feel about the state of dance music today and what do you think is the direction that our business is headed?
VS:  For me, the sad part about it is that the “music business” has taken most of the passion away. I think a lot of dance music has become non-musical. That’s number one. But what has really taken the passion out of the business for me is the unfortunate situations, and the lack of scruples, professionalism and any sense of ethics. I have never been able to walk away from a Record Label and say that I received monies that were earned. Up until Red Zone (All I Ask of You 2000), I have not had a positive experience with a single record label. (Matthew Consola, the guy I’m working with now at Red Zone, is a great guy). He is a pleasure to work with and believes in me. It means so much. But as a consequence that passion demand is for my live performances.
NAJM: We understand that you had your voice and a portion of one of your songs prominently show up on a multi-million selling single by a very prominent dance group where you received no compensation or credit?
VS:  Having my voice stolen was the final blow! My track was totally stolen. It was licensed, but when they licensed it, they redid it into a new song they didn’t bother to say it was me. What can I say? After that, it just broke my heart and it was the final blow. I have a multimillion seller and my name is not even on it. I’ve been trying to litigate against these people on and off ever since.
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Check out Vicki's First Interview for More Information

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What is wrong with Dance Music today?

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VS: Ok, now back to what is wrong with dance music today. The majority of dance music that I hear is not that musical. It’s a series of electronic sounds and tones combined with beats, lacking lyrics, melodies, verses, choruses, phrasing, etc. It’s crossed the point where singers are not that important anymore. There’s always been instrumental music around, and that’s fine, but dance music has never been instrumental. Even jazz, which is significantly instrumental has wonderful singers. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday are two the first names that come to people’s lips. It seems that dance music is heading to the point where you don’t even have to have a singer. The track has samples of singers and not many of those.
NAJM:  I recently read that they are close to developing the technology that will create “singing” keyboards, not just samplers.
VS:  I’ll bet. I think when they get to that point more power to them! Like the song goes: “Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby” (vocalizing)
NAJM:  What a great voice and you didn’t even have to warm up!
VS:  You know what I’m saying? Dance music started out as such an energizing, wonderful thing.  Even though a lot of people were like, “Disco sucks”, look how many people loved it. It brought out some of the best things in people. They started socializing again. Almost like a social revolution.
NAJM:  Great phrase, I love it!
VS:  I love that. I wish we could have that again.
NAJM:  How do you feel about people who lip-sync?
VS:  I don’t like it, but I think you can sing with your track. That’s what I do with shows. I used to never have my voice on the tapes or CD’s, but I’ve learned the hard way. I have walked into clubs where the sound is so bad. Any experienced singer will tell you that working in clubs, the live sound systems are the worst. You can beat your voice to death. I learned the hard way. So I started putting my voice on the track. It’s fine as long as you sing over your track; I think that’s fine. If you don’t sing at all, well that’s another story.
NAJM:  Last Labor Day and Easter we saw Martha Wash perform live in a club in Ft. Lauderdale. I can certifiably say that the woman can sing.
VS:  I have worked clubs where the sound systems are so bad, you can’t even understand yourself! I’m not going to wreck my voice for three songs, especially when I have to do this night after night. I’ve been there, done that. I can’t and won’t do it anymore. It’s different than if you can’t sing, that’s a whole different story.
NAJM:  With so many dub tracks that have no vocals being produced today, who do you think is in the drivers seat when it comes to dance music, artists, DJ’s, producers?
VS:  It used to be more in the hands of the singers, writers, and the people that actually made the music. But now it’s the DJ’s who have become remixers and producers. They have also taken over the scene in the sense of they are the stars now. DJ’s are making more money than diva’s and that’s a trip right there in itself. I appreciate DJ’s who play and are supportive of my music as well as those who are good remixers and producers, but it seems the balance has tipped.
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One..Two..Three..Four...where's my melody?

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NAJM:  You have to be able to count to four.
VS:  You don’t even have to be able to do that. The machine does it for you. You don’t even have to know anything about music, nothing. I am not talking about having a degree or being able to write music, in the sense of notation. But I am saying in the sense of being able to know music, to know chords – to know what a chord progression even is, to know what a melody is, to know what a phrase is. That’s no longer important in dance music. That’s what I meant about real dance music. One thing I have to say for disco, some of it may have been tacky as hell, but they had melodic phrases, they had singers, they had music!
NAJM:  Amen, Sister!
VS:  I absolutely miss that. I really, really do. I’m very sad that is not around anymore and no longer are those factors important.
NAJM:  You’ve got a single that’s charting right now, doing very well “All I ask of You 2000” in DMA, and the single is going to be a hot shot, something to watch on NAJM’s DJPJ’s Top Ten Pick. In a recent issue of DMA there is a write-up about you. I wanted to read a section of it and get your feedback on it. Written by a gentleman, Dean who you are acquaintances with:

“Oooooweeeee! For those of you who’ve forgotten what a real dance diva sounds like, here comes inimitable, indefatigable Vicki Shepard with a refresher course that should be required schooling for every club spinner in the business… Powerful, passionate and, in a word, magnificent! One of the best records of this or any year! ” Dean Ferguson DMA (Dance Music Authority December 1999)

VS:  Thank you Dean. He’s a wonderful man and he’s responsible for getting me launched in print and I’m eternally grateful to him. On top of that he’s just a fantastic person, real down to earth. Loves music. He said a special thing to me the other day, “when I heard your song it reminded me why I got into this business”.
NAJM:  What a great compliment.
VS:  I said, Dean you touched my heart. It’s so refreshing, I’m hearing on one hand from Billboard people that this is too gay, this is too Hi-NRG, this is too this, or whatever. It’s nice to hear something good from someone. Even if he had never written about my records, he would still have a special place in my heart. Its a treat to know him and I look forward to working with him more.
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Move Over for "Somewhere 2000"

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NAJM:  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “All I ask of You”, why did you decide to remake it?
VS:  I think it’s a beautiful song. A lot of people love “Phantom of the Opera”. We felt that it was a very substantial song. I love singing it so we just went for it.
NAJM: You and I were hooked up through David Lawson (see Interview) over at Drummer Street Records because the two of you are involved in a project now called “Somewhere 2000”.  What are your anticipations for the single? Obviously you want it to do well. Is it something you want to tour with, a feather in your hat for your recording career, or a tool to be signed to a major label?
VS:  You know what would be nice? All those things are wonderful and of course those are the ultimate – the end all be all. I’ve worked all my life to get a major recording contract. It would be nice just to be able to say that I had a song that really crossed over to pop, adult contemporary. That would be a wonderful feat. In Billboard the first “Somewhere” was charting as a hot breakout, but it didn’t ever go further because it didn’t have enough sales, small label. It would be nice to be at the top of the charts in Billboard.
NAJM:  Do a little crossover action?
VS:  Yes. I’d love for it to reach people who wouldn’t normally hear my music. But I don’t want to focus on that.
NAJM:  After the “Somewhere 2000” release what’s next in line for you?
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To kill a diva?

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VS:  David has picked another song already; he’ll shoot me if I say what it is. It’s a remake of a total ballad, but not a Broadway song. It’s a song from a top artist and you would never think of the song as a dance song.
NAJM:  That’s fair. David told me it was very confidential and I didn’t think I would get it out of you, but thought I would ask.
VS:  I’ll be a dead diva if I said a word.
NAJM:  We respect that because we appreciate him taking the time to talk with us as well. Do you have any words of advice for us here at NAJM?
VS:  First of all your label’s name is terrific! Your attitude is right! You’re concerned with good music and I think that’s the biggest issue. You’re on the right track; you’ve got that down. That’s half the battle right there. The next thing is to work with people that you feel make really good music and don’t sellout for anything less. Work with people who’s artistry you love and respect and that you feel would be a positive musical experience as well as successful.
NAJM:  Vicki thank you so much for sharing this time with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
VS:  Thank you for doing this interview. I really commend you for having a label as well as having the ambition and drive to speak out about attitude. I find in our business there is nothing but attitude! I think what your doing is great and wish you and your label well!

Check out NAJM's Review of "Somewhere 2000"

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Check out NAJM's Review of "All I Ask of You"

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Check out NAJM's Review of "Never In a Million Years"

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