Brian Tappert and Marc Pomeroy, aka Jazz-N-Groove, have been working together making waves in the world of dance music since their union in the early ’90s.
Their world famous productions as Jazz-N-Groove, Soulsearcher, UBP and Cleptomaniacs, their much loved Soulfuric record label brand and the creation of one the first music download stores, Traxsource, are just some of their enormous contributions to the scene. As Defected Records take the baton and re-launch Soulfuric Recordings some 20 years since it’s initial inception, they’ve also invited Jazz-N-Groove to dig deep into their musical vault and create the latest installment of Defected’s “House Masters” compilation series.
6AM grabs a very rare and insightful chat with these two Jazz-N-Groove trailblazers!
Brian & Marc, firstly huge congratulations on your giant contributions to the dance music industry!
MP/BT: Thank you very much for the kind words…
Please start by telling us a little bit about the early Jazz-N-Groove days, how you initially got together and your first releases.
BT – Marc and I met by chance in 1992… It was my first time in a commercial studio and we were recording something with Roy Grant (my then partner in Jazz-N-Groove) at a local South Florida studio and Marc was the engineer who came with the studio. That day was amazing and we all become great friends almost instantaneously.
Aside of Jazz-N-Groove, you also released projects under the guises Urban Blues Project, Soulsearcher and Cleptomaniacs. Tell us more about each project, their styles and your key releases.
BT – Essentially, Jazz-N-Groove was the original name I started with Roy Grant back in 1992 and then after Roy, we continued on with Marc (Pomeroy) from 1995 forward. J-N-G was mostly used for remixes in our latter years but we did a ton of them for people like Byron Stingily, Loleatta Holloway, Sounds Of Blackness and David Bendeth.
Urban Blues Project was the name Marc and I gave to our original productions together, we were heavily influenced by the Philly Sound and we did records like ‘Deliver Me’, ‘Love Don’t Live’, ‘Testify’ and ‘He is the Joy’ with this name. These were often big vocal productions with lots of live instrumentation like horns and strings etc. We would really let ourselves go against the grain with UBP without worrying if people would be into it or not, we were often surprised that people did indeed like them!
Cleptomaniacs was born out of what John Julius Knight and I would knock up as DJ tools. Basically, we would make re-dits and remixes of classics just to play out at a time when people were mostly sampling loops. Marc came up with a way to use the entire track as audio and we just went for it. Once in a while they would get bootlegged for example, “All I Do” was originally a DJ tool we made to play and then we gave it to a few people and it just exploded. At one moment there was like 4 different bootlegs out there of it, none of which we pressed. While trying to clear it with Stevie’s people, Simon Dunmore said, “Let’s make a cover version”… Considering how massive of a challenge it would be to do this, we asked Marc to help out and and we made it work with Bryan Chambers, that was a tough one.
Soulsearcher has always been a solo project of Marc’s…and he’s had a tremendously successful run with ‘Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Do It To Me again’ and ‘Feelin’ Love’.
MP – Soulsearcher was always an experimental project. Some ideas worked, a lot didn’t. Brian had a lot of influence on these projects, and even helped quite a few times. When Donna Allen came into the picture, it really blossomed.
When did you launch Soulfuric Recordings and who did what in terms of running the label?
BT – After we made “Deliver Me” with Michael Procter (which was our first time producing together), we just knew we had something special and decided we would do something else, but we weren’t sure what. Then one day I got it in my head that we should do a label and when I told Marc he simply said “Let’s Do It” and that was it… We made another record for Michael “Love Don’t Live” and Mother Of Pearls “Your Heaven” and off we went. As far as who did what with the labels, Marc was always the technical one and he build all the computer software we used to do accounting and the artwork etc, and being a DJ, I fell into A&R just by nature. We made all the decisions together pretty much.
You have launched many music careers including the likes of Axwell, Hardsoul and many more, how did you go about the A&R process at the time and what were the essential credentials of a Soulfuric release?
BT – Our main thing was quality. We just looked for people who cared about their craft and took the time to develop a great sound. It was really just about vibe… if we loved it and it moved us we would sign it. We had 3 labels, so this gave us plenty of room to experiment.
You’re about to unleash your fantastic ‘Jazz-N-Groove House Masters’ compilation on Defected Records, what can we expect to hear?
BT – There’s like 22 Cuts on the CD and 30 on the digital version and I was surprised how hard it was to narrow it down. Some big ones, some lesser knowns, but hopefully you will find a nice cross section of vibes we made over the many years.
With such a mammoth back catalogue of your own music to choose from, was it a difficult task to put a track listing together?
BT – TBH, It was very hard, just because there is so many and it’s quite hard to be objective about our own work. Thankfully the Defected team was there to help us navigate the process and we think they did a great job.
One of Marc Pomeroy’s guises, Soulsearcher, had a huge hit with ‘Can’t Get Enough’, which happened to be Defected Records’ first ever release. How did you first meet Simon Dunmore and how has your relationship flourished over the years?
BT – Yes, Marc’s seminal “Can’t Get Enough” was indeed Defected 001 in around 1998. We all met by chance around 1994 in NY at the Strictly Rhythm offices – just bumping into one another while waiting to see Gladys Pizarro. Back in those days, wow… that was a really BIG deal, but she signed a record we made with Mone called “We Can Make it” to Strictly, which Simon ended up licensing to his AM:PM label and we became fast friends. In those days, we did a lot of remixes and productions for Simon, like Sounds Of Blackness “The Pressure”, Taxtic “Feel Like Singing”, Sarah Washington “Heaven”, East 57th Street “Saturday” and many more. Our relationship just happened naturally and developed over time. As things progressed Simon was feeling frustrated with the Majors and he had this plan to “defect” move out on his own with his key team. Marc and I were happy to be a part of that move and we pledged our support. Then out of the blue, Marc’s Soulseacher record began getting daytime play on Kiss FM in London. Simon pegged it as THE one to launch the label with, so he sent Marc back in the studio (something he is famous for haha) to cut some verses and the rest is history.
Defected have acquired and are re-launching Soulfuric’s catalogue unto a new generation of House lovers, along with some new artist signings in the pipeline too, how do you feel about the re-launch of your baby.. and in someone else’s hands?
MP – BT: We feel great about it, there is no one else on the planet who we feel could get it right. Defected is like coming home for us.
Looking back have you got a particular favourite Jazz-N-Groove production or remix?
BT – Michelle Weeks “The Light” UBP Mix. – I just loved that moment when it all came together.
MP – There’s a lot of them we loved, and felt privileged to work on. But I have to say, loading up the Loleatta Holloway ‘Dreamin’ 2” 24 track tape at New River Studio blew my mind.
Amidst a Jazz-N-Groove studio session, who did what in the studio, how did you typically go about writing a song and who had the most annoying habits?
BT – We each have our areas where we would take the lead, but we always made sure both of us were into it or we would leave it out. My roles typically were in basic grooves, hooks, drums and arrangement. Marc is more musical and also very technically gifted so, when it came to keys and engineering and writing I give that credit to him always. I think my most annoying habit I have was looping 4 bars for 4 hours and playing much too loud haha.
MP – Writing was a very random thing… sometimes it started with a simple chord progression, then Brian would cut it up and make it into multiple parts. Other times, we had a lyric in mind and built a drum track and music around it. Sometimes, we were just playing around with a classic synth… and then that one sound would appear, and we both knew something cool could come from it.
My annoying habit was getting into my tunnel-vision and ignoring things around me. LOL.
A lot of your productions are vocal lead, how important are songs in dance music?
BT – We think vocals are very important, always have. Maybe it stems from DJing but girls like to sing – it makes them happy, and when girls are happy dancing and singing – this makes the men happy and then it’s a party. It’s a kind of lost art crafting a song and it’s not easy so we understand. Saying that, it’s the whole package which makes house music work and we are also known to rock the dubs for the floor too.
At the time did you ever anticipate that your Jazz-N-Groove and signature Soulfuric sound would become a blueprint that would inspire generations of House producers for years to come?
BT – To be honest, we never did think that, but we understand it and are humbled by it. All of our music has had its inspirations (we sure did) and when people emulate our sound it’s flattering.
So what motivated you amidst running a hugely successful series of record labels to take the plunge and create one of the very first online music stores – Traxsource?
BT – To be fair, our motivation was based purely on the survival instinct. We only wanted to make sure our Soulfuric fans could get our product in a digital form which was nearly impossible at that time (2001-2004). It really was just a happenstance which led to having a full store… But 14 years later, we are truly amazed!
What are the comparisons between running the two businesses?
BT – We view ourselves as a download store with the heart of an Independent label and take the same exact ethos we had with Soulfuric and even our productions and we apply it to Traxsource. This is Quality over Quantity, business integrity, teamwork, relationships first, we even call our genre managers our A&R team…and have fun because it comes out of the speakers.
With Traxsource, it’s similar in that its the last place on earth where authenticity, quality and craft matter. We don’t care about hype or how many followers you may have or whatever. We care about the music and that’s all. In this weld you can buy everything but you cannot buy credibility
MP – The largest comparison for me is the technology. With Soulfuric, we embraced the tech of yesterday, and loved it. Researching the recording techniques from the 70’s and 80’s and restoring old recording equipment and analog synths to capture ‘that’ sound.
With Traxsource, it’s a constant chase to implement the latest technology, making it easier for our users.
Did you have any idea when you launched Traxsource that it would become one of the premium global dance music stores?
BT – We certainly did not, but It’s been a real labour of love and we could not be any happier to be in this exact position at this exact moment. Its been an amazing run and we are still growing like a weed…
What have been your biggest learning curves along the way?
BT – (laughs) Everything… this is one complicated business, and the ONLY constant is change.
MP – Agree, no one showed us how to do these things. But, learning was the fun part.
You are both fully immersed in the running of Traxsource, do you miss Djing and producing and do you have plans to reunite in the studio again for a new Soulfuric release?
BT – Yes, sometimes we do miss it, all I can say about it is, you never know…
MP – Yes, complete immersion. I do miss it sometimes. But I have to quote Axwell here what he told me about producing music, and I agree: “Music is a fickle woman… you have to give her 24-7, 365 days a year, or she will not bear fruit.” – I’m paraphrasing from memory.
And finally, what is the biggest buzz about being Brian Tappert and Marc Pomeroy and what would you say is the secret of your longstanding, successful partnership?
BT – Marc and I have an amazing team around us, this has always been the case (Megan and Sheldon have both been here since the 90s LOL). We could never do what we do without each one of them. I would say that what makes us a good partnership is that we are very different in our skill sets and we each let the other get on with their area. This makes our collaborations end up greater than the sum of the parts. We are as opposite as a knife and a fork, but you can’t eat a steak without both…
MP – Well, Brian and I have been through the fire together. We’ve built a brotherhood that cannot be shaken. We are definitely complete opposites… but we also complement each other in our thoughts and tasks. I’m grateful.
The Soulfuric back catalogue will be released digitally on May 5th 2017
Soulfuric Merchandise can be found here
‘Defected presents House Masters – Jazz-N-Groove’ will be released on May 12th 2017 on Defected Records
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