Interview: Love City Groove
Love City Groove: now there’s a name we bet you didn’t expect to hear again. Indeed, many people reading this will barely remember them from their first outing on the music scene. Rewind to the Eurovision Song Contest 1995 and an act attempting to introduce rap to an event that many felt had become somewhat stale and predictable, eventually reaching tenth place. Love City Groove then disappeared from view. Now, 16 years on and as reported exclusively by So So Gay earlier this month, two members of the band, Beanz and Paul, have reunited to breathe new life into their Eurovision entry and UK Top Ten hit, alongside US rapper Moxiie. So So Gay caught up with Beanz and Paul to look back on their Eurovision experience and discuss the motivation behind their comeback.
SSG: What made you decide to revisit Love City Groove after all this time?
Beanz: The song never really went away. It seems to have been played somewhere or other in the world for the last 16 years. Also, every spring I get asked by BBC or some other network to talk about Eurovision, and often I would get asked if I would redo the song or release something new as Love City Groove.
Paul: I got an email from Beanz, who didn’t even know if I was still alive after 16 years. He put the concept to me of not only re-inventing the old hit, but also getting back in the studio like the old days. We came to the conclusion that if you leave a song long enough it becomes ‘nostalgia’. There was a whole new young audience out there who’d never heard the original, so we decided to fuse old school with new to make something fresh. If I’m honest, I was glad – after being on tour for a while – just to get back in the studio and record again. I knew that Beanz and I had always worked well together in the past, so I was keen to see how it would work in 2011.
Beanz: I stayed in music, creating bands such as The Collective, who were signed to Simon Cowell’s label and entered the UK Eurovision pre-selection in 1998. I’ve also been writing songs for other artists, like Shirley Kwan. I wrote a song for her called ‘About Me’, which spent six weeks at number one throughout southeast Asia. I wrote some music for the movie, The Real Howard Spitz, with Kelsey Grammar, and music for Disney’s Astro Knights.
Paul: After Love City Groove parted company 1n 1996 I went back to my old profession of being a comic book illustrator. I was working for well known publications for about ten years – companies such as Marvel Comics – including all kinds of titles and styles; super-heroes, book covers, you name it. But I really missed singing and getting out in front of a live audience, so I eventually packed up and moved to the coast where I now produce and direct theatre shows, which I also perform in.
You collaborated with US rapper Moxiie on the new version of ‘Love City Groove’. How did you come across Moxiie and what was it like working with her?
Beanz: My American manager who has worked in the business for years, mainly on the US market, including with P.Diddy, used one of her contacts to find Moxiie. She immediately fitted into the groove and is a great artist to work with.
Paul: We wanted to find new young talent to feature alongside us; someone who would appeal to an audience in 2011 and beyond. It took quite a while to find a person who ticked every box. When I first heard her on the single I thought she was the whole package. It was very hard to find someone who had that sweet, cool soul edge that we knew we needed but Moxiie really delivered.
What are your thoughts on your Eurovision experience, 16 years on?
Beanz: I wish I had given it more thought at the time to be honest. When you are representing your country in front of 500 million TV viewers, it’s a big gig and a huge privilege but you get swept along with all the partying and good times. I have very happy memories, apart from being woken up by Keith Chegwin at 6:30am, live on The Big Breakfast!
Paul: I’m immensely proud of having taken part in Eurovision. I do cover my eyes a little when I see myself replayed and ask myself why I was acting so ‘over the top’. Then I remind myself that this is the Eurovison Song Contest. It’s all about being ‘over the top’! It also opened so many doors for me when I went back to singing 10 years later. I would pick up the phone to do a deal with a theatre and when they found out who I was it would make things a whole lot easier so I definitely have absolutely no regrets!
The UK has performed very poorly in Eurovision over the last decade. Why do you think that is?
Beanz: It’s the songs; none of them have been suitable for Eurovision. You need a song that is totally ‘instant’, not a song that people can sing a bit of after they have heard it. That’s not good enough. You need a song that the listener connects to and loves while hearing it for the first time.
Paul: Apart from Katrina and the Waves’ ‘Love Shine A Light’, the songs are just not what they need to be. Sure, we are up against the whole political thing, but we’re too quick to blame everything on that and not address the fact that the songs and singers are simply not strong enough. It’s really that simple. It’s often like we are doing a parody of what we think they might want. It’s also common knowledge now that many countries feel that we don’t take it as seriously as they would like us to.
Would you consider representing the UK in Eurovision again?
Beanz: Bizarrely I have just written ‘that song’, although everything has changed in terms of who gets songs to the Eurovision people at the BBC and how. It was a very open competition before, but looking at the past few years, the BBC have started to make key decisions internally. For example, they selected Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Pete Waterman and Blue themselves rather than the public. Getting back to the song I’ve written, my record company and publisher say the song is way too ‘huge’ to use at Eurovision. I’m not sure: Eurovision is in my blood. Watch this space.
Paul: I would if the song was amazing!
Who do you consider to be your musical influences? What are you listening to at the moment?
Beanz: Musical influences? Sounds, I definitely love sounds. I love Vince Clarke, William Orbit, Trevor Horn. I am more influenced by sounds than songs. I just listened to ‘Smalltown Boy’ by Bronski Beat and it still sounds fresh and new, as does Trevor’s work on the Frankie Goes To Hollywood singles. They are timeless sounds.
Paul: My musical influences are very diverse: Motown, soul, David Bowie, Elvis, Stevie Wonder; I like anyone who makes me feel something. It doesn’t matter what style it’s in. I like everything from certain classical styles to jazz and blues, you name it. As a singer you have to absorb everything: it’s all out there. I don’t like a great deal of stuff from the last year. I’m a lover of clever chord changes, strong hooks and vocal melodies. I’m not sure what purpose a lot of music in the Top 40 is serving at the moment and I hate the fact that very few songs are memorable anymore, let alone artists. I’d like to see more individuality, hence why I bought Adele and Imelda May’s back catalogue lately. A few years ago I liked Keane and I just keep looking to find new things I like. The last year has been frustrating for me in that sense.