Joey Negro is the most well known pseudonym of master British DJ/producer/remixer Dave Lee. Under a plethora of other monikers including Akabu, Doug Willis, The Sunburst Band, Jakatta, Raven Maize, Sessomatto and Z Factor, Dave was one of the first artists to incorporate disco samples in house music when he began his production career in 1988. Indeed, he was in the studio making credible British House music when many luminaries around him were still busy getting to grips with their decks. Little has changed since then and Dave is still widely regarded as one of the forefathers of the UK dance scene who is still as productive as ever in the studio and behind the decks most weekends.
A producer first, his work ethic is legendary, having been involved in well over 300 productions, countless albums and a healthy stack of pop crossover hit singles with tracks such as ‘Must Be The Music’, ‘Make A Move On Me’ and Jakatta’s ‘American Dream” making the UK Top 10. Dave has also been commissioned to remix the likes of Kelly Rowland, Empire of the Sun, Mariah Carey, Labrynth, Pet Shop Boys, Diana Ross and many many more. He also conceived and produced the UK number 1 “Relight My Fire” by Take That. However, despite the crossover successes the majority of Dave’s productions have had their heart in underground clubland with releases on many seminal house music labels – Transmat, Nu Groove, Quark, JBO, Azuli, Deconstruction, Guidance and NRK.
Intrinsically linked with the birth of house in the UK, Dave Lee set up the dance music division of Rough Trade, Demix, in 1986 and through this link, he began working with the Rhythm King label, which had had a number of hits with acts like Bomb The Bass, S-Express, Cookie Crew and Beatmasters. This experience and intimacy with other leading house labels led to him establishing his own imprint, Republic Records, in 1988. Now defunct, Republic was one of the UK’s first soulful house label releasing classics such as Phase II “Reachin’” and Turntable Orchestra “You’re Gonna Miss Me” as well as some early productions of his own like Raven Maize “Forever Together”.
Joey Negro, as an entity, was born in 1990 with the release of “Do It Believe It’ on US cult house label Nu Groove. When struggling for an act name Dave flicked through a pile of records next to his desk and ending up putting together Pal Joey and J Walter Negro. “I thought it sounded like a cool Hispanic New York guy, I certainly never envisaged I’d be answering to the name Joey 25 years later”. The track was a breakthrough success and was followed by ‘Do What You Feel’, which was released on his second label and successor to Republic, Z Records. ‘Do What You Feel’ eventually crossed from a club hit to a top 40 pop hit on Virgin Records. Another Top 40 track followed with “Love Fantasy” and an album “Universe of Love” with guest appearances from disco acts The Trammps and Gwen Guthrie.
Throughout the 90/00’s Dave delivered a constant stream of productions and remixes with tracks like his “Can’t Get High Without U” and Z Factor “Gotta Keep Pushin” (used as the theme for Ibiza Uncovered) becoming anthems on the dancefloor. These days his label ZR is not only a vehicle for him to release his own music but has become a very cool brand featuring productions and remixes from both cutting edge and established producers like Dennis Ferrer, Opolopo, Henrik Schwarz, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Frankie Knuckles. Dave’s work producing live disco act The Sunburst Band has been the source of much praise and adoration. Their fourth album ‘The Secret Life of Us’ from 2012 was yet another powerhouse of all things soul, jazz, disco and funk featuring a host of live musicians and vocalists and has been widely regarded as the strongest Sunburst album yet. The album topped the Solar Sweet Rhythms chart for over 2 months (a record), Starpoint Soul chart, Amazon Funk chart and has received across the board props. The band continues to tour the world on a regular basis.
Dave has remained an avid vinyl collector and has put together many genre defining compilations – ‘Disco (Not Disco) 1 & 2’ (Strut), ‘Joey Negro In The House’ (Defected), ‘Disco Spectrum’ Vol.1–3 (BBE), ‘Jumpin’ 1& 2 (Harmless), Southport Weekender Volume 1, ‘Nite:Life 8’ and ‘Back In The Box’ (NRK) ‘The Trip’ (Family Records) ‘The Voyage – Excursions into Early House’ (X Treme), ‘Lust: Art & Soul’ (Susu) and most recently a highly regarded ‘House Masters’ collection for Defected. Whilst on ZR he’s compiled ‘Destination Boogie’, ‘Locked In The Vinyl Cellar’, ‘Supafunkanova 1 & 2’ ‘The Soul of Disco’ (Vol.1-3), ‘Backstreet Brit Funk’, ‘GoGo Get Down’, ‘Italo House’, ‘90’s House & Garage’ and most recently ‘Le Freak – Music Inspired by Chic’ collecting together some forgotten Edwards Rodgers soundalikes.
These all continue to further cement him as one of the UK’s foremost musical authorities. Not wanting to hog all the limelight, Dave started the ‘Under The Influence’ series on ZR, which gives a platform to some of the world’s most serious record collectors – unknown names who have spent their lives collecting music and have the knowledge to put together a wicked selection on previously unheard music. Previous compilers have been Red Greg, Paul Phillips, James Glass and DJ Nick The Record; expect Volume 5 from Sean P in 2016.
Joey Negro’s discography is undoubtedly impressive and his deep understanding as a selector of all things disco and house on the dancefloor have ensured his status on the global DJ circuit to this day. His dj sets reflect his extensive love of music ranging from rare disco through to vocal and classic house and often into more deep, electronic and techy areas, his sets littered with exclusives old and new. He has held a residency at Defected’s ‘Glitterbox’ night in Ibiza for the last two years, a residency that will continue throughout the summer of 2016.
Where many producers from his era have tended to ease off on the studio work Mr Lee keeps turning out the club hits like the pure house style of Akabu’s “Everybody Wants something” or his recent super funky ode to the bass guitar “Freebass” which has hung around the main sales chart for the second half of 2015. One of Dave’s most ambitious projects to date came in 2013 when ‘Remixed With Love’ hit the stores. Packed with his brand new remixes of classic disco tracks all reworked from original 24 track tapes and including artists such as Roxy Music, Patrice Rushen and Roy Ayers. Getting all the required permissions to make the album happen was a logistical nightmare but thankfully it topped sales charts on Amazon and Juno and stayed at No.1 on Traxsource for 4 months. The second volume of Remixed With Love is almost finished and will be released early 2016 with fresh new mixes of Grace Jones, Robert Palmer, The O’Jays, Gwen McCrae and Gladys Knight among the many names included on the album. Also look out for a new artist album from Joey Negro coming soon…