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Back in September, Marcel Vogel started a Facebook thread in praise of house great Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley. The idea is nothing new for us, having invited Rich Medina to pay tribute to Fela Kuti and Bill Brewster to follow suite with Prince and Gil Scott-Heron. However, the overwhelming and impassioned response to the Lumberjacks in Hell boss pushed us towards making things more official with Praise You, and we’d be amiss not to ask him to curate the first. Here he pays tribute to the singular New Jersey producer and singer Romanthony, one of the best to merge RnB and house, who passed away in 2013.
Why does Romanthony’s mean so much to you?
Lets be honest. I don’t even know R.Hide In The Plain Site even though I saw his live show in 2002. I am not the kinda guy who needs to own somebody’s entire discography to love you. It’s the idea that inspires me. The attitude. When I was asked to kickstart this, Romathnony immediately came to mind. Peven Everett was a contender. Osunlade perhaps. Or Moodymann. Guys who just were pitch perfect. Romanthny is still a bit of a unsung hero. The era of house that slips in and out of consciousness.
What makes a Romanthony record so unique?
It’s hard not to love his music. The thumping kick. There is always a groove and funk. His sparse vocals. His true talent was to put it all in the pocket. A mixture between Beyonce and Blaze at times. That’s when I really love it. Or like the Jungle Brothers. Fusing elements that are hard to comprehend.
When did you first hear Romanthony’s music and what impact did it have on you?
When I first saw him live, I thought it couldn’t have been different seeing Prince. With the woman on drums and another on bass. A truly pivotal moment. I didn’t pick up the guitar afterwards though.
It opened my mind for the serious musician aspect of house. I guess until then I didn’t understand the possibilities, creativity and musicianship that can be involved in the genre. His soul. There are a few like Peven Everett and Osunlade and Moodymann that have done as much for the soulful side and deep side as singer / songwriter artists. As unique talents with a catalogue that manifests their vision. I’d say Romanthony is a bit like Aaliyah, in that way. Just somebody who invented everything new. So I suppose it’s his voice and talent but also reoccurring ideas, such as certain samples and kicks he loved to use. Good on Daft Punk to make him shine one more time (pun intended ) and just like Kanye I like to listen to his lyrics, to the actual words and the grade of storytelling involved that take you from A to Z on a beautiful journey (I’m mentioning Kanye, as despite everything I love him for that).So Romanthony is above all, an inspiration to push things forward and combine things that don’t necessarily belong together. In the interview part of the mix he talks about the uneasiness of his music that makes it unique.
What’s your most sacred Romanthony record and why?
My most sacred record must be ‘Testify’. I don’t know if there are any really rare or super expensive 12″s by him but when I bought this 18 years ago it was a proper investment considering my budget. It’s always been special and dear to me. The arrangement of the record is just bananas. The rap is a bit silly but works. The techno sample. The saxophone. I just get a kick out of the whole everything. This was in a bunch of records that got stolen from me at a train station once but a few that found their way back to me. It’s a record that masterly fuses house, R&B and corny
How did you approach this mix? What did you want it to say about Romanthony?
Making a megamix of my favourite tunes isn’t easy as all my favourite tunes seem to have a similar energy. I can’t feature Daft Punk in here. Only the purest most soulful sing-a-longs. I can’t find the Phat Pussycat album either. Was a tune on there as well? I have quite a few 12”s though. All of them masterpieces of house music. I used to worship Testify, a song stronger than pride. This mix is about pain and truth. It’s the pain of loosing him. The pain of looking for things similar without quite finding them. The love for an lost era. A sound that isn’t quite coming back. It’s weird no? What is it with the future that keeps changing everything we love? Where is the new Prince, MJ, Romanthony, even Janet? Stuck in an endless loop of nostalgia. Sometimes it feels like it would have been better never to fall in love with music. But luckily we always can go back to those timeless moments, things that should have changed the world forever. But sometimes didn’t.
How has Romanthony impacted you as a producer?
I can not recall a special moment with a certain tune but I think his existence transcends a lot of the music I play. The same way I might not play a lot of James Brown but I find him in all the music I play. I am not trying to copy Theo Parrish or his selections but he certainly is my spirit animal. Maybe the way Theo took Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ and made ‘Footwork’ because of it. I suppose you could guess the inspiration for it if you didn’t know. So there is a network of music I play because of Romanthony that makes me think of him.
What would you say is Romanthony’s biggest legacy?
Obviously my generation will listen to this and smile with nostalgia . But a new generation hopefully will discover an unsung hero. One of the true greats of house music. A persona so uncompromising he became to me as important as Prince. Thanks for tuning in.
Marcel Vogel presents The Sound of Lumberjacks in Hell, a 13-track compilation for BBE.
Romanthony Interview / Slices Feature
Qiana Tara – Sommore
Stephanie Cooke – Rain
Romanthony – The Wanderer / Eve Angel – It’s Not the Same (Marcel Vogel Mashup)
Romanthony – The Wanderer
Romanthony – Falling From Grace
Romanthony – Testify
Romanthony – Hold On
Peace feat Lee Genesis – Power to the people (Romanthony Remix)
Romanthony feat Eve Angel – Up All Night