INTERVIEW: Bimbo Jones (2013)
Bimbo Jones, the team of Lee Dagger and Marc JB, are probably best known for their consistent output of top flight vocal remixes for artists like Lady Gaga, Pink, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, and Kylie Minogue. What you might not know is that the two started as songwriters and producers signed to 19 Management. In addition to their remixes, they are launching three record labels with a new artist album set for release. I caught up with them during Amsterdam Dance Event to catch up with them about all they have going on.
RS: Congratulations on the Kristine W record, how did that come about?
Lee Dagger: It came about last year when we finally got to meet Kristine in Miami. Marc and I had wanted to meet her for years. We have always been a big fan of “Feel What You Want” from back in the day, which is an amazing house record. When we met her, she invited us to go stay at her ranch any time. I was shocked and when we took a trip to the states, we went and stayed on the ranch. Marc and I took one of our tracks that we were really passionate about that had a real strong backing track and sat down and wrote it with her. It was an amazing experience and we gelled really well together. She is a great girl.
Marc JB: She is very talented; she is not just the dance artist that you see in all the PR. She is an accomplished jazz vocalist and saxophonist, a very technical, clever and creative girl.
Lee Dagger: Yeah, she is great on the sax.
RS: Kristine W and Bimbo Jones is how it is credited; what part of the record did you do and what part did she do?
Lee Dagger: Marc and I made a backing track like I said, and when I went to Vegas I played a whole ton of different songs and ideas. Her ears lit up when she heard the backing track and we sat down and came up with the melodies, lyrics, and concept. We were trying to do an Ike and Tina Turner “Nutbush City Limits” type of vibe, not your usual “oh is Friday, I can’t wait to go dancing” vibe but a real song. She is such a soulful diva from her jazz background, and when we were writing the song it just evolved and came spontaneously.
RS: Are you looking to explore songwriting more?
Lee Dagger: Absolutely, Marc and I have always been writing. The more that we travel around the world and meet different acts, the more we want to let people know that we are actually songwriters. We have been writing for 12 years and used to have a publishing deal with Simon Fuller at 19. Since Bimbo Jones has been building over the years, people label us as remixers, but we are actually songwriters as well and we are going back down that avenue.
Marc JB: If you strip back all the years of remixing and production that we are known for, at heart Lee is really a poet and a lyricist with great melodies going through his head, and I am a jazz pianist, orchestrator, and a musical director. I have been playing the piano since I was 4 years old and writing a tune since I was 14. We are very versatile.
RS: So if you are writing a tune today you must have a whole catalog of music.
Marc JB: Ron, I have got tunes on floppy disks from Atari 1080s, drawers of DATs with tunes on them, drawers of 4 and 8 track cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, and drawers of hard drives full of tunes. I have always had a Dictaphone and have about 20 Dictaphone tapes full of ideas and songs, it’s unbelievable.
RS: Will all these Bimbo Jones songs ever get released?
Marc JB: Well, a lot of those are from when I was 10 years old having ideas and singing into a tape recorder, there is just a whole wealth of ideas there. From the last 15 years that Lee and I have been working together, we have got hard drives full of amazing tunes. Our original dance folder has got around 700 tunes in it.
Lee Dagger: It is crazy; there are so many ideas and so many songs that even if the backing tracks get tired they can just be revised. The actual topline melody and sentiment of the songs are strong, and with our production technique we can just bring that up to date. Ron, if you know of any really good singers out in America that want to work with us let us know.
RS: You have got to have a bunch of Bimbo Jones songs that are finished, do you have an album coming, and how are you going to get the music out to people?
Marc JB: Well, it’s very exciting, we have just set up 3 separate label deals. Lee and I own Disco Volante records together, and that is the tour that we are going to use to put all of our catalogs out. The next Bimbo Jones album, including the Kristine W song and the Ida Corr song, should be coming out roughly in December. We have had some great heat from the Ida Corr record and the Kristine W song, and we can’t wait to get it out there. Keep your eyes on iTunes, and if you want to be on the promotional list please sign up on marcjb.com or dJleedagger.com and we will be sure to include you.
RS: So the Bimbo Jones label is Disco Volante and that is the two of you, both of you have individual labels as well, what are they?
Marc JB: My label is called Soul Delux. I am building on the Hed Kandi type of business model, where you put out really great music but also have a range of music going from the really hard, deep, twisted, tech house to funky house, soulful and twisted disco and chill out as well. I intend to release a lot of material and put together compilations- kind of like the Hed Kandi and Ministry of Sound compilations. Inaya Day’s “Every Breath” is already out on Soul Delux records, it has been very exciting working with her. “Around About Now” is coming out, which is a track that I have done with a marvelous Canadian singer. It is coming out on Soul Delux, so keep your eyes on Beatport.
RS: And your label, Lee?
Lee Dagger: My label has a bit of a boring name, Dagger Tracks. It gets to the point and people know my surname, though. There are actually people around the world that ask if Dagger is my stage name, but it dates back to medieval England, back to Somerset around the 1500s. There are only about 4 thousand Daggers in the world, so I thought why not “Dagger Tracks.” There used to be a fantastic vinyl store in Soho, London called Tracks, so I used that also. It is going to be a whole collection of different sounds, ranging from funky bits, which I am not known for in my Lee Dagger sets, to a mixture of tougher progressive house, mixed with electro house and tough elements. I have been working with Kristine W, Crystal Waters, and Freedah Soul who is a great singer in Sweden that has a really soulful voice, hence the name. I have also been working with Jade Starling, and that came about when Marc and I did a remix for her on “Dance Revolution.” I just love the whole new angle with the internet and how you can just send someone lyrics or even record on the Dictaphone and all of a sudden a song evolves.
RS: Going back to the two of you as Bimbo Jones, what remixes have you all been working on?
Marc JB: We have recently done an amazing remix of Rita Ora “Shine Ya Light,” and it is amazing. A guy from America pointed out that he was impressed with the mix and the production skills that have gone into it. He was so impressed that he gave us a new Rihanna mix to do off the back of it.
RS: Which Rihanna song is it?
Marc JB: Diamonds
RS: That track is like 85 beats per minute and you brought that up to house tempo?
Lee Dagger: We actually went down a different route; we did a 105 BPM mix. We have been producing different music over the year- like with Sergio Mendez on the Latin tip. People think that we only do dance music but we don’t. We have done this for years, so it was nice to do at 105 and we were capable of doing it, it was a challenge. They loved what we did and we followed up with a 125 BPM for the clubs.
Marc JB: I will give you the Bimbo Jones secret, when you speed up a vocal from 85 to 128 it turns into a song from Alvin and the Chipmunks. For all of you producers reading and want to be able to do a remix on a really sped-up vocal, all that you have to do is cut all the vibrato and end of the phrases out from the original un-timestretched vocal and you then splice them into the time stretch vocal and you end up with a really natural sound. It takes hours and hours, but over the years it has probably got us about 6 months of mortgage money.
RS: On the Bimbo Jones album that is coming out next, there is the Ida Corr track and the Kristine W track, what other vocalists are on this album?
Lee Jagger: The album is called ‘Go Naked.’ Marc and I wanted to call the first album ‘Naked’ but perhaps due to some confusion we didn’t. We finally got to call it what we wanted, and ‘Go Naked’ features a whole lot of artists ranging from the lovely Katherine Ellis, Angie Brown who is an amazing UK vocal diva, Gramma Funk who has a great disco house record, and Beverly Knight who is another UK diva gospel vocalist, like Whitney, God bless her. We have done a song with Cyndi Lauper, but we may be keeping that for the next album.
Marc JB: We also did a song with KC from the Sunshine Band, he was in our studio last Saturday and he is such a lovely, nice guy.
RS: You have worked with so many vocalists and have done so many great remixes; are there artists that you would like to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Marc JB: Well we have a meeting later today with the Dragonette team. We would love to get Dragonette around. She has got a really energetic, fantastic vocal. One of my favorite vocals out of everything that we have remixed is Pink. She has got an amazingly, searing, slightly overdriven voice and is soulful and rocky, it just sits in the mix. I would love to sit in a studio with her for 2 weeks and write a bunch of songs.
Lee Dagger: Every time you get one of Pink’s acappellas, you just tremble listening to the acappella on its own. It is an honor to work on her remixes. I have always loved Missy Elliot; don’t know what she is doing these days but she is fantastic. There are so many people and we are ready.
Marc JB: It has gotten to the stage now where either we have remixed them or they are a friend of someone that we have sat down and done a song with. The music world has shrunk to such a small size for us now that really it is just a question of asking someone to put us in touch. Rather than saying “we are really big fans, please can you put us in touch,” it is more of using our experience and background with others and asking to work with someone. Once they come around and sit in the studio and experience the magic of us working on tunes and how quickly we get things done, people love it.
Lee Dagger: We feed them a nice roast dinner as well.
Marc JB: Oh yes, the Bimbo Jones meals are legendary.
RS: It’s full service. What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Marc JB: I’d like to say thank you so much for your continued support over the years, it has been a long haul but we have stuck it out and now we have our backlog ready to be put out along with all the new stuff. Get ready, and thank you for dancing.
Lee Dagger: It has been 15 years of doing this and with the support of everybody out there we have been able to slowly make our way down the road to where we are now. Without everybody’s support, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this. We are living a dream, and it’s all due to everyone who listens and buys the music, thank you so much.
Marc JB: Yeah thank you Ron!
RS: Is your website bimbojones.com or do you have Facebook or Twitter?
Lee Dagger: Leedagger.com is mine.
Marc JB: Please sign up on Souldelux.com onto my mailing list and I will be sending out free promos.
Lee Dagger: We are going to be setting up a brand new Bimbo Jones website where fans are going to be able to ask us questions and tell us who they want to see us work with or any suggestions of acts that they would like to team us up with as well and get them involved.
Marc JB: We actually got a Tweet the other day and someone wanted to hear a remix from an artist that we had never heard of, so we made the effort and got in touch with the record company, so we do actually listen to peoples requests.
Interview conducted during Amsterdam Dance Event 2012.