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Leiam Sullivan

AT ONE point it seemed like the same old story.

A group of eager young hopefuls – who are every talented but also very naïve – start to make wonderful music and are taken under the wing of a backer who is more worldly wise and get taken for a ride. It happens all the time.

beeswaxBut the devil doesn’t always get the best tunes. The forces of good and grooviness sometimes get their act together. And that’s exactly what happened with Rotherham’s highly-regarded Beeswax label, which is run by music heads Lee Oakes and Leiam Sullivan (usually known by his DJing name of Sully) and business brain Robert Lovell.

“The deal was that we would set up Beeswax as an independent dance label alongside Empire Studio’s own mainstream label, and anything we did that had mainstream potential would be released through them,” says Robert, who is by far the gobbiest of the trio. “We didn’t want commercial mixes on our records, we didn’t want to go in that direction at all. They didn’t listen to us.”

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Dave Beer & Ali Cooke

IT’S nine o’clock on a cold Saturday evening and Ali Cooke and Dave Beer are in their tiny office in the labyrinthine Music Factory, looking suitably shagged out after a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to collect Back to Basics’ prestigious Mixmag club of the year award last night.

The two bleary-eyed promoters clearly enjoyed the occasion to the full. They are not at their best. And all this less than a year after the club’s first night.

“I didn’t even realise you got awards for stuff like that,” Beer says. “When we set the club up, it’s not as if we did it to put ourselves in the limelight.”

“Dave wanted to go to a club where he’d like the music and the people around him,” adds Cooke, who also DJs at Basics. “And I wanted the chance to play the kind of music I want to play.”

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Martha Reeves

UNLIKE many people who turned up on Berry Gordy’s doorstep when he established the Motown label, Martha Reeves was invited.

Working as a cleaner through the week and performing in clubs at the weekend, Reeves was spotted by Motown A&R man Mickey Stevenson one night in the Twenty Grand in Detroit.

“He gave me a card and said, you have talent, come to Hitsville,” says the formidable Miss Reeves over the phone from her home in Detroit. “He went all over the city, gathering up singers and musicians.”

One of 12 children, Reeves was raised in a god-fearing Alabama family and first sang publicly in her grandfather’s Methodist church after the family moved to Detroit.

It was in Detroit where Reeves fell under the benign influence of her godmother Beatrice.

“She was a woman who took me under her wing and took me to a lot of plays and concerts at the theatre – with my mom’s permission, of course – and I saw Lena Horne when I was about three years old,” remembers Reeves.

“She was so pretty and she was singing the blues. As a child, I couldn’t imagine anyone like her being unhappy, as pretty as she was. And later I was influenced by Della Reese. I saw her in church and she was singing Amazing Grace. The next day I saw her singing one of her songs on TV. I identified with her and she became my role model.”

Attending Northeastern High School alongside Supremes Flo Ballard and Mary Wilson – practicing singing while she washed up in the family kitchen (“the acoustics were good,” she explains) – Reeves was part of the generation whose parents escaped poverty in the South to reap the benefits of contributing to the war effort in the North.

But not everyone was content to work for minimum wage on the Ford Motor Co production line.

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Penny Rimbaud

TWENTY years ago, Britain was beset by riots, right-wing extremism, simmering racial tension, mass redundancies and a crumbling social infrastructure. Its Tory government, buttressed by a seemingly unassailable parliamentary majority, appeared to be hell bent on cementing the ‘special relationship’ with the United States, no matter what the cost.

Meanwhile, a largely indifferent population shrugged its collective shoulders and got on with checking its bingo numbers.

Britain then was, of course, a very different place to the land of milk and honey we live in today. Times have changed. We’ve all moved on. Haven’t we?

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The Shamen

I’VE got all kinds of crap that I’ve accumulated over the years. Stuff I’ve written, posters, flyers, diaries, notebooks. Most of it isn’t particularly important or profound. You know, it’s just crap. I took the opportunity to get rid of a lot of it when I was moving out earlier this year. I had a bonfire.

I should probably have sorted through it a bit more thoroughly. But I couldn’t be arsed. It didn’t seem important.

One thing I did rescue from fiery oblivion was an unpublished interview with the Shamen, which I’m guessing is from 1989. It was done for Grunt, the fanzine I was involved in at the time, and typed up on Chumbawamba’s word processor – probably my first experience of new-fangled computers.

It didn’t run because we stopped doing the fanzine, partly because I was a lot more interested in 24-hour partying than pretty much anything else, partly because everyone else who was involved was busy with bands, families, actual work etc.

I think I went to the Shamen’s travelling rave experience Synergy a couple of times. I remember, well, not much, apart from the Shamen being fantastic and feeling impressed by the seamless presentation, with no gap between the DJs and the live music (I think Eskimos & Egypt were also on the bill).

Some time later, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that the infectious rave anthem that had been hammered all over the place for the last few weeks – the one that went, I can move, move, move any mountain – was actually the Shamen.

But all that was in the phuture.

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Unique 3

BRADFORD’S Unique 3 have been mixing up reggae, house and hip hop into over-the-top, bass-heavy dance music for a couple of years now. On the eve of the release of their new single Activity, they talk to Expletive Undeleted about bleeps, basslines and Belgium.

Even by bad taste nightclub standards, the fun palace where I’m to meet Edzy from the Unique 3 in Bradford is impressive.

It’s the kind of place which utterly transcends abstract concepts like taste and style. It’s huge, it’s gaudy and it’s one of The Hitman and Her’s more upmarket future stop-offs. But despite all the free aftershave, the multiple screens blasting out MTV, and the gold plating around the ornamental goldfish pond, the bottom line is that the gents still smells like a gents.

The rest of the club is as grandly decked out as the pissoir, with all the state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment you would need to make Sharon and Darren’s Saturday night go with a bang. All in all, there are a lot worse places to spend a Saturday night, I suppose.

But only if you can actually get through the door.

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Craig David

JAMES the tour manager has just reminded Thalia the make-up woman that Craig the popstar has to be ready for the pre-gig press conference at 4pm.

The presence of Danish television camera crews necessitate Thalia’s presence – some of us have an image to keep up – although David doesn’t seem to need much work. He looks far healthier than any man in the latter stages of a European tour has any right to. He’s positively glowing.

Craig David is the most promising singer/songwriter this country has produced in years. He’s got an effortlessly lovely and soulful voice, he knows how to write a decent pop lyric, he’s young, good looking and suddenly he is everywhere.

“There’s all this fuss being made and I’m just thinking, I’m just this guy from Southampton who writes a few songs. It’s a bit surreal, to be honest,” he says, visibly perplexed by it all.

Sometimes it seems like Craig David is the living, breathing embodiment of multicultural Britain at its wholesome best, with his flawless coffee-coloured skin and catchy soulful ghetto-pop. At the very least, he’s a pin-up boy for a generation of teens. Unlike previous UK soul contenders such as, say, Mark Morrison or even Omar, Craig David is about as threatening as Sir Cliff Richard.

Thalia diligently pads away at David’s face, stopping when he waves his hands around. She doesn’t seem to be doing much, some white stuff goes on and then instantly disappears under her brush. A brown smear, a shade or two darker than David’s skin-tone, goes on and vanishes just as quickly. We all swap over halfway through so she can do the other side of this face.

A homegrown and wholesome British talent, David doesn’t drink – apart from an occasional glass of wine – doesn’t smoke and doesn’t take drugs. The only chink in his careful diplomacy comes when he says he “hates” smoking. He doesn’t even swear – “knackered” is about as close as he gets.

But he’s looking good on it.

Unlike the crazy kamikaze nut-job who created Wired For Sound, Craig David still lives with his mum in Hampshire – if the 19-year-old globetrotter can be said to live anywhere. And rather than talking about sharing Mistletoe & Wine with all mankind, he talks about sharing Champagne and jacuzzis with all the ladies.

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