Spiller's Miracle Worker - Dance Music's Top Dog Songwriter
Friday, January 5, 2001Rob Davis, the man behind the lyrics of both Spiller and Fragma's number 1 hits in 2000, began his musical career, writing and performing with 70's pop/yobs Mud before meeting a young Paul Oakenfold who turned him on to dance music in the late 80s. Mezz spoke to the British writer just before Xmas, about his latest project, 4 Strings' Day Time, a Dutch trance record which is out now on am:pm.
Mezz: How did you first get involved in the 4 Strings record-
Rob Davis: "I'd done something for that 'camp' (group) a year previously with Armand (Van Beuren), and they sent me the track a few months ago with the request that I try and write a vocal. I had a go and it seemed to work. I did the vocal here (in the UK) with a girl, they liked the vibe, so she flew out and redid it with them in Holland."
Mezz: You're written for 70s popsters Mud and other rock/pop acts before, how different is songwriting for dance music-
Rob Davis: "It's more limited because you can't meander around- Normally with dance music you don't want to get too complicated. There's been lots of big hits with one liners but I'm always more song-based. I like to do at least a verse/chorus, verse/ chorus structure. With most dance songs that's all I do, perhaps adding a few adlibs or chants and non lyrical parts."
Mezz: How did you get involved in writing dance music-
Rob Davis: "Throughout the 80s, following the Mud experiences I started listening to more black music, and ended up doing albums with people like Oliver Cheatham for Champion Records. I also did some hi-energy records in the 80s, then later on I met Oakey (Paul Oakenfold) because he used to live near me in Carshalton (Surrey). He used to come around and we'd talk about where music was heading- he knew exactly where it was going, scene-wise and music-wise. He started taking me out to some of his gigs in 1989 and I liked the vibe I found there and also the tracks."
Mezz: Were you going out raving with Oakey-
Rob Davis: "I used to go to his gigs for just a few hours usually, really just to check them out, I'm not exactly a dancer; not unless I get really out of it. Paul's great, because he tries out acetates of new tracks at his gigs. Back then many people didn't understand the (musical) drops in dance music, so clubbing was more of a research thing for me."
Mezz: Fragma's 'I Need A Miracle' was another number 1 hit for you in 2000, as a result of a bootlegger combining your 1998 Coco vocal with Fragma's instrumental, when did you first hear it-
Rob Davis: "I actually heard it before Positiva even picked it up (signed it). Kiss were playing it for a while, and I remember phoning Positiva up to ask if it was being released and they said 'No, we know about it but we don't think it's coming out'. Obviously it became so big, they went for it."
Mezz: The Coco version didn't do much first time around, what was your reaction when the Fragma version then took off-
Rob Davis: "It was weird, especially so with the Fragma one rather than for Groovejet. It (the Coco tune) felt like a really tasty song for a dance track as soon as it was written and it's quite difficult to get a song to feel magical over a simple backing track. I remember my publishers going bananas (getting excited) when they first heard it- everyone knew that it worked. It went into the top 30 first time round with a backing track I did with Victor Imbres."
Mezz: Which bits of Groovjet did you write and which bits Sophie-
Rob Davis: "I had no involvement in the production, instead I was given a backing track to write something with and I did the whole tune. I didn't hear anything for a while, then they vocaled it, re-versed it and used my chorus. I think Sophie must have written the verse."
Mezz: Have you met Sophie yet-
Rob Davis: "No, though I've been hearing I might get Tags