TF Archives

House Music's Number 1 Singer: Chicago's Robert Owens

Author: Jonty Adderley
Sunday, March 3, 2002
"It's never been important to me to be seen as a pop figure with that kind of status, I'm always around people and they always give me something back when I'm DJing. It's about the vibe that's created when we're all there together in one room. You should be grateful for what you get, anything else that comes along is a bonus."

That Robert Owens remains largely unknown outside the dance world is testament to the fact that fame doesn't necessarily accompany success. That he genuinely doesn't want it is also abundantly clear given the selection of classic house anthems on his new compilation "Love Will Find Its Way", which includes Fingers Inc's Can You Feel It, Frankie Knuckles' Tears and his own definitive house anthem Ordinary People.

Chatting to Skrufff's Jonty Adderley this week from an undisclosed location somewhere in West London, the man Muzik once labelled "the greatest male voice in dance music" was both humble and entertaining as he outlined his philosophy on life and the music business.

"If you absorb too many negative thoughts, then how can you really hear anything constructive- And if you haven't heard something then how can you know it's there- If you can learn how to tune your mind in a certain way then you can become receptive to different forces," said Robert. "You forgive but you don't forget".

Skrufff (Jonty Adderley): You've been releasing tracks for over 15 years, why have you decided to do this compilation now-

Robert Owens: "This project has been under development for well over two years after Johnny from Harmless (Records) asked me why nobody had ever released a collection of my music. I'd never thought about it before and, in fact, had forgot about lots of the tracks until I went to their office and saw how much music they'd collected for it (chuckling). There's possibly even a Part 2 in the pipeline because they found so much material. The tracks I've chosen are more about telling a story rather than a Best of compilation."

Skrufff: How did you sequence the collection-

Robert Owens: "I said a big prayer and I asked the heavens to descend on my mind and that's how it came out- I just trusted the spirits that surround me. Hopefully, if people feel something from the music then they're been touched by the source. It's telling a story of a journey about life, life in general with its up and downs. It's about the changes in life and not losing your vision or your dreams, no matter what. Love will find its way."

Skrufff: You co-wrote one of the first real acid house anthems Can U Feel It in the mid 80s with Larry Heard, how did that come about-

Robert Owens: "It started as an instrumental which Larry did all on his own and he wasn't really sure about it at first. We started performing it at clubs like Paradise Garage and Zanzibar and people really liked the words. He released it as an instrumental, then later I came to England and did a vocal version, for which half of the proceeds were supposed to go to the Martin Luther King Foundation. That's why I did it originally."

Skrufff: How do you see dance culture in relation to today's uncertain world, does it have power beyond just entertaining people-

Robert Owens: "Definitely, it's a universal language. Through the message of music you can see on the dance floors the same expressions and the same joy, whatever the nationality of the people. The key is to bring some happiness to peoples' minds for that 2 hours, to absorb them in happiness to dissolve all of the negative things they may have endured."

Skrufff: You sound very sorted. .

Robert Owens: "It only came when I learned to isolate myself. I'm a real reclusive, lonely kid but that's life. I'm not absorbed my too many unnecessary things and I see a lot of people going through unnecessary experiences that they take on themselves. Life's all about not absorbing unnecessary things and emotions even through daily work experiences."

Skrufff: What made you understand this