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Soma's Envoy- Music Saved Me From Street Life

Author: Benedetta Skrufff
Sunday, June 20, 2004
"If it wasn't for music, I would have ended up on the streets joining a gang; instead I chose to learn the scales rather than learning to play pool. Even today I still don't know what fruit machines are."

30 something British tech-soul singer Hope Grant began his journey into music aged 8 when a TV presenter philanthropist opened a theatre work-shop near his tough London council estate. Becoming a successful child actor, he grew up to
discover acid house, going on to sing with ultra-successful rave-pop pioneers Bizarre Inc and more recently with Scottish techno stars Slam (with whom he also toured the world for several years). Ass well as singing for others, he's continually worked on developing his own music under his alter ego recording name of Envoy, specialising in soulful house and funky techno with a highly eclectic, creative twist. And new album Shoulder to Shoulder (out now on Soma) is his best work to date, distinguished by his top-notch song-writing capabilities plus the fact he's one of the few contemporary artists with real vision plus plenty to say. Not that his journey's got any easier since his childhood, particularly the last six years he's spent labouring on Shoulder To Shoulder.

"Let's just say that I've been to hell and back quite literally, but I've pulled through, it's been a really hard time, but I wouldn't have expected it to be any easier," says Hope.

"Six years between albums is a long time, and if I'dd my way the album would have come out at least three years ago, but I have learned from the experience, I'm more confident and stronger from it, now I'm just glad to have my music out and especially to have found likeminded people at Soma. I believe that struggle is part of being creative."

Skrufff (Benedetta Skrufff): You released your last album Where There's Life back in 1998,a time when dance music appeared all-conquering, what do you make of the state of play of the club scene today-

Envoy: "In terms of the current state of play, I'd say nowadays it's much harder than it was before, though I must say the initial response my album's had from the industry has been great so far. It feels like everything has become smaller around the scene and the clubs; though everybody I knew back then is still around now. Perhaps the reason why the scene is smaller is because those whose hearts were not in the right place are no longer involved whereas those who are passionate about it are still in the game, which is good news."

Skrufff: Your press release says 'Maybe Envoy is the fly in pop music's ointment, the vocalist who looks to shatter the manufactured boy band stranglehold", is pop a label you accept-

Envoy: "I let the audience be the judge of that. The release is talking about one specific song on the album called Move On, which is different from the rest, though it doesn't really strike me as a pop song as such. It's catchy for sure, but often I find myself pigeonholed into labels which I'm not entirely sure fit me. All I hope is for my songs to have a meaning and appeal to a wide audience."

Skrufff: How much do you see yourself in competition with boy bands or manufactured R&B singers-

Envoy: "Absolutely not. I don't actually consider myself as being in the same arena as R&B singers at all. And as for the boy bands; well, they can go and kiss my ass."

Skrufff: You've called the new album Shoulder To Shoulder after a George Bush speech: why did you choose such an overt political message-

Envoy: "If you knew me you'd know that I'm the most un-political person in this world. When I buy the papers, I usually look at the back pages first since I'm a sport addict, but I'm a night person too and at night I listen to the news which are always repeated over and over again in the background. It was during Bush's Iraq War speech that those words he said really stuck in my head. Shoulder to Shoulder can also mean something other than that p