Kym Mazelle

For one night only, Disco Spectacular is on Saturday 6 October at the Sydney Opera House and with an All-Star line-up of International Guest Vocalists such as Kym Mazelle one of the Pioneers of House Music, Norma Jean Wright (Formerly of CHIC), Cynthia Johnson (The Original Voice of Funkytown), Ultra Naté (Stars On 54), Denise Pearson (Five Star) and Pauline Henry (The Chimes) accompanied by a forty-five piece orchestra making this is one show not to be missed.

Kim Mazelle who was a very important and integral pioneer of the 80s House music scene was gracious enough to have a chat with Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles. Known as the First lady of House, Mazelle gave us an insight on how the House music scene was formed to how she helped changed the dance music scene through the mid 80s and early 90s along with other major contributors. Mazelle is no stranger to Australia having been here a few times and it will be one spectacular night of Disco and Dance!

Are you looking forward to coming back to Australia especially performing at the iconic Sydney Opera House?
I cannot wait to get back to Australia. It’s been about 10 years since I was last there and I really, really enjoyed myself there. Such a beautiful place, beautiful people, I had great food. Oh my Gosh! And to be at the Sydney Opera House? I just can’t even! I’m so excited.

Have you performed at the Sydney Opera House before?
I’ve never performed at the Opera House. Noooo!

This will be exciting for you!
Oh my God! Its, I’m like “I’m so nervous”. I’m excited and nervous at the same time!

You’ll will be fine. I’m sure you’ve performed many times amongst 1000s of people! This won’t be any different.
Well you know and working with the ladies, I get the nerves anyway. I get a case of the nerves for every performance and this one being really super special I’m sure I will have a big case of the nerves. But I always get through it. I always get through it!

Have you performed with a Symphony Orchestra before?
Yes, I have.

Have you sung disco songs with a Symphony Orchestra?
No, no I haven’t. This will be totally different. We didn’t do anything like this! This is definitely out of the norm. I’m like “oh ok! Well, it should be swinging!” (laughs)

It will be!
Yeah. I’m excited to see how the set up is going to be. It’s just “aahhh”. It’s gonna be very special I can just say that right now. I already know.

It’s with a forty-five piece Symphony Orchestra. So, its going to be great!
Well in the words of my Mother “That’s not just whistling Dixie is it?”

How does singing with a Symphony Orchestra compare to singing with a normal live band?
Well it’s a lot of sound. You’ve string sections and you’ve got horn sections and then you’ve got a band in the middle and then all these strings and horns and vocals. We had a small choir as well. It was quite a lot. This was about ten years ago in England when I did this. And ahhh yeah it wasn’t disco! (laughs) So I’m looking forward to it. I know the sound is going to be amazing! And some of the songs that we are doing are going to be great. Disco classics that everyone knows. I hope Sydney, Australia is ready to partake in some disco and some dancing and singing along! I hope the audience engages with the show. We want them to PARTY!

They had a similar Disco show with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and there was a mosh pit where people dressed in 70s gear could dance and party!
THIS IS WHAT WE WANT! (gets excited) This is what we want! You know who we have coming to the show? Cynthia Johnson from Lipps Inc, Norma Jean Wright the original singer of CHIC, Ultra Nate, Denise Pearson from Five Star, Pauline Henry from The Chimes and obviously myself who worked with your Baz Lurhmann from the Romeo and Juliet movie. We are dance artists so we really love people to dance.

Have you sung with any of these wonderful ladies before?
I’ve worked with Pauline through the 90s and Denise Pearson and I have done some work together but not singing together. We’ve been on the same show. But we’re going to do something special together as well that I hope everybody enjoys that. And I’ve never worked with the Norma Jean Wright or Cynthia Johnson. Their era was right before mine so I pay homage to them as great artists. That helped paved the way for me.

So not being your era workwise, did you grow up during the Disco era?
Yes, I grew up through that era! I mean who doesn’t like disco? Its some of the best music and the music of the 80s is also remarkably amazing.

So, through the early 80s there was still a disco sound which then transitioned through the mid to late 80s bringing the House music sound.
Yes House music was late 80s and early 90s and then it transitioned to Dance Pop then Trance then EDM as its known today. It has a lot of terms like disco, dance, house. EDM.

What was it about House music that you were drawn to it or was it drawn to you?
It kinda came to me because I’m one of the pioneers of its development. I don’t know if that makes me old (laughs).

No, I think it’s just makes you a legend!
(laughs) Yeah, I guess so! (laughs again) So yeah it wasn’t known as a genre yet really. You know we had the early days all of us – me, Steve Hurley, JM Silk, Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles all of those early people helped graft it and brought it over to England and Europe and the rest is history.

Did you enjoy that style of music? Was it something you wanted to be a part of?
As I said to be one of the creators of it, of course you love something you’re creating. You actually making a new form of music so of course you love that. And there’s nothing more exciting than creating a new form of music you know, so those early days of getting it right and getting it wrong like should that be an 808 drum or a 303 or what ever just early days of making this music and taking it to clubs on a cassette after leaving your living room and trying it out on the dance floor by one of the DJs was special. I mean DJs weren’t even popular then like they are now. We’re going back thirty years.

Were you excited that people were enjoying this kind of music and accepting it and wanting more of it?
Absolutely! Absolutely! We had a little club that we would try everything out to and then eventually you know we would press the records, many copies and they all ended up in Europe. That’s how we all ended up in Europe, London, Paris and Italy. That’s how it started off, really coming off the back of Disco. Obviously Disco was our Mother! (laughs).

Obviously now you live in the UK. Is that what brought you there and made you stay?
Yeah, they did. When your industry is bringing in a new sound and it caught on like wild fire and it started supplying the music for raves and it was an underground song that eventually the main stream picked up on. There was a special compilation that came out with all our Chicago house music and it just went a bit crazy over in the UK and Europe and the next thing they sent for the artists and I was one of the first ladies to come.

Is there an obvious difference between the Chicago House sound compared to Europe?
Well yeah there is a different sound from when it spread even to New York and Detroit. Once they got a hold of the sound and finding out what was happening in Chicago and caught on to the formula everybody had a different sound distinct to their region. You know like the New York house sound was a little bit different. They didn’t know anything about the (starts singing) “Jack Jack Jack Jack Your Body” they didn’t know anything about Jacking. They didn’t actually even really understand what house was but they just started mixing up sounds and adding that old disco era sound like only New York can. Like only New York can! They came out with their own sound.  I don’t know with London. It was a bit more broken. I didn’t totally get it at first. You know it just all caught on and became one big boiling pot.

Its great to have music develop into different sounds and each area have a distinct sound to it. The Chicago house does have a different sound to the UK house sound. There is a big difference but I love it just the same.
Yeah! Like making a quilt. Everybody added their own as Carole King would say Tapestry to the quilt. The dance quilt became a very beautiful quilt that kinda covered the world with sound and music. You know people went from nightclubs in the US to Raves outside in middle of fields in the UK and I’m talking the mid to late 80s. I’m not talking about now where we have the super festivals outdoors with all these lights and extravagant props. Before we were just in a field with speakers (laughs). And I mean in the UK it was illegal. We weren’t supposed to be there! (laughs) It was so much fun. 1988 was the Summer of Love. That’s what they called it here! It was amazing times you know and like I said, out of loving dance music and out of loving disco a historic thing where America decided to take Hip Hop and England took House to dance. So that’s how it cultivated 30 years ago. This will be the thirtieth year! It started in 1988 and I was the first major signing to a major record label for a House artist. My album came out in 1989.

I remember when House music first came out it didn’t really have any major artists it was more promoted about the music so for you to be signed was a big thing.
It was a HUGE thing. It was a huge thing and it was also very exciting and scary for me all at the same time because everything was thrown on me because they didn’t know what to do! EMI Records was a major label they were used to things being already formed. Well here’s something new that wasn’t formed so every DJ was thrown on my project. I had eleven or twelve different producing DJs. I had C&C Music Factory, Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Pete Tong, Fat Boy Slim, I had just everybody. I mean it was great! (laughs) I was like “What is this gonna sound like?”.

Obviously, it sounded great because it was successful.
Yeah it did. It came out really great. It was during a time when one record sounded like the other and the other but mine obviously had different sounds because I had different people making the record. But it did all sound like House and obviously I did a dance pop record with the Dr Robert and the Blow Monkeys on my album as well.

Being in the industry for over thirty years now you would have seen and experienced a lot in that time. How has the industry changed, and do you think House music is still relevant now? Like Disco is making a resurgence in popularity do you think it’s the same for House music?
It’s the same for House music. House music is played in Ayia Napa (Cyprus), Ibiza (Spain) and the whole EDM scene is basically House. You know it’s basically House so there loads of House music festivals. They kinda mix the 80s House and Disco together for a lot of these different events and you get so many people! A lot of the House music became more popular from their samples from Disco. You know we used the (makes a shh shh shh sound) from all the disco records. That’s the sound of House. I shouldn’t be giving away the formula (laughs). Its been 30 years you know!

Its ok I’m not about to start my record career anytime soon. Your secret is safe! (Laughs)
(laughs) A good cook never gives away her recipes! Right? (laughs) But yeah there’s a big resurgence of House music, Dance music, 80s, 90s because a lot of the people that enjoyed that music are now in their thirties and forties and they go out and they have disposable income and they want to remember when they were nineteen. It just all repeats itself. Everybody is really into live entertainment. A lot of people are fed up with reality TV because it’s not really reality. People are always screaming and belittling each other on these shows. So, people want to go and dance where they were happy! We wanna have a good time. We don’t want to watch telly and look at people screaming at each other. A lot of people like to go out and pose for selfies and be around superstar DJs. I think between Disco and House we created the superstar Disco DJ now which oh God I wish we wouldn’t of! (laughs).

You’re always creating something new! (joking) You’re always in the fore front! (laughs)
Yeah! (laughs) There you go so that’s why something like having live musicians, a 45 piece orchestra recreating the sounds of this music is just really amazing and important. Yeah, its good for musicians to be working too not just DJs! We could have a DJ scratching with the orchestra! (laughs) I don’t mind!

That’s would be awesome!
I wouldn’t mind that (laughs). But its really wonderful in my thirtieth year as well. I’ve had a few thirties in the recent years so I’m really excited. I just can’t wait to see the Sydney Harbour and see Sydney. I know Sydney’s changed in the past ten years since I’ve been there. I have friends there and fans there that have followed me from the days of the Romeo and Juliet movie.

I’m coming to the show. I wouldn’t missed this for anything!
Fantastic! I’m sure the ladies will be dressed to the nines because you MUST sparkle darling! I know I will be sparkling!

Being in the industry for so long is there a memory or something special that stands out to you in your career that is a highlight?
It was almost a jaw dropping highlight. I’ve had a few jaw dropping highlights. I’ve had lunch with Princess Diana which is definitely a jaw dropping highlight. And working in the studio with Mick Jagger. Those are the two jaw droppers. I was like “Really? Is this real?” Then Mr Jagger was like “Can I take you to lunch?” and I was “YEAH! I guess you can”. They were just jaw droppers. I mean also selling out Wembley Arena, me and Alexander O’Neal and working with Soul II Soul and touring the world with them.

I was going to ask you about Soul II Soul. Missing You is one of my favourite songs. What was it like to be involved with Soul II Soul?
That was pretty amazing as well because I was promoting House music and I was at one of the clubs singing my records from my album and some guy comes up to me at the side of the stage and says “I have a song I want you to come and sing on. Come and help us write it!” I was like “Really??” I was looking at this guy and I didn’t know who he was. I knew who Nellee Hooper was because he was my mate already but it turns out this guy was Jazzie B. We went into the studio. We wrote Missing You at 3:30am in the morning. I wrote that song and sang it and that’s what it became and I was like “Oh my God”. That’s another jaw dropping experience too because while I was writing Missing You and recording it in the other room they were finishing Nothing Compares To You by Sinead O’Connor and Ghetto Heaven by Family Stand so it was all going on! There was so much energy from ‘88 to ’92 that it’s just you couldn’t escape it. It was amazing. Just amazing!

Your hit Young Hearts Run Free was a massive hit and still is today. What makes your version of the song resonate with listeners that its still requested on the dance floor today?
Its just amazing. Its an iconic song. I think two really good-hearted people were blessed to sing that song – myself and Candy Staton. I think the production on the version I did was such an iconic dance production that coming from House and Dance that it gave it that extra pitch. Also, being featured in several times in the movie Romeo and Juliet it gave me such a platform that I just couldn’t keep up with it! Its been introduced to new generations still through that movie because a lot of schools use that movie to teach Shakespeare oddly enough which is fantastic and phenomenal. And I love singing that song. I love being a part of a history of a piece of work that is bigger than myself.

Its one of those songs that stands the test of time and will be played years from now. It won’t be forgotten. It will continuously be played through the years and decades.
It won’t be forgotten. It just won’t be forgotten! Just the title in itself “Young Hearts Run Free” says so much.

Will you be singing that song at the Disco Spectacular?
Should I say? Should I say “You will have to turn up and see!” (laughs) Get your tickets now!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What does the day in the life of Kim Mazelle consist of when you’re not working?
There so much to do. I have social media. I work with a young girl doing all the social media stuff. I also work in Education with young boys and girls just helping them with the difficult formative years where they can’t figure out who they are, or they struggle because now social media gives them so many flashes of imagery making them feel that they need to be “there” already before they can even grow up. But I’m like “No! You need to enjoy your youth and teens and figure out what you do well for you” and “You’re enough”. So, I like to empower youth and I do that through education, through my experience and through the Church and through Christianity as well. Just trying to help them have self-confidence. So, I do that by speaking engagements and teaching.

I like to swim, walks in my park and most importantly sleep!  I need to sleep darlings! So yeah, life is important and if you have the opportunity to travel and make your own dreams come true by having obstacles yourself because it was never handed to me on a silver platter. I had to hold on to my dreams and make it happen. Even being knocked down many, many times more than most people would get back up for to still go for it. So, I think with that life experience and knowledge and celebrity behind me I’m a good person to encourage kids because they’re quite taken with the celebrity culture even though I don’t think its totally good for them at all. I think the people kids should look up to is who I looked up to – my community, my Mum, my Dad, my Aunts and Uncles, my teachers. I think this era is taking kids away from looking up to people close by to looking up to people far away that don’t even know them. So, I just try to encourage them to look closer to home for their heroes and sheroes and what they want to do with their lives and how they want to make a living. That’s my little bit I can do to give back to the community. Its something that I believe in and its precious.

Lastly is there any question that you wish an interviewer would ask you but they never have?
There has been a few but they are beginning to ask some of the questions now like the beginning of House and my role in House music because for many years a lot of the girls were left out. It was just about the guys and the DJs and I was like “Excuse me we the girls sang on the records!”. That’s slowly beginning to change. And they are beginning to ask about my role working with these DJs so that’s one of the questions “How was it working with the DJs?” and helping make their careers! How do you feel about that!

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

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