UK PROG HOUSE ICON BLUE AMAZON TALKS ABOUT HIS LATEST VENTURE ‘RESONATE TOGETHER’May 10, 2021
Blue Amazon aka Lee Softley is a name that has been associated with quality dance music for several decades and is considered a great contributor to the electronic music scene and industry.
No stranger to success his productions have included the progressive club classic – No Other Love, (number 1 record 1990s) The Javelin album – remixes for the likes of Sasha, Skunk Anansie, New Order, Placebo through to artists such as Madonna.
Underground club collaborations with Alex Flatner and Robert Owens on Kling Klong Records, collaborations with Disscut from Germany, Louie Le Fink and of course Zak Gee with their interpretation’s series and more.
As a DJ he has also been very proactive over the years whilst outputting his creative style of mixing, producing a DJ style that cleverly merges Progressive, Electro, Techno and House elements in a unique way. He’s featured on many dates worldwide including dates in Germany – Tours in India – USA – Mexico – Australia – Europe and he’s currently resident at Joy Techno sessions Leeds with guests such as Joey Beltram, CJ Bolland and Dave Angel.
He consistently working on new projects and forward-thinking ideas, whilst labels such as Convert, A Rec and Radiate spring to mind we caught up with Lee to find out more about the developing and ultra-dynamic Resonate Together.
IUM: Resonate Together – has quickly developed from being a DJ mix website to a respected radio show and record label. How did all this transpire so quickly and what is the motivation behind it.
Blue Amazon: Like a lot of things in my life, one thing starts and it leads to another, I start with one idea and it develops quickly to a bigger picture.
The resonate website was introduced last September as a reaction to the lockdowns and the limitations of stream options. A lot happened quickly and forced a lot of DJs to reconsider which platforms they used to output their DJ sets. I’m not going to hide that I was fully behind it because statistically prior methods clearly outlined a lot of damage had taken place in terms of music rights and artist wealth. I don’t think any of it was malicious but we have to move forward and work on a better future for all.
As DJs, we rely on artists/labels work to do what we do and it needed to be addressed
The web site started mainly to include Mixcloud players from various DJs, all catalogued in one place and to help to search and find your favourite DJs, unknown DJs and genre easier. Quite quickly DI FM offered me a radio show to reflect the diversity of the web portal and the shows being included. They also heard a diverse DJ set I recorded at the time and thought it was inspiring.
The show started quite sporadically at first but shortly after more DJs came onboard who loved the concept and wanted to be involved. Now the show it’s a weekly 3-hour (every Saturday from 8 pm till 11 pm) and it’s become a real showcase of DJ sets.
I have to give credit to the DJs – Rich Primrose, DJ B -12, Hugo McCann and Hall North who came in from the very start and really embraced the opportunity and concept
These guys helped get the concept going and it’s massively built from there. DJsinbox – also helped by bringing in some inspiring DJs such as Marcus Nilla and Michael Grant – one to watch.
The label was born from the radio shows and the outstanding mixes we have heard that were diverse, exciting, intriguing and all things we love about electronic music – so the question was, what if there was a label that could also coincide with this creative output? A label that is happy to push music/artist first creatively without being ridged to a style of the genre. A departure from a branded sound label and even the ones I have been involved with previously. The label is quickly progressing – heaps of music coming through and will be more diverse as it plays out — I’d say we might surprise people in a good way as it continues.
IUM: What do you look for in DJs when selecting them for the radio shows and pushing their mixes out?
BA: There’s no prerequisite for the shows in terms of sound, style or other. We want the DJs to be expressive in any way they choose. It’s an open platform to explore and be themselves.
I have encouraged diversity as it leans to a better listening experience but in contrast, some of the DJs have produced stylistic shows, for example, the ambient mixes – Tim French and Nigel Dawson did, but they were still very entertaining. Other DJs have merged Techno with House, Electro, Breaks, D&B and ’80s / pop tracks – for example – Enrico Ponti.
The thing is about DJing is
I feel we have to remember what the goal is, we are there to entertain people
in whatever capacity or style possible. Like the music stores It became trendy for DJs to pitch themselves in one area but that can fall into a trap of one-dimensional branding and output. It might make it easier for marketing purpose but it can become very predictable.
I’d say track selection, an element of surprise or being technical about what you do can be your unique touch.
There’s no need to try to sound like other DJs or get into this idea of 10 tracks in a row that are all Samey just because they are new
IUM: The Resonate Together label boasts being 100% royalties return to the artist and evidently, that’s already working, how is that possible, why would you do it for free and what’re your expectations of the artists?
BA: Well, it’s no secret that I am fully behind supporting artists and being compensated for what they do. It’s not all about money but when we have an industry that’s reliant on artists work and they become the bottom of the food chain, how does that work?
I think a lot of labels and even the more established have to start looking at it. it’s not the 90’s anymore where lots of format buying was going on. Back then artists were compensated for what they did and the labels also had to invest. It is 2021 and due to audience choice of music platforms, there isn’t as much value in downloads etc. – that’s the way it’s gone, but we can’t have artists producing music, supplying labels with quality, building label brands and say well that’s just the way it is.
We don’t have to accept that
My thoughts are, if the DL sales are now lower value then why does the label need to take anything? The labels build their brand building from the artist work, they get to sell T-shirts, masks (recently), other items and even tour nights outside of covid. Fair is fair surely? Or maybe pay the artist advances or other more regular, invest into longer promotional activities and artist development, you need them to build your brands.
This is the principle of Resonate Together – it’s
the bigger picture that’s important and not micro money management
– the label will bear its fruits because of the artist work. I’m super pleased that the artists involved have received some funds, either that be from Bandcamp sales, advances remix funds or store sales/streams – and this is early days.
In terms of the artists, is important that they try to push their releases and even better help out with other artists releases. The key to all this is in the name of the project – Resonate Together – as the saying goes – strength comes in numbers. It’s very much the case that, what you take away from all of this, is a reflection of what you put into it and that’s the modern way. It’s very easy to use social media these days to create some awareness – everyone needs to get involved.
IUM: What is the sound of the label and are you looking for specific sounding artists?
BA: Like the radio shows it’s open-minded, I just look at music from a point of is it good? is it intriguing and entertaining? etc.
I will release music that I wouldn’t play or favour myself if it works, why not – again who’s it for me or music fans on a whole?
So far, we have had prog / melodic house, Techno, Indie dance, touches of electro, synth groove and a bit more. There’s some cool music on the cards that’s like daft punk disco eques through to more breaks ish.
I’d like to sign a few more bits of 80’s influenced electro, Breaks and Indie dance material but only because that’s my thing, again as long as it is good we can do it and support the artist’s process of finishing the music if required.
IUM: How does an artist send demos in?
BA: There’s is a reply – submit box on the about page of the web site, or they can use the email firstname.lastname@example.org. Dropbox links, SoundCloud private links are good to use as its easy to listen to straight away. I try to get to emails as quickly as possible but sometimes it takes me a couple of days.
If it’s a Mixcloud DJ set you would like us to consider adding to the web page – send the Mixcloud link.
IUM: You have talked about Resonate DJ mix projects incoming, what will that entail?
BA: Resonate Together was always intended to develop into a commercially released DJ mix series. It’s now in progress with a few output ideas that include several music catalogues. It’s a slightly different process to other DJ compilation companies, we don’t at this stage have full licensing freedom to secure any piece of music that a DJ would like to use commercially in a mix and work from the catalogues we secure in advance.
It’s another opportunity for DJs to be a bit diverse and creative in their DJ mix work. The first series will be ready to roll out soon and then I can update you on that.
IUM: After Covid, are there any plans to take Resonate to the clubs with a featured night/event?
BA: Yes, this has already been mentioned, enquired about and would be fantastic to do. I’m thinking more on the lines of teaming up with another running night and maybe we can have a second room or something like an edition.
Potentially this could happen in Leeds or else were, I’m open to ideas but I think
we need to ensure all is safe first and well before jumping into things
IUM: As Blue Amazon are you working on any new material or developing new music projects?
BA: I’ve talked about this before and said how bored and frustrated I became from what I was doing or just putting off doing it. I’ve had a massive rediscovery period with music, a full reset and starting again. I didn’t like falling into a trap of repetitive habits because it’s familiar. Unfortunately, the past year and particularly
the past 6 months have been very challenging on a personal level and music recording had to just take a massive sideshow
But I’m happy to say – a massive YES!
I’m getting back at it there some new remixes of BA free series I did called Camumdong which is out now. It includes new mixes from Miki Mad and Steve Goldsmith who is new to the project. There quite techno- ish remixes following on from the original free series, for anyone interested – Camumdongo – is the Portuguese translation for mouse, my friends in brazil understand why.
I’m also working on a new collaboration with my buddy Enrico Ponti – it’s early days in production but it’s already sounding cool, cool 80’s influences and electro. Maybe in a few months, I will be up for starting some more collaboration projects with some others who have asked. I have music projects and ideas coming out of my ears – if time were to permit,
I could easily record 4 new albums from what’s already here and that includes full vocal tracks. So, it’s going to be a great productive time over the rest of this year for sure
IUM: You have also been talking about music mentoring, how is that taking shape and what’s the motivation there?
BA: I’ve been around education for a long time, either that being music-related or IT as a lecturer. That in itself sounds very formal which I don’t particularly like and certainly when it comes to music.
Academic environments have made me question how effective they are for music production/sound engineering-type subjects and more importantly, are they inspiring? How much is about fulfilling dated academic criteria vs guidance, personal input, creating drive/spark? It also can be very expensive and can create debt.
Some people don’t get the opportunity because of entry requirements, but they would be potentially outstanding if given a chance.
Give everyone a fair chance – punk wasn’t formed from ticking boxes or rave culture
That’s not to say that there aren’t good courses out there in electronic / music and I’ve met some great tutors over the years that are committed and unique.
I started to analyze my starting point in music which was very limited, I achieved at a decent pace without any training or academic formality.
From literally not knowing what C was on a keyboard/piano to working on commercially released projects at a good level materialized within a few years. I guess that begs the question was somebody else doing all the work and I was monitoring? No, I was always heavily involved in the process from the start and hands-on.
I realized that this was achievable and built from guidance, personalized input from some great musicians like James Reid, engineers and also music industry people who knew the industry inside out.
I’ve already started private mentoring sessions online via Zoom which is quite cool, you can share screen/audio, work live on music sessions and more
It’s early days but it’s already been really rewarding seeing the development of the people I’ve been online with. Some are at starting level but yet within a few sessions they are writing and producing music at some level already.
I try to minimize the fuss, explore the options and ideas available and inspire motivation. Being inspired is a massive motivation in music and can carry people very far. It makes everything so much easier to achieve, relative and learn. This is something I will continue to do and running alongside the Resonate Together project.
IUM: Do you have anything else in the pipeline to share?
BA: Well apart from my projects which are getting back on track, there’s more music from Miki Mad, Mal Black on route, a project that will include Lee Coombs in progress, more Hall North remixes, Audioglider Ep is still rocking and Damien Spencer new single is coming +++++++ heaps of others.
There is one project a little bit further down the line which I will do backflips about, I can’t say just yet but it’s an artist I’ve been listening to since as 13 years old. I’ve also been asked about doing some tech reviews for music equipment, which Id also love to do.
Resonate Together Web: www.resonate2gether.com
Resonate chat group : https://www.facebook.com/groups/resonate2getherchat
BANDCAMP : www.resonatetogether.bandcamp.com/
Blue Amazon – Facebook: www.facebook.com/blueamzon