Already gaining rave reviews in Billboard is the hot new album by the RHYTHM SAINTS Francis Blight spoke to the team's Stephen Nixon.
Sometime in 1996 sees the release of '(Golden)', the second album by the Rhythm Saints. In 1994 they gave us 'Deep Sustained Booming Sounds' which, produced by Stephen Nixon, was an engaging mixture of styles ranging from pop dance to the brilliant ambient tracks "Translucent" and "LA Story". With '(Golden)' there is a move up in the quality. Larry Flick, the dance correspondent for mainstream trade mag Billboard, has gone gaga over it calling it "67 minutes of pure house bliss from the brain of Los Angeles upstart Stephen Nixon." In fact, although now settled in California where he heads up the Design Department at Christendom's premier dance company N-Soul, Stephen is a Brit, originally hailing from Stoke-on-Trent. The official line up of the Rhythm Saints is producer/songwriter/ conceptualist Steve and his wife Lee-Jane Nixon though on '(Golden)' there was additional programming and production from Matt Wanstall (remember his amazing Breakspear mix on the 'Cross Rhythms' compilation?) plus help from a bevy of British vocalists including Shade, J Philip Gillespie and Mike Heath. In the words of Bard Flick '(Golden)' "is fuelled by spine-crawling rhythms that exude the obvious influences of classic Chicago and New York house as well as the flair of UK garage and the quirkiness of the West Coast subterranean scene." One standout is the airy trip hop styling "World" featuring Lee-Jane's mysterious spoken vocal. The Rhythm Saints have a non-musical member of the entourage, Leonard Zimmerman, who is described as the Rhythmsaints' visual engineer. He is in charge of all their graphics including a soon to be launched web site on the net.
Stephen started getting ideas for '(Golden)' soon after completing the first album. So it's been a long time in the making. 'Deep Sustained' wasn't everything he hoped it would be which isn't surprising considering that only three weeks of studio time were available for it to be recorded-and mixed in. This time round Stephen has had a chance to produce something of real musical quality. The album is being released on Scott Blackwell's new Velocity label which was specifically started as a vehicle to give the more club oriented acts on N-Soul's roster an avenue into the mainstream. Stephen explained: "There was a lot of interest in N-Soul, but the vision for it was going in more of a contemporary pop direction with releases like 'Gina' and 'Nitro Praise'. There was a load of acts coming along like Rhythm Saints, Mind Bender, Prophecy Of Panic and Paradigm Shift that Scott wanted to see crossover. Velocity was started as a means of giving a platform for Christian artists who didn't necessarily want to do Christian music. They just wanted to do cool music and they were Christians who wanted to do it."
Stephen's hope for the album is that it "inspires people, uplifts people and leaves them with a few questions. I don't offer a lot of answers in my music, it's not ministry-oriented music, people like the World Wide Message Tribe and dBA have that thing down. I hope it entertains people. It's dance music, it's made for dancing."
Stephen explained his approach to his music: "My music comes from the perspective that I'm a Christian, just the same as I am many other things. If I'm true to that and I don't run in the opposite direction, then that will permeate and move into my work, just as a natural process. I am a Christian, I believe the standard Christian things, there are a lot of different things that I also believe and wrestle with, things that I've got to come to terms with. I'm working through the process of faith. Those things come out in the music. I don't feel called to directly minister through my work, though I am more than aware that the Holy Spirit can, and will minister through Rhythm Saints. To have any credibility in what I'm doing, I've got to be honest. I can't set Rhythm Saints up to be Stephen Nixon's ministry to people, through music. I can't set it up to be something that it isn't. I've just got to be honest and say I just want to create music. I love dance music, I love listening to the stuff. I love, well, I used to love The Shamen until their latest album, and I can't see why I can't do music that's that cool and still retain my faith."
Stephen became a Christian aged 17 through a process of events which started with a challenge to look into Jesus from Lee-Jane when they first met while working at BBC Radio Stoke. Said Stephen, "We were working together in the studio one night and I noticed a cross or a crucifix around her neck, and it was like, 'What's that doing there?' She explained to me that she was a Christian and I was thinking, 'This girl's a Christian but she goes out. She goes clubbing.' She challenged me that I couldn't reject the idea of Christ if I hadn't looked into it."
Stephen spent six years working for the BBC as a radio producer and
then moved to work for UCB, the Christian satellite radio station in
Stoke-on-Trent where he started playing some of Scott Blackwell's
tracks. Having written to
Scott asking for more information on his music, Scott got in contact. Stephen found himself out of work and Scott suggested the idea of him coming over to produce The ClubHouse radio show in America. This Stephen did, selling his car and record collection in the process. The ClubHouse ran for three years although none of the 13 stations that it was being broadcast on were paying for it, so it couldn't continue. However, good has come out of The ClubHouse for both America and the UK. After the show stopped in the States many of the stations which it was broadcast on started their own dance music shows, and in the UK Manchester's Kiss FM are interested in doing a regular ClubHouse show after a two hour special edition was broadcast on the station last Easter. Dance buffs should also look out for the vinyl remixes of Rhythm Saints' '(Golden)'. British based Jordan Jay has been commissioned to do them. Hopefully they will be out in the not to distant future. With two albums under his belt, Stephen and Lee-Jane are pretty excited considering that when they first moved over there the most they hoped for was to work along side Scott. They truly seem to have a '(Golden)' future before them.