How did Kevin Elliott, James Gregory, Daniel Bowater (son of veteran praise and worship man Chris) and a host of singers get to make up the most intriguing dance troupe S'dANCE? Dave Drodge went in search of answers.
Among the many dance acts climbing onto the Megatent stage at Cross Rhythms '96 will be S'dANCE. With their debut CD '...And The Angels Raved On' out now and selling well through mail order. I asked co-founder Kevin how S'dANCE, featuring as it does personnel from all over the country, ever came together. "I knew James Gregory originally from a local youth group in Cheltenham. He went off to do a sound technology course split between colleges in Manchester and Birmingham and I thought that it would be a good idea to use some of the facilities in order to make a Christian dance album. James then met Daniel Bowater at the college in Manchester where he (Daniel) soon became interested and started helping James to programme in some song ideas. I stayed mainly on the management side of things."
But the problem was that whilst the music was taking shape, they didn't know of any singers that they could use! "We prayed a lot!" recalled Kevin. "Then one day I was listening to a Spring Harvest tape and was struck by the vocal talents of Beth Vickers, a new name to me. I mentioned this to a friend in London, who 'just happened' to know how she could be contacted." One trip to the college studio en route from Croatia to Scotland (!) and the superlative "More Than A Father" was complete. "At the Cross Rhythms festival the World Wide Message Tribe's producer Zarc Porter heard it and was impressed by both the song and Beth's singing," added Kevin. As a result, Beth is now working with the Tribe full time as part of their new girl band Shine.
So what of the other singers heard on '...And The Angels Raved On'? "Genifa Edwards was a friend of a friend," explained Kevin. "She is part of the Sheffield Community Gospel Choir and funk band Dig The Dog." Kevin heard singing teacher Alison Eve of Eve & The Garden (the Celtic roots team you read about in CR21) at a recording studio and again at Cross Rhythms, "where she suggested doing some choral singing over an instrumental acid-techno track that later became 'Justice And Mercy'." Later, Daniel's sister Sara (who is one of triplets) wrote one of the standout tracks "Sing Song" and ended up singing the duet "Don't Pass Us By Lord" with a friend of Beth's, Doug Walker. As well as singing on several other tracks, both he and Beth are featured vocalists on the soon-to-be-released 'Jumping In The House Of God Volume 2'. "We have been keen to promote the singers whilst staying out of focus ourselves, so we're more than happy if we manage to launch or further their careers," said Kevin.
The name of the album actually comes from a favourite T-shirt of Kevin's. "It had 'and the angels raved on' on it. I thought this was great as the Bible says that there is a party in Heaven every time a soul is saved. And we want to see that happen through our music." So the purpose is primarily evangelistic? "Yes, that's how we saw it at the start but we began to realise its potential for use in evangelistic worship too. We feel that many Christian dance albums only have a couple of tracks that are genuinely useful in worship. We wanted to do a whole album of worship-oriented stuff. But we recognise dance music as being the most valid way of reaching the youth of today."
The majority of work on the album was done in November when the group booked Zarc Porter's main studio in Manchester for a paltry four days. "In this time everything from transferring the semi-completed tracks over to Zarc's Apple Macintosh system to vocal recording, mixing and pre-mastering was completed "by working for 20 hours a day and sleeping on the studio floor!" This time schedule was undoubtedly made workable by the use of the hard disk recording system, which allowed the singers to do their individual bits, and then go home while James, Daniel and Zarc's sound engineer Matt Wanstall edited, arranged, mixed and pre-mastered everything within the computer ready for despatch to the CD manufacturers, who then mastered and pressed the album. "We spent as much money as we could afford to on mastering the album because we wanted to get the sound just right. This is very important in dance music."
The group had originally promised over an hour of music on their flyers but on returning home from recording, the album only ran to 59 minutes! "Unknown to us, Matt Wanstall had taken a shine to 'Sing Song' and had done a totally new 8-minute remix which he called 'Munkees Lightening Club Remix'." S'dANCE loved it and it was sneaked onto the album at the very last minute. "We weren't the only ones who liked it. It featured as Cameron Dante's no 1 on Kiss FM Manchester before the album was even released!" Kevin added.
S'dANCE don't have a recording contract, so I asked how they're distributing their hot album. "We are getting the album into selected Christian bookshops and specialist shops via our own Funky Monk Music label. The main way though will be selling the product via mail order." So what's next for S'dANCE? We are planning to do PA's with various singers at Christian events across the country. So far we have been booked for Spring Harvest, Grapevine, Cross Rhythms and Remix festivals. We're very keen to hear from any singers/dancers who might want to be involved." And after that? "We hope to get the album distributed in the States. A 12" single is also a possibility."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.