"1998 was the summer of love in England," says Chris Sheppard, referring to the heyday of the Manchester rave scene, "and 1998 is the summer of Love Inc."
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Love Inc., a musical triumvirate that features mix-master Bradley Daymond and chanteuse Simone Denny as well as Sheppard. Canada's best-known DJ/promoter/remixer/producer, have just put the finishing touches on their eponymously titled debut album. A beat-laden exploration in pop, the first single Broken Bones has already caught fire, garnering a #1 chart position on the National Dance chart for an unprecedented eight weeks. The track further entered the Pop charts in the Top 15, and the video reached #1 on Muchmusic.
"Through my work as a DJ and a promoter in the rave scene, I've found that certain sound frequencies help stimulate the brain's production of endorphins," Shep says. "I spend a lot of time trying to create quirky sounds, and I take these frequencies and bring them into a pop music context. I guess you could say that we create pop music with very sharp edges, with obvious influences from our dark club past to it."
Music fans are already familiar with the many compilation albums that Shep has been involved with, titles such as Dogwhistle, Groove Station and Club Cutz 101, not to mention his long career as a radio D.J. and remixer for bands like New Order, Jesus Jones, and Skinny Puppy. For someone who has worked with everyone from Rick Rubin and the Beastie Boys to PshychicTV's Genesis P-Orridge, forming one's own band was a logical next step. The ambient electronic trio BKS, which also featured Henny Bekker and Greg Kavanaugh, released a string of successful albums during the early 90s.
It was while working with BKS that Shep was first introduced to Simone Denny. "Someone played me a tape and I was like 'who is that voice'. I knew from that moment that I wanted to work with her," Shep recalls. Denny's previous musical outings included being a session vocalist on numerous hits. She was thrilled with the opportunity to become part of a collaboration. After the demise of BKS, the two recruited respected local producer Bradley Daymond ('NSYNC, La Bouche, and Ace of Base), whom both Shep and Denny had worked with previously. In June of 1997, Love Inc. was born.
For Denny, Love Inc. is about spreading a message of optimism and hope. "The album has a very positive vibe," she says, "in You're A Superstar I sing the words 'Every other night/You've got your name in lights/You're a superstar.'"
Shep, for his part, is quick to point out that there is more to the Love Inc. sounds than just aural ingenuity and slick production: "This is not just surface stuff. I've lived as a kid on the street, and in a song like 'Homeless' I feel that I'm addressing some deep issues. The lyrics tell it like it is: 'Apple wine helps you pass the time, as the snow builds up around your cardboard house.'"
Broken Bones has helped push sales of the latest MuchMusic Dance Compilation over the 700,000 unit mark in Canada and has won over listeners in both the dance and pop music camps. Beneath the song's driving bass beat and resounding vocal line is a bit of personal autobiography - Shep shattered his right knee in late 1996. "At first they told me I wouldn't walk again," he says, "but I had really excellent doctors and I feel lucky that I've fully recovered. There's no shame in falling down - the only shame is if you don't get back up!"
Predictably, Shep is reluctant to see himself slotted into any single musical category: "At one point I was voted #1 alternative D.J., then the #1 dance D.J., then the other day they called me the undisputed king of pop music in Canada," he says, "but I don't like to work under those premises. I never underestimate the intelligence of the audience. I've never felt like I wanted to be bigger than the audience - my goal is to be right there with them, at one with them, and to play sounds that would take them over the top."
Having always been strongly associated with the underground, Shep is nonetheless excited by his relationship with BMG. "I think the independent world is crumbling to a certain extent," he says, "it was a great place at one time and it will be again, but now is not that time. The majors have changed so much, and the new guard really understands where I'm coming from. I mean there's a woman heading this company (Lisa Zbitnew, President of BMG Music Canada). That stuff turns me on, girl power you know?
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