Home » How They Got A Great Lead Vocal - Transcript

How They Got A Great Lead Vocal – Transcript

This is a picture of Craig Hardy in front of a piece of artwork sent to him from one of his Russian fans. His music under his pseudonym 'LeFlex', is very popular in Russia and the surrounding territories. He never thought he would gain recognition for his productions, not his vocal ability. But he's very content with how it has all unfolded.
Author
Lemar
Special Guest: Craig Hardy

Please Note: The Lemar Show is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able to, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that is not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Lemar (00:00:00):
Craig?

Craig (00:00:01):
Yes.

Lemar (00:00:01):
How are you first and foremost?

Craig (00:00:03):
I’m doing very well.

Lemar (00:00:04):
Yeah. He’s in the middle of moving at the moment. He’s moving his studio though, to somewhere else. So we’re in his studio, which is, um, it’s, it’s been neater than this – [laughs]. It’s been neater than this, but I think it’s the sign, of creativity. You’ve been extremely creative and I can see all the, we won’t give away the secrets, but I can see all the stuff. So much equipment around the room, but we found a spot where we can have a chat. Alright so, I remember, you weren’t here when you told me this story, you were in another place, another one of your houses. I remember I asked you, how did you get into music in the first place? How did you start working in the music industry? Or no, actually. Have you always wanted to do music or was there another path that you wanted to take?

Craig (00:00:52):
No, it was always music. I left school early in fact, to do music . By law had to do my GCSE’S and stuff, but…

Lemar (00:01:00):
How old [were you] when you left?

Craig (00:01:03):
[I’d] just about turned 16.

Lemar (00:01:05):
16!?

Craig (00:01:05):
Yeah. I had really good GCSE grades and stuff, [and] everyone was saying you need to come back and do A levels or whatever the equivalent was at the time, but all I wanted to do is do music. So, I just started doing that. I joined a little crappy boy band at the time, and got a few keyboards and stuff together. And when my mum and dad saw that I was serious about it, they bought me my first synthesizer [keyboard]. A little Roland [keyboard]. Because before that, [all I had was] a little electric organ, that my granddad had, that I was trying to do music on – [laughs].

Lemar (00:01:37):
So your dad could play?

Craig (00:01:39):
Well, my granddad played the electric organ and my dad played the guitar. He used to be in a couple of bands in the sixties and stuff. So…

Lemar (00:01:46):
[Don’t] you find that, that was a thing back in the day? A lot of people in the sixties and seventies in school, they were always in a band or, you know, played guitar or keys or something.

Craig (00:01:56):
Yeah. Back then I think everyone did. There was like a big explosion in the sixties when my dad was around, you know, everyone wanted to get guitar and be in a band, and stuff like that. So music was around a lot. My dad was very much into the bands, like The Beatles etc, but my mum has always been into soul music.

Lemar (00:02:15):
Nice. Good woman!

Craig (00:02:15):
Motown and soul is her thing. So I got to that side of things from my dad. And then my mum was the soul.

Lemar (00:02:23):
You got a good balance right there.

Craig (00:02:24):
I got a really great balance. And so that was always, what I wanted to do. And so the second I could get out of school and start doing that. I just knew that I wanted to do it in some capacity.

Lemar (00:02:35):
Did you know what in music you wanted to do? As in playing an instrument or being the front man or?…

Craig (00:02:41):
No, I had no intention of being a front man. I wouldn’t have minded being in a band, that was just for fun, but songwriting is what I always wanted to do. And to this day, despite all [of] the other things that I’ve done, a ‘songwriter’ is what I would describe myself as. I wouldn’t call myself anything else. The other things that I’ve done along the way have just been, because I’ve had to do them in order to help with the song writing and the production and stuff like that. So I started doing that and just gradually, very slowly [you] network your way and meet different people. And it leads to things, which leads to things, and leads to things.

Lemar (00:03:15):
So you left at 16…

Craig (00:03:16):
Yeah.

Lemar (00:03:16):
Uh, I guess your parents weren’t too pleased with that?

Craig (00:03:21):
They were delighted actually, because they could see…

Lemar (00:03:24):
Are you joking or really?

Craig (00:03:25):
No, no really. They’ve always been so supportive. They basically said, look, we know the passion you have for this, and we can see that you’re good at it, or [at least] we think you’re good at it. And we’re quite happy to support you. Cause I was volunteering to work in studios, just to get experience, to find out how records are made. I had no idea at the time and those sort of places you could go and maybe help out and, you know, wash cars and clean the toilets for hopefully 10 minutes sitting next to the mixing desk. And so you would volunteer and you wouldn’t get paid. And so I wasn’t earning any money. So they basically said, do what you have to do and we’ll support you as long as you need it, which was fantastic.

Lemar (00:04:06):
Wow! Okay. Forward thinking parents. Round of applause for Craig’s parents there wow! – [Clapping]. Forward thinking. And do you remember your, your first job when you left, when you were 16? Musical job?

Craig (00:04:18):
Um, yeah. It was at a little recording studio, not far from where I lived. Again, it was just like a volunteer, turn up, work experience type thing.

Lemar (00:04:27):
Where did you grow up?

Craig (00:04:28):
I grew up in Woolwich. Southeast London. And then moved to around the Bexleyheath and Welling area. So the studios were around there. I started sort music lessons when I was seven, so I could play the keys and stuff.

Lemar (00:04:45):
7? Nice.

Craig (00:04:45):
Yeah. So I was useful in the studios. Not just to sit around and make tea. They found out I could actually play a little bit. And so I was sort of dragged in [to things].

Lemar (00:04:52):
Use this kid, use him! He’s good.

Craig (00:04:54):
Yeah. He’s here for nothing, we might as well rinse everything we can out of him. So I used to play little bits and pieces like baselines and stuff, for people that were coming in and using the studio, that couldn’t play. It was a good experience.

Lemar (00:05:05):
Okay. So that was your first job. How long did you last there at 16?

Craig (00:05:10):
Um, it wasn’t too long because the band thing started happening a little bit.

Lemar (00:05:14):
Oh hold on. You were in a band!?

Craig (00:05:14):
Yeah, I did the little boy band thing at the time as well. That was fun because obviously…

Lemar (00:05:20):
Nice! Have you shown me a picture of that?

Craig (00:05:24):
I may have shown you a picture in the past. Yeah.

Lemar (00:05:26):
I think you have. – [laughs]. There was a period for rock bands and then it went into the boy band and girl band phase. And that was very interesting. So you were in a boy band, what was the name of your boyfriend?

Craig (00:05:38):
Well, first of all, it wasn’t a boy band where we all stand around and danced ‘routines’. We had instruments, I stood behind my synthesizer bank…

Lemar (00:05:45):
What are you trying to say about these other boy bands? What? They, they couldn’t play? – [laughs].

Craig (00:05:51):
Well. I generally call them the lead singer and then the ‘book ends’ – [laughter].

Lemar (00:05:52):
[Laughs] – But you guys were playing…

Craig (00:05:56):
We were playing, so we were actually, we weren’t a ‘boy band’. We were a ‘band’…

Lemar (00:05:59):
You just so happened to be young boys.

Craig (00:06:01):
Yeah. We wanted to be in Duran Duran or something like that.

Lemar (00:06:04):
Are you trying to avoid the question? What was the name of the band?

Craig (00:06:06):
Oh no, no. The name of the band was ‘Storm’.

Lemar (00:06:09):
Storm? Thats not actually so bad! That’s quite, you know… huh! [Deep voice] ‘Storm’. No, but when you say it you have to say it like this [deep voice] ‘Storm’.

Craig (00:06:17):
Yeah, that was what we were ‘trying’ to go for that,

Lemar (00:06:20):
Yeah you can’t just say [normal voice] Storm. Although at that age it was probably [high voice] ‘Storm’.

Craig (00:06:21):
It was, it was ‘very much’ like that – [laughs]. The band was called that before I joined, I was one of the last people to join. They were desperate for a keyboard player. So I stepped in and, um, I was quite shy, so I was happy to be stood behind the keyboards and let me,

Lemar (00:06:35):
Is it? You were like me, I was shy.

Craig (00:06:36):
Yeah. You look it – [laughter]. We did a tour of girls schools, we thought, that’s the way to get popular [locally]. So we would go to the headmistress of the local girls school and just say, we’ll come and play at lunchtime and give the proceeds to the school or something. Charge 50p on the door.

Lemar (00:06:55):
50p?

Craig (00:06:55):
Something like that.

Lemar (00:06:55):
That was probably about like, five pounds back then.

Craig (00:06:58):
Yeah. So we would play the girl schools. And then because of that, all the girls in the local area knew you, and you would go to the shopping centre on a weekend and then you’d get chased. They would recognise you “There’s Storm! Oh my god!” – [laughter] So of course I made sure I was at the shopping centre without fail at 9am! – [laughter]. Just ‘trying’ to get recognised, you know.

Lemar (00:07:16):
[Laughs] – Did you have a manager?

Craig (00:07:21):
We didn’t at first. We did get some very dodgy managers [at one point].

Lemar (00:07:27):
Although I think every artist who starts off, luckily I’m not one of them, but a lot of artists when they start off, they do have a dodgy one in there.

Craig (00:07:35):
Yeah, [we did]. It was just like, local businessmen that ‘wanted to have a band’.

Lemar (00:07:41):
Just to say they’ve got one.

Craig (00:07:42):
Yeah. Years later, we, we were still going and we actually did get managed by, Duran Duran’s manager. Very briefly.

Lemar (00:07:50):
Duran Duran?

Craig (00:07:50):
Yeah. The manager was looking for some new stuff and, um, I think it was around that time, we sort of realised we had no talent – [laughter].

Lemar (00:07:59):
Thats harsh. You had talent.You could play keys!

Craig (00:08:04):
Well, I think I had talent, but I was too shy to use it. I didn’t want to speak up and say, ‘well, I’ve got some ideas’.

Lemar (00:08:09):
I see. I’ve seen that in the music industry. Unless you speak up and speak your mind, no matter what’s

going on,iIt can become a bit of a daunting place, you know? So yeah, I understand you.

Craig (00:08:20):
But it was, around that time actually, that I met somebody that years later led to, not exactly my big break, but it, it sort of set the path for the rest of my life.

Lemar (00:08:34):
Okay. So tell me about that.

Craig (00:08:34):
Well, there was a guy that was a DJ at the Hammersmith Palais, whose name was Phil France. And he had done a Grease Megamix. It Became a hit in the UK at some point, you know, 20, 30 years back. He basically just ran all the Grease songs into one another and that was his thing. He bootlegged it. And then it got signed by PWL, Pete Waterman’s [record] label.

Lemar (00:09:03):
Oh Pete Waterman.

Craig (00:09:04):
So this DJ at the Hammersmith Palais was now involved with Pete Waterman, who’s like the [main pop] music mogul in the UK. And just around that time, I’d started working at a studio at Hammersmith and he was there. I met him and made contact with him and realised what he was doing. PWL, and Stock Aitken & Waterman, [to me] had always been, [while I was] growing up, the ‘super pop’ thing. I was like absolutely huge fans of the music they did.

Lemar (00:09:31):
Nice.

Craig (00:09:32):
And so the band carried on for a couple of years after that and once it broke up, I was like, what do I do now? In an ideal world, I would work at PWL for Pete Waterman. How do you do that? I was ringing up the studios and they’d say, we’ve got like a years waiting list of applicants just to…

Lemar (00:09:48):
A year?

Craig (00:09:49):
They said, ‘we just throw CV’s in the bin when they come in now because we’ve got so many people waiting’. And then I thought, I wonder if that guy is still involved? I had a little Saturday job stacking shelves in the freezer department, and I was so depressed being cold and stacking these shelves. I literally remember, I walked out of the job halfway through my shift and said, I’m never going back there. And the next day I got some train money off my mum. And I went up to the PWL studios and I basically just knocked on the door, walked in and just said, is Phil here? And he came down and it was obvious that he didn’t remember me in the slightest – [laughter], obviously I must’ve said something to him that triggered something, but he, I knew he didn’t remember me. I basically said to him, look, I just threw myself at his feet. “Mercy, just I’ll do anything here. Whatever you want me to do? I’ll clean the toilets, whatever, just, I just need to be around this place”. And so he basically just said, well, look, we can’t pay you, but I really need help mailing records to DJ’s.

Lemar (00:10:52):
That’s the real test of anyone who wants to get into the music industry. When you say, do you know what, we can’t pay you… ‘But’. Then it’s all about your desire and your passion. If you really want it? Then you’ve got to try.

Craig (00:11:02):
So again, my mum and dad said, this is fantastic. It’s a great opportunity. We’ll support you. God bless them.

Lemar (00:11:09):
I love your parents.

Craig (00:11:11):
Yeah! And so I started working there practically full time, and I would just stand by the mail-out machine. They called it a franking machine, and I would put 12 inch vinyl records into these big cardboard envelopes, and then put them through the machine where they would get labeled / stamped for mail and then [put] into big sacks. And then the postman would come and take them and they would go out to DJs. The the DJs would then send in their reaction sheets [after they’ve had a listen].

Lemar (00:11:37):
And that was at PWL?

Craig (00:11:39):
Yeah. At PWL in the reception. It was just a big mailing [operation].

Lemar (00:11:42):
At that point. Aren’t you thinking? This is so far from what I thought I’d be doing, but d’you know? I’m in the building. I’m going to stay here.

Craig (00:11:48):
Yeah! I just want it to be in the building. I could hear music being made. There were famous people coming in out, and I’m just stood at the machine doing this mailing. I was doing 1,500 big vinyls a day and the paper cuts on my hands…

Lemar (00:12:01):
1,500!

Craig (00:12:04):
The pain I was in. Just the repetitive strain on my muscles from doing this. And the paper cuts. I would wash my hands and just wince because of the pain from [it]. But I didn’t care.

Lemar (00:12:16):
It’s like the karate kid. ‘I will do this for the end goal!’ – [laughs].

Craig (00:12:18):
[Laughs] – Yeah – it was like my sort of, wax on wax off! Then I would make tea for whoever came in and then, [using] my friendly, amiable nature, I get to know people in the building and say, hello etc. Eventually, I get moved from the mailing machine to the phone lines. And then I have to find the DJs up and say, I’ve sent you the records. What do you think? Can you put it into your DJ chart?

Lemar (00:12:42):
So [basically], you’re at the studio, PWL are making records, sending them out to the DJs and then you’re chasing them up.

Craig (00:12:49):
Yes. I’m phoning them up, basically just saying, please play our records, please write them in your chart, etc. And my desk was right next to Pete Waterman’s office. So he was in and out all day. I’d say ‘Hi Pete, how you doing?’ and he’d say ‘Hi kid, how you doing?’.

Lemar (00:13:02):
He’s not useful yet. We don’t need to know his name. [Your name is] ‘Kid’ until you’re someone – [laughs].

Craig (00:13:07):
[Laughs] – And Pete absolutely loves to tell a story. It’s like his favourite thing in the world, to hold court and tell a story. So I would just play on this. I would constantly say, Pete – then ask him a question where I know that he’s got a story – and he would tell me stories and so that way I just got to know Pete Waterman, which was great.

Lemar (00:13:24):
Did he get to know your name?

Craig (00:13:27):
Yeah! But he calls everyone kid. So…

Lemar (00:13:29):
[I guess] it’s easier then you don’t, offend anyone [that way]. If it’s kid, kid, kid then its fine. Yeah.

Craig (00:13:32):
Yeah. And so an opportunity came up, a couple of people left from the studio. Lower in position. And rather than go to the big pile of CV’s, I basically jumped at the studio manager and said, I want to work in studio.

Lemar (00:13:47):
Hold on. So they asked, can you bring some CV’s [across] so that we can have a look [through]. And then you said, ‘Um, actually! What about me?’

Craig (00:13:56):
No. I just heard [that] someone was leaving. And so before they even got to the point of advertising or asking someone, I just went straight in and said, I’ve heard such and such person is leaving. I want to work in the studio

Lemar (00:14:06):
What did that person do?

Craig (00:14:06):
They were just like ‘tea-boy’ or something.

Lemar (00:14:10):
Oh! So it wasn’t even, [that] you’d heard someone who could play keys is leaving. You just thought, their position was inside that room, that I need to get into, so I need to take that position.

Craig (00:14:17):
That was it. They basically said, yes, we love you. You’re great. You’re the right person, and you’ve been around so, yes. And literally the next morning, I got taken off the mailing staff and I was in the studio and I was being taught how to set up patchbays and set up the desks. I mean, I’d never seen the proper SSL [mixing] desk and all the proper gear before. I’d only worked in small studios, and there I was in this major studio. So I was just studio assistant. No one knew at this point I could do anything. I was literally just happy to be in the room and just shut up and watch.

Lemar (00:14:49):
So up to this point, no one knew that could play keys.

Craig (00:14:51):
No. [Or that I could do] anything. Or that I had any aspirations to do any sort of writing or anything. So if we can fast forward a little bit. I basically did that for, let’s just say a few months, at least. Just watching, starting to learn how records are made and it opens your eyes to how it all works.

Lemar (00:15:10):
I think that’s important, you know, especially when you’re around people who have knowledge in what it is that you want to do, or are higher up in the chain or [higher on] the ladder. It’s important sometimes just to shut up. Just to look and see how and why, what they do is as good as what they do is because, I don’t think success is a mistake. Success is the result of when someone puts an effort into whatever area it is that want to and luck comes along, but they are so well rehearsed in what it is that they do, that they execute. And that’s why success comes. So I think that’s really good, to just keep quiet and watch sometimes.

Craig (00:15:48):
I mean, it opened my eyes to seeing how certain things were done. They did things in ways that you could never have imagined. The studio techniques, which I don’t recall necessarily now, but I remember at the time thinking, wow, that’s how they do that! I think it was the first time I’d seen people using double tracking.

Lemar (00:16:06):
For Vocals?

Craig (00:16:06):
Yeah, for vocals. I remember two instances [that come to mind]. There was a Kylie Minogue multi-track that was on the desk and it had two tracks for vocals. And I remember, one vocal was up [on the mixing desk and was] playing. And it just sounded like a little girl singing. And then the second fader gets pushed up to double track and then it just moulds together and all of a sudden, it was the sound I knew from the records! That’s how they did it! And then [on another] occasion, we had a multi-track come in from America, which was Kool & The Gang…

Lemar (00:16:40): Oh, Whoa yeah!

Craig (00:16:40):
And, um, that got put up on the [mixing desk] and the lead vocal was four tracks! So instead of double tracks, it was quadrupled tracked.

Lemar (00:16:49):
Four!? For the lead? So, not the lead ‘and’ [the] backing vocals?

Craig (00:16:53):
The lead ‘alone’ was the four tracks. And again, I mean, I’m a huge, huge fan of Kool & The Gang. [But] the one fader goes up and it’s, quite a thin weedy voice.

Lemar (00:17:04):
It’s not the Kool & The Gang that, you know.

Craig (00:17:07):
Yeah! [You think], that’s not who I know! And then you push all the faders up and then the four voices become this one voice. And there is the character! There’s this voice that I know!

Lemar (00:17:15):
So you’re telling me that all four voices [were used to make the one voice?] So it’s four [individual] takes!?

Craig (00:17:19):
Four Unison’s. Four lead vocals. Yeah it was four. Whether they were all mixed at the same level [is debatable] but…

Lemar (00:17:27):
Yeah different levels and probably effects. Maybe one’s got a bit more reverb, and one’s a bit more dry…

Craig (00:17:32):
Yeah and maybe one’s running a delay or something. But it was incredible! There was the sound of Kool & The Gang. The lead vocal. But it wasn’t there with the one [track]. So it was things like that, that opened my eyes.

Lemar (00:17:43):
Don’t give away too many tricks! Don’t give away too many! – [laughs].

Craig (00:17:44):
They’ll all know whats going on! – [laughs]. It was also the job of the lowliest studio person to remain until the night shift started. So if the day’s work was finished at 7:00 PM, the night shift, doesn’t start until 10 30 PM.

Lemar (00:18:03):
So you’ve got three and a half hours in the studio on your own?

Craig (00:18:05):
[Yeah] Or just to sit around and have a cup of tea, watch TV, or play whatever you want, do whatever. But all the senior people go home, so I have to sit there and wait for the night shift [staff] to turn up because it [was a] 24 hour studio. I remember, I was sitting in the studio and I got some keyboards up and I was just sitting there playing some keys. I was playing some bits, just messing on my own, no one else in the building. [Or at least] I didn’t think [that there was]. But Pete Waterman had an apartment which was on the top of the studio. He lived there, and he always just popped in and out to his office. So he had, unbeknownst to me, come into the studio building and must’ve heard me playing. So he came in and stood behind me and I didn’t realise he was there. As I spun round [on my chair] he was stood there and he just said to me, “I didn’t know, you could do that?”. And I said, “Oh! I’m just mucking around”. I thought I was gonna get in trouble or something. Cause I was only meant to sit and get tea. I’m not meant to touch things. And there’s me playing this little synth! And so he just walked away. The next morning, I get called into the studio manager’s office. I came in and the receptionist says, “Craig, can you go to the studio manager’s office please?”, and I’m thinking I’m going to get sacked.

Lemar (00:19:26):
[Laughs]

Craig (00:19:27):
Because, I’ve been playing in the studio and I shouldn’t have been. I ‘m thinking, that’s it, I’ve done it. Oh God, I’ve blown. So I go into the studio manager’s office. And he says to me, “Oh, have a seat…’, he says, “Um, Pete’s promoted you to keyboard player across the studios. You’re basically the session keyboard player now!”. He’s basically said, “You don’t don’t make tea anymore. You don’t do this anymore. You don’t do that anymore. You just float between all the studios and you play keys for everybody!”.

Lemar (00:19:59):
No! – [laughs]. You have arrived!

Craig (00:20:01):
Because they had to hire in session keyboard players. So they were spending a fortune. These people were coming in and they’re getting a full session fee every day.

Lemar (00:20:11):
Oh, right! So they’re like, listen – we’ve got our in house guy who can go and do all [of] this. He’s already on a wage. Did they bump up [your wage] a little bit maybe?

Craig (00:20:19):
I was earning £120 pounds a week.

Lemar (00:20:21):
A week!?

Craig (00:20:23):
A week. £120 pounds a week – [laughs]. And I think I might have got it up to £130 I think.

Lemar (00:20:28):
£10 more. And save us [PWL] loads of money! – [Laughs].

Craig (00:20:31):
Although I did now get to sign the musician’s union forms. So I did get a little bit of money coming in from that.

Lemar (00:20:36):
Okay. Thats a good look. And Pete Waterman, I mean, when he has a hit, he has a hit. Do you know what, actually, for the people listening, reel off some of his work, the ones that people [would] know.

Craig (00:20:45):
The big hits, I mean, there’s obviously the Rick Rollings phenomenon, so, um, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.

Lemar (00:20:50):
Huge!

Craig (00:20:50):
Huge. Number one around the world.

Lemar (00:20:53):
It’s got its own life hasn’t it. You’ve got a story on that one yeah?

Craig (00:20:57):
Yeah. Only one that Pete would always tell us when he used to come and sit and tell his stories. He told us that when they did that record, they sent out white labels with no artist image to the States. No picture of the artist.

Lemar (00:21:09):
No image? Oh! So [that] they didn’t know whether it was a black person or white person?

Craig (00:21:13):
Yeah, so the song ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ went to the top of the R’n’B or soul chart.

Lemar (00:21:19):
And with no image – [laughs].

Craig (00:21:21):
Yeah – [laughs]. And then when they revealed it was this white guy, it just dropped off the next day. Like a stone, it just disappeared – [laughter]. But it had [gotten] to where it needed to be and it became number one.

Lemar (00:21:32):
Nice. That song’s got a life of its own. Every few years it just comes up, you know, the video and everything.

Craig (00:21:39):
Oh my God. Yeah.

Lemar (00:21:39):
So who else was there?

Craig (00:21:42):
Kylie Minogue , obviously the huge Australian act of that [era]. I think the other number one in the US was Venus – Bananarama. I mean, all the Bananarama stuff was, them. Stock Aitken and Waterman. They did Donna summer.

Lemar (00:21:55):
Oh man.

Craig (00:21:55):
Their Donna summer stuff was fantastic. They just had so much stuff. I mean, every week in the eighties it was the top five [in the charts]. They locked off the top five.

Lemar (00:22:08):
Did they do stuff with Sinitta?

Craig (00:22:08):
Yes. All of the Sinitta stuff. Jason Donovan of course.

Lemar (00:22:13):
Yep. As far as pop, I mean, [they were] enormous. It was them.

Craig (00:22:19):
Yeah. They cleaned up basically, in the eighties.

Lemar (00:22:21):
And, you were the float between the studio. Newly promoted…

Craig (00:22:25):
Towards the end of that era, yeah, I was floating around the studios.

Lemar (00:22:28):
How old were you by then?

Craig (00:22:30):
I was in my, must be early twenties. And so I got to play on various records, not necessarily the main ones, but, the remixes, and other bits and pieces that would come in. Then the nineties kicked in and dance music started. There were lots of DJs coming in with, absolutely no talent whatsoever – [laughter]. But they, realised that they wanted to put a record out because ‘I’m a DJ and dance music happening’. So they would come in and they’d get put in a little, we called it the ‘programming suites’, which was [a room with] a couple of keyboards, a computer and me! They would play me various records and [say], “Right! We want the kick drum from this. I want the piano from [that song]”.

Lemar (00:23:17):
Hold on. So you were basically making the record then because they’re saying, ‘We want that, that, that, and that. And then you’re going in and recreating those sounds.

Craig (00:23:26):
Yeah, I was recreating those sounds. So. I’m having to listen to what they’re playing me, work out what the chords are, what it’s doing, the rhythm of it and various things. [The overall] flavour of it. And then I’m having to make something new from it and then they take it away at the end of the day and put it out with their name on it – [laughter].

Lemar (00:23:45):
So, what? So in that scenario back then, would they just pay you [per song]?

Craig (00:23:49):
[No]. I was just on my weekly wage.

Lemar (00:23:52):
Oh, you were on the same weekly PWL wage?

Craig (00:23:54):
[Yeah I] was on [my] weekly wage. I was just working [as] a session musician for the studio. So whoever came in just got to use me. I wasn’t getting paid any [extra] money. I was playing on all these records, but I wasn’t getting paid for it.

Lemar (00:24:04):
So it started off well, and then it, um, kind of went down a path. So, when those records came out, then, would it be [credited as] the DJ and PWL?

Craig (00:24:14):
No, the DJ would just hire the studio in downtime.

Lemar (00:24:17):
[Oh]. The PWL studio. So then they’d come in. Ask you to do this stuff. And then leave.

Craig (00:24:24):
Yeah. So they pay a day rate for the studio.

Lemar (00:24:26):
Yeah but, you’re not ‘the studio’?

Craig (00:24:28):
I’m an employee of the studio. So, I was just having to play on all these records.

Lemar (00:24:31):
Did you have to? Could you say no?

Craig (00:24:31):
No, no. I had to do it. Because that’s what I was there for just to play keyboards for every studio so…

Lemar (00:24:38):
Ugh. Yeah but there’s playing keys, you know, to do some additional production. However, making beats and [finding sound and playing all the chords etc], that’s more than just playing keys. That’s producing.

Craig (00:24:47):
Yeah It is. But at the time it was a whole new world. This kind of dance music.

Lemar (00:24:51):
Oh yeah. I think that’s back in the day when they tried to bring in the word programming. It’s like, um, no, no. I’m programming, but ‘really’, once it gets to some point it’s a blurred line. Am I programming? Or am I producing? I dunno.

Craig (00:25:04):
Yeah. So I didn’t get paid to play on it and I didn’t get any writing royalties or anything like that.

Lemar (00:25:08): No credit?

Craig (00:25:08):
Nothing. Well, I’d sometimes get a keyboard credit if it was professionally released, like on a proper label. I would sometimes get a keyboard credit. But it was few and far between.

Lemar (00:25:21):
Were there any biggies that came out?

Craig (00:25:23):
Probably around the time, but I don’t remember them now. There was a lot of, um, I mean, literally I would say nine and a half times out of 10, it was just utter rubbish that we were working on because these guys weren’t at a professional level, they were just people with ideas.

Lemar (00:25:36):
But I guess the good thing is that one thing, that type of thing always does is, it adds to your, to your repertoire. Actually I think that’s why you told me part of this story back in the day. I’ve worked with many, many, many producers from the top to the bottom. I think what’s unique with you is yes, you can have your own sound, but at the same time, if I say, Oh, do you know what? You know that other record, maybe it was just leant a little bit more [in that direction]. And within like five minutes, it’s already over there! And that always used to amaze me. I remember then asking you [about why you were so quick at that]. [That’s when] you told me about this part of your history, where you were in the studio and that was basically what you had to do every day.

Craig (00:26:17):
Yeah, it was an every day thing. I mean, it was not necessarily satisfying. I couldn’t complain cause I was doing what I wanted to do for a living. But…

Lemar (00:26:27):
Yeah. But [it would’ve been] nice if they’d actually paid you, or just credited you for everything so that people would know that, okay, this young kid in this studio over there is doing [all of this].

Craig (00:26:35):
Yeah. What it did do is, it brought my skill level at doing that right up because I was literally, [at it] hardcore, every single day doing stuff like that. So one day someone would bring in a house record, the next day it would be a jungle record, cause jungle was out at the time, [along with] drum and bass and stuff. So people were bringing in jungle and it wasn’t anything that I was really familiar with, but I’d have to figure it out. I’d listen and say, right, I know where I can find that sound or I can find [whatever is needed] and you just have to just have to become very good .

Lemar (00:27:03):
That’s brilliant. And you know, the thing with production, [I’d] say it was even harder back then because nowadays, you’ve got loop packages [and] drum packages where people say, ‘here’s all the sounds from Timberland’ or whatever. Whereas back then Timberland was making his sounds. You’d think it was just one kick drum or one sound. But it’s not. It’s a mixture of four sounds, five sounds. Eq’d differently and compressed differently that make that kick [or whatever]. Nowadays you can just download it. But back when you were doing it, [you had to figure it out].

Craig (00:27:35):
You had to know where to find it. I had to figure it out. I mean, nowadays it’s like cheating. It really is, it’s ridiculous. Especially with the technology. But back then it was, yeah, it was, it was really difficult. And sometimes it took a long time. If I was doing that nowadays, it would be quick, but I wanted it to be fast back then because I wanted to get rid of them – [laughter]. I wanted them out of the door. And obviously they’d only paid for 12 hours and the studio manager [would say], ‘You know, they can’t afford to pay overtime’. Cause they’re some dodgy DJ.

Lemar (00:28:00):
Do you think the producer will ever be replaced by technology?

Craig (00:28:04):
I suppose there are [Artificial Intelligence computers] that are able to put stuff together.

Lemar (00:28:08):
Oh yeah. Have you seen, what’s that one called? Juke? Juke something? Anyway, there’s one called Juke – something [Jukebox]. Someone played me a few of [Jukebox had made], I mean, it’s not quite there, but still impressive that it’s making up this stuff! It’s not playing an old song. It’s making up songs. Thats crazy.

Craig (00:28:23):
I mean actually, some of the stuff that comes out nowadays, you could argue, that it’s so bad, it could’ve been made by a computer, you know? – [laughter] And a lot of this stuff, is ‘drag and drop’ and ‘construction kits’, and ‘loop kits’. So the bar for entry nowadays is just so low. Anybody can make up something professional sounding. Which is why I call myself a songwriter, because what you can’t do is write a song. You might be able to drag a load of blocks on top of each other and have a great track that you can play your mates and say, ‘I’m now a DJ’ or ‘I’m a producer’, but [you] try and write a melody on top of it. That’s where you start sweating. So that’s where the talent is for me.

Lemar (00:29:02):
Nice. That’s that’s an interesting take. That’s a good one. So, you’re in the studio making beats for, for everyone and not getting credited. And then…

Craig (00:29:11):
And then, um, that goes on for a number of years and I’m actually really enjoying myself. Because as well as those crappy sessions, you do actually have good sessions. And plus, you’ve got your friends at the studio, all the guys were my age and we all started making our own records [using the] studio downtime.

Lemar (00:29:26):
Did you really stuff?

Craig (00:29:28):
Oh, we released loads of stuff. Yeah, constantly. I mean, I don’t recall any of it, honestly, but we were constantly…

Lemar (00:29:34):
You were going through the motions. It’s good.

Craig (00:29:35):
Yeah we were going through the motions. We were just making our own records and getting experience. And most of the other guys were just engineers. They were sound engineers. So, I was the only person based in the building that really played or had any knowledge of musical theory and stuff.

Lemar (00:29:47):
You see that. Regardless of what happens, the basics of knowing an instrument or knowing a skill like songwriting or knowing melodies, those three things there are still core to everything. You will find a use if you can play well, or sing well, or write well.

Craig (00:30:09):
Yeah. I mean, there were a number of occasions where we had actual established acts come into the studio, that I was [meant to be] doing keys on and we’d come to record the vocal. But they hadn’t actually really written a song yet. I remember this one dance act that had a couple of well known records. They were in the studio and they’d a vocalist in and they basically just wanted her to stand at the mic and ad-lib while I played the track. No one was writing a song. It was just her sort of trying to come up with something.

Lemar (00:30:41):
Why?

Craig (00:30:41):
Because that’s how they thought it was done. I think the first hit they’d had, they’d sampled an old song. And so they’d had it like a one off, like a one hit wonder. They’d had a big dance song, but [in their big hit] they’d sampled something. So now they were looking for a followup.

Lemar (00:30:57):
I get it. So they’re making someone just sing some stuff and then they’re trying to use the same technique. They want to take one line and then go again. Oh…

Craig (00:31:03):
Exactly that. They’ve got a session vocalist in and they’re just hoping she’s going to come up with something and they can just grab hold of it.

Lemar (00:31:07):
They can take that line, pay her, and then run with it.

Craig (00:31:10):
Yep. Run with it. And it wasn’t happening. And I’m thinking I’m going to be here all day. And so I basically just came up with a top line. I just said, why don’t you try singing this? I just sang a melody to her and she sang it and they said… ‘Oh they were like, ‘Oh my God that’s fantastic!’. Then we stacked up some harmonies and they were out the door. I never heard from them again. And they released it and I never got a writing credit. That happened a couple of times! They don’t realise that it’s not [about] just turning up to the studio.

Lemar (00:31:34):
But they’re paying for the studio as well, what a waste of money.

Craig (00:31:35):
I know. Because they just think they’ve hit the big time now. ‘We’ve had, a sort of half a dance hit.

Lemar (00:31:39):
Were they signed?

Craig (00:31:40):
Yeah.

Lemar (00:31:42):
To a major label?

Craig (00:31:42):
Well, to a major dance label.

Lemar (00:31:45):
I mean, do you know what? Maybe it was early on [in their career] and the [label] thought, alright [let’s] put them in this studio and see what comes out. If it’s rubbish after three, four times, then we’ll probably have to part ways.

Craig (00:31:53):
Yeah. Quite possibly. I never know what goes through an A&R man’s mind to be honest.

Lemar (00:31:57):
Alright. So a few years doing the production for people and not getting credits. And then you went on to?…

Craig (00:32:04):
[By] that time a lot of people left and Pete Waterman brought new blood, [so to speak].

Lemar (00:32:10):
[Laughs] = I like that ‘new blood blood’.

Craig (00:32:14):
[Laughs] yeah, ‘new blood’. So various producers were coming in and out, not necessarily permanently, but just, you know, to contribute and stuff.

Lemar (00:32:20):
And you were still there floating?

Craig (00:32:21):
[Yeah, I was] still there floating about. And so obviously I meet these people and we become friends over the months or maybe a year or so, while they were there. Those producers then left to do their own thing and start their own production companies. When I leave eventually leave PWL, I then basically just call them up and ask, what are you doing? And they say, well why don’t you come and work with us?

Lemar (00:32:40):
How did you leave then? Or, why? Was it a disgruntled leaving? Or was it [amicable]?

Craig (00:32:46):
No, I think the company, PWL, was bought by Warners. I think they bought the label out, or bought the studios out or something. And so it was a case of everybody is now, not necessarily unemployed, but you’d have to be self employed.

Lemar (00:33:03):
So it was – jumped before you’re pushed.

Craig (00:33:06):
They said there’s not necessarily going to be as much work because Warner’s have go whatever their plan is, so it’s not going to work like it used to. And so we just started looking at options. I could have stayed there for longer, but I knew some of the people that I’d worked with, had got other things going on. So I thought I’d try that. So I went to them, [they] were starting a new production company. And then I think one of the first sort of big gigs that came in was doing backing tracks for TV, which became Fame Academy.

Lemar (00:33:37):
Whoa, okay. Fame Academy. And so our paths cross,

Craig (00:33:42):
Yeah. And so our paths cross. Because it was after doing the tracks for Fame Academy, that you then came down to the studio and that’s when we first met. [I remember] we started off trying to do a ballad and then it turned into…

Lemar (00:33:52):
Yeah. Yeah, it turned into the uptempo [Dance With You]. Do you remember that Fitz was falling asleep? Fitz, came from, I think it was Atlanta. [Actually, I know] he lived in Atlanta cause he took me out there once. So Fitz came from Atlanta to the UK and his flight was either late or he was up the night before or something. But all I remember is he slept a ‘lot’ in that session. He’d do stuff and then he’d be sleeping. I mean, he’s so talented, his ideas and his input [were] exceptional. That dude was exceptionally talented, but I just remember him, being extremely tired in that session.

Craig (00:34:23):
And I remember because I knew of Fitz before we’d met him because he produced one of my favourite albums, which was, ‘Get Up On It’ by Keith Sweat.

Lemar (00:34:30):
Keith Sweat!

Craig (00:34:31):
So I used to drive to PWL from my home. And Keith Sweat was who I would play, the ‘Get Up On It’ album, was what I would play. And obviously I knew Fitz had produced that album and written half of it. And [once I knew I was going] to meet him, I thought. Not only am I meeting Lemar today but, I just want to press Fitz on all these Keith Sweat stories – [laughter].

Lemar (00:34:50):
He took me to Atlanta and he took me to Keith Sweats house.

Craig (00:34:53):
Oh man!

Lemar (00:34:53):
And I met with Keith sweat and Fitz used to do an amazing impression [of Keith], because his voice and Keith’s voice, you know, it’s him singing on the record as well?

Craig (00:35:03):
Oh fantastic.

Lemar (00:35:03):
Yeah. So Keith is doing the lead line, but Fitz in everything else. Fitz’s impression of, Keith t’alking’ is brilliant! I can’t even do it properly, but he’d be like, ‘Yo, Keith man, how you doing, man? This is Lemar from the UK’. And then Keith talks back to him, he’s like, ‘Yo, yo Fitz man’ – [laughter] And it was like the same two people [speaking]. It was so funny because Fitz used to really ‘poke’ [fun at Keith] and he used to get a bit annoyed. It was really, really good – Atlanta.

Craig (00:35:24):
I mean, cause the Keith thing was, his whole nasal sound – [sings] ‘I like it girl when we’.

Lemar (00:35:29):
Yeah! – [sings] ‘When we’

Craig (00:35:33):
So I used to play that in the car and just sing along with Keith because he’s got quite a low vocal range, so you could sing it. You get some of these insanely talented soul singer and you just can’t sing a long. But Keith had a lower range and I could sing along to him. So I was like – fantastic! Obviously that day Fitz was telling me Keith [Sweat] stories and how he did the album. [He said] he just had one sampler keyboard and a tape machine or something and he made the album like, Oh my God, this is incredible!

Lemar (00:35:58):
Doesn’t it make you think though? We’ve got all these plugins in computers. Every guitar rack ever made, every sound and every bass etc. But it can be too much, you know? Sometimes you just need…

Craig (00:36:11):
Yeah. I mean, sometimes you find [that] you want to start something [but] you spend hours just going through kick drum sounds, and banks of samples. You [end up] thinking, what am I doing!? They all just sound the same after a while. You’re trying to get a specific type of kick, [but sometimes you have to just] use something. Just get started!

Lemar (00:36:27):
Alright. So then obviously there was the aftermath of ‘Dance With You’ and moving forward, most recently, I see that you’ve moved into, uh, the LeFlex world. So you still do music for, various artists, various companies, you’re always producing music. But I like this, this new entity that you have as well, LeFlex, I don’t know. How would you describe it?

Craig (00:36:55):
Yeah, it’s it’s it comes from a number of areas, first and foremost it comes from the eighties because that’s where I think the best music was made for me personally. I just think the decade you grew up in is always your favourite.

Lemar (00:37:10):
Always. The eighties was much more romantic, much more musical. It had great arrangements in songs, beautiful voices.

Craig (00:37:20):
Synthesizers really became a thing and big reverbs. I love the big, lush reverbs and that kind of thing. Just the whole aesthetic of it, the fashion and everything.

Lemar (00:37:31):
So it was based on the eighties…

Craig (00:37:32):
It’s based on the eighties, but t’s made with modern techniques because in the eighties, it was people learning to do things for the first time. Electronics and midi etc, had just come along. So there was a lot of exploration and people trying to do things. It didn’t always work [back then]. I’m taking those sorts of sounds and those vibes, but making them with modern technology, so it sounds like a modern version of that. So it’s that, and then my [other] love [influenced by my mums own love] has always been soul music. So [in] the chords and melodies that I use, I always try to be soulful. As much as I can put into it, because that’s just where my heart is. I try to do simpler type things, just like two or three chords maximum, with a sort of soft vocal type thing happening.

Lemar (00:38:26):
Thats a nice rule of thumb two or three chords.

Craig (00:38:29):
Yeah. Just simplicity. A baseline, a pad, some simple drums and then a vocal, because I just think that works for what they call the ‘Pool Side’ or ‘Yacht Pop’ [genre].

Lemar (00:38:40):
‘Yacht Pop!’ I haven’t heard that one before. Yacht Pop!

Craig (00:38:42):
You’re on your yacht with your cocktail and these cool tunes are playing. It’s music that’s just there and it’s cool and you can sort of nod your head to it, but you don’t necessarily want to get up and dance etc.

Lemar (00:38:52):
I think it’s very fun though, as well. I like the videos that you do, you do a lot of a really cool, raw, organic kind of videos. I really like the LeFlex videos.

Craig (00:39:01):
That’s because they’re all shot on an iPhone – [laughs].

Lemar (00:39:04):
Do you know what? What do they say? It’s not about where you buy the clothes. It’s about how it fits. So, I don’t think the tool is ever the problem, it’s the creativity. And I think there’s a lot of creativity in the videos.

Craig (00:39:14):
There has to be. I just think for people that like what I do or like certain things from an artist, they like to have a visual thing as well. So I thought, okay, I’d love to do some video stuff, but I’m under no illusions that you can do a big super budget video. So I just thought, what can I do with an iPhone and just make it look fun? Get a green screen and other bits and pieces and just have a laugh basically.

Lemar (00:39:37):
What started LeFlex? Why? Was it just, you wanted an outlet or?

Craig (00:39:42):
Well, I was doing music for X factor. The live shows. You know, get the track on the Monday, get it worked out for the show on the Friday. And then one day I suddenly realised that I was depressed. I was like ‘really’ depressed. I was not enjoying music. I was thinking to myself, ‘[But] you are so lucky. You are getting to wake up every day and play music for a living.’

Lemar (00:40:07):
But if it doesn’t scratch your itch…

Craig (00:40:08):
Yeah. I’d lost any love I had for what I was doing. There was no art involved. There was no passion involved. It was totally colour by numbers, lowest common denominator Saturday night. I almost remember saying, I would actually prefer stacking shelves in a supermarket to what I’m currently doing.

Lemar (00:40:26):
There are so many layers to music. There are so many layers to, to people. Because you’re doing what ‘in theory’ you love doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing the right ‘thing’, in the thing that you love. There are so many layers to music and if you don’t find yourself in the right place, or on the right job, it can be a very draining thing. Because I think creating something is you giving your energy. It’s you putting your energy into something. So someone might say, ‘Oh, you found a thousand tracks. Just do another one’. But even though it’s ‘just’ playing music or ‘just’ singing another song, it does take something from you. So like you say, if you’re doing it without passion, yeah. I can see [how] you’d get to the point that you said

Craig (00:41:09):
Yeah. And it was a bad feeling to realise that I didn’t love what I was doing anymore. And so I just walked away. I just stopped.

Lemar (00:41:15):
You couldn’t have made the decision overnight.

Craig (00:41:17):
No, it was gradually it dawned on me that I couldn’t carry on the way I was doing it because it was really affecting me. I was just being, you know, I became a horrible person because I was just upset with everything. So I essentially just decided to walk away from a paying job and try to live on savings until I decided what I wanted to do.

Lemar (00:41:39):
How long did that last?

Craig (00:41:40):
About six months. I didn’t really play anything or write anything for that time. I just stepped away.

Lemar (00:41:46):
Sometimes that’s needed, man.

Craig (00:41:47):
Yeah. I needed, it to come back to me. I needed the desire to do it. I didn’t want to force myself into doing anything I needed to me to want to do it. I needed to find that passion and what made me want to do it, [what] made me want to leave school, [find] that again.

Lemar (00:42:03):
I admire you for doing that. I come across those periods in what I do. I think every musician goes through that, that period, that phase in their life where they feel, ‘do you know, what do I want to do this?’ And it’s not about the money and it’s not about [anything else], it’s just how you feel, you know? So six months passed… what did you do in those six months?

Craig (00:42:29):
I didn’t do a lot to be honest. Hung around. Moped around. Read some books, watched some films – [laughs].

Lemar (00:42:36):
That’s all good. Recuperation.

Craig (00:42:39):
[Yeah] recuperation. And then what I did start to do was, I found a box of old dictaphone tapes and I realised that in between my work over the years, I’d been recording all these little ideas of my own. So for example, let’s just say some point in the past, in my career, I’d been asked to write a song for a boy band or something. I would write a boy band song. And once I’d finished with that idea, I might come up with another idea, which I just came up with because I was in the moment. But it was something that I’d come up with and I’d think, well, that’s not suitable for the boy band. I can’t think of an artist that would ‘need’ this. So I’d just put it to the side and forget about it because there was no outlet for it.

Lemar (00:43:28):
On a dictaphone. You might have to explain what Dictaphone is… I’m joking – [laughter].

Craig (00:43:33):
A little tape machine – [laughs]! So I found all these dictaphone tapes and I went through [them]. I thought, oh I remember that idea, and I remember that idea and it turned out that I had all these little ideas and I thought, well, they were actually me! That’s what they are. They’re not me coming up with songs for people, they’re songs that I wanted. And so I collected all these ideas together and with no intention of doing anything with it. Just for myself, my own pleasure, my own art, my own passion, I just started recording these little ideas down. And that became LeFlex. I just started putting them up on the internet, like SoundCloud etc.

Lemar (00:44:10):
How did you decide on the name LeFlex? Whenever I say the flex, I want to say it with an accent, LeFlex – [imitates accent].

Craig (00:44:24):
Well, ‘Flex’ has been a nickname of mine from someone else for many years. It’s an inside joke.

Lemar (00:44:29):
Oh, is it? Where did the nickname Flex come from?

Craig (00:44:33):
I’ll tell you what, It was something to do with the show Bo’ Selecta.

Lemar (00:44:37):
Really?

Craig (00:44:38):
Yeah. And it was the Craig David thing on Bo’ Selecta.

Lemar (00:44:43):
How? Craig David, Bo’ Selecta, You, Flex… How does this work?

Craig (00:44:47):
Well, Craig David on Bo’ Selecta, used to have different phrases. And [in] one of the phrases, I’m sure at one point he said something to do with a flex thing. And then for some around the houses reason, which I can’t remember, I started getting called Flex. It was just a joke. And at the time I started the project, I was also listening to a lot of what they call ‘French Touch’, which is like Daft Punk and stuff like that along with underground French electronic artists and stuff like that. It’s just a cool genre. And so I thought it’d be good if it was a little bit French, because I was going to do a couple of little French things as well, which I did with [my earlier stuff].

Lemar (00:45:31):
When you say French, what do you mean?

Craig (00:45:33):
Some of the earlier flex stuff has got a lot of [that] electronic French [vibe to it].

Lemar (00:45:38):
Ok, the ‘French Touch ‘stuff.

Craig (00:45:40):
The French Touch, yeah. And I thought if I stuck ‘Le’ – [laughter] at the front of Flex…

Lemar (00:45:46):
Suddenly! I’m across the waters – [laughter].

Craig (00:45:48):
Yeah. It’s got a little bit of a French Touch vibe to the name and plus the word Flex doesn’t really mean anything in any language, particularly not in French anyway. So, then you do the thing that you have to do where you Google it to see if anyone else is using it or if it means anything else, if the website is available [etc]. There were literally no results for it. [I thought], brilliant! So anyone who ever types in LeFlex is going to see me!

Lemar (00:46:14):
That’s a good look.

Craig (00:46:14):
Yeah. [Do you know, there’s a band called ‘The Internet’!?].

Lemar (00:46:17):
What? No…

Craig (00:46:17):
Yeah. There’s actually a band. There’s a band called the internet. And I’m thinking, how difficult must it be to go on and Google ‘The Internet’ and then…

Lemar (00:46:26):
That’s not a great name.

Craig (00:46:28):
Its not a great name [if you want] people to [actually] find, you know?.

Lemar (00:46:31):
That’s like saying your band’s name is ‘Google’. Erm… You’ve kind of lost that one! – [laughs].

Craig (00:46:35):
Yeah. So [LeFlex] was a good search engine term as well. So I decided to use that. And at the time there was no intent of being serious about it. It was just me doing something. Because I loved it.

Lemar (00:46:48):
I think the fact that you took that six months off to get you to that place, where it wasn’t about releasing or trying to be on a record that’s going to do well. It was more, [about you saying, do you know what], I just want to do this because it. That is the key, I think, to any good song, to any good anything, to any good creative endeavour. Not doing it for any other reason [other than] the fact that you like it.

Craig (00:47:16):
Yeah. After I left the Metrophonic thing, one of the things I did was, [I started] going to see the A&R men that I knew to see if they had anything going on that I could work on. I did ‘McFly’ at the time which was number one in the UK

Lemar (00:47:32):
Oh McFly! Yeah, that was big. Very big.

Craig (00:47:33):
Working on, that was fantastic. Because it was a whole new thing. It was like a fifties and sixties, beach boys kind of thing…

Lemar (00:47:40):
Yeah. And they can play, they can play music etc… The idea’s must’ve been a lot.

Craig (00:47:45):
Yeah! That was really great. As I say yeah, it was number one and stuff. [Number one album as well]. So it was really good, to have a bit more success. But then you start having to deal with pitching songs to A&R. And there are so many people trying to pitch songs to [the same] A&R and it’s not necessarily about the song. It’s sometimes about the relationship with the A&R or getting the artist in the room. You might have a better song, but because the artist was in the room with another writer [they get the cut]. It just became so much ‘not about the music’, [I felt it was] pointless. I spent more of my time doing that kind of thing, as opposed to making the actual music. A lot of people could say, ‘Oh you should’ve got a manager’, but I was just at a point where I thought, ‘I’ve had enough of this’. Which is one of the reasons that I’d stopped, it was just becoming too much. So I thought I’ll get out and do my own thing. I don’t like this game of football, so I’ll get my own ball and I’ll go and play on my own somewhere and I’ll be happy.

Lemar (00:48:49):
I like that. Build my own castle.

Craig (00:48:49):
Yeah. I just wanted to do something that was mine. I had no one to say, ‘No, you can’t do that’. You know, oftentimes I’d send a track in and they’d come back with the A&R comments, ‘Oh it needs to be this, it needs to be that’, and I’m thinking – ‘It doesn’t! This is right!’. And so [I felt], I want to do what I want to do and no one can tell me change this or change that.

Lemar (00:49:09):
I think as you go on, especially when you ‘are’ creative and you can play your role very well. Sometimes you do just want to just get it out in the way that you want it to be. It’s the ownership, the control of it, the fact that you can just express yourself without limit that I think is very important. So you said that people then asked you to release stuff, right? I’ve got my own label as well. So I know that [in releasing material], there’s such a learning curve involved with that process, [in order] to get it to a point where it’s of a certain standard and it’s effective. How did you find that transition from just doing the music, to doing the music and also being the front man, to now [where] people are saying, ‘[Please] release stuff’? You either then have to look for a [release] partner or you have to learn online or, by whatever means you have, [to figure out] different ways to get your music out to the people. How did you find that transition and what did you do?

Craig (00:50:07):
Well initially I think I was drawn to using an actual label. The first, more popular LeFlex things were just online and people were [organically] finding them. There’s a very, very cool label in France called Maison Kitsune.

Lemar (00:50:27):
Oh, sweetI And you intentionally went in that direction [musically] as well. So [it makes sense].

Craig (00:50:30):
Yeah! And they had put up, one of their artists vocals online and said, we’re going to do a remix competition. I thought, well I love this label. They’re doing loads of stuff. I’ll just do this for a laugh, because I still wasn’t taking LeFlex seriously. It was just a side thing.

Lemar (00:50:48):
But at the same time you knew you were going to smash it. You were like, ‘Guys! Do you know?, Do you know my life history?, Do you know what I’ve done?, Do you know I’ve played on? With no credit? Watch!

Craig (00:50:57):
[Laughter] – Yeah! So I basically downloaded the stems for this song that they had out and I remixed it. I sent the remix in and I won the competition.

Lemar (00:51:08):
You said that was such modesty.

Craig (00:51:10):
It’s still like one of their biggest streamed tracks to this day. And they made me sign a contract after I won it. A contract saying, you’ve got no claim whatsoever to this track – [laughs]

Lemar (00:51:18):
Ah these people. They knew, they knew.

Craig (00:51:20):
It’s, absolutely smashing it on Spotify and YouTube at the moment. For years, like five years now it’s been really hammering it. So anyway, so they invited me over to France, so I went over to Paris and I met with them. They put a track of mine out.

Lemar (00:51:36):
Not the remix that you did, a different one?

Craig (00:51:38):
They put the remix out. That was part of the competition [agreement]. So they did that and then I [also] played them a couple of other songs that I’d done. They licensed one [of those] to use [and release] on their label.

Lemar (00:51:50):
Nice.

Craig (00:51:51):
Because it was on their label it opened up an avenue to a network of other things. And I thought I should probably start to make an album. To be honest, I would have been happy to sign with them as an artist, even though I was not really wanting to be A&R’d, but [as a company, they pretty much] only sign French things.

Lemar (00:52:10):
Ok, that’s the thing in France. I’ve forgotten what percentage, I think it’s 80% of the songs on radio have to be by native artists, which is good for supporting artists from that country. However, if you’re an artist trying to break in? I remember I went over there with, [my single] ‘If There’s Any Justice’. I went over there and I mean, it was such a big thing to get it on radio over there. Once you ‘are’ [playlisted on radio in France] you ‘run around’ – [laughter]. They embrace, you do run around. So that was a good thing. I think it’s a good thing. And at the same time, like you say, in a case like yours, where you would have liked to, it can be a bit harder.

Craig (00:52:46):
Internet radio in France is really massive for me at the moment.

Lemar (00:52:49):
Internet radio?

Craig (00:52:49):
They contact me and say, ‘We’re playing [your songs], can you do some shout outs [for us]. I record little shout outs at my studio here and email them off to various radio stations.

Lemar (00:53:05):
You see that? Putting that L. E. In front of [your name]. You see what you did? ‘Le’ and suddenly! – [laughs].

Craig (00:53:07):
I started then getting contacted by other small labels saying, ‘Will you do stuff [with us]?’ I still had the mindset that I probably needed a label, so I did a couple of things, like I licensed individual tracks to labels. And I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t enjoy the process of it at all.

Lemar (00:53:26):
Did they still try and get you to change things etc?

Craig (00:53:30):
Yeah well, some of the deals weren’t great. And you’re having to fight with these people. They were smaller labels and they [didn’t] ‘always’ know what they’re doing. They think you were born yesterday. [Probably thinking], ‘Oh, he’s never released anything in his life. We’ll try and rip him off.’

Lemar (00:53:40):
The first draft of any record deal is always disgusting. Well, ‘usually’ disgusting.

Craig (00:53:47):
Yeah. So I thought, you know what? I need to do it all myself again! It was a process of spending hours researching. I eventually started using online distribution, through DistroKid. You can just do it all yourself on there. And collect all the money yourself.

Lemar (00:54:02):
How was your experience with Distrokid? Good?

Craig (00:54:04):
It’s been fantastic! Very easy. Just upload it, put the title in, put the artwork in and then they get it into stores. It’s on Apple music and Spotify and Deezer and Tidal, it’s on all the streaming services, basically. Google Play etc.

Lemar (00:54:18):
So above all things, you’re content where you are now.

Craig (00:54:22):
Yes! Yes. And I’ve got the control over it all, but again, the big problem is, even though your music is out there. No one knows about it because you need to spend money on promotion, which is the big thing.

Lemar (00:54:32):
The biggest hurdle, right?

Craig (00:54:34):
Yeah. I can make the music basically for free and put it out essentially for free, but…

Lemar (00:54:38):
Put the video for free for the video.

Craig (00:54:40):
Yeah. And make video for free. But to get people to know about it, you’ve got to get yourself on to playlists, you’ve got to get magazine or blog people to talk about it. And that sort of thing costs money. You decide at some point, is it worth spending? Is there going to be any return for that money? You know?

Lemar (00:54:58):
Yeah that’s the big gamble all the time. That is the big gamble.

Craig (00:55:02):
So far the way that it’s grown has been totally organic. It’s just been word of mouth. People telling people, people telling other people, there’s been no money spent on anything.

Lemar (00:55:11):
You know, one thing with all of that though, I think one really good thing about the way that you’re doing it [is]. As much as the initial return might not be as fruitful. You know, it might take a longer time to ripen, so to speak. The people who ‘are’ attracted to your stuff are ‘real’. The ones who are into you at the moment, will most likely be the most dedicated ones. So where are most of your fans now?

Craig (00:55:40):
Well, South America, Russia and all surrounding countries to Russia. So it’s like, Georgia and, Azerbaijan and all these places!

Lemar (00:55:49):
So, is Yacht Pop or, what was it? Pool?

Craig (00:55:52):
Poolside.

Lemar (00:55:53):
Poolside and Yacht Pop! So that’s a big thing in Russia then I guess? And South America?

Craig (00:55:58):
I suppose it must be! Unless it’s just a touch of the 80’s…

Lemar (00:56:01):
Unless you’re breaking it out there. At the forefront.

Craig (00:56:03):
Unless I just happen to be attractive to that kind of demographic. I mean, in Europe in general it’s okay. Japan a little bit. It’s worldwide, but the hotspots tend to be Russia and the surrounding countries and South America.

Lemar (00:56:17):
That’s a good look.

Craig (00:56:19):
Yeah. It’s pretty cool.

Lemar (00:56:20):
We were talking about content earlier and you were saying that, when you’re doing it the way you do it, frequent content is the most important thing?

Craig (00:56:31):
Yes. I always refer to it as feeding the machine. If you’re not on people’s radars, they tend to forget about you because there’s so much music coming out nowadays.

Lemar (00:56:40):
[I guess it’s] like PWL and the CV’s [you mentioned]. A lot of people say to me, ‘Oh, don’t you think it’s great? YouTube and Spotify and all these places. It’s great!’ And i say yes, it is, it’s really cool that you can go [to your end consumer] directly and have the potential to reach a lot of people. But potential is what it is, because the reality is that it’s like the A&R man’s desk. You could have an amazing song in a pile of a thousand, not so great ones. And it gets lost. It gets lost because there are so many tapes on the table, so much other music out there. So to see good stuff throughout all the noise sometimes is hard. I know YouTube and Spotify and [other] platforms have got their own algorithms that allow you see what they ‘think you want to see’. But that’s not the same as going into a record store and looking through vinyl and finding what ‘you’ want. It’s a different experience. So you you’ve got to put out content quite frequently you say…

Craig (00:57:41):
Yeah, quite frequently. I try to put out at least three things a year.

Lemar (00:57:46):
When you say three things, three songs? Three albums? Three projects?

Craig (00:57:49):
Three albums. There tends to be one ‘main’ album.

Lemar (00:57:53):
That is a lot of work, you know?

Craig (00:57:53):
Yeah. One main album and maybe two mini albums and they’re spread out [over the course of the year].

Lemar (00:57:58):
So one main project and then two side things.

Craig (00:58:01):
Yeah. They’re all under LeFlex. [It’s just the size of them that varies]. A main album of say 12 songs, like you would expect a [traditional] album to have. Then there’ll be two of maybe four or five [songs], one of them is generally four or five covers just for the love of it.

Lemar (00:58:19):
Cool. So what do you call your label?

Craig (00:58:22):
I haven’t got a label.

Lemar (00:58:23):
So it just comes out as ‘DistroKid’.

Craig (00:58:26):
Well. It did, and then I was contacted by, a very nice man, the BBC. Actually what happened was, quite interestingly, I am a huge fan of Jackie Graham, the female singer from the eighties. My mum used to go and buy all the records down at Woolworth’s or wherever the local record store was when I was a boy and bring them home. And I would listen to them and she brought home a record by Jackie Graham called ‘Round and Around’. And it was listening to that song that was one of the things that made me want to do what I do. Just the magic of it. About two years ago, I follow her on Twitter and she’d announced that she was working on an album. I thought that would be the greatest thing, to do something for Jackie Graham, you know? And so I reached out to her manager and said, ‘Look, this is what I do’. I said, ‘Lemar, Dance With You, you must know that one’ – [laughter].

Lemar (00:59:26):
I was at a function. I think it was last year. And I got sat with her. I got sat with her and we were talking, well, with her daughter. Sorry.

Craig (00:59:36):
Natalie.

Lemar (00:59:36):
Yeah, with Natalie right. And we were talking. Natalie’s really cool. And her mom actually no! No she ‘was’ there. Yeah Jackie was there. I was sat with Jackie and her daughter, Natalie. They’re really, really cool. And I mentioned you actually, because you had told me this story already, I mentioned you. They were like, ‘Oh yeah! Craig! We love Craig’.

Craig (00:59:53):
Yeah. And so I messaged Natalie and said, ‘This is what I’ve done. I would love to do something for Jackie’. And then she came straight back to me and said, ‘Let’s have a meeting”. And we got together. And I said, ‘Look, I’ll write a couple of things’. So I wrote two songs for Jackie and she recorded both of them and they were both the singles.

Lemar (01:00:08):
What’s their names?

Craig (01:00:08):
There was ‘When A Woman Loves’, which was the main single, she did a video for it. And ‘About Your Love’, I think it was called. The second song was number one on the UK Soul Chart as well. Which was fantastic.

Lemar (01:00:23):
Brilliant. And all from you just again, being proactive! This dude is proactive.

Craig (01:00:27):
Yeah. I just saw her tweet – [laughs]. So that was fantastic. That was like a little dream, because Jackie came down here and she just sang and we [shared] some stories. I obviously was telling her about how it had inspired me when I was young and she was telling me about the day’s recording and what she used to do. So I got answers to lots of questions I had.

Lemar (01:00:45):
Where can people find out about LeFlex?

Craig (01:00:47):
www.leflexmusic.com.

Lemar (01:00:47):
www.leflexmusic.com. And your Instagram? Twitter?

Craig (01:00:51):
It’s all the same. @leflexmusic.

Lemar (01:00:53):
@leflexmusic. So anything you want to know about the LeFlex, you can go to the official website, www.leflexmusic.com. All your Twitter handles, Instagram handles they’re all LeFlex music so, people can find you quite easily. Brilliant. Craig, thanks for the year so far. Thanks for Dance With You. That was my first single and my highest charting one actually – Number 2! That ‘Blu Cantrell’ kept me off the top spot… ugh.

Craig (01:01:13):
I know! And it had been number one for about five weeks, so we’re thinking surely!…

Lemar (01:01:16):
I know! I thought this is it! Boom! Landing in at… and then it was number two. But yeah, thanks for the years. Thanks for the artistry. No doubt we keep on working together. That’s what we do.

Craig (01:01:25):
Of course!

Lemar (01:01:25):
And good luck with LeFlex. It’s been fun. Alright?

Craig (01:01:27):
Thanks man. I loved it.

Lemar (01:01:29):
Peace.

Craig (01:01:29):
See you soon.

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