Head of Content
This week we've secured two incredible mixes from urgent black voices within electronic music, on Wednesday we brought you the SoundOf LA-based producer and activist Brandon Lucas and today we bring you London's own House Gospel Choir.
House Gospel Choir have been wowing audiences across London for years, and during lockdown their weekly RE//CHOIRED live streams have opened up the group to a new global fanbase, catching the eye of some serious tastemakers, including The Blessed Madonna, and Annie Mac, who says the choir has "a really unique energy, beyond the uplifting vibes of gospel music… they’re like a family".
House Gospel Choir have just released their debut album, RE//CHOIRED which sees the group teaming with an impressive array of producers, singers and more including Todd Terry, DJ Spen, Wookie, Toodla T, Alex Metric, Nicky Brown, Beverley Knight and Barbara Tucker.
Ahead of the release of the album, we spoke to House Gospel Choir's Creative Director and Founder, Natalie Maddix.
MoS: Can you tell us a bit about the history of HGC, how many members do you have and how did the project get started?
Natalie Maddix: HGC started in my head around 10 years ago, because that’s how long I had been dreaming about doing it, but in total it’s about six and a half years now. I had been wanting to do it for a long time before that but I wasn’t brave enough. I finally got together 12 of my mates who could also sing and shared a love for house music. I had been working as a tour manager at the time and had a lot of experience of managing groups of people. I had always wanted to work in music, and I got to quite a nice level and was getting paid quite well. But the longer I worked in it the less I enjoyed it, and I was really puzzled as to why that was. I realised I just needed to get into a room and sing with people.
You’ve worked with an impressive selection of producers, how did these collaborations come about?
I sat down at the start of the RE//CHOIRED album project and made a wish list. One of the reasons why we do this is to pay homage and respect to the originators so it didn’t feel right to move forward without a discussion with the songwriter, producer, original vocalists on these tracks we were covering. So once those conversations happened it grew organically and other amazing collaborators came on board. I’m a true believer in setting intentions and sticking to them.
We’re particularly proud of our collab with Todd Terry. My manager and I went to the Ibiza International Music Summit in 2018 and built up the courage to talk to him. We wanted him to know who we were and to tell him that we loved his music. Then a few months later, some instrumentals were sent to our A&R team at Island Records, and one of the tracks, My Zulu, really stood out. So myself and a couple of the other guys sat around to work on it. A year later I was sat in a session with Todd watching him create a beat from scratch which later become our new single Everything Is Love. We made two future classics with a house legend...mission accomplished!
You will feature on a billboard, just around the corner from MoS, the image will be created along the theme of “What Does Black History Month Mean To You?” could you tell us a little about the message behind the billboard and why you went with this image?
Yes! We went to see it this week... a real pinch-me moment. It brought us so much joy to see all our hard work come to fruition and see our beautiful faces up there. We’re all so different but HGC is proof that all these people with different backgrounds can come together and make harmony. HGC’s mantra has always been and always will be ‘We Are One’ so when asked by Island Records what message we wanted to promote for Black History Month, it was a no brainer; Our Black History is British History.
Your RE//CHOIRED online series has been one of the highlights of lockdown can you explain it for our readers who may have missed it?
Well, if you have missed it then you should immediately (after reading this if course) go to our Instagram page and check it out ha!
For the past six years, we’ve rehearsed together every Monday night so we had to just keep going. This was our way to keep singing, to keep focused and to keep our community together. We drafted a new wish list of incredible vocalists and asked if they’d come on our journey with us. We feel so grateful to Beverley Knight, Crystal Waters, Barbara Tucker, Donae’o, Kiddy Smiles, Vula Malinga, who became our house guests every Sunday over lockdown and most recently Ultra Nate & Dawn Tallman. We’re a movement that raises the positive vibrations and we most certainly achieved that in moments of real darkness this year.
Your lead single “Everything is Love” is incredibly empowering and uplifting, can you tell us about the message behind the track?
Thank you so much. We are so proud of this song especially the opening speech.
To all the beating hearts in attendance
We are gathered here today united under one groove
To celebrate love, life and harmony
In a world that seems intent on pulling us apart
Us being here together is an act of resistance
We are one
What are we?
We are one and we all need love
This song is about learning to love yourself and looking within for your answers. It’s especially poignant now after spending a lot of time alone this year and needing to have those important conversations with myself and rediscovering myself.
What are your thoughts on the role and intersection of faith and spirituality in house music?
House Gospel Choir brings together people from all different backgrounds and all different faiths. It’s just like the Dancefloor, a safe space that promotes inclusivity and no judgement. Well, that’s always been my experience with house music. I wanted to make sure people felt uplifted and spirited, without necessarily feeling like they had to be of a particular denomination or a certain group of people.
I’ve always loved the quote from Frankie Knuckles, “house music is for church people who have fallen from grace”. When I was growing up, my family was quite religious, and as all young people do, when I was growing up I had lots of questions about faith. Then I discovered raving! At first, they didn’t seem compatible, but I felt that a really good party experience is like being in a church – just being with people and feeling uplifted. I thought ‘I want more people to feel like this’.
With House Gospel Choir, I get to have that ‘rave’ experience on a weekly basis without getting completely trashed!
Can you tell us a little about the mix? What vibe were you going for? When and where do you recommend listening to it?
I’ll hand over to our MD, DJ, keys player and all-round G, Harrsn.
Can you tell us a little about the mix?
Harrsn: The tracks I’ve chosen speak to the power of togetherness, even at a time where many of us are unable to be together physically. The dream for this mix was to combine the energy of the club and spirit of the church without discounting either. You’ll hear Floorplan next to LaShun Pace, The Joubert Singers emerging from a KiNK remix and of course, plenty of House Gospel Choir dubs.
What vibe were you going for?
Inspired by those moments on the dancefloor when it’s as though the music is speaking directly to you. Those sermons that uplift us in a minor key. Music that sees you, what you’re going through, and tell you that you can make it.
In other news, my housemate recently bought a smoke machine. Like so many others, we miss the clubs. I guess together we wanted to create that peak moment on the dancefloor we’ve been craving so deeply.
When and where do you recommend listening to it?
Whenever you need to shake off some troubles. Best enjoyed loud (with a smoke machine if poss).
Once we’re back to normal, where do you want HGC to perform first?
I heard a rumour today that Glasto 2021 is going to be happening so... honestly, anywhere where we can all be together and rave! As a tradition, we always play a headline London show around Christmas time so we couldn’t let this year pass without a celebration of our hard work so we have just announced we’re playing Jazz Cafe on 20th December. An iconic venue we have played before so it will feel like we’re coming home with an optimistic view of what’s ahead for 2021.