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by Lee Knowles
Duane Harden is the vocalist who features on Armand van Helden's number one smash hit "You Don't Know Me", and is also featured on Powerhouse's song "What You Need" scheduled for release on 10th May.
Duane, 27 years old, has his own production company, Modu Productions, with his friend Moises Modisto. It was formed back in October 1997 while Duane was still studying at Boston University. At about this time he also set up his own recording studios, Cat in Da Bag, where he has spent a lot of time recording and writing songs. In '99 expect to see more material released from Modu Productions including pop, R&B and banging dance tunes.
Ever since 8th grade Duane has been interested in computers. It was his brother Cedric, once described as having a voice of an angel, who was into music in a big way and dreamt of being an entertainer. This was unfortunately cut short by his death. Duane then decided to live out his brothers dream through himself. He wanted to record a beautiful ballad written by Cedric and decided to put the studio together.
Now Duane is living that dream with the huge hit, and his next single is also being tipped by music insiders as another huge hit. EMI publishing (UK) obviously have the faith in him as he has just been signed to their label.
UKMIX was lucky enough to grab hold of Duane during his busy schedule and interview him.
How did the single with Armand van Helden, You don't know me, come about?
Armand and I had been friends since he was DJing at the Loft in Boston when I was a student at Boston University. He has always thought I was a great singer. He had only heard me in the clubs singing chants to records that he played. I was just a club kid screaming on the dance floor.
When he was working on the :2 Future 4U" project he wanted me to do a track. After two nights of mediocre material, the third night after the work "You Don't Know Me" was born. Armand sampled a couple of tracks and made a loop, walked away and I wrote the lyrics and then sung the song, all in his living room.
Did you ever imagine it would sell so well?
No. Neither Armand or I had any idea that so many people would like and understand the song. I'm very surprised, and pleased at the same time.
And you have appeared on Top Of The Pops, what was that like?
That was kind of difficult for me, it was my 5th time ever performing in my life and I had the worst cold. In addition, it wasn't like a club as I expected. It was a TV studio and I wasn't used to that vibe, but everyone said I pulled it off.
Obviously much more in demand following the single, what's your PA schedule looking like over the next few months? Any regular nights we can see you?
Now that's a tough question. My schedule is absolutely insane. Having a #1 UK single means everyone wants to see you sing it, and boy that is true. Just check out my ever changing and rigorous schedule.
Tell us about the new single... It's already tipped for a high position in the charts. When is the release date?
Powerhouse feat. Duane Harden "What You Need" single is due for release on 10th May. Lenny Fontana made the music and just like "You Don't Know Me" I wrote and sung the song. Its basically a cry out for love saying "I Got What You Need" right here. It's in me. You don't have to look any further or try anyone else. "What You Need" is starring you right in the face.
The track is already on all the major radio stations' "A" playlists and the video is expected to be well received by MTV and The Box.
Who do you want to work with in the future? Who is your major inspiration?
I want to work with everybody. I don't have any particular requirements, except that the person just loves making good music. I don't care if that person is known in the industry or not, because as the English say, at the end of the day its all about good music, not the name behind it.
My inspirations... that's tough. I don't really look up to any one particular person. I must say that life in itself is my inspiration. My songs are based on real life experiences that I've experienced personally or have identified with through experiences of my friends. So that's where my inspirations come from.
Who would you consider to be among the best producers to work with?
Boy you are asking tough questions. The problem is I'm just a regular club kid. I don't know the artist, producer or labels to the tracks that I dance to. But if a producer sends in a tape and the material is good I'll work with him/her. To me in the music there are no "best" producers. They all have hits and misses when it comes to making records. That's just part of being human.
Is there anyone you would like to do a remix for?
Yes. Me. I don't want to sound conceited but when I work on a track I give it my all. And the purpose of a remix is to take the track to another level. That would mean being even more creative than what I originally relinquished to the track... improving it that much more. Now there's a real self-challenge.
What are your plans for the future?
Well basically those are all decided by the record label. The next track to come out will be another 'featuring' project. Then the first "Duane Harden" single will be released in September. With an album to follow if things go well.
Did you learn anything from Armand van Helden?
Yeah. I wrote and recorded the vocal in one night and it was after a rather exhausting day at work. So in my opinion I thought my vocal performance was awful. However the Grammy Award Nominee Armand van Helden thought the vocal in its raw form with all its imperfections added character to the track. I learned from him that perfection does not necessarily equate to quality, and that going with gut feelings and first impressions are normally the best ingredient for success.
What are your favourite songs at the moment?
New Radicals "You Get What You Give", Phats & Smalls "Turn Around", Charlotte "Skin" and George Michael feat. Mary J Blige "As".
Obviously you have been travelling around the world. What are the best places you have visited?
Well I don't really get to see much when I get to a new city. The routine is normally from airport to hotel, get a few hours sleep, perform, and then off to the next place or back to the hotel for more sleep. But I must say driving around Florence, Italy by far looked the most interesting place to visit to me.
UKMIX would like to thank Duane Harden for this interview. The questions were asked by Andy Lamb and Lee Knowles.
REVIEW: "What You Need" - Powerhouse feat. Duane Harden