A true artist in every right, most people know Billie Ray Martin for the international smash hit "Your Loving Arms." But there is so much more to her, Billie was the lead singer of Electribe 101 and worked with seminal acid house band S-Express. Her solo work over the past decade has spawned some of the most interesting electro and underground collaborations with the likes of DJ Hell and Ann Peebles (two names that don't normally belong in the same sentence). 2008 sees Bille releasing a greatest hits DVD of videos and live performances and a new project under the group name The Opiates. If you enjoy a little bit of intelligent and thoughtful quirk in your dance music, please do read on.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: What was the inspiration in putting together the DVD compilation?
Billie Ray Martin:: Oh, we'd been getting so many eMails, for years -- people asking to see this or that; asking for specific things that they saw on television. I always said, it's too much work, I don't want to put anything together. But then I guess the time just came where I felt, well, why not spend a little bit of time and do this. I kind of had an idea for what the graphic design should look like, and I knew I had the person to do exactly what I wanted with the graphics. So all of a sudden it seemed to make sense.
RS: Some of the performances are absolutely incredible. Actually,
they all are.
Billie Ray Martin:: Thank you.
RS: The one with Jools Holland for "Moving Downtown" especially.
That song became Running Around Town, right?
Billie Ray Martin:: Yes, it did. Actually, I wrote "Moving Downtown" for S-Express, and if you really listen closely to that first album, it's actually sung in the background.
Billie Ray Martin:: Then I did it properly with Electribe 101, and then it became "Running Around Town" on my solo album.
RS: OK. So, there was the second album for Electribe 101, that
never got released. What other songs from that became your singles or
Billie Ray Martin:: Oh god, there's a few. "Deadline For My Memories," "You And I (Keep Holding On)," and I think there's one or two more, but I'd have to look at the actual Electribe 101 album.
RS: Was "Hands Up and Amen" one of those?
Billie Ray Martin:: Yes, I think it was. I wonder if it had a slightly different title back then, but I think "Hands Up and Amen" was also one.
RS: It was so incredible to see you do that song live, because
that's my favorite song on your album.
Billie Ray Martin:: Thank you, that's great.
RS: One thing that's really incredible in the performances – it
seems like you're Tina Turner with Ike, doing the 60s kind of Motown
Billie Ray Martin:: Well I try, I try. I think it looks a bit lame, actually. But you spotted it right – it was supposed to be Tina Turner, and I had these two slightly overweight twins on stage as well, so it didn't look quite Tina Turner-ish. But I guess it was OK.
RS: The choreography – was that something that you came up with,
or did you have a choreographer you worked with?
Billie Ray Martin:: I do all of my own stuff.
RS: OK. So going from there, you have a real influence of Memphis
soul in you as well. Where does that come from, for a girl living in
Billie Ray Martin:: Well, where the whole soul thing comes from – I think one day my heart just spoke and said, this is it. Because I remember when I lived in Berlin, as a teenager, some sales assistant in a record store said to me, "Have you heard soul music?" And I said, "Yes, kind of." But he then said, "Well, why don't you listen to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and the Supremes?" And I did. I hadn't really listened to them, consciously, before. When I did, something in me just broke right open. Martha Reeves is still my favorite soul album that I own – Sugar And Spice by Martha and the Vandellas. I think my soul was just looking for something more than the pop stuff, and for some reason, that was it. Then the Memphis thing happened again when I was in a Berlin record shop, funnily enough. I went up the stairs and I heard "I'm Going To Tear Your Playhouse Down" by Ann Peebles and my jaw just dropped. I went up to the guy and I said "What is this?" So I bought the Greatest Hits by Ann Peebles, and that sealed that. I was just not the same. I've not been the same ever since. I think I just had an open heart for it.
RS: Really obscure question about Memphis – when you were over
here a couple of years ago you sang a song in the car with the idea to
duet with Dolly Parton. Did that ever materialize?
Billie Ray Martin:: No. Oh my god, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, nowadays, are my favorite singers. If I could ever sing two lines of backing vocals for them I could die happily. But I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think they know who I am.