Name: Ten City
Current Members: Marshall Jefferson, Byron Stingily
Former Members: Byron Burke, Herb Lawson
Interviewee: Marshall Jefferson
Occupation: Producer, songwriter (Marshall Jefferson), Singer, songwriter (Byron Stingily)
Current release: Ten City's "Feel it too" is out now on Ultra Music. Their upcoming new album Judgement will feature reworked versions of their classics, including "That's the way love is", but mostly consist of new material.
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Marshall Jefferson: "In 1984, Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence had released a record called “On And On” that showed Chicago that DJs could make records. Things exploded after that and Chicago continued that message by showing the entire world. Every single DJ that has made a record owes his existence to “On And On”.
When Ten City started, I think we were both at a point where we wanted to expand the genre by writing proper songs while at the same time doing more abstract things. We basically wanted to create music that sounded different from everyone else. "That's the way love is" was the third Ten City single. Personally, I had at least 12 singles before that. "Devotion"-"Right Back To You"-"That’s The Way Love Is" was the path. All pretty much had that Ten City feel, just writing different songs
All songs were pretty much finished at home before we took them to the studio. I had a sequencer - a Yamaha Qx-1 - that I would take with me to the studio, hit one button, and it would play back all the synth- and drum machine parts.
Recording at the legendary Chicago Recording Company, to us at the time, it felt like we were sitting in a futuristic spaceship. There were so many knobs on the console and so much outboard gear. We felt like we were big-time. We saw people like Billy Ocean, Chicago, Jean Simmons, and Earth Wind and Fire there. It was amazing!
I’m not a natural player, yet I’ve played the majority of the instruments on all my songs. I used to record my parts at say 50 BPM (beats per minute) and speed them up to 120bpms+ and sound like Stevie Wonder. Now I only record at about 80-90 bpms before I speed it up, so I guess I’m a little better now! (laughs) I wouldn’t have had a music career if it weren’t for technology.
The “piano” I used was at first a Sequential Circuits Prophet 2000 for “Move Your Body and the “On The House” stuff. But soon after that, almost everyone had a great sounding piano in the synths and samplers. Some of the horn and strings lines would be added on the spot. This integration of acoustic and electronic elements went pretty seamlessly. The synths were all laid with one push of a button and the musicians would just replay certain parts that we played on the synths.
We would listen to the songs to determine if anything was needed/missing. The top string line for “Devotion” was an add-on.
I remember we flew Earl Young from Philadelphia in to play drums. He gets in the studio and asks “where’s the drum machine?” We then had to explain to him that we wanted him to play LIVE drums, just like he did in Philadelphia. I also remember Kenny Bobien and Eddie Stockley singing awesome background vocals.
There was a demo version of "That's the way love is"cut on an 8-track, there was the studio version, the Steve Hurley Acid House version, and the Timmy Regisford radio version with Terry Burrus on keyboards and Boyd Jarvis adding overdubs.
There were various photo shoots done for the LP and promotional material. The outfits we wore were clothes that we purchased from various shops around Chicago. Andre’ Walker (who became Oprah Winfrey’s hair designer/stylist) along with Chris Canty created the hairstyles to reflect new wave club culture of the time.
We feel that "That's the way love is" was definitely a breakthrough. It was a top ten pop record, number 1 Billboard Dance Record, sold millions of copies around the world, and is still played today. People in South Africa have told us stories of how that song represents liberation for them. Some people in Germany have told us how our music helped inspire the Love Parade and the second Summer of Love. We have great memories and hope to create more for ourselves, and a new generation of House People!
The reason for the success of that song is that it incorporated so many musical styles. It infused House music, Disco, Soul, Pop (with horns and strings) along with lyrics that told a story of heartache while still sounding hopeful.
After Ten City, I did two albums with players from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that never were released, back in 1990-1992. I have written movie screenplay entitled “Devotion” that was scheduled to be greenlighted by a major film company (before the world changed).
For the return of Ten City, the record company wanted new versions. They gave us creative freedom with the other songs. We feel that we have progressed and have continued to innovate our sounds, while at the same time, the world is ready to come back around to our sound!
People need feel good music now more than ever. House music is finally become a worldwide culture. It is here to stay!"