Emmanuel Mani Shoniwa Yo Yo Honey – Interview
Electronic soul/dance group – Yo Yo Honey were formed in 1991 by Musician Mani Shoniwa and featured vocalist Anita Jarret. Their debut album ‘ Voodoo Soul’ was released in 1992 on the then Jive Records. The album featured a forty piece orchestra and included contributions from the then members of Soul II Soul. Its singles featured remixes by luminaries including Paul Oakenfold, DJ Pierre and Tony Humphries.
To mark the twentieth anniversary of its release ‘Voodoo Soul’ has been re-mastered and includes new and unreleased mixes including a superb DJ Pierre Wildpitch take on ‘Groove On’.
Hey Mani – how are you?
I’m not enjoying this cold weather, otherwise I’m very good.
When did you start writing/producing music – and what or who were your early influences?
I’ve been playing live and writing music since I was fifteen. I released a couple of albums with London and Virgin Records which is when I really got interested in production.
Early inspiration came from anywhere and everywhere as long as it had a groove
I was born into Tamla and Soul, Marvin Gaye in particular, Sly Stone, Hendrix, Parliament. Stevie wonder, and Bowie, Dub and Electronica were massive for me and then House hit me.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Musically I’m quite technical and I’ve never had a problem with composition and song-writing.
I’ve got a huge catalogue of musicality which came about through hard studying and listening. I still relish the challenge of constructing a great tune. The biggest challenge is often trying to de-construct and unlearn so that I can progress a tune.
I’m into collaboration and experimentation that’s a big part of me. It doesn’t matter who I’m working with, whether its the very best musician or teaching some kid, new to music. I’m driven to explore and get the best out of what I’m working upon.
I also enjoy working on my own, this is a challenge as it can leave you exposed and vulnerable .
From a production point I’m also into experimentation. From an early age I learnt and understood tape. Beginning with a Grundig Stenorette, basically a giant Dictaphone, progressing to portastudios,(which I recorded B-Sides on). I eventually built my own digital/analogue studios with 2” tape. Pro-Tools and a 48 channel DDA desk . Up until recently I had all the toys but I got rid of them all as I was travelling a lot. I now write and mix on a Mac-book with Ableton Live 9. Which is great.
Technology, particularly sequencers and samplers were a revelation and so intoxicating. They helped me get closer to Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk
What are currently some of the most favourite & important instruments you have used?
The toys I use and still have are Juno 106, Mini-Korg, Roland S770 sampler an 808 and a Roland W30 Sequencer These are freaks which will always be with me. I have lots of guitars, My Fender Strats and Jazz Bass I have used from the beginning and still do. Cant give them up
Playing guitar and bass live for years taught me just how important feel is for music.
In the creative process on the basis of a single or even an album where do your ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
I have to have something to say. I have a very voyeuristic view on things whether it’s a social observation, an obsession or some kind of sexual intoxication. I need intelligence in my music. If I didn’t, all I would write about would be rims and, ‘hey baby be my baby tonight’.
Once I have that something to say then I can apply music and textures. And that is done via a myriad of twists and turns which all boil down to feel.
I recently completed an album project ‘Black & Bruised’ which I wrote, produced and mixed in three days. Very experimental, without rules and challenging Other times it may take years to progress tune. If I feel it’s worth pursuing, I’ll persist, keep going back and nurturing. I’ve written so many tunes which I’ve stored and often wonder if should get on and get them out.
DJ Pierre remixed your ‘Groove On’ track to great effect. How important do you feel a remixer is to a release?
If a remixer can bring something to the table I think its stellar if the contribution works. In the music industry there are a lot of buskers with conflicting agendas which do not necessarily for the benefit of the music. Pierre is intelligent and musical. He got the essence of the track and took it to a primal place which was maverick and I respect that.
What plans do you have early 2016 and beyond?
Essentially getting back closer to my art and doing what I do best which is writing tunes.
I’ve stopped managing and other peripherals and regained my focus.
I’ve got some healthy music which I’m excited about and which will be released. And maybe a collaboration or two with some cool people.