Monday, December 22, 2008
MY CHAT WITH SOULFUL AND COMPASSIONATE LGBT PERFORMER
Singer/Songwriter Scandelle is a talented artist who has a lot of soul and passion for his music and for people in the LGBT community who admires him for his singing, songwriting, endostrias looks and style, and for taking stands against violence towards those many LGBT youth and people, who are subjected to being attacked by people. Performing since the late 1980’s, he credits singers Grace Jones, Sylvester, Annie Lennox for inspiring him to go against the grain and not be pigeonholed as an artists, as well as crediting his late uncle songwriter Otis Blackwell for his ability to write all types of music.
I had the opportunity to meet and spoke with this wonderful, talented and passionate performer at the Our Youth AIDS Benefit where he spoke about his influences, the importance of tackling violence, his late uncle’s legacy and Annie Lennox finally getting her long over due award.
SHAWN: THANKS FOR DOING THE INTERVIEW. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING MUSIC?
SCANDELLE: I’ve been around for a minute as they said in the hood, but been doing the independent LGBT music thing for a while. I started out dancing on bar tops in the East village, honing my craft and gaining fans.
SHAWN: WHO ARE YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCES?
SCANDELLE: I’m a child of the music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s. Everything is good each year but there’s special music stuff going on thought that period. You had The Temptations. You had The Supremes. I mean how could you not be inspired? If you thought you could sing, you sang, so that’s where the music came from and it gets more and more inspiring. In fact, it was Grace Jones, Sylvester and my late uncle Otis Blackwell.
SHAWN: THAT NAME SOUNDS FAMILIAR
SCANDELLE: He wrote “Fever.’ He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It’s in my family tree.
SHAWN: You started out performing in the Village. When did you start performing there?
SCANDELLE: It started I would say in the late 80’s at the Pyramid Club in Alphabet City doing drag and I lip-synched Annie Lennox, and quickly decided that from that point on that I was going to use my own singing voice, and started doing shows in different places and eventually kicked out my EP in 2003 that was really received and today I have about fifty-thousand fans, but they’re spread out thought different websites.
SHAWN: YOU MENTIONED AN INTERESTING POINT ABOUT USING YOUR OWN SINGING VOICE INSTEAD OF LIP-SYNCHING. WHEN YOU PERFORM, DOES THE CROWD BE IN AWE WHEN THEY LEARN YOU’RE SINGING LIVE?
SCANDELLE: I’m blessed. I’m blessed. I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I would have to stay for the most part, the crowd’s reaction been very good. Very positive. Very loyal, so I would have to say it’s been a positive experience using my singing voice. I have nothing against lip-synching. (I mean) it’s about the performance (and) what you’re bringing to the table. Lip-synching has its own vibe and singing live has its own vibe. Those crowds could be tough.
SHAWN: You said you released your EP in 2003, right?
SCANDELLE: 2003. I wrote all the songs. Sang, arranged all the vocals and co-produced with a producer out in D.C. It made it to over 125 radio stations; it really got a lot of press within the community and somewhat outside the community. Still going strong.
SHAWN: YOU SAID THAT YOUR INFLUENCES ARE GRACE JONES, ANNIE LENNOX AND SYLVESTER. CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THOSE LEGENDS INFLUENCE YOU?
SCANDELLE: Gender fluid. Androgyny. Power. Self-acceptance and of course their musical talents; they could blow as they say, Sylvester there’s never been a falsetto Soul singer to revival what he put out there and I’m so happy he was an influence for me, But then again the greats too including Ella, Dinah Washington. I’m a mixed bag when it comes to music. I try to sing what I love and that’s a little bit of everything. I have a Gospel record that I just released called ‘God Loves Me Too.’ We’re doing a one million plays campaign at my space to raise awareness for the end of LGBT crimes. Some of the sales will go to AVP and Our Youth.
SHAWN: THERE ARE STIL PEOPLE IN THE LGBT WHO ARE STILL BEING ATTACTED. HOW IMPROTANT IS IT FOR ARTISTS TO BRING AWARNESS AGAINST THESE CRIMES?
SCANDELLE: I think it’s important. There’s no option policy. If we’re living identifying ourselves out as LGBT people, musicians in particular we’re very much at risk for that kind of situation. We put ourselves out there and we have to be on guard. If you’re LGBT and you/re a target and even the ones who think they’re not being recognized…that DL stuff and that stuff, the dangers are so real. The numbers are climbing, even though they’re not being reported, the numbers are climbing. Unfortunately, a friend of ours Geo Vaughn was attacked in Chelsea in August. I produced a rally in September and I put together twelve or thirteen LGBT artists, musicians, singers and politicians and organizations to start what we’re gonna do annually. I also started a website called www.SubtleGenocide.com which was a tag phrase that came out for an interview; suttle meaning the media doesn’t grab hold of these painted stories long enough for people to understand that we’re being masticated right before their eyes. People are being burned alive, beheaded, kidnapped and tortured. These are things you see in third world countries on CNN News, you don’t realize it’s happening right here.
SHAWN: YOU’VE ALSO INVOLVED WITH SUPPORTING THE MEMBERS OF OUR YOUTH. HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED?
SCANDELLE: We met Rob and the kids at the rally on September 13. There’s You tube footage of the rally too if you want to direct people there. That’s how we all met. I fell in love with the kids you see. They were the ones who brought the images, the faces, the posters of the survivors. They were the ones who woke me up to the real dangers; that record is for that purpose.
SHAWN: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR ARTISTS TO BRING AWARNESS TO AIDS AWARENESS?
SCANDELLE: That’s never gonna change. The Anti-violence movement is still going on. The AIDS movement is still going on. As long as there’s AIDS, there’s gonna be a movement. It’s not a fad; people are still dying. The numbers are consistent, and people are dropping their guards in our community everyday; doing what they call bare backing and stuff like that. And you know it’s not something you can take lightly and what to be consistent with those things.
SHAWN: ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO PERFORMING?
SCANDELLE: I’ve been looking forward to tonight for a long time. I get to do my song with the kids. Some of them are performing "God Loves Me Too." I wrote it for them and the victims and survivors of gay/LGBT hate crimes.
SHAWN: IF YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH ANY ARTISTS WHO INSPIRED YOU, WHO WOULD IT BE?
SCANDELLE: I don’t say it could be one person, but the person who touches my heart is Annie Lennox. When you talk about people, who have their coming out story, and music is a part of that when you’re young and all, that Annie Lennox album “Diva” come on. That album got me through a lot of shit. Annie Lennox is my hero.
SHAWN: LAST MONTH, SHE WAS HONORED BY THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS. HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL TO SEE HER FINALLY GET HONORED?
SCANDELLE: I don’t see why it took people so long to give those kinds of accolades to her. I have a feeling though it has to do with the gender fluid thing if you ask me. I think they took their time because they didn’t know how to honor someone who was brave enough to tap into that side of themselves, but at least she was alive to receive the award.
SHAWN: EARLIER, YOU MENTIONED THAT SINGER/SONGWRITER OTIS BLACKWELL WAS YOUR UNCLE. WHAT WAS IT LIKE HAVING A FAMOUS UNCLE?
SCANDELLE: I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with him. His generation in my family tree is from the elder part of the tree. My grandfather had eighteen children, and he was one of the first boys, so I learned about him primarily through an uncle that I was close to in New York and I hand a chance to meet him briefly during an honor concert that took place in Prospect Park one summer years ago. It was The Ramones that actually set up the concert for and they asked him t come as a special guest. So that’s when I met him in the park and shook hands. We look alike; it was a magic moment. He’s an important part of American music. He wrote some of the important Pop music records ever and helped make Elvis Presley bonafied music star and gave him great material.
SHAN: WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT FROM YOUR CD?
SCANDELLE: What can they expect? They can expect a lot of love. A lot of soul. A lot of passion and alot of commitment to changing our situation from music to helping the LGBT life better.